31 December 2013

Are The Holidays Over Yet?

No, I'm not dead. But this has been one of the most hectic holiday seasons ever. Haven't been home like I wanted to be and that meant not being able to work on projects I needed to.

But one thing that did happen is I seemed to have crested over the ridge and am finally getting a hold of programming d3. The coding is beginning to make sense and with that knowledge, the charts are coming a little easier. There are still some kerfuffles in the coding but at least something is appearing on the screen. The last piece I did is non-Doctor Who related so I won't be posting it here but I'm looking at doing more Doctor stuff now that the mapping piece is finished.

I finished collecting references for the network analysis paper Jürgen and I are writing. It's a little slow as Jürgen took off on vacation to Europe and we won't be getting back together wil after the 17th. But that gives me time to verify the final dataset of all the important connections in the first 50 years of Doctor Who. The dataset needs to be Set in stone so if any further analysis needs to be done it will be run on the exact same dataset as the original. Those data scientists are just so damn picky...

I'm also finishing up the sonic screwdriver dataset but the d3 fixes will be a little more difficult. Mainly there's the inclusion of the War Doctor and the fact that there were three sonic wielding Doctors in one episode. That's going to make the chart fixes a joy.

Then to top it off, three books I had ordered on Inter-Library-Loan come in within a week of each other. And since I have two weeks for each on that means I've had my nose stuck in a book a good bit of the time.

But charts are on the horizon and some additional analysis will be forthcoming in 2014...

09 December 2013

Sonic Device Usage Chart

Sonic Screwdriver Usage Chart

Well, the first round of the Sonic Device chart is done. The code still needs a little tweaking but all the data is there. This chart includes all the sonic devices, not just the screwdriver, used in the 50 years of the show. I've also included everyone who has used a sonic device from all three shows, Doctor Who, Torchwood, and The Sarah Jane Adventures.

The chord chart on this page, as well as the interactive bar chart I did previously, are the types of charts I've always thought ever since I began this project and am glad that I found d3.js. I'm hoping to be able to put more of the data into charts such as this.

Hovering over one of the outer bars will make all other chords translucent and reveals only the active chords. Updates to the chart will be in the form of hover-over tooltip with more detailed information about the person or function.

I little more detail on how this particular chart came about
Some time ago I ran across some lists saying they listed all the the sonic screwdriver uses in the show. Problem was, not one of the lists matched. Not good. But it did give me the idea that it would be great to have a comprehensive list of every use. But I wondered how I might achieve that. I knew it wouldn't be easy so... I decided to scrub through every episode after Fury From The Deep to find firsthand where every sonic use was.

I didn't realize just how difficult the task was going to be.

In The Beginning
My first run through was for a video I did and it had a total of a little under 400 and went up to A Christmas Carol. But I soon ran into a problem when on a re-watching of some classic stories, I saw a few uses I had missed. Obviously scrubbing through the episodes caused me to miss some of the more hidden uses. One in particular I missed was in, I think, Parting of the Ways when Nine was examining an exploded Dalek and I caught the telltale glow near his hand. Upon stepping through one frame at a time, I realized there was a use I missed. That meant I was going to have to go back and do the entire series slower. This resulted in many hundreds of new uses. I hadn't realized there were so many.

Later on, near the end of the search, I was watching Inferno. The Doctor had taken the TARDIS console to a geothermal drilling site to use the nuclear reactor to power the console for his experiments. The console was kept in a garage and the only way in was with the sonic screwdriver or doorhandle. There was no other way in or out. Upon his return, he was in bad shape but told Liz to go to the control room to try and stop the drilling. There was a quick cut and Liz is in the control room. Another quick cut showed her back in the garage. Now, she wasn't shown to have opened or closed the garage door but the story was adamant that you needed the screwdriver to get in and out. That meant I had to include having Liz open and close the garage door twice.

It was little bits and pieces like this that helped accumulate the uses to nearly 900.

Subjective vs. Objective
Some of the controversial uses are the ones where the Doctor pulls out the screwdriver and threatens someone with it. In this list, I count that as a use same as I do if the Doctor pulls it out for absolutely no reason whatsoever.

A list such as this is purely subjective and no two people would construct the same list of uses. But this project is purely for the fun of it. Have fun with it...

07 December 2013

Networking Final

This week was the final week of the Social Networking class I'm taking. That means I haven't had much time for anything else. As with taking any final, I needed to go back and review everything from the class. Although much of the information was a rehash of what I learned while working at the university, there were concepts which were explained in different, and better terms.

