MegaCon

MegaCon in Orlando is hosting some of our Who-friends.  If you’re in the area (I wish I was!) it will be held at the Orange County Convention Center.  Here are the guests that caught my eye:

John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness) – March 21-23 inclusive.

Eve Myles (Gwen Cooper from Torchwood) – March 22-23.

Gareth David-Lloyd (Ianto Jones from Torchwood) – March 21-23

James Marsters (Captain John Hart from Torchwood, but I also know him as Spike from Buffy and Angel) – March 21-23

There’s also others from Buffy, Angel, Torchwood, The Walking Dead…

Barrowman on Goodreads

If you’re an avid reader you’re probably familiar with Goodreads.com.  If you’re not, it’s a great place for a reader!  You can keep track of your books, rate/review them and look at reviews by others.  A handy tool, for sure.  John Barrowman and Carole Barrowman will be doing a Q&A tomorrow on Goodreads to promote their new book Exodus Code, which picks up where Miracle Day (Torchwood) left off.

If you’re interested, click HERE for all the details!

The New Yorker Screening

A rep from The New Yorker visited The Way Station for a screening of The Day of the Doctor.  The writer may not be a Whovian (a couple of small but glaring mistakes make that obvious), but this is one of the better articles from the mainstream media I’ve seen.  He’s certainly done his research, and I have a lot of respect for that:

“Twenty minutes until ‘Doctor Whoooo!’ ” shouted Kati Delaney, the bartender at The Way Station, in Prospect Heights, to cheers and applause. It was half past two on Saturday afternoon, and about a hundred people had crowded into New York’s preëminent “Doctor Who”-themed bar to watch “The Day of the Doctor,” the fiftieth anniversary episode of the British sci-fi series, which was being simulcast, by the BBC, in more than seventy-five countries. Outside, hundreds of people had already been turned away, redirected to other nearby bars which were also holding screenings. Inside, the fans with the best seats had arrived at nine forty-five that morning, and the anticipation had reached an almost unbearable level. People cheered the BBC’s “Doctor Who” pre-game show, which featured freaked-out fans from around the world; at the bar, a group absorbed in debate—Who was the best of the many actors who’d played the Doctor?—ordered a round of shots.

It can be hard to explain the appeal of “Doctor Who” to people who don’t already love it. The show is science fiction, in a broad sense, but where most science fiction cultivates an aura of plausibility, “Doctor Who” is so zany that just following the plot means becoming a fan. In one episode, the Doctor is helping Kylie Minogue survive an attack on an interstellar cruise ship; in another, he’s going up against an army of headless monks from the fifty-second century. As Jill Lepore explained in her recent magazine story on the history of “Doctor Who,” the Doctor, a two-hearted Time Lord from the planet Galifrey, can “regenerate,” changing his appearance and temperament. Over nearly eight hundred episodes, he’s been played by eleven different actors.

Amidst this infinite variety, the show is held together by its outsized emotionalism. Loosened up by the weirdness of the story, you often find yourself misty-eyed over one of the Doctor’s mournful, inspirational speeches. “Doctor Who” is, essentially, a sad show—the Doctor lives forever, while his companions, to whom one gets attached, must age and die—but it’s also about discovery and surprise. In its best moments, the characters, filmed in close-up, weep and shout, transformed by sadness, wonder, or joy.

The mood at The Way Station was ebullient. The place was jammed, and everyone was taking pictures of each other in their costumes. Kristin Sirota had come dressed in the Scottish sexy-cop outfit worn by one of the show’s heroines, Amelia Pond, in her début episode. (The police vest, she said, was “actually from Scotland.”) Tiffany Knight, an actress, and John Paterakis, a retired banker, arrived as the tenth and fourth Doctors, respectively; a number of other women looked like the glamorous River Song, a space archaeologist who, in an affecting plot from 2008, married the Doctor—a good thing, except that they were moving in opposite directions in time, and were therefore never quite in sync. (“You know when you see a photograph of someone, but it’s from years before you knew them?” Song explains. “He came when I called, just like he always does, but he’s not ‘my’ Doctor.”) A girl in a statue costume was doing an admirable job of impersonating one of the show’s “weeping angels”—creatures that look like statues until you look away. She turned out to be a professional, working around the city as “the Living Statue Galatea.”

