Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Mirror, Mirror: Roddenberry's Goatee

Over the last day or so a few readers and friends on Facebook pointed me to this article on Blastr about how awful it was to work with Gene Roddenberry--the fact that he had a substance abuse problem and that he often deferred to his lawyer about important story matters on TNG, etc. The full interview, however, from TrekMovie is a much better, fuller read.

When I first saw the Blastr article popping up in my feed, I didn't even read it. Still, I somehow knew from the title, "Star Trek Writer Reveals Ugly Side of Working with Roddenberry on the Sci-Fi Classic" that the writer in question was most likely David Gerrold. I saw Gerrold speak last year at Star Trek: Vegas and he's a really candid, interesting, intelligent dude. He's always been very outspoken about what it was like to work on Trek and his opinions about the different courses the show has taken over the years etc. So, it didn't surprise me at all to open up the article and see that it was Gerrold who was speaking out about Roddenberry's issues.

Everyone is human--even the guy who invented Spock--and unfortunately it turns out that Gene wasn't so much a great guy to work for as he had a great idea for a show and then was dogged enough about pursuing it to actually get it on the air and make it exist for everyone. But... was he great to be around? No.

The thing about writers (and a lot of creative types, really) is that they're often awful people. I would have wanted to smack Charles Dickens every time I looked at that guy if I'd known him or been married to him or if I was his shoeshine boy or whatever other Victorian nonsense he got up to. It's the same with a lot of my favorite writers (and here's a great article about why) But I love Dickens' novels. His work gives the impression of a man thoughtful and gentle, caring more about others than himself but, in his private life, he apparently couldn't help being a complete ass. The thing is, authors get to be assholes in the privacy of their own home. Like me. I work for myself. The only people who have to listen to me whine and complain and act like a crazy person are my husband and Bunny. But--TV is a collaborative business. And, beyond collaborative, it's public.

As an author/artist, I write a book or a story. I give it to the editor at my press or the editor at a lit mag. They have some notes. I make them or I don't. I give it back. They publish it or they don't. A handful of people read it. Occasionally someone will write to me and say they like what I've written and my day will be better for it.

In TV, you work in a room full of people and hand that work off to other people who then hand it off to yet more people who then make it into an episode of TV with a bunch of other people. Your script passes through a ton of hands by the time its made. And everyone has opinions and input. Then, its aired and potentially millions of people will watch it on that first airing alone. Reviews are written. Folks write letters. Etc etc. The point is, there are about a hundred cooks in a very small kitchen and everyone's trying to make the same dish but they're not all using the same recipe. We, the audience, get the final product--presented to us by a single chef, for good or bad, as if he were the only one behind the kitchen doors.



In the midst of it all, for someone like Gene, you're operating from a place of fear and, as Picard says in Devil's Due, "Fear can be a powerful motivator." As the creator and show-runner, all of TNG's failings and successes were placed on his shoulders. Star Trek had already been cancelled once and Roddenberry'd had his baby taken away. Now, they were giving it back to him. Things seemed to be going well but my understanding about the resurgence of Trek is that TNG was always in danger of being cancelled again--until about the fourth season. After Roddenberry was already knocking on death's door and had apparently, for the most part, taken leave of the show.

Does the fear, the drugs, the deferring to ridiculous lawyers or whoever else Roddenberry was listening to make his actions toward Gerrold and the other Trek writers right? No. Absolutely not. Roddenberry was the captain of the Trek ship and, in many ways, he failed his crew. He wasn't living up to the standards he wished his fictional captain to portray on screen. Picard would never ignore the most basic needs or most important thoughts of his crew. But the guy behind Picard did. Jean Luc Picard is stalwart, even-tempered, and righteous--always standing up for what's right. Maybe the character was aspirational for Roddenberry. The portrait of a man he couldn't be.



