Monthly Archives: December 2015

Steampunk and Doctor Who – in particular the Christmas Specials

Doctor_Who_Christmas_Carol

Doctor Who had always had a love affair with the Victorian era, and Science Fiction plus the Victorian Era is pretty much what Steampunk is all about.  I am certain my on interest in all things Steampunk was partially inspired by my love of all things Whovian.

Victoria Waterfield

Victoria Waterfield was the daughter of scientist Edward Waterfield, who in 1866 was experimenting with time travel. She was a companion of the Second Incarnation of the Doctor, and friends with Jamie (my very favourite companion, as I love a man in a kilt). She ended up living in the 20th century.

The majority of the Christmas specials seem to gravitate to the Victorian era as a setting. This is because the British are nostalgic and love the idea of an old-fashioned, traditional Christmas (and there is nothing wrong with that, says the Australian woman who has never seen snow). And – of course – it was in the Victorian era that most of those traditions were started, like the Christmas tree and the exchanging of cards.

Doctor-who-christmas-special-2012

As well, Christmas makes a perfect setting for a scary story. Charles Dickens knew that, with his famous  Christmas ghost story The Christmas Carol. (And let’s not forget that Dickens appeared in the episode The Unquiet Dead, with ghosts and all and it wasn’t even a Christmas special!)

The Christmas specials are also rather famous for their guest stars and cameos as well, and that is one of the genre markers of the Steampunk literary genre.

But it just hasn’t been Christmas specials that have been set in the Victorian era. I’ve already mentioned The Unquiet Dead,  but there was also Tooth and Claw, which actually featured Queen Victoria.

Any episode featuring the Paternoster Gang – Madame Vastra, Jenny Flint, and Strax – is set in the Victorian era except for A Good Man Goes to War;  their episodes have been The Crimson Horror, The Snowmen, The Name of the Doctor, and Deep Breath. I am hoping we will see them again.

 

 

 
doctor with missy

And, last but not least, there is the Doctor’s own preference for wearing outfits based on Victorian gear – a style choice which Missy seems to be emulating. The First Doctor was most certainly dressed as a Victorian gentleman, as was the Eight Doctor. The Fourth Doctor was dressed in a Victorian era walking outfit. And this latest incarnation is most certainly influenced by First’s wardrobe. Even the TARDIS wears a Victorian-inspired paintjob; her disguise might be based on the Mackenzie Trench-style police box (from a 1920s design) but the very first police boxes were invented and used in the 19th century.

The 8th Doctor

As both a fan of Doctor Who and a Steampunk Enthusiast, I can’t escape the aesthetics of the Victorian era.

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Some Thoughts About the Sexuality of Time Lords

Spoilers Sweetie!

“I think I’m going to need a bigger flow chart.”

– the Doctor in The Husbands of River Song.

The reboot of Doctor Who has never been shy about sexuality or gender issues. The Doctor loved Rose. Captain Jack was unashamedly pansexual – he is attracted to everyone, and this makes him very attractive in return. Shakespeare was portrayed as being bisexual. Clara had a romantic relationship with the Late Georgian/Regency author Jane Austen – Jane was a ‘phenomenal kisser’ and they played pranks on one another. The newly married Ponds were happy to don dress-ups as part of their sex play. The Husbands of River Song gave us an insight into the sexuality of both River and the Doctor – far more so than the Master/Missy interactions of the past two seasons.

You can’t tell me that that isn’t a lascivious look.

At one point, River lists Doctor’s other wives (that we know of). River mentions Elizabeth I, Marilyn Monroe, whose marriage proposal he accidentally accepted whilst at a party in A Christmas Carol, another Christmas special, and Cleopatra, who River posed as in The Pandorica Opens. They both have been married to Stephen Fry (lucky Stevie!). And River makes mention of her wives. Time Lords (and River has Time Lord DNA) must have a fluid gender identity and sexuality.

I know a few people who have a problem with this concept. In the old series, the Doctor was asexual, except for the First Doctor who MUST have experienced some form of sexual reproduction to have a granddaughter. But the beauty of a long running series is that you can allow your characters to change and grow. We knew the Doctor was changed when he developed his deep emotional bond with Rose. Surviving  a war and the genocide of your species might have that effect.

Time Lords might resemble human beings, but there is no reason why they have to share the same human obsession with sexuality and genders. To me, what is much more important is that they love each other in the same way as we human beings love each other. Love defies barriers and defines us. River might be looking forward to seeing the Doctor’s new incarnation all over, but it isn’t the sex that defines their relationship. It is the love.

