Saturday, 30 November 2013

Which Classic Doctor Who Adventures Would Fail The RTD Test?

Last Saturday saw Doctor Who's golden anniversary, and with it the adventure The Day of the Doctor. When the programme returned in 2005, I remember reading that the then-showrunner, Russell Davies, had a simple rule - namely that adventures had to be about humans.

In the programme, we do get a broad sweep of human future history. Some point in the mid third millennium, humans expand across the Milky Way, form colonies and then there are solar flares - and we see the consequences in The Ark in Space and The Beast Below. Humans evacuate Earth, and prepare to return, but in The Sontaran Experiment we see that humans have already returned - these are colonists, for whom Earth is simply where their ancestors came from, in the same way an Australian isn't going to get all that nostalgic about "Mother England" and doesn't see independence from the United Kingdom as a temporary measure.

We then get the interesting Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways at the end of Season 27 - a season from which one thing becomes clear. Well two things, which are the flip side of each other. Humans abandon Earth and Earth abandons humanity.

What we see in that story is that by the year 200,100, most humans are living off Earth, and so using the delta wave would only kill the humans still living on Earth. Earth, by that point, had become simply one planet with humans on it.

And earlier that season we have The End of the World - and it seems that humanity are not the only civilisation to come from Earth. After all, Jabe could trace her ancestry back to the Amazon rain forest. In this we are simply a species which existed on Earth for a couple of million years, tops, a blink of an eye in the long story of our planet.

So, what adventures from the classic era would fail the RTD Test?

In Season 1, we have The Daleks, The Edge of Destruction (maybe) and The Keys of Marinus. To misquote the Master from The Five Doctors, a Doctor Who without the Daleks scarcely bears thinking about.

But I am sure if the RTD Test had been in place then, there would be a workaround. Skaro as a human colony planet, with two groups that slowly diverged and ended up at nuclear war with each other? The Thals being human colonists oppressing the native Kaleds (not yet named) who chose to fight back? - well, imagine what the third Doctor would make of that, considering his stories like The Mutants.

The Edge of Destruction - well, I suppose in the RTD Test there is an emphasis on humanity, and this is the one with the Doctor learning that Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright are useful to have around.

Near the end of Season 1, we have The Sensorites - the first one featuring humans to be based off-Earth and the first one featuring humans to be based in the future. This is actually the seventh story, while these days we are used to new companions having present-day (Rose, Smith & Jones, Partners In Crime, The Eleventh Hour), historical Earth (The Unquiet Dead, The Shakespeare Code, The Fires of Pompeii, Victory of the Daleks), and future humanity (The End of the World, Gridlock, Planet of the Ood, The Beast Below) as their first 3 adventures - interesting to note that both Martha Jones and Donna Noble have their first future adventure as a sequel to one of Rose Tyler's (New Earth and The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit) respectively. Interesting that by the time we get to Clara Oswald and Season 33, this pattern is broken as Clara's third and fourth adventures - Cold War and Hide - are in the recent past, her sixth (The Crimson Horror) is also in the past, and she has to wait until her seventh adventure (Nightmare in Silver) before travelling to see future humans. The RTD Test is also being broken by this point.

In Season 2, we have The Web Planet (one where the TARDIS crew are the only humanoids) and The Space Museum.

Season 3 gives us Galaxy Four and (potentially) The Celestial Toymaker - although the characters whom Steven Taylor and Dodo Chaplet encounter would be familiar to viewers, including the character who was not based on Billy Bunter. While not one about Earth or humans, it draws from British culture such as clowns, playing cards and Billy Bunter.

Season 4 is the one where Patrick Troughton takes over as the Doctor, and this is an all-human series. Even ones set off-Earth (Power of the Daleks and The Macra Terror) are human colonists, and Season 5 is the same, with the off-Earth ones being The Tomb of the Cybermen and The Wheel in Space - again, both featuring human explorers or scientists.

Season 6 sees a return to alien races on alien planets, with The Dominators (on Dulkis) and The Krotons (on the Gonds' home planet) being ones where Jamie McCrimmon and Zoe Heriot are the only humans. There is also the weird The Mind Robber, which - like The Celestial Toymaker - is in a fantasy world with figures from British culture.

Seasons 7 to 9 are Jon Pertwee's, with the Doctor exiled to Earth by the Time Lords. Despite this, in Season 8 (Colony in Space) and Season 9 (The Mutants), the Doctor and Jo Grant are sent by the Time Lords to Earth colony planets. Season 9's The Curse of Peladon has a more tenuous link, with Peladon preparing to join the Galactic Federation, and the Doctor being mistaken for the Earth ambassador. Easy mistake to make - after all, sometimes a Spanish ambassador will be mistaken for a Time Lord.

Season 10 sees the Doctor able to travel again. While Carnival of Monsters is not Earth-based, there are humans (namely, those on board the SS Bernice) trapped in the Miniscope. Planet of the Daleks is the first human-free one (apart from Jo) since The Krotons - even The Curse of Peladon had a cameo by the real Earth ambassador - although it does carry on directly from Frontier in Space which covered Earth's dealings with the Draconians.

Season 11 has The Monster of Peladon - although Sarah Jane Smith is the only human, we can put it in the same league as Planet of the Daleks in being a sequel to a Season 10 adventure.

Season 12 brings us to the Tom Baker era, where everything changes again. Genesis of the Daleks fails the RTD Test spectacularly, but it's such a great adventure, we can overlook it.

Season 13 has Planet of Evil, with a Morestran expedition in a story where Sarah is the only human. But it's The Brain of Morbius which introduces a change, with the character of Solon. Up till now, future human stories had been groups - colonists, explorers, scientists. But here is a human with no other humans around him.

Season 14 sees Sarah depart, ending a run of companions from Earth - we will have to wait over 4 years for the next, Tegan Jovanka. And indeed, marking the end of a run of companions, period, as we have The Deadly Assassin, set on Gallifrey and composed of Time Lords (and no Time Ladies).

After that we have the introduction of Leela, the first future human companion since Zoe. Her debut, The Face of Evil, was set on a future planet where the people were descended from an Earth expedition. Some of her adventures - The Robots of Death and Season 15's The Invisible Enemy (in the 51st century, the era of Jack Harkness and River Song, a time where cutting-edge design is robot dogs that are "disco") and The Sunmakers - involve future humans, however in Season 15 there are a couple (Underworld and The Invasion of Time) where she is the sole human.

Season 16 introduces us to Romana, the first non-human companion since Susan Foreman, and Earth and humanity play a smaller part. While The Ribos Operation has a couple of human conpersons, The Pirate Planet, The Androids of Tara and The Armageddon Factor are human-free. Things don't improve in Season 17, with Destiny of the Daleks, The Creature from the Pit and The Horns of Nimon being human-free.

Do things improve in Season 18? Well, The Leisure Hive opens on Brighton beach and did have a handful of humans on Argolis, while Meglos does have a human, we are then into the E-space trilogy of Full Circle (which could have been Earthified (??) by having the people on the Starliner believing they were from Earth originally and then learning they weren't), State of Decay and Warrior's Gate. In State of Decay, the three vampires (including Queen Camilla. Ahem) were originally from Earth. I'm not sure if Rorvik and his crew in Warrior's Gate were human or not, but the following adventure (The Keeper of Traken) is human-free, and the following one, Logopolis, is mainly set on Earth and finally sees a new human companion.

We now move on to Peter Davison's debut in Season 19. Castrovalva begins on Earth, but just ties up loose ends from Logopolis while there. The following, Four To Doomsday, at first glance appears to have humans, but they are androids. However, it is a very human-focussed adventure and deals with a threat to Earth. The rest of the season are all Earth-based, with The Visitation being the first trip to historic Earth since The Talons of Weng-Chiang 5 years earlier.

