Saturday, January 4, 2014

Doctor Who; or, That's So Funny

I would never love this show as much if it wasn't funny. So, here (hopefully without too many spoilers) are the top 5 funniest moments, for me, from S1-S4. As I was finishing this, I realized there are actually a lot I missed.

1. The Ninth Doctor is funny. It is likely what I like the most. Yes, Tenth Doctor is funny too, but Ninth is FUNNY. "Rose" I found the first episode to be really funny. There were a ton of lines in that first episode that made me laugh. In fact, it is probably what made me a fan.

You can't convince me that this comment isn't about Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. 

The Doctor: [looking at at tabloid] Well, that's never gonna work he's gay and she's an alien.

 But this is probably the funniest moment for me. And it gets funnier after you know Jackie a little.

Jackie: I'm in  my dressing gown.
The Doctor: Yes, you are.
Jackie Tyler: There's a strange man in my bedroom
The Doctor: Yes, there is.
Jackie Tyler: Well, anything could happen.
The Doctor: [shakes his head and smiles] No.

2. "Blink" I don't know if this is an episode that is thought of as funny, or maybe it is, but there are some hilarious moments.

Kathy Nightingale: What did you come here for anyway?
Sally Sparrow: I love old things. They make me feel sad.
Kathy Nightingale: What's good about sad?
Sally Sparrow: It's happy for deep people.

When Billy Shipton meets Sally and she tells him her name is "Sally Shipton" and they both just about die.

And of course this gem which probably meant there were t-shirts made before the episode even ended. 
"The angels have the phonebox. That's my favorite. I've got that on a t-shirt" 
In thinking about it, that whole episode is funny. Funnier than I even remembered.

3. "The Doctor Dances." Ninth Doctor: Sonic Screwdriver VS. Jack Harkness: Sonic Blaster conversation. Come on boys, just whip it out and have it done with.

4. "The Poison Sky." Are you my mummy? Ten has to put on a gasmask to survive a gas attack by ATMOS and quips, "Are you my mummy" in reference to "The Empty Child." The key to being funny is surprise, and I wasn't expecting that. One of the few places where I laughed hard enough that people were asking me what was so funny; and I just couldn't explain.

5. "The End of Time." The opening speech, delivered in a cowboy hat, shades, a pick feather boa to the most serious creature in the universe, an Ood. I am more than slightly disappointed not to be privy to the marriage to Queen Elizabeth especially after the way "The Shakespeare Code" ended (hmmm, some funny stuff in that one too).
Ah! Now. Sorry. There you are. So, where were we? I was summoned, wasn't I. An Ood in the snow, calling to me.  Well, I didn't exactly come straight here;  had a bit of fun y'know: traveled about, did this and that, got into trouble, you know me. It was brilliant! I saw the phosphorous carousel of the great mingelinga Stat, saved a planet from the red carnivorous mor, named a galaxy Alison, Got Married! That was mistake. Good Queen Bess. And let me tell you, her nickname is no longer... mmmm. Anyway, what do you want?
What about you? What are your funniest moments?

Friday, January 3, 2014

A Very Stuffy Analysis of Why David Tennant is So Dam Hot (SDH) as Doctor Who; or, a blog just for Donnie

I think it's the sideburns. Or maybe that crazy, sexy, hair.

The Endnotes

Doctor Who; or, you never really forget your first

If I have learnt nothing else from my foray into Doctor Who, a show with completely rabid fandom, a new experience for me, it is that people are always asking me who "MY doctor" is. Like others who are behind, that is a tough question as I have only seen two so far. But, like the Queen herself (allegedly) I think it might be the 9th Doctor. I am not always sure, and I have my moments, but in the end I think there is something about your "first."