Even the cocktails were “Who”-related: I had a sonic screwdriver—that’s what the Doctor calls his signature multi-tool—and a Captain Jack, named after Captain Jack Harkness, a sexually irresistible fellow-traveller of the Doctor’s who, a few years ago, got his own spin-off show, “Torchwood.” “Nice jacket,” someone told me, snapping a picture. (My everyday clothes, it turns out, look a little like the Doctor’s.)

Andy Heidel, who runs The Way Station, used to work in sci-fi book publishing. He leased the space without really investigating the interior; once he got inside, he realized that the toilet was located right next to the bar, and wasn’t enclosed in a separate bathroom. “Let’s build a TARDIS!” a friend suggested, referring to the Doctor’s time machine, which looks, from the outside, like an old British police box. (Famously, it’s bigger on the inside than it looks on the outside.) It was a fateful decision. Laurel Dagrosa, a baker and “Doctor Who” fan, said that she’d discovered the bar when, walking down Washington Avenue, she spied the TARDIS through the window. “I saw it, and I just started jumping up and down,” she recalled. For the anniversary event, Dagrosa had baked a TARDIS-shaped cake, as well as dozens of Jammy Dodgers—the Doctor’s favorite cookie—which were circulating on trays. The bar, Heidel said, hosts screenings on Sundays, and it’s similarly packed for season premières and finales. (On Sunday, he plans to hold repeat screenings, at two, four, and six.) Heidel said that he’d hold off on really watching the episode until later, when he could concentrate.

As the bartenders drew the blinds, the crowd started an enthusiastic countdown—”Three! Two! One!”—to the start of the show; they cheered during the episode’s most exhilirating moments, including a conversation between three different versions of the Doctor, played by Matt Smith, David Tennant, and John Hurt, which took place in the Tower of London.

And yet the silliness in “Doctor Who” often serves as a counterweight to the show’s humanistic gravity. Watching everyone’s upturned faces, what struck you most was their seriousness. The most recent episodes of “Doctor Who” have been dark and sombre. When we last saw him, the Doctor was forced to travel far into the future, so that he could break into his own tomb. (“How can you have a grave?” one of his companions asks. “We all do, somewhere out there in the future,” he replies, “and the trouble with time travel is that you can actually end up visiting.”) Many of the best “Doctor Who” episodes are on the theme of memento mori, which, from H. G. Wells onward, has always been an aspect of time travel. In the previous episode, the Doctor’s tomb hadn’t contained a body but a glowing shape, floating in mid-air: “My personal time-tunnel,” he says. “All the days.” When I asked the Whovians in attendance about their favorite episodes, they almost always cited the saddest ones: Tiffany Knight, the actress, mentioned an episode in which the Doctor, to save the life of a friend, must erase all of her memories of their friendship. “It was heartbreaking,” she said.

“The Day of the Doctor” turned out to be serious, too. It revolved around the use of a genocidal weapon by the Time Lords—possibly, even, by the Doctor himself—against their mortal enemies, the Daleks, a race of fascist maniacs whose rallying cry is “Exterminate!” This weapon, we were told, was so powerful that it had become self-aware. “How do you use a weapon of ultimate mass destruction,” one character asks, “when it can pass judgment on you?” The room was silent—not a single sonic screwdriver whirred. That’s the genius of “Doctor Who”: in it, silliness and seriousness, death and vitality, the ludicrous and the real are all squeezed together. It’s bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.

Interview With The Barrowmans

The Daily Record met up with John and Carole Barrowman for a short interview:

HE’S conquered the West End stage and stared in some of television’s most popular shows – but John Barrowman says writing a bestselling book with his sister is his biggest achievement to date.

John and Carole have already topped the New York Times bestseller list with their first fantasy novel, Hollow Earth, and are hoping to enjoy the same success with the sequel, Bone Quill.

The Scots siblings collaborated on both of John’s autobiographies, as well as a Torchwood comic book.

Now they continue the story about time-travelling twins Matt and Em Calder, who can bring artwork to life.

John, 44, said: “I love working with Carole because we share the same sense of humour and crazy ideas.

“We both have a wild imagination and spend most of our time laughing when we should be working.