In Season 20, Arc of Infinity's action is split between Gallifrey and Amsterdam. Snakedance has no humans, other than Tegan, in it, but like Planet of the Daleks and The Monster of Peladon it is a sequel to a story (the previous season's Kinda) which does deal with humanity's future. In Terminus, I think Olvir, Kari and the Lazars are human. Enlightenment sees human sailors in space.

Davison's Season 21 adventures are almost all Earth-based. Frontios is a human colony, and Planet of Fire is one of those - like Logopolis and Castrovalva - where the action begins on Earth before going to another planet.

The final adventure of Season 21 is Colin Baker's debut The Twin Dilemma. Although mainly set on Jaconda, most of the non-Jacondan characters are human.

Now onto Season 22. Attack of the Cybermen follows what must by that stage have been a reasonably familiar pattern - the Doctor encounters something on Earth and that leads to him going to another planet. In Vengeance on Varos, Varos was a human colony. Timelash is primarily set on the non-human world of Karfel, although there is a scene in Victorian Scotland and a human (Herbert). Revelation of the Daleks was set on a human-colonised Necros.

Season 23 goes under the umbrella title of The Trial of a Time Lord. At first, The Mysterious Planet might appear to have nothing to do with humanity, but it emerges that Ravalox is a future Earth.Mindwarp is on Thoros Beta, and like The Brain of Morbius, has a rogue human scientist (Crozier). However, it falls into the same sequel category as Planet of the Daleks, The Monster of Peladon and Snakedance, featuring Sil from Vengeance on Varos.

The Ultimate Foe's action is split between the courtroom and the Matrix.

Now on to Sylvester McCoy's first season, Season 24. Time and the Rani - again a non-human world with non-human characters we cannot relate to. In Paradise Towers, the inhabitants might have been human, and it is possible that in Dragonfire, Iceworld had human customers.

Season 25 has two Earth-based stories - Remembrance of the Daleks and Silver Nemesis. The Happiness Patrol is clearly on a human colony planet and some of the members of the Psychic Circus in The Greatest Show in the Galaxy could have been human.

Season 26 - the end of the classic era - was more simple, with every adventure exclusively or primarily set on Earth.

So, we can identify a number of adventures which would definitely fail the RTD Test:

  • The Daleks
  • The Keys of Marinus
  • The Web Planet
  • The Space Museum
  • Galaxy Four
  • The Dominators
  • The Krotons
  • Planet of the Daleks
  • The Monster of Peladon
  • Genesis of the Daleks
  • Planet of Evil
  • The Deadly Assassin
  • Underworld
  • The Invasion of Time
  • The Pirate Planet
  • The Androids of Tara
  • The Armageddon Factor
  • Destiny of the Daleks
  • The Creature from the Pit
  • The Horns of Nimon
  • Full Circle
  • The Keeper of Traken
  • Snakedance
  • Timelash
  • The Trial of a Time Lord: Mindwarp
  • Time and the Rani

This is where I get controversial. I can think of two points of classic Doctor Who which were low periods. The first was the second half of the Tom Baker era, and the second was the end of the Colin Baker era and the early part of the McCoy era. The first of these is an era with a higher proportion of adventures breaking the RTD Test. What is the programme by that stage? A couple of aliens visiting alien planets populated by aliens and dealing with alien threats. Is it too much to suggest that Doctor Who hits its low points when it forgets - or sidelines - the human aspect?

Consider other TV programmes. Merlin had a consistent universe - set in and around Camelot. There would not be an episode in which a spell of Morgana's sees Arthur on Bowie Base One, wondering what Queen Annis is pointing at him and answering her questions with "Arthur. King. To get back to Camelot." None of the Doctor Who substitutes - Robin Hood, Merlin or Atlantis - have this potential for flitting around in space and time. They are limited to a time and a place.

Unlike these, Doctor Who has the danger of moving away from a human focus.

What about its early sci-fi rival, Star Trek? Now, Doctor Who has a positive view of humanity - described as "indominatible" in The Ark in Space and Utopia - but it isn't starry-eyed. Sorry, but Star Trek came across as having a "White Person's Burden" approach - visit an alien planet, have the events there a metaphor for a contemporary issue, and let the enlighted humans sort it out, because education and science will have made politically incorrect viewpoints an embarrassing thing of the past.

Doctor Who, meanwhile, is more realistic about humanity.

Now, a programme about aliens on an alien planet dealing with aliens could be of interest if a realistic world was created. But in Doctor Who, the Doctor moves on all the time, with no chance for us to understand Chloris or Dulkis. The 3 from Season 16 that have no human connection are at least part of a plot arc - that of the Key To Time. And from Season 17, Destiny of the Daleks can be just about Earthified by the fact that Davros is going to be taken to Earth for trial, so again this is part of a plot arc. But there is no such excuse for The Creature from the Pit or The Horns of Nimon. Now, the later part of the Pertwee era was moving the Doctor away from contemporary Earth-based adventures (normally involving UNIT), and it seems that by the later part of the Baker era this had gone too far.

Now we need to ask whether the RTD Test is still being passed, and this brings us to the Matt Smith era. In Season 32 there is The Doctor's Wife. Not set on Earth - not set in this universe - and the only humans being the companions, Amy Pond and Rory Williams.

Moving on to the most recent season, Season 33, we have Asylum of the Daleks, for which the only human connection apart from the TARDIS crew is the spaceship Alaska. In The Rings of Akhaten, this is a world with no human connections, and it is unclear if the salvage team in Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS were human (they may have been - this is the only Doctor Who recently that I have thought so bad that it's not worth watching to the end).

We shall have to see what direction Season 34 and the Peter Capaldi era takes it in.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

I'm Not Bothered By Your Ps, But Please Mind Your Queues

OK, something happened today that was really annoying. I was shopping at the local Sainsbury's and was at the front of the queue. The lady in front of me had finished her shopping, and had just paid, collected her vouchers, when a man rushed up with 4 tins of soup and handed them to the cashier. After he had been served I explained to the cashier that there was a queue of people waiting and she had allowed him to queue-jump.

She was sorry that I felt that way, but he was with the woman in front of me, and therefore it was not queue-jumping.

I have a simple philosophy on shopping:

If you have started putting your shopping on the conveyor belt, you have finished shopping. If you have forgotten something you can either:

  • Put the stuff back into your basket/trolley, fetch the item, and then go to the back of a queue, or
  • Wait till you get to the till, pay for what you have got, and then go back for the item, joining the back of a queue and paying for it separately

It is annoying when the person in front of you abandons their shopping, rushes off to complete their shopping, and their stuff gets to the till - but the shopper isn't there. So the cashier and the people in the queue have to wait until that person has got the rest of their items...

Sometimes cashiers support queue-jumpers. I was in a WHSmith just before Christmas a few years back, and it was a system of several tills with one snaking line, with one of those automated "Please go to till number...." announcements. One young cashier, I guess a college student earning extra cash on a Saturday, allowed one of her friends to come up to the till ahead of the rest of the queue. After I had been served, I went to customer services and asked to speak to the manager. When he arrived I explained what had happened, and he asked which cashier. I pointed over and said "that woman at that till".

He explained that by saying "that woman at that till", I was verbally abusing her. Staff do not come to work to be verbally abused. The issue for him was not that she had allowed one of her mates to queue-jump but that I was verbally abusing a member of staff - whom I had not actually spoken to. To be honest it's a casual phrase - no different to "that young man at that till" or "that dark-haired woman at that till". As I had verbally abused a member of staff he had no choice but to ask me to leave the store.

When I got home, I phoned a central complaints line for WHSmith and expressed my concern, not just at the queue-jumping being allowed, but the store manager's quite OTT response to me complaining.

Another WHSmith store with long queues. I get to the front of a queue and an old lady had walked through the front door a few moments earlier. Marching to the till she beings "A Euro..." and the cashier gets on with scanning my items.

"Excuse me, I was here first", the old lady says.

The cashier tells her that she wasn't and that there is a queue. Old lady gets a manager involved, who foolishly allows her to go to the front of the other queue and buy her Euromillions lottery ticket ahead of people who had been waiting patiently. So her reward for trying to queue-jump is being allowed to queue-jump.

