The Inconsistency of the Doctor and Death (The Girl Who Died)

(Obviously, a host of spoilers.)

For the first time since 2013, I actually enjoyed a new episode of Doctor Who. In The Girl Who Died we have the Doctor debating and then deciding to save a viking village. However, that (the entire plot) was not the interesting part of the episode. What was interesting was the final ten minutes, where the Doctor gives immortality to Ashildr, rather than let her die. For the first time in a while, Doctor Who pulled a genuinely interesting resolution, and created a fascinating character for the future. The panning shot of Ashildr standing and watching the universe flash by was gold. For me it was up there with when the Doctor imprisoned the Family in Family of Blood or when the Doctor gave his speech at Stonehenge. It was simply awesome.

Now the show has the ability to play with immortality in a character other than the Doctor (as I really hope they someday do with River Song). The only question I have is, why now?

Though separated by thousands of years, Ashildr’s problems were not unlike those of Donna Noble. Donna was similarly close to death, but rather than give her a magic device to make her immortal the Doctor simply erased her mind (and thus protected her). But he could have given her a healing device and made her like Ashildr could he not? And for that matter, to his own wife, who then would not even need more regenerations. Or does the Doctor only dish out immortality to his enemies? As he did for Davros recently, or for the Familly in Family of Blood?

This seems extremely paradoxical and two-faced (or perhaps thirteen) of the Doctor. Why is he so inconsistent with death? The Doctor seemed totally fine with the Bad Wolf making Captain Jack immortal, and did not see a reason to whine about his lack of the “gift” of mortality In School Reunion the Doctor laments that he is all alone in the universe, and that humans grow old and die. He acts as though this is the only option, but this Masochist time-lord seems to be ignoring the multitude of ways in which he could make his friends immortal.

But perhaps in the end the Doctor is merely being kind, perhaps he sees immortality as an evil and wishes that he himself could also die. But why then does he fight so hard keep himself from dying as in The Wedding of River Song? Does the Doctor think he is the only one who is worthy of immortality? He seemed more than willing to let even a murderer like the Master go on living by any means possible in Last of the Time Lords.

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Maybe, the Doctor thinks only a time-lord could possibly have the wisdom to live a near infinite life, but if this is the case then surely Donna Noble is an exception? The show demonstrated that before her memory lapse she had both the intelligence of a time-lord and the conscience of the Doctor. Why would the Doctor ignore such an obvious solution? The Doctor could even use the machine from Human Nature which makes him human to make Donna a time-lord.

Or perhaps it is not wisdom that someone needs for an infinite life in the eyes of the Doctor, maybe they just need to be around when he’s in a good mood. Because so far, the people who the Doctor has let have immortality have just been in the right place at the right time.

I would ask for more clarity from the writers as to why the Doctor will not extend the life of his companions, but will for total strangers or evil villains. If the Doctor truly sees mortality as so important, why would he not simply give every companion a device like Ashildr’s for a limited time? If it is in fact technology, surely the Doctor can deactivate it when the time comes for his companions to return to their normal lives. In fact, that should be the bare minimum of safety the Doctor should follow.

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Forget dramatic tension or storytelling problems, it is simply inconsiderate and barbaric of the Doctor to put his “friends” in harm’s way when he know perfectly well he need only steal a magic regeneration nanite for the duration of their stay on the TARDIS. The Doctor may have a death wish, but why inflict his suicidal tendencies on others? Maybe he has issues with making anyone else immortal, but he could at the very least use some future tech to make sure they stick around long enough for him to show them the universe before their sudden and inevitable demise.

Three Films That Were Never Made, But Should Have Been

“Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been.” ― John Greenleaf Whittier, Maud Muller – Pamphlet

Unlike a novel, putting together a film requires vast amounts of work for a relatively short end product. Sometimes however, that work goes to waste when a film never makes it to theaters. Well not completely to waste. It does give people like me the opportunity to laugh at someone’s efforts…but in a good way. Also I had no idea who John Greenleaf is when I put his quote up there, so I hope he’s not a criminal or something.

