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Lately, it feels like I'm the only person in the world who couldn't give a shit about the new Dr Who.

No, I haven't watched it, and no, I don't plan to. I just don't care. A giant goddamn promotional phone box could drop out of the sky and land on the sidewalk right in front of me, and I'd step around it, assured that whatever came out of there would be utterly useless to me. And doesn't anyone remember Billie Piper from her fifteen minutes as a pop starlet, dancing in a laundry mat, and telling us all... well, who knows, really. Something innocuous and repeated sixteen billion times in pop songs around the world.

I don't understand the need to keep remaking shows like Dr Who. Is the audience that starved for the story of a guy and his telephone box that they'd have this instead of something new?

I've found, of late, that the moment I hear that something is being remade or rethought or reappropriated or returned in any fashion whatsoever, that I lose interest. It's like a switch in my head. After some inspection, I've decided that the reason for this is that none of these shows are actually worth remaking. They're not that unique. They don't bring anything new to television or whatever else there is. Take Superman as your not Dr Who example. How many Superman series have we had? How many times has the storyline of Clark Kent dealing with his duel identities while chasing a girl he loves been played out?

Christ, we know what happens in the end, do we really need to see it again?

One of the things that drew me to Firefly was that it wasn't a remake of an old TV show that people in their mid to late thirties grew up on. (That's not a slag, simply an observation.) It wasn't new, of course, because you could pick up the influences fairly easily, but what it didn't have was that sense of a pre-existing fan base who had already decided the rules by which the series should exist. The Dr won't be getting blowjobs from Billie Piper in a back alley, for example, because that's not what Dr Who is about, and if it was, fans would react badly. But back to Firefly: the other advantage of it was that you didn't have a sense, when reading or talking about it, that the series was competing with a child's recollection of what it was once like.

Of course, Firefly was canceled, and maybe that was why. If it makes it back to the television after Whedon's Serenity, will it exist in the same space?

Of course, remaking things is not an issue located in science fiction television. How many times have you seen the story of Batman's identity in film? Batman Begins is most likely going to be a film that is about Bruce Wayne becoming Batman, which isn't that much different to the four or five films that are about Bruce Wayne being Batman and someone finding out. And there's a new Superman film--I wonder what that plot will be? And film makers are constantly remaking old films for a new generation that, with the popularity of DVDs, don't really need it, but could be argued as simply vanity projects where directors and stars pretend they are Frank Sinatra and his buddies. Indeed, outside those examples (which are hardly complete as supporting my argument goes) there is the suggestion that most film is simply the remake of a novel or comic or article or video game. The percentage of original films being made out there doesn't appear to be that big, after all.

And why should it be? Remaking something means you're creating a product with an already existing audience. It's good business.

But I want something new.

Comments

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bodhichitta0
May. 25th, 2005 12:33 pm (UTC)
I've never even seen an episode of it and didn't know they were remaking it, er, again. I agree in general with what you are saying about remakes. I think probably there are some exceptions though I can't think of any right off. :-p I saw the Batman trailer at Star Wars and actually turned to my husband and said "And how is that different from the 2000 other ones they've done?" We both chuckled. There was another trailer too--looked a lot like X-Men only with different people.
benpeek
May. 25th, 2005 01:54 pm (UTC)
i think the trailer is FANTASTIC FOUR. i saw the same thing. dodge looking, really.

anyhow, there are always exceptions to the rule. that's the way life is.
angriest
May. 25th, 2005 04:00 pm (UTC)
Fantastic Four is this year's Van Helsing: too many visual effects masking an idea and script so bad that no one should have funded it in the first place.
bodhichitta0
May. 25th, 2005 09:08 pm (UTC)
I don't think there are even going to be any vampire babies or crossbows in Fantastic Four either.
ex_hestia
May. 25th, 2005 12:35 pm (UTC)
I don't care either.
benpeek
May. 25th, 2005 01:50 pm (UTC)
cool.

that's a bright little icon you've got there, you know. it kinda reminds me of that j-pop cartoon.
ex_hestia
May. 25th, 2005 10:33 pm (UTC)
Thanks for noticing. I love that icon. It's taken from Mari Chan: http://marichan.com/
daebod
May. 25th, 2005 12:45 pm (UTC)
You're missing the point.
All stories are exactly that, stories.
The fact that these new ones are wrapped in the Dr Who world is just the setting.
.
Rather than the Dr Who universe restricting the plot, I'd say that it allows it to go into things more fantastic than mundane.

