Sunday, September 30, 2012

Doctor Who Season 7, Episode 5: The Angels Take Manhattan

Well, it finally happened-- Amy and Rory have left the Doctor. For good this time, it seems. I was not looking forward to this episode, as I've grown to like the Ponds. It was nice to see the first ever married couple traveling with the Doctor, and I enjoyed watching Rory's transformation from bumbling oaf to bad-ass action hero. But if you don't like change, then Doctor Who is not the show for you.

The Plot: 
The Doctor, Amy and Rory are relaxing in Central Park in the present day. The Doctor is reading an old detective novel and suddenly notices that it's describing their every move. He soon discovers that the Weeping Angels are attempting to take over Manhattan. Rory disappears and the Doctor and Amy are joined by an old friend...

SPOILERS AHEAD! MASSIVE SPOILERS! SERIOUSLY, DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THE EPISODE! YOU'VE BEEN WARNED!

When I first heard the title of the Ponds last episode and read writer/showrunner Steven Moffat's quote that their exit would be "heartbreaking," I was sure I knew what was going to happen. I was convinced he was going to have Rory get zapped into the past by an Angel and live out his entire life without Amy, only to see her again seconds before he died. If that happened, especially after Rory waited 2000 freakin' years to be reunited with Amy a couple seasons ago, I vowed I would fly to Cardiff and punch Moffat right in the throat. And then I'd get mad!

And that's exactly what happened to Rory, although he and Amy managed to undo it. Well, sort of. As it turns out they BOTH got zapped into the past anyway. Whatever. As long as they weren't split up, I can live with it. And Moffat's throat remains safely unpunched.

This week the little kid who's been screwing with the color sliders on the opening credits turned them orangish for a bit and then a bright putrid green.

This week's font texture is... you got me. I think maybe it's supposed to be the image of the Statue of Liberty behind the text? If I squint I think I can sort of see the curve of her crown or tiara or whatever she's wearing on the right. Why didn't they just give the font a pitted gray stone texture like the Angels have?

• "Mr. Grayle," a wealthy collector of antiquities, hires a detective to investigate the Angels. "Grayle" is a pretty appropriate name for a collector!

• It was a very creepy moment when Detective Garner found his ancient future self dying in the hotel room.

• The Doctor says he always rips out the last page of a book because "he doesn't like endings." Did anyone think that wouldn't come back to bite him in the ass, especially after the very deliberate shot of him placing the page in the picnic basket? 

• Hey, River Song's back. What a surprise in a Steven Moffat-scripted episode. So River isn't in Stormcage prison anymore, because "the man she killed never existed." Once again we see the Doctor has seemingly been erased from all databases throughout space and time, presumably by Oswin the Friendly Dalek in the first episode of the season.

Ugh... they did the "Doctor who?" joke again. I'm really starting to hate it when they do that. It was funny once, maybe twice, but not 77 times.

OK, the Statue of Liberty as a Weeping Angel thing? That's going too far. It just raises so many questions. 

Did absolutely no one in the entire city of New York ever once look out their window and notice the Statue was gone? Or that it was walking through downtown Manhattan? Seems like at least one of the millions of people living in in the city would see it, causing it to freeze in its tracks.

And how the hell IS it a Weeping Angel anyway? I was under the impression that the Angels are living, organic beings with internal organs and such, who turn to stone only when observed. The Statue of Liberty is made of copper and it's hollow, filled with staircases and elevators. It was constructed, not born. How is it even moving in the first place? 

Did the Angels use some sort of alien technology on it to make it move? Are they inside its head, driving it like a Megazord? Or is it now alive and full of squishy internal organs? So many questions.

I don't think the Cherub should have been able to blow out a match. According to the Tenth Doctor himself on the subject of Weeping Angels:
The Lonely Assassins, that's what they used to be called. No one quite knows where they came from, but they're as old as the Universe, or very nearly. And they have survived this long because they have the most perfect defense system ever evolved. They are Quantum Locked. They don't exist when they are being observed. The moment they are seen by any other living creature they freeze into rock. No choice, it's a fact of their biology. In the sight of any living thing, they literally turn into stone. And you can't kill a stone. Of course, a stone can't kill you either, but then you turn your head away. Then you blink. Then, oh yes, it can. 
So whenever the Angels are being observed, they literally turn to inanimate stone. So how the heck did the Cherub manage to blow out Rory's match?

