The oldest words in the universe…

…are these:

Last week on Doctor Who we got James Corden and low fi crazy roommate drama and this week, but this week as “The Pandorica Opens,” we got possibly one of the biggest, craziest episodes of the show ever.

Somehow the stakes are even higher than they were in “The Stolen Earth” and “Journey’s End” and all the teases from this past season and from across time and space start to coalesce into something, like a puzzle assembling itself. Much like the Pandorica itself, a nasty puzzle box that was dreamt up in the mind of a little girl and can unlock itself from the inside…

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Writing through time and space.

So, in my talking about the works of Russell T. Davies, especially on Doctor Who and “The End Of Time,” parts one and two the other day, I totally neglected to mention this:

The Writer’s Tale, a compilation of emails sent back and forth between Davies and journalist Benjamin Cook over the course of one year in the production and creation of the show, from the “Voyage Of The Damned” Christmas special and thru the fourth series to the following Christmas special, “The Next Doctor.”

This is quite an amazing book, more than the usual fluff that might be put out to cash in on the show’s fame, but more of an in depth and beautifully honest discussion by two people. And Davies is quite the figure, ever the “real” writer, primarily existing in the lonely twilight, chain smoking and pounding away on a keyboard, ironing out frustrations and finding the mad joy in the stories he’s making. Now, no book can truly capture the spark of creation that exists in a writer’s mind just the same as no science text can really tell you about the Big Bang, but this is a fascinating attempt.

Somehow Cook is both silent in the tale, letting Davies assume the full spotlight as he should, letting him become amazing candid, and also conjuring up the landscape to prompt more from the screenwriter. You eavesdrop on these men for something like 500 pages and it’s brilliant, sometimes cheeky and sometimes guilt-ridden and scared, letting the media personages fade away. You’d think this would something solely for the Doctor Who nuts out there, but it’d make a lovely gift for a writer who understands what it’s like pull shapes out of the ether, and Davies gives the craft the size and the majesty it deserves. And somehow, the book just doesn’t feel long enough.

…which lead to good news, I discovered quite by accident, since they’re revising and expanding the book for it’s upcoming paperback release, retitled to The Writer’s Tale: The Final Chapter, and presumably covering the creation of the last specials to feature David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor before Steven Moffat and Matt Smith take over. I can say that, without a doubt, I’ll be getting that as soon as it comes out.

Should be exciting. And I can only hope that Steven Moffat would do a similar project someday. As good as Davies is at these big crowd-pleasing and sweet, sometimes metaphysical, romps of adventure and romance, Moffat is just the same, but simpler, more tragic, more dark, and more human. He falls into the same category, for me, along with writers like Charlie Kaufman or Darin Morgan or Joss Whedon or Amy Hempel or Don Delillo or even Grant Morrison, creators whom I’d love to dissect the inner workings of their creative impulses, the way they move and think. And ultimately steal some inspiration from too, of course.

I’d possibly through Neil Gaiman on that list too, who I mentioned briefly and in passing here, because, while I don’t love everything he puts out, I admire his relentless entries into the creative. Not that Gaiman isn’t famous enough, but he really deserves the empire we’ve handed so easily to Stephen King. Of course, in my mind, the persistent rumors that Gaiman (and also possibly His Dark Materials‘ Phillip Pullman as well) might pen an episode of Doctor Who under Moffat’s tenure don’t exactly hurt either.

by Ape Lad, from here.

Speaking of writers…

How To Talk To Girls At Parties” by Neil Gaiman.

A short film based on Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous With Rama.

Picasso’s Guernica and Roberto Bolaño’s 2666.

Tk’tk’tk” by David D. Levine.

A Study In Emerald” by Neil Gaiman, a brilliant combination of the world of Sherlock Holmes intertwined with the Cthulhu mythos. As good as this story is, I should warn you that it’s really for those “hardcore” fans of the Holmes stories.

Warren Ellis talking about hauntology.

Bruce Sterling on the state of the world here in 2010.

The Nine Billion Names Of God” by Arthur C. Clarke.

I, Cthulhu” by Neil Gaiman. Is it Cthulhu Cthursday, right?

