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Ask A Geek Anything, Issue Eight

Good morning, and Welcome to Ask A Geek Anything Issue Eight, This one’s sure to get us Axed in Anaheim, and probably gutted in Gallifrey.  Our super special guest from last week, Declan Finn is such a glutton for punishment that he’s decided to sign on as a regular contributor, so with no further adieu ado, on to the questions!

Tabitha Jones asks- Which Doctor Who companion was the most interesting? 

Well that’s enough of a controversial question, that we had three pollsters weigh in on it, and the ring master of this circus (Me) Yawn and say “Who cares, but no one else”  (sorry folks, just not a fan)

The delightful Jesse Robertson answers – I come late to the Doctor Who fandom, and I am personally a huge fan of Martha Jones as one of the best most interesting companions. She’s her own person, and takes no guff from the Doctor. These characteristics are not uncommon amongst companions, but I would have to agree with so many when I say that Sarah Jane Smith offers one of the most interesting and eclectic journeys of all the companions. There were many other adventures and events, both alongside and without the Doctor, throughout the life of Sarah Jane Smith. She witnessed the creation of the Daleks, who would eventually engage in the “last time war” and see the Doctor as the last Timelord. She was also present for the death of the creator of the Daleks. She was the first to encounter Sontarans, and fought them on numerous occasions with and without the Doctor. She has acted as companion alongside Doctors One, Two, Three, Four, Five, and finally Ten(nant…see what I did there?). She was present for his death (he got better), his not-death (told you he got better), and was a successful reporter and person of mean intelligence. All told she encompassed a great many attributes which she shared with one or another of her preceding and descendant companions, but were all present within her. I still root for Martha Jones as the best, but clearly there is one who set the stage for Martha, and many who followed as well as combining the great aspects of her predecessors.
The darling Katina Mazur weighs in with- To be honest, I’ve only seen the new Doctor Who. The most interesting companion, in my opinion, is Donna Noble. I really enjoyed her sassy, sarcastic humor. The best part was that from the beginning, the writers made her a companion that wasn’t lovesick with the Doctor. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good TV romance, but it was refreshing having a companion just be the Doctor’s friend.
Another thing I like about her was that I felt like she was less of a damsel in distress than the others. I was kind of annoyed when they brought back Rose and Martha for brief stints, they were all of suddenly these badass ladies. I felt like Donna was a badass from the beginning.

And the irrepressible Declan Finn comments- The answer to this question will have to come from the new series, as my knowledge of the initial Who run is weak.

The answer would have to be Rose Tyler. Probably not for the reasons you think, however.

While I am very, very partial to redheads, and I did like how Amy managed to solve so many episodes’ problems that you wondered why Matt Smith was on screen, she had some odd character inconsistencies that were offputting – not the least of which being her relationships with the Doctor and Rory. And, Amy never evolved much beyond “Angry Scottish Redhead who looks great in a skirt.”

Rory is also quite an interesting character with a great arc, from jealous and pouty, to fearless and badass. By the end, you did not screw with Rory. He even wiped out a horde of weeping angels by jumping off a roof. That’s a trick that not even the Doctor pulled off. As far as I’m concerned, Rory should be the first runner-up for companion.

But Rose was interesting because she took to time traveling like a duck to water. She complimented the Doctor, as well as took on a lot of his character traits. She didn’t save the day, but she helped. Rose formed a partnership with the Doctor. She didn’t trail after him like a lovesick puppy, like Martha (who only became interesting after she joined UNIT), or Jack Harkness (who stopped being interesting once he joined Torchwood). While the initial mystery of Clara was intriguing, the style of the episodes stunted her ability to develop a character.

So, my money’s on Rose, with a Rory follow up.

I won’t really even go into Mickey Smith, who had some good moments, but … no. Sorry.

And for those of you who prefer Donna. I have one question for you: Is “mind wipe” one word or two?

Woodrow Wilson Smith asks – Do you think Anakin Skywalker would have become Darth Vader if the Jedi would have bought his mother to help raise him?