I think this is the first time we've ever seen the Doctor unable to land the TARDIS in a particular year. Supposedly the Angels were creating too much time distortion interference for him to land.

More new info-- the Doctor says that once you know of a future event, it creates a fixed point in Time and HAS to happen. He's mentioned fixed points many times before, but I believe this is the first time he's ever mentioned this rule about them.

• I'm a little fuzzy as to how the Angel's "farm" was supposed to work. When they zap a victim into the past, it creates "time energy" that they feed on. OK, I get that. But why are the Angels in this episode keeping their victims captive in the hotel rooms? Once they zap them and consume their time energy, why keep them around? Wouldn't they be useless once the energy was consumed? Or do their victims constantly emit time energy throughout their entire lives? If so, this is new (meaning retro-fitted) info.

Plus if they zapped Detective Garner and Rory years into the past and then kept them in their hotel rooms the entire time, that would indicate the Angels have controlled this building for many, many decades.

Maybe the Angels keep people prisoner in their rooms and zap them back in time just a little bit each day? So maybe Detective Garner and Rory have only been in their rooms for one day from our point of view but decades for them, so the Angels can constantly feed on them? My head's starting to hurt.

The Doctor pleads with Amy to not let the Angel take her, because "she'll create a fixed point in Time and he'll never be able to see her again. OK, so I get that he might not be able to visit the exact date at which she goes back, but what about after? Say she goes back to the year 1900. He can't go back to that date and get her. Fair enough. But why couldn't he just go back to 1901 and pick her up? Or 1905? I don't get why her entire future timeline should be closed off to him now.

Even if there's some technobabble rule saying he can't bring the Amy and Rory back to the present where they belong, what's stopping him from just visiting them at some point in the past? I'm just not understanding this whole thing.


• What about River's Vortex Manipulator? Earlier in the episode she said she could use it to cut through the time distortions that the TARDIS couldn't penetrate, because using it is like "driving a motorbike through heavy traffic." So why couldn't she use it to go pick up Amy and Rory? 

So how far back in time did the Angel send Amy and Rory? There's no way to know for sure, since their tombstone left off the date of their deaths (isn't that convenient?). They were supposedly back in the present day, 2012, when they both got zapped. I think earlier in the season Rory mentioned he was 30. The tombstone says he died at age 82. So he lived another 50 years after he was sent back. But how old is the tombstone? If it's a brand new one (and it did look fairly new) then they ended up in approximately 1962. It all depends on how long the tombstone has been sitting there though. They could have gone back much farther.

Many fans are convinced the Angel zapped them back to 1938, which I suppose makes sense, since the Doctor says he can never see them again and can never go back to that year due to the Angel's time distortions. If they did end up in 1938, that means they would have died around 1988.


• The worst part about this timey-whimey farewell is that it was absolutely unnecessary. The past few episodes have shown us that Amy and Rory have been quietly setting up a nice comfortable life for themselves in between adventures. Amy writes travel articles for magazines and Rory is a successful health care professional. 

Why couldn't they simply have sat the Doctor down and told him they were going to "retire" from adventuring? It's happened before. Martha Jones realized her love for the Doctor was unrequited and simply walked out the front door of the TARDIS. Sarah Jane and Tegan similarly just walked away. It seemed like they were setting up Amy and Rory for the same kind of departure. That would have been infinitely preferable to the convoluted and nonsensical parting that we got here.

I'm a little confused about the ending. In the afterward of the book Amy tells the Doctor to go back to when she was a child (in The Girl Who Waited) and tell her about all the incredible adventures she'll someday have with him. 

Remember the events way back in The Eleventh Hour? The newly regenerated Eleventh Doctor crash-lands the TARDIS in young Amy's back yard. She meets him and then he tells her he needs to take the TARDIS on a shakedown cruise and he'll be right back. Five minutes elapse from the Doctor's point of view, but TWELVE years go by for Amy.

Apparently Amy wants the Doctor to go back to some point during that twelve year gap and talk to her younger self. It's a nice little scene, but... it craps all over established events. Amy spent that twelve year period obsessing about the "Raggedy Man" (the Doctor) who abandoned her. His twelve year absence very definitely shaped her life. So what's going to happen if he visits her a week after he first disappeared, instead of twelve years later? Will she still obsess over him? Won't this substantially alter her history (and possibly her personality)? At the very least I'd think it should violate some kind of temporal law. 