(Spoiler for the film which is a sequel.)

Three Films That Were Never Made, But Should Have Been

  • Gladiator II:

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The story for this film goes that Gladiator‘s Russell Crowe called up the writer from the original film and asked him if he wanted to make a sequel.

“[Crowe] rang me up and asked if I wanted to write Gladiator 2…For someone who had only written one film script, it was quite an ask. ‘Hey, Russell, didn’t you die in Gladiator 1?’ ‘Yeah, you sort that out.'”-― Nick Cave

Attempting to write Gladiator‘s Maximus out of his untimely demise, Nick Cave’s sequel would have involved Maximus returning to earth – having been sent by the gods – to kill Jesus Christ and stop Christianity from taking over the world of the gods. I for one would be all for this (assuming Maximus ends up converting to Christianity by the end instead of killing its architect), but for some reason the studios decided to take a pass on this one.

  • Bring Me the Head of Charlie Brown

If your ever trying to find this 2. From the unfinished Peanuts special "Bring Me The Head Of Charlie Brown!".. That Charlie Brown went Postal

Haven’t you ever wanted to see Charlie Brown finally get back at all the mean kids on the Peanuts gang?

There is not a lot I can say about this film for certain. There’s a Wikipedia page (with barely any sources), an (I presume) illegally uploaded YouTube video of it, and a few screenshots on Google images. So I can say it exists, but not for sure what its development was like or why there’s no official version of it (that I can find so far). Luckily we do have a plot description.

IMDB says the film was made by Jim Reardon and lists the film, and gives this description:

The Great Pumpkin puts a bounty on Charlie Brown’s head, and as a consequence, the rest of the Peanuts Gang proceed to kill Charlie Brown in various ways (from Lucy having Charlie Brown kick an explosive football, to Linus strangling him with his blanket, to Snoopy chomping off his arm which held a Peppermint Patty candy), until finally, a Rambo/Schwarzenegger-like Charlie Brown goes postal and mass chaos ensues!

I want to see this film so badly. Why can’t this be show every year right after Merry Christmas Charlie Brown?

(Well maybe because only a college student would watch it…)

  • The Beatles’ Lord of the Rings

Illustration by Robert Neubecker. Click image to expand.

I may be one of the few filmmakers on earth who genuinely does not like Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings. Not for lack of technical quality or acting, but because the script and dialogue is so utterly terrible in comparison to the source material.

At least with this almost-movie, it would have been received as the debacle it was. The Beatles were fans of the Lord of the Rings novel, and wanted to portray the four titular Hobbits in a film adaptions. For better or worse, this didn’t happen. According to Slate: “Collaborating with director John Boorman, screenwriter Rospo Pallenberg thought the Beatles should play the four hobbits…”

Maybe I would have stronger opinions about this if I knew any of the songs the Beatles have played…

Also, perhaps some streetwise After Effects artist can craft a workable trailer for what this film might have looked like!

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Anyway, thanks for reading.

My sources are far from academic for this article, but here they are:

http://www.cheatsheet.com/entertainment/7-of-the-greatest-movies-never-made.html/?a=viewall

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/summer_movies/2010/06/thebest_movies_never_made.html

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0282396/

Meat on Fridays in the USA: An Explanation

Today I want to answer a simple question. Should, or should you not eat meat on Fridays? According to the Code of Canon law number 1250, “The penitential days and times in the universal Church are every Friday of the whole year and the season of Lent.” and according to number 1251: “Abstinence from eating meat or some other food according to the prescripts of the conference of bishops is to be observed on every Friday of the year unless a Friday occurs on a day listed as a solemnity. Abstinence and fasting, however, are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

So, to explain all of that, every single Friday of the entire year including, but not limited to the season of lent are days of abstinence. This means that on those days you should not eat meat. However, you’ll also notice the clause, “according to the prescripts of the conference of bishops…” This indicates that this is one of the instances where the Church hierarchy is giving explicit permission for local bishop conferences to decide the specific way the day of penitence will be observed.

