Steampunk Sculpture or Alien Artifact?

It began with the DirecTV guy, Mike.

During the course of troubleshooting our equipment, he set every receiver in my house to the History Channel. That’s how I caught the tail end of an American Pickers episode and learned of the Forevertron.

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The Forevertron — artwork or a transportation device left behind by crash-landing aliens?

 

It was a steampunk fan’s dream – on steroids. The Forevertron is 50 feet tall, 120 feet wide. And weighs 600,000 pounds. It was created by lifetime scrap metal collector and artist, Tom “Dr. Evermor” Every.

Sure. That’s what they want you to think.

More likely, the real explanation for its presence is something more like this …

 The Wanderlust came down hard — not as hard as it might have, considering that it was a starhopper.

A big boat like that has no business chugging through a planetary atmosphere at 5,000 feet, but the captain was looking for signs of intelligent life on, of all places, Earth.

 When the Firefly Drive, never intended to be used for anything but parking, suddenly quit under the strain of that gravitational proximity, the ship had nowhere to go but down.

The pilot was good. He headed for a dense pine forest and brought the ship’s nose up as much as he could. Slicing through nearly a mile of standing timber brought the ship to a gradual, smoking halt, turning what would have been complete destruction into mere cataclysmic damage. The trees slowed the ship, but they took their toll.

The Wanderlust had found its final resting place, a scenic Earth locale known as North Freedom, Wisconsin. Fortunately, the hopper had been cloaked when it came down. The incident was neither seen nor apparently heard, raising the question: If an interstellar spacecraft crashes in the woods when no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

Nobody came to investigate.

The crew took stock. Miraculously, none had perished in the crash. The front third of the Wanderlust had been turned into scrap metal. Navigation, life support and communications were gone. The first two no longer mattered; the third did. The aliens had no ride home and no means of calling for one.

On the plus side, the planetary atmosphere that had flooded the ship when its nose was destroyed was breathable, and it looked as though the local flora could provide edible grains for the distinctly birdlike aliens when homegrown supplies were depleted.

Much of the ship’s equipment remained functional. The transporter showed promising signs of life, but its range was limited to the typical distance from orbit to planetary surface.

The crewmembers knew the drill. They got to work.

 Yes, the Wanderlust would fly no more, but the crew could re-purpose its surviving equipment for alternative transportation. What they couldn’t salvage, they could find in stealthy visits to Terran landfill sites.

Within a surprisingly short time, they had constructed a device that, with a little help from lightning, took them to their nearest outpost.  The device remained behind, mysterious, and nameless, until Dr. Evermor claimed it as his own.

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Giant bug sculpture, or badly damaged shuttlecraft?

Meanwhile, back in reality (or as close as I get) …

Holy Sith! The Forevertron incorporates such exotic components as a pair of Thomas Edison dynamos, a giant telescope, and the Apollo 11 space capsule decontamination chamber.

Dr. Evermor’s Sculpture Park is only a little more than 100 miles west of me? A must-go day trip went on my calendar. Even Mary, my decidedly anti-science fiction wife, agreed to join me, once she had seen a few Forevertron photos.

Matthew, my 8-year-old grandson, who thinks a trip to the supermarket is a never-ending journey, was the toughest sell. He spotted what he thought were a TARDIS and a Dalek in the photos, so he was in.

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More scrap metal artwork, or likenesses of the alien crew?

Two weeks later, under cloudy skies and a promise of sun to the west, we sallied forth. We wandered about the countryside near our goal for a bit — but we finally found the park, not visible from the highway, hiding behind a surplus store and what appeared to be a junk yard.

We were not disappointed.

Well, Matthew was a little bummed when we couldn’t find a Dalek, and the TARDIS he had seen in the photos turned out to be an old English phone booth — no phone but still bearing instructions for dialing numbers in Ireland.

Thanks, History Channel — and Mike.

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The Bad War

This is a special, unedited “guest blog” written and typed by my 7-year-old grandson, Matthew. His devotion to Doctor Who exceeds my own and has outlasted his previous fixation with Thomas the Tank Engine.


matthewandtardis5Chapter 1
Once upon a time there was a fire. They almost died but then someone came for them. He said “SUPERBOY WHAT EVER MY NAME IS TO THE DAY!” He said he doesn’t remember what he usually calls himself. The Mysterious Hero saved the people from that fire. The Mysterious Hero can fly, Run 100 miles per hour, and can even have laser vision! Then… what we all been waiting for. The Doctor & Clara lands the TARDIS (Time Relative Dimensional In Space) at London 2020 Time is 3:30 Clara was so amazed she couldn’t say a thing. “Impressing.” Says The Doctor. “What time is this?” asks Clara. “London 2020.” Says The Doctor.

