March 21, 2013

Doctor Who: The Five Doctors

I wrote about the tenth anniversary, multiple-Doctor episode "The Three Doctors," so I might as well discuss the twentieth anniversary, multiple-Doctor episode "The Five Doctors."  "The Five Doctors" is like a gift to Whovians from the producers of the show.  It's the ultimate fan episode.  It's filled with Gallifrey and old companions and classic villains and Time Lords and each of the five Doctors who had been part of Doctor Who to that point.  This might be my favorite episode of all time.  That being said, if one doesn't know anything about Doctor Who, this probably isn't the episode with which to start.

Hey, that's not William Hartnell!
The above photo features, from left to right: the third Doctor (Jon Pertwee), the second Doctor (Patrick Troughton), the fifth Doctor (Peter Davison), and the first Doctor (Richard Hurndall).  WAIT.  Every Whovian knows that William Hartnell played the first Doctor.  Sadly, Hartnell passed away long before "The Five Doctors" was made.  Hurndall is no Hartnell, but he does an adequate job filling in for him here.  One other issue needs to be addressed.  There are only four Doctors in the photo.  "The Five Doctors" is mostly the four Doctors shown above.  Tom Baker, the actor who played the fourth Doctor, didn't want to be in the special.  They ended up using footage from a different episode that had been shot but never aired to show that he was stuck in a time vortex and couldn't join his other selves.

Someone is taking the different regenerations of the Doctor out of their timestreams and dropping them in the Death Zone on Gallifrey.  They are giving him friends and companions to help him and providing enemies to make things interesting.  The Master shows up, too.  Each Doctor decides that the answer to why they have been brought there lies in the Dark Tower.  The Dark Tower holds the tomb of Rassilon.  Yes, nuWhovians, in classic Who, Rassilon has been dead for a long time.  Ancient Time Lords misused their powers and kidnapped other beings to fight each other in the Death Zone.  Rassilon put an end to that.  In classic Who, Rassilon is known as the most powerful Time Lord in their history.  The second Doctor sings a little song for the Brigadier as they make their way to the tower.  "Who unto Rassilon's tower will go, must choose above, between, below!"  I guess it is entertaining to me, but not to the Brigadier.  The Brig asks the Doctor if he is in pain after the Doctor starts singing.

I've mentioned before that some of my favorite episodes are those with Gallifrey and the Time Lords.  I like the new series, but I think my biggest problem with the reboot is that Gallifrey and the Time Lords have been eliminated.  Their episodes in classic Who are always such fun.  I downright love this episode.  I've seen it more times than any other.  I won't say any more about the plot, other than that it hinges on this: "To lose is to win, and he who wins shall lose."  Oh, Rassilon.  You were one smart cookie.

March 17, 2013

Doctor Who: The Three Doctors

This year is the fiftieth anniversary of Doctor Who.  Other big anniversaries have had multiple-Doctor stories, so there is much anticipation among Whovians that this will occur in this year's 50th anniversary special.  Multiple-Doctor stories are episodes in which more than one Doctor appear.  "The Three Doctors," for the tenth anniversary, had the first, second, and third Doctors, and "The Five Doctors," for the twentieth anniversary, had the first five Doctors.  There was one other multiple-Doctor episode, "The Two Doctors," which had the second Doctor and the sixth Doctor, but it was not an anniversary special.  It was during the 22nd season.  (Okay, technically, there were two more, but they were short bits done for charity, not episodes of the show.)  I love when the Doctors encounter each other.  They're all arrogant know-it-alls, and they each think that they are the best regeneration of their shared life.  It's fantastic!  Multiple-Doctor stories generally involve Gallifrey and other Time Lords, too.  It will be interesting to see how the current series of Doctor Who will handle this, as it is usually the Time Lords orchestrating the situation that brings different incarnations of the Doctor together.  Gallifrey and the Time Lords have been destroyed in the rebooted version of Doctor Who.

2nd Doctor on the left, 3rd Doctor on the right
"The Three Doctors" is an episode of Doctor Who from the Jon Pertwee era.  It was the first story of the tenth season of the show.  It mostly involves the second Doctor (Patrick Troughton) and the third Doctor (Jon Pertwee).  William Hartnell, the first Doctor, was quite ill at this point, so he appeared very little.  This was his final role as an actor.

