All Of Time And Space

The truth is, I don’t actually watch a lot of TV. I can’t remember a time that I did, at least not after college started. The list of shows that pull my full attention can be counted on one hand with fingers to spare.

But one of those shows is Doctor Who.

How I fell into Doctor Who was predictably random: while reading up on long-running British gameshow Countdown, I noticed a callout back to Doctor Who, read up on it, and jumped over to Amazon to grab “Season 1” – the reboot in 2005 with Christopher Eccleston as The Doctor. It was downhill from there, as Katie and I shotgunned our way through the first two seasons and then promptly fell into step with the third season as it aired in England.

As the gag goes, you never forget your first Doctor. And even without much context from the previous series, I loved Eccleston in the role, so much so that I was a bit crushed when he regenerated at the end of that first series. But I grew to love David Tennant all the same over his tenure, even while slogging through some really awful episodes.

Word that David was leaving the show made the news about a solid year before he left, and a young fellow named Matt Smith was shortly announced as the 11th Doctor. My immediate reaction: mixed. The Doctor would be portrayed by someone younger than I am, someone without a lot of notable acting experience – a little peculiar. On the other hand, former show-runner Russell T. Davies, (who I had grown to dislike a bit) was on the way out and Steven Moffat (who penned most of my favorite episodes) was on the way in. I felt very wibbly-wobbly about the transition plan.

Katie, who was a huge Eccleston fan, and had rallied against Tennant for all of five minutes (“he had me at ‘Barcelona'”), was adamantly opposed. And so we went through the “season of specials” with a heavy heart, because we knew the end was coming soon. (Outside of the brilliant “The Waters Of Mars”, most of the specials were terrible. This didn’t help things.)

While the new season has started on BBC One, BBC America will only begin airing the series in the US this Friday. This is far better than their usual track record, which is typically a year behind. Even more shocking: they’ve been advertising! On the side of MTA buses!

And then it turned out they were doing a press tour, in NYC, and one of the stops was going to be right in my pocket: the Paley Center, home of many past events you may have heard me blather about.

So last night, with a full house, we sat down and watched the premier episode of the new season of Doctor Who. Now, I had already seen it, and I gather that most of the fans in the audience did too. In fact, a woman sitting near me indicated she had already watched it 12 times. But there was something extra special about watching it with that group – during a sequence right near the end (you’ll know which one if you’ve seen it), the cheer from the crowd was tremendous.

Onto the important part, the panel: Steven Moffat (executive producer/writer/showrunner), Matt Smith (The Doctor), and Karen Gillan (new companion Amy Pond) in conversation with Clark Collis from Entertainment Weekly. Just about half an hour long, mostly audience Q&A. And I have some mental notes! (The lightest of spoilers ahead.)

  • Matt referred to the role as “a privilege” and “the greatest part for a man in British television history”; he definitely seems to be humbled to have the role.
  • The large majority of questions from the audience were for Steven, and not for the cast.
  • Steven didn’t have to adapt the scripts he had already written for Matt at all, but did have to adapt them for Karen since she’s Scottish.
  • Matt seems to really love NYC; when asked if they would ever want to come back to NYC to film an episode, Matt gave an emphatic “YES” without missing a beat. Steven noted that even if they set an episode in NYC, they would probably just end up in front of a green screen.
  • Steven made some great points about how he doesn’t believe there’s such a thing as the “nth Doctor”, but instead sees it as “the Doctor, and his 11th face”, and how since putting on new clothes can make you feel like a new person, putting on an entirely new body would likely do the same.
  • One poor woman in the audience apologized for knowing nothing about the show and then proceeded to ask for background about the show. After being admonished for asking the wrong question in this room, Steven gave such a brilliant answer – you don’t need to know the backstory. The new season started the same way the first season did – some nice people find a police box, go inside, and meet The Doctor. It’s a show that can take place at any location, at any point in time, and “every other television show format can go home and hang its head in shame.”
  • Caitlin Blackwood, who played the younger Amy Pond, is actually Karen Gillan’s cousin, but they had never met. (Apparently her family just doesn’t get together a lot.)
  • Steven wouldn’t say a word about the Neil Gaiman episode other than that it’s “very very good”, but added that they were more than willing to American writers.
  • The now infamous “fish custard” scene? Actually fish and custard.
  • “Geronimo!” is not a Coupling reference, and Steven swears it’s not really a catchphrase – he wrote it into one scene, and Matt’s been saying it ever since.
  • Alex Kingston was a joy to work with for the two episodes they shot with her. Steven added that the character of River Song was originally a shortcut to have a character that trusted The Doctor immediately, but the idea ended up taking over the episode.
  • Steven is afraid that whenever the show ends, The Doctor will be responsible for every event in history – so don’t expect too many “historical” episodes out of him. When asked what historical events the cast would like to do, Karen said Woodstock, and Matt offered Atlantis.
  • Matt made a point of acknowledging the wonderful musical score of Murray Gold, who – surprise! – happened to be in the audience in the row behind us.