As for Gerrold, he went on to do lots of other lovely things. And now, like me (only successful) he writes books. His editor or publisher have opinions but Gerrold has the final say. He's the only cook in his kitchen and I get that. He's given himself the power to operate without fear. He's won Nebula and Hugo awards. I get it. I get wanting the freedom to write whatever fearless idea you come up with. I just wish that kind of fearlessness hadn't come up against such heavy opposition. Star Trek was always supposed to be a show about fearlessly breaking boundaries, exposing injustices, and doing the right thing even when it's the hard thing. It's too bad that, behind the scenes, it was much the opposite.




This article has brought out a lot of talk about how Roddenberry's vision for new Trek made the show boring. I'll address this, and Gerrold's depressingly never-shot episode "Blood and Fire" in another post later this week. Also soon to come: The Trek/Bechdel Test #3.






A Year Ago-ish:  Voyager Season 1 Essential Episodes


Monday, September 8, 2014

What Are Little Girls Made Of? Exploring The Star Trek Bechdel Test #1

Alright so, just in case you're new to this series. I'm looking at the results of Trekkie Feminist's Star Trek Bechdel test and attempting to explore what it is that sets Voyager apart from the other series. This is the first post in that exploration.

I've been planning on writing a post about the terrible boyfriends of Trek for some time. After an entire year of Star Trek, I was a little overwhelmed and, for a while didn't have it in me to get to this post, but the idea kept popping into my head. Why is it that so many of the female-centric episodes of every Trek (except Voyager) involve a terrible boyfriend, potential boyfriend, or ex putting them in danger?

It's a problem that's been going on as far back as The Original Series. Aside from Kirk being everyone's ultimate bad boyfriend, we get an actual Bad Boyfriend episode and it's called: "What Are Little Girls Made Of?" In this one, Christine Chapel suddenly hears from her long-lost fiancĂ© and goes down to the planet he's inhabiting along with Kirk.  Lots of naked crazyness ensues and Chapel realizes this dude is a total creep.
But does it pass the Bechdel Test? It would if Chapel/Andrea had talked about something besides dudes.
This episode sets a precedent that would be followed pretty extensively in TNG, then to a lesser extent in DS9, not so much in Voyager, and then brought back "Deanna Style" in ENT.

Now, that's not to say that dudes don't also get relationship episodes. In fact, on this very day, 48 years ago, McCoy realized he was dating a dangerous creep when she turned into a salt monster and tried to eat him. The issue here is that, when a guy in Starfleet gets a girlfriend, he isn't usually the one who's ultimately in peril. But, when a female officer dates a guy, he usually ends up being a cad and she's either put in danger of some kind or forced to act out of character.

So lets start with TNG and what I'm always going around the house ranting about as:
 Deanna's Terrible Boyfriends
1- Deanna's terrible secret fiance, Wyatt. Actually this guy isn't awful or dangerous. He's just some guy in a turtleneck who she was engaged to when she was a little girl. That's not weird. Nope.
2-Alien Entity. This also isn't that awful except that he KNOCKS HER UP without her permission. She ends up with a beautiful little boy who she loves and then has to give back to the universe. I mean, what even?
3- Devinoni Rai. This freaking guy. Am I right? Just a scumbag.
4- Jev, the telepath. Jev and Deanna basically flirt and then, when she leaves his company and goes to bed, he enters her mind without consent and, in her dream state, proceeds to force himself on her in the form of her actual on-again/off-again BF, Riker. She falls into a dangerous coma.

5- Aaron Conor. This guy isn't so bad. He's just dedicated to his perfect colony and doing his job and, in the end, he's as affected by this brief romance as Troi is. Troi clearly has a specific taste in boyfriends though, right?
6-Ves Alkar. Super creep. He basically hooks up with Troi and then starts sucking away her life force to power his own. Troi almost dies, again. She falls into a coma, again.

