Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Star Trek vs Doctor Who

Come back!this isn't one of those nerdy 'Could the TARDIS beat the Enterprise in a fistfight?' bits of fanfic. (Apart from anything else the answer too is bloody obvious to even bother asking the question.) No, this is a moment of blinding revelation about the nature of Life, the Universe and episodic television. (Apart from the Life and Universe bits.)

Last night, via the medium of the BBC iPlayer, Holly and I finally got to watch Let's Kill Hitler, the first episode of the new series of Doctor Who. I love watching Dr Who with Holly. It's one of 'Our Things', a shared private bit of intergenerational fun. I loved Doctor Who as a kid and it's nice to be sharing the show with my children.

Halfway through last night's episode I remembered something that used to puzzle me. Not about Doctor Who but about Star Trek.

Star Trek first aired in 1966, three years after Doctor Who first hit the screen, and in its later revivals featured a strong theme of father/son relationships: Worf and Alexander, Pickard and Crusher Jr.* (and others eg), Benjamin and Jake Cisco, Data and his creator, and so on. ( In this one of the endless number of novels based on the series, even Spock discovers he has a son!)**. As I said, this strange emphasis used to puzzle me until I realized (long before I started doing the same thing with my own children) that Star Trek was one of the few shows that would be watched across the generations: by those who remembered the originals, and their children coming to it for the first time. (I guess that's why they called the first revival of the show Star Trek: The New Generation - I can be so slow on the uptake sometimes.) To capitalize on this Unique Selling Point the producers presented their loyal viewers with endless variations on the problems of male parent / child bonding. which usually ended with manly pats on the back and sometimes a hug. "I love you, son." " I love you too, dad." And at home on the sofa, father and son couch potatoes too would put aside their differences and America would be just that little bit better.

Last night I spotted that the BBC had realised they too had the same kind of cross generational demographic appeal and their show too was being watched by men and their kids. I say men because I don't remember girls being that interested in Doctor Who when I was kid. It may have changed with later reincarnations but in my day girls were far from interested. I doubt the women they grew into would be nostalgic for the real stuff. (Tom Baker is da man!)

The BBC's solution to the Star Trek problem (how do you keep grown males watching what is essentially a kids' show) is markedly different from Paramount's homely moral philosophy and re-enforcing of family values.

The BBC has gone for tits.

They've cast some serious crumpet as companions recently (okay, well maybe not Catherine Tate) and, most recently, cast the seriously crumpetty crumpet Karen Gillan as most recent female companion crumpet Amy Pond - and then dressed her up in male fetish fantasy button-pushing costumes like this:

WPC Amy Pond

and this:

Schoolgirl Amy Pond

and, most disturbingly***, this:

Japanese Sex Robot Amy Pond
(A bit of context here: this is a shape-shifting robot disguised as Amy)

(In next week's episode, Amy Pond disguises herself as a nun, and licks one of those really big Baby Doll lollipops - hereinafter known as 'lolitapops', and blows coy kisses at the screen.)

The Beeb has also called in the big guns by casting Alex Kingston as recurring character River Song. Now Alex Kington is undeniably:
  • A. A good actress and
  • B. Fwaaaaaaar!
...even without the director pointing the camera down the front of her blouse at every opportunity. Like this moment just after the moment Matt Smith has helpfully pulled open her jacket so we can all get a good look at her cleavage.

Thanks Matt. A truly inspired bit of upstaging there; I'm sure there was dialogue going on in this shot but I didn't notice any of it.

So, in short, Tits, the BBC's answer to keeping dads amused. Works for me.

Somewhere, as I'm typing this, the BBC is receiving an email pointing out that the two machine guns used by River Song to force a whole room of Nazi officials and their female companions to strip down to their underwear (did I mention this was a kids show?) were in fact 1943 issue Schmitt and Wesson .22 calibre semi-automatic breach loaders as the magazine was clearly of the semi-locking design patented by Otto Wangster in 1942 and thus it would be impossible for them to be in use in 1938 when this story was set.

Having made that up I suddenly feel an awful lot better about being fascinated by Alex Kingston's knockers for half an hour.

More next week. I hope.


* I know Pickard isn't Crusher Jr.s real son (or did I miss that episode?) but the relationship is similar.

** The Doctor, it must be noted (Must it? Yes. Okay then... ) ended up having a daughter.

*** I can't make my mind up whether the disturbing bit is that they did it, or that I just thought they did.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

It Looks Like People's Bums in an Airtight Container!

It's August here in the Highlands of Scotland. The bees are buzzing round the honeysuckle. Meadowsweet, orchids, saxifrages and all sorts of other flowers I don't know the names of are blooming in profusion. Blackberries are starting to ripen, a few black ones dotted in among all the reddening clusters. The heather is yet to bloom. The roads are full of bewildered tourists from all corners of the world, driving with interesting and life threatening inventiveness in all sorts of directions. And the B&B owners have been hanging out their No Vacancies signs for weeks now. It is, in short, Late Summer - and the Cancer Research charity shop in Fort William has just put this year's Christmas cards on display.

