“Peri and the Piscon Paradox”

I want to begin my return to this journal with a review of Peri and the Piscon Paradox. It isdwcc0507_periandthepisconparadox_1417_cover_large such a gem of a story that I’ve been itching to write a full review of it ever since I listened to it the first time about two months ago, and it’s so good, I’ve listened to it a second time since. You see, there are so many Big Finish audios, both plays and audiobooks, that there just isn’t enough time in life to listen to them twice, but this one was worth it.

It’s impossible to discuss this story without spoilers and the twists in it are exquisite and a major part of what makes it fantastic, so I’m going to give a summary review here, and then the rest of this entry is spoilerific, so that if you think you might listen to the audio, you can read the summary review and avoid the spoilers.

Peri and the Piscon Paradox is a multi-layered story that explores Peri, her relationship with the Doctor, and her ultimate fate, all within an exciting adventure that’s in one moment thrilling, then the next moment will make you laugh out loud. At first, it seems like just a basic adventure, but as you get into it, it paints you a deeper picture of Peri than you’ve ever seen before, and really brings to life the personality, dreams, and motivations of a character that was just a shallow screaming companion in a tight leotard on the TV. You know how people say, “If you want just one taste of what the Big Finish audios are like, make sure you listen to this one”? I have about four audios I’d nominate for that, and this is one of them.

Okay, spoilers ahead!

PatPP is a story in the range called “The Companion Chronicles”. The primary performer is the companion, in this case Nicola Bryant, and the story is a hybrid of an audio play and an audiobook: it’s narrated by Ms. Bryant and she does the voices of many of the characters in the story, but other characters are played by other actors. The feel is more like an audiobook in that, as the narrator, Peri is explaining what’s going on and interjecting her opinions on things.

The story starts with Peri and the Fifth Doctor landing in Los Angeles in about 2009 to stop Zarl, a Piscon, a fish-like sentient, from stealing all of the water from Earth to take back to his home planet, which is drying up due to an expanding sun. While attempting to apprehend Zarl, they encounter Peri – a much older Peri, dressed in designer clothing and sporting a rhinoplasty new nose – who informs them that she works for the American government’s secret alien agency and that they’ve got Zarl all wrong. The Piscons discovered that when they die, they often reincarnate on Earth as humans, and Zarl is here because his wife is now human and he wants to join her by dying and reincarnating. However, Piscons cannot commit suicide, so he planned to lure the Doctor here with threats of invasion, hoping that the Doctor would kill him. She explains that the only way to stop Zarl is to kill him, and that in his eyes, it would be a mercy.

The Doctor, of course, refuses to do so, and after the usual chaos of an adventure, the older Peri grabs the gun that was designed to kill Zarl to shoot him. Younger Peri wrestles with her to get the gun away, but eventually loses and older Peri zaps not only Zarl, but his human wife as well. In the confusion, younger Peri manages to obtain older Peri’s pocketbook, and looking through it later, realizes that everything older Peri had told her about her future – that she’d gone back home and married her high-school sweetheart Davey and had three kids, etc. – was all a lie. Younger Peri deduces that older Peri had never returned to him, opting for a more exciting life as an alien hunter, turning her into the hardened killer she is now. She screams that she doesn’t want to become older Peri and vows to go home to her family when she finishes traveling with the Doctor and return to Davey. As older Peri calls after her, trying to fix things, younger Peri dashes into the TARDIS and leaves.

Now, except for not understanding why there’s an older Peri living on Earth, this might have been a great adventure if it ended here, but the story is only halfway done. The second half opens with the narrative from older Peri’s point of view. She’s gone on to get her doctorate in botany and, due to the buffeting of the winds of life, is now a celebrity relationship counselor talk show host in LA. The Sixth Doctor arrives, having only vague memories of encountering her and Zarl and absolutely certain that she had left him to marry Yrcanos on Thoros Beta and not returned to Earth to be a talk show host, and wants to figure out what’s going on. Through a freak accident, Zarl accidentally dies, and in order to prevent the paradox of his previous self not meeting Zarl from occurring, the Doctor dons a fish suit to play the part of Zarl. Things go awry, of course, and to save the situation, older Peri concocts the story of her working for the government and the whole history and philosophy of the Piscons, in order to convince the Fifth Doctor to kill him with a gun that the Sixth Doctor had tampered with to make it a teleporter. Thus, when older Peri “kills” Zarl and his human “wife”, they are simply teleported to the TARDIS.