Oliver Wetter’s The Call Of Cthulhu, from here.

The end of time, part two: Geronimo!

NERD ALERT, part two. With spoilers.

This is what we had to look forward to going into “The End Of Time, part two,” the conclusion of David Tennant’s swan song as the Tenth Doctor in Doctor Who last night (airing today in America):

I tell you what, for a long time as I was watching this episode, as it swelling and building on it’s action and it’s emotional cadences, I was sure that I was going to walk away from it crying. Maybe just a manly tear or two, maybe just a bad case of the “watery eyes,” but I had that feeling. And in the end, no, I didn’t cry. But it was worse.

This episode broke my heart.

The plot so far: The Doctor’s mortal enemy The Master has come to Earth, freshly resurrected, but it’s gone wrong. He’s slowly wasting away and meets the Doctor who’s not only reeling from the prophecy that he’s soon to die, the victim of someone who will “knock four times,” but that “something is returning,” and said return will herald the end of time itself. The Master gets his hands on an alien medical device and writes his template onto all of humanity, turning the Doctor’s favorites, the human race, into the Master race.

Meanwhile, the Time Lords, still trapped within the confines of the Time War may have just found their way out…

And of course, there was some glorious references to Star Wars there, ranging from escaping from the Death Star to the Mos Eisley cantina, sort of.

At this point in the revamped show’s history, head writer Russell T. Davies has essentially become marmite. People either love him or they absolutely despise him. And, to be fair, it’s easy to want to see him go, especially with Steven Moffat waiting in the wings, but I think a lot of the criticism is massively unfair. If you love the show now, it should be hard to forget that it all goes back to RTD’s influence. And it should be hard to praise Davies as a massively effective writer, perfect to taking the show to massive crowd-pleasing heights all the while creating water cooler moments and turning potential weaknesses or set backs – Billie Piper leaving the show, or the actor playing Donna’s dad passing away – into victories, making them look like brilliant things planned out all along.

Plus, and this is just a personal thing, you have to love the technobabble that RTD comes up with, especially when it comes to the Time War: The Nightmare Child, the Shadow Proclamation, the Medusa Cascade, the Horde of Travesties, and the Could Have Been King with his army of Meanwhiles and Neverwheres. It’s ridiculous but it’s just glorious sci fi word puff.

But one of RTD’s many strengths in his run on Doctor Who has been with words, not just the glossolalia of sci fi puff or fantasy technobabble, but the arcwords, things like “Torchwood” and “Bad Wolf,” the recurring way just talking can scare us or excite us. He’s practically programmed his audience to howl with joy whenever Tennant screams “Allons-y!” or to curl up with sadness whenever the Doctor again refrains with “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.”

And while a lot of people had – and rightfully so – a lot of complaints about last week’s episode, there was still something brilliant in it’s frantic chase to the end, this beautiful insane pace as these two men, former friends and now bitter enemies, tried to outrun each other and their own mortality.

And then the evil Timothy Dalton had to show up and start spitting all over the place.

And I have to pause here to toot my own horn for a moment. I totally saws the return of the Timelords coming (and perhaps it was hard not to?), though I assumed it would’ve been in last year’s mega-finale of near fan fiction proportions, “The Stolen Earth”/”Journey’s End.” I had assumed that hidden away there in the Medusa Cascade was the locked away Time War. And part of me was glad it wasn’t.

Mostly because I was dreading their return. I know this show, this revived edition from 2005 to now, and every time I dabble in the 40+ years of lore of the show prior to that, I just have to shudder. The embarrassment of those involved, I think. It’s everything that we mock about the BBC shows, particularly their sci fi: looks like it was all shot on video for pocket change, lots of guys in rubber masks and trash cans wheeling around while a bunch of overacting thespians with bad teeth start shouting at each other. And then there’s the Time Lords with their funny hats and silly robes.

I once read an interview with RTD where he prided himself on the fact that he was a long time hardcore fan of this show, since childhood, and that as showrunner, while he may play with certain elements and tweak things here and there within the show’s vast continuity, he had never contradicted the show, not once. And to his credit, I’ve never heard that he has. And I think, based on the things I’ve seen with the Time Lords in the past, that he’s been true to that in this incarnation of them. Here, with the exception of the woman whom I think is clearly painted as the Doctor’s mother, they’re painted as villains, insane dictators of space and time, willing to cleanse and sanction the universe at their whim, and that seems pretty accurate to who and what they’ve always been.