Alright and then there's Riker and Worf. (Just FYI: I really shipped Worf/Deanna back in the day but I thought Worf/Jadzia ultimately made a better pair.) She ends up with Riker and they finally get hitched and you'd think she'd be done with terrible boyfriends who physically/mentally/telepathically assault her. But, no. There's Star Trek: Nemesis so...

7- Shinzon. Ok, this isn't a boyfriend. It's a legit attack by a dangerous, hostile stranger and it's absolutely horrifying. The fact that Shinzon (as Ves Alkar did during the series) appears to her first as Riker, makes it even more disturbing. This is everything that's wrong with the Troi=Victim problem in Star Trek.

It's worth noting that Beverly also had a couple of ill-fated flings. She dated her grandma's creepy life-suck boyfriend. She got way into Riker when he took a Trill symbiont but then couldn't hang when a woman took the same symbiont. Ultimately, though, she was always into Picard above all others. And, let's face it, he's a pretty good catch.

Moving on.

In DS9, Jadzia Dax almost makes a couple of questionable, life-altering decisions because she goes all doe-eyed over a one-episode boyfriend/girlfriend. This happens in Meridian and Rejoined. In spite of the way this gets on my nerves, I still feel that Rejoined was a pretty progressive episode.

Kira has a one-episode fling with Thomas Riker wherein he hijacks the Defiant and then gets captured by Cardassians. She has a weird almost-flirtation/almost-combative relationship with Gul Dukat but she always stands her ground. Otherwise, her most icky relationship is with Vedek Bareil. Though, I have to admit, I think it's just me that's creeped out by this guy. Unless it's not. Is anyone else creeped out by him?
Also in DS9, they turn this trope around in the episode, "The Muse," wherein Jake gets all messed up by his creative-energy-sucking girlfriend.

 Onto Voyager:

Alright, Janeway is basically married to the ship and, thus, doesn't have much chance for human-style romance. She gives it a brief shot with Chakotay in "Resolutions" who, honestly, probably would've been an amazing abandoned planet husband. That guy made her a bathtub. She has a flirtation with Prince Humperdink of the Delta quadrant but, after a battle of wits, its Janeway who has the upper hand.
She also makes herself a holodeck boyfriend and, again, it's Janeway who holds all the power. She even feels guilty for altering him to better fit her own personality. Oh, and she also gets it on with Tom Paris when they're both Salamanders but I'm not sure that counts because, you know, reasons.

B'Elanna is pretty much in it to win it with Tom Paris the entire series. Though they have their ups and downs, their relationship is basically steady and they provide one another with a realistic, safe, deeply felt love.

Kes shows up with Neelix but she sort of calls it off between seasons. This isn't a bad thing. As much as I love Neelix, he was a Bad Boyfriend. He was jealous, over-bearing, over-protective, and patronizing toward Kes. Once they broke up, they both became better characters.
Later, she has a one-episode flirtation with a guy named Zahir but he actually turns out to be a decent guy--instead her BFF, The Doctor, tries to kill her. Does this count as a Bad Boyfriend episode? I'm not sure. I'm leaning toward yes.

Seven of Nine. Ok, so Seven of Nine has a couple of romantic interests during the show, including one which took place solely in Unimatrix Zero. Harry Kim and The Doctor both had feelings for her but the feelings weren't mutual and the friendships didn't turn into romance in either case. At one point, The Doctor inhabits her body and does some flirting but this doesn't go anywhere. In the end, she somehow ends up with Chakotay, which, I mean, if you love hand-built bathtubs, it seems like you're doing pretty well.

And, finally, Enterprise:
I'll be honest with you, I've been up since five o'clock this morning and I've already been working on this post for two hours somehow and I'm getting really exhausted. I mean, seriously, I just forgot how to go "back" on Firefox so I'll try to keep the rest of this short : 

Aside from T'Pol's main squeeze, Tucker, she has a brief encounter with a radical Vulcan. I'm not sure whether this counts as a boyfriend but it's definitely an "encounter" and this guy ends up violating her and leaving her with an (apparently) incurable (and tabooed) disease.