However, this doesn’t explain how Peri could be here when the Doctor knew she had married Yrcanos and never returned to Earth. A Time Lord appears and explains that they had attempted to fix the problems in Peri’s timelines caused by the Sixth Doctor’s trials by forking her timeline so that this version of her leaves the Doctor after “Planet of Fire” and goes on with her life, having had just one adventure with the Fifth Doctor (exactly what they did with Jamie and Zoe in “The War Games”). This Peri, sure that going out into the world wasn’t for her, returned to Davey and married him, then divorced him later after he abused her so badly, she was left with a reconstructed nose and the inability to have children. Thus, her parting words to her younger self was to warn her to run with the Doctor as far as she could, to get out there and go get what she wants, and to not return to the sweet, blond-haired Davey who you would never suspect will turn psychotic and violent in an instant.

This story leaves you feeling like you’ve just been through a whirlwind, with a whole bunch of elements flying around in your head. Everything that seemed strange in the first look at the events, from younger Peri’s point of view, clicks into place in the second look, when older Peri explains it all. Your sympathies oscillate from the first Peri, who can’t understand how she could possibly turn into the amoral self she sees in front of her, to the older Peri, who is only floating through life, broken and exhausted, after surviving a horrible, abusive marriage. The story does not flinch from painting a realistic, brutal picture of what she’s been through, but neither is it too violent.

The thing that you’ll probably remember most vividly, though, is how the story is told from two different Doctors’ points of view: the Fifth Doctor trying to solve the situation by helping the villainous fish, and the Sixth Doctor trying to convince his previous self to just pull the trigger. In the scene where the two are face-to-fishface, you’ll laugh out loud as you feel the older Doctor’s seething frustration as the younger Doctor very pleasantly tells him to take as much of the Earth’s water as he wants, because he’ll just bring in an ice comet to replace it all, to “clean up after you”. For once, the Doctor experiences firsthand just how difficult it is to defeat himself.

Peri and the Piscon Paradox was written by Nev Fountain, who, I’ve come to discover, has written many of my favorite audios of all time: Omega, The Kingmaker, and the last story in the compilation Breaking Bubbles and Other Stories. I’ve found that his stories are masterpieces that involve lots of hilarity, time travel, and blindsiding twists, but also deal with deeper themes and character development. PatPP is one of his best – I’d rank it just below The Kingmaker, and you should go and listen to it right now.

Gone but not forgotten

It’s been a very long time since I’ve been to this blog – over a year, judging by the date of the last posted entry. There’s a number of reasons for this, but one of them is not a loss of interest in Doctor Who. Not at all. Though there are a lot of other things I do, it still consumes my life. I don’t get to watch episodes that often (and there are still many, many classic stories I have never seen), but I’m almost constantly thinking about the show in some way. I listen to audios to and from work. I write fanfiction. I discuss the show with friends, both local and online. I went to Gallifrey One this year and met some of the most amazing people, both fellow fans and people who work on the show.

Part of my inattention to this blog stems from having a sense of not having enough time to keep it up. It takes me a long time to compose even a short, simple post, and usually my posts are neither. I do love to organize my thoughts about different aspects of the show and get them down on paper (I’ve always loved writing), but, as you know, life changes and the time you used to have to devote to an activity evaporates. I would like to start keeping this up and I’m going to try, but I can’t promise anything.

Another large part of my absence has been caused by the show itself. One of my most recent posts was about my disappointment with Series 8. It was written before Series 9 was aired and expressed hopes that the upcoming season would be much better. Well, unfortunately, it wasn’t. Series 9 made many of the same mistakes I felt it made with Series 8. It continued to deviate from the adventure format that had served it so well for the previous fifty years and instead concentrated on the relationship and friction between the Doctor and the companion. What adventure that was there seemed to be contrived to make a point, rather than a story of conflict and solution that happened to have a broader point (best demonstrated by the terrible writing and setup in the Zygon episodes to push the characters to the final scene and the Doctor’s speech about the follies of war, but also by all of the episodes involving Ashildr). “Face the Raven” was an exploration of the kind of trap that must be woven to catch the Doctor and gave Clara a beautiful and fitting ending, and of course “Heaven Sent” was a masterpiece, but both were thrown away with the travesty that was “Hell Bent”.