I suppose Moffat was trying to say that by having the Doctor tell Amy about the adventures she'll have with him, it'll create fixed points in time that must happen. 

Next week: Well, there aint' no next week. The show won't be back until the Christmas Special, thanks to the BBC's bone headed decision to split the season in half.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Efram Moisterberg

Just a drawing of a little fishy guy. Kosher, of course.

When I was adding color to him my first instinct was to make him green, but that seemed like too much of a cliche. So I played with the color sliders in Photoshop and settled on a less common blue. I added a little bit of red to his face, belly and fins to give him some life.

I based his eye on that of some kind of lizard I found online. Not sure if the scale effect is working, but it's the best I can do.
I was just about to upload him when I realized I'd forgotten to add his underwear that were in the sketchbook doodle I did of him. D'oh! So I had to go back and quickly add his tightie-whities. For the record, here's the naked version that almost was.

 Drawn in Photoshop on the graphic tablet.

Here's the original notebook doodle. I know it looks like pencil here, but I swear it's drawn in ink.


And here's the more polished digital sketch.

Bosses From The Eighth Circle Of Hell: Color Correction

Throughout my career I've prided myself on working hard, performing what's asked of me to the best of my ability, and being an all-around good employee. I've also done my best to get along with my various bosses.

Alas, sometimes that's just not possible. Sometimes you end up with a Boss From The Eighth Circle of Hell.
 


Back in the 1990s I worked as a graphic designer at a marketing company, for a rather colorful boss. One day my Boss came into the designer's office all in a tizzy. He was holding a color photo in his hand, moaning and fretting and pacing back and forth. After several minutes of questioning I finally got to the source of his strife: the color photo he was holding needed to be converted to black and white and sent to a print shop in Indianapolis by noon. The Boss (who wasn't exactly a technical wiz) didn't know how we could possibly accomplish this in time, as he said it would take days for a color photo to be turned into black and white and mailed halfway across the state.

While he was gnashing his teeth and rending his garments, I took the color photo from him and scanned it into Photoshop. Once in the application I selected "Grayscale" from a drop-down menu and converted it to black and white. I then saved a copy of the file and emailed it to the print shop. The entire operation took less than five minutes. I interrupted the Boss' fit and told him it was all taken care of. Instead of thanking me though, he just stood there giving me a wary look, like he suspected I was some kind of witch. He hurried out of the office, suspiciously glancing back at me the entire time.

A few weeks later the Boss came into the designer's office with a new project for me. You can probably guess where this is going. He handed me a black and white photo and wanted me to "work my magic" on it and turn it into a color shot. I stared at him for a few seconds and then told him that was impossible. He said, "Well you turned that color shot into a black and white one, so why can't you do it the other way around?" 

I tried to explain that going from color to grayscale was easy— you're simplifying the image, taking millions of colors and distilling them down to 256 shades of gray. Going the opposite direction is just not possible. How would Photoshop know what color shirt a person in the picture was wearing? What color's their car? The building behind them?

As you might well imagine, this (and any kind of technical explanation) sailed far, far over the Boss' head. He snatched the photo back in disgust and said, "Why do we have all this expensive equipment around here if it can't do what I need it to do?" and stormed out.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Happy 25th Birthday, Star Trek: The Next Generation

Can you believe it was 25 years ago today that Star Trek: The Next Generation premiered? Yep, it first aired back on September 29, 1987. 25 years! What the hell's going on with the flow of time lately? 

ST:TNG was the highest rated syndicated show ever, averaging around 20 million viewers per episode. That was more than some prime time series generated at the time, and far more than any series could ever hope to achieve today (to be fair, some stations aired the show twice a week, which naturally doubled the ratings). It racked up a whopping 18 Emmy Awards and was the only syndicated program to ever be nominated for an Emmy for Best Dramatic Series. Not bad for a show about people exploring outer space in their pajamas.

I was a huge fan of the series back in the day (by that of course I mean I was an avid enthusiast of the show, not that I myself was huge). After all, this was the first brand new live action Star Trek content to be aired in almost two decades! I dutifully recorded it every week on my trusty VCR (ask your parents, kids) and spent many a paycheck on Trek related merchandise.

The series featured a great cast (especially Patrick Stewart and Brent Spiner), top notch writing and for the most part, slick state of the art special effects.

ST:TNG gave us many new and memorable alien races: the greedy, capitalistic Ferengi, the Nazi-like Cardassians (not Kardashians!) and best of all, the relentless, unstoppable Borg.

