Television

Doctor Who and the perennial alien existence plothole

I was watching the opening of the new Doctor Who this afternoon because as an old man with young children I can’t always make time for things like worldwide simulcasts the day it launches. Jodie Whittaker was amazing in the short amount of time I saw her, and I’m looking forward to finishing the rest of the episode. Which I totally haven’t yet because, again, young kids in the house.

There was one thing that struck me as a bit odd, and it’s something that’s bothered me ever since I first started watching the new series about a decade back. There came a point where some new characters we’re all supposed to get to know and love over the course of the season were menaced by a scary electric tentacle alien thing.

And they all acted like it was impossible that the thing could’ve been an alien. The Doctor’s admission that she was an alien was met with disbelief.

This is despite the past decade featuring a staggering number of instances where the world learned that yes, there were very much aliens in the world and they weren’t all necessarily coming to earth to phone home and leave us all feeling warm and fuzzy with their glowing fingers. Cybermen and Daleks invaded the world and fought each other. Daleks invaded the world a few more times, because why not? Give the audience what they want. An interstellar version of the Titanic nearly crashed into Buckingham Palace. There was the Christmas Invasion where Tennant lost his hand.

Recently under Capaldi’s tenure there was an invasion of Cybermen being led by Missy, and the continued saga of the Zygons low key trying to take over the world every few months, so none of that “cracks in the wall handwaves all the other invasions away” nonsense some people spout about on the Internet.

The point is there have been plenty of alien invasions over the past decade of nuWho. Let’s not even get started on the old series. One of the first things I thought of was the Loch Ness monster that Tom Baker took on during his tenure, and it turns out this was referenced by the Seventh Doctor in a quote about how humans like to forget things.

I understand that they have a show to run here and the stories are more fun if earth isn’t aware that there are aliens out there. I know that the show is constantly refreshing itself and the new creators want to free themselves up to tell new and interesting stories.

It’s just that it all seems a bit… lazy. They’re just hitting the reset button on earth’s knowledge of aliens despite earth being ripped into the galactic community time and time again. I don’t know that there’s a good solution to this problem either. New creators want to try new things before they inevitably go back to the well and give fans the traditional rogue’s gallery of baddies, but it really starts to stretch believability to have an earth that’s been made aware of aliens so many times in the past and then have everyone suddenly forget it. No matter how many times they handwave it.

I suppose the fact that they haven’t come up with a good solution to this problem despite the show being on the air for coming up on sixty years shows that we all need to sit back and repeat the MST3K mantra while watching a new series of Doctor Who. It’s just a show, we should really just relax.

And so far it does seem promising. A new Doctor is always exciting. For all that I’ve been going on about this for nearly six hundred words like the unapologetic geek I am, I really am excited about the new season and can’t wait to see what Whittaker does with the part.

I just wish they could figure out a way of building on past lore that doesn’t involve selectively declaring bankruptcy on that lore until they’re ready to acknowledge it again.

Sports beats scifi on Fox. Again.

Last night I went to tune in for the next episode of The Orville. We ended up getting home a little late from a family thing but that was okay because we live in the age of the DVR, right?

Wrong.

I hit play on the episode and found myself staring at the Broncos vs. Cowboys game. Seriously. They delayed the newest episode because of a football game.

Not that this is surprising. We’re talking about Fox here. A network that’s as infamous for preempting its programming for sports as it is for cancelling promising shows before they really have a chance to get off the ground.

Fans had the same frustration with Firefly back in the day. I remember the same frustration with shows like The Simpsons and Family Guy. There were times when it was impossible to tell when your favorite show was going to air because Fox was busy catering to the almighty sports demographic at the expense of fans of their original programming.

It looks like the more things change the more things stay the same. Sure I can watch the episode streaming at Fox’s website, but it’s frustrating that’s even a thing fans should have to deal with on a new show. Especially a new show with a distinct split in the audience where a lot of people are still trying to make up their mind.

The Orville: Old Wounds

THE ORVILLE: L-R: Penny Johnson Jerald, Mark Jackson, Seth MacFarlane, Peter Macon, Scott Grimes, Adrianne Palicki, J. Lee and Halston Sage in THE ORVILLE premiering this fall on FOX. ©2017 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Noah Schutz/FOX

I’ve been looking forward to The Orville since I first saw that Seth MacFarlane was doing an homage/spoof of Star Trek. The show is right in my wheelhouse. I’ve been a huge trekkie my entire life and I’ve been a fan of MacFarlane since the first time I saw Family Guy when it first premiered. Combine the two? Well you have something that I’m very much looking forward to!