And our agitator Declan Finn, voted Most likely to get attacked late at night by a bunch of former teens and the Mouse’s hit man, replies:
It’s more likely he would have never fallen to the Dark side if he had a better script or a better actor, but that is neither here nor there.
This boils down to a nature vs. nuture question, really. Would Anakin have been less of a cocky egomaniac if he hadn’t been under the watchful eye of strict jedi, but had a mother to return home to at the end of each day?
This is a difficult question to answer, as we know nothing of how Anakin had been formed between Episode one and two. We know nothing really of how he went from the annoying child we saw in Episode one, to how he became the annoying cardboard cutout adult in Episode two. Though it probably helped that he apparently wiped out a droid army at age 9 through sheer luck, leading to the belief that he could do no wrong, that he was invincible, and could screw up as much as he liked, but as long as the outcome was fine, he would get away with it.
Now, add his mother to the situation. Presume she had been freed from slavery. To start with, she wouldn’t have let two insane jedi take a 9 year old into a war zone. Seriously, who does that? Given the ineptitude of the local forces, the space station controlling the droid army would never have been taken out – with a droid army fully intact on Naboo, Jar Jar Binks would have died a horrible, horrible death, as do Obi Wan and Jedi Master Liam Neeson. This would have led to to Jedi council not training Anakin at all, Anakin and his mother would be left on Coruscant to fend for themselves, and they probably both die in obscurity as complete nobodies.
Alternately, if you want to say that the events of Episode I are perfectly intact, and his mother is extracted from Tattooine and slavery, that’s a different story. (Come to think of it, why didn’t they free the mother after the whole film was over? Was there really something that precluded Obi-Wan going in with a few Republic Ships and landing on the grubby little garage mechanic slave owner like a sack of bricks?)
In this alternate world, there’s nothing to say that Oedipus … um, Anakin … would be allowed near his mother except on weekends. Seriously, all of the “Younglings” were whisked away from their parents, never to be allowed near them ever again, only to be raised by a 900-year old midget. What is this, Sparta? Though Gerard Butler as a Jedi would be very, very cool.
Anyway, there’s nothing to say that Anakin’s mother would have been allowed near him in the first place. If that’s the case, there’s no change, really, except that Anakin doesn’t go on a homicidal rampage, mid-movie. That really only revealed that there was great anger within him … probably part and parcel with the whole pride problem he had.
But say that the mother was brought along, and the mother was allowed to raise him. He was allowed to come up on weekends or holidays, like boarding school or the seminary. It’s possible that his mother would have slapped the ever-living hell out of him the first moment he said “I’m just as good at Master Yoda!” But it’s far, far more likely that the woman who treated her kid like the Immaculate Conception, let him build an android in the house, and let him do whatever he liked with chariot racing … um, pod-racing … would have happily lavished him with praise to such an extent that his egomania would have been even worse, and he would have self-destructed even sooner. So he could have gone to the Dark Side or have flamed out even earlier.
At the end of the day, the answer seems to be no, yes, and “maybe,” but people are complex creatures, and a multiplicity of factors go into their design. The right element at the right time works great … but then again, the right element at the wrong time can screw things up as the wrong thing.
Unfortunately, at the end of the day, the answer has to be yes … mostly because we saw him as Darth Vader 20 years later, so he was screwed no matter what. Blame George Lucas for that.

Jean Lafitte asks- What is the functional difference between a sabre and a cutlass?

Well, that one’s right up my alley, so I’m going to exhibit executive (officer) privilege and answer it myself.  OK, there’s actually several differences, so lets first get the similarities out of the way.  Both are primarily slashing (IE cutting) weapons, and both have a full guard.  There the similarities end.

