Regarding Doctor Who

doctor-roseI was about twelve or thirteen when I first found out about Doctor Who. The Doctor, though he’s nearly a thousand years old, is also only about four months older than I am, having made his debut in Nov. 1963 (I debuted in March 1964). But his adventures were on the BBC, and I was stuck in Bumfu Jonesboro, GA, where we didn’t get much BBC except whatever nuggets got picked up by PBS.

So my first exposure came through Doctor Who paperbacks, that I think were probably just novelizations of episodes from the show. I can sort of remember the covers, and I enjoyed them enough as a young teen that I lamented the fact I couldn’t see the actual series.

Later, and I have no idea how much later, I got to see an actual episode. Maybe it was being shown on PBS, maybe I saw it at a science fiction convention…I’m not sure. All I recall is that I was seriously disillusioned, because the show had really cheesy special effects and was, I think, campier than I’d expected. And I really don’t care for camp as a general rule. Even as a kid I disliked it.

So for most of my life, that was my Doctor Who experience. And I remember instances where I cited the show when joking about low budget genre productions that were really cheesy.

Doctor Who is the longest running science fiction show in the world. The original series ran from 1963 till 1989, there was a TV movie in 1996 that was a failed attempt at relaunch, then the show successfully relaunched in 2005 and is going strong. At this writing, there are 753 episodes. There are also two spinoff shows involving characters who originated on Doctor Who (Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures), with a third in the works focusing on The Doctor’s robot dog K-9 from the 1970s.

I watched the TV movie in 1996, and for the first time since reading those paperbacks I enjoyed Doctor Who. I don’t remember anything about it now (I’m going to rewatch it soon to see if it holds up to my older, more jaded standards), but at the time I was disappointed it didn’t go to series.

Then, recently, I started watching the rebooted series that began in 2005, and it’s simply one of the most marvelous television shows there’s ever been. Continue reading

My Thoughts on Dollhouse

I didn’t love it. I hope to. Maybe I will in time.

I have always loved Joss Whedon’s work. I’ll watch, or read, or listen to, anything he does. He’s a smart man, a funny man, and a master storyteller man.

I also really like Eliza Dushku. Not only is she a hotty, she’s brainy, and she’s a very talented actress who’s been underused over the years.

But Dollhouse. To be bluntly honest about it, if last night’s episode were exactly the same but not a Joss Whedon creation, I can’t say for sure I’d watch again next week.

The setup — Dusku and others are “Actives,” agents for a secret organization whose personalities have been wiped and are replaced in full by other people’s personalities when sent out on various missions-for-hire — is intriguing. On the meta level, it’s an interesting metaphor for the life of an actor, who (if they’re actually a good actor) goes from personality to personality for different jobs. I can see where Joss thinks he can use the structure to explore issues of identity, what it means, how we interact, how we use each other…thematically, it has a lot of potential.

To me, its great weakness (aside from the fact that it’s on Fox, and their meddling in the show is already as obtrusively obvious as a bumper sticker stuck in the middle of the screen) is that the setup might lend itself overmuch to Dollhouse being an anthology show of a sort, each episode a different kind of story that’s disconnected from the greater story arc, and Echo and the other Actives carrying the series on the weight of ever-shifting personalities. How much, week to week, can Joss make us care about the Actives, who are rarely consistently anyone, and when they are, they’re pliable dullards wandering around a pretty room?

So far, I’m moderately interested in the characters, but I don’t care about them at all.

The first half hour was burdened with exposition, which is to be expected in a pilot, but it also reeked of Fox’s network style. The motorcycle chase was ludicrous and boring, the sexy dancing was obvious (if not, truthfully, unwelcome), and the storytelling was patchy. I suspect the original pilot Joss wrote was superior, and the Fox execs wanted him to “cut to the chase” and “add the sexy,” and forced him to build a Jenga tower with some pieces made of pudding. Unfortunately, the Fox execs aren’t going anywhere, they’ll still be making demands as the show develops, and most of the demands will likely be stupid.