When I decided to watch Doctor Who, I asked for advice about when to start. I wasn't sure if I needed to watch the episodes in order, or if I needed to have watched any from the 1960's. At the time, I knew that David Tennant had been incredibly popular and I knew that Matt Smith had replaced him. I didn't know about regeneration, so I wasn't clear on exactly how much the story required new casting, I just sort of assumed it was a show that couldn't keep its star. So, my interest level in starting was really, as I said before, more about curiosity about such a cultural movement than anything else. But, the answer to my question about where to start had an answer I wasn't expecting and my ears perked up when I was told that I should probably watch the Eccelston year even though some people say it "isn't as good" as the others. What? Christopher Eccelston? In truth there are prolly very few people in world who have actor crushes on Chris Eccelston, and it turns out, I am one of them.

I first saw Eccelston in the early 90's movie Shallow Grave. It was a little British film that also marked my introduction to Ewan McGregor. If you haven't see it, I do recommend it. It has been awhile since I saw it, but it is about some friends who end up with money that isn't theirs (maybe from a drug deal or something) and they face some pretty massive ethical decisions about what to do about the money. It was very low budget, very well written, and I loved it. After that, I sought out films with both Eccelston and McGregor and was not disappointed. The second film I saw was Jude. A film version of Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure with Kate Winslet. It was haunting, and sealed the deal for me as an Eccelston fan. So, when my friend mentioned Eccelston was the Doctor in the first season, I was in. All in.

It is interesting to me now that I am through the Tennant years and know just enough about Doctor Who to realize just how different the 9th Doctor is from the rest of the Doctor pantheon. From what I can tell, he is the first not to wear a suit, 9 is implied to be working class and much is made of the fact that he is from the north, and I loved the little joke about how "Lots of planets have a north." The little jokes about how he appears to be a "navvy" which was slang for a laborer or a construction worker. This idea is not one that would ever be applied to 10th Doctor who does not look like he has ever done a day's labor in his life (and I don't mean that in a bad way). The class aspect becomes doubly interesting when you hook 9 up with Rose who is also working class, someone whom Cassandra calls a "chav."

I don't know the show insider gossip. I've seen enough things that for whatever reason when Eccelston refused to return for another season the fans were outraged and never really forgave him. For a while, I thought I was going to be able to catch up on old seasons on BBCAmerica and I was DVRing them (until I realized that they are hacked into pieces and are missing as much as 10-15 minutes of show from each episode, something that will actually become a problem soon, as Netflix does not have S7, yet). At one point I had nearly 100 episodes in my DVR and not one from 2005. Not one S1, Eccelston, 9th Doctor episode. Not even "The Parting of the Ways" which was technically Tennant's debut. I don't really care about the kind of in-fighting that leads to these kinds of feuds and character's early deaths, except in the way they affect the show. I don't take sides; but, I do find it interesting that S1 is not played on TV. There is a lot of history there. I can't imagine the show without having seen S1.

I came into this experience with a predisposition to love Eccleston and I was a bit resistant of the change to 10. As I have said before I actually had to go back and re-watch S2 because it wasn't until "The Satan Pit" that I realized that I was digging on 10 and I wanted to re-watch those shows a bias towards Tennant rather than mistrust. And as my BFF predicted by the time of Tennant's regeneration into Matt Smith, I did "mourn" the loss of Tennant. I will start S5 in a couple of weeks and I might want to come back here and take it all back, although I doubt it, and I might be a Matt Smith fan... or even the next guy. Knowing me, I will probably love them all.

I have talked a little about my favorite episodes from S1 The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances. But one thing I have to add is that the real reason why I think I love those episode so much is that it seems to be the first time 9th Doctor is happy. There is not really a villain to be defeated as the nanogens were not a villain so much as a *good thing* gone wrong. The joyous shouts of "everybody lives! For once, everybody lives!" give us an insight into how hard it is to be the doctor, that he knows that happy endings are the rarest of things. I just love the joy in that moment.

