23 July 2015

Bad news and Blog Break


There's going to be a bit of a break again, but this time I thought to mention it in advance.

In my current job summer -especially the first few weeks of August- is very, very busy and so I'd planned to have less stuff going on during this time. Theoretically I could probably have covered a lack of blogging time with some buffer posts, but that hasn't happened.

The break will be starting earlier than I'd planned (after this very post in fact) because unfortunately in the last 16 days 2 of our rats have died. This is very sad for us, especially as we'd tried to do what we thought was best the 2nd time and it didn't work out. This means that we are left with 1 rat, which is bad because they are very social creatures and need other rats around them. So at present we're trying to find out where we can get a couple more new friends for her. We're also going to move the massive cage to a different part of the house so it's easier to interact with her.

After the 1st rat died we'd thought we would get more, but had been thinking we would do so in autumn, now the timetable has been brought forward. When introducing rats you need to go through a gradual process of introduction, which can take a few weeks. I expect that will coincide with the very busy period at work I mentioned previously, so I'm likely to be a bit out of it for a while.

I'm hoping I can start blogging as usual again in late September. I'm pretty certain I had some ideas for new, different posts, but right now I forget what those were. I'm pretty tired at the moment as I was out in the garden at 11pm last night holding a torch while my husband dug a rat grave. Sorry if I have made anyone sad, it's been an emotional day.

Armin (Hidey Rat)

Erin (Explorey Rat)

8 July 2015

Remember Me

Episode: s4, ep 5

The Lady Vanishes, but with doctors on a starship.

What Happens
Dr Crusher is excited to see her old friend and mentor, a recent widower who's retired from doctoring and is getting a lift to his new home on the Enterprise. As they reminisce the talk turns to dead spouses and remembering those you've lost. Beverley goes to visit Wesley who is doing an experiment with the engines even though Geordi wants to get the ship moving. Something happens, there's a flash, the experiment fails. When Wesley looks up his mother has left. Later Beverly visits her firend but finds his quarters are empty. The Computer has no record of him, nor does Worf. Assuming there's been a cock-up with the paperwork Worf sends a security team to search for the old doctor. Picard also doesn't know about the doctor's visit even though Beverly made the request in good time. When she checks with the starbase where he lived for years they also don't have any record of him. This spotty record-keeping is most troubling. O'Briend says he remembers Dr Crusher popping down to the transporter room, but doesn't remember her friend beaming in. Data finds Star Fleet Medical have no record of him. Then Beverly discovers that two doctors on her staff are missing, and the Computer has not record of them either.
Wesley suggests that his experiment might have caused the problem. It was something about warp bubbles and improving engine efficiency. None of the doctors were near Engineering at the time, but they'll keep looking into it. Beverly discovers she has no medical staff, which surprises only her as everyone else always thought it was just her. She thinks there should be a population of about 1,000 on board, but as far as anyone else is concerned there's only 230 people. Picard is willing to trust her as she insists there should be more people, but Beverly herself wonders if she's going insane. In sickbay a blue vortex tries to suck her in, but she resists it. No one else finds any evidence of it, and the crew numbers keep reducing with only Beverly noticing the change. She checks that her son still exists, and Wesley tells her more about the experiment. He got the info from the mystical Traveller, a really advanced alien who showed up in series 1. Beverly does recall that day they all travelled to the edge of the universe and everything got weird, she asks Wesley about contacting the Traveller, but when she turns around he's gone. Only Picard is left and Beverly monitors his vital signs until he disappears. The vortex comes back.
In Engineering Wesley and Geordi discuss another failed attempt to get Dr Crusher back. She got caught in the warp bubble when Wesley did his experiment. Wesley seems ready to give up when the Traveller phases in and says there is a solution. He explains that Beverly is trapped in a reality of her own making and will be alive as long as she thinks she is, but the bubble is collapsing around her. He advises Wesley to see past numbers to get his mother back. They can make a path for Beverly, but she must step through. The Enterprise returns to the starbase, to the exact position it was in when Dr Crusher disappeared. Meanwhile Beverly asks the Computer questions, trying to find a logical answer to her predicament. This reveals that the "universe" is shrinking around her and a purple haze creeps through the ship as it does. It is the same shape as Wesley's experiment and Beverly realises part of what's happened. Wesley and the Traveller focus and start phasing in and out, Wesley falls down with the exertion. Beverly goes down to Engineering, sees the vortex again and jumps through.

