A Cultural Exchange Through Riffing
Rory Williams – or was it Pond? – knew something bad was going on before he even opened his eyes again. Being thrown haphazardly around the TARDIS was never fun, nor did you ever really get used to it. But then his instincts kicked in, causing him to bolt up and quickly scan the room for any signs of his wife.
Wife. Haha. That was a funny word to use.
And besides that, he knew she'd be okay, but at the same time, there was that "protect the family" thought pumping into his brain. But really…this shouldn't have been happening. He had, afterall, wed a rather resilient and fierce woman who didn't bat an eye at a scrape or bump. Sure, she would complain a bit, but never was one to milk pain.
Still. He was a man.
Of course, having your thoughts being cut into by the very woman you were worrying about protecting doesn't do a good job of proving that.
"Oh, Amy," he responded, sensing the relief in his voice. "You okay?"
"'course I am." She raised an eyebrow, but didn't elaborate on whatever was going on in her head. "Though that one was a bit stronger than the norm…" Her eyes wandered a path around the room before she grabbed her husband's hand. "C'mon, let's find the Doctor; maybe we can shake an explanation out of him."
Amy led the way down the stairs and into the main room of the TARDIS, the glass column in the center remaining still as the Doctor frantically turned knobs and flipped levers, his gangly legs bent and ready to move in an instant. He furiously punched in a series of keystrokes on the typewriter, looking up and down in headache-inducing movements.
"Aw no no no no no no NO!" The Doctor slapped his hands on either side of the typewriter before they dragged his hair back, his eyes widening in hurried thought. "Of course this would have to happen now…"
"What, are we going to be a few hours off?" Amy asked nonchalantly, skipping down the rest of the stairs and reclining against a railing. "Rome is Rome, yeh?"
The Doctor chewed his lip before suddenly realizing there were others in the room. "Oh! Uh – well – yes. You're right. But that's not the issue. So you're wrong. …In that aspect," he added hurriedly to the look his companion shot at him.
"So then, what is wrong?" Rory asked before Amy had a chance to exact revenge.
"You know, little bumps in the road that prevent you from going a certain speed limit, usually to avoid speeding in parking lots or quaint little streets that don't want their quaintness ruined by speeders. But in our case, think of that speed bump as a snag in the line that is holding us hostage in the time stream until the problem clears up. So really, it's nothing like a speed bump at all. More of at time bump. But not that either. It's like being stuck at the airport in a layover. You'll get to your destination in the end, but it's going to take a while."
Rory blinked, Amy shook her head, and the Doctor just grinned. After a moment, he realized his explanation wasn't quite what they were looking for. "We're going to be stuck for a bit," he clarified. "Not to worry though! Plenty of things to do around here!"
"…Like what?" Amy asked quietly. The Doctor looked at her, opening his mouth before shutting it again.
"Reading?" Rory suggested. "There's – a library in here, right?"
"'course there is. It's with the swimming pool."
"Yeah, but then I'd want to swim," Amy countered.
"Then go swimming."
"How long of a 'layover' are we talking here?"
"Then forget it, that's not worth the cleanup."
"Movie?" Rory threw out into consideration. "Are there…does this thing have movies in it?"
"Of course it does!" the Doctor replied, a touch snippy, sounding insulted. "Every movie you could ever possibly want, along with every signal ever broadcast on Earth, radio and tellie, the long runners and the short. You never know when you'll need a broadcast from the evening news of April 3rd in 1963."
"But we abused the rental system back home," Amy said to Rory. She was right – being in Leadworth meant that many of the two's dates simply involved watching a movie at one another's place of residence. "There can't be anything left that we haven't watched."
"We could go older," he said with a shrug. She rolled her eyes.
"No, no way am I watching any one of those old monster movies."
"Not if you give them the right treatment…"
"Rory," Amy said sternly, her voice patient. "I'm not watching that show."
"But you've never given it a chance!" he pleaded. "You saw one snippet, and that can't even count, you were at the end of the movie and didn't know what was –"
"It's rubbish!" she shot back. "Seriously? A man and some puppets –"
"I've told you, they're robots."
The Doctor raised his hand halfway into the air. "Might I inquire about what you're talking about?"
Amy let out a sigh, folding her arms across her chest. "This silly little show Rory likes…"
Rory grinned when he turned to look at the Doctor. He knew he found an interested customer. "Brilliant show, really – Mystery Science Theater 3000. An import from the US, and we only got the last three seasons of it because of network changes, but I've seen most of the others on the internet, and really, it's just –"
The Doctor clapped his hands, interested but also impatient. "Where do the man and the puppets come in?"
"They're robots, and – okay, well, it's a really simple show. See, this bloke is stuck in space on a satellite and is forced by these mad scientists to watch really bad movies because they want to take over the world or – or something, they never get it right. But there's these robots on the ship, and when they all watch the movie, you watch the movie too, but they make them funny with jokes and things."
