x_losfic: (Best Enemies)
I don't even care what RTC quite rightly says re: how it's all over the place and nonsensical and characterization-dropping, I enjoy quite a lot of Edge of Destruction. I wouldn't if I were watching it as part of a series, in real time. Real Time makes me invested in characters/the season as an arc, more analytical, and less able to casually shrug off a dropped ball. I'm insistent on quality and don't yet have the distance necessary to enjoy occasional loveable badness, as I do with classic!Who. Which is maybe as it should be--it's right to demand the show be consistently good and not lose what's best about it, and right to get over failures eventually, so long as there's no irreparable damage. Maybe in time I'll look at S6 of New Who with the casual 'meh' detachment, amusement, and appreciation-on-good-points I reserve for serials like Remembrance of the Daleks and Ghostlight. My only fear would be that S6's problems are carry-overs of Seven era's problems re: fetishizing power, not dealing well with questions of agency, not properly thinking through the way watchers interacted with it as a text, and prestiging gods over characters, and that as such I can't say the Cartmell Master Plan can be laughed off now as a folly of the past that did no lasting damage--maybe it /did/, maybe the problems with S6 are the result.

But with Edge I laugh off the legitimate issues regarding everyone seeming to come in with wildly different acting styles that preoccupy the RTC writers, either as a point of mockery or something almost to be celebrated for its gusto. I like the episode's dramatic visuals, which paired with truly odd line deliveries in spooky voices give the serial genuine creepiness. I like this completely random dark, paranoid, murderous Susan and her enthusiastic spacebed stabbing. I love a good psychological bottle episode, and while this isn't quite one, it's the forerunner to Ten's Midnight in many ways, preparing the ground for that episode's 'something wrong with the ship' claustrophobic distrust and gnawing antipathy between its characters. The very IDEA of the TARDIS being itself the enemy in a way, and of the ship becoming unheimlich, is truly threatening.

This being the first glimpse of the TARDIS's sentience is intriguing. One's reaction sort of implies that the Time Lord line on TARDIS sentience is, at the moment, a relatively restrained one, which doesn't surprise me as an intellectual position the Time Lords we see in early Who would take up. It does, however, serve to enrich my knowledge of their culture/relationship to the TARDISs: one of deliberate stodgy demystification that resists romanticization, and prides itself on its intellectual rigor for doing so. Time Lords are unwilling to ascribe sentient personalities to technology, even these crafts, with constitutionally have a significant psychic component. The Doctor's sometimes-noted preference for organic over mechanical life could be rooted in a larger TL worldview (which he'd hate to acknowledge, being pretty iconoclastic). 

I really like One's apologizing to Barbara at the end and giving her a little talk, and his dizzy monologue on the birth of stars. These are some of the best facets of One: his total absorption in the wonder of the universe and his occasional doddery but compassionate and intelligent empathy, grandfatherly in the best way. RTC notes that Barbara's puzzle-solving doesn't quite work, but it seems to read more as a literary analysis to me. Maybe Babs double-majored. And Barbara's yelling at the Doctor is of course as excellent as everyone says it is, though not, I think, a major turning point in One's character arc, which is a slow project of learning to trust (again), and of taking his enormous capacity for, again, wonder and passionate investment in the universe and directing it (either for the first time or once again) towards individuals and their situations. If we're going with a narrative of Barbara winning One back to values and convictions he once had but has since become bitter and jaded about, Aztecs might be really revealing, because it could hint at a Doctor who's *tried* to alter fixed events, as Barbara wishes to, and has come up against a bitter realization that there are terrible things it's impossible or inadvisable to change, and that his well-meant interference has only made the people he's tried to help worse off. He warns her with a kind of sympathetic voice of experience. 

I'd really love some good One bildungsroman. I've said it before, but the more I watch, the more I think it. 
x_losfic: (Best Enemies)
The first four episodes of the Daleks and the last three feel like very different serials, the first focusing on the Daleks and the second focusing on the Thals (though of course both species are present in both halves). The Men of RtC (not to be confused with the Men of the ROTC) don't have much time for the Thals, pointing out that they're a bit dull and vapid. I thought, when I initially saw Daleks, that they were compellingly alien, in their detached pacifism and seeming lack of emotional involvement--rather a precursor to Nyssa of Traken in that way, maybe, who's consistently remarkable for her stoicism in the face of the loss of her family and society. I once read a fic in which Nyssa had a quite vicious moment at the expense of Ainley!Master, who was getting some come-uppance for body!theft. Though I really enjoy that fic, I can't quite see Nyssa going there--she seems incapable of more than a sort of quiet, persistent melancholy and lack of affect, predisposed to bearing up both by culture and disposition. In some way is Traken functioning as an ideal England, in that respect? An empire held in place by its stiff upper lips, its embedded codes of reserve and civility, with Melcor groves indicating the poisonous underlying weirdness of that set-up and the way in which it stifles all dissent? 