Hoshi has a whole Beauty & The Beast thing with this creep in a castle. Is there another one?


Anyway, both of these episodes feel like they could've just been re-written with Deanna Troi's name all over them following this simple pattern:

 Here is an intelligent, capable officer of Starfleet who just happens to be female. She hooks up with a guy or flirts with a guy or just happens to be in the same quadrant of space with a guy and he ends up endangering her in some way and her plight becomes the focus of the episode. The plot revolves around this woman being a victim.

Aside from the whole Kes/Neelix weird relationship, which they got rid of pretty quickly, Voyager didn't seem to have these episodes. (And please correct me if you think of one or more Bad Boyfriend episodes) There were stories wherein B'Elanna, Seven, or Janeway were in danger but it wasn't typically because of a bad, one-episode relationship. And, moreover, most of the plots of Voyager's female-character-driven episodes weren't based on the old "woman in peril" device. It's like the difference in a knight and a damsel. The knight rides knowingly into danger to achieve some greater goal. The damsel screams her beautiful lungs out until someone rescues her.

In Voyager, the women are knights. Deanna Troi is a damsel in distress and usually her peril is at the hands of a man and, often, at the hands of a man she is romantically involved with.

Unfortunately, at least until Deanna Troi takes the Bridge Officer Test and gets a new suit of clothes, most of the Deanna-sodes were about her being a victim. Not about her figuring something out. Not about her solving the problem or working alongside her crewmembers to save someone else. They featured her in tears, in danger, or in a coma. And that's a pity. Eventually, they endowed her with more ability and responsibility but go back to that old, awful stand-by of the mind-rape in Star Trek: Nemesis.

So, I'm not entirely sure why they went in such a different direction with the female-led episodes in Voyager. Was it that having a female captain lead to different story lines? Was it part of the zeitgeist? Was it just a steady progression from TNG to DS9 to Voyager wherein everyone involved grew steadily more conscious of the role of women in their show? Were people asking the question, "What are little girls made of?" and getting new answers?

I'm not sure. I'll keep thinking about it.

But not right now. Right now I'm going to get some sleep.



One Year Ago: Starting Voyager


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Because Holodecks Don't Exist: The Russia Shift

Just so you know, I'm working on that next Bechdel-related post. I've been watching other episodes of TNG and DS9 and I should have the next couple of posts up this week! Hooray!

In other news, I've FINALLY just about beat this sinus/respiratory infection. After a double course of antibiotics, a new allergy medicine, and a bottle of ibuprofen, I think I'm mostly free of this beast. No fever for a few days and I actually managed to get back in the gym yesterday and only overdid it a little bit.

(Quick shout out/thank you to my mom and Kate who sent me care packages! And everyone else who emailed to ask how I was! I feel so loved!)

Alright, so what have I been watching/reading this week?

The Fuse from Image Comics
Story by Antony Johnston, Art by Justin Greenwood
Alright so this is basically a gritty, police procedural, which all takes place in a hugenormous space station floating in Earth's orbit. There's a lot of standard police procedural stuff going on here. A gripping, victim-focused teaser, a new, awkward partnership, a rookie and old hand, a cranky guy in charge. But, in just about every way, Johnson and Greenwood find ways surprise and subvert our expectations. I got the first issue free (and you can too!) and immediately bought the entire Digital Trade Paperback and read it in one sitting.

The dialogue is snappy, the pacing is quick, and the plotting is tight.  You can tell immediately how much Sherlock Holmes, Miami Vice, and modern cop dramas Johnson has read/watched. You also get the sense, in the way Klem communicates with others in The Fuse and the way her background gradually surfaces, that this is a story that's been brewing in Johnston's head for a long time. The world inside The Fuse feels complete and he knows his way around it. Additionally, the flat, not-too-detailed art, with its cool, clean color scheme is perfect here and totally helps sell the whole cops on a big-ass space station idea.

