Sunday, December 31, 2017

Yes, I Am Capable Of Smiling

From my last day of physical therapy. 



Have a happy and safe New Year's Eve. 

See you next year.   

Saturday, December 30, 2017

So That’s A Wrap For 2017


So that’s a wrap for 2017. And about damn time.

 

At the end of 2016, we felt battered and tired by the year. A bitter and contentious Presidential election that seemed like it would never end and when it did, it delivered the worst result that we all thought was impossible. Throughout the year, we were peppered with announcements of too many good, talented people dying. We were ready for 2016 to end.

 

But we were not ready for 2017 to begin. OK, on the plus side, as I write this, the Earth is not a boiling radioactive cauldron so that’s a plus in Trump’s column. Otherwise, Trump in the White House has been the dumpster fire of a shit storm I predicted. Trump has brought dishonor upon the office of President and upon this country with his loutish, ignorant behavior. And to add insult to injury, there are still people out there in the United States who can’t see how fucking obviously bad he is.

 

And to add even more insult to even more injury, there are people out there in the United States who don’t care how obviously bad he is, as long as they get something out of it. “Yay! I’ve got my tax cut! I can upgrade the bathroom fixtures on my yacht with platinum instead of mere gold.”  

 

Trapped between the worst impulses of fear and greed, I despair for this nation.

 

But on a personal level, 2017 had it challenges. As 2016, I feared that my mother was not long for this world. As 2017 began, I was shocked at the rapidity of her decline. Midway through January, she was gone. I still have trouble processing this, after nearly a year. 

 

And I had no way in hell to know what would happen to me. A stroke, a fall, a shattered elbow. After 2 surgeries and several months of physical therapy, my left arm is still a bit stiff and limited but considering how bad it was damaged, my current mobility is remarkable. I actually had my last physical therapy session last week. I was blessed that I found myself in the care of Andy and Meagan who helped me in my recovery with skill, empathy and good humor. Who knows, I may need to make use of their services again someday. The way my knees hurt all the time and my lower back bothers me, I wouldn’t be surprised to see either of these be at the forefront of 2018’s medical crises. 

 

All this stuff, the big picture political and the more personal issues, have played hell with my mental state this year. I’m tired of being tired all the time.

 

For 2018, I hope to hurt less in body and soul. I hope to be less tired in body and soul.

 

I hope to have more hope. 

 

OK, that’s enough complaining and venting for today.

 

Remember to be good to one another.  

Friday, December 29, 2017

A Moron's Weather Report


OK, I've managed to go several days without dealing with this moron but...

In the East, it could be the COLDEST New Year’s Eve on record. Perhaps we could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming that our Country, but not other countries, was going to pay TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS to protect against. Bundle up!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 29, 2017

 

Oh God. This idiot! And others like him!

 

Every time it snows a lot or gets colder than normal, climate change deniers come out in force to use such as weather as proof of their assertions.

Seriously, one time a Congressman brought in a snowball to the floor as proof that global warming was a fake. 

 

“Global Warming” is not a descriptor of weather. “Global Warming” is a term applied to the general global CLIMATE which is getting warmer. The overall climate of planet Earth over the course of years and decades is getting warmer. It doesn’t mean that on any given day, it can’t get cold.

 

One of the side affects of “Global Warming” is that weather patterns can become more extreme. Yes, heats waves occur more often and are hotter. Hurricanes become stronger. And “Global Warming” can make cold weather colder and more brutal. The fact that winter weather is still cold does not disprove “Global Warming”. The fact that frequent patterns of extreme winter weather with increased snow and ice, harsh winds and brutaly cold temperatures is a consequence of “Global Warming”.

 

Equating “Global Warming” with hotter weather is the epitome of ignorance. The warming of the global climate changes that climate and affects the weather in that climate.

 

Sadly, Li’l Donnie is not alone. Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke are climate change deniers who are dismantling former President Barack Obama’s climate legacy as quickly as they can.

 

And in addition to misunderstanding what the “Global Warming” even is, Li’l Donnie can’t help but throw in a lie.

 

Trump’s message references his decision to withdraw the U.S. from the landmark Paris climate accord. Under the deal, the U.S. had promised to cut greenhouse gas emissions 26 to 28 percent by 2025 compared to 2005 levels, and had committed $3 billion ― not “trillions of dollars” ― in aid to the Green Climate Fund, which helps poorer countries adapt to climate change.

But what else can we expect from our MORON and LIAR in chief? 

Star Wars: The Last Jedi


Well it seems that for the last week or two, Doctor Who has completely taken over I’m So Glad My Suffering Amuses You.  Now, this Is not a bad thing but there are other things going on in the world. Granted, less important than Doctor Who but other things nonetheless.  



For example, the latest Star Wars movie, The Phantom Force Awakens A New Hope For a Return of The Last Jedi Strikes Back at the Sith Clones. 


Or something. 

