Doctor Who: A Timeless Episode?

It’s another season finale for Doctor Who, and the fans are up in arms again.

*** WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD ***

Most fans appear to be upset at the fact that the season finale this year rewrites Timelord history. It’s not Bobby Ewing waking up in the shower bad, but for many it’s bad enough. Turns out the Doctor isn’t actually a Timelord. Or if she is, she’s actually the First Timelord. Or maybe the Timelords are actually only really half Timelords. Look, Doctor Who at the best of times can be a confusing mess, it’s what happens when you have stories that can result in history being changed. To butcher a Terry Pratchett quote, it doesn’t just take you up the other trouser leg in time, it’s often a completely different pair of trousers. Gallifrey has been lost, found, destroyed, found, and lost again more often than my glasses. The season finale doesn’t just destroy them, it runs over them with a steam roller and buries them in the foundations of your local football stadium.

First, and I’ll get this out of the way now, I enjoyed the final episode. It was glorious fun and adds a lot to the Doctor Who universe. It’s getting the fandom excited and talking about Doctor Who, which is good. You knew there was going to be a “but” here didn’t you? But…

The episode, and you could argue the entire series, is not without it’s issues. It’s the issues that the fandom are being so vocal about, but for me most of what the fandom dislike about this season I don’t mind. At least not to the point that I would stop watching. Yes, the season retcons the entire history of Gallifrey. The Master is reduced to the most petty minded villain in Doctor Who’s history, his motivation reduced to jealousy. I mean who hasn’t wanted to destroy their entire species out of jealousy? But these are just plot points to get the season moving, an excuse for the big finale on Gallifrey.

The main issues for myself seem to be born of what I can only assume to be lazy writing. And by that I mean someone has got it into their heads that every season must be BIGGER than the last. And what better way to be bigger than ever before than to make The Doctor the Timelord equivalent of the messiah? It solves so many problems, no longer is The Doctor constrained by the 12 regenerations of the mere Timelords, she can regenerate as many times as she likes. She is effectively immortal and can be played by anyone for an eternity. The Master’s jealousy now makes sense, The Doctor isn’t just another rival Timelord, she’s the original Timelord. To hell with canon, regenerations are no longer linked to the Tardis, they’re gene spliced from the saviour, the very source of the Timelord’s power.

There are obvious problems with this, not least of all the whole “begging the Timelords for more regenerations as the Doctor lays dying” at the end of Matt Smith’s reign. There’s also the whole Timelord Cybermen issue. If the Timelords were all dead, no regenerations left, then how was the Cyberman that The Master ordered shot able to regenerate? Are we led to believe that the Timelords were suspended in stasis mid regeneration? And if they were, then The Master took a risk, what if the Cyberman that was shot had already used their twelfth regeneration? There’s also the whole Timelord trait of having two hearts. Did the Timelords originally have one heart? Is the Timelord’s second heart a result of the gene splicing with The Timeless Child? Is the reason for this sudden change the fact that it allows them to play with regeneration in future episodes? Will we see a dozen Doctors in the next season? One for each episode?

The retcon of Timelord history also creates another problem. From previous canon we know that Rassilon, Omega, and The Other created Timelord society and the Tardises. These are Timelords that The Doctor knows the names of, and have even been linked to The Doctor in some media. Given Timelord history is well known, and given the Matrix contains the sum total of Timelord History it seems inconceivable that not only did they manage to hide the truth for so long, but that The Master was able to just stumble upon it.

Another issue is the Division. The idea of a special ops team of Timelords able to do what other Timelords cannot isn’t that farfetched. In fact it would be more surprising if it didn’t exist. What is surprising is that it would appear that there was a team of one, and that one was The Doctor. It again raises the issue of The Doctor being something more than just a Timelord with wanderlust. Now The Doctor is some sort of secret agent with thousands of lifetimes of experience. The scenes of Ireland become a metaphor for The Doctor’s transit from the Division into normal Timelord life. It’s not real. From The Master’s comments about the areas of The Doctor’s history missing from the Matrix though it could be argued that The Doctor’s time as an agent of the Division measures in the thousands of years. The Doctor’s age is indeterminant. How old was The Doctor when first discovered? How did the Timelords not only wipe The Doctor’s memory, but also regenerate as a child again, having to learn everything as if it was the very first time. As paradoxes go within Doctor Who this is, as they say, a doozy. Not least given the addition of a previously unknown Doctor that doesn’t fit into any of the timelines we’re aware of. If she’s Division era Doctor Who then why does she have a classic blue box Tardis? We know the Tardis got stuck in this shape when William Hartnell’s Doctor broke the chameleon circuit. As with so much it makes no sense. In fact she only seems to exist to play a final practical joke on The Doctor by landing her in prison for all eternity at the end of the episode. Now where have we seen that before? Maybe they’ll spin-off a series of Division specials, much like later Torchwood episodes.