 Anyway, the first issue is free so go get it. And read it. And come back and tell me what you thought.

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
Guys, I am WAY into this book. I didn't even know this thing existed. I read Pride and Prejudice last year and thought maybe I'd try Emma or Mansfield Park next. But, I ran across a thing (probably a Wikipedia entry? Who even knows) that mentioned this book and I went right over to Amazon and got it on kindle (for free because it's literally 200 years old) and I'm ALMOST done. When I finish this post, that's what I'm doing--finishing Northanger Abbey.
So, basically, this is Jane Austen's satirical take on the Gothic Novel. I spent the first part of the year reading old, Gothic novels and I actually stopped because I just couldn't handle anymore creepy reflections in the window or maybe-haunted-cabinets/castles/moors or guys who just seriously hate every single thing ever and can't even handle it. Apparently Jane Austen went through a similar phase and wrote Northanger Abbey. All I'm doing is complaining about it in the middle of this blog entry so I feel pretty inferior right now. Anyway, she tackles spooky tropes the same way she tackled the novels of society--with a perfect balance between unflinching satire of the culture and real affection for her characters. If you're into Gothic fiction and Level 99 sarcasm, why not blend them into a delightful, hilarious literary adventure and devour it as I have.
A book about a girl reading a book? What could be more exciting?

Torchwood (Available on Netflix)
One morning when I was hacking up all of my inside parts and Scott had gone off to the gym or a meeting or something (I wasn't paying attention because I was so gross and feverish) I had this weird desire to just watch some old Torchwood episodes. So, I started at the beginning and watched three (was it four?) straight through. Man, I missed this show. I wasn't really fond of the last season on Starz but, when this show was in its prime, when it was the core group, it had the ability to be amazing. Taking the world/mythos of Doctor Who, the consequences of dealing with alien species etc, into the cop world is a great idea and watching Gwen learn to be a part of Torchwood and then end up being what they all needed to bring them together is such fun.
It also comes with the nostalgia factor. You think, "Oh, Torchwood wasn't that long ago...not much has changed since then..." But, no, it premiered in 2005. That's almost ten years ago. I found myself feeling much the same way I feel when I re-watch Buffy. A lot of, "Aww. I remember when everyone had that shirt/haircut/jacket."

Bonus Points: I could listen to Eve Myles perform alveolar trills all day long.

Bonus Bonus Points: This show is sexy. Super sexy. Basically, everyone is omni-sexual and everyone kisses everyone else all the time including that time James Marsters showed up and it was just a ridiculous, sexy kiss-fest.











A Year Ago-ish: DS9 Season Seven Essentials

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A Captain, An Engineer, and An Astrometrics Specialist Walk Into A Bar

The Mary Sue (who I've written a few things for) recently published an article by Jarrah Hodge and, basically, I ended up with a new (imagined) BFF. This chick (with some help) put every live action episode of Trek to the Bechdel Test (#1- Two named female characters. #2- They talk. #3-They talk about something other than men.) and reported her findings. Were they super surprising?

From: The Mary Sue
Not really. Though, Enterprise really let me down. I love that show and, while I feel that Hoshi and T'Pol both had strong character arcs, it's still disappointing that the ship's Science Officer and Communications Officer had so few (man-less) conversations. My main issue with Enterprise has always been in their missed opportunity to showcase an LGBT character (and you're welcome to read all about that in my love letter to the best Trek romance that never was: Reed and Hayes) but this is also troublesome.

The series that fared better than any other was Voyager. I considered putting a little "of course" in that sentence but, in thinking about this test as applied to Trek, that seems a little counter productive. I've read a lot of fans talking about these results and that seems to be the general attitude. "Of course Voyager passed, it was female centric/heavy/focused/dominated." But... it's not. Not really.