One of the most annoying was at the Co-op (although I tend to pronounce it monosyllabic, which is appropriate as this involves chickens).

Some shoppers get to the till and cannot make up their minds.

She had - among other things - 2 chickens. The shopping is complete and the cashier tells her the amount.

As she had 2 chickens, she felt she should be entitled to them at a discount. No she can't, so off she toddles to put a chicken back and the new amount is rung up. She spies bananas, and takes them to the till. So they are added. Then she decides she doesn't want the bananas, so takes them back and the amount is taken off her total. She sees chocolates, and goes to examine them. Wisely deciding that avoiding a riot is more important than chocolate, she goes to the till and pays. Finally.

Reasons For Thanksgiving

Now, I have to begin by saying that I am not American, although I do have relatives who moved across the Atlantic as a result of the potato famine. I have been to the USA, and really liked the place. It comes across as a nation which lives big - I don't mean the meals! And when the police call you "sir" it takes a while to realise they're not being sarky.

And there is one American tradition I have started to observe - and that is Thanksgiving, with the turkey (OK, a pack of turkey breasts) sitting in the fridge waiting to be cooked this afternoon.

And what do I have to be thankful for? I know that "count your blessings" can come across as frightfully twee, but:

I'm alive

OK, it amuses people sometimes when I reply "I'm alive" to the question "How are you?" But I will then explain that some days "I'm alive" is the best you can hope for, and while there's life there's hope. Sounds negative? Well this year has been a very odd one, with it being - on paper - a bad year for me. And there have been moments when I have been in A&E and - let's be blunt - not sure if I'd survive. The day after that is always weird and special as you notice the small things. Sometimes it can be helpful to consider what if this was the final year of your life - what would you make the most of if it was your last summer, or last birthday or last Christmas?


Following on from this, while there have been some doctors who are total chumps - and indeed, one GP (I left the surgery after an appointment with her) who covers up her incompetence by being rude and aggressive - on the whole it has been good. I have a surgery which concentrates on patient health, and it is easy to make appointments. I can get the inhalers and tablets I am prescribed. I have a major A&E very close to me. My health is kept as good as it can be. In many countries I would not have this.

I have eyes

Don't knock it. My hobby is astronomy. I use a computer a lot. I watch TV. I love the natural world. So much enjoyment and essentials would go if I couldn't see.

I can walk

I see people in their wheelchairs and mobility scooters and think what a restriction that must be on life. There have been times - such as when I put my back out or when I have leg problems - that walking has been painful, so I am glad that most of the time it isn't.

I have family

However frustrating they can be. My childhood was very much one of family shrinkage, as we would receive yet another phone call about an elderly relative dying, and I was used to seeing older family decline. Since then it has been the reverse, as there have been marriages and a new generation being born. In addition, this has been the year of tracking down wider family that we've had no contact with for decades.

I have friends

I was the archetypal friendless swot at school. Now I have a wide circles of friends, with some really close friends.

I have a home

It's small and it's rented. But I have a roof over my head. That is more than millions of people around the world have.

I live in suburbia

Cue Terry & June music and thoughts of middle-class tweeness. But I have a good bus service (less than 10 minutes to the centre of Southampton). Less than 75 minutes walk to an aiport which could take me almost anywhere in western Europe (in response to their recent consultation, I have suggested they get Icelandair to run flights to Reykjavík on the grounds that this is a gateway to North America). I have a selection of supermarkets in walking distance - I remember discussing this with one friend who lives in a rural area and realising the amount of planning that goes into shopping for him, as he cannot nip down the road to a supermarket. I am close to a major railway station, so when jobhunting I know I have a wide range of location options. If I were at my parents', I would be restricted in where I can jobhunt. I can travel widely - if I plan it, I can go by train to many major European cities.

I live near to rural areas

New Forest, Test Valley, South Downs - all easy to get to.

I live in a climatically and geologically stable area

The United Kingdom is safe. I don't have to worry about tornadoes or tsunamis or earthquakes. Although we can get hot summers and snow in winter, we don't get the extremes in weather that there might be across much of North America. We can see disasters strike around the world and realise we don't have to face those risks.

I live in a politically stable country

I can vote. I have a democratically-elected city council and a democratically-elected House of Commons. This is a democracy. There are a few rotten apples in the police, but the forces of law and order do not oppress people - please avoid hysterical talk of need for a "British spring". Look at countries like Syria and Egypt. No government in the UK is going to gas its people.

I have freedom to worship

I can own and read a Bible. I can discuss it online without state censorship. I can attend church - the sort of freedoms many Christians would (and in many cases, do) die for.

I live in a country with a Christian heritage

A bit of a curate's egg (pun intended). The Church of England does jump on bandwagons, and although the Christian influence has declined, our laws were based on Christian values.

I do not go hungry

Supermarkets, fast food shops, department stores with customer restaurants....

I speak English as my first language

This is not the most common language but is the international lingua franca. Things are so much easier knowing it.

I have a computer and internet access

When my last computer broke down permanently, I realised just how important this is now. It is very much a lifeline to the outside world - if I need to apply for a job, order something, organise something....

Jesus Christ died for me, and I have the assurance of eternal life through Him

The Lord's Supper, instituted by Him, is where we have a Thanksgiving of Jesus Christ dying on the Cross, with the bread representing His body broken for us, and the wine His blood shed for us.

Friday, 22 November 2013

How Many UKIP Peers Should There Be?

One thing I have seen recently is that the Government's Programme for Coalition contained this commitment:

We will establish a committee to bring forward proposals for a wholly or mainly elected upper chamber on the basis of proportional representation. The committee will come forward with a draft motion by December 2010. It is likely that this will advocate single long terms of office. It is also likely that there will be a grandfathering system for current Peers. In the interim, Lords appointments will be made with the objective of creating a second chamber that is re£ective of the share of the vote secured by the political parties in the last general election.

I have already had a look at the (now aborted) plans for House of Lords reform and how it could be salvageable.

The current distribution of life peers in the House of Lords is:

  • Labour - 217
  • Conservative - 173
  • Liberal Democrat - 95
  • Democratic Unionist Party - 2
  • Ulster Unionist Party - 2
  • Plaid Cymru - 2
  • Independent Liberal Democrat - 2
  • Green Party of England & Wales - 1
  • UK Independence Party - 1
  • Independent Conservative - 1
  • Independent Labour - 1
  • Independent UUP - 1

There are in this list Independents who have lost/resigned the party whip. In addition there are non-affiliated peers, who are distinct from the Crossbenchers.

Some of these can be allocated to party groups:

[* Kalms is a bit debatable. He was a Conservative, but was expelled after encouraging people to vote for UKIP at the June 2009 elections to the European Parliament.]

Next we have the ineligble peers. One of these, the Liberal Democrats' Sarah Ludford, is disqualified as she is a Member of the European Parliament for London.

The ones we are interested in are party peers on a Leave of Absence:

With this, we can now give a number of life peers for each party (whipless and non-affiliated ones could return, as could those on Leave of Absence or disqualified):

  • Labour - 241
  • Conservative - 184
  • Liberal Democrat - 100
  • Ulster Unionist Party - 5
  • Democratic Unionist Party - 4
  • Plaid Cymru - 2
  • UK Independence Party - 2
  • Green Party of England & Wales - 1

The next stage is to look at the results of the May 2010 general election:

Party Life peers Votes Votes per peer
Conservative/Ulster Unionist Party 189 10,806,115 57,175
Labour 241 8,609,527 35,724
Liberal Democrat/Alliance Party of Northern Ireland 100 6,879,586 68,786
UK Independence Party 2 919,546 459,773
British National Party 0 564,331 N/A
Scottish National Party 0 491,386 N/A
Green Party of England & Wales 1 265,247 265,247
Sinn Féin 0 171,942 N/A
Democratic Unionist Party 4 168,216 42,054
Plaid Cymru 2 165,394 82,697
Social Democratic & Labour Party 0 110,970 N/A

Now, you'll notice that the number of votes for some parties doesn't tally. In Northern Ireland, the Conservatives and UUP fought as a single party - and the UUP does have quite a high number of peers for its vote, which doesn't reflect its recent electoral collapse - and the BBC also counts John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons and MP for Buckingham in the Conservative tally.

