Who Review

No blog is complete without a posting on the season finale of Doctor Who. Here’s mine. Contains spoilers.

<lj-cut>I was, in the end, disappointed. It’s clear that Russell T. Davies so wants the geeks to like him, what with all the references to pre-RTD Who and other SF stuff (“the project was our last, best hope”, the funeral pyre, and so on). But what we got was a bit incoherent, long on emoting and short on plot. Geeks like plot, and, as Babylon 5 showed, we can put up with some terrible acting and special effects as long as we get it. RTD worked himself into a frenzy of flashes and bangs from which he had no way out other than using the TARDIS as a big reset switch yet again.

I liked the final scene between the Doctor and Martha because they involved the audience in a way most of what went before had not. RTD can do character interaction.

The best episodes of this series were those which combined this development of the characters with a plot which made consistent (and a little less frenetic) use of the SF elements (Human Nature and the Family of Blood) and one which took a single SF premise and worked through it well (Blink).

<lj-cut text=”Dr Who (spoilers for that but not the trailer for next week)”>Cybermen and Daleks, oh my! There was some real sci-fi, what with the void ship and the ghosts. The Doctor was a bit too whimsical and mad on occasion, but also made me laugh. So much better than last week’s nonsense. More free advertising for Bluetooth headsets is always welcome, too.

In other news, Engerland lost on penalties and are out of the World Cup, it’s hot, and it’s Saturday night. So now we can all just sit back and wait for news of the first stabbings to come in.

If you need cheering up, though, I’d recommend Bill Maher on abstinence.

Praise the Lord and pass the Abolish the Death Tax bill

Channel 4 recently screened a documentary called God’s Next Army about Patrick Henry College, an evangelical Christian college in America. You can watch it over at Google Video. Why not download it using the Google Video Player thingy so you can still watch it when Channel 4 finds out?

Channel 4 also brought us Richard Dawkins and the Root of all Evil (why not get part 1 and part 2?) God’s Next Army lacks the pugnacious presenter, preferring instead to give the ropefloor to the college’s staff and students. The college aims to produce people who will take part in some sort of Christian version of The West Wing, where the staff of the White House will successfully battle to prevent gay marriage while engaging in snappy but incomprehensible dialogue. Luckily, it seems that evil contains the seeds of its own undoing.

While I was reading Rilstone on Dr Who (I am firmly in the “Fear Her was crap, less soap and more science fiction, please” camp), I ran across Helen Louise, a Christian wrestling with the idea of Hell. She’d linked to The Gobbledygook Gospel, which pretty well describes the dissonance at the heart of the evangelical gospel (but which then goes on to argue that God is like a big friendly dog: it takes all sorts, I suppose).

I also found The Shock of Your Life and downloaded the first chapter, which is about what non-Christians can expect when we die, told in the first person by a non-Christian who is about to be unpleasantly surprised. It’s sort of really bad Christian fan-fiction. The author gets special extra bonus points for juxtaposing a partial quote of the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats with an assertion from the narrator’s angelic guide that it’s not what you do that gets you into heaven; unfortunately the partial quote is one that leaves out the bit where Jesus says that it is what you do that gets you into heaven. It’s a good thing that Revelation 22:19 strictly only applies to the Book of Revelation itself, I suppose. One cannot judge the canon (geddit?) by the fan fiction, but I find myself slightly worried that this sort of stuff is being marketed to teenagers. Why can’t they read more wholesome stories about Snape having sex with Hermione instead?

Doctoring the Hitchhiker’s Guide

It’s been a geeky evening, where I’ve watched both the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy film, and the latest Doctor Who.

<lj-cut text=”HHGTG – contains spoilers”> I thought the film was entertaining, but I can see why some of the fans are annoyed. First, the bad things.

  • The language has been simplified, which spoils the rhythm of some of phrases and makes them less funny. For example, in the book, Paula Nancy Millstone Jenning’s poetry “perished with its creator in the destruction of the Earth”, whereas the film says it “was destroyed when the Earth was”. Ouch. Some of the extended sequences which play with language have been cut (Arthur’s rant ending with “Beware of the Leopard”, for example). The film is less erudite than previous incarnations of HHGTG.

  • I didn’t object to the Arthur/Trillian love interest in itself, since we’ve always known he fancied her. But it was overplayed in places, especially in Arthur’s speech about what the important questions were. The speech was American self-help babble, not the sort of thing a nervous Englishman would come out with. (Weren’t you glad when the mice interrupted him to continue their attempt to cut out his brain?)

  • I wonder what someone who had never seen any other members of the mighty HHGTG franchise would make of the film. There were several unexplained nods to the earlier works (such as the jewelled crabs on the planet Vogosphere). Not a bad thing if you’re a fan, though.

  • The sub-plot about Zaphod’s rival for the presidency was irrelevant and largely unfunny. They could have ditched that and had some of the actually good bits from earlier versions, and set up for the Point of View gun (which was funny) some other way.

  • Similarly, what was the vice-president actually for, other than to distract Zaphod from Trillian so that everyone (except Ford) gets the girl at the end?

There were good things.

  • The film made good use of visual gags which weren’t in the previous works but which fitted with the tone: how the dolphins left earth, for example, or the people in the pub lying down with paper bags over their heads just before the Earth was blown up, or the visual effect for the effect for the Improbability Drive jumps.

  • Stephen Fry is a good Book.

  • The factory floor scenes on Magrathea were really pretty.

  • Trillian was a cipher in the radio series, TV series and first book, a product of Adams’s self-confessed inability to write women. It was good to see more being made of the character in the film. Some people have complained that it wasn’t made clear in the film that Trillian is an astrophysicist, so she just looks like a thrill-seeker, but there are hints that she’s educated (dressing as Charles Darwin at a fancy dress party and carrying a beagle, muttering “so much for the laws of physics” as the Heart of Gold does an improbability jump).
  • The film is energetic and good natured and, silly speeches aside, very English.

Overall, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is an enjoyable adaption. While I still liked the other incarnations more, and can think of ways it could have been better, it is certainly not deserving of the OMG! sacrilege! stuff which was coming from some of the fans. It’s worth seeing.

<lj-cut text=”Doctor Who – likewise contains spoilers”> So to Doctor Who. This week’s episode was the first one where I’ve felt that the programme was being made for grown-ups. The Doctor, who we now know is probably the last surviving Time Lord, encounters the last surviving Dalek. Both are refugees from a cataclysmic battle which destroyed their races. The story played with the the idea that we become like our enemies, with the Dalek starting to show compassion, and the Doctor determined to exterminate it.

There’s still room for some humour. Line of the show: “It’s downloaded the Internet. It knows everything.” Haw!

Further to my last posting, Penny Arcade has Serenity spoilers (or rather, not).