Chapter 2
The Doctor sees a DALEK chasing a CYBERMEN. The Doctor whispers to himself “That can’t be good… That cant be good at all.” “What?” Clara asks The Doctor. “There’s going to be incoming trouble later.” Says The Doctor. The Mysterious Hero sees The Doctor “Hello. What brings you here? And why are you standing by a blue box??!” asks The Mysterious Hero. “Well. This isn’t just a plain old blue box. This is a time machine. I call it The TARDIS. T A R D I S stands for Time Relative Dimensional In Space.” Says The Doctor. “No Way! Your so silly it can’t be a time machine. Its not possible to have a box that is bigger in the inside.” Says The Mysterious Hero. “Your Wrong. It is possible. Take a look.” Says The Doctor. The Mysterious Hero opens the door & then he could not believe his eyes. “B-B-But.. Hhow?!” says The Mysterious Hero.

Chapter 3
Magic.” Says Clara. “Magic.” Says The Doctor. “Oh and one thing. What’s your name??” asks The Mysterious Hero. “My name… is The Doctor.” “Doctor what?” asks Mysterious Hero “Just The Doctor” Says The Doctor “But Doctor who?” asks The Mysterious Hero “I told you The Doctor” says The Doctor.

Chapter 4
Mysterious had to stop asking and had to see that if he is actually a timelord. So he made tests “Hmm.. Speak a different language.” Says The Mysterious Hero “őíň ıįåç Ţ ŹŲćă ŢŦ” says The Doctor. “Now. Prove me that it’s a time machine. Take me to the same place just in the date that is 100,20,33” says The Mysterious Hero. “Ooooh I cant do that. Earth doesn’t live forever. Neither will you.” Says The Doctor. “What about.. 1995 but same place.” “Sorry I cant. If I do then I will see myself from the past. I have different faces.” Says The Doctor. “Fine.” Says The Mysterious Hero “Doctor. Your forgetting about me again.” Says Clara in a stressed way. “Yeah sorry about that Clara. Everyone stay here, its safe nothing can get in. There’s some enemies I need find.”

Chapter 5
Said The Doctor. The Doctor leaves The TARDIS and locks the door. “Lets see where are you little monsters.” Says The Doctor when The Doctor gets far away from something comes to come steal it and destroy it. “THE TARDIS IS DETECTED! YOU. TELL THE BOSS THAT WE DETECTED THE TARDIS!!!” Says DALEK “YES SIR.” Says CYBERMEN (That got Dementedetated. (Pretending it’s the daleks upgrade) ).

WE WILL WIN! WE WILL WIN THIS TIME DOCTOR! THIS TIME!! THIS TIME!!!!! THIS TIIIIIMMMME!!!!!!!!” Says DALEK (5 Minutes Later In The TARDIS) “AGHH!! WHY IS THE TARDIS MOVING SO MUCH!? DOES IT ALWAYS DO THIS!!!??” Asks The Mysterious Hero. “NO IT DOESN’T AGH!!” says Clara.

Chapter 6
The Doctor heads back to The TARDIS. He sees that The TARDIS is gone. “Oh no you don’t.” says The Doctor as he pulls out his sonic screwdriver and turns it to Land Here mode. (Meanwhile in The TARDIS) “Well that’s good we landed and stopped shaking” said Mysterious Hero & Clara. The Doctor unlocks the doors and opens doors then he asks “Are you two alright?” “Yeah were fine.” Says Clara and again The Doctor save the day.

The End

‘Heaven Sent’ Poses Puzzle

SPOILER ALERT

heavensentwordcloud

What do Peter Capaldi, Bill Murray and Tom Cruise have in common? They have all have all played characters trapped in an endless loop requiring that they get things right before they can continue.

For Murray, it was Groundhog Day; for Tom Cruise, Edge of Tomorrow. For Capaldi, it was “Heaven Sent,” the captivating Doctor Who episode presented Nov 28.

As the two films, a puzzle must be solved before the Doctor is freed from the repeating sequence of events. Unlike the films, this puzzle has been created within the grief-stricken Doctor’s own mind.

I’m not certain whether the trap has been projected into his mind by his captors, or he  has constructed the trap himself. Maybe a little of both.

The story continues from the end point of the previous week’s episode, “Face the Raven,” in which Clara, the Doctor’s companion is killed. In the final scene of that episode, the Doctor has a teleportation device attached to his wrist at the hands of Me/Ashildr, who is apparently acting in a bounty hunter capacity for unknown masters.