What then do the Thals say in terms of that? The Men again allude to a post-WWII Nazis vs. Appeasers dynamic, but the way it plays that out with Ian and injunctions against pacifism/reclaiming of the Warrior Within is very uncomfortable. The discussion sounds too much like the dregs of the Masculinist movement, or general weird war-hawkishness. I'm convinced of the peril of the situation for the Thals AND for the TARDIS crew, but I'm not convinced of the necessity of returning Thal culture to the state of its mythic warrior past, or swayed by the weird debates about whether the Thals are now culturally or biologically incapable of violence. It has a determinist element, too clearly dividing the capacity for violence from normal behavior, which doesn't ring true. Possibilities for violent conflict resolution lurk at the periphery or condition and dominate cultures' public discourse, they don't occupy a discrete sphere. You'd have to do a LOT to sell me on biological incapacity for violence. Or just have Donna say something great, which then seems blazingly obvious, like 'they *carry their brains around*, probably they are not super violent.'

RTC has a lot of interesting commentary on the origin and development of the Daleks over the years/serials, but the Thals have a kind of odd course to travel as well. When Three runs into the Thals, presumably much much later, they're a technologically adept warrior race once again. Their long-standing mission is to eradicate the threat of the Daleks, who they seem to have assumed a sort of moral responsibility for on the basis of their shared common origins. When Four encounters the Thals much earlier in their timeline in Genesis, they're still biologically identical to the Kaleds, who will become the Daleks, and both peoples appear identical to humans (whereas these initial Thals have a sort of Aryan Super Race aesthetic going on). The Genesis!Thals are interesting in that small details of their writing indicate not just a society in the grip of a centuries-long war, but a sort of genuine alienness, a different morality rather than a variation of an immediately recognizable human system. I can't remember the detail that led me to conclude this at the moment--I'll come back to it if it comes to me, or catch it up when I review Genesis. It probably more properly belongs in that review anyway.

The QUEST!!narrative of the last three serials seems unnecessary--if One hadn't been crowing about how cool he was, he wouldn't have been captured, and thus Team Ian and Barbara need never have gone their sneaky and dangerous way at all? They might have walked up to the front door with just as much a chance of success. That said, crowing!One was adorable--I enjoy One's crisp, seemingly cruel, but actually just rather harshly utilitarian practicality in these early episodes, his sneaking camaraderie with Ian and Barbara both in distinct ways, his petulant component-swapping (which does read as more mischievous than bitchy), and his glee regarding matters of science--his eye-roll-provoking but somewhat dear delight in his own intelligence. I sort of want back-stories for One that take this person and tell me what's happened to form him as he is now: interesting, ambiguous, and seemingly full of internal contradictions, but I want those to be fanfic stories rather than canon or even paracanon, because on this point I think flexibility and ambiguity are necessary tools, allow the Doctor to remain a dynamic epic hero, and I don't want An Answer.  One's complex and a bit great. And Barbara and Ian are doing quite well. Susan's fine, but she's never had a TON of consistent personality, perhaps due to her youth and strangeness. I find it difficult to say much more than that I rather like her. 

I do feel very sorry for cowardly!Thal, and a bit charmed by Barbara's one-off light romantic arc (though I do primarily ship her with Ian--as, I believe, do all sensible people). My GOD the Ordeal was turgidly paced. 

Reading along in Running Through Corridors is, once again, rich in interesting series production information, though I begin to get the feeling that it was produced somewhat cheaply? I'm not a professional copy editor trained to pick up typographical errors (which friends in publishing give me to understand is *much* harder than it might seem, when one's confronted with huge manuscripts and expected to spot every miniscule thing wrong with them--so I'm not chortling over these errors, because I *get* that it's hard, so much as I'm just observing them), but I've noticed several, and I'm what, 20 pages in? My first thought was that, as often happens when people not familiar with a topic edit material, someone editing was a bit befuddled by the subject material, and so missed things he or she might otherwise have seen, say, in a book less technically concerned with the minutiae of a specialist subject. However the publisher, Mad Norwegian Press, out of Des Moines, Iowa, specializes in sci-fi paracanon books, and the editor is listed as Lars Pearson, the company owner/Editor-in-Chief himself. Whether he actually did this work or farmed it out to an underling is an open question, but given that his name's on it and that Des Moines is a stone's throw from the Iowa Writer's Workshop in Iowa City and the associated small presses and underemployed grad students within the program, there's really not much excuse for sloppiness on this front. The company could have commanded many capable proof-readers easily and cheaply, if it had bothered.

The text otherwise reads very well, but I suspect that's due to the two writers having quite smooth, sprightly, and coherent styles to begin with, rather than a credit to the content-editing. 

 
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!
x_losfic: (Default)
My ambivalence about Silence in the Library coalesces into a follow up episode with none of the distracting plot elements and the wit and charm of the first one.

* STRONG!FEMALE! character continues to be poor actual character. I'm not a bad feminist for thinking River Song's a Mary Sue. I just can't tolerate the inexplicable, un-earned textual amazingness of her. I couldn't if she had a dick, either. She knows how to pilot a TARDIS better than (any man!!) not just the Doctor, but Romana, the Master, and every other TL who's ever made a dematerializattion noise.