“Writing together was a great experience and one of the best things I’ve ever done.

“There’s no better feeling than getting ideas down on paper and seeing a book come together.

“It was a proud moment when we topped the bestseller list with Hollow Earth and we’re hoping to do it again.”

Carole added: “We always said we wanted to write a series of novels together but we were always so busy and struggled to find time to do it.

“When we had a few weeks free we started brainstorming and had so many ideas that we could write 10 books.

“The great thing about working with John is that we are very similar.

“Our personalities are very alike and that makes the process so much easier.

“We don’t tend to argue over plots and know how we want the characters to progress.

“We’re very lucky – I know a lot of siblings who can’t be in the same room together, let alone write together.

“We brainstorm the ideas, come up with plot lines and talk about characters, while I take notes.

“I hand John a chunk of pages, which he will either say are perfect or we will work on changes.

“It’s a perfect collaboration.”

John and Carole grew up in Mount Vernon, Glasgow, and emigrated to Michigan in the 70s with their parents. While John was a born performer, Carole, 53, had an obsession with writing.

She studied ­literature and became a professor of English in Milwaukee, while writing short stories in her spare time.

They both agreed they should collaborate on a children’s book.

John said: “It was always a dream to write a book and one of the proudest moments was making it on to the New York Times bestseller list. It was a huge moment. When you start writing a book you never know how it will be received and this was beyond anything we could have imagined.

“The idea for Bone Quill came when we talked about how great it would be if the main characters could bring their drawings to life.

“We’ve included real and fictional paintings by famous artists represented in UK galleries.

“It’s a page turner and we tested the book on our nieces and nephews, who couldn’t put it down. That’s when we knew that it must be good.

“Kids are the harshest critics so we knew we were doing something right.”

John and Carole are also proud of their Scots heritage and credit it with helping them write their novels.

And he admits a lot of the dynamic of the relationship between the books’ heroes Matt and Em Calder is based around themselves.

Other characters are based on their own ­relatives, while the action takes place on Firth of Clyde island Cumbrae – renamed Auchinmurn as a tribute to their granny Murn.

John adds: “We have relatives in Glasgow and try to visit when we can.

“Scotland has a special place in our hearts and our parents were always telling us about what it was like for them growing up in Glasgow.

“One of the most fun things about this type of writing has been getting to pay tribute to our heritage.

“A couple of characters are based on real people or named after them.

“All of the characters have a great sense of humour, a bit like all of our family – it must be a Scots trait.

“We had great fun writing this and it brought back a lot of memories.

“I can remember going to Largs with Mum and Dad for a day out and eating fish and chips and ice-cream.

“We had wonderful times in Scotland and wanted to try to incorporate this into the books.”

John’s move into novels follows his success in West End productions and TV. He started off on stage and moved into TV via Doctor Who, Desperate Housewives and Torchwood.

He has starred in movies, released an album and sold out singing tours.

He has also been a TV presenter, a talent show judge and a reality TV star – and now a bestselling author.

He said: “I’ve been very lucky as show business is a tough game.

“I don’t take any of it for granted. I’m a jack of all trades. I love theatre and that’s where I started out.

“I remember going to see my first show aged 10 and being fascinated.

“Even at school I was always trying to impress the teacher by singing instead of concentrating in class.

“I was never interested in homework. I’d dance around my bedroom singing into a hairbrush. Carole was more academic but we both loved reading.

“Our parents said the only time they got any peace was when we were reading, so they bought lots of books!”

The pair are already working on their next literary venture.

John said: “I can’t sit still so it’s best if I’m kept busy. We’ve got too many ideas not to put them into print.”

*Bone Quill is published by on Michael O’Mara Books. Visit http://www.hollow-earth.co.uk

Book Week Scotland runs from November 25 to December 1. It aims to encourage people of all ages and of all walks of life to get together in libraries, schools, community venues and workplaces to share and enjoy books.

Aliens Of London, World War Three

It gets better!  “Aliens of London” is on, and about 15 minutes in I see another familiar face.

Naoko Mori, who plays Doctor Toshiko Sato (Tosh) in Torchwood was just wandering around in a lab coat.

But onto topic.  This is where the Doctor returns Rose 12 months late instead of 12 hours late.  The first part of the episode is all about the fallout of that.