Superman and Batman are different I think. They're Hollywood, thus boring and tired and regurgitated.
benpeek
May. 25th, 2005 01:44 pm (UTC)
you seriously can't be telling me that one series of stories staring the dr is different from a different series of stories staring batman, are you?

the logic to that is just flawed, man.

stories are stories. there is, really, a limited number of the kind of stories you can make, so it's the characters and world that set the guidelines and interaction. the dr, for example, can only do a limited number of things and see a limited number of worlds, and you will always seem them in that 'dr who' kind of way, just as you would see it in a 'batman' kind of way--and by this, i mean they have to equal the tone and setting.
angriest
May. 25th, 2005 02:18 pm (UTC)
I think you've picked a bad example with Doctor Who, which has changed both immeasurably and radically numerous times over the past 42 years. It's not a story - it's a format. It's like saying "Christ, why make a police series? They made Dixon of Dock Green and Dragnet back in the 1950s, why make any more?" It's a flawed argument.

I think you're also massively understating and under-appreciating popular mythology and popular culture. Why do they have to keep re-making Batman? Maybe because he's a character that resonates with a 20th and 21st century audience.
strangedave
May. 25th, 2005 06:14 pm (UTC)
Grant has a point with Who. Its strength as a show was always the total reinvention of itself. Essentially, it was a way of dressing up what was almost an SF anthology series by adding a few odd ongoing plot twists and protagonist(s). I'm quite happy to see another SF show on TV that genuinely will show me something new every week.
benpeek
May. 25th, 2005 10:05 pm (UTC)
to me dr who has changed no more than something like batman. there has been changes, but to me it's not enough to take it into the format that you say. happens. i'm not much bothered.

i'm always under appreciating pop culture. i always will. for me, once is, usually, more than enough. i only ever needed one batman film or series tp appreciate it. granted, some of the remakes have been good (i enjoyed the cartoon series) but if they hadn't been remade, and something new had come along, i would have lived my life out exactly as i have.
thehornedgod
May. 26th, 2005 12:13 am (UTC)
Mightn't actually watching the new Who give you a better idea how it's changed? OK, it's still a bloke with a timeship, it still looks like a police box and a Dalek appears in one episode. That's about all the meaningful continuity I know of between old and new Who so far. And there's a lot of places you can go in a timeship!

And are you sure the Batman film and series are a good example of how remakes are superfluous? The Adam West and Tim Burton versions are polar opposites.
benpeek
May. 26th, 2005 01:30 am (UTC)
it's not really a question of if the thing has changed. i mean, you're right that adam west batman and michael keaton batman (just to stick to the actors) are polar opposites in a depiction of batman... but that doesn't change the fact that i would rather have an entirely new thing, with a fresh clean plate, to the remake.

that's what i'm saying here. not whether the remake is good or bad. i quite liked the remakes of batman, but at the moment, they bore me. the idea of another remake, just bores me. i want something that i haven't seen before. something fresh. i would rather have it than a remake, simple as.
thehornedgod
May. 26th, 2005 02:56 am (UTC)
Keaton, that's his name. I'm quite looking forward to Batman, less because it's Batman than because I enjoyed Nolan's other films. I suppose people who don't mind franchises often end up identifying themselves as following creators rather than specific properties; missing the Alien sequels but catching all Ridley's films.
angriest
May. 26th, 2005 01:24 am (UTC)
I think the problem is that if you write one narrative about a costumed vigilante fighting crime in a dark American city, does that mean no one should ever write another one?