Plus, I think Doctor Who works wonderfully with that nice little bit of pulp roots there, the lone survivor of an ancient and once noble race, lonely as he wanders the universe, seeing everything there is to see and and helping out where he can. It’s a nice bit of dress up for a show about an adrenaline junkie crossed with your classic British pacifist hero who just happens to have a device that punches holes in the universe.

Speaking of which, I was fascinated that a significant aspect of this episode was trying to tempt the character to take up arms. Though, for all the moral high ground that RTD’s Tenth Doctor has taken up over the years, its’ been a shaky, topsy turvy high ground. Sure, he wouldn’t shoot a man in revenge for killing his daughter, but there was the man who offered “no second chances” to the Sycorax leader above London all those years ago in that first X-mas special.

Two other items of tooting my own horn: The sound of the drums in the Master’s head? I totally called that being something involving the Time Lords and their return. Probably blatantly obvious, but still. And I always unfortunately worried that Wilf would be the man who knocked four times. And it was mostly confirmed last week when he became the only person (still living)(and a “he”) that the Doctor had previously told of the prophecy.

And it’d be criminal not to mention Bernard Cribbins as Wilf in this episode. The cafe scene last week was merely prologue to the vulnerability and sweetness he displays here. This wonderful character actor doesn’t just deserves to be awarded for his part in this episode, he deserves to be knighted.

But from that, I think we got a delicious bit of anger from Tennant’s Doctor. All the good he’s done, all the joy he’s caused within his time in the universe, of course he’d be angry that it has to stop, and stop because some silly old man goes and gets himself locked up with a nuclear device, even if he was saving the life of some poor technician. Though his anger is fleeting, it’s natural and perfectly within the character, I think. A year ago in a brilliant regeneration tease, he decided that he didn’t want to die, and he feels the same way still.

Plus, it nicely echoes Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor transforming into the Tenth. Both men absorbed too much bad radiation of some kind and watched as their cells slowly began to break down and their regeneration energy started to build up. A particularly nice echo also when you consider that I, like so many, was devastated when Eccleston left the part. I figured, “I’ll give this Tennant chap an episode or two, but I’ll probably tune out on the wanker then.”

And somewhere along the journey, David Tennant became my Doctor.

David Tennant with the newly knighted Patrick Stewart in Hamlet.

And I’m glad that my Doctor got his just rewards, a final look at his friends through the eyes he was soon to leave behind. Goodbye, Sarah Jane and bratty son. Goodbye, Captain Jack, who know gets to work his naughty magic on Alonso Frame, replacing dead Ianto after the events of “Children Of Earth.” Goodbye, Mickey Smith and Martha Jones, the new Smith and Jones. Goodbye, Journal Of Impossible Things. Goodbye, Rose.

I knew pretty much everyone was coming back for some filming, except I was under the impression that Freema Agyeman wouldn’t be among them, busy with the British version of Law & Order. And it would’ve been understandable if she didn’t make the return trip, especially when you consider how her character got shit on before she left. First, she’s stranded for an episode in a mud pit with a bunch of fish aliens who can’t speak English. Then she’s berated for the whole Osterhagen thing. And then, finally, she’s stranded with Ricky Mickey. Oh well. Martha, you were still my favorite companion.

And I liked that last scene, well, the scene before the last scene, the goodbye to Rose quite a bit, more than I thought I would. I never disliked Rose, but I didn’t think she was as great as were lead to believe she was all this time. I think certainly she was just a nice chav girl who was in the right place in the right time, and a much needed bit of common sense for the Doctor on occasions. At least for Tennant’s Doctor anyway, since she was always the daughter/audience proxy archetype for Eccleston’s Doctor.

But here again, the two characters had a lovely dichotomy. For him, this will be the last time he ever sees her, and while she doesn’t realize it, this is the first time she’s met him, there in the snow on New Year’s eve. The same as the always recurring arc word “Bad Wolf,” which for Rose, always meant something good, but for the Doctor, it was only something bad.

