Monday, June 26, 2006

Re: The Rose Show [was: Doctor Who]

Some questions.

1. Can anyone explain to me why there are so few lingering camera shots in New Who?

2. Or why there's a need for the shorthand of specifically scripted 'jokes' rather than humour rising naturally from situations and interactions between the characters?

3. Maybe there's a reason that RTD and colleagues feel that quick setup, ten minutes or wandering about and then straight into the conclusion is a good outline for a general Who episode structure?

4. Why is the show in fact so totally rushed looking and generally underwhelming?

Because it now is exactly that and, if truth be told, it wasn't all that overwhelming last year either. Take out the Doctor from most New Who and you have either a mass of cliches or a mess of absurdities - and we should know because RTD and co take the Doctor out of the story at every available opportunity.

The latest installment, Fear Her, was so bad that I'm quite happy now for people to refer to this season as Season 2, instead of Season 29 - the new show just has so little in common with what made the old one great that they're really not the same type of show at all, never mind the same specific show.

Where once there was a TV series with the world's simplest yet most brilliant concept at heart - there's this guy who can travel anywhere and anytime in a battered Police Box - now there's a soap opera which is really an ensemble piece about a London girl and her family and friends, one of whom happens to have this handy time machine.

That Rose is the key character in the show is becoming more evident by the minute, to the extent that next week's invasion of the Cybermen story isn't being trailed as that at all but as a 'What happens to Rose/hey look - there's a new spin-off series called Torchwood?' sort of shebang. Which is so wrong it's laughable. I don't really care what happens to the companion and no chikd I know does much either (me, I know the Doctor can get a new one whatever occurs - what can I say, I've become hardened since the end of Earthshock). And trail the new bloody series in the adverts like everyone else does, not in the middle of another show and more often than Big Finish shovelled Zagreus into every audio for a year prior to the release of that anniversary story (and is that really the kind of preceedent RTD wants to mirror - because Zagreus was such a roaring critical success?)

Last year was very similar in respect of Rose/Doctor importance. The Doctor solved sod all, but never mind, plucky li'l Rose will save the day (or the attractive homosexual space captain will, if she's tied up emoting somewhere - Christ, just how many Mary-Sues does RTD need?), but Chris Eccleston is so much better an actor than most of the scripts deserved that it wasn't half so noticeable.

Tennant however is a journeyman actor, no more and no less and just isn't capable of taking bad writing and turning it into somethng good. So we end up with rubbish like this week's offering where a reject for the original Sapphire and Steel sctipting sessions gets combined with the Spongebob episode, Frankendoodle, all presented in true Children's Televsion Workshop style by the letters L, O, V and E. And it's as truly shit as it sounds because Tennant can't drag bad plots up to a higher level, there's no subtlety in his performance (possibly not helped by the decision to have him use an accent other than his own for no good reason) and anyway, by now RTD thinks that Rose is all that matters to anyone anyway.

Maybe he's right - maybe it's just me that misses the days when the show - crap special FX and occasionally ludicrously bad acting and all - was about this time traveller and how clever he could be and how he would help people in interesting and imaginative ways. How he was rarely vicious or violent, but was still no-one's fool and how the places he went to and the people he met were genuinely magical, in a way that no other TV show before or since has come close to matching.

Becuase the new Who isn't really that bad a TV series. It's on a par with much of Buffy, but not as good as Life on Mars; it's miles better than Tru Calling but not even inhabiting the same universe of quality as Firefly; it's better written at times than BSG, but much more seems to happen that we care about in BSG (actually much more seems to happen in almost ever other programme than in New Who).

It's...OK. But that's all it is - and it used, once upon twenty years ago, to be the single best television programme ever made.

I'm grumpy, I'm just getting over the flu, and I hated Fear Her more than any other Who episode yet so maybe it is just me being a cranky old arse, but I find it genuinely sad that this is what we waited sixteen years for.

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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Origin of Series

We're trying to find something new to watch of an evening chez Stuart and have therefore been trying out some new stuff of late. What's rather lovely is the fact that - courtesy of Demonoid and similar - you can test the water of any new series, prior to shelling out for DVDs and box sets.

Hence we've watched the first few episodes of several recommended series over the past week or two, with mixed results.