The pace at which Rory spoke was nothing but incredible, though he seemed desperate to try and convince the Doctor as much as he could that the show was worth watching. After a few moments of awkward silence, the Doctor broke out grinning. "Updating things to appeal to a brand new generation – recycling in media! Ha! Well Mister Pond, you have me interested. Shall we go justify it with a watch?"
Rory let out a victorious laugh as he leapt after the Doctor, giving a side-glance to Amy, who shook her head and begrudgingly followed. The journey passed surprisingly quick, leading down the stairs and into a side room they had traveled through countless times before. But this time, the Doctor kept going forward, yanking open a door that fit in seamlessly with the wall.
The room inside was comparable to a multiplex movie theater, dimly lit by lights on the walls and along the rows. There were several rows, morphed to an incline (Rory hesitated to think the words "built" or "constructed'), and lined with authentic and rather comfortable-looking seats.
The Doctor instructed the two to settle down by means of a vague hand wave before he raced up to a booth at the top of the room. Rory took Amy's hand when she made a glance towards the door, partially dragging her down a few stairs and into an aisle, sitting himself down in the third seat, Amy plopping down in the second.
"Give it a chance," he murmured, shaking her hand. "We warp around in a time machine, I mean, come on."
She smiled slightly, but still sighed and shook her head. "I'll be the judge of what's silly and what's not."
"Hey Rooorrry!" the Doctor called out, his voice echoing in the room. Rory craned his neck to see up to the projector booth, where the aforementioned Time Lord was hanging out and waving his arms. "The search yielded 197 results and one theatrical release. What do you wanna do with that?"
And here was the moment of truth for the nurse. He ran over the episodes in his head, filtering out the ones he didn't like, narrowing the selection marginally…Then he ran it through the "what-would-the-Doctor-like" filter, then the "what-would-keep-Amy's-interest" one, which funneled it down to sci-fi and a colored film. He himself always found the black and white ones harder to sit through.
What did the three share in regards to genre? Science fiction, that was easy. And then there was...time travel. There were a few that had that one, but which was the best…
"Time Chasers!" he called out. He had a hard time seeing it, but he was fairly confident the Doctor grinned, beaming with delight.
"Time Chasers?" Amy questioned, sinking further into the chair and kicking her feet up on the row ahead of her. "Isn't that a bit redundant?"
"Not exactly…You'll see." He whispered out the latter part as the theater dimmed before the Doctor suddenly leapt over the row from behind them. He kicked off the tops of the seats Amy had her feet resting on, jumping backwards into the first chair in the row, bouncing slightly on impact. She grunted, which he ignored completely, totally enamored by the screen.
"In the not-too-distant future..."
"Are those dodgeballs?" was the first line out of Amy, leaning forward in her seat and squinting.
Rory hid his smile. "Yup."
"And – those are Christmas lights!"
His wife stared at him, incredulous. "Five seconds into this thing and I'm questioning it! This isn't a good sign, Rory!"
"The Doctor seems to like it."
She punched his arm. "The Doctor likes this stuff," she murmured, annoyed. "You can't use him as a benchmark. That's like using him as a benchmark for normal."
"I like this theme song, very catchy," the Doctor said suddenly, bouncing in his seat to the tune. "Very simple, though – synthesizer and some vocals, but – brilliant!"
"Robot Roll Call!"
"Those things are rubbish!"
"I dunno, I think it's rather charming."
"Oh come on Amy, open your heart. It's either this or swimming, and you didn't want to do that, so it's this."
"And who knows, we're just knocking about in time and space."
"I rather like that fellow," the Doctor continued, tapping his fingertips together. "Your average human who takes things in stride." He grinned. "And time and space, huh? They have time travel on this?"
"Kind of," Rory replied, trying to think of how to summarize what he needed to say without sounding too much like a total nerd. "They…had some time travel in this season. Just…just because."
Amy smiled a little bit at the screen. "Free Willy, huh. I liked that movie when I was a kid."
Rory felt his spirits lifting, if just an inch.
Then, ruined. "Wait, what is that? Are they in space?"
"Studio-space, yeh. How is he floating and she staying grounded and –"
"Like the TARDIS that way," the Doctor intervened. "Can extend the air shield and all. And as for staying grounded – did you listen to the theme song, Pond?"
"The wha' – of course not."
The Time Lord put on a sing-song, if somewhat offkey tone, to his voice. "If you're wondering how he eats and breathes, and other science facts, then repeat to yourself 'it's just a show, I should really just relax'."
Amy raised an eyebrow. "Isn't that just being lazy?"
"Rather clever, if you ask me."
"Nobody di – what's going on?"
"They're going to watch the movie now."
"For you? We've still got an hour and a half to go."
