melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
melannen ([personal profile] melannen) wrote2006-05-12 11:41 pm

More stupid language tricks!

I actually got a chance to sit down and watch Dr. Who on SciFiFri for the first time in several weeks.

And you know what I want to see? I want the Doctor and one of his companions to park the Tardis in a major city on the East Coast of the United States sometime in the 20th century. And just as they're about to head out, suddenly the door flies open and a really hot guy runs in, and then takes off all his clothes, and runs right back out. And the Doctor blinks, and says, "I've got to come here more often."

And meanwhile up in the sky, Superman is thinking, "hmm, I don't remember a phone booth being there before."

.... Also, Captain Jack owns my soul, but you probably could have guessed that already.

Time travel confuses me. In particular, the banana factory confuses me. As [livejournal.com profile] stellar_dust said, what does the Doctor mean when he says "Now", in reference to something several light years and thirty centuries away, while talking to another time traveller with an entirely different personal reference?

There was a post on [livejournal.com profile] languagelog today about a language, Pirahã, whose verbs have no temporal markers. Which is to say, assuming I'm understanding it right, there is no equivalent to past, present, future, or for that matter any of the other bits of language that consisently trip up time travellers. Instead, they have two equivalents to tenses which that article calls 'proximate' and 'remote' - 'proximate' referring to things or events in the speaker's direct control or experience, and 'remote' used otherwise. Beyond that there are very few time-descriptive adverbs, most of which refer to cyclic events in the speaker's direct experience - 'at mealtime', 'when the sun is high' - and that's it.

This seems to me a very practical sort of language for a time-traveller. In fact, it must be pretty close to how the Doctor and Captain Jack conceptualize time in general, given their completely matter-of-fact approaches to what I see as impenetrable tangles of paradox. Things on my personal timeline, and things not on my personal timeline. Simple, right? Unfortunately, *I* don't conceptualize time that way, and I'm far too sleepy right now to turn my head inside-out enough to try to understand. But it's still *fascinating*. After finals I'm going to have to read up on what I can about differently temporal languages and see if I can get the Doctor to make sense.

[identity profile] kidzero.livejournal.com 2006-05-13 05:16 am (UTC)(link)
I've read enough (okay, more than enough) weird books - including some honest real-science books - that I don't have much trouble following time travel concepts (provided the writer has some clue what he's doing).

The language idea is a pretty good one. I can also see travellers referring to times and events in a more physical sense... "I was over in 1895 London yesterday..." or "A couple of years ago I went to the first Lollapalooza show," etc.

However, I've never watched Dr. Who, so I have no idea how they deal with it.

I'd like to see that Superman scene too.
ext_193: (ferris wheels)

[identity profile] melannen.livejournal.com 2006-05-13 02:17 pm (UTC)(link)
Dr. Who seems to deal with it by not bothering to try to explain it. Mostly. The Doctor knows what he's doing and the rest of us are just along for the ride.

But if you understand it you can explain it to me! Okay, here's what first tripped us up in last night's episode, which was really just a one-off gag:
Our cast of characters: The Doctor, 900 year old Time Lord, equally at home billions of years ago at the dawn of life and billions of years from now at the supernova of the sun, but inexplicably attached to 20th century Earth. And Captain Jack, Time Agent from Earth's far future, a time-travelling con man who rarely stays in the same time for more than a few weeks at a place. They're both currently slumming it in 1941 in London.

Captain Jack pulls out his sonic blaster. The Doctor says (paraphrased, since I don't feel like searching out a transcript) "Ooh, a sonic blaster! Made at the Foobar Factory in the 51st century!"

Jack replies, "Not any more. *Somebody* blew up the factory."

The Doctor: "Oooh, right. Made a lovely bonfire, that. It's a banana plantation now, much more pleasant."
Question A: What the heck does Jack mean by "any more"?
Question B: What the heck does the Doctor mean by "now"?
Question C: How do either of them ever manage to talk about anything at all without getting utterly confused?

[identity profile] kidzero.livejournal.com 2006-05-13 03:07 pm (UTC)(link)
It could be that they both saw the factory go boom, meaning that they were both witness to it at some point on thier personal timelines (not necessarily the same point... Doc might've seen it last week, relatively - or relativity-ly - speaking, and Jack just went last week, his time). So to them it feels like something that definitively "happened," not some fact in a history book.

Do the characters ever visit a specific point in time more than once? Or do they try not to end up in the same place at the same time if they can avoid it? Say, Jack at 18 walking around while an 30 year old Jack is in the bar down the street?

More likely, though, this falls under that "writer not having a clue" thing I mentioned. Or they just thought it sounded funny. Which it does. :)

How they talk to each other without getting confused, I don't know, since nothing's absolute to them outside their personal experience. I imagine there's a lot of extra references and terminology - even slang - to explain "when" something happened in their viewpoint.
ext_7500: (Doctor Who // TARDIS Adventures)

[identity profile] terredancer.livejournal.com 2006-05-13 08:31 pm (UTC)(link)
Sorry to pop in, but if I remember it correctly, they're not supposed to co-exist in the same timeline. Major BAD tends to happen, especially now that there's just the Doctor to keep things from getting screwed up, and in the past, he's er, contributed to the problem. *coughs*

[identity profile] kidzero.livejournal.com 2006-05-13 08:43 pm (UTC)(link)
The Doc and Jack can't exist together? Too bad for 1941 London... ;)

Again, I've never watched the show, so I don't know. I do recall in all the old comics I read, the same person couldn't materialize in a time in which he already existed. Not that this has anything to do with Doctor Who, I'm sure... :)
ext_7500: (Doctor Who // Jack)

[identity profile] terredancer.livejournal.com 2006-05-14 08:26 pm (UTC)(link)
The Doc and Jack can't exist together? Too bad for 1941 London... ;)

Well, I think the only danger of them existing together in 1941 London is the danger of them blowing it up... without needing the German bomb.