Think that way and you'll rapidly run out of ideas.
benpeek
May. 26th, 2005 01:33 am (UTC)
no, but if your narrative about the costumed crime fighter is the same character, you're not exactly bringing in brand new ideas. you're simply applying a fresh coat of paint, imo, since in the end, we all know that (in the case of batman) the character has a centre that it cannot be altered from.
angriest
May. 26th, 2005 02:20 am (UTC)
This is where we differ. When I see Tim Burton's 1989 film lined up against, say, Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, lined up against the 1960s television series (which I loathe, btw), I see three very different interpretations of an iconic popular mythology. I think there's a lot more going on that applying coats of paint, so to speak.
benpeek
May. 26th, 2005 02:36 am (UTC)
well, fair enough. everyones mileage is different.
thehornedgod
May. 26th, 2005 02:59 am (UTC)
No, I don't see the common centre of Miller's and West's Batmen either, unless it's the little bat drawn on their chests.
coalescent
May. 25th, 2005 01:19 pm (UTC)
You're not missing anything. I'm watching, but only because everyone else is. I realised this week another reason it so annoys me: it's not just that it's a remake (Battlestar Galactica justified the existence of remakes for a while--one hit that good can make me forgive quite a few pointless travesties), it's that it's a kid's show. And adults are treating it as serious, thoughtful entertainment, on a level with something like Firefly, when it's nothing even remotely close to that.

It's the Harry Potter effect for TV, that's what it is.
benpeek
May. 25th, 2005 01:46 pm (UTC)
to be quite honest, judging from what people have been saying, i thought it was an adult show--comparable to other adult sci fi shows. i guess i shouldn't be surprised, really.
angriest
May. 25th, 2005 02:21 pm (UTC)
Why should a show for a family audience be treated with any less interest or respect than a show for an adult one?

And while I'm ranting, Firefly = every tired cliche of the western genre regurgitated with emperor's new clothes. I like the show a lot, but let's not over-state how good it is, which is what everyone seems to want to do with Joss Whedon.
coalescent
May. 25th, 2005 03:15 pm (UTC)
Why should a show for a family audience be treated with any less interest or respect than a show for an adult one?

It shouldn't. But there's no point arguing that a show for a family audience is the equal, in terms of narrative or ideative or moral complexity, of a show for an adult audience, because it won't be.

Doctor Who is only trying to be entertainment. On that score, it may be succeeding. It doesn't work for me--I think the plotting is simplistic and the humour is too-often juvenile--but it may work for some people, and it almost certainly works for the target audience, which is aged 8-14. If you can get something out of it, great.

A show like Firefly, or Buffy, or Galactica, is trying to be entertainment plus. You may or may not feel that they succeed, but you can't honestly look at 'Dalek' and tell me it's even in the same league as '33' or 'Lie To Me' or 'Objects in Space'.

So by all means applaud Who for what it is; just don't try to make it into something it's not. Which is why the comparison with Harry Potter is valid. The books are fun reads for kids--but there are fun reads for kids that also do something more, like His Dark Materials.
thehornedgod
May. 25th, 2005 03:38 pm (UTC)
The Potter/Pullman comparison would only be valid if each book in those series was farmed out to a different author, shifting tone wildly in the process. The farting was regrettable and the Dalek episode was fanservice -which incidentally supports Ben's rant- but I for one consider 'The Long Game' adult entertainment in the same league as 'Lie To Me'.
coalescent
May. 25th, 2005 03:45 pm (UTC)
The Potter/Pullman comparison would only be valid if each book in those series was farmed out to a different author, shifting tone wildly in the process.

I accept that it's not an exact comparison, but in terms of authorial ambition I think it still works. Russell T Davies and Joss Whedon are aiming for different things--which is fine, and I love much of Davies' other work, particularly The Second Coming. It just doesn't mean Doctor Who is the second coming of tv sf. :)

I for one consider 'The Long Game' adult entertainment in the same league as 'Lie To Me'.