Anyway, I saw The Last Jedi on opening weekend 2 weeks ago.  I like Star Wars, more or less but I’m not as immersed in the Star wars mythos as I am Doctor Who or Star Trek. Still, I didn’t want to risk spoilers on key plot points.
  • Will Luke Skywalker have dialogue or will he just glower at the camera for the entire movie? Well, he does both.
  • Also, can Kylo Ren be an even more emo dick? Yes, he can.
  • Will we learn who Rey’s parents are?  Yes, we do and no, we don’t.


The true hardcore Star Wars fans out there have been less sanguine about The Last Jedi. There is an actual petition out there to have this movie officially designated as not being part of canon.



You know the trope where two people have sex but one of them is very embarrassed by it and insists, ”It never happened.” Sorry, whiny hardcore Star Wars fans, but it DID happen. And you’re pregnant.

 
Look, J J Abrams will be back along in two years with a sequel and if you don’t like what you see then, maybe he’ll obscure it with lens flare.  



That being said, I overall enjoyed The Last Jedi but there were some story points I had issues with.


Finn and Rose go one a mission for some reason. 


  • Let me say that I love Rose, a low level grunt in the resistance effort who finds herself on the front lines. Her passion to do what’s right, particularly on behalf of those without power is a very appealing quality, perfect for Doctor Who. (Yes, even in the middle of a Star Wars post, I will find a way to name check “Doctor Who”.)  Rose and Finn have a great rapport that is fun to watch as their interactions develop.
  • But their mission is there to fill time between the first and third acts. The mission is on shaky ground from the start, a quest for a codebreaker that MIGHT be on Canto Bight who MIGHT help them and MIGHT be able to break through the security of the First Order flagship pursuing the rebels where Finn and rose MIGHT be able to stop the First Order from tracking the Resistance through hyper space.  And it doesn’t work. In fact, the codebreaker exposes the Resistance to the First Order, adding to the jeopardy the Resistance is already in.
Good job breaking it, “hero” Poe Dameron.


  • Poe Dameron has been set up as the cocky adventure hero of the new generation of Star Wars but didn’t get a lot of chances to show that off in The Force Awakens. In The Last Jedi, Poe has more to do. And it’s all a mess.
  • Poe leads an attack on a First Order dreadnought ship that destroys the ship bur decimates the Resistance’s forces and fleet.
  • Poe sends Finn and Rose off on a foolhardy mission that has little chance of succeeding.
  • Poe actually stages a mutiny against Resistance leadership in a misguided belief that the Resistance leadership does not have a plan. 
  • So Poe is a flawed person and not a perfect hero. But he spends so much of the movie being a bad hero, getting more wrong than he gets right, it undermines his character’s potential.  
Hold up! What’s up with Holdo?


  • Laura Dern’s character is introduced as the new commander for the resistance while General Leia Organa is in a coma. Holdo is immediately uninspiring and seems more of a beaurocrat than a true leader.
  • Holdo counters that image in her final moments when she sacrifices herself to save what’s left of the Resistance. It is a powerful moment has Holdo alone pilots the Resistance ship at light speed into the First Order flagship. The first impact is a bright explosion of light but devoid of sound.*  It is a powerful moment.
  • But it isn’t earned. We have nothing invested in Holdo’s life to be moved by her death.
*Some theaters have posted notices that the movie is meant to go completely silent at the 1 hour 52 minute mark. It is not a defect in the sound system.
Apparently, there had been complaints. 
Requiem for Carrie Fisher


  • It has been a year since Carrie Fisher’s death and the hurt is still there. The Last Jedi gives her more to do than The Force Awakens. Leia even gets to use the Force! But still, she spends a big chunk of the movie in a coma. Apparently the long range plan was for Leia to have a more dominant role in the next film. But those plans for Leia will not come to fruition due to Fisher’s death. 
  • Fisher had completed all her scenes for The Last Jedi prior to her death so there was no reason her death should impact the movie. But I wonder if given the circumstances of Fisher’s passing, perhaps some changes should’ve been made to Leia’s story, to perhaps have her pilot the Resistance ship into the First Order vessel. It would've taken some significant editing and some CGI. Leia’s sacrifice on behalf of her troops would have made for a stronger impact on the story and made a fitting tribute to the memory and legacy of Carrie Fisher. Instead, leaving the movie as shot leaves Leia without an ending even as we know that Carrie Fisher is no longer with us.

Kylo Ren and the emo side of the Force.
  • Yes, Kylo is still an emo prick, a wannabe Vader. But there does seem to be a bit more depth to the former Ben Solo. Perhaps it owes to the "heart to hearts' chats he has with Rey through the Force. or his decision to take out Snoke mid-way through the movie.
  • Still, Kylo Ren is not the feared and respected avatar of the dark side of the Force he imagines himself to be. He is still prone to petulant rage, no more so than in his confrontation with Luke Skywalker.

 
And speaking of Luke....