It also took the Klingons, who were pretty much one-dimensional villains in the Original Series and greatly expanded their culture, making them one of the more interesting races on the show.

They even managed to feature a few guest appearances from Original Series characters, specifically McCoy, Spock, Sarek and Scotty.

Like the Original Series, ST:TNG used sci-fi to examine various controversial topics such as racism, terrorism, assisted suicide, child abuse, homosexuality and torture.

Despite all the accolades and my love for the show, even I have to admit that it wasn't perfect. Many of the First Season episodes are dreadful and a chore to sit through. The Second Season was better, but was marred and cut short by a lengthy writer's strike. In fact the final episode of Season Two strayed firmly into Family Ties territory as it gave us the first ever clip show in the history of Trek! The series finally hit its stride in Season 3 and from then on gave us a shuttlecraft full of memorable episodes. 

Part of me has to wonder: If it had been a network show, would they have given the series three full seasons to get its bearings? I'm thinking probably not.

ST:TNG also suffered from a large number of just plain dull characters. Dr. Crusher? Counselor Troi? I'm dozing just typing their names. For seven seasons all Counselor Troi ever did was sit in a chair with her arms crossed and say, "I sense great anger..." Her only memorable characteristic was that she liked chocolate. How fascinating. And other than her wildly inappropriate name I don't think we ever learned anything at all about Dr. Crusher. 

Even Geordi LaForge was pretty bland when you think about it. The only interesting thing about his character was that he was blind and wore a cool vision-enhancing VISOR.

The original Star Trek had some very vibrant and distinct characters, which made for some dynamic interactions. Funny that ST:TNG's three most interesting characters-- Picard, Data and Worf-- are pretty much analogues of Kirk, Spock and McCoy.

A good part of the blame for the dull characters has to lie with series creator Gene Roddenberry. Mr. Roddenberry had the lofty notion that by the 24th Century, humanity will have advanced to the point where everyone will get along. That's a very nice sentiment, but... it ain't ever gonna happen. If humans haven't learned to live together in the past 5,000 years, there's no reason to think it'll happen in the next 300.

Nevertheless, Roddenberry was adamant that there be no conflict between crew members on the Enterprise. Apparently he never took any creative writing courses through the mail like I did or he'd have known that conflict is the basis of all drama. Without it, all you've got is a bunch of people sitting around holding hands, smiling and singing Kumbaya. Pleasant enough I suppose, but it sure makes for pretty dull TV.

Roddenberry had some other peculiar ideas for the show. He didn't want any of the alien races from the Original Series to appear on ST:TNG. That meant no Vulcans, Klingons or Romulans; fan-favorites the audience would be expecting to see. Luckily he was overruled on that one, else Lt. Worf would never have been a part of the crew.

He also toyed with the idea of not having a ship in the new series at all. He thought that by the 24th Century technology would have advanced to the point in which the crew would use some sort of "super transporter" to just teleport anywhere in the galaxy. He was outvoted on that one as well (no doubt by studio lawyers who'd happened to see the movie Stargate).

Some of his ideas were just downright kinky. He supposedly wanted the males of the newly created Ferengi race to be incredibly well-endowed, sporting enormous schlongs up to two feet long (!). Fortunately one of the producers took him aside and pointed out that the series was airing on regular TV, not HBO or Cinemax.  

The series also relied much too heavily on the ship breaking down in order to provide tension. In practically every episode the B-plot involved some piece of ship's technology malfunctioning and putting the crew in danger. Sure, Kirk's Enterprise broke down now and then, but Picard's ship was worse than an old used car. It became a crutch for the writers whenever they couldn't think of any other way to fill the time slot.

ST:TNG provided me with many memorable and sometimes shocking moments over the years. Remember that the series aired before the internet cropped up, in an era in which you didn't have to work at avoiding spoilers. Back then the only way to find out what was going to happen was to just sit down and watch the show.

The third season finale, in which Captain Picard is captured and assimilated by the Borg and Commander Riker gives the order to fire on the Borg ship-- absolutely floored me. I was not expecting that and had no idea such a shocking denouement was coming. I spent a long and anxious summer waiting for the follow up to air in the fall. 

The problem with their cliffhanger episodes though was that the setups were always way better than their lackluster resolutions the next season. To paraphrase Jerry Seinfeld, "You know how to set up the cliffhanger, you just don't know how to resolve the cliffhanger."