Much of the information from this class will be used for the Doctor Who analysis. The descriptions of these concepts were done in a simplistic manner and these are the ones I will be using in my descriptions. That means, no math...

So after Sunday, I will not have a load of studying to do and can devote more time to the project.

I definitely need to get Jürgen the citation list so we can carry on. And that means we can actually get back into the writing portion of the project. There's also work on the interactive d3 portion of the project and that's making progress also. I'm considering rearranging my website to give it a section of its own. After all, that's the main thrust of the work I'm doing now.

04 December 2013

State of the Blog Address

With the 50th anniversary special done it is time to start work both the Doctor Who 50 year network paper and the 50 year sonic screwdriver use infographic.

The Paper
For the start of the paper, Jürgen had me find as many scholarly references to Doctor Who as I could. He says before we start, we need to know what is out there to cite. Makes the job easier later on when you need a good citation. He introduced me to a citation program, Zotero, which creates libraries of citations from web pages you find. And if there is book metadata if pulls that into the bookmark. Makes it quite simple to create a citation library. Also it can be shared between multiple people.

The next step is to write a one sentence description of each reference I found.

When that's over, we can finally start with the writing portion of the program.

Jürgen said that after two pop culture articles for Whotopia he'd like to concentrate on a more scholarly paper. One with proper citations and conclusions. Not that we didn't have conclusions in the tow Whotopia articles. And he's looking into journals which he will be able to submit it. So I'm really not sure on the time table for that project.

The Chord Chart
I've decided that a good interactive visual for the sonic uses would be the Chord Chart. I've been waffling about the style of chart that might work best and settled on the chord as I can place all the people and uses around the outer edge and as you hover over any of the exterior bars it will reveal all of the connections. Below is an example of a chord chart.

I've got the basic chart done and am in the process of getting the labels placed around the edge properly. It should take anywhere from a day to a decade. Never know when you're dealing with a programming language.

Future Essays

Articles on tap are a look at how Whether the setup of An Unearthly Child still holds true for 21st centrury Who and one I've been thinking about, Doctor Who's most Experimental Episodes. And surprise! Neither of them contains harping on how I feel about the direction of the show. Who would have guessed...

01 December 2013

Mystical Rationalizations

One thing I've discovered about Doctor Who fans is their ability to rationalize the most insane set of circumstances (probably no different than other fandoms though). This is mostly about one particular article but it's a general truth as stated by the Eight Doctor in the TV Movie. "I love humans. Always seeing patterns in things that aren't there.". It's also the reason that Moffat can get away with as much unfathomable loose plot threads as he understands that no one will really call him on it. The fans will create a set of circumstances to explain away the problems.

I will be taking things out of context as the article I'm taking them from is long. If you're interested, you can read the article in its entirety at The Day of the Doctor: Sorting Out The Time Differentials. Remember, this is from one article but it's a pandemic through most of Who fandom.

Complainers, You're All Complainers
As often with Moffat storylines, people tend to become fixated on “plot holes” and “gaps” in the storytelling. For some, it’s just a case of not being able to fully comprehend the use of time travel. For others… well they just want something to complain about.

That's what is said when some problem is pointed out in the narrative. Plot holes and gaps in storytelling are a problem and all stories should be written well even if it is science fiction/fantasy. Science fiction shouldn't give writers a reason to be sloppy. The nature of Doctor Who is entertainment but that's no excuse for bad storytelling. And on the subject of understanding time travel, how many people on this planet truly understand time travel. It's not like you can take a course on it at your local community college. Some of us do not complain just to complain. But if there are plot holes constantly popping up then people have a right to complain.

Who Cares! It's a fez
The reason why entropy doesn’t kick in is unclear, but who cares right? It’s a fez!

Who cares? is not an answer, it's a blind rationalization at its worse. It doesn't even bother to try to make something up, it just points to some iconic item and makes believe it's alright.

Of all the explanations for anything that's every happened, this is the one I have the most trouble with. Take a reasonable question and then inquire how anyone could have a problem with it cause it deals with a fez. I have nothing to say here as anything else would just be a waste of my breath.

As for why the Moment behaves like the TARDIS… well it is a Time Lord creation with consciousness. It’s not that far fetched that they’d both behave in the same omni-scientific relationship to time.

The show has a reputation for some insane technobabble and for Doctor Who, that's normal. Unfortunately, this has rubbed off on the fans who don't necessarily understand the term. Ah, let me try. A is equal to the Rain in Spain cause ice cream don't have bones. That about covers it...

