Professor River Song is among the best characters ever to grace Doctor Who.
My brother complains she is essentially a renamed Bernice Summerfield from the spin off books from the 1990s . But the on screen coup of getting Alex Kingston to play a recurring character in the series cannot be underplayed.
From her first appearence in the Library she was a force to be reckoned with. The constant use of wibbly wobbly timely wimey to show what would really happen to time travellers who cannot possibly meet in the right order.  River’s last chronological lines before she dies are that through everything they have been through he has always known how she is going to die. At that point she is basically a stranger to the 10th Doctor.
The 11th Doctor then slowly gets to learn more about her as they meet again and again all the while more mystery being revealed as we discover who River is and how she fits in to the lives of the 11th Doctor’s other friends.
The way she gets to know more than the Doctor is a refreshing change for a show which has run, with a break, since 1963. Previously the only characters who have got anywhere near him have been other timelords.
Her entrance into the 11th Doctor’s life involves some pretty awesome shoes followed by psychic lipstick and a cameo from Mike Skinner of The Streets fame.
The Weeping Angels, one of the best baddies of modern Who play second fiddle to her.
The juxtaposition of transformation is one of the funniest elements of the show in recent years. The Doctor doesn’t recognise himself when Prisoner Zero takes on his form, but the first thing River does is find a mirror.
Rule number one is the Doctor lies, which River oft repeats. But she is a liar too and this is clear when she sees Amy just after she has defeated the Weeping Angels, but much later on in Amy’s timeline.
The definitive moment of River Song is when facing a dalek in the pandorica story, where the dalek predicts she will let it live and she says: “I’m professor River Song, look me up.” It’s response after looking her up sums up why River is so unique in Doctor Who.

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An earth sized planet, within a habitable zone is soon to be announced according to sources.

That is fantastic news – I have been following the Kelper project for some years and this is the breakthrough that I – and many others – have been waiting for.

Kelper has found tons and tons of planets, of varying distances from stars and differing sizes, so why does this one matter?

For life as we know it to exist, there is a distance from a star (based on how much warmth it pushes out into its solar system) where it can happen. Within this habitable range around a star there needs to be a rocky planet for an atmosphere to grow up around. My understanding of this project is that  the scientific opinion is planets much larger than ours are likely to be gaseous in composition rather than rocky. So the closer to earth size the higher the probability of a rocky planet with the potential for an atmosphere, liquid water and life.

Humans have been pointing radio telescopes at different star systems for decades in the hope of hearing radio waves and therefore signs of intelligent life. Kelper will tell us if we have been pointing at the right ones so far – and certainly ensure we point our expensive radio telescopes at the star systems with the potential for life from now on.

Kelper has told us stars with planets are common in our galaxy, including near earth size in habitable zones  – and it is reasonably safe to extrapolate this across other galaxies across the universe. With so many planets, it is not hard to jump to the conclusion that somewhere life similar to us exists.

And that is what makes this announcement really exciting news.

If this earth size planet, around a dwarf star, is in our galactic neighbourhood. What does that mean for our space programmes? There is currently talk various national space programmes are looking back at the moon (where mankind haven’t been for almost half a century) as well as our near neighbour, (intelligent) lifeless Mars.

Would a nearby earth-like planet in a habitable zone spark a new interstellar space race?

What do you think?

Today the BBC is celebrating 50 years of Dr Who (no one is dwelling on the decade and half (ish) when they did not make the show for TV (aside from the under rated US pilot).

Why has the show endured for so long, especially during that TV show blank period (altho I understand the continuation books flew of the shelves during this era). There are countless audio books available and fan sites, blogs and the British tabloids go properly nuts for any snippet of Dr Who news.

But why is this the case?

Well, certainly domestically, the Doctor is very British. An eccentric, intelligent gentleman (so far – am personally very pro a female Doctor as that would be within the (modern) show’s ethos of refreshing itself). There is a bit of Sherlock Holmes in there and as quoted in the BBC dramatisation of the genesis of the Doctor a bit of HG Wells, CS Lewis and father Christmas. British quirkie-ness, British geekie-ness (before the term geek probably existed).