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The Doctor rematerializes in a teleportation chamber in mysterious, rotating, medieval-looking castle equipped with anachronistic video monitors on the walls. He hasn’t clue as to whether he’s in a trap, prison or torture chamber. As it turns out, all three possibilities are somewhat correct.

The Doctor is initially very combative. Despite Clara’s dying request that he not journey to the dark side, he’s on a mission to avenge her death. He demands that his captors show themselves.

“I just watched my best friend die in agony,” he declares “My day can’t get any worse. Let’s see what we can do about yours!”

The monitors soon reveal to the Doctor that he is not alone in the castle. His anger turns to fear when he sees that he is being relentless stalked by a hulking, veiled death figure accompanied by large squadron of flies (who are not listed in the end credits for their pivotal supporting roles in this episode). To be touched by the figure brings death.

I had to watch this one more than once to gain what I think is an understanding of the story being told. Clues that the Doctor was actually in a “mind trap” begin early. The death figure is drawn from from his most horrific childhood memory. The Doctor is able to “talk” a door into unlocking itself. Where were his sonic sunglasses? No answer there. Later, he dons them.

In the midst of all the action, including a plunge to his death into the waters surrounding the castle, the Doctor is able to retreat to his mental “storeroom,” the TARDIS. There, he finds Clara, with her back to him in all but one scene, coaching him on his next moves by writing on a chalkboard. Even in the Hereafter, she’s still a teacher.

The Doctor notices that each of the rooms he visits resets itself to its original state when he is not present. This proves to be the key to deciphering the trap.

Telescoping the narrative, the Doctor runs through 4 billion (give or take a few dozen) years, of repeating sequences in which he burns his dying body to re-energize the teleporter and reinitialize the cycle. The cycle ends when the death figure reaches him and grasps his head.

At the start of each cycle, he returns to a barricade blocking the exit from the castle. The wall is tantalizingly labeled “HOME” upon his first encounter.

He interprets the lettering as meaning that the TARDIS is on the other side of the barricade and reduces his hands to bloody pulp by painfully beating his fists on the wall. In each cycle, he does minimal damage. His sonic sunglass analysis reveals the barricade to be a 20-feet thick of slab Azbantium — 400 times harder than diamond. Ouch!

Watching the Doctor crawl and stagger back to the teleportation chamber, leaving a trail of blood, was difficult to watch. He knows that he has plenty of time to get to the top of the castle because Time Lords take a very long time to die.

“It’s why we like to die among our own kind,” he quips. “They know not to bury us early.”

Despite the dark tone of the episode, the Doctor manages to get off a few other humorous comments.

“I can’t wait to hear what I say. I’m nothing without an audience,” he says early in the episode, with a sly glance at the camera.

“Working hypothesis,” he reasons aloud. “I’m in a fully automated haunted house, a mechanical maze.”

“It’s a killer puzzle box designed to scare me to death, and I’m trapped inside it. It must be Christmas,” he adds with a chuckle and a grin.

“Or maybe I’m in Hell. That’s OK. I’m not scared of Hell. It’s just heaven for bad people,” he observes in another flash of humor.

Death symbols run rampant throughout the episode. Along with the ominous death figure, we have a lilies, a fresh grave, a peeling painting of Clara, and skulls, skulls, skulls. Skulls are found in the teleportation room and piled high on the floor of the sea surrounding the castle; and they all belong to the Doctor.

Then, there’s Room 12. Does that mean that the Doctor’s number is up?

I sincerely hope that Peter Capadi’s time as the Doctor is not coming to an end, as he has really risen to the role this series. The Doctor is clearly is having an extremely difficult time coming to grips with Clara’s death, so maybe that’s what the symbolism is all about.

“It’s funny. The day you lose someone isn’t the worst,” says. “At least you’ve got something to do. It’s all the days they stay dead.”

Calculating how many times the Doctor went through the cycle is beyond my ken.  I guesstimate that he completed a cycle every 90 minutes for 2 billion years. You do the math.

The Doctor finally breaks through the barrier and discovers that “HOME” is not the TARDIS. It’s his home planet, Gallifrey. His fellow Time Lords are his tormentors.

A small boy appears to be his only welcoming committee. He sends the lad back to the city with a message.

“Tell them I came the long way around,” he instructs the boy. “The Hybrid destined to conquer Gallifrey and stand in its ruins is me.”

So, the prophesy was wrong. The Hybrid (I capitalize it because it is not “a” hybrid, but “the” Hybrid) is not half Time Lord and half Dalek.

