Category : TV and film

Not Absolutely Topping, but Still a Hoot

I’ve been rewatching Peter Davison’s first season as the Fifth Doctor on Doctor Who. It’s the season I saw that first got me hooked on the series. It’s always good to revisit your old haunts. Well,maybe not always, but usually. Tonight I watched the two-part story “Black Orchid.” It’s definitely not the best story of the season, but it’s also not the worst (I’m looking at you, “Four to Doomsday” and “Time-Flight”). It gets a lot of negativity because besides the Doctor, the TARDIS, and his companions, there’s no science fiction in it at all; it’s set up to be a classic 1920s mystery story, but the mystery is never much of a mystery; as a rare two-part story, it’s all a bit rushed, but there’s also not enough story to stretch it out to the typical four episodes. But aside from all that, I think it’s a fun one to watch. So here are the good things about the story:

  • It’s the first purely historical episode since the 1960s and the last one the show would ever do. Some people might not like that, but I find it kind of refreshing to have an episode set in Earth’s history that doesn’t involve an alien menace or time travelers from the future messing around with the timeline.
  • It’s one of the few stories in the season where none of the TARDIS crew get mad at each other, all of them act intelligently, and they’re all in a pretty good mood.
  • Tegan is in a good mood. She’s usually the one complaining the loudest, getting easily frustrated and angry, sniping at the Doctor and Adric and any guest stars who get in her way. Here she’s chipper and charming, she drinks cocktails, dances the Charleston, and playfully flirts with a much older man.
  • We get to watch Peter Davison show off his mad cricket skillz. I don’t really understand cricket, but you can see he’s playing well and having a great time doing it.

It’s easy to dwell on the negatives of the story (there isn’t much plot and what plot is there is pretty thin, and you can clearly see that the weather was pretty bad when they were shooting and the cast don’t look thrilled about it), but while the story never really amounts to much in the larger context of the season, I’m okay with that. It’s a breather episode, and a pretty fun one at that. Sometimes that’s all I need.

Own Your Joy

Tell me a movie, book, TV series, or whatever that you think is perfect and I’ll tell you how it isn’t perfect.

When I post online that I liked a certain movie, TV series (or episode of a TV series), a book, etc etc etc, I frequently get at least one response along the lines of “It wasn’t perfect, but it was fun” or “I didn’t love it, but I liked it.” And honestly, I don’t know what to do with statements like that. When I say I like something, even when I say I love something, that doesn’t imply I think it’s perfect. If you say you like or love something, I don’t assume you think it’s the Platonic ideal and love everything single thing about it. You’re allowed to enjoy something without having to qualify it. You’re allowed to like something without having to also disparage it in some way. Own your enjoyment. (more…)

An Impossible Story

On one hand, with the premise “adventurer can travel anywhere in time and space, in stories that can be pretty much any genre or mashup of genres”, it makes sense to me that Doctor Who would be such an incredibly long-running, popular series. But… (more…)

Animation Conflagration

Besides watching Speed Racer and Battle of the Planets when I was a little kid, I haven’t watched many anime series until recently. Movies, sure. Akira, Metropolis, and a lot of Studio Ghibli, but when anime was shown on TV in the States, I never seemed to catch it. Thanks to Netflix streaming a number of series, I’ve finally been able to start swimming in the anime pool. I haven’t watched a lot, but I’ve watched enough now that I’m figuring out what I like and want to see more of.

The anime I’ve enjoyed the most are Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, which is amazing, and Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic and its sequel series (really part of the same series), Magi: The Kingdom of Magic. I watched the last few episodes of Kingdom of Magic last night and it hit me that I liked it for a lot of the same reasons I like Fullmetal Alchemist, which are a lot of the same reasons I like superhero comics.

I love emotional characters making dramatic declarations (bonus points if they start crying, like Alibaba Saluja frequently does in Magi). I love characters in elaborate outfits standing in awkward but cool poses just before or after they unleash their unusual, flashy superpowers. And I particularly love epic conflicts and cosmic mysticism. (Is there an anime adaptation of the Mahabharata? I’ll be first in line to see that!)

Which isn’t to say I don’t also like smaller, quieter stories, because I do. But I really loves me some epic, cosmic melodrama!

Seeds of Dreams

It was 1983 and I was 13 years old. I had recently fallen in love with Doctor Who and wanted to learn more about the show. I stumbled upon a magazine celebrating the 20th anniversary of the show, and while I didn’t appreciate the significance of a science fiction series running for 20 consecutive years, I saw my opportunity to dive into the show and bought it on the spot.

I learned more about the basics of the show, including exactly what the TARDIS was, where the Doctor was from, and why there was more than one Doctor–in fact, the one I had gotten into was the fifth and there were three I hadn’t even known existed! And the show was originally in black-and-white! But the section of the magazine that made the biggest impression on me was the story guide, which gave a very short synopsis of every serial and a preview of the next season to come. I had already seen some paperback novelizations in the SF section of the bookstore with titles that sparked my imagination, like Doctor Who and the Pyramids of Mars and Doctor Who and the Tenth Planet, but this was a whole new game. Now I had a long list of imaginative and weird story titles, like “An Unearthly Child”, “The Web Planet”, “The Celestial Toymaker”, “The Tomb of the Cybermen”, “The Mind Robber”, “The Ambassadors of Death”, and “Carnival of Monsters.” The story synopses were short enough to let my imagination fill in a lot of blanks, helped along by the rest of the magazine, which gave just enough information about the series to give you the basics but still left a lot to be imagined.

I’d never thought of a series of stories–or even chapters within one story–broken up like that, with evocative titles and summaries that hinted at colorful, mind-blowing adventures, but after reading that magazine ragged, I started loosely planning out comic book series, prose serials, and even tabletop RPG campaigns by coming up with titles that sounded cool to me, and then brief, broad story ideas inspired by the titles. I’ve been doing it ever since. Now I have a Google doc with a long list of titles for stories that don’t yet exist, seeds waiting to be watered and grow into real stories, powered by the potential of the imagination.