It is the elements of a goofy sort of reticent urge to hope that make me love 9th Doctor. He has these moments where he is so serious and you can see just how deep he goes and then he throws on this goofy smile and sparkly little almost crazy look like he just can't care about that right now that is just heartbreaking. And he is the reason I love Rose as much as I do. She doesn't love 9 the way she loves 10, loving 10 is easy, he is charming and attractive, and even though he has all the darkness of 9 he just wears it differently. In "Father's Day" when 9 tries everything to allow Rose to keep her father KNOWING that it is destroying the world. It's beautiful. He seems to be so much more willing to give up his life for her than the others, and it isn't surprising that in the end he does. It makes sense to me that 9 regenerates into a man that Rose would love, because it just may be what 9 was thinking about when he "dies." Without 9 there is no 10, and I just wish that somehow that history was respected a bit more.

What do you think about the 9th Doctor? What is your favorite S1 episode?

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Doctor Who: or, it's about time

I have begun watching the British science-fiction television series Doctor Who. It is wildly popular with my friends and, of course, worldwide. I was convinced to watch, not just because I felt I was missing out on cultural inside-jokes, but because when so many people whom I like and admire all start talking so positively and so passionately about one thing, well, that means it is probably pretty good. So, to sort of locate myself within this discussion, a little about me: I am a non sci-fi person, so the genre is not a natural fit. I started watching mid-December 2013, so 8 years after the new Doctor Who aired, and 50 after the original. I am an anglophile who was raised on Masterpiece Theatre and lived in London for 6 months in 2003, so the British aspect has appeal. So, while the potential for me to like this show was there, it was sort of unlikely.

The main factor that made me resistant to watching in the first place is that I am a non sci-fi person. I do not like Star Wars, Star Trek, or other classic sci-fi programs (and I have tried a couple of others that I have been told I would love and, well, I didn't) and the fact Doctor Who is about aliens and space travel and all of that is what kept me from watching it in the first place. So, even though people said I would like it and I should try it I did not want to be that person, again. The one who rains on the parade. I assumed that it was simply a genre thing, and I said I just didn't like things set in space. But, really, there is a sort of genre cheesiness and style that some sci-fi viewers will put up with that I just can't do. To me (and I know this is blasphemy) Star Wars and Star Trek are often not constructed well as art. And the acting and writing, well, not the level I was looking for.

So, for a second here, I am going to sound like a pretentious ass, and that's okay with me, but for only about 3 seconds, then I am far more likely to switch to fangirl gushing. There is an aspect of expectation that as a viewer who is a trained literary critic and the fact that I have academic degrees in the humanities, I value the quality of a show more than any other aspect--this means I do not suffer bad writing, I need good-to-decent acting, good dialogue, and the characters have got to be likable and developed (or developing), I want the cinematography to be lovely or at least interesting, and most of all, I want fantastic stories. I am making an assumption that many of my friends who love some of the sci-fi stuff that I don't love grew up watching those shows and may have an emotional attachment that allows them to defend some of the technical aspects that I just can't forgive (like the horrible costumes). Maybe, if I had watched more sci-fi as a child, I'd have a better understanding of how camp and cheese is a good thing. Maybe. On the other had, any time you try to figure out why someone else likes something that you don't, you just end up making weird assumptions and sound like an idiot, so enough of that. Anyway, I was more than pleasantly surprised that Doctor Who delivered beyond my wildest expectations for most of these things, and manages to make camp and cheese seem more like whimsy and charm.

I have so much to say that I think the best approach is to respond generally and then move on to specifics. I will likely write about this a lot as I am pretty interested right now (although that is what I said about Jane Austen and THAT didn't happen. Ah intentions...wait, don't get distracted! Focus). Today, let me lay out the topics that are interesting to me.

1. Context. I am sort of fascinated by the idea of coming late to such an active cultural phenomenon. As I said before. I am at least 8-years late (maybe 50 depending on the math). This means that while I am still struggling about whether I love 9th or 10th doctor more, the rest of the world is mourning the 11th and preparing to welcome the 12th. While I am just learning about the Tardis, and wondering whether or not 10th Doctor had sex with Rose, the rest of the world is wearing t-shirts about a 50th anniversary. This idea of watching a show about the relative dynamics of space and time in the *wrong* time fascinates me. I am like Harriet Jones, holding up my Doctor Who Analysis and offering insights, and the rest of the world is responding, We KNOW already.