And then there was the Ood in the snow again, singing the Doctor to his goodbye, well, at least his goodbye to this incarnation. To the regeneration that we’ve been waiting for… for over a year now? This song must end, but it’ll start up again with new instruments and new voices. But the music endures and continues and hopefully only gets better.

And those brilliant last words. We don’t want you to go either, David Tennant. But everything ends. The day before the episode aired, I emailed a friend a bevy of linked related to this episode – preview scenes, reviews, those bingo cards for the finale – and then a little later, I realized I had gone a bit nuts there. I emailed her back to apologize and she said, “Don’t worry. It’s understandable. It’s the end of the era and there’s no better time to go crazy.” Quite right too.

“We’re not in the business of being nostalgic, we’re making nostalgia for the future, new monsters, new friends,” said the brilliant Steven Moffat as he gets ready to take over the show (well, more than gets ready to since they’re probably finished filming the next season by now). Everything Moffat touches tends to turn to brilliance, from Coupling to Press Gang to all of his previous Doctor Who episodes, particularly “Blink” and “Silence In The Library”/”Forest Of The Dead,” and of course “Girl In The Fireplace,” to upcoming Spielberg movie version of Tintin.

Nothing filled me with more confidence than when Moffat told Comicon last year: “Doctor Who is at its best when it’s brand new and you’ve always got to remember that there’s a new bunch of eight-year-olds watching every year and it has to be original – it has to belong to them.”

Well, like I said, first Eccleston was my Doctor, and then, despite my intentions, David Tennant became my Doctor and the show felt it belonged to me. Personally and selfishly, I hope to retain that sense of ownership when Matt Smith’s Doctor takes over, even if he does look like a strange little boy, which may just be perfect for this character.

from here.

I know that the Daleks show up next season, but hopefully there appearance is a short one. I’m a bit Daleked out, personally. Other than that, with Davies raising the bar high on threats faced – the end of reality itself in “Journey’s End” and the eponymous end of time – I’m hoping Moffat will respond with quieter, more intimate bits of dread. I both like watching this show gripping my armchair and cheering along with it and watching it from behind my couch.

Oh, and as I finally wrap this up, here’s a bit of geek-ish warning. Just as we obsess over shows like Lost and Mad Men here at Counterforce, it’s a new year and a new era, and I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, but I’ll probably be coming at you with quite a bit of Doctor Who when the new series starts in the spring. Hope you’re along for the ride…

And then there’s how it ended, not with an ending, but with a beginning, with something new making contact in 2010:

The year in pictures, part two.

Almost there. Not quite yet though…

But, man, what a frustrating year.

I felt like Tyler Coates‘ picture here summed up what my attitude was going into this year. And what all of our attitudes should’ve been. As it always should be.

And now Alec Baldwin sums up how I felt about this year.

Though this year has brought some things that I desperately wanted to see.

Or never thought I would see (all together in the same club).

Or things that I would be okay never seeing again.

And some things, things from my childhood, came to an end.

Some things, I think, I realized I was glad to see go.

And it really hit me in this past year that some things will not last forever.

And some of those things are through. Professionally, I mean.

Oh well. Shit happens. Things come. And things go.

And they keep going.

It’s all about perspective.

Isn’t that what they say?

This was the year of hope.

This was the year of rejections.

This was the year of saying that you wanted a revolution.

And it was also the year where you said, “Could you try not to rub your beard up against my forest of tears?”

It was about new things.

And new things to regret (in the morning)(probably)(but hopefully not).

It was, for me, the year I just accepted the often hellish, nonstop barrage of celebrity bullshit.

…Especially in the face of weird hookups that I just can’t condone.

And seeing things I loved shat upon.

But these things happen.

We hold onto the good.

And let go of the bad.

Time to dust yourself off.

Maybe you’ve learned some things. About life, the world, and yourself.

And made some decisions.

And had some fun.

But just remember…

It’s easy to ride off into the sunset.

It’s hard to still be there when the sun rises. But that’s where the true excitement and the fun lay.

