Ode to Spot

 

Ode to Spot
(2001-2016)

spot regal

 

Spot was our first companion.

After my wife and I got married, the Navy took us to Goose Creek, South Carolina for a year of nuclear power training. Both of us had grown up in pet-friendly households, so we adopted a small tabby, and my love of the android Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation guided us to a name. Spot loved the outdoors, but the military had a zero-tolerance policy for unleashed pets outside. Between that and the resident alligators, we chose to keep Spot confined to quarters unless she was out for a walk in her harness. My wife says that Spot would walk on leash for her, but she never would for me.

Even so, she was my cat.

When we moved to Connecticut for my tour on the Philadelphia, she was happy until the boat went to sea. I would give the furry kids a pat and tell them to be good, and my wife would drive me to the pier. When she came home without me, Spot blamed her for my absence. My wife lost so many pairs of good shoes to that cat’s misguided vengeance, particularly during deployment.

 

Spot and Corde

 

Connecticut was where Spot was happiest when she lived with us. We lived across the street from Mohegan Park in Norwich, which was a wooded haven for all sorts of creatures. We kept her up to date on all of her shots and preventatives so she could go out during the day, and every night before we went to bed, my wife would open the front door and call. Spot would barrel out of the trees and beeline for the house. During her escapades, she would bring home birds, mice, squirrels, and even fully-grown rabbits, sometimes leaving a respectful offering for us or her canine sister Cordé. Both of them were deeply offended when we wouldn’t let Cordé enjoy Spot’s gifts.

There was even a time when Spot was perched on the porch rail, hunkered down in the gentle twitches of a hunter’s stance, staring at a whitetail deer that was strolling down the road. We knew that our feline David was plotting the best way to take down her Goliath. Thankfully, she never did.

 

 

Spot Window Box

 

Her favorite place in the Connecticut house was a kitchen window box. It became her spot after she repeatedly evicted the flower pots: It was where we fed her, it was next to the carpet-covered play tree where she bounced from platform to platform and rained terror on the dog from above, it received ample sun, and it gave her a great view of the bird feeder. In the warmer months, we would open the window, and she would watch the birds through the screen, luring them with a gentle chirping noise. After a while, she’d request to go outside, and then she’d sneak up under that feeder with her chirping, lulling the birds to the ground in a false sense of security, and pounce on her next meal.

When we moved to our next duty station in Millington, Tennessee, we were surprised with a near immediate deployment, and when I got home, it became evident that I was allergic to cats. It was something that left us with a tough choice. We could keep her, but would have to survive by constantly medicating me and confining the cat from certain rooms, or we could find her a new home. We firmly believe that the choice to adopt a pet is a commitment to family, and my wife’s parents offered to give Spot a home. That way, we knew that she was a in a safe place with family, and we could visit when we were in town.

 

spot lounge

 

Spot moved to Utah for a time, and then to the evergreen woods of Washington where she absolutely thrived as a hunter and a friend. One time, a group of red squirrels moved into the garage, and Spot did her job of exterminating them one by one. The last one, however, gave her pause. It was the youngest of the group, and when Spot tried to deliver the killing blow, it hissed at her. Spot adopted and raised the squirrel, and later escorted it to a tree filled with gray squirrels where it made a new home. From time to time, Spot would visit the tree and meow, and the red squirrel would run down to visit, much to the chagrin of the alarmed grays.

It was in Washington that Spot said goodbye on the evening of February 25th, laid to rest where her squirrels could visit. She would have turned 15 this April.

If I could send one message to the foot of the Rainbow Bridge, I would ask that they take care of the newcomer. She’s a playful and feisty devil with the angelic heart of a conspiratorial dreamer. Most importantly, she understands love and family.

Good hunting, Spot. Thank you for being part of our family. We love you.

 

Christmas 2004

 

Timestamp #61: The Curse of Peladon

Doctor Who: The Curse of Peladon
(4 episodes, s09e05-e08, 1972)

Timestamp 061 The Curse of Peladon

 

This was a surprising hit for me, and it’s mostly due to Princess Jo Grant.

