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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.


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).
May. 26th, 2005 01:34 am (UTC)
COWBOY BEBOP is brilliant.
May. 26th, 2005 02:21 am (UTC)
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.
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.
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.
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.