Hopefully we’ll see you there.

from here.

The end of time, part one.

Warning: MASSIVE NERDERY ABIDES.

This is a Doctor Who post. Sort of.

I should talk about the part one finale of the Tenth Doctor era, “The End Of Time, Part One,” but instead, especially in the spirit of the approaching New Year, this is about the anticipation of the concluding episode, which airs on New Year’s day in the UK, and the day after here in the colonies.

If I were to talk about part one, I’d tell you that it was a truly silly and ridiculous episode, just incredibly over the top at times. But wonderful. Just perfectly strange and nonsensical at times, but then within that wildnerness of weird, you’d get little scenes, like the one between David Tennant and Bernard Cribbins in the cafe. With just the faintest possibility of a tear in my eye, I could probably watch that scene again and again.

Also, thank you mightily Timothy Dalton for all that Time Lord spittle.

Definitely something that I think the thespians in America need to appropriate from across the Atlantic: The glorious art of just throwing some of your own saliva in another actor’s faces while chewing the scenery. Making someone blink and possibly having to take a handkerchief to their face is really what should decide who gets Oscars and things like that these days.

Play along at home:

from here.

Now, some mad linkage as the year draws to a close…

Ricky Jay and the secrets of the magus.

The man who is scaling Mt. Criterion film by film.

Julie Klausner and the end of the 00s.

15 reasons to live for the next ten years. If a meteorite doesn’t kill you, that is…

The Russians are going to chip in to save the Earth from destruction via meteorite in 2032. I remember reading about 99942 Apophis, the asteroid that will get dangerously close to our planet two decades from now and emailing a few people about it, not freaking out or anything, just saying, “You know, this is kind of interesting.” And I remember people telling me, “If this was a big deal, we would’ve heard something by now.” The time is now.

Notes on A Lover’s Discourse.

My Dinner With Andre is online.

Why do so many terrorists have engineering degrees?

Dear Benjamin, Light: Ap-Ro-Po. You cunt.

Jeff Dunham’s show has thankfully been canceled.

The sudden exoticism of Africa, and how ridiculous such a notion is.

Joeblog, you are missed.

Dylan Moran’s Black Books is on Hulu!

Republicans, Obama, and failed airplane bombs.

This article linked here: 2009. Independent film. Brave. Free thinkers.

Clean your screen.

(1000)(-493) Days of blogging.

500  posts. Plus 2. Then 5 more.  That’s exciting. Shocking, too. Exciting and shocking. Reminds me of my last few marriages.

More random notes:

One: Christmas Eve, all by myself. Plenty of drink and food and a lot of DVDs piling up. And sleeping dogs. I was planning on watching an old movie I enjoyed entitled A Midwinter’s Tale, but I ended up watching it last week instead out of impatience…

from here.

It’s an old comedy from 1995, directed by Kenneth Branagh, going back to his bread and butter, of course: the bard.

It’s the story of a group of poor has been and would be and never was actors putting on a Christmas play in a drafty old church in a small English village. The play they pick, of course, is Hamlet, partially because it’s all the silly things one thinks of Shakespeare – men in tights yelling silly things at each other and then sword fighting – but also because it is the ultimate play, the ultimate endeavor of theatrical drama. And somewhere along the way they find themselves, some light within themselves that’s still burning bright. Of course.

It’s a minor film, but a likable one in my book. It’s 90s comedy and independent film making at it’s finest, also. Branagh is a capable director with a good eye for finding new angles within Shakespeare to reveal to an audience and the cast is tight and enjoyable. Especially Absolutely Fabulous‘ Julia Sawalha as the female lead.

Two: So, right, but I’ve already watched that. I’ve got some work to do but I want to squeeze a movie or two out of this night. I doubt It’s A Wonderful Life is on, though it should be, of course, and I’m actually a bit sick to death of X-mas already. In fact, you know what I’m in the mood for? A ghost story, or something like that. Something creepy. I wish there more adaptations (that were good) of Shirley Jackson’s novels. Sigh.

My choices are, and this is interesting, a South Korean horror film called A Tale Of Two Sisters or it’s American remake, The Uninvited? Granted, the traditional logic here is to watch the original first, especially when the remake is an American take on an Asian original, and I’ve heard good things about the South Korean film, but obviously I’ve never been excited enough to watch it before now.