 
Luke Skywalker and the grumpy side of the Force.

 
  • Luke gets in some good bits. He channels Yoda's impish nature when he teases Rey that she's tapping in the Force when he's just tickling her with a palm leaf.
  • "Everything you just said is wrong." It's a great retort Luke says to Rey and again later to Kylo. 
  • Luke's encounter with ghost Yoda; Luke may be a lot older now and Yoda is long dead but Yoda can still make a monkey out of Luke.
  • The tender reunion of Luke and Leia.
  • The epic showdown between Luke and Kylo. Luke totally owns Kylo without actually being there. The revelation that Luke kicked Kylo's ass while sitting on a rock light years away and the reason why he did that are strong marks in favor of Luke.
  • But Luke spends so much time in The Last Jedi pissing on the legacy of the Jedi and his own personal legacy, it's hard to feel much empathy for the erstwhile Jedi. Think back to A New Hope. Obi-Wan Kenobi is in exile after the loss of his protégé Anakin Skywalker to the dark side of the force to become Darth Vader, the Jedi Knights have fallen and Kenobi is a much older man past his time as a warrior. But when R2D2 deliver's Princess Leia's message requesting help, Kenobi does respond to help. When Rey arrives with a similar entreaty to Luke Skywalker, Luke sullenly replies nothing will make him leave the island of his exile.
  • It is a daring conceit to show Luke with feet of clay when it comes time to rejoin the universe and take up the fight once more. But is this in keeping with the lessons and sacrifices of Yoda and Kenobi? Perhaps as Luke looks into the setting suns one last time, much as he did as a young man on Tatoonie, maybe in those finale moments before his body fades to nothingness, he finally gets it. 
Rey is the Jedi you've been looking for. 

 
  • Rey steps up in this installment. She challenges Luke Skywalker in his despair and resolute exile. She thinks that maybe she can help turn Kylo Ren from his path towards darkness.
  • Rey's main struggle is with her identity. Who is she? Who were her parents? Where did they go? Why did they not come back for her? Kylo tells Rey that her parents were junk merchants who sold her for drug money and were likely moldering in a grave somewhere. Her parents were not important to any grand scheme of legacy or destiny. How much we can trust this information depends on how much you trust Kylo Ren.
  • But it is information that actually frees Rey from a burden of her childhood. Cut off from her childhood's nightmare and despair, Rey's connection to the Force becomes even stronger. It doesn't matter where you come from as much as who you are.

 
Anyone can be a Jedi? Perhaps. 

 
And speaking of which...

 
A child shall lead them.

 
  • After hearing a story about the legend of Luke Skywalker, a child on Canto Bight, one of the children that helped Finn and Rose escape grabs a broom with the Force and gazes into space.

 
Whew! 


So Star Wars: The Last Jedi is reasonably entertaining, just don't think about it too much.  


 

 

 


Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Doctor Who - Twice Upon a Time

SPOILERS, sweetie!

With Twice Upon a Time, Doctor Who celebrates another Christmas special with significant import. 

We get to see the First Doctor back in action thanks to David Bradley's clever channeling of William Hartnell who originated the role of the Doctor back in 1963.   

We get another go round with Pearl Mackie as Bill Potts. Well, kind of. sort of.  

We get some quick appearances from some other companions as well.   

We get a send off for Steven Moffat, headwriter and showrunner since 2010. But even while heading out the door, he's still adding to the show's mythology.  

We bid farewell to Peter Capaldi as the 12th Doctor. 

And we say hello to Jodie Whittaker as the 13th Doctor, the first female to be cast as thew Doctor.  

So how did all this go down?  

Well, it was... good. Maybe not great but definitely not bad. 

The episode is unusual for a regeneration episode in that the precipitating event occurred in the previous episode, the Doctor being electrocuted by a Cyberman in the first part of The Doctor Falls. So the bulk of Twice Upon a Time is the Doctor actively resisting what is going to come next.  

Which apparently the Doctor also did when he regenerated for the first time.  Which is what causes a problem with time, with the Doctor in two different times working against their respective fates. And this problem with time brings the Doctor face to face with himself.  

This problem with time also brings in a British captain from World War One who is about to die in a one on one face off with a German soldier. Mark Gatiss plays the Captain who has a significant role in the episode. We find out why near the end when he reveals his name as Letheridge-Stewart, the future grandfather of a certain UNIT Brigadier who will later work with and befriend the Doctor. Not a big surprise what with the Captain's prominent mustache but a very pleasant revelation nonetheless.   

Our aliens this time are glass entities known as the Testimony with the mission of collecting memories from people at the moment of their deaths. So it's not quite an evil plan which leaves the 12th Doctor a bit puzzled on what to do.  