The King of Peladon wants to join the Galactic Federation, but one of his advisors, the High Priest Hepesh, believes that an ancient curse is trying to stop this assault on their culture’s sanctity. The king’s other advisor, Chancellor Torbis, is killed by the embodiment of that curse, a creature called the Aggedor. This nearly derails the conference that is scheduled to happen now-ish since the delegates are afraid of conflict, which sounds an awful lot like another Federation we know, but they agree to wait for the delegate from Earth to arrive.

Enter The Doctor. The previously immobile TARDIS (conveniently) arrives on a cliff with the Doctor and Jo, who are out for a little spin around time and space before Jo goes on a date with Mike Yates. There’s one small problem, however, since the stormy cliffs of Peladon are not the UNIT base. In a decent bit of model work, the TARDIS goes over a cliff, (conveniently) trapping our heroes, and they begin to climb toward the citadel on the rocks above them.

When the pair arrive, they assume the role of the Earth delegation, and meet the other members of the quorum: The high-pitched Alpha Centauri delegate, the impressively operated shrunken-head-in-a-jar Arcutran delegate, and a pair of Ice Warriors.

Wait. Ice Warriors?!

There’s a nice moment of empowerment for Jo where she becomes a princess to avoid execution – only men of rank and women of noble lineage may enter the throne room – and she grabs that role and runs. Meanwhile, the Doctor saves all of the delegates from a crushing fate after a statue falls with a little help from the king’s mute champion Grun and his friend gravity. Grun is a pawn in the plot to derail the king’s vision, and Hepesh is engineering it by working the whole curse angle. But who is the mastermind? It must be the Ice Warriors, right?

Well, actually, no. And that’s the beauty of this story.

The Doctor believes that the bad guys are the Ice Warriors. He’s run into them twice before, and they’ve been formidable foes each time. This go-round, there’s even circumstantial evidence pointing toward their complicity after the Arcturan delegate’s life support pod is sabotaged, but they claim to have given up war in favor of peace and self-defense. After a bout in the Thunderdome with Grun, the Doctor believes the Ice Warriors when they save him from being shot by the Arcturan, who was working with Hepesh all along. If Peladon fails to join the Federation, Hepesh can rule the planet (even through a figurehead like the king) and sell the valuable mineral rights to Arcturus.

The Doctor locates and hypnotizes the Aggedor with a spinning mirror and a lullaby, and then leads it to the throne room to expose the reality of the curse to the king. The throne room is occupied by Hepesh and his loyal soldiers who have just staged a coup, but the Aggedor attacks the man who kept it captive, and the threat is defeated.

Jo comes clean to the king about her lineage and refuses his offer to be his consort. Jo and the Doctor hightail it off Peladon when the real Earth delegate arrives (bearing humorous gifts of a “Doctor who?” gag), and the Doctor realizes just how convenient is was that they arrived in the right spot at the right time to stop this exact plot.

Time Lords, man. Puppet-string-pulling, meddling-in-time-and-space-without-leaving-their-ivory-tower Time Lords.

I can’t say much more on this one. I liked seeing David Troughton again, especially in a bigger role than either The War Games or The Enemy of the World offered him. I also adored Jo in this story, as she has become a better companion with the re-introduction of traveling in the TARDIS. She really carried this serial.

I also really loved that the Ice Warriors weren’t the bad guys. It’s a good misdirection, and one that wouldn’t work with a higher profile baddie like the Cybermen or the Daleks.

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Sea Devils

 

 

 

 

Timestamp #60: Day of the Daleks

Doctor Who: Day of the Daleks
(4 episodes, s09e01-e04, 1972)

Timestamp 060 Day of the Daleks

 

The Daleks are back, and they seem to have recovered from the Second Doctor’s confrontation with the Emperor Dalek so long ago.

I really loved this story because of how it is framed. What starts as a simple UNIT investigation of a diplomat being stalked by strange ghost-like guerrillas ends up being much deeper than many of the stories from the last set.

Sir Reginald gets attacked by a strange human warrior with a gun who vanishes without a trace, almost like a ghost. Another guerrilla appears from thin air and is instantly attacked by an ape-like creature in an act of gorilla on guerrilla warfare. (Okay, that was a bit insensitive.) And then, as if we needed more conflict, the Daleks enter the stage, and even though they aren’t front and center in this story, they’re still menacing and sinister because they’re pulling all of the strings on all of these puppets.