I'm afraid I don't think TLG has a tenth the subtlety or wit of LTM. It has Simon Pegg, which is a big point in its favour, but I could never quite shake the feeling while watching that he was having more fun than I was. :)
thehornedgod
May. 25th, 2005 04:11 pm (UTC)
It's funny; I thought Davies's tilt at Whedonesque wit was actually one of the problems with the new Who. I'm glad Davies is gunning for a kid audience at the expense of the Gallifrey One massive but I admit I would have enjoyed more considently adult material. But as much as I loved Buffy back in the day, Who has something for me that Buffy or even Angel never did. It's a British thing obv. but I'm having trouble defining it; Buffy had irony, irreverence but when written well, Who has a refreshing absence of sentiment. When written badly the Buffy influence triumphs and Who collapses into a horrible blancmange of sweeping strings mixed too high in the soundtrack.
coalescent
May. 25th, 2005 11:37 pm (UTC)
Who has a refreshing absence of sentiment

This has been an occasionaly (very occasional...) virtue, yes. The example that comes to mind is Rose objecting to the corpses being used to house aliens in 'The Unquiet Dead', and being clearly shown to be wrong. But it's not like the show is free of sentiment--see 'Father's Day', after all.

My favourite episode so far has been 'The End of the World', which I think is arguably the most Whedonesque. Whedon does Stapledon. :)
thehornedgod
May. 25th, 2005 11:58 pm (UTC)
Dunno if Rose was that clearly shown to be wrong in TUD. The Doctor's horizon-expanding lecture is rather overtaken by events.

TEOTW would be near the top of my list too; Eccles's face as he watches Zoe go pop is a nice cold moment.
angriest
May. 25th, 2005 03:57 pm (UTC)
Moral complexity, maybe not - but then how much moral complexity is there in your average episode of Firefly? Not much more, to be honest. If moral complexity or advanced narrative is what you're after, could I suggest trying Six Feet Under, Boomtown, The West Wing or any number of other shows that do more than Firefly and without relying on the smoke and mirrors of being a space western.

You start off by saying Doctor Who "shouldn't" be treated with less respect, and then seem to go on to list all the reason why you think it should. You've touched a nerve in me, critically speaking: I'm sick of people denigrating one show for being what it is, and I'm sick of people praising shows for being what they're not. Firefly's a hoot. I love it and I bought the DVDs to watch them over and over. But that doesn't mean I confuse it with better written and better performed dramas.
strangedave
May. 25th, 2005 06:10 pm (UTC)
Firefly has about as much moral complexity as you can do within its genre.

And I think Firefly is remarkably well written for what it does - tell stories that are often fairly dark and often with a fairly confronting moral basis, while at the same time making every episode fun, witty, and the characters likable. Its a hard tightrope to walk consistently. Its does a much better job of it than, say, Blakes 7 - which tried a similar balance but is much less consistent in the writing.

I think you are exactly denigrating Firefly here for being what it is not. Firefly IS well written. Its witty, plays with its genre conventions, interesting plots. Its an action series rather than a character drama like Six Feet Under, but its good at what it sets out to do. Compare it to, say, Alias, and it shines. And Alias is a good show.
angriest
May. 26th, 2005 01:21 am (UTC)
Maybe I didn't make myself clear: my point was supposed to be twofold, in that (a) you can't really compare apples and oranges and explain why the orange does a better job than the apple at being an orange, and (b) if you were going to make the mistake of doing that, there are a lot of much better and more complex dramas out there than Firefly.

I agree with you pretty much that Firefly is about as complex as you are going to get while having to include speculative fiction at the same time. And it's definitely in the same league as Blake's 7, and I think only shows it up because of differences in television making in the intervening decades.

Any fan of Firefly should also try out the animated series Cowboy Bebop, which is in a similar vein and similarly well-written (although again, comparisons are difficult due to one being an hour-long live-action American drama and the other being a half-hour Japanese animation).
benpeek
May. 26th, 2005 01:34 am (UTC)
COWBOY BEBOP is brilliant.
angriest
May. 26th, 2005 02:21 am (UTC)
Hurrah!
strangedave
May. 26th, 2005 03:17 am (UTC)
I guess what I am objecting to is the 'better written' comment. I think making an action series with interesting plotting that manages to maintain dramatic tension, have some moral complexity, and be consistently witty and funny, without any of these goals undermining the others, is difficult to do, and requires very good writing. Its a different sort of writing, granted, but in dismissing it because its light I think you really are comparing apples and oranges.