Bill Potts is back. Sort of. Maybe.  She's a manifestation of the Testimony, a culmination of all her memories so Bill is insistent she is still the real Bill Potts.  So the Bill that went off with Heather at the end of The Doctor Falls to be Liquid Space Lesbians is not the Bill we see in Twice Upon a Time. But hey, it's still Pearl Mackie back on screen being Bill Potts so it works for me.  

Also showing up as memory manifestations of the Testimony are Nardole and Clara. Yes, Clara! And this results in the Doctor getting his memories of Miss Oswald back which is a good thing.   

The big guest star of the episode is David Bradley as the 1st Doctor who brings the original Doctor to life with a sort of irascible charm.  

There was a lot of fun to be have with the Doctor interacting with himself, his first incarnation having some decidedly outdated views about things, especially about women. Noticing the very dusty TARDIS of his future self, the First Doctor presumes the lack of a female companion to keep things clean.  

But the 12th Doctor has some lessons to learn from his earlier self about the importance of looking at things through his own eyes instead of through the filter of his sonic specs.  

Ultimately, the problem with time gets resolved when the Doctors bring the Captain back to his appointment with death. Except the 12th Doctor fiddles with things a bit to have that appointment occur on December 25, 1914, the day of the famous Christmas armistice which occurred when soldiers on both side mutually agreed to give the war a rest for one day.  

It is a perfect "just this once, everybody lives" resolution like the ending Steven Moffat gave us with his first script of the revived Doctor Who, The Doctor Dances in 2005 with the 9th Doctor.   

Which brings us full circle in our journey with Steven Moffat as he bids farewell to Doctor Who. Quite frankly, I have never understood the animosity expressed towards the Moff from certain quarters of fandom. He has clever ideas and can express those ideas with razorsharp humor and heartfelt emotion.  

And that emotion is on full display with Peter Capaldi's final monologue as the Doctor returns to his TARDIS. It's a moment that seems to on a bit, as if both Moffat and Capaldi are just not quite ready to say goodbye. 

But the end is reached.  

"Laugh hard. Run fast. Be kind. Doctor... I let you go."  

Then the Doctor who has been fighting his regeneration since the opening of episode 11 finally relents. 

The morphing effect focuses on the eyes as they change from Peter Capaldi's to Jodie Whittaker's.  

Then we pull away as we see the Doctor silhouetted against the glow of a damaged TARDIS. The haunting music motif is one we haven't heard since the Davies' years.  Then we shift to a view from the Doctor's eyes, scanning the TARDIS until spying a reflection in a scanner. 

Then our view shifts again as we see Jodie Whitaker in the black suit and the white shirt. A smile makes its way across her face as she says, "Oh, brilliant!"  

And then things go downhill. The Doctor presses a single button and the TARDIS goes crazy, exploding and shaking about.  Then the Doctor gets hurled out of the TARDIS and hurtling towards the planet below.  

From the split second after  "Oh, brilliant!", I find I'm not happy with what's going on here. I believe this called for a moment of triumph and affirmation. Instead, our first impression of the first woman Doctor is someone who pushes the wrong button and has no control of her own TARDIS. Yes, I know the 10th, 11th and 12th Doctors crashed the TARDIS on their first go-round. But do we need to make the women hating trolls out there have an easier time of it.  

Jodie Whitaker's first scene as the Doctor ends with her as a damsel in distress. I really think this needed to be handled differently.   

So Peter Capaldi and Steve Moffat exit Doctor Who on a high note.  And Jodie Whitaker enters on a good note right up to "Oh, brilliant!" 

So I'm a little worried about the future. But the past got a good send off.  

Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas!

If you're caught up in all the stress of the holiday season and like Charlie Brown, you plaintively wonder what Christmas is all about, just remember that Linus Van Pelt has you covered.  




From all of us here at I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You (er, that would be me), Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you.  

And as always, remember to be good to one another.   

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Encore - It's a Doctor Who Christmas.


Today is Christmas Eve and I'm taking it easy by re-posting some Doctor Who Yuletide stuff... or should I say "Doctor Whotide stuff"?  

No, I shouldn't. 

Anyway, this list is the summation of a series of posts from December 2016 called... the 12 Doctors of Christmas.   

On the 12th day of Christmas, the Doctor gave to me....

12 pairs of sunglasses
11 fezzes for my head
10 Oods to be my friends
9 leather jackets
8 pocket watches
7 question mark sweaters
6 silver cat pins
5 stalks of celery
4 really long scarves
3 Metabilis crystals
2 flute recorders  
And a TARDIS for me to fly away!

And to follow up the 2 Doctors of Christmas and not leave out the War Doctor,  I originally posted this on December 10th, 2016:   





And finally, I originally posted December 21st, 2014:  

How Strax Saved Christmas
by David Long

It was late-October and there was a crisp chill in the night air, an early autumn herald of the winter that was to come. It was the kind of chill that invigorates the spirit to walk a bit more spryly, to perhaps hum a tune to one’s self and cast a bedazzled eye to the star canopied sky above.

The Doctor did not care for it.