Doctor Doctor
Dr Crusher has been more present so far in this series, with reasonable secondary roles in the 2 previous episodes, and now one focused on her. I approve. You have to feel sorry for her here. She's so excited to see her old friend and the bond between them is evident in the short time they're on screen together. They're comfortable enough with each other to talk about heavy subjects, like his recent bereavement, her older one and the bad things about growing old. Of course she's concerned by his disappearance. Throughout her ordeal she's obviously distressed, but always handles things sensibly. She turns to Picard as her Captain and her friend, involves the appropriate crew members in what is initially a search party and then an investigations. She tries to check herself out medically, which is difficult, and goes to see Troi to assess her own mental state. She remains logical and practical as she can be, even as the crew dwindles around her. She has the Computer scan Picard when he's the only other one left and when she's on her own she tries to use the Computer to puzzle out what might be happening. It's only as the "universe" shrinks around her that she realises part of what's happened. Some of her realisations at the end seem a bit forced, like they're there to punctuate what the Traveller said. I did expect her to rush to Engineering a bit quicker, but I'm not surprised she makes the leap once she's there. She might have worried a little later than she should have about whether Wesley had disappeared, but I do feel as though the show often doesn't what to emphasise the relationship between the Crushers, only playing on it when convenient.
The actual situation seems a bit iffy to me. The Traveller says the reality within the warp bubble is defined by Beverly's thoughts when she went in. She realises that she was thinking about losing people when the flash happened. I'm not sure why her constructed reality has so much information about and focus on Wesley's experiment when she'd have no cause to think that was causing the issue. I also don't get why fake-Wesley mentions the Traveller, or his location. I see why it was necessary to explain things, but it doesn't make much sense coming from Beverly's thoughts alone.

If a Star Fleet Ensign wants to conduct an experiment with warp drives, should they be allowed to use the engines of a working starship, especially just before it's scheduled to depart a starbase? If you're doing an experiment based on principles you got from a mystical alien who accidentally took an entire starship to the edge of the universe, isn't that the kind of thing you should do in a controlled environment, like a lab or something? I know you're certain it shouldn't affect anything outside the engines (of a city-sized starship that is docked in a starbase, both of which are inhabited by many people who would probably die if the engines exploded), but you got this info from a guy who said it's actually the space-time-thought continuum, which no one in your civilisation actually understands yet. Also if you absolutely have to do it on a starship (because you're just so gosh-darned precocious) shouldn't you get the Captain's permission? And set up safeguards to prevent accidents, like keeping other people (including your mother) out of the way? I personally have no science background, but these were all things that occurred to me. When Geordi (who is the Chief of Engineering) tells Wesley he needs the engines in operation, on the Captain's orders, Wesley stalls for time. This kid lacks respect for the chain of command, possibly it comes of being sort-of home-schooled by the senior crew. I doubt any other Ensigns would be allowed to take such liberties.
At the end I felt as though this episode could have paralleled The Visitor from DS9, a child desperately trying a rescue their remaining parent from a space anomaly. Except that The Visitor takes place over years and is told from Jake's point of view, plus the Siskos have a much closer relationship than the Crushers do. Then again DS9 is far more willing to be emotionally invested than TNG is. We only see Wesley's efforts in the final part of the episode, and before the Traveller arrives he seems ready to give up, even though they haven't done everything yet. We see how much effort Wesley puts into the process of getting his mother back, there isn't much emotional heft to it. We don't see how Beverly's absence affects Wesley. The Traveller keeps telling Wesley to unlock his potential and see past his self-doubt, but it doesn't mean much because Wesley's never seemed big on self-doubt before. All we've had is a few minutes of him looking concerned and saying he can't do it. It seems like the Traveller's job is to show up and tell everyone how special Wesley is. He should just marry him already (actually I'm told that happens later).

Staff Meetings: 5 (but only 1 is real to anyone besides Dr Crusher)
1. Worf and Data report being unable to find Dr Crusher's missing friend, and neither Picard nor Worf saw the relevant paperwork. Admin fail? Something is very wrong!
2. Crusher reports more missing doctors to Picard, no one can remember them but her. They are interrupted by Wesley calling them down to Engineering.
3. Picard calls Beverly to his Ready Room after she claims nearly 800 people are missing. She's concerned about her health and sanity, and suspects Picard doesn't believe her. He assures her that he does. It's kind of a nice moment. I like it when they're platonic rather than it's-complicated.
4. Geordi and Data report finding nothing unusual after Crusher's encounter with the vortex, everything they can think of has been checked. Beverly realises that now over 900 people are missing, including Worf. She tries to describe Worf without initially saying he's a Klingon.
5. (Only meeting in 'real' universe, though I suspect there were more off-screen) The Traveller tries to describe where Dr Crusher is, says he can't pull her back, but he and Wesley can make a path for her to come through on her own.