I have combined the Liberal Democrats and APNI, noting that former APNI leader, John Alderdice, takes the Liberal Democrat whip in the House of Lords.

The BBC totals ignore the fact that there are 3 Green parties in the United Kingdom - there are separate ones in Northern Ireland and Scotland.

With this we find the lowest number of votes per peer is Labour's 35,724. If this ratio applied for all parties then we would have:

  • Conservative/Ulster Unionist Party - 302
  • Labour - 241
  • Liberal Democrat/Alliance Party of Northern Ireland - 193
  • UK Independence Party - 26
  • British National Party - 16
  • Scottish National Party - 14
  • Green Party of England & Wales - 7
  • Sinn Féin - 5
  • Democratic Unionist Party - 5
  • Plaid Cymru - 5
  • Social Democratic & Labour Party - 3

We currently have 539 party life peers - the above would raise it to an unmanageable 817 (an increase of 278).

Now, not all of these parties would accept peers - the Scottish National Party and Sinn Féin would not - but this can be worked around. For example, the First Ministers of Scotland and Northern Ireland could be asked to nominate 14 and 5 Crossbenchers respectively. If the Social Democratic & Labour Party doesn't take its peers, then Labour should appoint 3 peers from Northern Ireland, such as Belfast-born Kate Hoey, MP for Vauxhall.

The thought of BNP peers turns my stomach, but that is democracy.

So, how many extra peers would each party get?

  • Conservative/Ulster Unionist Party - 113
  • Liberal Democrat/Alliance Party of Northern Ireland - 93
  • UK Independence Party - 24
  • British National Party - 16
  • Scottish National Party - 14
  • Green Party of England & Wales - 6
  • Sinn Féin - 5
  • Plaid Cymru - 3
  • Social Democratic & Labour Party - 3
  • Democratic Unionist Party - 1*

[* The BBC suggests that William Hay, DUP Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, might become a peer next year.]

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Rose And The Bad Wolf

I have allowed myself a moment of überfandom, and am trying to buy all 12 versions of Radio Times. There is one image in it which sticks out, which is the tenth Doctor and Elizabeth I having a picnic.

Now this clearly puts it between The Waters of Mars and The End of Time.

Tenth Doctor: For once I'd like to know where I'm going

Eleventh Doctor: No, you really wouldn't

This exchange makes some sense if the tenth Doctor is at the point where he is trying to avoid Ood Sigma's summons to the Oodsphere.

Also, if The Day of the Doctor is the tenth Doctor's penultimate adventure, then this means his last two adventures are related to the Time War. If - as some as suggested - the three Doctors we see collectively use The Moment to end the Time War, then by the time of The End of Time his emotions must be in turmoil. He is running from his past, he has destroyed Gallifrey twice already (knowing he'll do it again), he is running from his future ("He will knock four times") and to cap it all, it looks like Rassilon, the Time Lords and Gallifrey are coming back. In The Beast Below, the eleventh Doctor is quite relaxed about Gallifrey - he has seen the consequences of Gallifrey not being destroyed, seen Rassilon's plan, and realises that he did the right thing.

But if, from the tenth Doctor's perspective, this is near the end, then it means one thing - Rose Tyler is not his companion.

Looking at the trailers, I don't think we see Rose alone with the tenth Doctor. If anything, she is with the missing Doctor.

In Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways, Rose becomes the Bad Wolf, and what does she do? "The Time War ends" - the Bad Wolf's role is to bring it to an end by destroying the Daleks. In Turn Left, the Doctor tells Donna Noble that the "Bad Wolf" messages all over the place mean the end of everything - and this follows on to Rose's return and the Daleks undoing some of the Time War.

In Boom Town, the Doctor seems perturbed by a potential nuclear power station called Bad Wolf (in Welsh). But why? Why all this stuff about seeing it everywhere when the only earlier time he came across it was Bad Wolf TV in The Long Game? Something deeper was happening.

I will stick my neck out here - the Bad Wolf is, I suggest, a mythical figure from Time Lord legend representing destruction.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Be Careful With Water, Electricity And The Bible

One man I know is heavily into DIY, but he once told me there are two things for which he will call in a professional.

The first of these is water. One mistake, and a place can be flooded, with the possibility of an insurance company not paying out. Safer to get a plumber in.

The other is electricity. One mistake can be fatal. Safer to get an electrician in.

Water is essential to life. And in the modern Western world, electricity is a very important feature. Ever had a power cut and realised just how much we depend on it?

Water and electricity are both dangerous, and they need to be treated with respect as a result. I like swimming, but can never totally relax in the water - if anything goes wrong the consequences can be serious.

Last week I was at a course at church on How To Teach The Bible, and I realised that I actually enjoyed it - looking at a passage, seeing the main points, devising a structure, thinking about how to apply it to our lives, what examples there would be etc. And when I saw the list of indications that one might have the gift of teaching, I found myself thinking, yes, that's me.

There are two extreme poles on the idea of the gift of teaching. On one end, there is the idea that if there's any Bible teaching to do, well that's what the dog-collared Rev is there for. I remember mentioning to one clergyman about 15 years ago that I was wondering if I had this gift and making the terrible faux pas of suggesting I combine it with secular work. Very quickly I find that the two types of ministry he takes a very dim view of are Non-Stipendary Ministers and Lay Readers. It was clear that as far as he was concerned, these were the people who wanted the glamour of being up there at the front leading or in the pulpit, but were not willing to put in the hard slog of day-to-day parish work. So I left the idea.

There is another end, and for this I need some background. I love Maths, and when I was young I wanted to grow up to be a Maths teacher. And when I became a Christian as an undergraduate, quickly came across what we can call "the Four M's" approach to careers. Mission, Ministry, Medicine, Minds. Basically, you are called to become a missionary overseas, or be a vicar/rector (if a man), work as a doctor or a nurse, or a teacher.

Well, I don't like hot countries, so that rules out being a missionary. Couldn't see myself as a vicar. Am squeamish with blood. So by default that left teaching as the only career option for me. And I did start a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) but realised it wasn't me, so withdrew after the second term.

As a result I was unemployed until I started temping in the secular world of factory work. Two things would grate. The first was when well-meaning Christians would ask whether I had considered teaching as a career. The second was when this was followed up by a comment about how Christians find teaching easy. Yeah, thanks for that.

But it is easy to see where this comes from. I didn't grow up in a Christian home, so a lot of things are alien to me. But I would get the impression that helping out at Sunday School was very much a rite of passage for teenagers from Christian families - hence the idea that teaching was a gift everyone had.

And in Bible study groups it is normal for everyone to play their part in leading.

There were a few things that struck me about what we learned. The first is the benefit of teaching through a book of the Bible Sunday-by-Sunday. That way the preacher doesn't choose his favourite passages. Nor can anyone feel singled out - and I can give a practical example from yesterday.

After my PGCE I did factory work, but there were also in that 18-month period between that and starting an MSc in Astronomy times when I was unemployed or only working part-time. And there was a small group of young Christians who got very hot under the collar about "the sin of unemployment". Two passages would be shown to me:

Six days you shall labour, and do all your work, (Ex. 20:9)


Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone's bread without paying for it, but with toil and labour we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good. If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. (II Thess. 3:6-14.)

In their worldview, being unemployed was an deliberate lifestyle choice, not something that happens to someone, and the way it should be dealt with is via church discipline - in particular the "have nothing to do with him". This would mean an unemployed man should not be allowed to become - or remain - a church member, and that he and his wife and children should be excluded from church activities. Excluding the family would help shame him into becoming employed, as he would realise that his remaining unemployed had consequences for those who meant the most to him.

