"nothing happens to me."
that's what army doctor john watson (martin freeman, the newly minted bilbo baggins) tells his therapist in episode 1 of the BBC miniseries sherlock, when she urges him to blog about his experiences as a way of working out the trauma of being in afghanistan. as this phrase is one of genre fiction's top 10 NEVER SAY THATs (along with "no one can stop me now" and "i think we're safe here"), it is absolutely no surprise that, a very short time later, watson comes face-to-face with his future partner in crime-fighting, sherlock holmes (the wonderfully named benedict cumberbatch).
holmes asks for a cell phone, watson offers his, and -- just like that -- the good doctor is pulled into a world where so much happens to him, he can scarcely believe his own words when he later tells someone he only met holmes yesterday.
wait a second, cell phone?! yep. steven moffat and mark gatiss's three-episode series, which debuted in july across the pond, is a thoroughly modern take on sir arthur conan doyle's vintage tales. it got picked up in the states by masterpiece mystery! and kicks off in southern california on PBS affiliates KOCE tonight at 9 and KCET thursday night at 9.
moffat is the current doctor who showrunner, and gatiss has both written and appeared in episodes of that venerable british sci-fi program, so it's no surprise that the UK press beat the comparison to death this summer, and i shan't belabor the point. suffice to say that both shows feature a lot of running, and cumberbatch's singular "consulting detective" bears more than a passing manic resemblance to 11th doctor matt smith's singular time lord. and, as smith's doctor sparked a renewed interest in harris tweed jackets, so did cumberbatch's detective spark excitement over sherlock's coat.
as we know from who reviver russell t. davies's spin-off series torchwood, the 21st century is when everything changes, and that includes sherlock holmes ... at least in terms of the trappings. he still grabs a london cab when dashing off to investigate, but the cabs have horsepower, not horses. he still alternately annoys and abets scotland yard's lestrade (rupert graves), but now he bugs the hapless detective inspector by texting rebuttals to the media in the middle of police press conferences. he still has an addiction, but it's to nicotine, not cocaine, although it's sort-of alluded that he had a more illegal addiction at some point. his science of deduction is now a website, but holmes still has a brother, mycroft (gatiss), who occupies a minor position in the british government or is the british government, depending on which version of his job description you believe, and who drives sherlock crazy with his concern.
but the main thing that hasn't changed is that sherlock holmes is still desperate to not be bored, a fact the villain in this first story is counting on.
the tale is titled "a study in pink," and it neatly mashes up details from other conan doyle stories with the plot of the novel a study in scarlet, the first appearance of holmes in print. as in the original, a mutual friend introduces watson to holmes. they meet at a hospital lab, holmes runs down all the reasons he might be a crap roommate, and watson is impressed by his future flatmate's whole deal. watson remains a wounded veteran of the afghanistan war, and moffat amusingly finesses the contradiction between the first novel (where watson's wound was in his shoulder) and later stories (where it's a leg wound) by labeling the latter a "psychosomatic injury." thus, watson walks with a limp and uses a cane, but no worries. the healing power of sherlock holmes is nearly as awesome as his giant deductive-reasoning brain.
pretty soon sherlock holmes and dr. watson are greeting mrs. hudson (una stubbs) at 221b baker street. and pretty soon after that, watson is pulled willingly, if confusedly, into his first case, involving a string of suicides that turn out to be murders most foul.
as with last year's sherlock holmes movie, the bromantic elements are emphasized, although moffat plays them less as oscar/felix odd couple shtick and more on the are-you-boys-TOGETHER? tip. the jangly-jaunty music, by david arnold and michael price, kind of reminded me of hans zimmer's score for the film, too. likewise, the dry, witty banter between our heroes flies fast and thick, which befits the feverish pace, slam cuts, swooping camera, and clever framing. sadly, there is not as much fire in the miniseries as in the film, but one cannot have everything.
at 90 minutes, each episode is nearly movie-length, and they all feel stuffed full (something that cannot always be said for the much shorter episodes of doctor who this past season). i almost felt like the series was written for me, a viewer who loves clever yarns, adept acting, and awesome overcoats. but then moffat went and slapped me in the face with a gratuitously sexist moment. holmes's demeaning remark concerning sgt. sally donovan's (vinette robinson) extracurricular activities yanked me right out of my isn't-this-fun? mood for a good two or three minutes. (yes, she actively hates him and calls him "freak," so obviously there's no love lost between these characters. but here's an idea: how about having an insulting exchange with a woman that doesn't involve basically calling her a whore? crazy, i know.)