All of this before we even get to the time travel, and I was riveted.

And then the creative team turned this exploration of the human condition up to eleven.

After spending a night at Sir Reginald’s house (and raiding his extensive wine cellar), the Doctor and Jo are attacked by the guerrillas and held hostage. Jo escapes and is inadvertently transported to the future. She innocently tells the Controller where to find the Doctor, and the Controller sends a team of Ogrons (the ape-like creatures) to kill the guerrillas. The guerrillas escape, the Doctor gives chase, a Dalek chases all of them, and the Doctor and the rebels end up in the future. After a series of political ping-pong events, the Doctor ends up in the care of the Controller, gets the down-low on what happened to the planet, and eventually sways the Controller’s attitudes on the peril of humanity and his role in a lineage of “Quislings“.

As events come together like a jigsaw puzzle, the Doctor discovers that these events are a predestination paradox started by one of the rebel guerrillas setting a Dalekanium bomb in an attempt to stop the future of enslavement and death from coming to pass. At that point, my jaw dropped.

This. Is. Doctor Who.

It’s hard to find highlights here because the whole story shines so brightly: I loved how the Doctor was so much more civil with the Brigadier than in past interactions, including their building trust and synergy (“do tell the Marines”); I adored the (hopefully budding) relationship between Sgt Benton and Jo; I enjoyed watching Jo finally expanding her horizons and learning to be a worthy companion for this Doctor.

The Doctor is still working on the TARDIS, and his new-found civility extends to Jo as he frankly tells her that he doesn’t want to be an intergalactic puppet for the Time Lords and their High Council. He’s moving beyond his childish temper tantrums and taking action with what appears to be a new sense of purpose. Ironically, it was the Time Lords who provided it by allowing the Doctor and Jo to travel in the TARDIS once again.

The quick (almost non-sequitur) time loop a the beginning was fascinating, especially since the recent incarnations of the Doctor are very cautious about crossing their own timelines. This thread is never mentioned again in the story and left me wondering why it was important.

On the downside for this serial, the Doctor uses a gun to kill an Ogron. Sure it was self-defense, but it was also way out of character.

I also questioned the role of the Ogrons. I mean, yes, they make great hired muscle, but isn’t it uncharacteristic for the xenophobic Daleks to even consider working with them? Or is this more of a “use them then lose them” plan like the alliance in The Daleks’ Master Plan? Speaking of the Daleks, they discovered the secret of  time travel for this story, but hadn’t they done this before?

On the new sound for the Dalek death rays, I don’t like it.

Finally, swinging back to the good things, it was nice to see that The Daleks don’t recognize the Doctor’s new face. They know that he has changed appearance before and use a mind analysis machine to determine if he is indeed the Doctor, but it took an extra step to establish that logic. Thank goodness.

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Curse of Peladon

 

 

 

 

Timestamp: Eighth Series Summary

Doctor Who: Eighth Series Summary

Timestamp Logo Third

 

It’s not looking good for the Third Doctor. Series Seven started on a major high, and even though it slipped as the stories rolled on, it ended up finishing with a strong 3.8 score. Series Eight also started strong, but it fell fast and finally ended up third from the bottom in my rankings, only beating the Third and Sixth Series.

The strongest serial was Terror of the Autons, which brought back the Autons and Nestene Consciousness, a villain with strong but untapped potential, and introduced a strong nemesis in the Master. It also started a loose series-long arc in the Doctor battling the Master, who kind of stood in for his frustrations against his own people. Sadly, the stories got progressively weaker, and the battle with the Master (whose role in each story was essentially the same) wasn’t enough to hold them. That’s not Roger Delgado’s fault by any means, as he has been fantastically evil in the role. I think the writers started to depend too much on that element and less on a good plot to support it.

As I’ve noted in previous reviews, the Doctor is beginning to parallel James Bond in his arrogant attitude and physicality. He is rude, considers himself above everyone around him, and is prone to assault people more and more. The Third Doctor has taken the grumpiness and arrogance of the First Doctor and melded it with his frustration at being locked in one place and time against his will. He’s not a nice man.