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A Quick and Easy Cosplay Accessory

Fart gun

This is a toy based around the fart gun from Despicable Me.  I repainted this one to make it a Steampunk raygun. However…

Fart Gun with different paint job.

I now want to find another so I can have a go at this paint job I saw on Pinterest.

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The Reformation of – and Opposition to – Education in the Victorian Era: A Steampunk Perspective

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The Opposition to the Free Library in Birmingham was composed of very ill-assorted elements; it consisted of the “economists” who oppose any increase of rates for any object; of the publicans,who foresaw they were not likely to gain by the opening of free libraries; of the extreme Nonconformists, who objected to all rates for such purposes; and of the Clergy, who raised the “religious difficulty” as to books for the people.  –  Sir Richard Tangye

Portrait of a Victorian gentlemanThe supporters of the Enlightenment believed that education was the cure to all of mankind’s ills. However, there were some strong opposition to educating women and poor people … in case they got ideas above their stations or their brains melted. This is no joke. In England, just as there was a strong move by Education Reformers towards having a basic education made available to all children, other people were lobbying to leave things as…

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The Husbands of River Song: an episode review

Spoilers Sweetie!

True Love

The Christmas episodes for Doctor Who tend to be ‘fluffier’ – I think it is because of all that snow. This year’s episode was both humorous and touching, and was a contrast to the rather serious nature of the rest of the season. I would like to see more of this humour popping up in the future.

Now, let’s get one thing straight from the start, I am a huge fan of River Song and her ambiguous nature. So much of a fan, I own her sonic screwdriver and was thrilled to get a River Song figurine for Christmas.

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So, I found the Christmas episode a true delight. Snappy dialogue. Witty repartee. Gorgeous guest stars. Fabulous outfits for River. And the chemistry between the Doctor and River … swoon!

Best bits:

River: If either of you use my name again, I will remove your organs in alphabetical order. Any Questions?

The Doctor: Which alphabet?

And…

River: When you love the Doctor, it’s like loving the stars themselves. You don’t expect a sunset to admire you back. And if I happen to find myself in danger, let me tell you, the Doctor is not stupid enough or sentimental enough and he is certainly not in love enough to find himself standing in it with me.

The Doctor: Hello, Sweetie.

And the penny finally drops for River.

And…

River: I’m an archaeologist from from the future. I dug you up!

And…

 

And… then there was the Doctor’s excited dialogue at pretending to find the TARDIS was bigger on the inside. I could watch that over and over again.

And… finding out that River’s last night with the Doctor was going to be 24 years long (talk about sexual chemistry).

This was the penultimate resolution of the lesson the Doctor learnt from losing Clara; to cherish your loved ones while you can, because you may never know when you will lose them. He knows that River’s adventures are coming to an end (her diary was given to her by someone who KNOWS how long a diary should be.) I had a little weep when I saw River’s realization that the Doctor really did love her.

River: I hate you.

The Doctor: No. You don’t.

Remember my blog about the coded messages between friends and family? I’ll let you work out this code for yourselves.

Overall, a very satisfactory episode. It became one of my favourites straight off.

River and the Thirteenth Doctor

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Merry Christmas

I will be offline for a couple of days. Stay safe, but you don’t have to be good.

 

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The Birmingham Piddler

Steven’s Model Dockyard  – The Birmingham Dribbler/Piddler.

Stevens’s Model Dockyard built toy trains that moved using actual steam power. From the 1840s, they were a popular toy. I’m wrapping presents today, and I was thinking about Victorian toys. The majority of the toy trains were built in Birmingham,and they left a trail of water behind them (hence the nickname). Some of the early models were prone to explode. This was an era when kids toys had no safety features.

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International Steampunk

As we move back into the sultry heat of the Australian Summer…

Cogpunk Steamscribe

adding-multicultural-touch-steampunkGauchopunk by Phineas Squidd; images from the Steampunk Chronicle websiteAlisa from backMulticultural Steampunk

The Victorian era was the time when the sun never set on the British Empire, and for a time a quarter of the world’s population were British subjects, under British law. As well, Britain had a controlling economic interest in countries like China, and spent a lot of its time interfering with the government of these ‘allied’ states. Britain almost smothered the world with its culture and values, it fashions and traditions. Britannia rules the waves, and the land, the fashions, the customs and all.