anyway, the mystery is unraveled and holmes gets his man ... with more than a little help from watson, natch. before said man goes down for the count, he lets slip that he's working for someone else -- someone who has a great interest in holmes. "there's a name no one says," the killer taunts, "and i'm not gonna say it, either." (and it's not "voldemort," as any sherlock holmes fan has already deduced.) but eventually, he spills.
all three episodes are well worth watching, but the last one, "the great game" (penned by gatiss and debuting on KCET nov. 11 at 9 p.m.), is easily the best, despite the maddening cliffhanger. you don't really need a giant brain to figure out the mystery, but i promise you one thing: you will not be bored.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Friday, October 01, 2010
he was a child prodigy destined for greatness. he only needed one name. he was a pioneer of the personality-as-commodity school of celebrity. and, as he was so fond of saying, he didn't give concerts -- he put on a show.
last weekend i took a road trip to blazing hot las vegas to see the liberace museum. my pals catherine and julie cooked up this idea at cat's birthday party a few weeks ago, so we did not take the beast but instead rode in the air-conditioned comfort of cat's honda. not sure why i decided to go along, as i'm not particularly a fan of "mr. showmanship" -- the flashy pianist who was the greatest entertainer of someone's generation, but not mine. in fact, i didn't really know much about him. but suddenly we all really wanted to see the museum before it closes on october 17, due to declining attendance and the liberace foundation's desire to focus on its work providing scholarships to students in the arts. which, especially in this day and age, is more important. (the collection will live on as a touring exhibition, according to the foundation's official press release.)
in life, walter "lee" liberace (who died in 1987 and was for two decades the highest paid entertainer in the world) assumed such sobriquets as "the glitter man" and "mr. showmanship," but his retconned catchphrase is "the king of bling." it's all over what's left of the merch in the gift shop -- postcards, stand-ups, refrigerator magnets, t-shirts, etc. and once you get a load of his mirrored automobiles, mirrored pianos, and elaborately sequinned costumes, it's hard to argue with that.
the museum is in two buildings in a corner strip mall on east tropicana avenue. liberace's music -- a blend of classical and pop revered by his fans and often reviled by critics -- wafts through both spaces, delicate and light-as-air, playful and unfailingly joyful. one building displays his cars and his pianos, the other one presents his costumes and jewelry, a little bit of furniture, and walls full of awards.
cat insisted there was no way he could possibly drive the mirror-encrusted roadster shown above, because it would blind people! also among the auto collection is his 1972 gold metal flake bradley gt (with a silver candelabrum etched on each side), his custom-made mirrored rolls royce (with convenient one-man bar in the back seat), an old british taxi with a working meter (which the info card said he occasionally used to pick up friends at the palm springs airport), and a pink vw pimped out like a rolls royce.
the pianos include a mirrored grand and a vintage player piano customized with mirrored tiles and other flourishes. another one is painted a deep blue to match one of his outfits. my favorite was this elaborately painted number that was featured in the 1945 film a song to remember -- about the life of frederic chopin, who was of polish origin like liberace. it inspired the budding mr. showmanship to create his famous candelabra-on-piano stage settings, and he bought the movie piano later on as a memento.
for me what made the trip worthwhile were the costumes. almost all of them are totally over-the-top, but what do you expect from the glitter man? sequins, beads, feathers, fur -- all the trappings of luxury and excess, reflecting his oft-repeated quotation of his friend mae west, that "too much of a good thing is wonderful!" every outfit has a cape to go with, and special shoes too, because one cannot go running around in custom-made finery with off-the-rack footwear, darling.
i took a lot of pictures, all with my iphone, which did surprisingly well considering that the showroom is covered in mirrors and draped with chandeliers, so light rays are constantly bouncing around. some of the cooler costumes are in a glass case, which made it really hard to get a good shot, but most are just behind ropes/rails. the purple ostrich feather ensemble above is among my favorites; it reminded me of lilacs (and i learned later from the website's trivia page that lilacs were liberace's fave flower, omg). but it's hard to choose just one. check out my gallery if you want to see more, including his famous red-white-and-blue bicentennial hotpants outfit and a fairly spectacular matador-themed costume, along with this red and black number that is vaguely art deco:
i couldn't get a good picture of the most amazing one -- the crazy-elaborate "king neptune" suit. (luckily, someone else on the internet has a great shot of it.) it features a ridiculously high, clamshell-shaped back collar, loads of pearls, and a cape lining embroidered with shimmering green kelp strands and coral branches. it was his heaviest costume and weighed 200 pounds!!