I could go on, but I won’t – there’s no point other than to complain. Just like with Series 8, Series 9 left me angry and upset that the show that I loved so much was just so bad. The announcement that Steven Moffat was leaving after Series 10 and Chris Chibnall was going to be the new showrunner elated me, because I could hope that he will turn the show away from its current angst-fest direction and steer it back to a more story-driven course. Mr. Chibnall’s Doctor Who episodes have the adventure feel to them, even though some have been, well, terrible (I’m looking at you, “Power of Three”). And, of course, I’m a huge Broadchurch fan, and I’ve always loved “42”.

But back to my point. I stopped writing here after Series 9 debuted because I want to keep this blog to its purpose, which is documenting my explorations into the Doctor Who universe and fandom. While that does mean criticizing the show when it deserves it – and there are tons of episodes and audios out there that are just plain bad – I want to keep the tone of this blog positive; after all, I still love Doctor Who. There is, sadly, very little positive I can say about Series 8 and Series 9, and since, at the time, Series 9 was the only thing to really talk about, I had nothing to say here. And then, of course, I forgot about this blog for a while.

Hopefully, though, I’m back, to talk about all the things I love about Doctor Who. That means the classic show, the modern show from Series 1 through “The Day of the Doctor” (well… Series 7 was really shaky…), and the Big Finish audios. I think that a lot of my posts are going to be reviews, to jot down what I liked or didn’t like about things, especially the audios (there’s just too many of them to remember). And there’ll be a bit about the fandom itself, as I attend conventions, recommend some fan artists I like, and discuss DW fanfiction. There’s just too much to love!

Voices in the Library

You have a better chance to survive an episode of Doctor Who if you have a last name.

You have a better chance to survive an episode of Doctor Who if you have a last name.

This is a bit of a stream-of-consciousness character exploration post. I’m a bit of a non-stereotypical fanfic writer because I find that I prefer to write about how minor characters react to meeting the main characters, and my stories often end up exploring how the characters change after meeting the Doctor. Because of this, I spend a lot of time thinking about specific interesting characters to figure out what their history and motivations were, and how their outlook and goals might have changed due to the events in their episode. Most recently, I’ve been thinking about “Silence in the Library” and “Forest of the Dead”, which has a range of guest characters in the expedition that set out to find out what happened in the Library: Strackman Lux, who funded the expedition, Miss Evangelista, Lux’s personal assistant, Proper Dave, the pilot, Other Dave, Anita, and River Song. You might think this post is about River Song, but it’s not. Though she is at her most interesting and independent at this point in the overall Doctor/River story, this post is about the others.

My thoughts started out with trying to figure out what everyone’s role in the expedition was. We know that River was hired by Lux to explore the Library and Miss Evangelista is Lux’s employee, but the other three characters are more or less interchangeable except that we know that Proper Dave was the pilot of the ship. (We might also assume that he has other skills and isn’t just a pilot, because if he was just a pilot, he would have stayed on the ship, where he’s most valuable.) When they’re ordered to do things, they all do them and don’t show any particular aptitude for anything in specific. It’s not even really clear if they’re employees of the Felman Lux Corporation or if they were contracted specifically for this expedition; the only thing that’s really clear is that they aren’t River’s employees or students, since they don’t seem to know her at all. Further, they all seem to have undefined personalities, and more or less exist story-wise to be eaten by the Vashta Nerada. Anita’s given a few more lines to emphasize River’s whispering of the Doctor’s name into his ear, but beyond that, she’s not really distinguishable from the other two, making the Doctor’s statement that he liked her (as opposed to the two Daves) rather odd: what exactly was it about her that made her stand out?