Show Some Imagination
This one takes some imagination, but it isn’t that hard to imagine the TARDIS has a copy of the “current” calculations. After all, software is useless without hardware and it’s already been confirmed that the Doctor gets his screwdrivers from the TARDIS (at least from his later lives on), so presumably the TARDIS installs the necessary “One Size Fits All Usage” software, along with the calculations when the Doctors upgrade.

James Burke he is not and the connection is unclear. This one takes some imagination is on par with the Who Cares? reason. Although the screwdriver is not a deus ex machina, that whole idea of having the War Doctor tell them he's started the calculations and make things automagically appear in a later incarnation. And it's not the first time Moffat pulled this out [i.e., getting the screwdriver back after being locked in the Pandorica]. Sounds a lot like of Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure... AGAIN!

They Forgot. Yea, Selective Memory
The most logical explanation would be that the Doctor will only forget about the lion’s share of this adventure – specifically his interactions with his other selves and what they did together.

To explain away why the Doctors won't remember this is, is... wait a minute, something logical will come to me. Oh yea, the logical reason is it's a big gaping plot hole that is completely out of place that only by having the Doctors conveniently not remember the adventure is the only way to maintain the slightest shred of sanity. This is a fan's standard way to erase a plot hole. Give a character something they need at the present time but just wave your hand and they forget when they return to their own time. I'm smelling a deus ex machina here.

What? Were You Asleep Or Something?
It was a stealth explanation, but it was the Moment who let the Doctors back in if you missed it. If you’re wondering how it was able to do it…who cares?

And here's that Who Cares? explanation again. If you can't explain it, don't worry about it. Guess nobody can be bothered to read Jason Mittell's work on narratives.

Timey-Whimy. I Don't Know Where They Get This Stuff
The First Doctor must’ve been told of the Time War by his far future self at some point in his life and started the calculations in his TARDIS. After which, he forgot about the foreknowledge. But these calculations continued to run up until they reached the Eleventh Doctor’s TARDIS. All the Doctors presumably learned of the Time War just long enough to play their part in saving it before the knowledge was deleted from their memories and history was set back on track.

So all of the Doctors had been given future information so they could participate in the future time war and then all traces of these memories would be lost once the situation was concluded. The past Doctor's got their information to save the day and then it automagically disappeared from their brains and they went along on their merry ways. Hey Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat. This is not a good narrative, this is plain and simple sloppy writing. Better yet, every Doctor has met every other Doctor. Really, that's your answer?

Moffat Created This Solution Before He Ever Became Showrunner
The Doctors didn’t change history. It may be hard to wrap your head around it, but this ontological paradox has always been present, ever since Rose back in 2005 – unbeknownst to the Doctor – until now.

Ontological, I do not think it means what you think it means. And unbeknownst to the audience and unbeknownst to Russell T. Davies but most of all unbeknownst to Steven Moffat when be began writing for the new series. It's so paradoxical that it was unbeknownst to everyone until it happened. 8P
They didn't change history cause it was always like that. So what we viewed, what we were told, what the entire new series centered around was the lone survivor of a great war suffering from PTSD was all a myth. Well there go all my fondest memories of classic Who.

Time. Don't Talk To Me About Time
If you want a timeline, then: The War Doctor messages the Time Lords before joining his future selves on Earth. Rassilon, fearing the worst, escapes to Earth on Christmas 2009. Tenth Doctor sends them right back into the war. Doctors Assemble saves Gallifrey. This is the order in which the events take place.

I can't recall any part of the entire 50 years that could explain this one. ALl that explanation just to get out of one gaping plot hole.

After Ten and Eleven helped the War Doctor fix the whole Time War that instead of destroying Gallifrey and the Daleks, they just tucked the planet away... somewhere. Then Ten continues with his life becoming fully unaware of what transpired only to face this Rassilon character who claims to be ruling Gallifrey and wants to destroy the universe. One of two points needs clarification. Either the Gallifreyians are the good guys, not led by Rassilon, and the Doctors saved Gallifrey in order to find it later on OR the Gallifreyains, led by Rassilon, were the most evil, vile creatures in the universe which needed removed from the universe for everyone's well-being.

Pick one cause you can't have both.

This is just the tip of the iceberg on how fans rationalize the plot problems. When people ask me what I have against Moffat, it isn't that he's a bad writer. He has created some of the best ideas the show has ever seen. Moffat's problem is his inability to resolve those brilliant plots he starts. And he gets away with it because the majority of the fans allow it. In fact they encourage it but turning a blind eye to the problems.

Doctor Who will never be classed as high literature but surely the fans should be a little less tolerant toward some of his shenanigans.