Al the same, it is a Joss Whedon show, so I’m here for the duration, unless it turns really bad. I do think it’ll improve, and I hope that Joss’s intentions play out effectively. There’s potential for all sorts of action and emotion and exploration of human existence and relationships, and I’m sure Joss has lots of twisty ideas to surprise us with. Here’s hoping it all gets really good.

Good Memories of 2008

Some things I enjoyed last year, in no particular order…

The Dark Knight. I could say, with great conviction, that this was the best movie of 2008, but I actually didn’t see anywhere close to all the movies released, so that’d be pretty presumptuous of me. It was definitely the best new film I saw, and the Batman movie I’ve wanted to see since my age was in single digits. Batman Begins was damn near perfect (Katie Holmes notwithstanding), and The Dark Knight took everything that worked in Begins and improved upon it. It’s not just a great superhero movie, it’s a damn good film, a high caliber crime thriller, beautifully made, masterfully written, full of great performances, politically topical, just amazing. And the Joker’s bit with a pencil is the best bit of sleight of hand I’ve seen in years.

For the record, I also loved Iron Man and Hellboy 2, and Bolt was wonderful.

Barack Obama. Morning in America, Superman leading the Justice League to victory against the Injustice League, a black man taking the highest office in the land, an antidote to the small-minded, soulless corruption of the past decade in American life. Here’s hoping he lives up to his promise.

Mad Men. TV by and for smart people. This show is ridiculously entertaining, and operates on so many levels that it actually triggers synaptic action in the brain, a rarity on television.

Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. Joss Whedon adds another classic to his resume, and becomes an internet pioneer at the same time. Songs good enough I get them stuck in my head for days and don’t mind. Hilarious wit laced with deep darkness and pathos. The lovely Felicia Day. And Bad Horse, of course, of course.

Doc Wilde. I received the galleys (advance reading copies) of my book, Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom, and after years of dragging my ass on my dream, it felt great to be able to hold a novel I wrote in my hands, flip through its pages seeing all these paragraphs I crafted, and stare at the cover and see the faces of my characters as they will meet their audience in bookstores. Not to mention reading over and over the great blurbs from Daniel Pinkwater and Quentin Dodd. They like me! They really like me!

Um…excuse my Sally Field moment there.

3o Rock. And Tina Fey in general. I’d never watched this show, though I was interested, because I try to keep my TV viewing down, and often avoid shows I suspect I’ll love. I finally broke down and watched the pilot episode, which resulted in days of binge-watching my way through seasons one and two and three. I’m caught up, and eagerly awaiting the show’s return. This show’s funny as hell, Tina Fey’s a marvel, Alec Baldwin gets to showcase his incredible comic skills, and Tracy Morgan’s a delirious delight.

Facebook. I wasn’t interested in Facebook. I was very cynical about it, saw no use for it. But wiser folks encouraged me to use it at the very least as a tool to make myself available to people interested in my writing, so I signed on. That wasn’t that long ago, but I’m already in steady contact with people I lost over the years, people in the writing and publishing community to learn from, new friends, old enemies (amazing how time and a viable net interface can make old grudges seem beneath notice), and people with similar interests with whom to share ideas and discoveries…

Pulp fiction. I’ve been reading a lot of classic pulp, and thoroughly enjoying it. I have enough to say about this that I’ll be tackling it in another post.

Joss Whedon. In retrospect, I should have just put Dr Horrible here. Leave it to Joss to earn a category all his own on my list of joy. In addition to the musical magic of the Sing-Along Blog, Joss gave the world season 8 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in comic book form, continuing Buffy’s adventures with panache and wit and emotional depth (the issues are collected in paperback, starting with The Long Way Home).

Also in comics, Joss wrote 25 issues of Astonishing X-Men, with amazing art by John Cassaday, which have also been collected. I got the second hardback collection recently and literally had tears in my eyes when I finished.

And, of course, Joss’s earlier work continues to provide enjoyment. I got to watch both Buffy and Angel from start to finish with my son this year, which I’d looked forward to doing for years, and it was awesome. Which brings me to:

My son. Nathaniel has adapted to the sundering of his family and the resulting radical changes in his life with great cheer and flexibility, and I admire and respect him for that. He remains, as always, the brightest star in my firmament, the only unceasing source of joy and meaning in my life.