May. 21st, 2011

x_losfic: (Best Enemies)
A BLATANT PLUG FOR THE WATCHALONG:

So as you may know, best_enemies is watching Who from the very beginning, a serial a week (roughly, splitting long long serials up, fusing them onto short serials, etc.). Last week was Unearthly Child, this week's the first four episodes of the Daleks (see here: http://best-enemies.livejournal.com/482401.html for more details). You should join in, if you'd like to fill in your b&w who knowledge!


HADOKE, STAR TREK, AND AMERICAN-WHINGING:

I said I'd do reviews of each arc, and I'm following along with the aid of my birthday present, 'Running Through Corridors', by Toby Hadoke and Rob Shearman. Both are lovely men and engaging writers. I've seen Hadoke's 'Now I Know My BBC' in Edinburg, and his 'Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf' in London. I was particularly struck with Hadoke's point in Now I Know about avoiding comedy that simply mocks, because it's easy, cheap, and relatively cold. I think that's quite true, and an unusual break down of the mechanisms of comedy, the sort of feelings certain types of comedy create, their efficacy, and their worth. I sort of wish Hadoke would practice the preaching when it comes to Star Trek, which he mentions in Moths to comparatively shore up Who.

Now Who is my greater love, but I grew up on Star Trek, and I remain huggably close to it. The best things about the programs are occasionally very similar. Star Trek has an admirable ability to ask moral questions. It aims at inclusion, even if not always capable of perfectly realizing this. Such failures are as often due to the constraints of American television-making (see: the demotion of 'Nurse' Chapel, the changes from the pilot to the first episode of ToS) as to evolving thinking and writing on issues of social justice. Star Trek has an abiding faith in the potential of humanity not only to survive the advent of the sort of technoscience that haunts Ardent and Adorno's bleakest imaginings of human destiny, but to triumph over want, over their own cruelties and limitations, and to still find life challenging, thrilling, worth living on the other side of such advancement. Doesn't that sound like a sentiment the Doctor would endorse?

At Newsweek’s insistence that Trekkies are, in fact, “weird,” Patrick Stewart, who played Captain Picard in ST:TNG, said:

"How many do you know personally? You couldn’t be more wrong. Here’s the thing: if you say the fans are weird, that means there is something essentially weird about the show, and there is nothing weird about it. I’m very passionate when people like you snigger."

Why should Hadoke need to create a false binary to support Who, which is strong enough not to need such shoring up? In there, as people do with Star Trek, and as I remember, he got in a few 'ergh, Americans' comments.

That never gets old. It's never tired and unfunny. It's never a reductive misrepresentation of a complicated country rent with internal political and cultural divisions. It's never weird in such a way that if someone did it about another country, you'd feel it was inappropriate. It's certainly never sort of hurtful! It's never an awkward under-considered faux-Liberal 'fuck you' that seems an inappropriate expression of British collective amnesia regarding their own very recent, still affective, imperial legacy. It never carries awkward tinges of colonial snobbery, mixed in their with the Liberal sentiment, in a way otherwise decent people don't bother to parse because golly goodness, it's virtuous to mock the monolithic beast that is All Americans.

It's always. fucking. hilarious.

Jack Dee also did this in a taping of QI I attended about a week ago. As I said then: 'Not funny or correct enough to justify it. Blah blah, Americans not polite, whiiiinge, mooooooan, lazy not terribly apt observaaaaation.' Bored now.

Other than that, I really like Toby Hadoke.


'RUNNING THROUGH CORRIDORS':

'Running Through Corridors' is interesting in ways my analysis of Unearthly Child could never be, just in terms of what it picks up--the notes on lighting, staging, and theatrical pacing are all interesting (and these men REALLY know their television production), but I'd never have come to similar conclusions, just because television, for me, is largely the writing. I said something similar and probably stupid about Shakespeare plays once. I come from a somewhat rural, relatively Not Rich Southern American town, and the only Shakespeare we ever saw was free summer Shakespeare in the Park in larger or more politically important cities--drastically cut, performed by perplexed high schoolers (uni drama students if we were phenomenally lucky), and more often than not I didn't get to finish more than the first half because my father and sister would get bored and insist on heading home. To this day, I like to have read Shakespeare plays before I see them, to be sure of catching everything. Tennant's performance in Hamlet was kind of revelatory in this way, because it seemed shockingly like a person was just *thinking* these words, because they were what he wanted to say, rather than *lines*, rather than *Hamlet*. It was startlingly fresh, in a way I didn't know I'd been missing. But the point remains that for me, Shakespeare is something like a novelist, and even now, in London, I look on the plays as wonders, but somehow surplus to requirements. Similarly, I look at these old eps as their scripts, and tend to not catch the rest of the admittedly quite important work that goes into producing a serial and conditioning its reception.