2. Netflix Vs. Real Time (BBC America). Another aspect of how I am watching this show is one that I have been talking about with another friend who is watching on about the same pace as I am. She and I started at about the same time and while I am a bit ahead (for now). We are both "binge-watching" or what I have been told is actually called "netflixing" which is when you watch whole series of television programs in a very short amount of time. I am not sure of the exact date I started watching, but it was not more than three weeks ago. Tops. In that time I watched four seasons, and season 1 and 2 twice. That is roughly 120 hours of TV in three weeks. And while I know I could never keep that pace for long, because life, it has possibly made for a unique viewing experience. One thing my friend and I had been discussing is just how emotionally we were responding to the show and wondering if everyone felt this way when they watched or if it was unique to the binge-experience. Something, that I am not sure how we would really find out. The main question being, that if you watch without time between to distract you or to mellow out the emotional response are you, in effect, multiplying the experience by condensing it?

3.  Emotional/Personal Response. This show is killing me. I literally (and I mean this is the old-fashioned sense of the word) have to take breaks. The sheer amount of personal loss and devastation about losing characters (or about their personal plot developments) is over whelming. Areas that were particularly hard are the personal relationship between Rose and the 9th and 10th Doctor, and the one they call tentoo (which I won't say too much about because I don't think Brandi has gotten there yet). The way S4 ends. The relationship between Donna and her family. The issue raised by the character of Donna about how you can be this amazing person but just won't be *successful* in the world because your skill set doesn't translate in a career. And again, I have more to say, but I'll wait until I am sure Brandi is caught up...The other two areas that have been so emotional for me are about loneliness, the theme of regeneration and change, and the sheer amount of Carpe Diem mythology.

4.  Characters. Of course there are four sort of characters. The Doctor (for me, I've only seen two Eccelston and Tennant). The Companions, Rose, Martha, Donna, Jack, Sarah-Jane, and I guess you'd have to throw Astrid in there too. The villains, Daleks, Cybermen, Henry Saxon... and of course more, and then what I am calling The Rest Jackie, Martha's family (which I can never remember their names) Sylvia, Wilfrid, and more.  I started the show already liking Eccelston, and sort of not liking Tennant (I don't know why, something about Hamlet and all the press maybe). So, there is much to be said here.

5. Individual episodes. By far and away I like two kinds of episodes the best the "Rose/Doctor" episodes, those that focus on Rose and the doctor's relationship, and those written by Steven Moffat (which I guess means I am in luck because after S4 that is ALL of them). The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances is still my favorite, then Blink. I also find this interesting, because he never writes about Rose. I don't think he likes her as much as I do :( I also prefer episodes where they travel back in time the best, then the one's in present day, and those in the future the least (prolly my own non-sci-fiction bias). I love the ones with literary connections (Dickens, Shakespeare, etc) a lot too.

Whew this is getting lOOOOOOng. So, I'll just start listing.
The role of guns, violence, and free-will. The idea of actively participating in history and people's lives (the idea of "fixed" and "flux" points in time). Gender (can the doctor ever be female?). How much hotter Tennant is in 2009 than 2005. And it isn't perspective, he just *gets hotter*...And more, much, much more.

I will close this first discussion by saying. I am surprised by just how much I do love this show. I also know that it has to be about timing. I know I would not have liked it this much in 2005. I was reading a forum on IMDB where someone who started watching around the same time that I did started a discussion in which they asked "When does this get good?" People were giving advice like, "skip to the Tennant years" or "don't give up, it gets better." My response: For me, it got good in the first 9, if you are forcing yourself to watch it, then MAYBE, it will never get good, maybe you just don't like it. At least not today.