The previews for The Orville really wanted to build it up as a comedy that had more in common with MacFarlane’s other works than it did with Star Trek. The Internet really seemed to want The Orville to be a rehash of Galaxy Quest, though I thought those comparisons were flawed considering Galaxy Quest’s unique comedy stew had a healthy dose of fandom culture and winking nods at the ridiculousness of the show’s premise in its ingredients rather than being an in-universe straight up parody.

Which is to say that going into this I figured there were going to be a lot of people who were disappointed with The Orville based on their expectations. It looks like the critical reaction has been pretty negative, but then again the critical reaction to anything MacFarlane does tends to be pretty negative. I’ll admit his stuff is something you either like or you hate, but if you fall on the “like” side of that dichotomy then the humor in The Orville is more hit than miss.

The best part, though, is that you don’t even have to be a fan of MacFarlane’s comedy to enjoy The Orville, because at its core the show isn’t a comedy. It isn’t a spoof of Star Trek. No, more than anything it’s a return to the roots that made Star Trek the wonderful thing that it was. It’s an optimistic take on humanity’s future with a more realistic and smartass approach to how the characters interact, and I really enjoyed it.

The first episode, Old Wounds, hits a lot of beats that will be familiar to anyone who has seen a pilot from a science fiction show that debuted after Star Trek: The Next Generation dominated the airwaves and helped to usher in a new golden era of scifi on television. Characters are introduced. Interpersonal relationships are defined. A bit of old conflict is introduced. A new bad guy shows up and there’s a macguffin of the week that moves the plot along.

I don’t think the specifics of Old Wounds are all that necessary to cover though. It would be a perfectly serviceable episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, but the humor infused in the show really adds something to it. Say what you will about TNG and how groundbreaking it was for its time, but it could be a lot more stuffy and buttoned up than its predecessor. In many ways the interactions between the crew on The Orville feel more natural. There’s a workplace banter that I think better reflects how life would proceed on a ship like that, even in the far future, and in many ways it hearkens back to some of the lighter moments of the original Star Trek.

The Orville isn’t the rapid fire comedy that Fox desperately wanted people to think it was based on the advertising. It isn’t a straight up parody of Star Trek that the Internet seemed to so desperately need. What it is, though, is a loving homage to everything that made the best of Star Trek so great. Some might call it a straight up copy, but I really enjoyed seeing a show that got away from the dark and gritty tone that has taken over science fiction in the past decade and even tainted Star Trek to some degree.

The Orville is a return to a bygone era of televised scifi. It’s a show that depicts a bright future where humanity is doing well, and it does it with humor that shows a world that feels a lot more realistic than most of the dour scifi that’s been on the airwaves in the past twenty years.

I can’t wait to see where they go. Old Wounds was promising, and I think this show has the potential to develop into something amazing. Watching it felt like sitting down to watch an episode of TNG when I was a kid, and I welcome a return to a more optimistic take on the genre.

Nods to Trek:

The Orville isn’t a straight up Star Trek spoof, but there were plenty of nods in the episode that I enjoyed.

The door swishes and beeps were all very familiar.

The friendly deadly orc was a nice twist on the holodeck.

The shuttle flight that revealed the Orville was straight out of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, including music cues that were spot on while being just different enough to avoid copyright infringement.

MacFarlane’s speech to his crew was another scene straight out of The Motion Picture.

The musical stingers featuring the ship floating through space when they came back from commercials was a spot on moment from TOS and TNG.

The standoff with the enemy captain at the end bore more than a striking resemblance to the prefix code showdown with Khan in Wrath of Khan.

The shuttle ramming into the shuttle bay at full speed was a fun nod to Sulu doing the same in Final Frontier.

Notable moments:

The Orville leaving the dock to a rousing orchestral score was perfect. It brought to mind similar scenes from various Trek shows and movies while also being its own thing, which is really the whole episode in a nutshell.

Asking the weirdly framed alien to move just a little was funny. It brought to mind all those episodes of TNG where Tomalak stood just a little too close to the viewscreen for comfort.

The moment where they start airing their marriage grievances to a confused alien commander who actually engages them on the subject? Hilarious.

The discussion of the parting one-liner at the end was pretty funny too.