*burns her fingers on the chemistry coming off the screen*
ext_193: (ferris wheels)

[identity profile] melannen.livejournal.com 2006-05-14 06:13 pm (UTC)(link)
They're not *supposed* to coexist with themselves (or as I prefer to say it, loopback their personal timelines), according to the episode with Rose's father, but apparently that's just to reduce the risk of paradoxes, not an automatic temporal problem. There were certainly a couple of old episodes where different Doctors worked together, weren't there? And Jack was talking like he comes to the Blitz and Pompeii over and over again, which is also brain-hurty, but, still.
ext_7500: (Doctor Who // TARDIS Adventures)

[identity profile] terredancer.livejournal.com 2006-05-14 08:24 pm (UTC)(link)
I just keep thinking about "Father's Day" and how when Rose ran across past her just-past self and the Doctor, they evaporated, and how she had to be really careful not to touch or react with herself. Because in the old days, as the Doctor pointed out, there was the Time Lords to put things right, and now, there's just him.

(Sadly, this is bringing to mind a line from a DW fic I read: "...and the first thing Jack's going to want to do is touch himself..." which makes me giggle like I'm 10.)

But back to the point, no, not an automatic temporal problem.

There were certainly a couple of old episodes where different Doctors worked together, weren't there?

Oh yeah, definitely. That's interesting, and I still need to see most of them. I did listen to one of the Audio Adventures where that happened too. The odd bit is that I think there was a time when at least the Doctor could come into physical contact with himself, and there wouldn't be a problem. Maybe it's a Time Lord thing, or the fact that it's different incarnations...

*shakes head* The tricky bit sometimes is trying to reconcile the old-series with the new, and sometimes it makes my head hurt. Then again, sometimes trying to reconcile old-series with old-series does the same thing, so maybe it's a problem with this fandom. *mmphs at her 40+ year fandom*

And Jack was talking like he comes to the Blitz and Pompeii over and over again, which is also brain-hurty, but, still.

Oh, that's true. I wonder how he avoids himself if he's pulling the same cons over and over and over again, then. Maybe some trick he learned at the Time Agency...
ext_193: (ferris wheels)

[identity profile] melannen.livejournal.com 2006-05-16 02:14 am (UTC)(link)
>> how Rose ran across her past self and the Doctor, they evaporated.

See, I was assuming that was because by running forward she had created a paradox and that version of her had never existed. But. You know. That was the *least* sensical episode of Dr. Who I've ever seen, and I've seen the one with the Candy Man.

[identity profile] kidzero.livejournal.com 2006-05-13 08:53 pm (UTC)(link)
After posting this, I picked up a Scientific American special today about time. Should be interesting reading. I believe there's a piece in there by Paul Davies (http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/davies/davies_index.html), who literally wrote the book (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0142001864/104-1674658-2098329?v=glance&n=283155) about time machines.

Some more here (http://fusionanomaly.net/timemachines.html). Watch out for bright flashy colors here and there.
ext_193: (tesseract)

[identity profile] melannen.livejournal.com 2006-05-14 06:43 pm (UTC)(link)
I've done some reading up on space-time principles too (http://www.everything2.com/index.pl?node_id=1249038). Sooner or later, I always seem to end up at Frege's definiton of number. That's my signal to throw my hands in the air, and quit.
ext_7500: (Default)

[identity profile] terredancer.livejournal.com 2006-05-13 08:29 pm (UTC)(link)
And you know what I want to see? I want the Doctor and one of his companions to park the Tardis in a major city on the East Coast of the United States sometime in the 20th century. And just as they're about to head out, suddenly the door flies open and a really hot guy runs in, and then takes off all his clothes, and runs right back out. And the Doctor blinks, and says, "I've got to come here more often."

And meanwhile up in the sky, Superman is thinking, "hmm, I don't remember a phone booth being there before."


...if that happened on DW, I would die laughing. Like seriously.

As for the Doctor, Jack, time issue... sometimes I wonder if the Doctor sees all time as 'now'. Because given all that he sees everything that was, everything that is, everything that ever could be all at the same time... *shrug* (sorry, reference to the last episode of the season, there). Jack has a linear human brain for all that he's a former Time Agent.
ext_193: (ferris wheels)

[identity profile] melannen.livejournal.com 2006-05-14 06:09 pm (UTC)(link)
Huh. I've only seen up to what's on SciFi. I didn't realize the Doctor was God. (Or, well, I did, but I didn't realize it was *canon*. :D) But, yeah, he would have to see time *somewhat* differently from the way we do.) (Although I'm not so sure about the limited, linear Human Brain - studies of languages like the one I linked to frequently try to make a case for human cultures with no TARDIS but still no sense of conventional linear time.)
ext_7500: (Doctor Who // Doctor!)

[identity profile] terredancer.livejournal.com 2006-05-14 08:14 pm (UTC)(link)
I didn't realize the Doctor was God. (Or, well, I did, but I didn't realize it was *canon*. :D)

*laughs*

Well, he's not supposed to be, because he screws up. Boy does he ever. It's just the Time Lord-y thing. But no, I'll try to keep myself from spoiling it even more than I probably already have.

As for the linear, human brain... you do have a good point there. However, just the thought of experiencing all of time as present all the time no matter what changes are going on, as it seems the Doctor seems to, just makes my brain hurt. And the Doctor does seem to make a point about human brains being limited somehow, in comparison to his own, anyway.