As he exited the blue police box form of his TARDIS, the Doctor’s thin, black clad form shivered against the cold.

“Great Britain”, the Doctor muttered to himself. “Why can’t I ever find a companion in, I don’t know, Hawaii or the Caribbean?”

But it was not the warm soil of a tropical paradise that the Doctor walked across but the cold hard ground of this Earth, this realm, this England.

London, to be precise.

14 Wallington Rd to be even more preciser. 

It was a nice home with gilded lanterns by the door and a warm glow from the bay window. Well, it looked warm. 

Shivering, the Doctor approached the front door. He reached into his jacket and began to withdraw his trusty sonic screwdriver. But he stopped and puzzled a moment. 

“Wait, what is it that humans do?” the Doctor wondered. 

Then he put the screwdriver back in his pocket and knocked on the door.

With a sudden whirl of motion, the door was thrown open. Standing in the doorway was Clara Oswald. The Doctor assumed she looked pretty; he really wasn’t the best judge of these things. But he could tell she looked harried.

“Doctor! It’s about time you got here!” Clara exclaimed.

“What? You just called me a minute ago!” the Doctor replied.

Exasperated, Clara retorted, “You have a time machine! Why couldn’t you get here before I called?”

“Now, Clara, that’s not how time travel…”

The Doctor trailed off as he caught sight of a figure sitting in a chair with his head in his hands.  It was "P.E." or as Clara insisted on calling him, Danny Pink. He was Clara’s…boyfriend? Were they engaged? He really needed to keep track of these things better.

“P.E.? Are you all right?”

Danny groaned a baleful groan and lifted up his head. His face was all puffy, his cheeks punched out like a chipmunk and he was squinting through swollen eyelids. 

“Huwo, Docker,” Danny tried to speak through pursed lips.

“Whoa! Clara, what did you do to him?”

Grabbing her purse and rushing to Danny’s side, Clara replied, “I didn’t go anything to him!”

“Ahm awirjik to Brushuhl shprots,” Danny tried to say.

“What?” asked the Doctor.

“He’s allergic to Brussell sprouts,” Clara translated.

“Brussel sprouts?” replied the Doctor incredulously. “Who is allergic to Brussel sprouts? For that matter, who actually eats Brussell…”

“Not important,” Clara interrupted as she helped Danny to his feet. “I need to get Danny to hospital so I need you to watch the kids.”

“The kids?” The Doctor was shocked. What had he missed? “You two have kids?”

“No, Doctor, we’re not even…look, Danny and I agreed to look after Mr. Chesterton’s grand kids. Then…well, Brussel sprouts. I called one of my students, she’s on her way with her mum but I need you to watch the kids until she gets here.”

The Doctor looked frantic. “Wait a minute! Kids? Don’t you have any other friends you can call?”

“Yes, lots,” Clara said as she bustled Danny towards the door. “But you’re the only one I know who has a time machine.  ‘Bye, Doctor. And thanks!”

And with the door shut behind her as the Doctor stood in the foyer, helplessly watching the closed door fail to re-open and Clara fail to come back in and explain it’s all a joke.

“Kids,” the Doctor said. Then he turned from the door and reacted with a start to the three children behind him.

“Ninja children?” the Doctor mused. “Don’t sneak up on me like that.”

“Hi, my name is Timmy,” said one of the children, about maybe 7 or 8 years old with a mop of brown hair on his head.Timmy was dressed in dark blue pajamas that were rigorously defended by several Spider-Men.

The Doctor looked down at Timmy and said, simply, “Hello.”

“Hi, I’m Jillian,” said a little girl from under her halo of brown curls, dressed in her My Little Pony night gown. “I’m 4,” she added.

“Four?” asked the Doctor. “Four what?”

“I’m four years old.”

“Oh.”

“You’re silly,” Jillian said with a giggle. “Your eyebrows are funny!”

“My eyebrows are not funny, they’re angry,” clarified the Doctor but it just made little Jillian giggle again.

The third child looked up at the Doctor, a young boy, close to Timmy’s age, wearing pajamas adorned with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He had a head full of disheveled red hair. No, it was more like a wild creature had escaped from the planet of the monster red hair and was resting on his head.

“Jillian’s my baby sister. Timmy’s my cousin. I’m Phred,” he said to the Doctor.

“Fred?”

“Phred. With a PH.”

The Doctor sighed , “Phred with a PH, okay.” 

“What’s your name?” asked Timmy.

“I’m the Doctor,” came the reply.

“Doctor who?” Jillian rather reasonably inquired.

“Just…the Doctor.”

“Doctor is not a proper name,” noted Phred.

“The Doctor,” the stern man in black corrected the child.

“The Doctor is not a proper name,” noted Phred more precisely.

“It certainly is a proper name, “ the Doctor retorted. “It has ‘The’ in front of it!”

“Your first name is ‘The’?” Timmy asked.

