Some of you will recognize the blue box in the picture on the left that I took recently while travelling. I have two things to mention in connection with it, but first let me mention that it is indeed what you think it is, but not really. In other words, it is in London (Earl’s Court), and it is a classic Police box (well, a modern relaunch), but it is not (as far as I am aware) also a disguised remarkable time machine owned by a somewhat eccentric renegade Time Lord. Ok?
Ok, thing number one. I don’t get the BBC America channel, but they kindly were dumping on to On Demand the episodes of the new season of Dr. Who, with the new writer and the new actor, so one day I thought I’d have a look. Just to get myself annoyed, because (sorry fans of its recent years) over the years I usually get ridiculously annoyed at how utterly stupid the show is, with lots of pointless running, and overacting, and cheap, crappy, silly plots and sets and so forth, and get even more annoyed when I remember it is mostly deliberate – we are supposed to enjoy the hokeyness in the spirit of nostalgia for the time many decades ago when it was on a super low budget but was ahead of its time. And I get more annoyed when I think that people abroad are watching this and thinking it is a prime example of great British television. Then I turn it off and ignore it for a year or two, and then do it all again. So anyway, I did that this time, back in the Spring. And guess what?
It didn’t completely suck.
It was enjoyable, and the opening episode was rather charming and sensitively written. (Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying it is The Wire, or Treme, or The (original) Office, but…) So I figured it was that thing that sometimes happened to me in the past….. There’d be a good episode sneaked in there to catch you off guard and then a string of utterly silly ones will follow… You know, the ones with lots of Pointless Running Back and Forth…. But I watched the next one. Same thing. Not bad. And the new guy is actually likable. And bow ties are cool. And he does rather well the manner of a sort of type that I know exceedingly well from the theoretical physics world (er, that would be most of us)… And there’s even a joke in there from one of the characters about the Pointless Running… a few more episodes later, I was still watching. There were some weak ones, sure, but the new guy’s charm, the interaction with his excellently cast Companion, and her with her companion, and the overall humour level helps you through. Huh.
I’m still rather shocked by all this. Dr. Who is supposed to be crappy. But this new season is… not so bad… What’s wrong with the world?
Ok, thing number two. I have one. A time machine. You know, like the blue box isn’t. Kind of. Well, not really. But in the TV world I do! You can check for yourself at 9:00pm Thursday night (19th Aug. – today!) on the History channel. It is an episode of the new season of The Universe. The whole episode is about time travel, and several scientists will be on the show talking about the idea, the actual facts about it (well, -Spoiler Alert!- I suspect you know the main fact, really: Nope. Not possible, as far as we know. Not even close to knowing how. But fun to think about!), and so forth. In exploring the idea there are several scenarios that are unpacked, to illustrate the ideas, involving a number of us. In two of them, (if they air at all), I will take a time machine and go traveling. With interesting results. I even show how to make one, so take notes, and head to the hardware store. Hint: No blue boxes needed. (See an earlier post for a sneak preview of one of the scenarios – I reported from the set of one of the shoots.)
I’ve not seen the final form of the show, and I don’t know how much of what we filmed ended up on the cutting room floor, so I’ll try to watch too. I hope it is both fun and informative. Even though you know the punchline, the scientific ideas that get explored in discussing the possibilities are interesting and exciting. I hope the show is put together in a way that gets this across, and maybe gives you some insight into things some of us do actual research on.