Last week I was due to have my interview about becoming a church member (this is how we do things in the free churches) and before it I decided not to go ahead as I was unemployed and had this all going through my mind, with it keeping me awake quite late the night before. The reassuring email was that it was OK, I wouldn't be barred from membership for not being able to find work.

I spent Sunday with at my parents', and went to the main morning service at the Anglican church in their village. The preacher preached on the Thessalonians passage. Now, I could have thought that it was chosen because I was there - but it was simply what was the Epistle reading in the Lectionary.

The second thing that struck me is that a preacher needs to avoid a hobby horse, with the example of a preacher who could drag baptism into every passage - we need to draw out what is in the passage, not read in. One example springs to mind, a Baptist church, where the minister and elders made the controversial decision to nominate a woman to fill the vacancy in the presbyterate. And the Sunday before the church meeting with The Vote, the sermon was from Nehemiah 3, the rebuilding of the Wall.

And the key verse was verse 12:

Next to him Shallum the son of Hallohesh, ruler of half the district of Jerusalem, repaired, he and his daughters.

There we have it, in the buidling of the Wall, there were no distinctions between roles men and women had. And so in the building of God's Kingdom, yep, you've got it. Loaded Sermon Klaxon.

I have to say the best sermons on giving are on days which are not Gift Days.

What have I taken away from the training? The thing is that if I do indeed have this gift then, however awkward it would be, I have to use it:

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies — in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To Him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (I Pet. 4:10)

Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. (Rom. 12:6-8)

One thing I need to carefully consider is what my motivation would be. Last year, we had a school reunion, and I received an apology for one man for bullying me at school. My reply was, "I deserved it".

I was very talented academically - at secondary school at the end of year exams, I once came top in every academic subject. The other two years where we had end of year exams, one girl came top in at most three subjects (cannot remember exactly). And this made me arrogant.

This is my fear. Those who preach and teach can be put on pedestals, and I have known preachers who have done terrible things and prior to that been seen with respect. At primary school, some books we read would be quite old-fashioned (why, oh why, was "Grandmother North" insistent that just because it was wartime, there was no reason to stop having dinner in the dining room?), and in some we would come across the idea of the "Sunday best" with clothing. And sadly, there will be preachers who have their own "Sunday best" of piety and appearing spiritual.

If I have a gift, I don't want to use it in a way that puffs me up and doesn't point people towards Jesus.

If I were to teach the Bible, I would have to make sure, above all, that I was teaching responsibly. It is a dangerous book:

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Heb. 4:12a)

Like anything dangerous, it has to be treated with respect when being handled.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

How Close Did The USA Come To Being Leaderless In January 2001 And Could A Goode Man Have Prevented It?

Anyone who follows my blog knows I have an interest in politics, and this includes American politics. One thing I was recently looking at is the November 2000 federal election.

This is famous for the then-Governor of Texas, George Bush, defeating sitting Vice-President, Al Gore, due to a controversy over hanging chads in Florida. But there was much more going on.

In the Electoral College, Bush got 271 votes to Gore's 266, with one Elector - in the District of Columbia - abstaining, despite being pledged to support Gore. Florida, with its 25 votes, would have enabled Gore to win by 291 to 246.

However, the states where Gore won by the narrowest margins - New Mexico, Wisconsin and Iowa - had 23 votes between them. If Bush had won these (which could be achieved with just 5,112 voters - less than 0.005% of the total voters - switching), with Gore winning Florida, then Bush would have 269 votes to Gore's 268. Before you assume that Bush could have claimed victory, remember Gore's faithless former friend. Her vote has to be taken into account, and Bush would win 269 votes out of a possible 538.

To be elected President at this stage, a candidate needs an absolute majority - so 270 or more votes. If no-one manages that, then the matter is referred to the House of Representatives that was elected at the same time. There crucial thing here is that votes at this second stage are cast by state delegation.

The House of Representatives elected in 2000 had 221 Republicans and 212 Democrats, as well as 2 Independents (Bernie Sanders, who was the sole Representative for Vermont, which he now represents in the Senate, and Virgil Goode, a Representative for Virginia who represented the area around Charlottesville, and who had been originally a Democrat but by the November 2002 election was a Republican).

But more important than the numbers is where they represent. If a state had a Republican majority in its delegation, then it would have voted for Bush. If a Democrat majority, then Gore. If evenly split, then it would have abstained.

The numbers give us:

  • Bush - 28
  • Gore - 18 (including Vermont)
  • Abstained - 4 (Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland and Nevada)

Just as with the Electoral College, what matters here is getting an absolute majority, i.e. 26 votes. Given that states may have to abstain, we can see that it is possible that even with 2 candidates, there is no winner. Bush only needed to lose 3 states for this to occur.

What we need to look at are states where the Republicans had a majority of 1 or 2 Representatives. If they had a majority of 1, then the loss of their most vulnerable seat to the Democrats would flip the state delegation to voting for Gore. If a majority of 2, then (except for Virginia), this would lead to the state delegation abstaining.

The states with a majority of 1 were Alaska, Delaware, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah and Wyoming, while those with a majority of 2 were Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, New Hampshire, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia (which is the only one of these to return an odd number of Representatives).

And we find there are 3 seats in these states where the Republican lead is less than 5% over the Democrats:

  • In Missouri's 6th district, Sam Graves had a majority of 11,133
  • In Montana, Dennis Rehberg had a majority of 30,447
  • In Virginia's 2nd district, Ed Schrock had a majority of 7,528

This situation could arise with just 24,556 voters switching.

Graves and Rehberg failing to be elected would lead to Missouri and Montana voting for Gore, bringing him to 20. If Schrock failed to be elected, Virginia would return 5 Republicans, 5 Democrats and 1 Independent. Goode would be in the incredibly powerful position of whether to give the state delegation vote to Bush (in which case he would have 26 states and win) or Gore (in which case the House of Representatives would have failed to elect a President).

Oh well, if there's no President, then at least the Vice-President can take over till the mess is sorted out. With the Electoral College failing to choose one, all the Senate needed to do was to decide between the Republican Dick Cheney, at the time a former Secretary of Defense, and the Democrat Joe Lieberman, at the time a Senator for Connecticut. And as a result of the election, there were 50 Republican and 50 Democrat Senators. Ah, a tie. There is an interesting article on what happens if there is a tie in the Senate.

It would not have taken many votes to change hands in 2000 for the situation of both the Electoral College and Congress failing to elect a President and a Vice-President.

What I expect the sequence of events would have been is this - Dennis Hastert of Illinois, as Speaker of the House of Representatives, would have found himself on Inauguration Day as the highest person in the line of succession, and therefore he would have taken the oath as Acting President. He could then nominate a Vice-President - logically either Bush (as a fellow Republican) or Gore (as winner of the popular vote). Once ratification was complete, there would be someone higher than Hastert in the line of succession (Vice-President is above Speaker) and whomever Hastert had chosen would complete the term of office.

The Opinion Polls With 18 Months To Go

One thing that I realised recently that if we were still following the normal-ish pattern of 4 years between general elections, then this would be the stage when the parties would be really looking to it. Manifestoes prepared. Government introducing populist legislation....

But instead we know the next election will be May 2015, and so we are now in the final 18 months.

With that in mind, it's time to look at the opinion polls. I have provided details of how I do this and - in order to get a larger data set - I have been combining opinion polls, with this now being the time to add a fourth poll - namely ICM.

ICM divides Great Britain up in a different way to Populus and YouGov, and we can compare these:

Region/Nation Populus YouGov ICM
Scotland Scotland Scotland Scotland/North
North West England North England North North
Yorkshire & Humberside North England North North
North East England North England North North
Wales Wales & South West Midlands & Wales Wales/Midlands
West Midlands Midlands Midlands & Wales Midlands
East Midlands Midlands Midlands & Wales Midlands
Eastern England South East Rest of South Midlands
South West England Wales & South West Rest of South South
South East England South East Rest of South South
London South East London South

Note that for ICM, both Wales and Scotland appear in two regions - which we can see if we look at the latest poll, and consider the figures for Plaid Cymru and the Scottish National Party. To get the numbers for the North (without Scotland) and the Midlands (without Wales), it is a logical step of subtracting the Scottish and Welsh figures.