“Why don’t we go into the living room?” said the Doctor and he guided the three children there where were comfy chairs and a nice warm fire happily crackling in the fireplace.

“So what should we do to pass the time until your human babysitter arrives?”

Timmy and Phred looked at each other and mouthed the word “human”. Who was this odd fellow that Miss Clara had left them with?

But before they could pursue that line of questioning, Jillian made known her choice of activity.

“Tell us a story,” she said, firelight dancing in her wide, innocent eyes.

The Doctor looked down at the little girl, apparently unmoved by Jillian’s precocious smile. “A story? No, I don’t think so,” he replied.

Timmy and Phred joined in. “C’mon, Doctor. Tell us a story!”

But the Doctor would not hear of it. “No, I’m not much of a storyteller, I’m afraid.”

“That’s OK,” said Timmy, “I want to get out my paints for a while, anyway.”

“And I need to practice my recorder for music class,” Phred noted.

“Doctor, would you play dress up with me and my dollies?” Jillian asked. 

Then the Doctor’s face brightened with a smile.

“I know,” he suggested, “why don’t I tell you a story?”

“Well, you don’t have to,” offered Phred. 

But the Doctor was insistent. “No, I would love to tell you a story!” Then the smile disappeared as he pondered. Then he asked, “What kind of story?”

“A Christmas story!” Jillian said very brightly.

Timmy concurred. “Yeah, a Christmas story!”

The Doctor was a bit confused. “Christmas? But Christmas is more than 2 months away!”

But Phred answered, “No, Christmas starts right after Halloween.”

“Sometimes before,” Timmy added.

Jillian pleaded, “Tell us a Christmas story! Please?”

And for a moment the Doctor wondered how Jillian’s eyes could be so round and wide, briefly considering she might be some kind of mutant changeling.

As much as he wasn’t a person for telling stories beyond “Once upon a time” and “The end”, the Doctor knew the alternative would be paint splattered all over this lovely home and the air fractured with the high pitch squeaking of a poorly played recorder. It also would end up with him in a dress playing dolls with a little girl and he swore over 800 years ago he would never do that.

Again. 

“Fine,” said the Doctor with a barely contained sigh. “I’ll tell you a story. A Christmas story.”

So the boys sat on the floor by the Doctor’s feet while Jillian crawled up on the sofa and sat real uncomfortably close to the Doctor.

The Doctor looked down awkwardly at the child. Clara would have much to answer for, he thought.  

As the children looked at him earnestly, the Doctor began to tell his tale.

“It was the night of Christmas Eve,” the Doctor began, his voice surprisingly gentle and warm. “Christmas Eve right here in London but over a hundred years ago….

The year was 1893 along a tree lined street with fine houses all snuggled up close to one another against the December cold. The darkness of night had fallen but the world was still alight with the glow of street lamps and Christmas candles. Snow was falling, a proper Christmas snow, painting the streets and grass with a coat of soft luminescent white. There were people about, last minute shoppers for gifts and tree tinsel and Christmas pudding, hurrying across streets and down sidewalks. 

But this activity is not what concerns us at this time. No, we must turn our attention to what was happening on one of the rooftops. For a strange man was puttering about, a strange man from another world. 

He was a squat little fellow, not much more than 5ft tall. He wore a proper ordinary black Victorian suit but the head that jutted out of the top of that suit was far from ordinary. It was large, wide and thick with an odd brown color. He looked very much like a potato. An alien potato. But this being was no mere potato. He was a Sontaran warrior and his name was Strax. 

Now if you fear that Strax did not belong there, on that rooftop in London in 1893, well I must correct you. Strax did indeed belong there. He shared the home beneath his booted feet with the woman who employed him, the mysterious Madame Vastra, a detective of some considerable skill who hid behind a veil of dark lace. What she hid was a subject of rumor and speculation, a face disfigured by accident or disease or perhaps it was the face of a being from beyond space, beyond time.   

Also residing in this abode was a young woman named Jenny. Jenny was clearly human and served as Madame Vastra’s maid but more importantly she was Vastra’s friend and confidant. 

It was Jenny who came up to the roof in the chill night of Christmas Eve to see Strax puttering about while casting anxious glances at the sky. 

“Oi, Strax!” Jenny called out. “What are you doin’ up here then?”

Strax turned and answered, “Why, I’m preparing our defenses against the coming attack, boy!” 

Jenny folded her arms, the sternness of her expression clear to be seen in the pale starlight. Even Strax had to notice.

“Er, I mean, girl.” 

“Attack? What attack?” 

Strax pointed at the star flecked sky, “Attack from above! He is coming, you know.”

“He is coming?” Jenny asked, not really sure she liked where this was going.

“Yes, boy..er, girl, a being of immense power who can traverse the globe in mere seconds. His warp capabilities must be astounding!”

“Strax, I don’t think…”

But Strax pressed on. “But he uses this power as an unchecked intruder, invading homes with mysterious ‘packages’ which I surmise must be bombs or at least some form of mind control devices!” 