The world has, finally, gone fucking mad hasn't it?

Things like that are why I hide in the house and watch shit like this. That and the midges.

July's eyeball abuse list:
  1. Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004) - Friday Night Pizza with the Kids Film - which I enjoyed a hell of a lot more than I thought I was going to. I have a natural aversion to Jim Carey but thought he did a terrific job as the evil Count Olaf.

  2. Breath (2007) - a film that is, according to a quote from Variety on the back cover,

    "Quirky ... Marbled with weirdly comic and tender moments"
    and which caused me to formulate a new rule of films: 'Inside every slow, quirky Art House film, no matter how marbled with anything it may be, there is a semi-decent short screaming to get out'. Christ, I was bored. Even at a meagre 84 minutes it felt like a piece that was stretched out far too long. I managed to stay awake until the end credits, in the vague hope of some great redeeming moment which didn't arrive, and then promptly fell asleep for two hours - during which I developed a severe pain in the left-hand side of my neck from sleeping awkwardly.

  3. Dance of the Dead ( 2008 ) - "On the night of the big High-School Prom, the dead rise to eat the living, and the only people who can stop them are the losers who couldn't get dates to the dance." Stupid, overly-violent and (at moments) very funny low budget zombie film. The lead, Jared Kusnitz, was great.

  4. The Last Seven (2010) - Another £1 of 3 not very well spent in PoundWorld. (The other two films I bought at the same time were Bloodrayne 2, and Mega Piranha.) The Last Seven looked to be the most interesting of the the three as it promised to play with one of my fave SF book/movie tropes. The one that starts with one man waking up in a seemingly deserted Earth - The Last Man on Earth, The Quiet Earth, The World, the Flesh and the Devil etc. etc. After taking an age to get started (after what looked suspiciously like TWO nested framing devices, and watching one of the producers of the show doubling as an actor walking around London for ten or so minutes) I began to think I should have gone with Mega Piranha. At least that would have delivered what it promised on the case - oh, though looking at the case again, maybe not; the cover shows a fish eating an aircraft carrier, this from production company The Asylum, the people who couldn't get their alien's masks to stay inside their actor's shirts in their ultra-crappy Princess of Mars knockbuster.

    Ah well.

    Back to The Last Seven. So, seven very variable actors meet up in a deserted London, with variably from shot to shot wet/dry streets, and say "What the fuck is happening?" to each other a lot. None of them remembers a thing about who they are or what they are doing there. They start to have flashbacks which seem to interlink. The flashbacks (which get very repetitive and are not as oblique a piece of storytelling as the film makers seem to think) have something to do with an SAS op gone wrong, a cover-up and someone nailing their own hands to a table. There's also a mysterious black clad figure with bad teeth, a blindfold and lots of blood running down his face popping up and popping out the survivor's eyes with his thumbs from time to time. By the time the end of the film heaves itself into view and the remaining characters finally realize they are all dead (or nearly so) and have been since the start of the film, the audience is having a collective M. Night Shyamalan moment and saying 'Is that it? Is that why I have sat here for the last 90 minutes? They're all fucking dead?' Yep, that was it. What a crashing disappointment. Mind you, my 'They are all dead' detectors are pretty well developed. I have never seen an episode of Lost and I knew the characters in that were dead after the third episode just from what the people I knew who did watch it told me about it.

    The only thing that kept me there till the end was one of the actresses, Daisy Head, in her first feature film, wiping the screen with everyone else. The girl has got something.

  5. Bolt ( 2008 ) - I was underwhelmed. The kids were entertained but not enthusiastic.

  6. Mega Piranha (2010) - another straight to SyFy channel and pound-shop DVD pile piece of shit from The Asylum. 'Starring 80s Pop Sensation' Tiffany. (Who?) Mega Piranha has added a new person to my 'People I Want to Nail to a Wall Slowly' list. It's this guy:

    Bill Parker

    The 'editor' of the show, who, when presented with an Avid, seems to have randomly hit every available button in as short a time as possible, and added big Whoooosh! noises over every other cut in case we didn't notice how fucking cool his cutting was. Real ADHD editing. Leave nothing on the screen for more than 3 seconds, speed it, up slow it down, flip it, flop it, desaturate, 'hell, it's been over two minutes since we used that shot; we'll use it again, I wonder what this button does? Cool! cut paste - Y'know, I'm bored, why don't we let cat play with the keyboard for a bit? Hey! that's kind cool...'

    Amid all this hyperactive bludgeoning - there, I suspect, only to disguise the utterly shit script - he manages to do perfectly stupid edits like this:


    The hero and two assistant heroes are on the run.