After a crash landing of a space ship in the middle of London, this is when the Doctor finally gives Rose a TARDIS key.  I don’t remember a lot of keys being given out in the classic series, but maybe I need to go back and have a look.  Anyway, although the Doctor says he won’t interfere, he goes into the hospital where the pilot was taken.  Here we see Tosh.  The “pilot” turns out to be a pig that was modified by alien technology, and the ship was really launched from Earth.  The Doctor explains everything to Tosh before disappearing into the TARDIS.  She’s actually playing the same character as in Torchwood, where they address this episode.  She is a computer expert (not at all a pathologist) and was covering for a hung over friend/colleague.

Moving on, the TARDIS reappears and Rose’s mother learns where she really was.  Jackie calls the emergency alien hotline and turns in the Doctor.  This sets off all kinds of red flags because this is not the first time the world’s seen him.

There’s a disturbing scene with the government officials where the Slitheen are wearing suits of people, causing flatulence.  Personally I feel it’s a little low brow humour and takes away from the show.  However, the target audience is children, so perhaps that’s why someone thought it was a good idea.

This is also the first time we see UNIT in New-Who.  As the Doctor, Mickey and Rose leave the TARDIS (with Bad Wolf painted on the side) they are taken into custody and delivered to Downing Street.  Jones finds Rose and tells her all about the Slitheen, while the Doctor talks to UNIT.  The Doctor realizes it’s a trap while Rose and Jones are caught with a member of the Slitheen, and Jackie has one of them in her apartment.

This is around the time everyone takes off their “skin suits”, there’s an electrical charge sent through the room with the Doctor/UNIT, and the episode ends on a cliffhanger.  Now we move forward into “World War Three”.

But of course our favorite alien isn’t going to be killed so easily and turns the electrical charge back at the Slitheen.  By doing so it actually electrifies all of them instead of just the one he “attacks”.  Mickey saves Jackie with enough time left over to snap a photo, Rose and Jones get out of their room, the Doctor runs, and the Slitheen manage to stop the electrocution.  Nice and fast paced.  The “prime minister” manages to turn UNIT against the Doctor, but he gets into the elevator.  Rose and Jones continue to run, and the Slitheen chase them down.  The Doctor manages to get them out of the room of course, so now it’s a good old fashioned Scooby Doo style chase.

With a bit of a bluff (I’ll blow you up!) the Doctor sets up a question and answer session with the Slitheen to find out what was going on.  The Slitheen are a family out for profit, not a race of aliens.  Of course!  He then seals himself, Rose and Jones into a room when the family realize his threat is a complete fabrication.  The family realizes they’ve got the group trapped, so they shut off all communications to that room and go about their business.  Unfortunately for them, they didn’t know that Rose’s cell still worked.  So the Doctor contacts Mickey and walks him through how to log into UNIT to get some intel.  With that information he figures out that the Slitheen are from Raxacoricofallapatorius.  One member of the family came after Mickey and Jackie and the Doctor was able to have them throw vinegar on him to basically blow him up.

He learns from the family that they are planning to launch World War III.  Once the Earth is destroyed they can sell the radioactive remains of the planet as a source of fuel.  In usual fashion, he gives them the option of giving up and leaving or being destroyed.

There turns out to be a way to save the world, but The Doctor can’t promise Rose will survive.  Harriott Jones orders him to do whatever must be done, and Rose agrees.  He walks Mickey through the process to launch a missile at the building, with them all knowing they could kill Rose in the process.  She doesn’t want to go without a fight, so she talks everyone into hiding in the closet.  Their group get out alive, but the Slitheen are caught in the blast.  This leaves Jones to clean up the mess, leading to her eventual election as prime minister.

I thought the Doctor pulled kind of a dirty trick when he called and basically asked Rose to choose between him and her mother/boyfriend/life.  This was part of his dark and selfish side coming out.  He wanted her as a companion and manipulated her to get what he wanted.

The Doctor instructs Mickey to wipe out all information on him using a disc he provides, and offers him a place in the TARDIS.  Mickey declines, so the Doctor helps him out by telling Rose that he simply doesn’t want Mickey in his TARDIS.  How sweet.