Though, slight exception to the rule: I really did like Gore Verbinksi’s remake of The Ring. Not the most logical film, of course, but Verbinkski did a remarkable job at effectively capturing dread in the cinema, something that is a lot harder to do than one would think. Actually, previous only Roman Polanski and David Lynch have been truly good at it in my book.

Actually, you know what I really want to watch? The Others. That movie was brilliant.

Three: Speaking of the cinema and adaptations, a few posts ago I was talking about how I was worried that a remake of Home Alone would end with gun violence, and that actually got me thinking a bit…

I’m surprised it hasn’t made the leap to the movies yet, but could one effectively stage a version of Clifford The Big Red Dog series of kid’s books? Especially in this period of economic turmoil, could a family realistically afford to feed this furry monster? And, much like E.T., wouldn’t the government want to step in and take a look at this canine behemoth?

Maybe that’s the angle right there. In the first act, the family gets the puppy, and the little girl’s love causes it to grow to gargantuan sizes. Act two, the government shows up and steals the thing concurrently with the parents, already struggling to pay their bills and buy truckloads of dog food at a time, gets laid off.

Act three: I don’t know. Something to do with the family getting a reality TV show, a take on the Gosselins meets the Balloon boy and his family, and the giant dog escapes the government holding facility in Dreamland/Area 51 where they’re keeping him after peeing on a captured alien spaceship there, which looks like a fire hydrant to him. Jesus, that’s ridiculous, isn’t it? But it’d work. They’ll probably cast somebody like Breckin Meyer as the patriarch and Elizabeth Banks (who’s in the remake of A Tale Of Two Sisters, by the way) as the matriarch, and get somebody like Cuba Gooding, Jr. as the evil Army General who… well, you get the gist, right?

Four: Tomorrow, in the UK, they’re airing the penultimate episode of Doctor Who featuring David Tenant as the Doctor, “The End Of Time, part 1.”

How sad is it that this excites me more than most other Christmas-y things, right? I imagine that somewhere in the vicinity of 3 PM to 5 PM my time, I’ll be online, scouring to find where somebody will have no doubt uploaded it. Then, on New Year’s day, there’s “The End Of Time, part 2,” and after that, well, after that is when that weird looking fucker Matt Smith takes over. Well, Matt Smith and the lovely Karen Gillan too:

Five: I’d much rather watch a movie based on Clifford The Big Red Dog rather than Walter the Farting Dog. That poor creature. The covers of those books just make me sad.

Tell me that dog doesn’t look like he’s in incredible pain. Just try.

Six: This picture is just for you, Peanut St. Cosmo:

Seven: Hmm. Shit. How much chocolate is too much chocolate for a dog to eat? Fuck.

Eight: This picture is just for you, August Bravo, since I know that you’re in love with Morrissey:

from here.

Something to do with him working with Stella McCartney on a line of shoes with no leather in them. Speaking of living my life just fine without slaughtering animals…

Nine: In the last few weeks, two travesties of decency have been committed upon me: The first being that Burger King canceled their “Angry” line of burgers, which was really just pepper jack cheese, jalapenos, and some kind of spicy sauce on their regular burgers. But their angry tendercrisp chicken sandwich was like hot flavorful sex in my mouth and now… now it’s gone…

The following week I went into a McDonald’s and was informed that they cancelled the McSkillet burrito. What the shit? I calmly asked the employee working there. She has no clue and just shrugged. Also, she did not speak English. So the following day, I went to another McDonald’s and discovered the same thing. The McSkillet was gone. Sigh. It felt like a part of myself was gone with it.

It may be remarkably easy to give up fast food for the New Year, should I be foolish enough to even verbalize a resolution this year.

Ten: Also… well, also there’s nothing else. Nothing that can’t wait. Well, except for this:

And this:

Have a lovely Christmas Eve, regardless of your religion, your race, your sex, your situation, or how ugly you probably are. I hope you’re someplace safe and warm doing naughty things with someone you love, or care about, or at least know the first name of. And to all a good night!