I think "The Three Doctors" is a good episode for those who aren't familiar with classic Who.  Not only are there three different Doctors, but there is also a big UNIT presence in this episode.  The United Nations Intelligence Taskforce (what it stands for in classic Who) is a major part of Pertwee's adventures.  For most of his time as the Doctor, the third Doctor was stranded on Earth by the Time Lords, so he acted as a scientific advisor for UNIT.  Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, the head of UNIT, is great in this episode.  Nicholas Courtney, the actor who played the Brigadier, used to ad-lib lines to inject more humor into the role.  There is a debate over whether the Brigadier counts as a "companion" to the Doctor.  I don't think he is.  He isn't a sidekick to the Doctor.  He is the Doctor's boss, as much as anyone can be the Doctor's boss.  He doesn't usually travel in the TARDIS with the Doctor, although he does in this episode.  The Brigadier is a great character and one of my favorites from classic Who.  When the Brigadier steps into the TARDIS, he doesn't have the normal reaction of shock that it is bigger on the inside.  He looks around and makes a crack about how this is how the Doctor is spending so much of UNIT's money.

left to right: the 2nd Doctor, the Brigadier, Jo Grant
So, what happens in "The Three Doctors?"  An energy beam is being sent from a black hole to Earth.  An energy blob appears (well, that's what it looks like) and starts making things disappear.  It is determined that it is after the Doctor.  The Doctor, his assistant Jo, and Sergeant Benton of UNIT retreat into the TARDIS.  The Doctor sends a distress call to the Time Lords.  It turns out that Gallifrey is also under attack from something in this black hole.  All of their power is being drained away.  They can't help him, but they decide to send one of his former selves so that he can help himself.  (This is after an argument over violating the first law of time, wherein a Time Lord cannot cross his own timestream and meet himself.)  The second Doctor appears in the TARDIS.  He and the third Doctor immediately start to bicker.  The Time Lords are watching and basically say, "OH, GREAT."  They send in the first Doctor to force them to work together.  The Doctors come to the conclusion that there is an antimatter universe inside the black hole and let the energy blob transport them there.  Who or what is sustaining the antimatter universe?  An ancient Time Lord!  A renegade Time Lord?  Always a good time.  It is Omega, and Omega is angry.

"The Three Doctors" is an outstanding episode of Doctor Who.  Sure, it has some questionable special effects and weird looking monsters, but that's just classic Who.  I didn't even mention the creatures that look like red bubble wrap.  "The Three Doctors" is not just funny and entertaining.  It also clues the viewer in on some of the history of the Time Lords and their ability to travel in time.  To me, this is a must-see episode of classic Who.

March 15, 2013

New Bolton

I visited New Bolton this past week.  New Bolton is a large animal veterinary center associated with the University of Pennsylvania.  My cousin's horse has been having soundness problems, so I went with her, horse in tow, to this 700 acre campus.  New Bolton has a reputation of veterinary excellence.  I was curious to see the place.

my cousin and her horse
New Bolton not only lived up to my expectations, it exceeded them.  The facilities were impressive.  The vets were knowledgeable and friendly.  I was surprised by how down-to-earth they all were.  The vets also explained everything that was happening and let us see everything that they were doing.  That included seeing the horse undergo x-rays and ultrasounds.  It was incredibly interesting.  Even the veterinary students were more competent than one would think students would be.

I referred to the New Bolton Center as a large animal veterinary center.  It is most associated with horses, but there are other animals there, too.  I saw goats, cows, and calves.  I spotted two llamas.  The llamas were pretty cute.  So were the calves.  I tried not to think about how the calves were probably going to be eaten.  Moo?

March 8, 2013

Cake domes, or sort of black and white cookies

What are these weird looking things?

Cake domes?  Actually, they're black and white cookies.  The recipe came from an issue of Food & Wine that was published in 2004.  It was the October issue, and they were called black-and-orange cookies.  I change the icing color according to holidays or my mood or other random factors.  Blue is my favorite color, so today they are blue.  True, I prefer navy blue, but this color blue will do.  

Why are they called cake domes?  You are supposed to flip over the cookies and put the icing on the flat side.  I don't do that.  I frost the rounded side.  When I worked in a bookstore, I regularly brought in stuff I baked.  A co-worker of mine christened these "cake domes" because they are domed and because they taste more like cake than cookies.  I like that better than black and white cookies, especially since I'm always changing the color on the non-chocolate side.  

Cake domes are a lot of work for not that much payoff.  I get about two dozen cookies from the recipe.  I don't make them very often.  I don't think they're all that good.  But, as with some other things I bake, my family likes cake domes, so I make the cookies for them.  
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