i told my dad about the trip, and he had a story about seeing liberace live, some time in the '70s, at a nightclub in jersey. his party was seated right next to the stage, and the woman in the couple he was with had on a LOT of gorgeous diamonds. liberace made his way up to her and kissed her hand, saying, "i don't know what you do, madam, but you're obviously doing it right!" ahaha.
reading about liberace in the fairly extensive wikipedia entry left me pretty impressed by how driven he was and how much he did. (he played in cuba. he met the pope. he performed for the queen.) and also wondering what he was really like. in the clips i watched on youtube, including the one linked from the title of this post, his public persona is likable, almost sweet, and he seems to genuinely be enjoying himself even while busting out the schmaltziest shtick. he was savvy enough to lampoon himself (as did many comedians and critics), as when he appeared in a double role on the '60s batman show, playing a concert pianist and his criminal mastermind twin brother.
which is an odd irony, and not because liberace had a twin brother who died at birth (shades of elvis, ahaha). liberace lived a double life -- he was gay but spent his entire life denying it. it's sort of sad that a man who exhibited his talents and tastes so boldly ended up having to hide who he really was. but otoh it's hard to feel sorry for him, and he probably wouldn't have wanted that. after all, back in the '50s, he won damages from tabloids that made insinuations about his sexuality. and, as he said then, "i cried all the way to the bank!"
at 1:11 PM
Friday, April 16, 2010
it's not a new doctor -- it's the same man. new doctor who showrunner steven moffat has said this a lot recently, and it's true. in his latest incarnation, the doctor is the same man. only different.
the BBC's time lord hero has a new face (matt smith, above at left), along with a lot of other new things. and at long last -- well over a year since smith was cast to replace outgoing doctor david tennant -- the ever-growing u.s. who fandom will see him in action in "the eleventh hour," airing saturday night on bbc america at 6 and 9.
do i even need to say it? all right, i will: SPOILERS AHEAD! STOP READING NOW IF YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS.
the episode kicks off at high, loopy speed, with the seriously damaged TARDIS flying out of control over nighttime london while the newly regenerated doctor dangles, hollering, from the open doorway. he crash-lands in the garden of a house where a girl named amelia pond, who lives there with her aunt, is praying to SANTA (ahaha!). she needs someone to fix the crack in her wall, from whence mysterious whispers emanate. "thank you, santa," she says upon seeing the battered police box that has just crushed the garden shed.
it's a great start (restart?), and in general i like matt smith as the 11th doctor. as much as i loved tennant (and christopher eccleston before him), and almost everything former showrunner russell t. davies did with doctor who (including bringing it back to the screen in the first place), i have been looking forward to a change. after all, change -- brought on by the character's periodic regeneration, allowing another actor to take over -- has been at the heart(s) of this show practically since it began in 1963.
tennant became the most popular doctor ever in the UK, but matt smith is going to be the biggest doctor ever in the states. not because he's better than tennant or even necessarily more appealing to americans; it's just about timing. BBCA has relatively recently been ramping up its profile and didn't even air the show first over here for much of the new who run (which premiered here on scifi). doctor who is still a cult jam here, but the buzz is building. the major u.s. dailies have made a fair amount of fuss over this latest series, as have the entertainment rags and blogs.
smith, 27, is the youngest actor to play the doctor (a couple of years younger than peter davison, who was 29 when he became the fifth doctor back in 1981). and his secret weapon is karen gillan, a 22-year-old scottish redhead who is super-cute and very likable as the doctor's new best friend, amy pond. this week they did some promo appearances in new york and l.a., and boy are they adorably goofy and geeky together.
this apparent turn toward the youth market might be worrisome, were the very fine writer and award-winning fan fave moffat not at the helm. as it is, all that talk about smith playing old in a young body wasn't complete hype. smith makes a strong mark here, and i think it will become more distinctive. still, eleven's catchphrase -- "geronimo!" -- is not a patch on nine's "fantastic!" or even ten's "allons-y!" but at least he still says "whaaaat?!" and now he gets to pingpong about time and space in a redone TARDIS that is, as moffat says, "even bigger on the inside." hallelujah for that!