Here's what I did. After reading these results, I queued up Voyager SSN 5. The fifth season of a show is often my favorite--or at least often features a lot of my favorite episodes. It seems to be that time in a show's life when the characters are firmly set, the actors are very comfortable with their roles, and the writers have to dig deep to come up with fresh and interesting story lines. I feel like the fifth season of all these Middle Star Treks (aka- The Unitard Era) is when the show really comes alive so it seems like a good place to give it a test. Ok so, I watched the first three episodes of Season Five of Voyager. And here's what I found:

#1- They all pass the Bechdel Test. Easily.
#2- Each of their stories are driven primarily by a female character (Night: Janeway, Drone: Seven, Extreme Risk: B'Elana) This is a bit of a coincidence. The next episode in the line-up is a Chakota-sode. Still, I think it's a point worth mentioning--especially since the season premier focuses heavily on a female character.
#3- There are three women in this show.

Three women. How does that make the cast female heavy? Here's a little snapshot to better illustrate my point:
I'll be honest, I picked this look because I'm way into Janeway's sassy bob.
So here are nine people. TNG, DS9, and Voyager all had nine-member casts. It's apparently something everyone in development thought was super important from about 1987-1995.
It's good to see Sears Portrait Studio of the 23rd century is still upholding this kind of quality.

I don't know, I couldn't think of a joke for this one.
Alright, in TNG you have two regular, female cast members and with an optional third in Tasha/Guinan. DS9 is about the same because you get a rotating cast of female regulars in Kai Wyn, Keiko, Leeta, Kasidy and Ziyal. Anyway, you don't have to have a fancy Starfleet degree in mathematics to figure out that 2-3 out of 9 isn't a majority. It's not even half.

You could say, "Well, the Voyager women are more important in terms of ship's operations." Well, that's true in the case of the Captain, I suppose, and maybe that's the key. Because I don't think that Kira or Dax are less important than Torres or Seven. And the ship's engineer and astrometrics specialist are no more essential than the ship's doctor and counselor (though I would make an argument about Troi's character before/after her Starfleet Uniform) so why is it that Voyager is so far ahead of the other series in terms set forth by the Bechdel Test?

So here are a few thoughts:

#1- Is it the female captain that makes all the difference?

#2- Is it the actors?

#3- Is it a more specific treatment of the show's female characters in an episode-by-episode and long-term character arc breakdown?

#4- Is it that Voyager was just the most recent after two prior re-envisioning of Star Trek and the writers knew they needed to do something different but then fell off the wagon when it came to Enterprise?

#5- Did Voyager come along at a time when it could be influenced by other pop-culture? Something about the zeitgeist?

I have a few theories but I'm going to explore them in blog posts to come because this is an issue that really interests me. Star Trek is a show that has (obviously) been a huge part of my life and I like thinking about why and how it affects me, and what lessons I can take from it as a human, a woman, and as a writer.

So, because I'd like to talk about each of these ideas and don't want to make your eyeballs bleed by putting it all right here, I plan on, over the next few days, writing about my further explorations in the Trek Bechdel Test. I'm going to watch a few more episodes (probably the same SSN/Eps from DS9 and TNG and some later eps from TOS and ENT) and I'll get back to you. Especially about #3, which is something I've been wanting to write about for a while. Would you like a hint about its subject? Here's my gift to you. I feel like a benevolent parent letting their child shake their Christmas presents.
It's not a train set. Sorry.



A Note About The Bechdel Test: I fully realize the Bechdel test isn't a perfect measure of a show's ability to represent strong, female characters but it is telling. And it does present us with a way to observe and analyze the shows/movies we love in a quantifiable way--which can then lead to a dialogue about the treatment of female characters.


A Year Ago Today: Deep Space Nine: The Last Romp

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Because Holodecks Don't Exist: Resistance Is Futile

So, remember how last week I wasn't feeling all that well? Part of that was because I had quite a remarkable toothache. I mean, really astoundingly awful. After a few days of grumbling and groaning and popping ibuprofen like smarties, I finally went to the dentist. (I love my current dentist but I've had a lifetime of bad nightmare dental work so this whole adventure was disquieting) She mashed on my face and poked my teeth with various implements and then said something like, "Well, all the pain you're feeling in your top teeth is most likely sinuses but it looks like you might need a root canal on the bottom."