My bet is that the Doctor’s mystery half is Human. I’ll guess we’ll find out when “Hell Bent” is presented this Saturday, Dec. 5.

Doctor Whose Line Is It, Anyway?

SPOILER(ISH) ALERT!

And now for something completely different.

The sparkle and shine of the new Doctor Who series is coming from the writing. In tribute to that, I’m presenting an all-dialog-line review of “Before the Flood,” which aired Oct. 10.

No attribution. No context. Just lines.

Here are the dots. You connect them. If you haven’t watched this episode, perhaps this will motivate you. Think of it as a puzzle.

Am I lazy, or what?

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The Doctor and the Fisher King have a heart-to-heart

What’s the point of having a time machine, if you don’t get to meet your heroes?

This is called the bootstrap paradox. Google it.

1980

It’s a hearse.

I used to be in military intelligence.
I was demoted for dangling a colleague out of a window.

The most invaded planet in the galaxy. Our capital city has a sign saying
“If you occupied us, you’d be home by now.”

It’s bigger on the inside! It’s bigger on the inside! It’s bigger on the inside!

My first proper alien, and he’s an idiot.

This regeneration is a bit of a clerical error, anyway.

I’m not trying to kill you? Why am I not trying to kill you?

before-the-flood-doctor-roar-570x320
I am the Doctor. Hear me roar.

Doctor, such an honor. I’ve always been a huge admirer.
This is really a delight. Finally, someone worth talking to.

Never gonna happen. Seriously, have you two met me?

One man. Lost in time.

Cass. Cass. Cass. Ugh. Idiot. I’m an idiot.

The ripple effect. Maybe it will mean that the Universe
will be ruled by cats or something in the future.

This is Security Protocol 712. The Echelon Circuit has been activated
Please stow any hand luggage and prepare for departure.

Don’t kiss me. Morning breath.

I’ve erased the memory of the writing.
Though you might find you’ve lost a couple of other memories too, you know,
like people you went to school with or previous addresses or how to drink liquids.

Thank you, Steven Moffat and Toby Whithouse.

All Hail the Doctor: Large and in Charge!

SPOILER ALERT!
This episode review is brought to you by Vector Petroleum “Fueling our Futures”

“Same old, same old. Just the Doctor and Clara Oswald in the TARDIS!”

Not quite, Doctor.

The Doctor and Clara are, indeed, heading for trouble in the TARDIS. It was anything but “same old, same old” when “Under the Lake,” the third offering of the new season, aired Oct. 4.

Doctor Who seems have achieved personality equilibrium. Fans, rejoice!

Writer Toby Whithouse gave Peter Capaldi’s Doctor the biggest share of the personality pie, this time around. Jenna Coleman’s Clara Oswald got a smaller portion. A small slice was even awarded to the TARDIS, whose sentience had not manifested itself of late.

The available screen time and lines were in much greater abundance this episode, with the absence of the masterful Missy. The Time Lady formerly known as the Master is presumably still vacationing with her Dalek friends at that top vacation destination, Skaro. Could she possibly be working with Davros to create the foretold hybrid? Hmm. That would be a very clever idea.

All right. Back to “Under the Lake.”

The TARDIS delivers the Doctor and Clara to an oil company base sitting on the bottom of an artificial lake on top of a flooded village in the year 2119. The Doctor doesn’t know why they have been brought to this site. He does know that the TARDIS has taken them to the base against its better judgment. Clara, with her hair casually tied back and looking very girlishly companionlike, is challenging the Doctor to find something exciting for them to do.

“I want another adventure, Clara tells him. “Come on. You feel the same. You’re itching to save a planet. I know it.”

The look that passes across the Doctor’s face indicates that she is right. It doesn’t take too long before they discover the adventure has already begun.

meettheghosts
“Hello, sailors!”

Things have not been going well for the base and its crew. They’ve just brought a mysterious alien spaceship discovered on the lake bottom aboard the base. The base commander has just been barbecued by one of the ship’s engines. The ship seems to have come with a ghost dressed as an undertaker, complete with a black suit and mourning-veiled top hat. The crew calls the ghostly figure “Mole Guy.”

The Doctor identifies Mole Guy as an alien from Tivoli, That doesn’t explain the death of the commander, he adds, because the species is non-violent cowardly by nature.

“They wouldn’t say ‘boo’ to a goose,” the Doctor elaborates. “More likely to give the goose their car keys and bank details.”

Immediately after his death, the base commander reappears as the Mole Guy’s new ghostly partner. The crew has taken refuge in the Faraday Cage, a lead-lined compartment designed a shelter from a possible radiation leak. The room seems to have the only walls through which the ghosts cannot pass.