My final issue with the season finale is probably my biggest issue with Doctor Who ever since the reboot with Christopher Ecclestone. As someone who grew up with Tom Baker I’m used to story arcs that don’t involve “the entire universe is at stake”. The season finale has become boring. It’s an endless stream of “The Doctor must save the last of humanity from utter destruction. Again.” For just once I’d like something different, no Cybermen, no Daleks, no Master. Just a regular “The Doctor must save themselves, maybe a few companions”, and at most a planet that isn’t Earth. I want something new that isn’t “BIGGER AND BETTER THAN BEFORE”. I just want Doctor Who written by someone who isn’t trying to stamp their mark on it by making it something it’s never been before.

The Death (Threat) Of Social Media

As long as there has been humanity there has been bullying. Bullies at school. Bullies at work. Bullies at home. With the internet came online gaming, and bullies in games. And now with social media we see bullying everywhere we have a presence. Online trolls on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. Wherever you look you see bullies.

20 years ago I saw very little of the hatred I see today online. I did however see it in real life, with homophobia, racism, and sexism. While not overt, it was there in a casual way, a general acceptance for the comedy of Jethro, Chubby Brown, and Jim Davidson. 10 years ago I saw a mood shift in the public perception, and while the right railed against “political correctness gone mad” it seemed generally accepted that online abuse was abuse, and people were called out for being intolerant in public. Social media seemed a relatively safe haven and the trolls were reported and kicked off the platform. 10 years ago it looked like we were headed towards an age of tolerance. It was okay to be black, or gay, or disabled, or just simply female. Then 5 years ago things started going wrong. Across the globe the far right started gaining more traction. It suddenly became okay to be publicly bigoted, racism became politically viable. In the USA Donald Trump came to power with his call to “build the wall” and stop the “flood of immigrants from Mexico”. The UK voted for Brexit, and while it “wasn’t about racism” the majority who voted for it did so because they wanted “fewer brown people coming here”. And almost overnight the tolerance we had seen being exercised in public was gone. Tommy Robinson, Nigel Farage, Katie Hopkins, Boris Johnson. They all suddenly had a voice and everywhere you went you’d hear people saying “kick them out” towards people of the wrong skin colour. And no one stopped them, if anything it was positively encouraged as newspaper after newspaper churned more and more vitriol out. Anyone trying to point out lies or hatred was shot down as “fake news”.

Since then it hasn’t gotten any better. If anything it’s gotten worse. Emboldened by the rising rhetoric in public we have seen an exponential rise in hatred online. And that hatred is no longer being driven by the trolls and bullies, it’s being pushed by the very people in charge of running the country. The result is the bullies no longer fear saying anything they want. It’s no surprise that the racists are also bigoted in other ways. Attacks against the LGBT community have increased. Transphobia is rampant online, fueled by the ignorance of feminists like J K Rowling who promotes the voices of those who would eradicate Trans rights. Disabled rights are eroded, no surprise when you have governments that put in place laws that seem determined to remove the safety nets many disabled people require, and with it normalising abuse of the disabled. A partially sighted woman is mocked for using a phone while carrying a white cane. And with the trolls have come the bots. Any view that isn’t shared by the far right is seen as fair game. Arguments are filled with irrelevant comments designed to shift the narrative away from the original point, to get you arguing about anything else. A post about immigration is steered towards illegal asylum seekers, and with that the racists pile on demanding they all get sent back to where they came from. It overwhelms the story that is trying to be heard.

And with it all comes the rise of death threats, of threats of sexual assault, of rape. If you’re black your’re stupid, if you’re female you’re there to breed, regardless of your sexuality. If you think there should be gun control then you hate your family and you want them to be murdered, while also being threatened with murder for daring to suggest that someone should have their guns taken away from them. “Arm everyone and we’ll all be safe” is the cry, while forgetting that it’s the very ease that you can acquire guns in the USA that is fueling their school shooting epidemic. And god help you if you happen to own a gun if you’re black, where being unarmed is seen as enough to have the police shoot you in your own home. It’s okay to be a bigot in today’s world and the white supremacists are not only tolerated, they’re actively supported by those in power.

Some say that we should only allow verified accounts on social media. This sounds great until you realise how many use social media anonymously to escape from the very threats that are now overwhelming it. The trans kids that haven’t come out yet, the woman escaping an abusive partner. What we need to do is make it unacceptable to threaten people online, as it is in real life. And we need to return to the tolerant society that we were before the far right regained prominence.

Today, more than ever, we need people to stand up to the bigots. We need more than ever to say no to racism. No to homophobia. No to Transphobia. No to anti-semitism. No to Islamophobia. No to sexism. No to misogyny. No to ableism. No to fascism.

