Not Absolutely Topping, but Still a Hoot

I’ve been rewatching Peter Davison’s first season as the Fifth Doctor on Doctor Who. It’s the season I saw that first got me hooked on the series. It’s always good to revisit your old haunts. Well,maybe not always, but usually. Tonight I watched the two-part story “Black Orchid.” It’s definitely not the best story of the season, but it’s also not the worst (I’m looking at you, “Four to Doomsday” and “Time-Flight”). It gets a lot of negativity because besides the Doctor, the TARDIS, and his companions, there’s no science fiction in it at all; it’s set up to be a classic 1920s mystery story, but the mystery is never much of a mystery; as a rare two-part story, it’s all a bit rushed, but there’s also not enough story to stretch it out to the typical four episodes. But aside from all that, I think it’s a fun one to watch. So here are the good things about the story:

  • It’s the first purely historical episode since the 1960s and the last one the show would ever do. Some people might not like that, but I find it kind of refreshing to have an episode set in Earth’s history that doesn’t involve an alien menace or time travelers from the future messing around with the timeline.
  • It’s one of the few stories in the season where none of the TARDIS crew get mad at each other, all of them act intelligently, and they’re all in a pretty good mood.
  • Tegan is in a good mood. She’s usually the one complaining the loudest, getting easily frustrated and angry, sniping at the Doctor and Adric and any guest stars who get in her way. Here she’s chipper and charming, she drinks cocktails, dances the Charleston, and playfully flirts with a much older man.
  • We get to watch Peter Davison show off his mad cricket skillz. I don’t really understand cricket, but you can see he’s playing well and having a great time doing it.

It’s easy to dwell on the negatives of the story (there isn’t much plot and what plot is there is pretty thin, and you can clearly see that the weather was pretty bad when they were shooting and the cast don’t look thrilled about it), but while the story never really amounts to much in the larger context of the season, I’m okay with that. It’s a breather episode, and a pretty fun one at that. Sometimes that’s all I need.

In a Small, Wild Corner of the Universe

Look, we know Twitter can be a rough, toxic space on the internet. Even people who have never been on Twitter have heard about celebrities quitting because they got deluged by acidic spite, sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, or just the relentless hounding of trolls who practice cruelty simply because they can do it without accountability or consequence. I’ve seen it happen in real time and it’s ugly, frustrating, infuriating. I’ve considered leaving the site a bunch of times. I’ve wondered if the site deserved to stay around, if it was a healthy way to interact with the online world. (more…)

Ace Awareness

Happy Ace Week! No, this isn’t about last night’s Doctor Who special, although I could talk about that for hours. This is about asexuality awareness. I’ve talked some online about how I started identifying as asexual last year, but I don’t think I’ve ever “officially” come out or really opened up about it publicly, and since I wish I’d seen more people (especially men) talk about it in the past, because maybe then it wouldn’t have taken me so long to start to figure things out, I’m going to talk about it here and now. (more…)

George Perez, Titan

This is such sad news delivered in such a beautiful way. I can’t adequately put into words the impact George Perez has had on comics, and in that way, the impact he’s had on me. I hope he has more joy than pain for the remainder of his days here.

Murders on the Keystone Express

A train whistle shrieks through the crisp fall Pennsylvania night, the full moon drenching the woods around the rumbling train with a silvery light. In the train’s dining car, a motley group of passengers sits in the booths, their eyes all focused on one person: a tall, thin man in a pinstripe suit, a boyish face under unkempt ginger hair. The man paces back and forth, his hands clasped behind his back. This is Wainwright Davis, investigator for hire, and while he appears to the passengers to be lost in thought, his thoughts are never lost but always on a focused, singular path.

He stops abruptly and turns around on his heels, looking each passenger in the eyes before he says, “I suppose you’re all wondering why I’ve asked you here tonight.” Before anyone can answer, he adds, “Obviously you know why I’ve asked you here, but I suppose you’re all wondering why now. Why tonight? Why not earlier this evening? Why not tomorrow morning, after we’ve all gotten a good night’s sleep and are feeling refreshed?”

“Well–,” the scholarly woman in the slightly worn nightgown, Professor Anastasia Bracing, begins, before Wainwright Davis cuts her off.

“Except few among us would get a good night’s sleep, am I right?” He taps his chin with a long, bony finger. “Of course I’m right. It would be difficult to sleep tonight knowing there’s a murderer amongst us. Or in the case of the killer, it would be difficult to sleep knowing they could very well be caught before this train reaches its next stop, even if they assume their guilt will never be uncovered.”

“I suppose that’s–,” starts Darby Washington, the newspaper reporter, but he is unable to finish when the investigator starts again.

“Except,” Wainwright Davis says, “I know who the murderer is. And furthermore, I know how they committed the murder, why they did it, and how they expect to get away with it.”

“Excuse me,” Major Ewing says, “but you said ‘they.’ Is there more than one killer?” He looks at the other passengers with a coldness that is an attempt to hide his agitation.

“Oh, don’t be stupid!” Professor Bracing snaps. “‘They’ can be singular as well as plural.” She shakes her head sadly. “What are they teaching in military academies these days?” She looks up at the detective. “But surely you meant it to be singular, right? There is only one murderer here?”

“Only one!” says Mrs. Rugowski, her hair still in curlers, not that she cares how she looks at this time of night. Or ever, really. “Even one is too many!”

The thin man snaps an arm out and points at Mrs. Rugowski. “Exactly right!” he says, then turns to Anastasia Bracing and says, “You’re correct, Professor. There is only one murderer here.”

“Are you sure?” Darby Washington says. The reporter has a pencil and notepad at the ready. There’s always a story to be found.

“Of course I’m sure!” Wainwright Davis says. “I’ve followed every lead, examined every clue, observed everyone on the train. I’m absolutely sure.”

“Then you’re an idiot,” Major Ewing says, casually pulling a revolver from the folds of his bathrobe. He raises it swiftly, and with a BANG! the investigator crumples to the floor, a bullet hole in the middle of his forehead. Silence fails over the dining car.

After what feels like an hour of quiet, Wally Trumble, the silver-haired train steward, says, “Wow! For all of his talk about what a great, accomplished detective he is, I really thought he had us all dead to rights.”

“Poor choice of words,” Professor Bracing says, “but yes, I did as well.”

“That’s why I asked about his use of ‘they’!” Major Ewing protests. Then he grumbles, “They teach excellent grammar at West Point.”

“Okay,” Mrs. Rugowski says. “Fine. Fair enough.” She looks at the ragdoll corpse of the so-called great detective. “It’s kind of a shame he didn’t figure out that we all killed that bastard Oglevy.”

“A shame!?” Darby Washington exclaims. “Maybe it’s a shame we had to kill two people instead of one, but it has all worked out, right?” The other passengers nod in agreement.

And the train speeds on through the autumnal Pennsylvania night.