Even in the most tropical climates, it was considered ‘letting the side down’ to dress in the cooler native fashions, and so the only ‘proper’ clothing was appropriate to the environs of chilly England. Imagine wearing five or six layers of clothing in the sweltering summer of Australia, Hong Kong, or India. Nor would the British adapt their lifestyle to a different culture or climate. Noel Coward parodied the…

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The Impact of Science on the Victorian Vocabulary

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File:William Whewell.jpg William Whewell in the 1860s

In 1834, the words ‘scientist’ and ‘physicist’ were coined by Reverend William Whewell. Previously, the practitioners of science had been known as ‘natural philosophers’ or ‘men of science’; I prefer ‘scientist’ as it is a gender neutral term as well as more accurate than ‘natural philosopher’. Whewell was a polymath, neologist, scientist, science historian, philosopher, poet and Anglican priest, as well as a Master of Trinity College in Cambridge. His breadth and depth of knowledge was astounding. He coined many words that would come to dominate the vocabulary of the 19th and 20th centuries; his didn’t just coin the terms ‘scientist’, ‘physicist’, he suggested the terms ‘ion’, ‘dielectric’, ‘anode’, and ‘cathode’ to Michael Faraday. This is what happens when you have a brilliant rational mind who is also a poet … magic happens. He used the word ‘artist’ to inspire ‘Scientist’ and physicist’…

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The Cryptozoology of the Victorian Era

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The Feejee Mermaid on display in the Victorian era.

The Australian platypus probably contributed to the proliferation of rogue taxidermy and out-in-out hoaxes that occurred during the Victorian era. When skins and specimens were sent back to Europe, scientists thought the animals were constructed from parts cut from ducks and beavers and who knew what else. The platypus, a real animal, was discounted as a fake.

A Victorian-era illustration of the Platypus – body too fat, tail too small, and with frilly feet and a square bill. Still cute.

That the example of the Feejee Mermaids (there were more than one) was obviously following. The original was construction from the taxidermy remains of an infant monkey sewn to a fish. It looked nothing like the lovely mermaidens used on the advertising. In fact, it was a grotesquerie of the highest order, displayed under glass for the edification of the masses.The original mermaid was exhibited by P.T Barnum in Barnum’s American Museum in New York in 1842.

Feejee Mermaid

The Original Feejee Mermaid

Feejee mermaid of monkey plus fish tail

Modern example of a feejee mermaid.

The infamous Hydrarchos – the alleged skeleton of a sea serpent – was brought to New York City in 1845 by the amateur German-American fossil hunter Albert Koch. It had previously been on exhibit in Europe. The Hydrarchos skeleton  was constructed mainly from the remains of several specimens of the prehistoric whale Basilosaurus with the exception of its paddles, which were made from collections of invertebrate shells. During the early 19th century, Basilosaurus cetoides fossils were so common they were regularly used as furniture in the American south, and so were easily to obtain for his Hydrarchos.

Hydrarchos exhibited in the Hall of the Royal Iron Foundry in Berlin, 1842.

Hydrachos exhibited in Berlin in 1842.

This wasn’t the first time Koch had tried to hoax the public; he had previously used wooden blocks and extra vertebrae to construct a mastodon. He managed to sell the grotesquery to the British Museum in 1842. They took out the extra bits, put the tusks back properly, and recovered the original mastodon for their collection.

The Missourium or Koch’s Mastodon.  Note the tusks have been twisted around to make for a bizarre skull.

At least Koch had used actual bones to create his masterpieces. New Yorker George Hull hired men to carve out a 3.2 metre block of gypsum in Iowa, telling them it was intended for a monument to Abraham Lincoln in New York. He shipped the block to Chicago, where he hired a German stonecutter, Edward Burghardt, to carve it into the likeness of a naked giant. Various stains and acids were used to make the giant appear to be old and weathered, and the giant’s surface was poked with steel knitting needles to mimic pores. In November 1868, Hull transported the giant by rail to the farm of William Newell, his cousin. Nearly a year later, Newell hired Gideon Emmons and Henry Nichols, ostensibly to dig a well, and in October 1869 they found the giant sculpture.

the Cardiff Giant.jpg

The excavation of the Cardiff Giant

People flocked to see the giant, happy to pay the admission to see the ‘petrified’ man. (I can’t find any reference to the exhibitors hiding his rather prominent man bits from the ladies.) Palaeontologists declared it a fraud, but that didn’t stop the crowds. Hull sold it to a syndicate. P T Barnum went as far as creating a copy, when the syndicate wouldn’t sell him the original. This all came out  on December 10, 1870, Hull confessed to the press that the giant was a hoax. He claimed he did it to prove a point about the gullibility of people who believed in giants.

I am finding this topic fascinating. But I will get back to the X club members.

 

 

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