(image lifted from the eclectic banana blog; thanks.)
moffat is straightforward about his take on the show. "doctor who is a fairy tale," says he -- more grimms than disney, of course. his previous who stories often feature fantastical goings-on and creepy hybrids of myth and science fiction -- the gas-mask people in "the empty child"/"the doctor dances," the fabled weeping angels of "blink." however, like fairy tales, moffat's stories resonate not because of the supernatural but due to the all-too-human: lies, guilt, secrets, love. both moffat and RTD are emotional writers, but where RTD's who popped on every level -- visually, sonically, dramatically -- moffat's is so far more nuanced and intimate, although just as likely to get loud and silly.
sure, the doctor has 20 minutes to save the world in "the eleventh hour" -- without TARDIS or sonic screwdriver. but that's just backdrop. this is really about setting up the relationship between the doctor and seven-year-old amelia, a complex and psychologically fraught connection that's a far cry from "nice to meet you, rose tyler. run for your life!"
still wearing ten's battered suit and trainers, eleven hauls himself out of the TARDIS wreckage, but his extraordinary entrance barely fazes amelia. that crack in the wall, however, has her worried. "must be a hell of a crack," muses the doctor over a restorative meal of fish fingers and custard (the culmination of some overlong spit-take slapshtick involving the doctor searching for the right food to help him through the last phases of regeneration).
he got that right. on the other side of the crack, an ominous authoritarian voice announces, "prisoner zero has escaped." amelia's heard those words before but doesn't know what they mean. the doctor doesn't either, but he's going to find out ... right after he deals with the regenerating TARDIS. he tells amelia he'll be back in five minutes, and then she can come with him. amelia packs a suitcase and parks herself in the garden to wait.
and wait ... .
"geronimo!" be damned; the real catchphrase this season may be "timey-wimey" (a moffat-ism that basically means time travel causes weirdness). that is, the doctor doesn't come back in five minutes: he comes back 12 years later. well, it seems like five minutes to him, but ... like i said. timey-wimey. get used to it.
anyway, little amelia is now stunning redhead amy (karen gillan), the girl who waited a fucking long time. and her wait is not quite over. if this all seems kinda familiar, you've probably seen the tennant episode "the girl in the fireplace." penned by moffat, it had the doctor popping in and out of the life of madame de pompadour in a similar time-stretched fashion.
i got that feeling a lot: moffat, another lifelong who fan and more of a traditionalist than RTD, has made something so different, yet so very familiar. moffat establishes through-lines that will doubtless run all season, one of which is related to that crack in amy's wall, something called the pandorica, and the admonition that "silence will fall." there's also a laptop boldly emblazoned with the product name "MΨTH" (which recalls the atmos thing from last season but might just be a throwaway gag). amy doesn't have a family (nor, thank god, an unrequited or even requited love for the doctor), but she does have tenuous ties to ordinary life that may prove hard to shake. yet all this treading of familiar territory is preferable to new ideas that don't really work, such as the fast-forward "doctorvision" bit meant to show us, i guess, how the doctor's perceptions work.
eleven's tweedy jacket and bow tie somewhat recall the second doctor's get-up, but he's not as deceptively clownish as patrick troughton played two. smith does have a distinctly eccentric edge to his acting, and if he doesn't radiate manic joy at playing the doctor from every pore (as did tennant), his doctor still at times comes across as benignly unhinged and perennially distracted, a la the great tom baker, the fourth, longest-running, and still best doctor ever.
happily, amy is a bit unhinged herself. who wouldn't be, after that childhood experience? the doctor clearly left a big impression, as she grew up making dolls, stories, and comics about him -- likenesses so well rendered that when he finally does return, everyone in her tiny town is like, "hey, it's YOU! the raggedy doctor! YOU'RE REAL OMG!" which is a pretty funny running gag.
it's rather horrifying, however, to have all the adults around you trying to convince you your "imaginary friend" isn't real, when you know he is. the experience has made amy more independent-minded but has also damaged her. "12 years and four psychiatrists," amy fumes at the doctor -- yikes.
the doctor seems a bit hurt by her attitude. "i grew up," she snaps. "we'll soon fix that," he cheerfully replies. the doctor is peter pan, and now amy doesn't have to grow up.
it is like a fairy tale, or a dream. we never see amy in regular clothes; she wears either her nightclothes or her ridiculous "kissogram" costume, a policewoman outfit with the shortest skirt evar -- just like how sometimes in dreams you're wearing totally inappropriate clothes for whatever's happening. even the new opening sequence befits a fairy tale, as the time vortex swirls like a menacing black rose, shot through with lightning bolts and fire.
