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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

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.
(no subject) - angriest - May. 26th, 2005 02:21 am (UTC) - Expand
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.
(no subject) - angriest - May. 26th, 2005 03:25 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - strangedave - May. 26th, 2005 04:54 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - angriest - May. 26th, 2005 05:07 am (UTC) - Expand
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.