River is Romana I done wrong. Romana I was lovely BECAUSE she was a bit of an ice queen. She was brainier then the Doctor in some ways, but not unbelievably so. She was flawed, and had some sense of background and person-hood. River's action-heroness and smugness is as vile and unappealing as ever Ten's hubris was, and self-satisfied joke w/ Amy about museums being 'how the Doctor keeps score' is nauseating and non-senscal. What does that even mean? That he counts species he's saved? Are we back to awk Planet of the Dead Adrenaline Junkie Doctor  characterization, where the script palpitatingly anounces its EXCITING because viewers at home are too stupid to grok that the game is afoot unless the Doctor's getting all orgasmic at sand storms avec possible earth-destruction while cooing something awkwardly classist at Laura Croft?

* Matt Smith, who I love, is handed a very David Tennant script and left to act his way around it. /Gag/ to 'never put in a trap: MEEEEEEE!'

*Amy Pond still marginalized. While the first episode made me REALLY WANT to get to know her, I don't feel I have done. Not that I necessarily want characterization work to be done via her feelings for the Doctor a la Martha, but I'd like some idea of who she is?

* It's a /point/ for me that, four episodes in, I wouldn't feel comfortable writing either character. Not in terms of voices or characterization. Who's Eleven?

* The weeping angels are over-powered, and Blink looses some of its continuity and charm by their degradation here--it's horror movie sequel effect. In what way are The Kindly Killers the most TERRIBLE THREAT EVAHR AROUND!!? Didn't we do this last week? Weren't there Cushing era COLOR!Daleks? Wasn't I having something like fun?

* On that note: fun. This wasn't any. Not a joke that didn't choke on its own smarm, not a shot that shocked or scared, not a minute of merit. Not an offesively bad episode, but a /dull/ one, which is worse. Better actively bad than terrible blase.  RTD? I almost miss Pip and /Jane/ at this point.
x_losfic: (Default)
My ambivalence about Silence in the Library coalesces into a follow up episode with none of the distracting plot elements and the wit and charm of the first one.

* STRONG!FEMALE! character continues to be poor actual character. I'm not a bad feminist for thinking River Song's a Mary Sue. I just can't tolerate the inexplicable, un-earned textual amazingness of her. I couldn't if she had a dick, either. She knows how to pilot a TARDIS better than (any man!!) not just the Doctor, but Romana, the Master, and every other TL who's ever made a dematerializattion noise.

River is Romana I done wrong. Romana I was lovely BECAUSE she was a bit of an ice queen. She was brainier then the Doctor in some ways, but not unbelievably so. She was flawed, and had some sense of background and person-hood. River's action-heroness and smugness is as vile and unappealing as ever Ten's hubris was, and self-satisfied joke w/ Amy about museums being 'how the Doctor keeps score' is nauseating and non-senscal. What does that even mean? That he counts species he's saved? Are we back to awk Planet of the Dead Adrenaline Junkie Doctor  characterization, where the script palpitatingly anounces its EXCITING because viewers at home are too stupid to grok that the game is afoot unless the Doctor's getting all orgasmic at sand storms avec possible earth-destruction while cooing something awkwardly classist at Laura Croft?

* Matt Smith, who I love, is handed a very David Tennant script and left to act his way around it. /Gag/ to 'never put in a trap: MEEEEEEE!'

*Amy Pond still marginalized. While the first episode made me REALLY WANT to get to know her, I don't feel I have done. Not that I necessarily want characterization work to be done via her feelings for the Doctor a la Martha, but I'd like some idea of who she is?

* It's a /point/ for me that, four episodes in, I wouldn't feel comfortable writing either character. Not in terms of voices or characterization. Who's Eleven?

* The weeping angels are over-powered, and Blink looses some of its continuity and charm by their degradation here--it's horror movie sequel effect. In what way are The Kindly Killers the most TERRIBLE THREAT EVAHR AROUND!!? Didn't we do this last week? Weren't there Cushing era COLOR!Daleks? Wasn't I having something like fun?

* On that note: fun. This wasn't any. Not a joke that didn't choke on its own smarm, not a shot that shocked or scared, not a minute of merit. Not an offesively bad episode, but a /dull/ one, which is worse. Better actively bad than terrible blase.  RTD? I almost miss Pip and /Jane/ at this point.
x_losfic: (Four)
Did you know Classic Who has three separate episodes named ‘Noun of Evil’? Two ‘The Noun of Fear’s? Three ‘Terror of the Nouns’? NINE ‘The Noun of the Daleks’?! I kind of love the corny Boys’ Adventure novel-style predictability of Classic Who serial titles. They’re just so cheesy!good!

x_losfic: (Four)
Did you know Classic Who has three separate episodes named ‘Noun of Evil’? Two ‘The Noun of Fear’s? Three ‘Terror of the Nouns’? NINE ‘The Noun of the Daleks’?! I kind of love the corny Boys’ Adventure novel-style predictability of Classic Who serial titles. They’re just so cheesy!good!

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