What about you? What do you think? Please... discuss!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Resolution 2014; or, more, more, more

Usually resolutions are about quitting something. Giving things up. Losing weight. Getting organized. I resolved to quit drinking diet soda every year for two decades. Ironically, it was 2013 (the one year I said I wasn't going to *do* resolutions, that I actually did it, so far). In my experience it is far more difficult to stop doing something or to quit something than it is to start or add to. So, this year, I am going only make resolutions about doing more.

1. I am going to read more. I used to read all the time. I spent my childhood reading. Somewhere along the way of earning a handful of academic degrees in English I lost my passion for reading. I have talked about this before in this blog, but things get better all the time. So. I am going to read more. First up, another read of Michael Ondaatje's Divisadero, then Ian McKewan's Atonement. After that, we'll see. Oh, and I need to read some Sherlock Holmes in there somewhere as I am teaching a class on that in the Spring. Feel free to recommend books.

2. I am going write more. I think of myself as a writer. I think I could be okay at it. At least sometimes. I know I have good ideas, but ideas are not books. Well, at least not without some work. So, I am going to write more. I am toying with the idea of taking some writing classes. But, in general, I allow my time to get eaten up by Facebook and TV (see resolution 4) when I could be writing. This resolution extends to letters, blogs, as well as other types of writing.

3.  I am going to volunteer more. It has been a while since I committed my time to help my community. I used to volunteer a lot when I was in college and it is something I'd like to do again. I am not sure exactly what I want to do yet, but it is time to start looking for opportunities.

4. I am going to watch more really great TV. Okay, I know how that sounds. But, this one is sort of a problem in that I sometimes trick myself into thinking I am too busy to watch a new documentary or great movie or Masterpiece Classic episode. So, instead of watching one really good show I will fritter my time watching hours of MLB network or playing Facebook games or even worse watching you tube videos. So, I am going to give myself permission to watch some great TV (and watch less of the crap).

5. I am going to move more. I have given up on dieting because I finally realized how awful that whole restriction thing is (only took me 30 years to get it), but I can't live another year as unhealthy as this one. So, the answer seems to me to be in movement. I used to love to walk. I would walk 8-10 miles a day. There is no reason not to. I just stopped (replaced it with Facebook I am sure--there is a theme here). I would like to take a yoga class or maybe even learn to ballroom dance. The key is movement.

6. I am going to continue to save more money. I did pretty well in 2013. Not as well as I could have, but since 2014 is all about more, I will also be more positive. I have a small tiny nest egg saved up and this year I am going to add more little eggs to that nest. The key here seems to be in value. Understanding that one good purchase is better and more satisfying that some of the profligate spending I have done in the past.

7. I am going to be more positive. Let's face it, I can be a complainer. I can look at a situation and see the dark side with little effort. So, more gratitude. More thanks. More light. More hope. More forgiveness for others and myself.

8. I am going to eat more. I have decades of disordered eating behind me that makes this resolution plenty tricky. But, I rarely eat what I actually want. I usually please other people or deny myself what I *really* want because it is expensive, or unhealthy, or whatever. This year, I am going to eat more of my favorite foods. That includes going to more farmer's markets and getting fresh organic foods. That means eating really great bread and fantastic cheese. Oh, and that means wine, and pasta, and salami... And buying the good lettuce that tastes delicious, but just doesn't *last as long.* Bon Appetite!

9. I am going to talk to my friends more. I am terrible with the phone and many of my friends live far away. So, letter, phone, text, this blog, carrier pigeons, and anything else I can think of will have to do.

10. I am going to travel more. This one is tricky because it is hard to travel and save money. But, it can't be impossible. But, in order to make 9 happen, then 10 is a must. And, this very well may be New York Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter's last year. So, I know I will have to go to a couple of games. New York? Chicago? Tampa? Funny how many of my friends live near MLB cities.

So there you go. That seems like a pretty good list of resolutions. 2014 looks pretty good to me. A year filled with reading, writing, drinking and eating, travel, great TV, and dancing. Hmmm, sounds a lot like college. Well, in the words of the doctor, Allons-y! Happy 2014!

What do you want to do *more* of this year?