Tru Calling
  • Starring: Eliza Dushku, who had previously appeared as Faith, the Slayer gone bad, in Joss Whedon's Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
  • Premise: Dushku plays Tru Davies, a potential medical student currently working the night shift in the city morgue. To her surprise, dead bodies occasionally wake up in her presence and whisper 'Save Me' in a sexy voice, at which point she is whisked back 24 hours to enable her to do just that.
  • Good Points:
    • Dushku's very pleasant on the eye.
    • The acting (particularly Zach Galifianakis, who plays Tru's socially inept boss) is fine.
  • Bad Points:
    • It's the same plot over and over again, to the extent that after a couple of episodes you find yourself pointing out those little things unconnected with the plot that Tru will incidentally fix when the day rolls back (spilled coffee, smashed vases etc).
    • The scenario relies on Tru going up to complete strangers and basically telling them they are going to die that day - surely everybody would phone the Police?
    • The titles are dreadful and end on a shot of Dushku looking all moody standing over a grave.
  • Current RL Status: Cancelled six episodes into season 2.
  • Verdict: Tru-ly awful (boom boom). No chance of buying the DVD.


Farscape

  • Starring: Ben Browder.
  • Premise: Browder plays Captain John Crichton, a late twentieth century scientist who slips into a worm-hole during an experimental space flight and ends up on the other side of the galaxy, surrounded by aliens.
  • Good Points:
    • Engaging lead character.
    • Some imagination has gone into the alien races for a change.
  • Bad Points:
    • Jim Henson is behind it all and so there is a certain Labyrinth quality to the puppetry (I kept expecting David Bowie to turn up).
    • It's a bit Buck Rogers, isn't it?
    • Polish subtitles on my copy aren't helpful.
  • Current RL Status: Cancelled after four seasons. Followed by a mini-series, The Peacekeeper Wars, which attempts to tie-up various loose-ends.
  • Verdict: Hard to tell after only one episode, but I think I'll stick with it for a while (J doesn't like space-based sf much though so I suspect it'll be on those rare occasions when there's no-one in the house bar me).


The West Wing
  • Starring: Martin Sheen, proper film actor and heart attack victim during the filming of Apocalypse Now.
  • Premise: Martin Sheen plays President Josiah Bartlet, recently elected President of the United States. The series charts the activities of the President and his coterie of advisors as they face the day to day crises which make up their public and private lives.
  • Good Points:
    • Great writing.
    • Great acting.
    • Great plots.
  • Bad Points:
    • The tendency to have the President thunder out something emotional at the end of each episode or have a touching quiet beat as the screen fades to the titles is a little annoying.
    • The theme tune itself reminds me of Dallas.
  • Current RL Status: Seven complete seasons.
  • Verdict: Brilliant. Hopefully the DVDs will be a Fathers Day present.


We also have Earth 2 to have a look at, but as West Wing seems to be a winner for both of us and Farscape worth persevering with for me, God alone knows when we'll get a chance to fit it into our busy couch-potato schedule.

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Monday, June 12, 2006

Collected Works

Well my short story didn't win the Benny competition (and reading it in the cold light of the day after I hurriedly wrote it and sent it off, I can see why - what a crock), but I'm delighted to see who did win and am looking forward to his story immensely.

I'd be looking forward to the book in question in any case - it's like a Doctor Who Greatest Hits, with (almost) absolutely all of my favourite Who authors in it. Simply swap Kate Orman (whose books I've never managed to connect with) for Paul Magrs or Ian Potter and it'd be perfect. Of particular interest will be Nick Wallace's collaboration with Phil Purser-Hallard.

The complete line-up is

  • Nick Wallace
  • Lance Parkin
  • Kate Orman
  • Simon Bucher-Jones
  • Mags L Halliday
  • Jonathan Blum
  • Mark Michalowski
  • Dale Smith
  • Simon A Forward
  • Eddie Robson
  • Ian Mond
  • Philip Purser-Hallard
  • and the competition winner*

    Go, pre-order it today.

    * who hasn't been officially announced yet so far as I can see, so I'd better revel in being in the loop in an OG sort of way and otherwise leave his identity a mystery :-)
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    Tuesday, June 06, 2006

    An Impossible Review

    As with last year, I'm not doing reviews of the latest season of Doctor Who.

    Apart from the fact that I suspect I'd come across as distinctly grumpy, there are others out there in the blog world who are much better reviewers than I could ever be. Generally speaking, Simon seems to feel much the same as I do about each episode and expresses those feelings considerably more eruditely than I would, and Phil is equally good, even if I tend not to agree with him (he has, however, come over all lazy this year and isn't doing reviews of season 28 any time soon unfortunately).

    To recap, therefore, this is not a review - but wasn't The Impossible Planet bloody excellent? Just simply bloody excellent.

    That's all I have to say, but other decent bloggy reviews can be read here, there and everywhere.

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