They settled into the seats, Rory casually slinging his arm over Amy's shoulder, briefly flashing back to one of their first dates. It was a special one – they had gone to the nearby city, the one that actually had a movie theater, and played the whole typical routine. Very casual, very normal, but still, so exhilarating. And now, here they sat, so many years later, not just married, but traveling on a space craft with an alien through all of time and space.
Can't say he saw it coming.
"Wait, who is that?" Amy groaned, pointing at the screen. "Is he the main character? No way! He can't be!"
"No, no, this can't be the star, can it movie? Movie, hey movie! Can I see your supervisor movie? This will not stand!"
Amy stared at the screen, wide-eyed and stunned. "…He read my mind!" she squeaked, pointing at the corner of the silhouette on screen.
Rory couldn't help but laugh. "It can seem like that sometimes, yeah."
"Two different plaids? Man, I'm a naked robot and even I know that's a fashion no-no."
"That outfit is hideous! I didn't even notice until…"
"…Until the robot pointed it out?" the Doctor slid in, grinning at the embarrassment of his companion.
"Th – this is still rubbish."
With a sigh, Rory sunk further in his chair before finally deciding to kick his feet up and rest them next to Amy's on the row of seats ahead of them.
"Is that the future?" the Doctor finally questioned, tilting his head to the side. "Their version of the future? Haha – that's so quaint."
"Food courts – OF THE FUTURE."
"You know, I can't help but feel you're in no position to talk," Amy murmured back, nudging him with her elbow.
"I have no idea what you're talking about."
"Loser status confirmed."
Amy snickered. "You know Rory, your fridge looked like that an awful lot…"
"I'm not a loser!" was all he could think to retort.
"No, I'm saying MAKE ME DINNER."
"Hey Doctor, you should make us dinner sometime."
"We can travel to any restaurant, to any chef that ever existed ever, and you want me to cook for you?"
"…I don't know where the kitchen is."
"Well…cheese ain't gonna cut itself, eh."
With the end credits of the show rolling, Rory stretched his arms out, attempting to ease the transition from film-watching to real life. Amy had stayed rather sarcastic during the whole viewing, though the Doctor seemed to quite enjoy it despite whatever he thought was "wrong" (which was, in fact, a lot). Still, he couldn't help but dread the face his wife was going to give him, because he had seen all the expressions she had, and getting the negatives one wasn't good.
Amy finally looked away from the screen and to Rory, her eyes at first unreadable, if not miffed. Then she smiled and punched his arm.
"You shoulda tried hard to get me to watch this sooner," she said quietly. "That was – that wasn't half-bad, I shall admit."
" – and adding an aerodynamic aspect to the concept was interesting, but it would really hinder the whole thing, as uplift can actual cause drafts in the stream and drafts are never a good thing because it disrupts flow, and an interrupted flow is about as good as getting cold water in your shower –"
"So you liked it?" Rory asked meekly with a hopeful grin.
"Ye – yeah, I liked it, okay, are you happy?" Even if she did sound angry, her proceeding giggles negated the tone. "'ISO 9001 certification is a license to kill!' We might have to watch that again sometime…"
Relief was about the only emotion reaching Rory's brain by this point. Still, he somehow found the ability to look over to the Doctor, who was still rattling off what was wrong with the movie's version of time travel. "Doctor," he said, cutting into the Time Lord's rambling. "You have the whole series up there?"
" – centrifuge – huh? Oh, yes, of course. 197 and one theatrical release, all up there. And -" he flicked his wrist over to look at his watch, "- we still have an hour and a half to go."
"Then how about – Amy, why don't you pick one for us to watch?"
"Huh – what. What. I don't know this nonsense!"
"Just pick one from the list. And – and shout out what it is. I'll be quality control."
Amy sighed and rolled her eyes, but followed an all-too-eager Doctor up to the projection booth. After a few moments' silence, she called out, "The Sinister Urge! How's that?"
"Brilliant!" he answered. "Older one though. Black and white. Funny though, I promise!"
Once more, the film was loaded, the three settled in, and again did the theme song roll. The effects were slightly cheaper this time around, being from an earlier season, but with this go, it seemed Amy wasn't there to nitpick and just rested her head on Rory's shoulder.
"Wait – what's this? This isn't…Why are we being taught hygiene habits?"
"Oh, they did short films – you know, public information films – sometimes, to fill up time."
"Oh. …Doctor, pay attention, this is how normal humans behave."
"Shh, I'm learning proper hair washing technique!"
And all was well in the TARDIS, despite the bit of delay they were having. Sometimes, it was really best to sit down and watch a movie as a group – or a show that was about mocking movies. A touch of humor for an otherwise perilous existence that walked a fine balance between adventure and terror, between fun and actual work.
Still though, some things can be a bit too much.
"Quickly, into the TARDIS!"