After the panel ended, a reception was held, and by some miracle the cast stuck around. And after gathering autographs on the cover of the most recent Doctor Who Magazine, we nabbed a picture:

Meeting Matt Smith

So, yeah: met the team who’s carrying the torch of the longest running sci-fi show in history. A pretty decent Monday night.

Doctor Who premieres on BBC America this Saturday (4/17) at 9PM EDT.

(One last thing: a huge heartfelt thanks to everyone – especially Bob Eng – at the Paley Center for putting together such a brilliant event. The Paley Center is a wonderful resource, and I cannot recommend becoming a member enough and helping an institution that’s striving so hard to try and preserve modern media and culture. Museums have been hit extra hard during the economic downturn – philanthropy is way down across the board – so consider backing what I firmly believe is a very necessary cornerstone.)

  • Socratus

    Time, Space and Quantum of Light. / My opinion./

    Can Time Exist Without Matter?
    According to Newton the answer is “ Yes”.
    According to SRT and GRT the answer is “ No”.
    Who is right? Who is wrong?
    What is the resolution of this apparent paradox?
    There are two kinds of time:
    a) the proper (individual) time and
    b) the planetary time.
    They are so familiar that we rarely give them thought.
    Don’t we know, that time for living being is limited
    and the planetary time is absolute for them ? It is.
    Maybe therefore Newton declared that time is absolute.
    It “ flows equably without relation to anything external”
    he wrote in 1687. But Einstein had another opinion.
    He wanted to know: “ Where does the conception of time
    come from?”, “ What is the essence of time?”.
    And to explain these questions he created two theories:
    SRT and GRT and declared that time is relative, changeable.
    SRT explains behavior and the proper time of light
    quanta /electron. Why do I think so?
    One law (postulate) of SRT says that speed of light quanta
    is constant c=1. Second law ( postulate ) says no another particle
    can reach this speed. So there are two incommensurable
    quantities. Is it possible to bind them together? No. I was
    taught at school from the first class that the incommensurable
    quantities cannot be compared. The connection between these
    incommensurable quantities is similar to the decision of a
    problem: “What will be if the whale attacks the elephant?”
    We can see whale in a ocean and elephant in a savanna,
    but they never meet and fight in the same “ frame of reference”.
    And the same is about light quanta and another particles.
    We cannot see them together in SRT. We can meet only the
    light quanta in SRT and no other particles in it.
    SRT was born from Maxwell’s theory and it is a continuation
    of the electrodynamics’ development . The electron is a main
    and single hero in the Maxwell’s theory and SRT. There
    isn’t the Maxwell’s theory / SRT without electron.
    It is not correct to compare electron/ light quanta with another
    particles (protons…etc) and bodies (billiard balls, satellites,
    astronauts, “twins”) because they cannot produce electromagnetic
    fields. The electron and the another particles are also incommensurable
    quantities. They are absolutely different objects.
    Every epoch has its own delusion. Maxwell and Boltzmann
    tried to explain electromagnetic fields using balls, wheels,
    cog-wheels, springs…etc. H. Hertz, who demonstrated the
    existence of the electromagnetic waves, wrote that the
    electromagnetic waves didn’t have practice use. Etc….
    Now we try to compare electron/photon
    ability with astronaut’s and “twins’ ” opportunities.
    It is mistaken, but what to do? We do it because this is
    our way of cognition:
    ” From vague wish to the bright thought”.
    So, how SRT explains time from electron/ light quanta point of view.
    When light quanta is in state of a rest its time is frozen,
    and its own clock shows zero.
    When photon moves with constant speed c=1
    its time is also frozen, and its own clock still shows zero.
    Only when photon moves with speed c>1 its zero time
    changes and limited time appears. In this situation we
    know photon as an electron. Photon works as an electron
    and SRT and Lorentz transformations explain this process.