The second poll we look at is the one from ComRes.

Thirdly we look at Populus, which involves combing two recent polls:

Date C Lab LD UKIP
Friday 8 - Sunday 10 November 31% 39% 11% 10%
Wednesday 13 - Thursday 14 November 31% 40% 11% 10%
Average 31% 39.5% 11% 10%

And this brings me fourthly and finally to YouGov. Due to the frequency of their polls, we have 5 to consider:

Date C Lab LD UKIP
Tuesday 12 November 33% 40% 9% 11%
Wednesday 13 November 32% 42% 8% 10%
Thursday 14 November 31% 39% 9% 13%
Friday 15 November 32% 40% 10% 13%
Sunday 17 November 33% 39% 10% 12%
Average 32.2% 40.0% 9.2% 11.8%

The result of the 2010 general election is:

  • Conservatives - 306 (including 1 Deputy Speaker)
  • Labour - 258 (including 2 Deputy Speakers)
  • Liberal Democrats - 57
  • Northern Ireland parties - 18
  • Scottish National Party - 6
  • Plaid Cymru - 3
  • Greens - 1
  • The Speaker - 1

As before, I will assume that there is no change of Speaker of the House of Commons, so John Bercow would be re-elected in Buckingham as Mr Speaker seeking re-election.

As a result of the opinion polls:

  • Labour gains 73 seats from the Conservatives and 18 from the Liberal Democrats, but lose 2 seats to the Scottish National Party - a net gain of 89 seats
  • The Scottish National Party gains 6 seats from the Liberal Democrats and 2 from Labour - a total gain of 8 seats
  • Plaid Cymru gains 1 seat from the Liberal Democrats
  • The Conservatives gain 31 seats from the Liberal Democrats, but lose 73 seats to Labour - a net loss of 42 seats
  • The Liberal Democrats lose 1 seat to Plaid Cymru, 6 to the Scottish National Party, 18 to Labour and 31 to the Conservatives - a total loss of 56 seats

This gives a result of:

  • Labour - 347 (including 2 Deputy Speakers)
  • Conservatives - 264 (including 1 Deputy Speaker)
  • Northern Ireland parties - 18
  • Scottish National Party - 14
  • Plaid Cymru - 4
  • Liberal Democrats - 1
  • Greens - 1
  • The Speaker - 1

In terms of share of the vote, Labour would be on 36.3% (their best result since the June 2001 general election, and slightly higher than their May 2005 general election result), the Conservatives on 31.7% (their worst result since the May 1997 general election - but only just doing better than then), UKIP on 11.6% (the best result for any party not winning any seats, and the lowest third-party share of the vote since the Liberals in the June 1970 general election) and the Liberal Democrats on 10.8% (their worst result since 1970).

Friday, 15 November 2013

European Day of Multilingual Blogging

Today is the European Day of Multilingual Blogging.

Днес е Европейският ден на многоезичен блогове. (Bulgarian)

Danas je Europski dan višejezičnog Blogging. (Croatian)

Dnes je evropský den vícejazyčných blogování. (Czech)

I dag er den europæiske dag af flersprogede Blogging. (Danish)

Vandaag is het de Europese Dag van meertalige Bloggen. (Dutch)

Täna on Euroopa päev Mitmekeelne Blogging. (Estonian)

Tänään on monikielistä eurooppalaisen päivän blogin kirjoittaminen. (Finnish)

Aujourd'hui, c'est la Journée Européenne de blogs multilingues. (French)

Heute ist der Europäische Tag der Sprachen Bloggen. (German)

Σήμερα είναι η Ευρωπαϊκή Ημέρα των γλωσσών στα ιστολόγια. (Greek)

A mai napon az Európai többnyelvű bloggolás. (Hungarian)

Inniu, tá an Lá Eorpach na Blagadóireacht Ilteangach. (Irish)

Oggi è la Giornata europea delle lingue Il Blog. (Italian)

Šodien ir Eiropas diena daudzvalodu emuāri. (Latvian)

Šiandien Europos diena Multilingual dienoraščiai. (Lithuanian)

Illum huwa l-Jum Ewropew tal-Blogging Multilingual. (Maltese)

Już dziś jest na Europejskim Dniu wielojęzycznym bloga. (Polish)

Hoje é o Dia Europeu das Blogging Multilingual. (Portugese)

Astazi este Ziua Europeana de Blog multilingve. (Romanian)

Dnes je Európsky deň Multilingual blogovanie. (Slovak)

Danes je evropski dan Večjezični Blogging. (Slovenian)

Hoy es el día europeo de blogs multilingüe. (Spanish)

I dag är den europeiska dagen för flerspråkig Blogga. (Swedish)

Heddiw yw Diwrnod Ewropeaidd Blogio Amlieithog. (Welsh)

It has to be said that one has to be careful with translation, especially when it comes to Hungarian....

Sunday, 10 November 2013

The Latest Day Of The Doctor Trailer, And Thoughts On Rose's Return

I recently looked at the first trailer for The Day of the Doctor and the BBC have now released a second one.

As always, all images are (c) the BBC.

The Doctor (I guess the eleventh) has now listened to Idris/the TARDIS from The Doctor's Wife and accepted that a police box's doors open outwards.

This reminds me of Rassilon leading a group of Time Lords into what I assume was the Council chamber in The End of Time, so this must be Gallifrey. The figure on the far right reminds me of the figure I thought could be a Sontaran in the first trailer. Presumably the Capitol Guard uniform is of that style - and the thought came to my mind whether an unregenerated Maxil were still a there. Come on, give us Colin Baker in a cameo as the Castellan.

Great men are forged in fire - hmm, so this is the Day of the Doctor, the day he is forged in the flames and becomes who he is.

The first time I saw this, I thought the lady running was Clara Oswald.

I don't think it is, taking another look, but this got me wondering. In The Name of the Doctor, the Great Intelligence enters the Doctor's timestream, to turn all his victories into defeat, and Clara follows him/it to undo this. But she didn't encounter the missing Doctor while doing this.

Does this mean that the missing Doctor had no victories that could be turned into defeat? Surely, even during the Time War, he must have had some victory that could be overturned? Or did the Great Intelligence assume that in the light of the Doctor's ultimate defeat in the Time War, any victories in it were insignificant?

This then raises another issue - surely there were pre-Time War victories for this missing Doctor? Which brings me to an idea floating around in my mind. We know, from The Sound of Drums/The Last of the Time Lords that the Master was resurrected for the Time War, as a perfect warrior. Is it a case that the Time Lords were not just bringing back to life those they thought would be suitable, but making existing Time Lords suitable? How would this be done? Well, in regeneration, a Time Lord's personality and character can change somewhat. At the end of The War Games, part of the Doctor's sentence is to change his appearance - indicating that the Time Lords have the power to not only enforce a regeneration, but to decide on its outcome.

We don't know much about the eighth Doctor, but suppose he was not considered suitable for the Time War, and therefore the Time Lords carried out a forced regeneration on him. If so, then the missing Doctor was only the Doctor through the Time War, and had no victories that the Great Intelligence could turn into defeats, and therefore no reason for Clara to meet him in one of her parallel existences.

Yes, I know the fan speculation that this is the eighth Doctor, which would give some sort of backing to my idea above. Is that Clara behind him? After all, they must have met at some point.

I've put these two together although this goes a bit out-of-sequence. We have seen the eleventh Doctor ride a motorbike in The Bells of St John, so guess this is his one from that.

Familiar from the newspapers. Guess this is outside the National Gallery, where the significant painting is. But why is the eleventh Doctor visiting it? I presume that is a UNIT helicopter airlifting the TARDIS. And why is the telephone panel open?