We need more than ever to ask our Trans kids “how can we make this world safer for you?” and to ask the disabled “what do we need to do to include you in society?” and we need to accept that how others identify does not affect our individual rights. Everyone has the right to be treated as a human being, regardless of race, religion, disability, sexuality, gender identity. We need to regain tolerance, and stop being tolerant of intolerance. When someone ask “what about my right to hate?” we need to stand up and say “you don’t have any”.

Almost live.

This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for quite a while but haven’t had the time until now to do so. There’s a disturbing trend amongst the music industry where bands are playing “almost live”. Fans of pop stars like Madonna may be aware that a lot of her concerts are performed to a prerecorded backing track. What is less known is that this trend is happening a lot more in rock and punk music too. When you go and see a band like Iron Maiden or Black Sabbath one of the joys of seeing them is knowing they’re playing live. Famously in Rush’s concert video from 1988, A Show Of Hands, you can see a change in the guitar used by Alex Lifeson part way through 2112. It wasn’t careful editing of 2 nights footage, despite the concert being recorded over 2 nights, it was the result of the fastest guitar change I have ever witnessed, live in front of me at the concert. Real music played live, with no gimmicks or tapes.

That’s not to say that some concerts shouldn’t have some prerecorded instruments. Emilie Autumn puts on a remarkable show where she blends recorded instruments with live music. As a classically trained violinist she certainly doesn’t need to use tapes for her own music but as a multi-instrumentalist it’s a bit difficult to play 2 instruments at once while also singing lead vocals. Another trick often used to good effect is loop taping, recording and playing back on the fly to layer music together. When used it can add a dimension to a live show where a single artist wants to expand on what otherwise would be just a single guitar and voice, allowing them to mix into their music a rhythm and bass line to an otherwise one dimensional lead guitar. These tricks all have valid uses in live music when done openly, without any subterfuge.

So it’s extremely disappointing as a fan of live music to hear increasingly of rock and pop punk bands resorting to tricks in order to preserve their “live performances”. At some festivals it has become almost impossible to tell if the band you are watching is actually playing live. The most common trick would appear to be to play along to an entirely recorded track, akin to an old Top Of The Pops appearance where the entire performance was mimed. Famously when asked to mime on a tv chat show the Red Hot Chilli Peppers swapped positions so none of the band members was actually playing their own instruments in protest at being asked to mime. In almost every case the bands will say they play live but “turn down” their instruments to half volume. That is not “live”. It was discovered that many of the bands on the Warped Tour favoured this method. Another trick that I have personally witnessed is that of the “session musician”, where one or more session artists are employed offstage to play the parts that the band should be playing. It’s even more disappointing that this trick was performed by Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz’s pet project All Time Low, where for an entire concert their lead guitarist failed to play a single note, seemingly able to mimic the rhythm guitarist’s guitar strumming style while playing and even succeeding in playing a twirling guitar solo without even touching the strings of his guitar. If you look carefully at videos of the band playing at 2011’s Sonisphere Festival you will see at the back of the stage to the far left a much older guitarist who is clearly not a member of the band playing the lead guitar part for the entire concert. It is this complete lack of respect for the fans of live music that I find appalling. Many of these bands will tell stories of how they’ve worked hard playing gigs in small venues and building up a fan base from playing live. If that was true then have the courtesy to trust that your fans will still be fans even if your live show contains the occasional off note or out of key vocal. Not one person has ever said “I wish Ozzy Osbourne had mimed at Download so Black Sabbath could sound as good as they do after months of mixing and production on their album”. When we see a band live we expect to see them as they are. The blistering guitar solo by Alice Cooper’s guitarist Orianthi, Neil Peart’s YYZ drum solo, Pete Townsend’s thumping bass riffs. To have them on stage miming would be a travesty and I know no one who would not feel cheated and let down to find their personal heroes had actually performed “almost live”.

Building a new PC

I’ve decided the main PC I have at home is no longer up to the job. As I write my PC has been processing some photos for the last 4 hours and look like they still have another 3 hours to go. This is before I load them into photoshop to play with.

So I need a new PC. It’s been a few years since I last built a new PC so I need to research minimum specs for my requirements, etc. To help I’ve already decided it needs to be able to play the latest games. Bioshock Infinite has quite high specs for gameplay so I’ve decided to use that as my benchmark.

That’s enough concise writing, time to waffle on. For my purposes I’m not actually going to build my new PC just yet, rather I’m going to spec up 4 machines. The first will be BI’s minimum spec to run the game. The second will be the recommended spec. The third will be the spec required to run everything at it’s highest resolution and the final spec is what I would build given complete free reign over everything. The PC I actually build will be determined by my financial position in the new year since I know I won’t be able to afford any of the components until then.

So, with that in mind the research begins…