TCLP 2010-05-05 Dr. Who as a Hacker

This is a feature cast, an episode of The Command Line Podcast.

In the intro, thanks to Graham and [si]dragon for their donations. Also, a quick review of “Permanence“, by Karl Schroeder.

Listener feedback this week is from Robert who posted a comment in response to my NoSQL rant.

The hacker word of the week this week is block transfer computations.

The feature this week is a monologue consider Dr. Who as a hacker. In it, I mention a section from the Wikipedia page on Dr. Who.


Grab the detailed show notes with time offsets and additional links either as PDF or OPML. You can also grab the flac encoded audio from the Internet Archive.

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7 Replies to “TCLP 2010-05-05 Dr. Who as a Hacker”

  1. I’m part way through the podcast and have never seen Dr. Who, but I did just read SuperFreakonomics and thought you might enjoy this quote about Nathan Myhrvold:

    Myhrvold recalls watching the British science-fiction TV show Dr. Who when he was young: “The Doctor introduces himself to someone, who says, ‘Doctor? Are you some kind of scientist?’ And he says, ‘Sir, I am every kind of scientist.’ And I was, like, Yes! Yes! That is what I want to be: every kind of scientist!”

    1. That actually sounds familiar, like I’ve seen that particular scene. Regardless it definitely speaks to what I see in the character as being driven more by curiosity and knowledge than physical conflict. I also love that it served as an inspiration for Myhrvold in his manifold endeavors. It sure explains a lot.

  2. I loved the episode, Thomas! I hadn’t thot about Dr Who for a long time, and I’m happy to have heard a respectful, insightful, and illuminating discussion of the Doctor. I believe I was too young and to under-read to fully appreciate the Doctor. The oddest thing about the Doctor that I didn’t understand when I was that young was how his character was never burdened by the guilt of having made mistakes, and the confrontingly bold enthusiasm of the character (rather than typical grim or vengeful determination) typical of most American sci fi characters.


    I haven’t watched much TV in recent years, so I’m sure I’m missing other examples of hacker models on contemporary programs. The first other characters that come to mind are of course, Hari Seldon and of course, R Daneel Olivaw. However, their characters are so unlike the Doctor. Vernor Vinge’s characters from also seem to express the hacker ethic, relying heavily on logic and cleverness to help solve plots. Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars series also provided a view Martian citizens as hackers and revolutionaries, which was also an enjoyable read.

    Thanks again for the brilliant episode!

    1. I am enjoying older episodes of Dr. Who on Netflix. If you are still watching DVDs, it may be worth checking out.

      I haven’t read Foundation in a while and I only read the first couple of books, but I can see your point. Psycho history seems like a particularly clever hack, an intuitive leap that obviously has profound ramifications. I don’t think there is a narrow personality type for hacker heroes, rather just the presence of certain qualities like a driving curiosity and actions like remaking systems.

      Vinge is almost a gimme as so much of his work falls clearly in the cyberpunk genre. It’s a good example, nonetheless, as he weaves compelling narratives beyond that starting point of some hackish trope.

      I’ll admit to not being able to get past the first few chapters of the first of the Mars trilogy. I was put off by the seemingly oppressive bureaucracy and accompanying politics on board the first colony ship. I may have to give it another change to see what you are suggesting.

  3. I enjoyed the episode, and have just started watching the “new” Doctor Who. I was exposed and became vaguely aware during college, but didn’t take it up then. After finishing the newer series, I will begin going back and watching older ones.

    I also wanted to mention that I enjoyed your interview on Hacker Public Radio, and though it would be good to post a link on the site here. You might want to consider adding entries in your podcast feed for external interviews.

    P.S. I hope the link above works..

    1. Brad, I don’t usually drop audio from other sources into the feed to avoid surprising the listener. My preferred practice is to post about my appearances on other shows with links and to mention it on my own podcast with a few explanatory remarks. I just published a post about this interview and will mention it in my next podcast.

      And I am glad you enjoyed the Dr. Who monologue.

  4. Your comment on “BBC using two kinds of film” brought a chuckle. Interior shots of that era were shot on 50 fps video tape, making a nice crisp view when transferred to 50 fps video for broadcast. Exterior shots were shot on traditional 24 fps film, making for a deeper contrast, but a bit of a jitter when transferred.

    There’s even a skit of Monty Python that makes fun of this. Google for “Monty python” “surrounded by film” for links.

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