This starts to clear things up. In the previous trailer, we had the tenth and eleventh Doctor in the forest, and the tenth Doctor saying "You've certainly come to the right place" - presumably to the missing Doctor. We also saw Elizabeth I running through a forest. With her in the background of this scene, it is clear that this is the same forest.

This is interesting. UNIT base? I presume the women are Kate Lethbridge-Stewart. And the obvious explanation for there being two of her is that one is a Zygon infiltrating UNIT.

On the board on the right it is clearly Kamelion - but how did UNIT know about him?

And what is the 00:56 on the clock? Is it 56 minutes after midnight? Or is it a countdown - and if so, in minutes or seconds?

The "Oh, you've redecorated.... Don't like it" is, of course, the second Doctor's line in The Five Doctors and the eleventh Doctor's in Closing Time. The three Doctors with Clara in the elevent Doctor's console room - but where is Rose Tyler?

The three Doctors together - looking at the board behind them, I guess this is the UNIT base. What is the image on the screen on the right?

Tenth Doctor: For once I'd like to know where I'm going

Eleventh Doctor: No, you really wouldn't

Interesting. Does the eleventh Doctor have memories of this adventure from when he was the tenth? Or is the tenth Doctor - knowing that his song is ending and that "he will knock four times" - want some information about his personal future?

One issue that has been asked is when is Rose from? In Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel the Doctor tells her and Mickey Smith that, with regards to parallel universes (and they had landed in the one that Rose would eventually stay in):

Used to be easy. When the Time Lords kept their eye on everything, you could hop between realities, home in time for tea. Then they died, took it all with them. The walls of reality closed, the worlds were sealed. Everything became that bit less kind.

And in The Stolen Earth/Journey's End the walls of reality are opened by Davros' work on the reality bomb, and by the end, the walls are closing again. But if the Time Lords were keeping their eyes on everything, then you could travel across realities.

If this is set in the Time War, then it is before the Time Lords died and the worlds of reality closed. So, Rose could be able to return into the Time War itself - and maybe this is how to get round the War being time-locked. She is the Bad Wolf after all.

A related issue is - where is Gallifrey? If parallel universes are caused by time travel altering reality, and Gallifrey is the first planet to develop time travel, then I wonder whether this places Gallifrey at the point where parallel universes meet, and that in some sense the same Gallifrey exists in all parallel universes, so you could not have a parallel Gallifrey. Otherwise you could have it that the Time War only affected the Gallifrey in our reality. And if it's a Time War, and parallel universes are caused by time being altered, then does this mean that the War produced and/or destroyed many parallel universes?

There is a final thought. This is the seventh season of Doctor Who since it returned. American sci-fi shows such as Buffy The Vampire Slayer and 3 of the Star Trek spin-offs (The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager) ran for 7 seasons, and the Star Trek ones ensured that a finale more-or-less wrapped everything up. Is the same happening here?

After The Day of the Doctor, we have the Christmas episode. I have heard rumours that it'll be called Silent Night - sounds logical, as it's Christmassy title and also the eleventh Doctor had to tackle the complicated and, to some extent, unresolved matter of the Silence. Why did they believe silence would fall when the question was asked? In The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People the Doctor knew about the Flesh and wanted to cut off the link to Amy Pond - and the Flesh played some part in Kovarian's plans in A Good Man Goes to War. Why did the Silence want to make the TARDIS explode anyway? There are these eleventh Doctor loose ends to be wrapped up.

An episode covering the Time War closes a major thread from that spring evening in 2005 when Rose was shown - and we are now as far from that point as Jo Grant is from a junkyard in Totter's Lane.

And so I wonder whether the Christmas episode is there to end Doctor Who as it is now - tying up all the remaining loose ends.

If we look at the history, there seem to be phases. The first, from An Unearthly Child to The War Games, was the Doctor on the run from his own (unnamed) people. I have been watching the latter of these, and trying to imagine the little thrill that would come from having some of the Doctor's back story explained. That was 6 seasons.

Then we have the UNIT years - running from Spearhead from Space and up to Terror of the Zygons, so covering 6 seasons. I know that by the time you get to the fourth Doctor's era, UNIT features less. But Robot does have him, Sarah Jane Smith and Harry Sullivan leaving UNIT HQ, and intending to return. Yes, Terror of the Zygons does lie in the following season (the thirteenth), but I believe it was designed to end the twelfth.

Then the Tom Baker era from Planet of Evil to some point in the eighteenth season. You could put it right at the end, with Logopolis, or you could argue that it and its predecessor, The Keeper of Traken, were putting the elements in place for the fifth Doctor era - introducing Nyssa and Tegan Jovanka, bringing back the Master - to enable Peter Davison to hit the Castrovalvan ground running.

Then we have the fifth & sixth Doctor eras, covering 5 seasons. Finally, the darker Doctor of Sylvester McCoy, cut short after 3 seasons.

So this is what I think it would be - tying up the loose ends, revolving all plot threads, and clearing the decks for the Peter Capaldi era.

Spoiler - it's going to be fantastic.

What The Prime Ministers Didn't Say

One thing I have found myself doing is "debating" the European Union on the letters page of the local paper, and there is one thing I find about the UK Independence Party lobby - either they don't use any facts or evidence to back their case, or else they use "evidence" and "facts" that are not true.

Take for example, the first letter I wrote in the link (the second one didn't get published). The UKIP person's response can be summed up:

  • My claim that the European Parliament votes on the European Commission is "complete nonsense" - the Parliament voting on the Commission does not happen.
  • The EU is undemocratic
  • I need to learn about the EU - #irony.

The interesting thing is that facts and evidence produced by the UKIP correspondents are made up.

The other trick is to expect you to prove beyond all possible doubt that the latest Euromyth in the Daily Express is not true. Sorry, the burden of proof is on those who claim that "Europe" has secret plans.

And this brings me to a couple of things today. The first is the claim that Prime Minister, David Cameron, has said he would not honour the result of a referendum vote to leave the EU.

This was an interview Cameron gave to El Pais in March (so why it is news now is beyond me). And this is what the website of Trevor Colman, UKIP Member of the European Parliament for South West England says that Cameron said:

In case of a Yes victory in the referendum that will organize on leaving the EU, would you be willing to withdraw from the Union?

And Cameron's response:

I would not. (No me gustaría)

That Cameron makes such an admission - of willfully ignoring a referendum vote - in a foreign newspaper is revealing. Truly he's the child of Europe, his hero evidently instead is Barroso (EU Commission President):

“They must go on voting until they get it right."

Slightly amazingly "cast-iron" has managed to sink even lower.

The link is given to the Boiling Frog website, which then links to an article by Richard North. At which point a warning klaxon rings in my mind.

And North has Cameron stating in El Pais:

The paper refers to the premier's speech of 23 January, when he announced his intention to hold a referendum, and Cameron is then asked whether, if the referendum went against him, he would be willing to withdraw from the EU. And his answer is blunt and to the point: "I would not. What I would like is to get reform of the European Union".

And, to make things easier for those of us who want to find out for ourselves what Cameron actually said - and so enabling us to call BS on North - he provides a link to what El Pais. By doing that North has picked up a shotgun, pointed at each foot in turn, and pulled the trigger:

No me gustaría. Lo que me gustaría es conseguir una reforma de la Unión Europea. Ese es el sentido de mi discurso. La UE está madura para sufrir una reforma. Nos encontramos en una carrera planetaria en la que debemos competir con países como China, India, Indonesia, Malasia. Es necesaria una Europa más abierta, más competitiva, más flexible. Ese es nuestro objetivo.

Let's have a look at the Spanish verb gustar - which means "to like", when used in the conditional tense. We can see that me gustaría means "I would like". So No me gustaría means "I would not like".

So, Cameron is saying he would not like a "no" vote in a referendum on EU membership - a completely different thing to what North, Colman and others in UKIP claim he is saying.