likewise, we see flashes of the more dangerous being behind the doctor's devil-may-care demeanor -- the emergence, perhaps, of the great and terrible time lord described by river song in moffat's "silence in the library." the doctor is the same man -- a point beautifully reflected in a sequence where 11 suits up in his new outfit while warning off the extraterrestrial threat du jour, as a montage of his previous incarnations plays over the alien's info screen. but by the end, when moffat puts a clever twist on the doctor's oft-repeated command of "run," it's clear that 11 can indeed be her doctor.
at 9:33 PM
Saturday, January 02, 2010
guess what, people? i have seen "the end of time part two," and it is good. and that's about all i'm gonna say about it here. you can watch it tonight on bbc america and decide for yourself. i have a million thoughts about the final appearance of david tennant's doctor, however. although it was not as soul-rippingly sad as "journey's end," it was still a satisfying yarn and an emotional roller-coaster indeed.
i laughed, i cried, i went "what the FUCK??!" so, despite lack of making me quiver on the floor in pain, i say well done, RTD. (and that's taking into account the inevitable OTT moments and did-you-HAVE-to? bits that are an essential part of the russell t. davies canon.) i alternately moaned and clutched the throw pillow and bounced up and down cheering, and that is an acceptable mind-fuck, so yay.
and i must say, the regeneration was pyrotechnic indeed. yummy! in his first scene as the doctor, matt smith appeared a lot more confident than he did when running through it in the "EoTpt2"-related episode of doctor who confidential. (which was titled "alons-y!" hee.) and now we get our first trailer dialed to 11. check it; this is also the first time hipspinter has posted a video clip. (or see it on youtube.) it's a brand-new world indeed.
one last thing: do not stay tuned for demons following "EoT." it sucks. i found it ridiculous when i watched the pilot almost a year ago, but thought i'd stick with it. only one episode later, i realized it was rubbish. a waste of philip glenister and your precious time.
at 4:11 PM
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
this holiday season has been full of perpetually reincarnated fictional british heroes: on christmas day we got to see our favorite time lord, as well as shakespeare's angst-plagued danish prince hamlet, as portrayed by doctor who star david tennant in the film version of gregory doran's stratford-to-west-end production of the namesake play. and yesterday i caught the latest incarnation of the world's greatest detective, sherlock holmes, starring robert downey jr. as holmes and jude law as his faithful companion doctor john watson.
this guy ritchie-directed extravaganza is handsome but hardly cerebral (directly the opposite of how i imagine holmes to be), although there are a lot of great lines in a script also plagued by horribly cliched ones. ("solve this case -- whatever it takes!" ugh.) it is mainly a bunch of fight scenes and big ol' set-pieces strung together by an amped-up mystery and a few half-hearted attempts to show us holmes's deductive reasoning in action (which are mercifully soon abandoned for more traditional demonstrations of same). at least three people leap out of windows in this movie. one of them is on fire. that's pretty much all you need to know.
the many references to watson as "the doctor" here led to silly associations in my head. at one point i even poked JD and asked her how come the doctor couldn't just use his sonic screwdriver to get them out of the situation. RDJ was pretty good as holmes (despite, apparently, some objections to an amurican playing the part; isn't that why it's called acting?). but in some ways this movie was, for me, all about watson.
i'm not especially enamored of RDJ or JL as hunks of manflesh, but probably the best thing about sherlock holmes is how wonderfully, spiffily tweedy watson is with his walking stick and amazing clothes that seem to never get dirty, even in grubby ol' victorian england. his grey flannel/magenta pinstripe suit (seen above) is the best of several natty ensembles that kept my eyes riveted, as he does indeed wear them well. man-in-a-suit alert!
the second best thing about sherlock holmes is the original music, by prolific veteran hans zimmer. much of it is this zesty yet off-kilter fiddle-y, banjo-y, piano-y stuff that provides a much-needed organic element in the mix of relentless fisticuffs, fiery explosions, elaborate chases, and wildly evil ambitions.
i recently started reading sir arthur conan doyle's original holmes books, which i somehow never got around to as a kid. having inherited my techie sister's cast-off ipod touch, i downloaded a bunch of free holmes for my kindle app and started from the beginning, after reading a couple of short stories from later in the run. i've only just started the hound of the baskervilles (the third of the four early novels), but i've read enough to know that the movie's writers pretty much frankensteined different parts of doyle's tales and changed details at will. (one example: in the movie, holmes has never before met watson's fiancee, mary. but the whole second novel, the sign of the four, revolves around a case mary brings to holmes, which is how watson meets her in the first place.)