In the Diocese of the United States, the USCCB (or United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) set the rules as very open ended as regards the abstinence on Fridays. According to 1966’s “Pastoral Statement On Penance And Abstinence” number 12, it is only absolutely required that one fast from meat on Good Friday and on Ash Wednesday. However they also strongly point out how important it is to abstain from meat on every Friday throughout lent saying that a Catholic is not “lightly…excused”. Additionally they write, “…we urge all to prepare for that weekly Easter that comes with each Sunday by freely making of every Friday a day of self-denial and mortification in prayerful remembrance of the passion of Jesus Christ.” Which is much the same as what the Code of Canon law said above. And also “Changing circumstances, including economic, dietary, and social elements, have made some of our people feel that the renunciation of the eating of meat is not always and for everyone the most effective means of practicing penance. Meat was once an exceptional form of food; now it is commonplace…[and] even though we hereby terminate the traditional law of abstinence binding under pain of sin, as the sole prescribed means of observing Friday, we give first place to abstinence from flesh meat. We do so in the hope that the Catholic community will ordinarily continue to abstain from meat by free choice as formerly we did in obedience to Church law.

The bottom line of course being, that meat is still the default penance-but you can substitute another penance which would be a better sacrifice. With those passages from the United States Council simplified, let us take a quick look back at Canon 1251-because we are not quite finished. At the end of Canon 1251 it is written, “Abstinence and fasting…are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.” Norms for fasting on these days are found in Pope Paul VI’s Paenitemini where he writes, “The law of fasting allows only one full meal a day, but does not prohibit taking some food in the morning and evening, observing—as far as quantity and quality are concerned—approved local custom. To the law of abstinence those are bound who have completed their 14th year of age. To the law of fast those of the faithful are bound who have completed their 21st year and up until the beginning of their 60th year.”

Although (side note), while Paul VI writes that he wishes the year for person to begin fasting as 21, this is amended in the Code of Canon Law from 1983, which lists the age as 18.

So to summarize:

*Every Friday is a day of penance.

*The default penance for every day is to abstain from meat.

*This penance can be substituted by one which is similarly difficult if one so chooses.

*On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, in addition to abstaining from meat one should have only one full meal and two smaller meals.

*Abstaining from meat starts when you are 14, and fasting when you are 18, until you turn 60.

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Sources:

The Code of Canon Law edition used for all quotes (except 97): ISBN number 0943616794

http://www.amazon.com/Code-Canon-Law-Latin-English-Translation/dp/0943616794

Canon 97 – 18 years old and not 21: http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/__PC.HTM

Pope Paul VI’s Paenitemini: http://w2.vatican.va/content/paul-vi/en/apost_constitutions/documents/hf_p-vi_apc_19660217_paenitemini.html

Information about the swtich from 21 to 18: http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe/canon-law/complementary-norms/canons-1252-and-1253-observance-of-fast-and-abstinence.cfm

A simpler explanation for everything than what I just gave you: http://wdtprs.com/blog/2015/02/ash-wednesday-fasting-abstaining-and-you-2/

Is PAC-MAN God? (Eye of the Tiber Submission)

Eye of the Tiber is parody website; a Catholic version of “The Onion”. They used to accept fan submissions, and since they didn’t post this one when I sent it to them a couple years ago I decided to put it here.

NEW STUDY REVEALS PAC-MAN IS A METAPHOR FOR GOD

In a shocking discovery made by Global Academic League for Analysis of Game Algorithms it has been revealed that the popular video game “PAC-MAN” is really a metaphor for God himself. According to Professor Sonia Edjog, the PAC-MAN allegory is “obvious” once you see the connection.

“It came to me during Mass last Sunday,” she reported. “Father was just raising the two broken pieces of the body of Christ when it dawned on me; ‘You know? That looks an awful lot like PAC-MAN.’”