What does UKIP have to gain by falsley claiming that Cameron said he would not abide by a vote to leave the EU? Surely to discourage people who are planning to vote Conservative for the very reason that Cameron is offering a referendum.

The second Prime Minister I am thinking of is Italy's Enrico Letta, and a quote doing the UKIP rounds about him is:

Allowing ordinary people to vote freely is not in their own interest

Bizarrely, on UKIP's Facebook page, this "quote" is given in the context of Letta "advocating postponement of the 2014 EU elections". Eh?

I am looking for a source for this. One is from the Before It's News website, but I am sure people going to that site would be more interested in its article concerning "the influence that Reptilian/Grey Alien agenda and how it has infiltrated the U.S. Government since it's inseption."

Yep, UKIP gets its "facts" from a website which clearly believes the only hope for humanity is in a bunch of people who cannot use apostrophes correctly.

OK, maybe UKIP's source was this article by "Raedwald Uffinga". Interesting, it is titled "EU to 'postpone' 2014 elections?", which seems to be the latest UKIP claim - based on no evidence, of course. But no doubt, in the weeks to come it will be stated as "fact" that the EU plans to postpone them.

Maybe UKIP will actually believe its own propaganda and the day after nominations close will realise that it has not submitted any candidate lists as it belived the elections had been postponed!

And this gives that Letta quote, but let's look at the blogwriter's comment:

The article being referred to is about Letta's concerns at how the rise of populist parties could damage economic recovery. Note that at no point does Letta suggest postponing the elections.

And note also that "Raedwald Uffinga" confirms that the Letta "quote" is satire. (I wouldn't dignify it with that term).

So, neither Cameron nor Letta made the quotes UKIP are attributing to them.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

The Day Of The Doctor Trailer

Just a fortnight to go until Doctor Who marks its 50th anniversary, and the BBC has released a trailer for the anniversary episiode The Day of the Doctor.

This sees the appearance of John Hurt as the missing Doctor - as the eleventh Doctor (or is it twelfth?) states:

I've had many faces; many lives. There's one life I've tried very hard to forget.

That's OK, Doc - the rest of us try just as hard to forget the sixth Doctor.

Let's have a look at the trailer and consider what it could be (all images are (C) BBC)

Dalek flying saucers of the design we have seen from Bad Wolf/The Parting Of The Ways and the planet looks likes Gallifrey - seen in The Sound of Drums/The Last of the Time Lords, The End of Time and The Name of the Doctor. We are clearly in the Time War here, that time-locked Time War.

And the Capitol on Gallifrey.

Standard familiar older-paradigm Dalek, of the main design from Dalek through to The Stolen Earth/Journey's End and also seen to a lesser extent in Victory of the Daleks and Asylum of the Daleks. Just a thought on the last of these - the opening scene was on Skaro, which had been destroyed by the Hand of Omega in Remembrance of the Daleks. Perhaps the Time War rewrote some of the Dalek history and undid the destruction of Skaro. These are not the Remembrance-Daleks.

Maybe I need new glasses (actually, that reminds me, I do need to buy new glasses - have the prescription in a folder somewhere) but when I first looked at that my thought was "Sontaran". Yet in The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky, Staal said that they were not allowed to fight in the Time War.

The war isn't going all the Daleks' own way.

This reminds me of Star Wars, but the desert planet could be the Gallifreyan wastelands that Leela was exiled to in The Invasion of Time.

My first thought was of Obi Wan Kenobi, to be honest.

The tenth Doctor is saying "You've certainly come to the right place". In the trailer, the words immediately before that is the missing Doctor saying "I'm looking for the Doctor". But this could just be the way the trailer is edited - and raises the question of why the missing Doctor would be looking for himself, unless somehow he was made aware that his later self/selves (but note he says "Doctor", not "Doctors") were around.

The tenth and eleventh Doctors look a bit disgusted at finding their earlier self.

The Virgin* Queen running through woods from something - maybe the same woods we see the tenth and eleventh Doctors in.

[* Assuming this is before The End of Time]

And our first sight of a Zygon.

An explosion of some sort - clothes look modern, some white coats. UNIT's scientific section? Is that Kate Lethbridge-Stewart in the middle?

Now, this is incredibly interesting. Up till now, we could assume the Time War was something being looked back at. But surely this is the three Doctors together. And look where they are - doesn't it look similar to where the Dalek on fire was in the fifth picture?

[With a second glance, seeing the lamp and cart, I now say it doesn't]

Although in its emergency temporal shift at the end of Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks, Dalek Caan ended up within the Time War itself, and was able to change events (e.g. undo Davros' destruction when his ship flew into the jaws of the Nightmare Child in the first year of the War), in The End of Time a major part of the plot is that the War is time-locked (by who? or by what?) and Rassilon's plan involves ensuring there is one path out of the time-lock - via the sound of drums in the Master's mind. Surely near the end of that, the tenth Doctor and the Master managed to time-lock the War again (at the cost of the Master's life?).

If the tenth and eleventh Doctors are able to enter the Time War, then there must be a way past the time-lock. Maybe accidentally, a la Dalek Caan, or deliberately. The Doctor has more control over the TARDIS now, so unlikely to be there by accident. To get past the time-lock, he needs a connection with something in the War - and surely, the eleventh Doctor and Clara Oswald entering his timestream in The Name of the Doctor, they have found a connection and can go into the War. After all, there are parts of the Doctor's timestream which lie inside the War.

So, the Doctors enter the Time War - and maybe, like Dalek Caan, they change it in some way. What could this lead to? A return of the Time Lords? A return of the Master - but if he was only evil because of the sound of drums in his head, which is a product of the Time War, would a resurrected Master be a different character totally?

Our first glimpse of Rose Tyler - with glowing eyes. And when else do we see her eyes glow? - when she was being the Bad Wolf in Bad Wolf/The Parting Of The Ways, which led to her ending the Time War by wiping out the Dalek invasion fleet in the Solar System. But this was in the ninth Doctor's era. Maybe something of the bad wolf remained (see Tooth & Claw). Note that she cannot remember what she does when she's the Bad Wolf, so this can explain why she never refers to the events of The Day of the Doctor in her travels.

A Doctor riding out of the TARDIS - did Arthur continue to travel in the TARDIS after The Girl in the Fireplace?

The eleventh Doctor falling over what looks like modern-day London.

A Zygon smashing what is presumably glass.

The lady vanishes - Clara has managed to get hold of a vortex manipulator similar to those Jack Harkness and River Song have.

The missing Doctor has come across something....

... and Rose says (is that the missing Doctor she's addressing?) "The Moment is coming".

Does this mean the red crystal-like thing is The Moment - after all, in The End of Time it was stated that the Doctor had The Moment and might use it to destroy Dalek and Time Lord alike.

When I watched Bad Wolf/The Parting Of The Ways, I assumed that - just as the Doctor was preparing a delta wave to destroy the Daleks, but had no time to perfect it, so it would destroy the humans on Earth as well - that he had destroyed the Daleks and Time Lords with the same thing. But it is clear later that it was Gallifrey that was destroyed. Why do that?

In The Stolen Earth/Journey's End, Martha Jones is in possession of the Osterhagen Key, which can be used to destroy the Earth. As she explains to the Daleks - they need the 27 stolen planets for something (the Reality Bomb), so what if they just had 26?

Is this something here? Why destroy Gallifrey at all? Why respond to the Dalek invasion of Gallifrey this way? What was there that should not fall into Dalek hands? Not time-travel - they have that, so would have no need for the Eye of Harmony, or the Sash of Rassilon. I doubt that regeneration would be of use to the Daleks. If Gallifrey were similar to Earth, then it could form part of the plans for a Reality Bomb, but this was Davros' scheme and by the time the Time War was coming to a close he was already dead (but this was overturned by Dalek Caan).

The only thing I can think of is the Hand of Omega from Remembrance of the Daleks, which I believe returned to Gallifrey.

In a fortnight's time, all this will fall into place.