In which I go on too long about Doctor Who.

§ January 29th, 2008 § Filed under Uncategorized Comments Off on In which I go on too long about Doctor Who.

I had a couple questions in my comments sections recently that I thought I’d address in the main body of the site, rather than just have ’em languish in the Haloscan archives, unseen by God and Google.

First off, commenter Dario asks:

“Hey Mike, it’s been a while since you blogged about Superman… any thoughts on Busiek’s run?”

I’ve been quite enjoying Kurt Busiek’s run on Superman…his stories remind me, in a way I can’t precisely define, of the Cary Bates and Elliot S! Maggin stories I grew up on in the ’70s and ’80s. They’re straightforward, the characters are all clearly defined, the stakes in each story are solidly established…they’re just plain fun, serious enough without being too serious. And they’re not bogged down by excessive subplotting, which I appreciate. For most of the post-1980s revamp era of Superman, it felt like each issue had to split time between whatever this month’s A-plot was, and the B, C, D, and E-plots that continued from issue to issue, establishing the serial nature of the Super-books. Now that Superman doesn’t have to cross over with three or four other Super-books a month, we can get stories with beginnings, middles, and ends, with little subplot noodling gumming up the works.

So there’s not really a whole lot I can say about Busiek’s run, other than he’s writing good Superman comics that I’ve been enjoying. If you all need a sample, try the Up, Up, and Away trade paperback (co-written with Geoff Johns). It features a depowered Superman (from the events in Infinite Crisis) slowly regaining his powers, the threat of Lex Luthor, and a nice portrayal of Clark and Lois’ married life…which goes to show you that some comic creators know how to handle a married superhero. Pete Woods and Renato Guedes provide the clean, attractive artwork, which of course isn’t on the cover of the paperback. Ah, well.

Normally I don’t post Amazon links to comics…I want you to buy them from me, me, but if a bunch of you want this book all at the same time, I don’t have enough on hand to fill lots of orders, so here’s that Amazon link below. And if you like that book, the rest of the Busiek run has been just as good.

Commenter Chris had this to say:

“Are you watching Torchwood? I’m not sure if you have written about Doctor Who stuff before […] but I would be interested to read your take on the series and related shows.”

Well, it’s not as if it’s really off-topic or anything, since God knows I’ve gone on about Star Trek and Star Wars on this site. But I’m more of a casual Dr. Who fan…pal Dorian is the big Whovian in my circle of roustabouts and ne’er-do-wells, but I’ve been following the latest iteration of the Doctor’s TV series via the DVD releases. I’ve not seen minute one of Torchwood, but I imagine I’ll probably give it a go via the Netflix (and in fact, I just now added it to my queue, so long as I’m thinking about it, and the first disc has “a very long wait” – sigh).

Doctor Who is just one of those things I feel like I’ve always known about…I can’t remember a moment in my childhood where I said, “Huh, wonder what this Doctor Who thing is.” It just seems like I’ve known the basics of the character, even without being a particular fan of the show, much in the same way I feel like I’ve always known that Superman was from Krypton, and Kirk was the Federation’s most badass captain, and so on. It’s like nerd instinctual memory. But for Doctor Who, I do remember catching glimpses of the TV show on public television here and there, but I never sat down and watched an episode straight through. When I was a young teen, some U.S. publisher or ‘nother started releasing a whole bunch of Who novels, and I read more of those things than was probably healthy. But, I was (and still am) a voracious, and fast, reader, and those Who books were about as thick as a CD case, so it didn’t take long to read a lot of them. And that’s where my knowledge of the character(s) comes from…not the TV show, but the tie-in novels. And somewhere, a Who fan is crying out in pain at this revelation.

But, aside from that brief obsession with the novels (which I probably read since the Star Trek books didn’t come out fast enough), I didn’t go out of my way to pursue Doctor Who material. Over the years, I’d catch articles in Starlog (which is how I found it was a really big deal for Peter Davison to be taking over the role from Tom Baker) or glimpses of the occasional episode on TV…and once I started doing the funnybook selling thing, I had the comics around, too, though I wasn’t a reader. “Oh, I guess the Cybermen are some of the Doctor’s enemies.” Basically, I’m telling you that even without being a huge fan of the character, I more or less knew what he was about, what his backstory was, who some of his bad guys were, etc.

Prior to the beginning of the newest incarnation of the show, my last major exposures to the world of the Doctor were:

1. The Curse of Fatal Death, a comedic take on the character with Rowan Atkinson in the title role. I went searching for this particular video, not because of the Who connection, but because by this point I’d just mainlined four seasons of Black Adder and wanted more Rowan.

2. That made-for-TV movie, giving us the filmed adventure of the Eighth Doctor. Don’t remember a whole lot about it, though I seem to recall liking it well enough.

When the new show started…well, it seemed like most people I knew were downloading the BBC broadcasts via torrents and watching it that way, rather than waiting for the Sci Fi Channel to broadcast the shows several months later (and if I recall correctly, there was some worry whether the new show would ever get broadcast in the U.S.). Even when it started airing on Sci Fi, I didn’t bother watching it, primarily out of my desire to not get beholden to yet another TV series. But, once they made it to DVD, that’s when I began to watch them.

Overall, I do enjoy the series…it’s not deep or meaningful, but it is clever and fun, with some sharp dialogue and strong acting that can help sell some of the more ludicrous events, and doesn’t have to worry about selling the low-budget effects. Tom Baker had to convince the viewers that the cardboard ‘n’ rubber thingie suspended by wires and wrapped in green bubblewrap posed some kind of threat. That’s not so much a problem any more…now all they have to do is convince folks that the Weakest Link parody is a serious danger, which may be as difficult a job, if not more so.

The lead actors have done wonderful jobs on the show…Christopher Eccleston as the ninth Doctor was lean and angry, quite a contrast from the Tom Baker version that tends to dominate the perception of the character (though Baker’s Doctor had his angry moments, too). When David Tennant took over the role, I wasn’t quite sure, having gotten used to Eccleston’s portrayal…but he quickly won me over with a Doctor that was just slightly more round-the-bend, while maintaining that undercurrent of anger and…disconnect that has characterized the Doctor in these newest shows. Maybe I’m just reading too much into the performance, but Tennant’s Doctor feels a little more alien to me…there’s the occasional expression, or pose, or look in his eye that tells you “this isn’t a normal person.” Which is good, since the Doctor isn’t a normal person, and the occasional reminder that this character is not a human being, and is dangerous to be around, is what gives Doctor Who that additional level of gravitas that keeps it from being just another sci-fi superhero fightin’ the aliens-of-the-week.

Plus, if there’s a more terrifying hour (well, forty minutes) of television than the Who episode “Blink,” I don’t want to see it.

And it’s got me watching some of the classic Who adventures via Netflix. Man, that Davros…what a card!

And I promise, I’ll get around to watching Torchwood. I understand it has a lot of the sexy in it. And who doesn’t like the sexy?

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