A Sabre is designed to be used from horseback (unless it’s a artilleryman’s saber, and even those were designed to be used mostly from horseback as you (the gunners) where riding the team pulling the field piece.  So they’re longer (30 to 45 inch blades) and are as capable or nearly as capable (dependent upon which nations sabre pattern we’re talking about here) of being used as a thrusting weapon as they are of slashing.  If you’re carrying a Sabre you are going to get a lot of training with it, this wasn’t a weapon that every grunt carried. Good examples of Late period sabre use can be found in the Charge of the Light Brigade, and The Man From Snowy River shows the standard late period mounted drill quite well.  There’s several other films out there that do a decent job, (hell anything that shows the Napoleonic Cavalry, which were Masters of the blade) but those two stand out in my mind.

A cutlass on the other hand is a thug’s weapon.  Now I don’t mean to demean the blade, after all I’ve carried one for ceremonial use, but it was not designed for a sword master.  The cutlass is sometimes described as a Short Broad Sabre, but that’s just not quite right. Lets consider who the cutlass is built for.

The officers of a naval vessel are all going to be carrying actual swords, a long, strait, often back sharpened dueling weapon, basically a rapier or side sword.  They’re trained extensively in their use (in the period where they weren’t just badges of authority)  The Crew on the other hand is NOT trained in how to use a sword, and in point of fact, isn’t allowed weapons until they’re about to go into battle.  Their pocket knives and case knives usually have the tips broken off by the master at arms. This is for three reasons, 1 safety, when 60 foot up a mast in a tossing and pitching sea, any slight slip with that knife while cutting free broken rigging means a nasty cut and possibly a fall to your death. 2 fights were frequent, most of the crew, with the exception of some of the petty officers, and the warrented officers, like the carpenter, the gunner etc were pressed into service, or picked up out of the nearest bar, often non voluntarily, these were hard drinking hard fighting men, giving them weapons was a quick way to make sure the barber/surgeon was WAY TOO busy. and finally 3 the only thing keeping these guys from mutiny was lack of navigation skill and being unarmed while the officers and petty officers are armed.  Even this didn’t always stop the crew, if the captain was brutal enough.

So, you want a weapon that is almost instinctive to use, and the cutlass fits the bill.  Oh and lets also consider that the cutlass is not just a weapon for boarding or repelling borders. It’s also a Damage Control Tool, in an era when your mast is liable to get shot off, fouling the other masts and the deck with lots of Manilla rope 3/4 of an inch or thicker, soaked in tar and pitch.  You’ve got to get that stuff cut off the mast and get the mast away from the ship before the waves pounding it into the side of the hull put a hole in the hull, You also need to get it free in order to operate the masts and sails you still have, because being dead in the water insures that you will soon be dead, in the water.  Ever try to cut thick manilla rope?  You want something with some serious weight behind it, and that’s where the cutlass comes in.  It was used as much to chop away the wreckage as to chop up the enemy.  You can thrust with some cutlasses, but you better be GOOD with a sword to even try, and it’s a short weapon, both because you need it short to get the sort of swing you need to cut through wreckage, and because a sailing ship is a tight quarters space, you don’t have room to swing a 35 inch blade in a full 90 degree swing without hitting rigging that you want to keep, or your fellow sailors that you may want to kill, but not in the middle of battle.

In short a cutlass is more like a machete than anything else known to the average individual today, but with a guard anywhere between a knuckle duster and a full bell guard.  They have a full belly that is usually brought up at such an angle that there’s almost no thrusting point, and are much thicker on the back than a sabre, along with being shorter.

So that’s all I have for this week, we hope you have a fine weekend, and we look forward to your return next week, when we’ll be doing a special issue number nine (number nine, number….) All of the staffers here at AAGA will be answering the question “What’s your SINGLE ALL TIME favorite SF/F novel”?  See you then.

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About morrigan508

A retired submarine sailor and former cop, author of the John Fisher Chronicles, as well as a contributing author of the Otherwhere Gazette.

One comment on “Ask A Geek Anything, Issue Eight

  1. Okay, what make a better pet? Flat-cat, Tribble*, or an adolescent Hroshii?
    (* for our purposes, we will pretend that tribbles are not a carbon copy of the flat-cat.)

    Liked by 1 person

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