I don't think its the SF element per se that holds back Firefly, I think its more likely the action element of the show just exacerbated by the SF, BTW.

And I think its just much more consistently written than Blakes 7, myself (admittedly easier for it to achieve because we have a small number of episodes to go on). We remember Blakes 7 fondly in retrospect, but we remember a few great character moments and great episodes, forgetting how relatively thinly spread those great moments were. And how limp some of the intervening episodes were. Wheddons greatest strength IMO is not his stand out great episodes, but the relatively high quality of the bad ones, which may have dodgy plots and poor premises sometimes but always manage good dialogue and characterisation. Similarly Sorkin. Being a great TV writer is one thing, but I think a great TV writer needs to be a great script editor as well to produce a great series.
angriest
May. 26th, 2005 03:25 am (UTC)
I think what I'm trying to say is that Firefly is naturally going to be better at what it does than Blake's 7, because Firefly has had the benefit of an extra 25 odd years of developing television culture to do what it does.

Whedon is an interesting writer, because while I adore his writings and his shows, it's usually quite difficult to pick out too many singularly great episodes (there are several, naturally, like "The Body", "Hush", etc). Instead you kind of have to appreciate the overall quality of the work as a whole, which is arguably worth more anyway. The heights of his shows aren't really any higher than the heights of most other quality TV dramas. It's just that the baseline is so much higher.

Farscape is another genre show that features the same sort of phenomenon. I love it to bits, but find it impossible to recommend individual episodes.
strangedave
May. 26th, 2005 04:54 am (UTC)
I assume Wheddon (and I presume Sorkin too for that matter) does a solid dialogue polish on every script he gets from someone else. So many mediocre episodes of their various shows are lifted up to a decent level by quality dialogue.
angriest
May. 26th, 2005 05:07 am (UTC)
Sorkin went a bit crazier than Whedon. There's only one teleplay in the first 90 episodes of the show that isn't written or co-scripted by him.

I know JMS did the same thing with Babylon 5, but I think - honestly without having a deliberate go at JMS like I usually do - that Sorkin achieved a much, much higher standard of script with his four years than JMS did.
coalescent
May. 25th, 2005 11:35 pm (UTC)
The West Wing is, of course, one of the finest shows to ever grace the small screen. At least up to the end of S4. 6FU never did it for me, though, and I haven't seen Boomtown. But as strangedave says, there's actually a fairly important moral argument running through Firefly, which is the case of a man with nothing to believe in. And structurally, 'Out of Gas' is as sophisticated a piece of tv writing as you're likely to find anywhere.

You start off by saying Doctor Who "shouldn't" be treated with less respect, and then seem to go on to list all the reason why you think it should.

I just think it's being treated as something it isn't.
mariness
May. 25th, 2005 01:31 pm (UTC)
No, you're not the only person.

Then again, I barely paid attention to the old Dr. Who.

benpeek
May. 25th, 2005 01:47 pm (UTC)
was it even big in the states? i thought it was mostly a british/australian thing.
mariness
May. 25th, 2005 03:20 pm (UTC)
It's big with some people in the U.S., yes. The problem was that back in the 80's it redefined the words "bizarre and uncertain scheduling" and very very few people had the opportunity to see the show on a regular basis. It was usually on PBS, our public broadcasting network, and thus, it also was frequently interrupted by desperate pleas for money.

Video tapes, DVDs and internet downloading have changed that situation completely. I'd still say that Doctor Who is more of a British thing, but a lot of Americans love it.

Just, not me.

thehornedgod
May. 25th, 2005 03:26 pm (UTC)
I don't know what happens to Superman in the end. I wasn't aware than anything of import ever happened to Superman. I can confidently state that nothing ever happens in Smallville. They just angst about not having relationships with each other without ever having them, as if the kryptonite had made the cast of Dawson's Creek immortal.
mariness
May. 25th, 2005 05:28 pm (UTC)
Now, now.

Sometimes Tom Welling takes his shirt off!

So you can't really say that nothing ever happens.



thehornedgod
May. 25th, 2005 08:49 pm (UTC)
Touche, I retract; all that ever happens is that we see the Nipples of Steel.
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