From there, Edjog and her excited team of specialist brainstormed for days coming up with more connections to the Eucharist shaped protagonist.

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Red Plumber, a leader on the team, informed the Eye, “Just consider how the game features three distinct men, who are yet one PAC. This is a clear parallel with God and the trinity.”

“We have also pondered PAC-MAN’s never ending quest to be one with an array of wondering souls and return them home; a clear metaphor for Jesus’ role as the Good Shepherd. The picture was completed when we realized that after dying at the hands of the ungrateful lost souls, PAC-MAN is resurrected from the dead.”

Professor Edjog and the League are currently investigating the possibility that “PAC” might be a loose acronym for “Persona Christi”.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Spoilers for Series 9 Episode 1 of Doctor Who

I hated The Magician’s Apprentice and I’m not sure why.

When I think of all of the elements of the episode (the return of UNIT, or the Master working with the Doctor for instance), I cannot help but think that they seem like good or brilliant ideas. When I saw that the show was breaking the cardinal “rule” and showing a Classic Who character earlier in their timeline, I was fascinated and intrigued. When the Doctor left his last will and testament I was perplexed, but excited. And when the Doctor rode into the middle ages on a tank playing rock and roll I was astounded, but impressed.

So why didn’t I like the episode? At the core the reason the episode-and indeed-much of series 8 simply did not work for me is presentation. Steven Moffat rarely has bad ideas (in my opinion), but he sometimes decides to present them in a way that is not right for Doctor Who. When I imagine a different incarnation of the Doctor going through the same scenes-I see a great episode. If Tom Baker, or Matt Smith, or Tennant, or Eccleston had gone through the same episode I think it could easily have been one of my favorites.

I don’t think this is because I hate Capbaldi as an actor. Rather, it has to do with what one knows will accompany those other actors. One of the great skills of Doctor Who is that it has rebooting built into itself in the form of the Doctor’s regeneration (so the narrative never rows old). But its not simply a new face that walks out of the TARDIS every three years, at times it may also be new head writer, or differing styles of filmmaking and lighting, as well as general tone and pacing. Between Tennant and Smith is probably the best example of this phenomena. If not for the title card and interdimensional copper cube, one could easily mistake The End of Time and The Eleventh Hour for taking place on different shows (or even different networks).

11th-hour_promo1

Despite this, there are several elements of consistency between series 4 and 5. Element which are lacking between 7 and 8, and the changing of the guard that came with Capbaldi’s run. Though series 5 of Doctor Who successfully updated itself for the modern era, with darker visuals, plots, and more realistic writing, it never lost the inherent sense of fun which had accompanied the show thus far. With the exception an episode here and there like Midnight or The Name of the DoctorDoctor Who always keeps itself from being too serious or “Christopher Nolan-esque”. There’s the always the inherent excitement and adventure, without an over emphasis on suspense or drama.

And when I say always, I do mean always. While I am not as familiar with Classic Who as New Who, I have seen episodes from the 1st, 4th, and 5th Doctors, and none of what I have seen indicates to me that the series has ever lacked charm and wit altogether. Or at least that’s what I would have said until series 8. Again, this comes round to good ideas versus good execution. Doctor Who is a fun show. It’s never a full blow drama. It started as a show for kids, and though it has expanded its audience since then, never has it limited itself so much as with this current incarnation of the show.

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In an attempt to make the Doctor appeal more to the Classic Who generation, Moffat has written the 12th Doctor as totally unlikable (without actually making him very much like a classic Doctor). The Doctor of the now is jerk. He is simply not a nice person. He is not honoring his oath to be “never cruel” which he renewed in The Day of the Doctor. For pity’s sake, the Doctor just spent 500 years defending one town. It makes no sense in his character’s arc-for him to revert to the person he was as the 9th Doctor. He should be happier now than ever! He has a new lease on life! His entire freaking planet was brought back from oblivion!