    And when , for example, electron emits from an atom and
    interacts with Vacuum all its parameters change. Its limited
    time ends and its own clock shows zero again. Now it lives
    in infinite/ eternal Vacuum until new incarnation, until its new
    work, maybe, in an atom (molecule), or in a cell, maybe, in a blade
    of grass or in a tree, maybe, in an animal or in a person.
    In another words:” We are living beings until Light quanta/
    Electron is present and works in our body.”
    Is it true? Yes, it is true. Why?
    Because W. Pauli in 1924 wrote:” Each quantum state in the atom
    is not limited of two electrons, but only one electron”.
    It means in the atom can be only one, single electron.
    The electron manages the atom. If the atom contains more
    than one electron (for example – two), this atom represents
    “ Siamese twins”. Save us God of having such atoms and cells.
    And the living being begins its life from one, singe cell.
    What I am introducing here is what ‘ thinking photon/ electron’ exist .
    I applied the quantum of light/ photon/ electron with a consciousness.
    And His own consciousness is not static but can develop.
    The development of conscious scale goes
    ” from vague wishes up to a clear thought “.
    This evolution proceeds during hundred millions (billion) years.
    Trying to understand “ the electrodynamics of moving bodies”
    Einstein wrote that it is the result of time and space changes.
    It is not exactly correct , because these changes are secondary
    in SRT. And the first point of SRT is that Quantum of light changes
    its spin. The former Planck/ Einstein’s spin (h) changes in Goudsmit /
    Uhlenbeck’s spin (h = h / 2pi), and as a result of this act all its parameters
    change and the time and new space appear.
    GRT explains the conditions of gravitation and the secret of
    planetary time. Why do I think so?
    When Einstein worked on GRT, he asked astronomers:
    “ What is the average mass of matter in the Universe?”
    The result was lamentable. The quantity of mass was
    insignificantly small. It was impossible to keep gravitation
    law with such insignificantly little mass and so, the Universe
    must be “open”, endless. But what to do with the infinite
    space, Einstein didn’t know. Therefore he took (from the
    heaven) “ the cosmological constant” in order to “close”
    the Universe. The taken mass was enough for creating the
    condition of gravitation. Without “ the cosmological constant”
    the Universe is endless.
    In 1922 Friedman wrote, that we could not take “ the
    cosmological constant” in calculation. Instead of it, it is
    enough to take “time” and the Universe will be “closed”.
    Friedman was correct, but why? Because “time”, by its
    nature, is a limited physical quantity and, be taken in
    mathematical calculation, automatically gives “closed” result.
    So, the detected material mass of the
    matter in the Universe is so small (the average density
    of all substance in the Universe is approximately
    p=10^-30 g/sm^3) that the gravitation law doesn’t work.
    Astronomers and astrophysicists know about this fact and
    therefore (to save the gravitation law) invented new matter
    a “dark matter”, a new energy a “dark energy” and another
    abstract objects. This “ invention” is only a result of our
    mentality , which says: ” If in a theory you meet infinity it
    means the theory is nonsense”. It is very hard to take that
    the Universe is infinite. It is no easy matter to give up
    a lifetime of habit .
    On my opinion it is impossible to use GRT to Universe as
    a whole. The Newton/ Einstein’s gravitation laws are correct
    only in the local parts of Vacuum. The Universe / Vacuum
    as a whole is endless.
    So, how does GRT explain time?
    According to GRT the time depends on the mass
    and speed it means, of moving matter.
    It means that different masses and speeds can create
    different time. For example, our planet Earth has its
    own time but for us it is absolute.
    The other planets have another mass and speed and
    therefore they have their own time. This time according
    to GRT is relative. But their habitants will think that their
    time is absolute. But if they know GRT they will
    not make this mistake.
    According to SRT and GRT time is relative.