So, I REALLY recommend RTC, if you're Watching Along through the b&w era. The writing's sprightly and insightful, and I'd like to encourage them to produce further installments (in their own good time, naturally).


UNEARTHLY CHILD:

Unearthly Child itself: I echo the menfolk in their conclusion that the first episode is shot experimentally, doing some things Who will never do again, and that it's an enormously successful first outing. Katy will watch this episode happily, even while mocking the Cave Times. Susan always looks so alien to me--wonderfully strange, her insectile gestures and huge, bright eyes giving her mere presence an uncanny aspect. She and Barbara can both, also, be incredibly beautiful at times--their glossy hair and statuesque faces seem particularly well-suited to black and white. One comes across as so bitter to me here--confusion as to whether he ran or was exiled aside, he seems deeply untrusting (even given what we later come to know about the sort of place Gallifrey can be). In terms of canon, I could believe that whatever One's liberal leanings in a Gallifreyan context (which we're later given to believe he had), he's relatively recently had all the fairness, broadmindedness and compassion knocked out of him by Disappointments Unknown.

Outside of the terms of canon, however: a few months ago I wrote a paper on Who as a dialogic British national epic (in case anyone at all, ever, is interested I'll probably correct a few citations I've noticed are dodgy and post this when I'm out of the hell that is the MA thesis conference x_x), in a bit of which I discussed the way the Doctor is rewritten as eras progress. The Doctor's is not a straightforward character evolution, wherein Barbara in particular 'humanizes' One (I think Shearman may have made some mention of the companions humanizing him?), so much as, for external-to-canon production reasons, a re-writing of the character. This re-writing doesn't develop off the earlier characterization so much as ret-con bits of it and pretend there's nothing to see here, more it along. One is not the older version of the little boy Five was, who wanted to be a train conductor as a child. One's 'red indian' crack in Unearthly, his caveman-head-bashing, and his later 'this place is full of arabs!' are things Train Conductor Five, half-human!Eight and I Love Humans!Ten have never done, not things they did in a foggy, long-ago past which they've evolved away from or forgotten.

This particular argument may benefit from the paper's elucidation, actually, so I'll let it drop for the moment. I don't have a huge problem with the Doctor's inconsistency from a Watsonian standpoint, because as a fan I BYO explanations and cherry-pick, from the conflicting mass of information, a narrative that fits the data well and appeals to me. I guess the character's evolution intrigues me from a Doylist perspective. Hadoke has suggested in 'Moths' that maybe every generation gets the Doctor it deserves. As the show grows and matures into a fluid national epic with the Doctor at its centre, every generation certainly gets a Doctor drawn from it, who speaks to it in some fashion. That's a really fascinating process.

I don't mind the last three episodes of this serial in the way Katy does. They're not my favorite things ever, but I do enjoy One's apologies for getting everyone into this, and his tricksy attempts to get them out of it. I believe it was Shearman who made an interesting point about Ian and Appeasement being as a post-war comment as the more obvious Daleks.

Re: Katy though, I did feel a bit sad for the menfolk, in that one of the Nerd!WAGs, probably a lovely woman in other capacities, vehemently did not want to watch All Of Who Ever with her HAB. I feel grateful for Katy's independent and equal interest in science fiction I love, because it must be rather lonely not to be able to share a major passion with the person you'd most like to enthuse to, or having your partner possibly not be that person. But then maybe that's not quite right, because everyone has SEVERAL major interests, and it's not like you need to share those all equally with your partner--I don't sing, for example, and Katy does, very well, in bloody operettas, and she doesn't, I don't think, sit around bemoaning my incapability and thus my failure as a partner for her.

It does get a bit slow in the last few eps, I must grant Katy, but the writing is pretty good (barring the repetitiveness of the FIRE, FIIIIIIIIIRE!!! debate, which perhaps could have been compressed without losing any good material or tension). I do like the way the cavemen speak, with its markers of difference, but then I like how Leela speaks, and that's a bit stereotypical, isn't it, so perhaps I'm not entirely to be trusted on this score.

Tomorrow: first four eps of Daleks!

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