Saturday, November 14, 2015

All that Glitters parte the seconde: In which the author insists he has a legitimate point.

In addendum to previous post, The Zygon Invasion was blast, but then, I’ve always been a sucker for invasion stories. If there’s one thing the New Who can do, it’s invasion stories – at least the first half. Yes, let me amend previous commendation to: if there’s one thing New Who can do, it’s set up invasion stories. Because if there is one thing New can definitely not do, is resolve invasion stories. Just as I’ve generally enjoyed the first half of every invasion story they’ve ever thrown at me, I’ve almost never enjoyed the second half. Maybe the Silence. Which makes me highly nervous, if not entirely reluctant, to watch the second half of Zygon Invasion. Maybe I should just skip it, and let my imagination fill in the gaps. Leave the memory intact, and the illusion in place. The illusion? That Doctor Who has never changed, and continues to be the garden of unearthly delights it’s always been.

            Sometimes it’s close. Sometimes, usually during the first half of any invasion story, the illusion is achieved. But there is always something, some teen-tiny little thing, usually in the second half, to ruin it. A bad joke. A dumb plot twist. A blatant violation of internal logic. Something.   

They almost always bugger up the second half. They go cheap on the cliff-hanger, embrace the cop-out, invoke the Deus ex Machina, and throw in a few bad jokes just to wreck any lingering tension that might remain. Usually though, a cheap short cut any grade-school story writer could have avoided, leaving the impression the writer either ran out of time, or imagination, or more probably both.

I’m talking about Rose Tyler waving her hand and magically making the Dalek fleet disappear. Or the Doctor giggling and gibbering as the Cybermen massacre millions of people outside the window. Or the whole population of earth ridding themselves of the Master just by going outside at lunch and shouting the Doctor’s name at the sky (Presumably the scene of them all singing Kumbai ya was cut). How about taking a whole episode to establish what an inescapable prison the Pandoricon was, and then in the next episode – get this – casually escaping from it before the credits have even rolled!

Short cuts, cop-outs and deus ex-machina. The unholy-trinity of the unimaginative writer. But even more than a lack of time or creativity, such things  scream a lack of effort. Not just that the writer hasn’t considered these things, but that he just doesn’t care. 

And no, I don’t buy into the cheap excuse – that many of you eat up by the bucket load, admit it – that these are only concerns for the ultra-nerd of geek. Producers like to spit out such sentiments to justify substandard work. These are matters of story-telling, which is the duty of every writer to take seriously. Years ago, when some smart alec asked Harlan Ellison what a reader, or audience, could demand from a writer, he answered (and I paraphrase) “his best effort”. No more. And no less. When I am fed these watered down cast off endings, I feel like I’ve not been given the writer’s best effort. That they just didn’t care enough to do better.

So yeah, I’m a little nervous about the next episode. I’ve been encouraged and let down too many times to go into it without trepidation.

But I’m still gonna watch it. It’s Doctor Who. What can you do?  

All that glitters: in which you don't get to piss on the Author's parade.

There are few things that can alternately make me feel orgasmically ecstatic and slash-my-wrist-lengthwise grumpy as that most magnificent of mythologies, Doctor Who. This post may very well take on the tone of the former rather than the latter, but first we’ll have to do a couple of things.

            First, we are going to have to pretend that The Girl Who Died never happened. We will pretend that we never had to deal with that idiotic central character and stupid villains straight out of Hagar the Horrible.  We could do these things, but I’ve expunged them from my memory. Having done that, I feel better already.

            Now we can concentrate on the fun stuff, which were the four episodes preceding it. Yup, you heard me right: I loved ‘em. There a new season of new Doctor Who out, and I’m loving it. After each one (remember: we’re pretending The Girl Who Died never happened) I got up and danced a jig with a concrete grin. I was twelve years old again, happy and innocent and on-top of the world. Pay no attention to the naysayers of the International Billie Piper Brigade: the season openers of the latest Doctor Who, a double whammy of two parters, were wonderful, marvellous and magical. Not a trace of Russel T. Davies’ idiotic dues ex-Machina or adolescent sexual inuendoes. Never a scintilla of Stephen Moffat’s cleverer-than thou plot manglations. Just Daleks. And Dark Corridors. And cliff-hangers. And a genuine love of the franchise.