“Strax…”

“He is called….”

Strax furtively looked from side to side then leaned in closer to Jenny and spoke with a conspiratorial whisper, “Father Christmas.”  

“Father Christmas?!” Jenny exclaimed as Strax shushes her.  “Not so loud! My sources tell me this Father Christmas has an incredible spy network that exceeds the known technology of this world and time!” 

“Strax, you really don’t …” Jenny began again but Strax interrupted her again.

“This ‘Father Christmas’ is clearly bent on dominating this world. So I will intercede to stop this being’s reign of terror and secure his incredible power for the glory of the Sontaran Empire!”  

“Oi, Strax! How do you intend to do that?”

Strax began excitedly walking the perimeter of the snow covered roof. “Yes, I have rigged up these catapults to hurl cauldrons of burning acid into the sky and remove the threat of this Father Christmas forever.”

But Jenny had had enough of this nonsense. “No, no, Strax!” she said forcefully, “that’s not how Christmas works!”

So Jenny set out to tell Strax about the true meaning of Christmas and about how it all works. And after 10 minutes of patiently explaining…

“…and so Father Christmas brings toys to all the good boys and girls. 

Strax was still confused so Jenny explained it again. And when she was done…

“…and so Father Christmas brings toys to all the good boys and girls.”

Strax continued to not understand the meaning of Jenny’s words so she went over it one more time. And when the story was done once more…

“…and Father Christmas brings toys to all the good boys and girls.”

And again.

“: …and Father Christmas brings…oh, never mind!” Jenny threw her hands up in the air in frustration. 

“Look, just don’t catapult cauldrons of acid into the sky! And Strax, do NOT kill anyone without express orders from Madame Vastra or myself.” And before Strax could object, Jenny turned on her heel and headed back to the stairwell to the home’s interior. 

But then she stopped.

“Strax,” Jenny said, casting a backward glance at the Sontaran, “Did you prepare any kind of ground defense?”

Strax paused. “Uh. No?” 

Jenny arched an eyebrow in Strax’s direction. “Vastra and I would feel much better if you…checked. Just in case you…forgot something, eh?” 

Jenny proceeded to descend the stairs from the roof to the interior of the home while Strax stood there in the lightly falling Christmas snow trying to make sense of her words. A Sontaran warrior forgets NOTHING! Why would she think he would forget…?

Then the wheels in Strax’s mind turned ever so slowly as he came to what was for him a sudden revelation. Then he sighed heavily as his shoulders slumped. “I best get downstairs then.” 

So Strax took up his Sontaran blaster because…well, a good Sontaran warrior never knows when good fortune will provide an opportune war.

Strax trudged down the stairs until his path deposited him on the snow covered street. It was a beautiful scene of lightly falling snow with the echo of Christmas carols resounding through the chill and the dark. 

It was times like this that Strax really missed his flamethrower.

But then Strax became aware of a disturbance in the soft and gentle quiet of this Christmas Eve. This was caused by an altercation taking place in front of a home across the street. A tall man in a tall hat was harshly addressing a group of people in front of him who were in turn arguing back to him. Thanks to Strax’s reconnaissance of Earth, he recognized the group as a “family”, with a “mother”, a “father” and “children”. This was a concept that Strax had struggled to accept; after all, the clone batches on his home planet of Sontar were far more efficient.   

With this very heated argument going on so close to Madame Vastra’ home, Strax decided to investigate in case these humans posed some kind of a threat.  

Oh, how he hoped they posed some kind of a threat.

Strax approached the gathering and demanded, “What goes on here?” Perhaps it was the dim illumination of the Christmas Eve night or they were still too distracted by their own concerns but there was no sign of alarm from those assembled there on the matter of being addressed by a talking humanoid potato in a suit. 

The man in the tall hat answered, “These people… are past due on the rent and I have been instructed to remove them from this dwelling!”

“But Mr. Dickenson, how can you be so cruel?” the father pleaded. “It’s Christmas Eve, sir!” 

But the man named Dickenson dismissed this appeal. “What? Christmas? Bah! What of it? It’s just another excuse to get something for nothing. Well, you can’t stay here one moment longer without paying the rent!” 

As the children clutched at her skirts, the mother begged, “Oi, but we have nowhere to go!”  

Strax, struggling to follow along with this melodrama, asked of the one in the tall hat, “So these beings are in violation of the established authority of this city?” 

“Yes, they are!” Dickenson answered most emphatically. 

Strax turned towards the family. “And you say you have nowhere to go?” 

The father shook his head sadly and said with an air of utter hopelessness, “Nay, we don’t.” 

Strax allowed a slight smile to cross his potato-like visage as he announced, “Well, the solution is quite simple!” 

Strax raised his alien weapon and aimed it at the hapless family. The Sontaran blaster began to hum and glow. 