    SRT says about proper/ individual time of an
    electron/ light quanta.
    GRT says about planetary time of a Planet..
    The time cannot exist without matter and speed,
    in another words, without moving matter. But
    different reasons and different moving of a matter
    create the proper and planetary time.
    Is it possible to see the different manifestation of
    time in a human being?
    Here is an article “ Even the time is pressed from fear”
    by Dr. Vadim Chernobrov (collaborator of MAI –
    – Moscow Aviation Institute).
    He wrote, that we usually think time is a constant quality.
    But Einstein’s relative theory says time is relative.
    Question. Is it possible to check it in our life?
    Answer. Russian and foreign researches say it is
    possible. The documents (secret in the past) testify
    that “cataclysm of time”, “ phenomenon of time’s
    perversion “,” the changes (its deceleration) of time”
    often is observed by people whose profession connected
    with risk: astronauts, pilots, drivers, soldiers.
    The test pilot Mark Gallay wrote in his book
    “The test in the sky” when his airplane was caught
    with fire “ the time began to go in another scale. The time
    almost stopped. Every second took ability of expansion,
    and in this situation it was possible to do many things.”
    He confirms that tested such feeling many times.
    The test pilot Marina L. Popovich said the same,
    in the dangerous, catastrophic situations “ the time
    is stretches”.
    In June 1989 the soviet airplane MIG-29 crashed near
    Paris, in Le Bourget airport , in the time of its air show.
    The notes of “the black box” showed that during the
    four (4)seconds the test pilot Anatoly Kvochur made as
    many operations as in normal situation it would take some
    minutes. The test pilot later said: ” the time was stretched”.
    The captain N.Z.(fought in Afghanistan) remembers:
    “the fly of the bullet was so beautiful that I didn’t guess
    to evade from it, although I have enough time to do it”.
    The sergeant V. Ch (fought in Afghanistan) told:
    “ The black barrel of gun seems very big, even enormous.
    Time is stopped and full silence came. And I moved slowly
    a step a side and the bullet passed close to me.”
    His conclusions.
    The people in a critical situation, on the border of death,
    suddenly for themselves begin to see everything as in the
    slow down film and in this time their speed reaction and
    power increase in tens and hundreds times. And this explains:
    a) why a man who escaped from wolves, can quickly reach
    up the top of the naked tree,
    b) an old woman took out a big trunk from her burned house,
    which later two strong firemen couldn’t rise.
    c) etc…
    My experience.
    The speed on the curve was so fast that to keep the balance of
    the car I went on other road line and flew straight at the
    “forehead’ of a green mercedes. The driver of the mercedes
    was in panic, in horror. He threw the wheel and closed his face
    with his hands. Suddenly the time stopped and the sound disappeared
    for me and I made many actions before my car kicked only the side
    back door of the mercedes. It was long time ago, but writing this article
    I understood better what happened.
    Our computer-brain works on a dualistic basis (on two different neurons
    systems): 1) usually under logic program,
    2) sometimes on intuition (subconscious).
    Brain of a man approximately consists of sixteen milliards neurons.
    All of them form the system that manages human body.
    That is why that with the work of all the sixteen milliards neurons
    of brain, a man cannot catch a single impulse of his Electron, of his
    Quantum of light, of his Soul:
    (mass of electron is equal 10^-31 kg., charge of electron is equal 10^-19 k.)
    But in that time ( critical time ) most neurons of my brain stopped
    their electric pulse (time almost stopped) and my Light Quanta/Electron
    in this new condition (superconductivity) had possibility to increase
    my speed reaction and power on a short period of time . So, as SRT says,
    the Light Quanta in different systems ( even in our brain) can show us
    a different Time. The Light Quanta plays major role in the Nature,
    in the Physics, in our Life.
    Best wishes.
    Israel Sadovnik. Socratus.

  • CoreyTamas

    What he said.