Outside of the UK, why has the Doctor endured? Well in the US he is so that lone hero character so popular in Westerns and beyond: think Clint Eastwood in the Dollars trilogy, Batman or Superman or the Lone Ranger. Even Buffy – which I remember reading somewhere the 2005 return was particularly influenced by, in terms of the companion element of the narrative. Buffy was that lone hero who had friends, but walked a path they could not ever fully understand. The Doctor walks a path like that too.

And what has contributed most to the longevity of the Doctor on TV? The genius idea of regeneration – or what to do with your TV show when the star wants out. This sci fi way of dealing with the problem is completely genius and works so well within the narrative universe of the Timelords. This also gives the producers a way of refreshing the show every so often and, in theory at least*, allowing it to go on and on. What is not to like: a little blue phone box; new Doctors every now and then; endless new companions; adventures across all of time and space.

 

* There is that lingering plot device about the Master being on his last regeneration (13th, if memory serves) but I am sure some genius already has that covered (spoilers alert) – I expect River Song gave him all of hers when she saved his life that time, or maybe he has all of the Timelords regenerations ever, assuming it was he who wiped them out during the Time War.

 

Still extremely excited about the project to find earth-like planets and the latest news is as usual very interesting.

Though, these new finds appear not to be in the “habitable zone” it is still pretty cool we can find planets smaller than Mercury in star systems 200 light years away.

The real talking point about this project is that it means we can figure out in the near term where to point radio telescopes to “listen” for signs of extraterrestrial life.

And in the longer term , when we start to explore the Galaxy, we’ll know which stars to head towards in the hope of finding life of one sort or another.

Great post here about NASA robots and Mars – there are, I guess two general schools of thought – send humans into space or send robots.

Robots are hardier and dont need as much oxygen / heat / organic fuel (food) / water as humans, so cheaper to achieve and health and safety aspects lower too.

 

 

Did you ever watch Blake’s Seven – either when it was first broadcast or on video / DVD / download/ whatever.

I  was quite young when it was broadcast in the late 70s / early 80s, but one of my earliest memories is of my older sister loving / talking about / drawing images from the show Blake’s Seven.

I remember watching parts of the last series in the 80s and especially the shock ending of the show.

During the late 90s I watched most of the show on video (my sister owned them) and it was then I really GOT it.

Terry Nation (inventor of the Daleks) created the show and one of the key ideas what that these people were more real than anyone else in TV sci fi ever had been before. These characters had faults, were sometimes morally ambiguous and would not always make the right decision based on doing something which was right, but didn’t benefit them. They were pragmatic.

TV sci fi before then had been very black and white in terms of you were either completely good or completely bad. Star Trek so far was all about that – as was Dr Who (altho interestingly, Dr Who has had a slight edge at certain periods since then – Sylvester McCoy‘s Doctor always had a very dark side).

If you look at TV sci fi since then – Farscape, re-imagined Battlestar Galactica, Firefly – or many others, they have that edge. And in my opinion this is down to Blake’s Seven.

If you haven’t seen it before take a look (but please forgive the 1970s BBC special effects).

Robotic actress causes a sensation in Japan.

The robot is named Geminoid F and is extremely lifelike.

I seem to remember one of the really early Asimov robot stories being about how human looking robots freaked people out so they were always built in a human shape but with an appearance that made it very clear they were not humans (I always imagined the Asimov robots looked like the IL series Cylon in the original battle Star Galactica.)

This is of course a really serious issue for our collective futures. Should we make robots look like us (for some reason a bible quote comes to mind about “man being made in god’s image”) or not?

In Alien Resurrection the character Call (Winona Ryder) turns out to be an human-looking android who like many others of her kind burnt their interfaces and hid among humans.

This is a moral dilemma which we should consider. What do you think?

 

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