            I loved the hand mines. I will always love Davros. I have finally gotten used to Peter Capaldi and realized that I actually love having an older, grouchier Doctor. I loved the spectacle of him riding around in Davros’ chair, which will surely be the defining moment of his Doctorhood. Hell, I even loved Missy – whose snooty Marry Poppins gone bad approach to the Master is much closer to the Roger Delgado/Anthony Ainley ideal than that twerp John Sim ever was.

            It was, in short, classic Doctor Who that my twelve year old self could have enjoyed, without reservation or qualification. Sure there was a little timey-whimey-blimey crap towards the end, but it was easily ignored. For once, I wasn’t wistfully longing for the past, but just enjoying the present, without even having to try.

            It will not last, I know. It never does. Sooner or later the creative team will want to tinker and tamper, and the outcry from the Billie Piper Legion will ensure such episodes as these are never repeated. But for now. . .

Plus ce chance; in which the author mercilously pisses on everyone's parade.

I think I have made my partisan preferences plain. I don't like stuffy-grey-shirt-stone hard-grumpy faced conservatism and dance a little jig every time I see it turfed from power.

So today, one day after the Conservative Party of Canada was turfed from office faster than a drunk from a M.A.D meeting, why am I not happier?

It of course a very good thing that the Marble Man has been removed from office - see previous entry, which I need add to by the hour. I am very glad that the right wing wet dream is over. The air already tastes cleaner. Naturally the chicken-littles of the world are already crying that the country will be bankrupt within a week, that the Muslims will take over, and the Unions will be allowed redesign people's kitchens. I take a bit of devilish pleasure in reading such complaints, though sadism of this variety is highly unbecoming of one as saintly as myself.

But I can't exactly sing. And I didn't exactly go to bed with sugarplums dancing in my head. I can't help feeling like one has just been removed from his torture chambre and placed in a padded cell. Very happy development, thankyou, don't get me wrong, but my situation hasn't fundamentally changed.

Canadian voters, in their much ballyhooed appetite for change, have only opted to rearrange the window dressing and once again went for the status quo. The Liberal party. That creaky old party that has more accumulated  years in power than the Communist Party of Russia. Whom, up until about a decade ago, were so firmly entrenched in power people were beginning to wonder if they'd ever leave. (Apparently not).

Change in other words, by doing the very same they'd already done a million times before.

I’m probably being unkind. Trudeau’s Liberals will probably not bait Muslims quite so shamelessly, or censor scientists quite so blatantly. They will at least try to attend global conferences on climate change, and will doubtless smile at many fund-raising luncheons. They will probably not try to take anyone’s citizenship away, and probably won't try to disenfranchise ex-pats. They just might give lip-service to diplomacy and peace. They might not be so petrified of "bogus refugees", and just might let a few into the country. Probably. Maybe. Possibly.  

            All very good things. But that hardly amounts to radical change. 

For one thing, my incredibly witty analogies notwithstanding, the Tories haven’t exactly been turfed; they’ve still got 91 seats in Parliament. They can still do damage. They just might come back stronger than ever. But more importantly, the Liberal Party, who’ve governed this country for most of its history, are the party of entrenched power. Even more than the Tories, they represent the vested interests of the privileged classes. They are the very embodiment of the status quo. And folks turned to them for change? 

            I mean, sure, they can be expected to poke their heads in at International conferences to combat climate change, but do you really expect them to impose strict regulations, or to actually take on the Oil Industry? I’ll believe it when I see it.   What about civil liberties? Remember, these guys voted for bill C-61, not against it. As for poverty and inequality and all that stuff, well, you may recall these were the guys who pledged to eliminate child-poverty by 2000. How far’d we get on that one prey tell? 

            How about privatization of public services?  Don’t forget it’s the Provincial Liberals who are in the process of selling off Hydro One, hoping for a little marketplace black magic. Granted that’s the Provincial wing, and maybe the new, more photogenic Federal wing won’t toady up to the private sector in quite the same fashion, and maybe I’ll win the next Super 7. Hey, it could happen. . .

            The party of change? More like the party of everything we’ve tried already and insist on trying again. But who knows. . .