    Come on let's move out... You too, Gordon...

    They exit screen right

    CUT TO:


    Enter Hero screen left.

    Wait here.

    Actually, written down, it doesn't look that bad but on screen it looks terrible, like the characters have just taken only paces forwards and then stopped. I find it hard to believe they didn't have a single shot they could have cut away to to give a least a moment's impression of time passing. Not a single helicopter shot of jungles? reused CGI shot of cardboard piranhas? no shots of the bad guys combing the jungle for them? nothing? Nothing to rescue their hero from looking like an even bigger dick than he already looks? I don't believe it. Incredibly incompetent editing. And this was before we get to the content which included giant Piranhas eating nuclear submarines and ventriloquist SCUBA divers.

    This wasn't a film. It was a product.

    Actually my hat's off to one member of the crew: the composer who - if he is to be believed from his interview on the 'Making of' extra - only had 48 hours to score and record the soundtrack for the whole movie. He did an okay job.

  7. BloodRayne 2: Deliverance (2007) - a straight to DVD Vampire western in which an evil vampire, Billy the Kid, and his posse of vampire cowboys take hostage the children of the small town of Deliverance. Cheesy, wobbly, loathed by many - just go read the bile heaped upon it IMDb reviews - and lurching from one over-cooked cliché to another without stopping; I rather enjoyed it. 90 minutes of stupid fun.

  8. Return of the Killer Tomatoes ( 1988 ) - Rewatch of a joyously stupid film that just makes me laugh. I make no apologies.

  9. The Invasion (2007) - the fourth(!) adaptation of Jack Finney's 1955 novel The Body Snatchers. The first one is a masterpiece of cold war paranoia, the second is a pretty damn good movie about cults and the alienation of modern cities (and it has that great downbeat ending with Donald Sutherland doing 'The Point'), the third I haven't seen but is highly regarded by some, and then there's this. Which is about Nicole Kidman getting 17 million dollars to appear in a movie. The first two adaptation ditch the novels pretty crappy WTF? cop out ending (the invading pods get fed up and float back off into space) and are better for it, the third (from what I've read) has an unsettlingly ambiguous "where're you going to run to?" ending, and this one has the combined scientists of the world pulling a vaccine out of their collective arses (in the nick of time) and crop spraying the world back to unhappiness once again, and you know what? It's shit.

  10. Voyage of the Rock Aliens - a 1984 'Rock Science Fiction Musical starring Pia (Santa Claus Conquers the Martians) Zadora which made The Apple and Earth Girls are Easy look like masterpieces in comparison. If I tell you the best 'joke' in the whole film is that the high school to which the 30 year old Pia and her 25 year old boyfriend, Craig Sheffer, go is called 'Heidi' - Heidi High. Geddit? Eh? Geddit? - you'll have some idea about just how fucking dreadful this film was. I mean really fucking dreadful. I was on such a high after watching it. Hysteria. I should demand medals for watching this stuff.

    Somehow the producers managed to convince 90 year old, four times nominated, one time Oscar winner Ruth Gordon to appear in it as the local sheriff. Baffling.What you may probably find more baffling is the fact that I went on my hands and knees to find this DVD and then had to convince the guy behind the till to sell it to me. Here's the scene: I'm in Poundland in Dundee raking through the not very inspiring piles of DVDs (many of them reduced to 50p - that uninteresting) when I noticed that down behind the shelves was a pile of DVDs and CDs that had fallen through the gaps in the shelving and were lying in an unsorted heap on the floor, out of sight of the passing punters. I love unsorted heaps ; can't resist them. You never know what you'll find in an unsorted heap. (Except you do by now). So I was instantly on my knees shoving aside piles of Fly Fishing Expert 23: How to Catch Bigger Perch with Angus McSomeone and pulling out long lost treasures - like lots of other Fly Fishing Expert DVDs and - Voyage of the Rock Aliens. Bingo! When I got to the till the guy behind the counter scanned my DVDs. Voyage of the Rock Aliens made the till make a funny noise. Instead of going 'beep!' as it had done with all the other discs, it went 'BeepityBeepety'... The till man looked at his till.

    Till Man:
    Oh. This item has been withdrawn.


    Till Man:

    Why has it been withdrawn?

    Till Man:
    No idea. Maybe it's been reported
    as faulty or something.

    I'll take the risk.

    Till Man:

    I'll take the risk. If it doesn't work
    I promise not to bring it back.

    Till Man:


    Like I said. Medals.

  11. Mutant (1984) - over-long (or very wrongly paced) low budget small town zombie pollution crap.

  12. The House on Sorority Row (1983) - Meh.

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Copyright (c) 2004-2007 by me, Liam Baldwin. That's real copyright, not any 'creative commons' internet hippy type thing.

(this copyright notice stolen from http://jonnybillericay.blogspot.com/)

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