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Another problem is the incredibly desaturated and darkened world, which the editors of series 8 and 9 have created. The world of this Doctor is bleak and lifeless. Not a world of adventure, but of death and pointlessness. A world which evokes disgust, typical of an independent student film-not Doctor Who.

At the end of the day, I think I can (after writing it all down) say what I did not like about The Magician’s Apprentice. It’s boring. It’s not fun. It does not include snappy dialogue or witty humor. I don’t need to the Doctor to be younger or older, I just need him to make me excited and interested in the world around him. The Doctor should make the universe more exciting, not abjectly depressing.

Even this was less depressing than Death in Heaven!

Even this image is less depressing than Death in Heaven…

(But again Capbaldi himself is awesome don’t hate me bye.)

What is “The Liturgy of the Hours”?

Catechism of the Catholic Church #1174:

…the Liturgy of the Hours “is truly the voice of the Bride herself addressed to her Bridegroom. It is the very prayer which Christ himself together with his Body addresses to the Father.

Whenever I talk to other Catholics, I think the prayer they have heard the least about is ironically “The Liturgy of the Hours” (also known interchangeably as the Divine Office). I say ironic, because next to the holy sacrifice of the Mass-and indeed, in some ways more so-the Liturgy of the Hours is the most minutely ingrained of activities in the life of a Catholic (at least for priests, nuns, and monks). Whereas the Mass is widely attended and known to all Catholics, the Divine Office is known primarily to non-laity (that is the priests, nuns, and other consecrated religious). This is likely due in part to the fact that while attendance at Mass is mandatory for all the faithful, participation in the Liturgy of the Hours is only demanded of the consecrated religious {Read Code of Canon Law 1174 for details}.

But what is “The Liturgy of the Hours”? In simple terms, it is a selection of readings from sacred scripture (the Bible), various writings from saints and theologians, and various small reflections. Additionally, as the name would suggest, the prayer is prayed throughout different hours of the day. And depending on the time of day, the specific version of the Divine Office is called either Matins, Lauds, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, or Compline. Lauds is for morning, Terce is for the middle of the day, Compline for right before bed, and so forth. This list is found in Vatican II’s Sacrosanctum Concilium, which goes into greater detail about how the hours should be treated saying that Lauds and Vespers are, “the two hinges on which the daily office turns; hence they are to be considered as the chief hours and are to be celebrated as such.”

In Use

From the phrasing and preference thus far, it’s easy for those who are not part of consecrated lives to assume that this prayer is exclusive to such groups. However, nothing is further from the truth. The Code of Canon Law says that those in married or single lives are “earnestly invited to participate in the liturgy of the hours” and The Catechism of the Catholic Church states “The Liturgy of the Hours is intended to become the prayer of the whole People of God.”

The Divine Office is so highly regarded as a prayer by the Church, that it is described almost as an extension of the Mass itself:

Catechism of the Catholic Church 1174 (part 1):

The mystery of Christ, his Incarnation and Passover, which we celebrate in the Eucharist especially at the Sunday assembly, permeates and transfigures the time of each day, through the celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours, “the divine office.” This celebration, faithful to the apostolic exhortations to “pray constantly,” is “so devised that the whole course of the day and night is made holy by the praise of God.”In this “public prayer of the Church, the faithful (clergy, religious, and lay people) exercise the royal priesthood of the baptized. Celebrated in “the form approved” by the Church…”

Personally, I have found this ancient and rich prayer immensely interesting. Though the prayer is not prayed by many laity, I pray Lauds every morning and  Compline before I go to bed. If you are interested in trying out the Liturgy of the Hours, I highly recommend a website such as divineoffice.org (which has Matins, Lauds, Vespers, Compline and one of the prayers for the middle of the day). If you find you are interested enough in the Office, you might be interested in getting your own book of Christian prayer or the four volume set of the Liturgy of the Hours. A google search would be sufficient to find either. (The big difference between the two is that the Christian prayer book does not have Matins: one of the longest hours.)

P.S.