as a result, we have a very au courant emphasis on the bromantic aspect of holmes and watson's relationship, with watson sniping about how messy holmes is and how he keeps borrowing watson's clothes without asking, fussing over how holmes always forgets his revolver, and protesting how holmes uses the dog to try out his latest sleeping potions. ("he doesn't mind," holmes insists, as the plump bulldog snores in the corner.) holmes is still the savvy deductive-reasoning dude and master of disguise, but his ass-kicker quotient is pumped way up. (and his drug-use quotient is shrunken to just barely mentioned.) he also acts very much like an adolescent boy over watson's impending nuptials, using cheap tricks and rudeness to try to split them up. which may all be in the original mix, idk.
anyway. the main story involves a chap named lord blackwood (the amazing mark strong, who has been and will be in many things, but who i especially loved in our friends in the north). he's an apparent master of the dark magical arts who begins terrorizing london with his scary evil ways and has a BIG PLAN TO TAKE OVER THE WORLD. also hanging around is irene adler (rachel mcadams, who is just ok), a criminal american woman who has a History with holmes both here and in the written stories. a more mysterious figure from the holmes canon lurks in the background.
the problem right now with BIG PLANS TO TAKE OVER THE WORLD is that every fuckin' genre movie has them. i know warner bros. can't make tons of cash if they don't inject some epic-ness and over-the-top action into a tale involving a guy who mostly uses his mind to defeat bad guys, but they could have still had lots of fight scenes and stunts and set-pieces with a story that had a little less at stake than some mofo who wants to bend the entire world to his will mwahaha. in other words, bored now.
ah, but i mostly enjoyed the flick, although sometimes i laughed at it and not with it. it is way too long at two and a quarter hours, and the uneven pacing doesn't help. the thing takes off at full speed, which yanks you right in, but then it drags and revs up again in cycles that just make you wish they'd get it over with already. and, while i do love me some kicky-fighty, sherlock holmes has so many extended choreographed battles that, by the time we got to the big climactic numbers, i felt like i'd seen it all before.
oh, well. it is worth seeing for the escapism of it all. the man on fire, btw, is not the only cool pyrotechnic thing. so if you, like me, are a firebug who's crazy about balletic fistfights and well-dressed men, by all means go see it. but do get yourself some popcorn on the way in.
at 8:03 PM
Thursday, December 24, 2009
in honor of the beginning of "the end of time," here is a blast from christmas 2007 past. my original doctor who christmas song, penned for my DW buddy richie. although, while 'tis the season for a doctor who special, we are not going to get daleks. i don't think. but we will get wilf (see above)! so yay.
Santa, Bring Me a Dalek
Santa, I've been good this year
Now bring on the excess
But I don't want no costly gear --
No earrings, no Lexus
No MP3, no GPS,
No diamond watch, no Wii
This Christmas I will be a mess
Santa, bring me a Dalek
I swear it is the best
Santa, bring me a Dalek
The Doctor's nemesis
It's fun, it's keen, it's neat, it's mean
Oh, what a sight to see
The scourge of planet Skaro
As cute as it can be
A mutant form of human life
It's programmed to survive
Mostly made of metal
And yet still quite alive
Santa, bring me a Dalek
The sci-fi king of death
Santa, bring me a Dalek
Or I will hold my breath
I've been good, I've been sweet
I got high marks in school
I do just what my parents say
And follow all the rules
So give me what my heart desires
This super-duper beast
It never stops, it never quits
It's tops, to say the least
There's just no better way to prove
I've got the upper hand
Come Yuletide night I'll be the one
Who's lord of all the land
Santa, bring me a Dalek
It's round and cool and tough
Santa, bring me a Dalek
It's got balls, and that's enough
Santa, bring me a Dalek
Right now, it's not too late
Santa, bring me a Dalek
I will ex-ter-mi-nate!
happy christmas to all!
at 10:39 PM
Saturday, December 19, 2009
HELLO, FRIENDS. GUESS WHAT'S GOT ME BACK IN THE MOOD TO POST? THAT'S RIGHT: THE LATEST DOCTOR WHO SPECIAL, "THE WATERS OF MARS," AIRING TONIGHT ON BBC AMERICA. FOLLOWING IS AN IN-DEPTH DISCUSSION OF SAID EPISODE, COMPLETE WITH SPOILERS. SO DON'T READ ON IF YOU DON'T WANNA KNOW WHAT HAPPENS.