As much as I loved the show, watching it (or rather trying to watch it) was a grueling chore, due to my local TV station. It was just plain hard work to even find the show where I lived. In my hometown ST:TNG was usually relegated to the wee hours of Sunday morning, in time slots normally occupied by Aerosol Toupee and Psychic Hotline infomercials.

One week it might be on at 11 pm, the next at 1:30 am. Sometimes it would even pop up in the afternoon. You just never knew. I used to record the show every week but there was no way I could just set the timer on the VCR and forget it, because there was no guarantee as to when it might air. Many's the night I would stay up until 1 or even 2 am waiting for it to start so I could hit the record button (and have to go to work at 6 am the next day!).

I never understood the local station's attitude toward the show. This wasn't some execrable drivel like Mama's Family, this was an award winning, critically acclaimed series that regularly got higher ratings than some network shows. Plus it had a built in audience of rabid fans. So why the shabby treatment?

Sometimes I wonder if the station's programming director secretly hated the show and deliberately aired it at such a dismal hour in hope that the ratings would sag and he could justify canceling it. Why else would you pay for an no-doubt expensive syndicated program and then air it when no one was awake?

Ah well, that's all in the past now. 25 years in the past, to be exact. Thanks to home video and the internet I can watch the show anytime I want.

So Happy Birthday, Star Trek: The Next Generation. I'll close with a joke: What did Captain Picard say when he took his sewing machine to the repair shop? Make it sew! Haw!

Close Call Part 2

Yesterday a British policeman in Worcestershire (love their sauce) was making his normal night rounds, when he spotted what he described as a "suspicious bright light." He radioed the station to alert them that he was going to investigate the light, and might need backup.

A few minutes later he radioed the station again to inform them that the suspicious light was actually... the moon.

This cop needs to team up with the Air Canada pilot from last April. The one who dove his plane toward the ocean in an effort to avoid the planet Venus.

As a public service, I would just like to remind everyone that when you look up into the sky you may occasionally see one or more large round bright objects. Do not be alarmed. These objects are merely Sky Spirits, members of a race of large glowing super beings who live on the surface of the gargantuan dome which hangs above the flat plane of the Earth.

The most common of the Sky Spirits are the Yellow Face, which appears as a large, hot glowing ball and is usually visible during the daytime, and the Cold Face, a smaller white globe that can change its shape and appears during the day and the night.

The Sky Spirits are mostly harmless, although when angered, the Yellow Face can cause your skin to blister and peel.

If the presence of the Sky Spirits makes you uncomfortable, it is possible to frighten them back into their underground lairs. Merely go out into your yard and bang on a metal trash can lid or on any pots and pans available. Chanting and shrieking at the Spirits is also advised. It may take a while, in some cases up to twelve hours, but eventually your display will frighten them and they'll disappear below the horizon.

Be advised that they won't stay scared for long though, and will likely reappear the next day.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Who Shoes

It's been an hour or two since I posted anything about Doctor Who, so it's high time to rectify that.

Above is what seems to be a photo of a collection of everyday junk. Look again! That's not just everyday junk, it's miniature everyday junk.

British toy company Big Chief Studios is working on a series of 12" tall Doctor Who action figures. That's a pair of David Tennant's (the Tenth Doctor) trademark Chuck Taylors. Each of those shoes are about one inch long!

When I first saw the photo I thought those were normal full-sized shoes. The level of detail is incredible. How do the kids say it today? It's "off the rack?" "All that and a bag of meat?" Whatever, it's amazing.

Their plans are to eventually release super detailed 12" versions of all eleven Doctors, plus select companions and monsters. Looks like it's time to sit down and think about what organs I don't use that often so I can sell 'em and start buying these!

Out Of Context Star Trek Moment, Anniversary Edition

I've been an avid Star Trek fan for many decades, but even I have to admit that certain episodes could get a little silly now and then, especially when viewed out of context.

In honor of Star Trek: The Next Generation's 25th Anniversary, sit back and enjoy this totally Out Of Context Star Trek Moment.


Yep, you're seeing it right. That's Counselor Troi, transformed into a sheet cake. And a rather poorly constructed and unappetizing one at that.

I wonder how they could have achieved this seamless, startling effect?



Later in the episode Troi presents Commander Data with a cake that I assume is supposed to somewhat resemble him. Wow. Did she drop it in the corridor on the way to his quarters? I hope she's the one who baked it, because if she ordered that sad thing up from the replicator then Geordi needs to run a Level one diagnostic on it, stat.