Immediately, the family’s panicked screams cut through the chill Christmas Eve air as Mr. Dickenson admonished Strax. 

“Good God, man!” Mr. Dickenson exclaimed. “What is that thing? What are your intentions, sir?”  

Strax was confused. “But they have nowhere to go. And you say they can’t stay here. So a good, quick disintegration will sort everything out quite nicely.” He added a smile at the end of that sentence. Humans liked smiles.  

But these humans were rather unappreciative of the Sontaran’s kindness as the father pleaded, “What? You can’t kill us!”

“Can’t? Bah!” Strax grimaced. “Good sir, I am a Sontaran warrior. I am quite perfectly capable of killing all manner of biological life forms!”

The mother gathered her frightened children about her, the father stood firm with them as they all began to sob. 

Mr. Dickenson stood defiant in front of Strax and protested, “You can’t just murder these people! How can you be so cruel? It’s Christmas Eve, sir!” 

Then Mr. Dickenson stopped with a realization as cold as the night air around him. Those very words had been said to him mere moments ago.  “It’s Christmas Eve,” he said again, this time in a hoarse whisper as a tear began to fall down his face. He began to sob, his crying mingling with the cries of the family behind him. 

And it was at that moment that Strax made a fateful decision.

Perhaps Strax was moved by the poor family’s plight.

Perhaps Strax was moved by Dickenson’s remorse.  

Perhaps Strax was moved by their tears.  

Perhaps Strax finally understood what Jenny was trying to explain to him.

Perhaps Strax understood, at last, the true meaning of Christmas.

Or perhaps…

“Strax,” spoke Jenny from a distant memory that echoed through his domed head. “Do NOT kill anyone without express orders from Madame Vastra or myself.” 

Strax lowered his weapon.  

And in the relief that followed, tears born of terror became tears of joy mingled with laughter. Still quivering from nervous laughter, Dickenson spoke to Strax. “Deuced if that wasn’t a daring strategy,” he said to the Sontaran. “But it made me see how wrong I was. Thank you, sir! Thank you!”

Strax puzzled on that for a moment then replied, “You’re…welcome?” 

Then Dickenson turned towards the family. “Oh, please, please forgive me! I will do whatever I can to make sure you have a home for Christmas, all of you!” 

The family was warmed by laughter and smiles as Dickenson guided them back to the house. One of the children exclaimed, “Merry Christmas!” 

Strax stood in the snow covered street and pondered what had just occurred. 

“Humans,” he muttered to himself. “Hmph!” And Strax returned to his home on the other side of the street. 

And that year, it was a most glorious Christmas and everyone enjoyed themselves quite a lot, especially after Strax remembered to remove the acid moat. 

With that the Doctor brought his hands together and said, “And that is the story of how Strax saved Christmas.” 

The Doctor looked down at his side where little Jillian was snuggled up close, fast asleep. 

Timmy was incredulous. “Wow! A Christmas story with an alien from outer space? Cool!”

Phred scrunched up his face. “I don’t know. 1890's? That was back in, what, the Dark Ages or something? Surely someone would realize that Strax was…”

Phred’s train of thought was interrupted by the front door opening and closing. It was a woman and a young girl. The girl was Courtney Woods, a student from Coal Hill School who had travelled with the Doctor and Clara before. 

“Oh, Doctor! Miss Oswald told my mom she arranged for someone to watch the kids,” Courtney said with a bemused expression, “but I didn’t expect it would be you!” 

“Hello, Courtney,” the Doctor replied. “I was just finishing up telling the children a story.”

“Yeah!” said Timmy excitedly. “A Christmas story with a space alien in it!” 

“And acid!” Phred added. 

Courtney arched an eyebrow at the Doctor who shrugged. “Ah, you know, it was just a story.” 

“I bet,” Courtney answered. 

Mrs. Woods gathered the two boys to her. “OK, boys! Off to bed with you.” Then to the Doctor, she said, “After I get the boys settled in, I’ll take little Jillian off your hands.” 

The Doctor looked at Courtney’s mother for a moment, his face an expression of stone. Then slowly a slight, surprisingly gentle smile drew itself over his lined face.

“I’m fine,” said the Doctor. “Go, take your time.” 

Mrs. Woods nodded her understanding as her daughter joined in to direct the boys from the room.

 “OK then,” said Courtney. “Off we go, boys!” 

“Good night, Timmy,” said the Doctor, “Good night, Phred with a PH.”  

“Thanks, Doctor! Good night,” Phred and Timmy both replied as they were guided upstairs to go to bed. 

“Good night,” said the Doctor softly. Quietly watching the crackling flames dance in the fireplace, the Doctor put his arm around the slumbering Jillian. The little girl snuggled even closer to him in her sleep, dreaming her most fantastic dreams, safely in the company of the Doctor.

_________________


And that is that for today. I hope you have a Merry Christmas and a joyous holiday season.

And remember to be good to one another.  


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