“So, we are fighting an unknown homicidal force that has taken the form of your former commanding officer and a cowardly alien, underwater, in a nuclear reactor,” the Doctor summarizes. “Anything else I should know? Somebody have a peanut allergy or something”?

Clara nervously giggles and gives the crew an apologetic look, as if to say “Hey, I’m only the companion. I have no control over this guy.”

Apparently, allergies will not be added to the base problems. The pair of ghosts have begun turning the ship’s systems against the survivors. Soon, another crewman is “ghosted.”

The key to solving the mystery is a series of alien symbols etched on one of the alien ship’s bulkheads. The symbols appear to embed themselves in the human brain when read. They’re translated by the hearing-impaired, lip-reading acting base commander into four cryptic phrases being silently and continuously mouthed by all three ghosts.

Once he has been told who’s in charge so he knows “who to ignore,” the Doctor declares he can bypass the interpreter and “speak” directly with the deaf officer. He quickly discovers that his command of sign language has been deleted and replaced with semaphore.

“Someone get me a selection of flags,” he demands.

The Doctor initially denies that the apparitions are ghosts. After he deductively comes that conclusion on his own, he announces “they’re ghosts,” as if he is the first to make that discovery. Clara points out that he had declared that ghosts do not exist.

“Yes, well-well-well, uh, there was no such thing as socks or smartphones and badgers, until they suddenly were,” the Doctor counters.

The Doctor becomes quite excited upon contemplating the possibilities of questioning real ghosts.

“Calm, Doctor, calm,” tells himself. “You were like this when you met Shirley Bassey.”

The Doctor eventually deciphers the alien symbols, then takes a professorial stance and runs the crewmen through the process. In true classroom lecture fashion, he wants his “students” to do some of the reasoning.

“Surely just being around me makes you clever by osmosis,” he says, after giving them opportunity to come up with the answer to the last phrase.

The Doctor’s apparent lack of sensitivity to the death of the base commander leads to a feature I don’t recall ever seeing — “the cards.” It seems as if the Doctor, for at least several generations, has been writing cue cards to guide him through situations he could expect to re-encounter. Clara suggests that he use them and selects the one that seems most appropriate.

She makes a good choice, but the Doctor needs to polish his delivery style a bit. He reads the card verbatim.

“I’m very sorry for your loss. I’ll do all I can to solve the death of your friend/family member/pet.”

Waiting in the wings for a matching situation is The Swiss Army Knife of cards: “No-one is going to be eaten/vapourised/exterminated/upgraded/possessed/mortally wounded/turned to jelly. We’ll all get out of this unharmed.”

Also on tap, the slightly less multi-purpose: “It was my fault. I should have known you didn’t live in Aberdeen.”

The show may have inadvertently given away its writing secret. Take a pack of cards, shuffle and voila! A new episode is born.

Again, going back to the plot, the crew discovers that a rescue sub has been ordered by the ghosts, a request sent in Morse Code (nothing suspicious about that). A crew member asks why the ghosts would do that.

“I don’t know,” the Doctor responds, “but I’m pretty certain that it’s not so they can all form a boy band.”

Along with the Doctor’s and Clara’s personality adjustments, it was great to see the TARDIS again play a role beyond time and relative dimension in space transportation. Still uneasy about its location, the TARDIS sounds the cloister bell alarm.

The Doctor is forced to apply the “handbrake” to keep their skittish ride from leaving on its own. The TARDIS also refuses to go near the ghosts, an issue that plays a part in cliffhanger ending.

Other high points of “Under the Lake” include the Doctor initiating an awkward conversation with Clara about their roles and taking risks, suggesting that she might do better to find another relationship. (Oh, God; no! Not another Danny Pink!). He notes that humans are “bananas about relationships. You’re always writing songs about them, or going to war or getting tattooed.”

We also get the answer to the question: Why did the Doctor turn the TARDIS radio into a clockwork squirrel?

Answer: “Whatever song I heard, first thing in the morning, I was stuck. Two weeks of Mysterious Girl by Peter Andre. I was begging for the brush of death’s merciful hand.”

As the episode drew to its exciting finish, the Doctor was about to employ a bit of time travel trickery to resolve what looks like certain death for Clara and the base crew.

“You’re gonna go back in time?” a crew member asks. “How do you do that?”

“Extremely well,” the Doctor responds.

The rescue plan leads to Clara’s best line of the episode.

“Guys, look, this is how we roll. He’s gonna go away, come back; and we’ll have to listen to how he did it.”