She then sent me to an endodontist who performed similar poking techniques and then said something like, "Yeah. This looks pretty root-canal-y but maybe it's referred pain from the sinuses." 

So basically my inside face parts are waging war on the rest of my mouth/throat/chest. I went to the doctor yesterday who also performed various poking maneuvers and then said something like, "Yeah. These inside face parts are pretty bad off. I'm going to go ahead and put you on all the antibiotics ever." 

And that's what I'm doing now. Just kind of... waiting for the throbbing to cease and desist. While that's going on, I'm also doing my best to carry on with the sequel to Awesome Jones, heal up my arm, ease my way back into the gym, and mourn the fact that I'm finished with the LOTR books. And I'm also still watching TV and reading new/old stuff. Here's a bit of that:

1- Broca's Brain, by Carl Sagan
I love Sagan's literary jaunts and I first read this one about ten years ago via my now-husband's already well-worn paperback copy. Over the years, it always seemed to somehow meander into the living room and one of us would skim it or carry it to an appointment or wherever. Last week, I just decided to go ahead and re-read the whole thing again. It was really nice. Like an old blanket. Does that make sense to you? Do people who aren't me also appreciate old blankets? I can never tell. Anyway, in spite of some out-dated information (this is a science book from 1979) the real joy in reading Sagan's work is his sense of wonder and his enthusiasm for science, logic, and skeptical inquiry.
Oh, and his future memorial station on Mars. That's pretty cool too.

2- Cars of the People, presented by James May
Guys, I freaking love James May. His cranky-old-man-ness is something I can really identify with and his penchant for rambling on about history through the lens of pop culture is really something I can get behind because, I kind of did a year of that and it was awesome (for me.) Anyway, this mini-series is all about the history of the spread of cars from the elites to the everyday guy and gal. It's a bit of a spin-off from Top Gear and has the same production values and clever editing mixed with May's quirky sensibility.

3- Doctor Who: SSN 8, ep 2, "Into The Dalek"
Alright, folks, I'm a bit sick of Daleks at this point and felt we could use about a two-year-long-break from them wasn't super looking forward to this but, I actually really enjoyed it. It presented the Doctor/Dalek dynamic in a kind of new light and Peter Capaldi shone as a darker, grumpier, old-manier version of The Doctor which, of course, I really enjoyed (see item 2) alongside Clara's intuitive, spunky companion. Additionally, I really loved Mr. Pink (aka- the crying soldier/teacher) and both the actor and character feel super promising to me and it seems like this ex-soldier and our ex-soldier Doctor would be rather good for each other.
Bonus Points For:
#1- Bringing back Coal Hill School.
#2- "Resistance is Futile."


I feel like there are more things but my teeth hurt and I have a pile of pills to take so I'm going to go do that. Let me know how your watching/reading week is going? Are you watching the new Who?





Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Because Holodecks Don't Exist: Sushi with Tolkien and The Doctor

Well, once again it's Wednesday and I'm just now getting around to this post about last week's reading/watching. Honestly, this time it's mostly not my fault. We woke up Sunday to find our internet completely out. People, this was a harrowing experience for us. Anyway, it was back by Monday but then I started having some really awful sinus/tooth pain. I pretty much just laid on the couch all day and watched the ceiling fan spin. Today I trekked down to LA and visited my lovely dentist who said that my top teeth are probably hurting because of sinus pressure but that my bottom molar probably needs a root canal. Nice, right?

