Sunday, November 24, 2013

Day of the Doctors

I enjoyed The Day of the Doctor, but there was a giant Christopher Eccleston sized hole in that story. I suppose it's not Steven Moffat's fault that Eccleston passed on being in the 50th Anniversary Special, but I can fault him for continuing with that story when he knew the Ninth Doctor couldn't be in it in any substantive way.

I noticed his absence the most during the scene when Ten, Eleven, and the War Doctor are standing there with their hands on the button. He really needed to be there in that scene. He was the PTSD Doctor. He was closer to the war and more effected by it then any of them. If this was the story of the Doctor redeeming himself for destroying his own people, Nine needed to be there.

I could have even forgiven his absence if they'd been able to get him in the studio long enough to finish the War Doctor's regeneration sequence. All I needed was for Eccleston to look up and say "Fantastic!" But no. Instead we get old footage of him re-purposed along with old footage of all of the Doctors. It was fine. It worked. It just wasn't satisfying.

And I realize that Peter Capaldi wasn't cast in time for this to be possible, but what would have made the show truly epic would have been to add 30 minutes, include Nine, AND include Thirteen. (I'm going to assume he will be known as Thirteen, but there will be no retroactive renumbering of Nine through Eleven.) There's no reason you have to introduce a new Doctor with his regeneration. You could have brought him in from the future. Maybe that would have been too distracting, but I think it would have been brilliant. At least they worked him briefly into the climax.

Then there was Tom Baker. I spent the whole episode assuming the asthmatic with the scarf would somehow turn out to be him. Then he pops in at the end. I thought it was a clever way to work in one of the older actors, even if he did ham it up.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Troilus and Go-see-it-a

I went to opening night of Impact's Troilus and Cressida on Saturday night. I didn't know anything about the play before I showed up at the theater that night, except that it was Shakespeare. You don't need to either. As soon as you open your program, you'll recognize character names and think to yourself "That's what this play is about? I didn't realize Shakespeare wrote a play about that. I wonder who plays the Brad Pitt and Eric Bana characters..."

About halfway through the first act, I found myself thinking "This is really good. It's modern. It's funny. It's tragic. It's way better than that stupid movie. Why isn't this play done more often?". Then the second half began and things started to go a little sideways. Then it started getting really weird. Then it ended, and I thought "Whaaaaat?!" It's not the production's fault at all. It's solid and approachable and engaging and everything you'd expect from an Impact Shakespeare.

It's Shakespeare's fault. Or rather it's time's fault. T & C is one of his "problem plays", a problem because times have changed so much that the humor and dramatic weight of the show are all but incomprehensible to a modern audience.

Even so, I have to highly recommend seeing the show. Why? Think about it: What could be more engaging than watching Shakespeare drive a train wreck? It's riveting to watch just how out of control and weird it gets. The director, Melissa Hillman, does a great job of toning it down and making it hold together into some sort of satisfying arc, but seriously, just go and watch the shit fly. It's worth it for the fight scenes, the humor, and the beer, if nothing else. And you can impress people by telling them you've actually seen a production of Troilus and Cressida that didn't suck.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

WHO Doctor Doctor Who

The casting of the 12th Doctor was announced on Sunday, via a live TV special shown at the same time on the BBC and BBC America, except of course for me because I don't pay for HD cable. As such, my BBC America feed is three hours delayed. Still, the twittersphere did not disappoint in conveying the news to me in real time. The new Doctor will be:

I've never seen The Thick of It, the show for which he is famous for playing the foul-mouthed Malcolm Tucker. But a friend of mine on Facebook, who clearly has seen the show, was nearly peeing her pants with joy. More recently you might recognize him as the World Health Organization (WHO) Doctor in World War Z. (See how that works? He went from a WHO Doctor to Doctor Who...)

My first reaction to his casting was to have a moment of disappointment that they cast yet another white male in the role and passed up the opportunity to cast a minority, whether a woman or a person of color. Then that moment passed because as much as I would like to see that happen someday, I don't trust Steven Moffat to handle either of those things well. Don't get me wrong, I like a lot of what he's done for the show since taking over for Russel T. Davies, but he tends to write in broad, stereotypical strokes that would not have gone well. He strikes me as one of those white males who doesn't understand that other people's life experience isn't identical to his own.

Otherwise I quite like the choice. Moving from the youngest Doctor, Matt Smith (27 when he debuted), to the second oldest in Capaldi (55 and second only to the first Doctor, William Hartnell) will provide a nice contrast, and maybe it will stop the companions from falling in love with him. Matt Smith also did a wonderful job of conveying through his performance how old the character is in spite of Smith's physical youth, which I think will allow the transition to Capaldi to be smoother. Smith's Doctor doesn't feel young at all. Now the Doctor will just look more his age.