I have to admit that these couple of episodes were far from my favorites.  Although they had their good points and didn’t feel too rushed, I just didn’t like the feel of them.  I really think it came down to the flatulence jokes, which I’ve never been a fan of anyway.  I found they just distracted from the story.  If that plot point was necessary, I feel there are better ways it could have been done.

When Rose says goodbye to her mother I found it to be a bit more heartbreaking than the first time I watched it.  After all, she assures her that she’ll be fine, and I know how it ends now.

The Unquiet Dead

There’s a Doctor Who marathon on Space today, so I decided that I could “waste” a little time today revisiting old favorites.

When I turned it on, “The Unquiet Dead” was just starting, which is Season 1 of New-Who, Episode 3.  Within the first couple minutes I saw a very familiar face – Eve Myles from Torchwood!  I’d watched the episode when it originally aired, and didn’t realize she was another recycled actress.  By that (if you don’t already know) I mean that Doctor Who often reuses their actors within the series and spinoffs as entirely new characters.  Like Peter Capaldi!  She plays Gwyneth in this episode, which is really funny if you realize she plays Gwen in Torchwood.

The episode features the 9th Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) and companion Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) with her first venture into history, 1869 to be exact.  This is another one of those episodes in Cardiff, which annoys me to no end.  All of time and space and he spends an awfully lot of time in Cardiff.

Either way, early on there’s signs of trouble in a theatre (a ghost, it appears) and the Doctor comes running.  The locals seem to be more interested in insulting his clothing than asking for help.  Meanwhile, his trusty sidekick manages to get herself kidnapped.  In chasing after her, the Doctor realizes he’s sharing a coach with Charles Dickens.  I love the awkward conversation with the Doctor gushing over Dickens.  It reminds me so much of the Who fangirls out there.  I know, I know, people think I’m one of them.  For the record, I’m not.  I just appear to be.

Rose finds herself in a room with a couple of walking dead (guess zombies have been around a long time), while the Doctor and Dickens arrive just in the nick of time.  In usual form, he talks to the ghost-like creatures, who leave the bodies.  Time for the uncomfortable conversation about what happened and the “dead” folks with Mr. Sneed, the man running the funeral parlor.

Now we’ve got a mystery on our hands.

Gwyneth and Rose have a little chat where they appear to be friendly, which gets weird when Gwyneth seems to see modern day Cardiff through Rose’s eyes and gets frightened by Rose’s future.  This is the first time “Bad Wolf” is mentioned.  Of course the Doctor catches the tail end of it, just in time to question her and suggest a séance.  Oh yes, because this seems like a good idea.

Sure enough, they make contact with the Gelth.  They said that they had bodies prior to the time war, but they lost them and became these unembodied creatures, trapped in a rift.  The Doctor says that Gwyneth can help them bridge the gap with the rift and use the dead bodies until they can go somewhere else.  Since Gwyneth grew up on the rift she has a connection with it.  They determine the weakest part is in the basement (the morgue), so they go there to open it.  Once the process begins, they reveal themselves to be truly evil and it comes out that they’re trying to take over the planet.

Rose and the Doctor find themselves trapped in the basement, while Dickens runs outside.  He realizes they are effected by the gas, so he shuts off the lanterns, turns the gas on full and draws the Gelth out of the corpses.  Gwyneth can’t leave or send them back, so she gets out her matches to blow the building and kill them.  The Doctor realizes that Gwyneth has actually been dead since the rift opened and has somehow remained herself, so he thanks her and runs, allowing her to destroy it all.

Once he’s out, he has to explain to Rose and Dickens what he believed happened.  It’s another one of those moments for Rose… the kind where she has to accept something that just doesn’t seem possible.

To wrap things up, Dickens is inspired to write the “truth”, and says goodbye to the Doctor and Rose.  They jump into the TARDIS and the Doctor explains that he’ll never have time to write his new stories because he’ll die first.  They head off to their next adventure while Dickens has a new outlook on life.

I know in the next episode they return Rose home, where she’s only supposed to have been missing about 12 hours.  Wouldn’t you just love to have that option?  To leave, have a marvellous adventure, and to return 12 hours later?  Now in reality it was an “oopsie” and it was 12 months, but still…

Torchwood

The Torchwood crew was a little late, but they got around to it:

TorchwoodAngels