The only truly interesting character in the group is Strackman Lux. He’s portrayed at first as rather cold and only interested in protecting his interests, but we find out that he was actually trying to protect his family – in specific, Charlotte. He becomes a much more sympathetic character at that point, but there’s more to him. The question is, what exactly is his relationship with Miss Evangelista? It’s implied that he’s the CEO of the Felman Lux Corporation and behaves like he owns the universe, so why did he choose Miss Evangelista, someone who obviously doesn’t have any skills and is very much a liability, to be his personal assistant? The first impulse would be to suspect that she’s his mistress, but neither of them show any interest in the other (and even if he might be able to hide such a relationship in a business situation, she wouldn’t be able to). He shows no exceptional remorse when she dies. On the other hand, he doesn’t take part in the rest of the crew’s mocking of her lack of intelligence, and in fact, is the only one of the expedition who encourages her: when she’s offering the contracts to the Doctor and Donna, he mouths her words along with her and is satisfied when she succeeds. A possible explanation for all of this is that he’s responsible for her in some way – for example, the daughter of someone he loved who died and left her parentless – and he’s providing for and nurturing her as best as he can without actually considering her to be family. This is sort of a Snape/Harry situation, without the additional hatred that Snape felt for Harry. Considering it this way, Lux is actually a fascinating character, with a selfish, business-only surface hiding a stronger moral core.

Of course, we’ll never know if this is how the character was envisioned, and certainly, with the very few lines and scenes that Lux gets, this scenario is not well-supported, but this is exactly the kind of thing I love to think about with this show. What’s hidden in the background? Where did these characters come from and where will they go? The characterization of Anita, Proper Dave, and Other Dave was disappointing, but there’s definitely a deeper story with Lux that’s worth exploring. And that’s what keeps me coming back.

What it means to be a Geek/Nerd?

Wil Wheaton and all the others in this post expressed this beautifully. The important thing is the love, not the target.

Fear And Fishnets

There is a lot of different definitions of what being a geek or nerd is, but most of those definitions don’t say what it actually means.

People who are classified as being a geek/nerd have slowly moved up the society chain but what it means hasn’t really changed. With shows like the Big Bang Theory are helping to break geeks/nerds into the mainstream.

With the culture going mainstream there tends to be a lot of people who fake it and there are a lot of people that use the status to get attention. The true geek/nerds know who they are. They know the true meaning.

Wil Wheaton said it the best at the 2013 Calgary Expo and I am going to relay it here.

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Will Wheaton isn’t the only person who has had something to say about the culture of geekdom.

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Never be afraid to let your geek colours fly. They…

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Doctor Who posters

Yes, I’m being lazy. Life is still chaotic and currently my stomach is full of butterflies as I realize that I have three major things up in the air that I can’t do anything about and that I need to wait to have resolved, hopefully all by tonight. So, I’m reblogging this post because these posters are completely awesome. I love how they’re laid out and the choices the artist made for what enemies to include with each Doctor. If I had a room big enough and the money to spend, I’d frame all of these and put them up.

My girls meet Peter Capaldi ( little Dalek )

This is just beautiful. If you haven’t heard about this elsewhere (the story is going viral), the little girl loved Matt Smith and played that she and the Doctor would go on adventures, and was afraid that Peter Capaldi wouldn’t like her and wouldn’t be her friend. Mr. Capaldi took time out to meet with her. He showed her a picture of himself, Mr. Smith, and Ms. Coleman, and said that they were ok with him being the Doctor, and he hoped she (the little girl) would be ok with it, too.

It’s so wonderful to see them – the whole Doctor Who team – taking time to meet with and help their fans, especially the children.

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Peter capaldi and Jenna Coleman talking to myself and my two daughters. My youngest has autism and when matt smith said he was leaving she was worried, because she goes on adventures with doctor who and Clara and she was worried that the new doctor ( Peter ) would not like her and wouldn’t want to join in her games.

So on our holiday to Cardiff we fell onto pot luck. We had gone for our lunch at eddies diner and came out to find that doctor who was being filmed. We had a chat with the crew and Jenna and Samuel had photos done with the girls. We were told Peter was not coming down for filming. After telling the crew about roxi and her games with dr who ( Matt ) and the worry she has about Peter. We were told to come back the next day.

So…

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