"it's the end. but the moment has been prepared for."
the final words of the fourth doctor do apply to "the waters of mars," the latest new doctor who special ... and the proverbial beginning of the end for incarnation number ten, played by the smashingly manic and wonderfully emotional david tennant. a mix of classic sci-fi thriller and dark morality play, the episode has already aired in the UK, and bbc america will screen it for stateside whovians tonight at 9 pm.
four's last words work as commentary on tennant's departure just as well as they served tom baker (still the longest-serving doctor and, until tennant, the most popular) in his day ... for surely no moment in british tv history was ever quite so prepared for as the tenth doctor's last story, "the end of time." (like i would know, ahaha.) "the waters of mars" brought a deluge of "the-end-of-time"-is-near coverage: magazine features and covers, radio and tv interviews, news stories, and special tie-in episodes of programs like the panel show never mind the buzzcocks. the UK has so many who-related broadcasts that the doctor who news page made up a handy chart for fans to keep track of it all. pubs in the UK will throw special parties to celebrate the final two-parter, airing on christmas day and new year's day over there, and dec. 26 and jan. 2 here. even time out magazine got into the act with a special edition featuring 10 different doctor who covers, one for each incarnation.
so, yeah. the moment has been prepared for. however, something in "the waters of mars" is a more direct throwback to the demise of doctor number four, which happened in the serial titled "logopolis," way back in 1981. but let's not get ahead of ourselves here.
in "the waters of mars" (working title: "red christmas"), the TARDIS materializes on the red planet, looking ever so fetching alone against the brick-colored landscape. out leaps the doctor, wearing the spacesuit he got in "the impossible planet" over his burgundy-pinstriped blue suit. (which we will never see again, sob! it's my favorite.) he's still traveling without a companion, which is just a bad idea. and he knows that, so it's actually a crazy bad idea.
he finds a base station and some scientists, led by the tough adelaide brooke (lindsay duncan), and quickly figures out he's in the middle of a soon-to-be-tragic historic event from the year 2059 -- background on which we see through the curious, somewhat clunky device of flash-asides to what look like 2009-era web pages with info about the scientist-pioneers. (a big problem of having no companion: no one to expositate to.) it's the flip side of the doctor's triumphant shout of "everybody lives!" from "the doctor dances." that is, this time, everybody dies.
the doctor knows the story and its characters well: in 2059, the inhabitants of earth's mars colony bowie base one (lol!) all died in a massive explosion. and he really should go. because this is one of those pesky "fixed points in time" that he's not allowed to change, due to the laws of time.
shades of "the fires of pompeii," no? but this time the doctor doesn't have the amazing donna noble around, not to persuade him to just save someone, but to stop him from going too far, as companions tend to do. and guess what happens? he goes too far. first, however, we get a lot of the usual clever banter and running about, along with some goofy robot shenanigans and a more external horror story involving contaminated water that begins to turn the bowie crew into super-creepy-looking zombies, one by one.
eeeyieeee! scary, huh?
the doctor can't resist this mystery. continuing to protest that he really should go, he stays right where he is and investigates the problem, even making a vague passing mention of the ice warriors (a reference to the classic series, be still my beating hearts). and as his time spent in this non-changeable event grows longer, he finds it harder to quietly accept the inevitable. fighting back is the doctor's raison d'etre. but today it will be his undoing.
lindsay duncan as adelaide is wonderful to behold, all tough and businesslike but with hints of love and compassion. adelaide embraces risk without a second thought, and the doctor admires that. but he's so impressed with her, and so upset about what's supposed to happen to her, that he breaks one of the rules -- the one about no spoilers for people's futures. he means to comfort her, but adelaide can't be expected to see things the way he does. as much as the doctor goes on about how his perceptions of time and the universe are painfully unique, he often fails to remember that in practice. instead of helping her, his relevation puts her through an even worse ordeal.
once the doctor breaks one time lord rule, the rest start to seem pretty damn stupid, especially because they're keeping him from getting what he wants, which is to save these people. damn the consequences -- he's the only time lord left! so the rules of time are his to command! he can do anything he wants. and no one can stop him. mwahahahahaaaaa!!!
i don't think i've ever wished harder for donna to pop in and smack him on the head.