As a result, I’m still not sold on his relationship with the Brigadier. Sure, the Doctor is saving the world on a routine basis, but he’s consistently condescending and rude toward the Brigadier, and I don’t know how a man who lives and breathes in an environment that depends on a certain degree of respect for people can tolerate such blatant disrespect.

I do have a degree of sympathy for the Doctor’s situation because the Time Lords are far more arrogant and abusive. They exiled the Doctor as punishment for meddling in time and space, yet they call on him (sometimes without his knowledge) to solve their problems. They know that he’s bitter, and they build and capitalize on it. If his exile is supposed to be teaching him how to be a better Time Lord, I don’t know how it’s supposed to work when they’re constantly making him more and more angry toward them.

And yet, despite how much he claims to the contrary, the Doctor is more like his people than he realizes. It’s quite the dynamic.

 

 

Terror of the Autons – 5
The Mind of Evil – 4
The Claws of Axos – 3
Colony in Space – 3
The Dæmons – 2

Series Eight Average Rating: 3.4/5

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Day of the Daleks

Timestamp #59: The Dæmons

Doctor Who: The Dæmons
(5 episodes, s08e21-e25, 1971)

Timestamp 059 The Dæmons

 

It was a dark and stormy night, almost the setting for a Doctor Who Halloween Special, but aired in early summer.

Professor Horner and his team are excavating a site called Devil’s Hump, and they are surrounded by a series of events that are like magic. The local village witch, Olive Hawthorne, comes out to protest but is ignored, so she returns home and goes to visit the vicar, a new man named Mr. Magister, who is really the Master. Also, she’s immune to his hypnotic powers, unlike everyone else in the town.

Turns out, the Master is attempting to summon a demon. Well, a race of demons. Well, really an alien race that looks like demons that are kind of like scientists that run experiments on civilizations. They’ve been on the planet for 100,000 years, and when the experiments are deemed successful, they spark a technological revolution. When the experiments fail, you get Atlantis.

Anyway, this serial is an exercise in Arthur C. Clarke’s third law of prediction: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” The Dæmons have been around for so long that they’ve been worked into our mythology, and when they appear/disappear, it requires a conversion between energy and matter. That energy release when they shrink resulted in a shield dome being constructed around the village. The Doctor helps UNIT cut a hole in it so they can keep the gargoyle Bok busy while the Doctor attends to the larger Dæmon named Azal. The Master and the Doctor negotiate with Azal as to who will serve it best, and it sides with the Master. Jo offers to sacrifice herself to prevent Azal from killing the Doctor, and that somehow short circuits Azal’s brain. Azal explodes, the Master is finally captured by UNIT, the Doctor and Jo dance around the maypole, la fin.

It was an interesting idea, but it felt poorly executed, and I think a lot of that is because of the sensitivity at the time regarding demons and the supernatural on the BBC. This story could be done now and not feel so awkward or ham-fisted, but I think the prevailing culture crippled the story’s potential.

There were some good points, like the realistic special effects (the helicopter shot, originally sourced from From Russia with Love, and the church explosion) and the continuing thread of the Master biting off more than he can chew, but then there were also some really bad points, such as the resolution. The threat was stopped by accident, and if Jo hadn’t been there, the Doctor would have failed to stop the Master from taking over the world. Similarly, the Master was captured by Sgt Benton’s good timing.

This story also has a few potential links to the future of Doctor Who. First, Bok is apparently made of stone. Are the Dæmons precursors or ancestors to the Weeping Angels? Second, the UNIT sergeant who builds the force field defeating contraption is named Osgood. Is he related to the current personal assistant at UNIT who saved the world? Both of them are scientists and they both wear thick-rimmed glasses.

The Master offered the villagers anything they wanted for the price of their servitude, and I heard echoes of Needful Things.

Finally, UNIT needs to stop shooting things. It hardly ever works.

 

Rating: 2/5 – “Mm? What’s that, my boy?”

 

UP NEXT – Series Eight Summary