One of my all time favorite ways to pray the Divine Office is to chant it. There is chanted recording by the monks of Norcia here:
http://osbnorcia.org/en/category/audio

(The header image is from the same website.)

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Sources:

Catechism of the Catholic Church 1174-1175

Code of Canon Law 1173-1175

Sacrosanctum Concilium 81

Photo used in post is from:
http://www.newliturgicalmovement.org/2014/07/the-art-of-book-in-third-millennium.html#.VfrK0xFViko

Why didn’t the Doctor save River Song?

The following article will feature spoilers for Doctor Who up until directly before series 8.

Doctor Who is not a show known for following its own rules very closely. This 2010 Special A Christmas Carol is perhaps the best example; featuring the Doctor’s attempts to alter a man’s past and make him a moral person. The whole concept is so superfluous and impossible, as the man’s memories are seemingly altered (yet somehow he is aware of the fact simultaneously).

While time itself is far from immutable in the universe of the Doctor, what is considered unalterable are the various “fixed points in time”. With the exception of The Waters of Mars, changing a fixed point in time is never successful, and will cause the destruction of time itself (as in The Wedding of River Song). However, although fixed points cannot be undone, one can control the circumstances of how they happened. For example, in the aforementioned Wedding of River Song the Doctor is able to cheat death by having a robotic teselecta “die” in his place. All parties who know of the Doctor’s death in Utah still record it happening-but the audience is made aware that the reality was always different than it seemed.

An identical situation is seen in The Day of the Doctor when the Doctor decides not to destroy his home planet, and the audience sees that reality always happened this way (and the audience simply never knew it). And this is my main problem with the Professor River Song. The Doctor’s wife dies the first time the Doctor meets her, in the largest library in the universe. She sacrifices herself and is killed-though the Doctor “uploads” her to the library data banks.

But here there seems to be a logical inconsistency. The Doctor loves his wife, and he has had at least 1100 years to think about her death since he saw it happen in the library. Even if we assume the worst-that River’s death is fixed point in time-wouldn’t the Doctor at least want to go to the same lengths to save River as he did to save himself? We know for a fact that River is a great actor, convincing her parents she did not know who they were throughout series 6. So if the Doctor brought River a teselecta the day before she was supposed to go the library, there is no reason the tesselecta couldn’t die in her place.

But maybe you think that that this still would not work because the teselecta’s crew of people would be killed by all the energy anyway. Fair enough, then why not use a ganger as in The Almost People? River would not even have to show up anywhere near the library since we know that Amy Pond could control her ganger from anywhere in time or space. Plus there’s probably a timey-wimey way to download the computer River’s memories so that the real River would know what that version of herself did and said in series 7.

Of course, I write this without the benefit of hindsight. Perhaps the writers of the show will write this in and bring River back from the “dead”. I for one would really enjoy it if River were a permanent part of the show, just like the TARDIS or the sonic. I just love the idea of another regenerating character on the show. Rather than waiting every three years for the Doctor to be someone new, we can have a new version of a favorite character every year and a half (as we alternate between time lords).

And before a wiseguy points this out, yes River supposedly ran out of regenerations when she healed the Doctor in Let’s Kill Hitler. But seriously? Why on earth should healing the Doctor once dispose of all the seven (at least) regenerations she still has. You could argue that River should have less regenerations because she is not a proper time lord. For writing purposes though, one could always argue that she should have more because she is not a proper time lord.

In any event, there remains the basic problem with the Doctor’s death vs. his wife’s. The Doctor once asked Clara Oswald if he was good man. If the Doctor will go to extraordinary length to save himself, but not his wife, the answer to that question is a resounding no.The In-Laws

Post the First

I wanted a blog to write and share information on both popular culture and Catholicism. So I have created this.

Before someone points this out, I should say first of all: I fully appreciate the irony in naming a blog this way given how atheistic and anti-religion Doctor Who can be, but those are not the elements which I love-and they do not (always) stop me from enjoying the show.

Anyway,

Pax Christi.