It's interesting to note that Capaldi appeared in The Fires of Pompeii episode of Series 4 opposite David Tennant's Doctor. I wonder if they'll do some retconing and make his character in that episode the 12th Doctor in disguise. Actually, it would be pretty brilliant to bring back David Tennant and Catherine Tate, and show us that whole episode from the 12th Doctor's perspective pretending to be Caecilius.

In any case, Capaldi will make his debut at the end of this year's Christmas special, undoubtedly poking his face a lot, frowning at his bow tie, and being disappointed that after 11 regenerations, he still hasn't been a ginger.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Sleepy Hollow

I don't care if it's in this new Grimm knock-off on FOX...

Or the old Tim Burton movie with Johnny Depp and Christa Ricci...

Watching a guy without a head walk around and attack people is impressive.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Who's Clara?

I learned most of what I know about storytelling from improv. Fortunately I studied improv with people who were less interested in making people laugh and more interested in telling a good story. One of the things that was hammered home to me over the years was that the most important ingredients for a good story are characters and relationships not plot. If you have the first two the third either doesn't really matter or will come naturally.
Lots of things go into making good characters and relationships, but the cornerstone really is a character's motivations. Looking back at all of the companions in the Doctor Who reboot, the most interesting ones had the most interesting and complex wants and needs.
On some level most companions are looking for adventure. This was certainly true of both Donna and Rose. They both wanted to get out of their dead-end lives and see the universe. Rose also wanted to protect her mother and reconnect with her dead father and... well she didn't even know what she wanted from Mickey, but that made that relationship interesting. Whereas Donna wanted to protect her grandfather and get away from her mother (while still craving her approval) and find a husband.

Martha, on the other hand, wanted the Doctor. She too had relationships with her family back at home, but mostly she was just in love. This made for a rather one dimensional season as all you could really do with that was shit on her while Ten ignored her and pined away for Rose.
Amy wanted her "raggedy doctor" to be real. That was perhaps the initial genius of Steven Moffat's takeover of the series. He takes over a series with millions of adult viewers who watched the show as a child and fantasized about what they would do if they traveled around with the Doctor. So Moffat gave those viewers a companion living out her childhood fantasy of traveling with the Doctor. A fantasy that was so all consuming that it was getting in the way of her living her life to the point that she ran away from her wedding to sort it out.
Rory on the other hand, just wants to be with Amy. He loves her so deeply that he's willing to travel to the ends of time and space to protect her and be with her (or spend thousands of years guarding her while she's trapped in the pandorica.)
That was an interesting dynamic for a couple of seasons but couldn't sustain itself very long largely because Amy and Rory had no relationships outside of each other and the Doctor. Eventually we had a few interesting episodes with Rory's father, but we never really knew Amy's parents, largely because they didn't even exist there for a while. Then we had Amy and Rory's kid and River Song add a little complexity, but towards the end things just sort of puttered out.
Now we have Clara. She's been around for half a season and I have absolutely no idea what she wants. She doesn't seem to have a particularly onerous life back on Earth in the present, that we know of anyway. Although now that we've spent an episode with the kids she nannies, I wouldn't blame her for wanting to get away. Except that even in that episode, Clara and the kids were rarely in the same scene together, so we never really got a sense of that relationship to each other. So really, the only relationship we've seen Clara have has been with the Doctor, and I don't even know what she wants from him.
That's why, as I watch this season with Clara, I keep feeling like there's nothing there or there's something missing. She has no motivation. Nothing is driving her. Nothing is moving her or her story forward. Without that, her character doesn't really exist, and without characters, the story's not going to be very good.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Doctor Who Returns!

The second half of the current season of Doctor Who started up again this weekend with the episode "The Bells of St. John." I find id interesting the nearly at the same time we find out officially that David Tennant and Billie Piper will be in the 50th Anniversary Special this fall we get a reference to the Tenth Doctor in the episode. In case you didn't catch it, as the Eleventh Doctor is shedding his monk's robes and getting re-dressed in his regular garb, he grabs two coats, one of which was Tenth Doctor's which he then tosses aside in favor of his current, shorter coat. I'm going to bet that won't be the last reference to Tenth Doctor, or any previous Doctor to pop up this season. 

Given how Steven Moffat likes everything to connect, I would normally assume that Tennant and Piper's reappearance would be more than just a random occurrence but would rather be an important piece in a larger puzzle. However, they seem to be making the special a stand-alone story, given that it will happen after the current season ends and be shown in theaters the same day it airs. But who knows. 