Jesus, I think I could have baked a better cake than that sad looking thing.


In fact the more I look at it, the less it looks like Data and the more it looks like this.


Seriously, Star Trek? Those lumpy, misshapen pastry representations of Troi and Data were the best you could do? We can make cakes that look like the one above right now and we're sitting here in the primitive 21st Century. You guys are supposed to be in the 24th. What the hell?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Tales From The Grocery: The Evil Eye

A year ago I got a job as a cashier at a grocery store in order to pay off some bills. It was a miserable, humiliating and demoralizing experience in every measurable sense, and I got the hell out of there as soon as my bills were paid. I feel genuinely sorry for anyone who has to work in such a place.

Here is another terrifying Tale From The Grocery. All Tales are 100% true.

To paraphrase Batman, "Customers are a superstitious and cowardly lot." One night a lady came through my checkout line and her total was $6.66. She took one look at the register and said, “Oh, hell no!” and bought a candy bar in order to up the total to a less “evil” amount.

I was surprised she didn’t spit through her fingers three times to ward off the evil eye.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Happy 50th Birthday, Jetsons!

Happy belated 50th Birthday to The Jetsons!

It seems impossible but The Jetsons first aired fifty years ago on Sunday, September 23, 1962. It aired Sunday nights on ABC and was the first series ever to be broadcast in color (even though few TV stations at that time could transmit color signals and even fewer viewers had color sets). There were 24 original episodes that were shown in prime time, and they've been airing in syndication pretty much ever since.

There was a second series of episodes produced in 1985. Do yourself a favor and just skip those. They tried to update the series (how do you update a series that's set in the future?) and even shoehorned an annoying new alien pet named Orbity into the mix. As you might expect, it was awful. Avoid at all costs.

Like most kids I loved dinosaurs, so you'd think The Flintstones would be my favorite. Hardly. Even as a kid I recognized that they were nothing more than The Honeymooners with dinosaurs. Plus I really hated when they'd do that same corny joke every week, in which they'd show some prehistoric animal working the insides of some stone-age appliance who'd say, "You think you've got a tough job!"

No, The Jetsons were much more to my liking. I wanted to live in their world so badly I could taste it. Flying cars, robot maids, wall sized TV screens, a three day work week and all that gorgeous Googie architecture. It was right up my alley.

Over the last decade several filmmakers have expressed interest in directing a live action version (allegedly starring William H. Macy as George), but so far nothing's come of it. Given how The Flintstones movies turned out, that's probably for the best.

The show was set in 2062 (a century after it premiered on TV), so we've only got fifty short years to invent everything seen in the series. At that rate the world of The Jetsons will become reality just about the time I kick the bucket. Typical.

The Saddest Title Screen In The World

I started watching the first season of 1990s sitcom NewsRadio on DVD this week. Still a great show with an awesome cast and still genuinely funny.

But whenever this part of the opening credits comes on screen it makes me sad. Doubly sad; not just because of the name but because of the background as well.

Maybe I'll start fast-forwarding through this part.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Doctor Who Season 7, Episode 4: The Power Of Three

Another solid episode this week. I'm really enjoying Season 7 so far, much more than last season, They seem to be on a roll. Let's hope they keep it up.

Spoilers Ahoy!

The plot: Amy and Rory are going about their everyday lives at home, away from the Doctor. One morning millions of small, featureless black cubes appear all over Earth. The cubes are invulnerable and present no apparent danger. A year goes by and the world forgets about them, which is exactly what the cubes want...

• In the past three episodes the title sequence has had an unpleasant yellowish tint to it. This episode it's got a definite purplish cast. Plus this week there's more detail in the "lightning hits." Odd.

• The "textured font" theme continues. This week the Doctor Who logo has a fitting cubical texture (although if you didn't know about the cubes it could be easy to mistake the texture for argyle!).

 • It's the welcome return of Brian Williams, Rory's dad! Sadly, this will most likely be the last time we ever see him.

• I thought the "cube Invasion" was a brilliant idea. Send a bunch of inert cubes to Earth, wait until the population gets used to them and ignores them and then strike. 

• "Within three hours the cubes had a thousand separate Twitter accounts." I have no problem believing that would really happen!