but, nope. no one's there to stop our budding doc vader. as the perhaps-not-last of the time lords finally went off the rails completely, claiming his legacy with a power-mad arrogance (which is probably just the sort of thing that caused time lords to make up their dumb rules in the first place), i couldn't help wondering just when he really started losing it. i mean, things like this don't happen overnight, right?
arguably he's been kinda unhinged since the time war, but i prefer to imagine he snapped after returning donna to her human self, saving her life but going against her wishes, and dooming her to be ordinary forever ... not to mention lost to him forever as well. maybe the doctor's mind began to turn during that scene in "journey's end," where, his awful duty dispatched, he's standing in the pouring rain, heading back to the TARDIS all alone, having lost his beffie, someone he probably actually could have traveled with for the rest of her life. i like this idea because donna's granddad, wilfred mott, is there when it happens, looking at the doctor in that kindly knowing way of his and telling him he will think of the doctor on donna's behalf. and we know from the trailer at the end of "the waters of mars" that ten will seek out wilf again.
he will definitely need a friend. because when the dire resolution of his mars misadventure unfolds, it is dark indeed, akin to torchwood: children of earth dark. what adelaide does to stop him is so shocking and yet so clever -- exactly the sort of thinking he might applaud under different circumstances. in her own way, she does serve the companion's purpose of putting a lid on his excesses and keeping him grounded, although it's too late this time and she pays a terrible price to shake him out of his mania.
when it's all over, the doctor's actions leave history, the mars colonists, and us viewers totally messed up. and the doctor doesn't look so good himself. he knows he did wrong, but he doesn't want to face the music.
not just the music, mind you, but the song. ood song, that is. as the full weight of what he's done sinks in, the doctor leans against the TARDIS ... and hears the beautifully mournful psychic song of the tentacle-faced race known as the ood. then he sees him -- ood sigma, standing expectantly in the snow.
the doctor looks remorseful ... and afraid. "i've gone too far," he whispers. "is this it? my death? is it time?" he asks with distress.
why does the doctor think ood sigma is a harbinger of his death? well, he's seen this sort of thing before. in "logopolis," he kept encountering this white figure, hanging around at a distance from the action. the figure, called the watcher, was a signal to four that his time was up. (and was also apparently some future incarnation of himself ... wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey!) he didn't make a fuss about it then; in fact, seeing the watcher was a sort of comfort. so far, ood sigma doesn't seem to be a future incarnation of the doctor, but, hey, anything could happen.
but the doctor sure isn't comforted by sigma's appearance. in the last special, "planet of the dead," tennant's performance felt, by no means terrible, but definitely off his game, as though he just didn't have the energy to give it his all. here, he is fantastic -- not just in the broad physical shtick he does so well, but especially in the subtler moments. he does some of his best acting inside that damn spacesuit, for one thing. and also in this scene, where a dozen different emotions pass across the doctor's face as he slips into the TARDIS, still looking shaken to his core. the cloister bell -- that eternal harbinger of bad bad stuff for time lords -- chimes. and then the doctor turns defiant. "no," he says. and, slamming a lever on the console, he dematerializes the hell out of there. straight to, no doubt, the end of time. will he stop with the "i am the great and powerful time lord" jazz now? is he running away from his death because he wants to fix things or because that's what he does?
we'll know the answer in less than a week. i can't wait, but i'm also scared. the doctor's dark side has always been there, and it can be magnificent to behold in the right circumstances, but i don't want him to keep being frighteningly megalomaniacal till he dies. i hope he snaps back to some semblance of his usual self while dealing with all the delicious spoilery stuff yet to come. because you know that, when we see him again after regeneration, he will be very different ... and not just because he'll be wearing matt smith's face.
anyway. it seems i was right that RTD will be torturing the doctor to death for three episodes. SIGH. i never thought i'd say it, but all of this pain and drama and torment kind of makes me ready for a new doctor. (hmm. perhaps that is the plan.) i'm starting to miss the days when he just bopped out of the TARDIS with his companion and rushed off to embrace some new adventure. i mean, i am loving the angst and can't wait to see just how dark things are gonna get, but i really want the tenth doctor to have the proper wonderful sendoff he deserves. almost every single incarnation has died a heroic death, and if ten doesn't get one, i'm going to be well pissed off.
furthermore, if RTD doesn't give ten a heroic death and rip me into little pieces and throw me to the floor and make me cry just thinking about the ending -- as with donna and "journey's end," which to this day i have to shut off before it plays out or risk blubbering like a baby -- well, then he will have FAILED. so, russell. it is on. and you'd better bring it!
at 2:52 PM