I also saw an interesting post on Facebook pointing out the similarities between Clara Oswin Oswald and CAL, the girl from Moffat penned "The Silence in the Library"/"Forest of the Dead" episodes during the Donna Noble season. CAL has a similar name, looks a bit like one imagines a young Clara to look, and there is the similarity of their story-line  CAL was a girl whose intelligence was uploaded to a computer but didn't realize it. Clara, in her first episode, had her intelligence residing in a Dalek, but didn't realize it. Then in this week's episode, she gets her mind actually uploaded into a computer, in a way that one assumes Charlotte Abigail Lux's was uploaded into CAL. 

Are they really connected? Hard to say. It's tantalizing to think this story could loop back around to the library. That could open a door for the Tenth Doctor's appearance in the Anniversary Special as well open the possibility of putting a button on the River Song song character arc. That's a hard thing to do, given that we've already seen all of her major life events from birth to death to meeting the Doctor to the Doctor meeting her and even their wedding. Still, she feels unresolved in some way, even with these out in the ether

Of course, as I'm writing this, the person I really want to see in the Anniversary Special is Captain Jack...

Friday, March 29, 2013

How is Easter Sunday if Good Friday's Friday?

Today is Good Friday, the day that Christian's "celebrate" the death of Jesus. Then Sunday is Easter, celebrating Christ's resurrection. Except that Christianity also tells us that Christ died and on the third day he rose again. Wait a minute. As my wife pointed out the other day, if he died Friday afternoon, Sunday morning is barely 36 hours later. That's not three days and three nights. How does that work?

The best answer I've found comes from this article on the United Church of God web site. The first thing to know is that "Easter" is not mentioned anywhere in the Bible. In fact, the idea of celebrating and commemorating Christ's resurrection isn't mention anywhere in the bible (neither is the concept of Lent). Whereas celebrating Passover is mentioned in the New Testament, something early Christians did but modern Christians have long since dropped. Instead, like all good Christian holidays, Easter was co-opted from pagan festivals celebrating the beginning of spring. The word "Easter" comes form the Anglo-Saxon word "Eostre", the goddess of spring. Bunnies and eggs all come directly from this pagan tradition.

It was a long time before any of these traditions were officially adopted by the church as official holidays. Then there were all sorts of battles over when the holidays should be, and what should be celebrated when. When everything was settled, Christ's death was Friday and his resurrection was Sunday mostly due to a lazy reading of the Bible.

The Bible talks about Christ dying and being buried just hours before the Sabbath began. Then the women, after resting on the Sabbath, show up to his tomb the next day to anoint him with oils and he's gone. So, he died the day before the Sabbath and rose the day after. He died Friday. He rose Sunday. The Jewish Sabbath being of course on Saturday. But that's not three days.

Right, because if you read the Bible more carefully you realize that somewhere in there the women had time to go buy and prepare the oils. Something they couldn't have done on the Sabbath itself.

Remember how I mentioned early Christian's celebrated Passover? That's because Jesus celebrated Passover and the subsequent Feast of the Unleavened Bread. Those two Jewish festivals are generally combined these days into one event, but they weren't always that way. You'd have your Passover seder, then you might have a day to prepare, and the Feast of Unleavened Bread would begin... with a "high day" or Sabbath.

Ding ding ding. There were TWO Sabbaths that week. We have a winner.

In the year 31, the Feast of Unleavened Bread started on Thursday. Read the Bible closely, and you realize that Jesus died on Wednesday, the day before the "high day" Sabbath that began the festival. Sunset Wednesday to sunset Thursday is one day and night. Sunset Thursday to sunset Friday is day two, and the day the woman buy and prepare the oils. Sunset Friday to sunset Saturday is day three, the regular weekly Sabbath. Christ then presumably rises Saturday night, which by the Jewish reckoning is already Sunday. The woman go to the tomb before sunrise the next day and find it empty.

There you go.

So Good Friday should really be Good Wednesday, and the Last Supper was Tuesday night. What did Christ do all night Saturday? Who knows. Maybe he rested up from dying or spent one last wild night on the town turning water into wine before he had to start ministering to his followers. In any case, good luck getting the world's 2 billion Christian's celebrating Good Wednesday.

In 1789, the governor of Australia granted land and some animals to James Ruse in an experiment to see how long it would take him to support himself. Within 15 months he had become self sufficient. The area is still known as Experiment Farm. This is my Experiment Farm to see how long it will take me to support myself by writing.