Rory: Right, I'm due at work.
  The Doctor: What? You've got a job?
  Rory: Of course I've got a job, what do you think we do when we're not with you?
  The Doctor: I imagine mostly kissing.

• Amy tells the Doctor that she writes travel articles for magazines. When did that happen? Is she no longer a model?

• It was a nice touch (and quite a surprise!) to see the UNIT troops being led Kate Stewart, daughter of the Doctor's old collegue Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. I liked her character a lot and hope she pops up again. One thing though: Did the Brig ever once mention a family? I freely admit I'm not an expert scholar when it comes to the old episodes, but I don't ever remember him saying anything about one.

UPDATE! A loyal reader has informed me that the Brig talked about his wife in many episodes and she actually showed up in one. Also, Kate Stewart is not a new character, as she's appeared in several direct-to-home video side projects. Well, there you go then!

• What was with the twin hospital orderlies with the cube shaped holes where their mouths should be? I figured we'd see them firing cubes out of their "mouths" at some point, but it never happened. So why did they look like that then? 

• The conversation between Bryan and the Doctor about companions was very well played.

• The scenes of the Doctor unable to be patient were well done, and made perfect sense. Think about it: A Time Lord would never develop patience. He has a time machine, for poop's sake. He never has to wait for anything. If it's June and he can't wait for Xmas, boom, he flies the TARDIS to December 25 and he's there. No inconvenient and interminable waiting.

• Did we just see the return of fish sticks and custard?

• Amy says by her reckoning she and Rory have been traveling with the Doctor for ten years, although far less time has passed on Earth (because they have adventures in the TARDIS that last weeks or months, and the Doctor brings them back home minutes after they first left). I don't think this phenomenon has ever been explored on the show before now.

I'm not quite clear on how she's measuring the ten years though. Is she starting it from the very first time she and Rory traveled with the Doctor, in The Vampires Of Venice? Or is she starting from their wedding in The Big Bang? Or from the time the Doctor "died" and gave them a house?

• Classic Doctor Who:
The Doctor: Seven, seven. What's important about seven? Seven Wonders of the World. Seven streams of the river Ota. Seven sides to a cube.
Amy: A cube has six sides.
The Doctor: Not if you count the inside.
• Eventually the cubes reveal their true purpose: exterminating the "human contagion" before it can spread throughout the galaxy. They do this by using an electrical pulse to stop the heart of any nearby humans. A cube also stops one of the Doctor's two hearts. Lucky for humanity (and the show) that the cube only stopped one of his hearts. I suppose you could argue that the cubes only had enough power to stop one, but it still seemed convenient.

• The Doctor limps along painfully for quite a while with only one functioning heart. Finally Amy uses a defibrillator to shock his stopped heart back into beating. Sigh... this is an old, old, OLD mistake that crops up over and over and over again in TV and movies.

Defibrillators do not work this way. They are not human jumper cables. They are useless on a patient with a flatline heart rate (known as asystole). They are used on patients suffering from ventricular fibrillation-- a heart that is flip-flopping around in the chest with an irregular rhythm. A defibrillator, as its name suggest, stops the fibrillation; in other words restoring regular rhythm to the heart. It can also be used to treat ventricular tachycardia-- a heart that is beating too fast. A non-beating heart cannot be "jump-started" by a defibrillator, and can only be helped by CPR or intravenous medication.

How this inaccurate trope got started and why it persists, I have no idea.

• The Shakri looked a lot like the Anakin Skywalker from Return Of The Jedi (the original version, not George Lucas' revisionist Special Editions.

• The Doctor eventually saves the day (and one third of the human race) by reversing the polarity of the neutron flow or something and restarting the hearts of everyone who was killed by the cubes. It seemed like quite a long time elapsed though between the time everyone's hearts were stopped and when they were restarted.

So how long could a person survive with a stopped heart? I wouldn't think very long. If your heart isn't pumping, then it's not carrying oxygen to your brain. The human brain can only survive for a few minutes without oxygen. I hate to nitpick too much, but all those people whom the Doctor saved by restarting their hearts are most likely going to be brain-damaged.

• Just an observation: In all of this season's previous episodes no one has heard of the Doctor, as if he's been erased from the universe. That didn't happen this week, as Kate Stewart definitely knew him.

• Next week, the Ponds say goodbye. I've been trying to avoid spoilers all summer; nevertheless I have a pretty good idea of what's going to happen, and I don't like it. It's gonna be hard watching the next episode.
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