The End
Beverly lands of the floor of real-Engineering, Picard helps her up and hugs her. Beverly sees the Traveller and asks if he got her back. He says no and points to Wesley, who is just picking himself off the floor. Beverly gives Wesley a big hug and asks Picard how many are on board, he respond with the correct number including her friend. It's a nice ending, but nothing special.

5 July 2015

Others People's Icons

I've never considered myself to have been born at the wrong time (I like history but I'm not big on idealising other time periods), but it does sometimes occur to me that my age and the circumstances of my childhood left me in a bit of a gap as far as pop culture (especially geek culture) is concerned.

I don't remember the 80s, I grew up mostly in the 90s and there was very little geekiness in my family (my dad reads SFF, but is not involved in fan stuff - in my experience there are a lot of people like that and I don't know that they get talked about much).  I didn't realise I was a geek until my late teens and didn't really explore what was out there until university. What this means is that a lot of my friends, acquaintances and people I follow on twitter have these cultural touchstones that they are very invested in. I have picked up a lot of the lingo and references, I have often seen the stuff in retrospect, but not really experienced the feels that others have.

I grew up in the Doctor Who gap. As a child I remember we had some knowledge of Doctor Who, we could identify a Dalek or the TARDIS. I remember when I was 6(ish) a group of kids running around holding rulers and saying "Exterminate" in robot voices. Scarves were also important somehow and hiding behind the sofa. I never saw Doctor Who on TV, I wasn't aware of any of the fan-made stuff, the novels, the audiobooks. To me, as a child, Doctor Who was something that used to be on TV. I enjoy Doctor Who now, to a variable extent, but it's not part of my childhood. My Doctor was the guy from the Knock-Knock joke.*

Also I've never seen E.T. all the way through, but I do mostly remember that alien from the BT adverts (it really was the perfect campaign for them when you think about it). It's probably a little sad that a lot of other people's icons are my marketing devices.

Nowhere is my growing up in the gap more evident than Star Wars and this year I've really noticed it. I first saw the original trilogy all the way through on telly when I was 17. I already knew the basics just from consuming pop culture, the references are all over the place. I seem to recall thinking it was OK, but I had no real sense of wonder or excitement. I had always lived in a world where all this already existed. I was not bothered about The Phantom Menace, I expect I saw adverts but I wasn't involved in geek culture of any kind so the whole thing passed me by. The only Star Wars film I have seen in the cinema is Episode III, because my then-boyfriend (now-husband) had a traditional of seeing the midnight screenings (I agree with my friend Greg that George Lucas was clearly trying to blind us all with that film, an effect heightened by having been awake hours longer than usual) and my Dad also wanted to see it. 
I've been trying to stay away from all the Star Wars hype this year, just gleaning bits of info from social media and podcasts. If I hear too much about it all I will be sick of it before it even comes out. Though I did hear it mentioned months ago on the store radio when I was in ASDA, the hype has escaped geek spaces and there's no real way to entirely avoid it. I don't want to seem curmudgeonly, I appreciate that others like Star Wars on a level that I'm unlikely to ever feel myself and that's fine. If anything I guess I have an advantage in that I'm not so invested as to feel anger or betrayal if it is done wrong - whatever "wrong" is. 

I don't think I have an equivalent of Star Wars or Doctor Who, something from my youth I feel that deeply about. I have things I really enjoy of course, many of them seen or read after the fact. I'm not so ignorant as I once was, and my husband has ensured that I've seen the Alien and Matrix films I missed before. I've never considered myself part of a specific fandom, but that may be because for all that I am a geek I don't think my personality leans towards that so much. Also I can be a little standoffish, wary of giving myself to people or groups. Perhaps that's something I should change? For now though it's nice to see others enjoying things so much, and even if I don't feel it myself I like to see my friends' joy and enthusiasm.

* If anyone is unfamiliar with the knock-knock joke feel free to ask.