Anyway, here's some of what I watched and read last week:

#1- LOTR: The Return of the King
I finished the LOTR series. Man, what a whirlwind. This series ends about fifteen times and I still felt like that wasn't enough. All I wanted was more. I can see myself re-reading all of these books every couple of years. Just, absolutely beautiful and inspiring storytelling. It's the kind of work that makes me glad it exists and challenges me to raise my own work to another level. I'm so glad I was prevailed upon to read them.
Next, I'm considering starting the Chronicles of Narnia. I read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe when I was about eight years old but but I feel like I should give these books another shot.

#2- Avatar: The Legend of Korra (finale)
Seriously, this is one of the best scripted shows on TV. It's a perfect show. And, this season? Guys, it's amazing. I could write at least five lectures on lessons learned from Korra/Avatar. This show is basically a clinic in how to write action, how to write a sequel, how to write dynamic female characters, how to write an extensive mythos, how to create a world and how to write the rules of said world...


#3- Jiro Dreams of Sushi (Available on Netflix)
Ok so this is a documentary (it's all in Japanese so prepare yourself for 2 hours of subtitles) about this octogenarian sushi master in a tiny, unassuming sushi restaurant in Japan--and his sixty-year-old son who is still serving as an apprentice under his father. It's a quiet, contemplative look at, not only a complex father/son relationship, but also the dedication and obsession it takes to become a true master of one's craft.



#4- Doctor Who: SSN 8, Premier
Have I gone into my Doctor Who fandom before? I can't remember and my head is full of sinus medicine and I can feel this blog post getting away from me so I'll try to make this quick. Basically, I watched DW with my parents when I was a kid. Mostly Tom Baker. Scott and I started watching the reboot when it was in its second season but went back immediately to get caught up. I loved Nine. I loved Ten. I loved Eleven. I even loved The War Doctor. And, so far, I think I love Peter Capaldi. Actually, I'm pretty sure I do. And, I have zero problems with Jenna Louise Coleman. And, I do love the way Moffat plays with fan expectation while still delivering new and surprising elements of the Doctor's personality. I also love the score and I love how beautiful and cinematic everything is. But... I also kind of feel like it's gone off the rails. When Moffat first came aboard, I worried that full seasons of his work would be like eating cake icing. A spoonful is the best thing you've ever had but once you're halfway into the bowl, you can't take anymore. It's too rich to stomach and your teeth hurt. I loved the first Moffat season and would put it up against anything but, after a while, I think I just got fatigued with everything being epic. Everything probably shouldn't be epic.

At a certain point, when The Doctor, his companion, a lizard woman, her bad ass wife, and their thumb-headed butler are all standing on the bank of the Thames in Victorian London while a T-Rex stomps by and everything is dark and lovely and the score rises and the T-Rex screams and The Doctor is blabbering almost incoherently and everyone's questioning what's going on... All of this stuff, individually or in many combinations, is brilliant and perfect for Doctor Who. All together, it had me rewinding my DVR about five times just so I could attempt to decipher what The Doctor was saying. And, the Doctor just regenerated. Seems like whatever he and Clara say here is probably pretty important. It just seems like too much. Sometimes, you don't need a million things. Maybe most times.

On Monday, while we were waiting on the cable guy, we happened to catch "The End of the World" which was the first, regular season episode of the Nine era. Here we are at the literal end of the world and you'd think, "Oh, this shall be very epic, indeed!" but it's a quiet, intensely personal episode about a girl who's being introduced to her own (and her planet's own) mortality. It's paralleled by a look at The Doctor's remorse at the loss of his own planet and people. Every moment isn't played for epic crazyness. The score is there but it's just enough to help the script and acting shine without overpowering it. The world blows up and no one even sees it. We don't have to see it. That's the
 point. This isn't a show about the world blowing up. It's about people.



Anyway, I still love this show but didn't realize until this week how much I missed the earlier episodes.

Alright, that's it. I watched and read other things but I feel like this post is plenty long (especially with that whole DW rant) already. I'm going to make some hot chocolate and watch Penn & Teller and then go to bed and hope that I wake up tomorrow with clear sinuses and a can-do attitude. 
But how likely is that, really?




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