Summing Up:

If I had to give Old Wounds a letter grade it would probably be a solid B to B+. Not all the jokes hit and it’s clear the show is still finding itself, but the promise of a show that depicts an optimistic future with a dash of realism and humor is enough to have me really excited to see where they go with this! And MacFarlane is the golden boy at Fox, so if anyone has the power to keep an ambitious show like this going long enough to find its feet, something that even TNG didn’t do until towards the end of season 2 or the beginning of season 3 mind you, he’s the guy.

Marvel’s Defenders and superhero fatigue

Marvel’s Defenders is the new hotness over on Netflix. Their latest bingeable masterpiece tailor-made to get people to keep renewing those Netflix subscriptions.

As a huge geek it’s the sort of show that should be catnip for me, but I’m just not feeling it. Y’know what I am feeling?

Superhero fatigue.

There’s just so much new stuff coming out and I have to wonder when it’s going to get to the point that the superhero trend starts to fizzle out. No pop culture fascination can last forever even if it does have the power of the mouse behind it running it into the ground.

Netflix is the perfect microcosm of this. I watched Jessica Jones and really liked it. The only problem? When I went back to watch it again I wasn’t as interested, and I realized that the only thing that kept me coming back to that show was David Tennant who provided the first truly menacing villain any on-screen Marvel property has seen since the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe became a thing.

I tried Daredevil. Everyone was raving about it, but it felt like more of the same. I forced myself to watch a few episodes, but then it got to the point where I got distracted by something else and I never came back to it.

Iron Fist? I didn’t even bother with it when it hit Netflix. I did catch parts of a few episodes because my brother in law is obsessed with the Netflix Marvel stuff and I happened to be over at his house for something on the day he was binging it.

The snapshots I saw of the show convinced me it wasn’t something that I needed to sit down and explore in its entirety.

Maybe it’s just that I’m getting too old to really appreciate the new pop culture hotness in a way I would’ve when I was younger and had more time on my hands. There was a time when I got on the hype train for things like this, but I guess I was burned enough times that I’m willing to let the hype train leave the station without me and I’ll wait to see if it’s going anywhere worthwhile before I give something a try.

I keep seeing people saying wonderful things about the Netflix Marvel stuff, and I just don’t get it. I guess it’s not for me and that’s fine. Difference is what makes the world go ’round, after all.

Mostly it makes me feel old though. I’m at the point where I have to carefully ration the time that I do spend on pop culture stuff. Between running my own author business and two kids, including a newborn that I’m taking care of during the day now because fuck paying $1400 a month for someone else to watch a newborn sleep all day at daycare, I find myself spending less and less time on stuff that doesn’t capture my attention and imagination right away.

Maybe that’s getting older. Maybe I’ve just lost patience for stuff that isn’t immediately gratifying. Either way, I think I’ll be giving Defenders a pass.

Check out the Stranger Things 2 Comic Con trailer

Oh boy am I stoked for this. Stranger Things was singularly awesome when I saw it the first time around and I can’t wait for the sequel to drop in October. This Comic Con trailer in particular? Perfect. There were so many moments where I got goose bumps that I lost count.

Plus all that Ghostbusters goodness. This is shaping up to be awesome!

Horatio from CSI: Miami is basically a reverse Jason Voorhees

My wife is home with our brand new daughter right now and so she’s been watching a lot of CSI: Miami to pass the time. Which means I’ve been absorbing a lot of CSI: Miami in the background.

Miami was always my favorite of the CSIs, and a lot of that has to do with David Caruso’s leading man Horatio Caine. Caruso brought a level of smartass badassery to the show that was missing from the more heavily science focused CSI.

Only now that I’ve been rewatching CSI: Miami, at least in the background when I stop by for diaper duty, I’ve noticed something about Horatio. Especially in later seasons.

Horatio is a reverse Jason Voorhees.

Basically the same person.

Seriously. Stop for a minute and consider the similarities:

Badass facial accessorization

Jason has his iconic hockey mask. Horatio has his iconic sunglasses. And when either one of them takes off their signature item you know shit’s about to get real and there’s a good chance someone’s about to die. The only difference is that someone is some poor teenager who’s probably still basking in the afterglow of getting laid if we’re talking Jason and it’s some murderer who thought they got away with it in Horatio’s case.

Teleportation

Jason doesn’t play fair when he’s chasing someone through the woods. One of his victims could hop onto the Concorde (which was still running for most of his career) and fly halfway around the world and the dude would still be waiting for them at Heathrow near the baggage claim. He has the sort of teleportation abilities that would make James Doohan jealous.

But Horatio does too. Look at any episode of CSI. The closer you get to the end the more powerful his abilities get. A bad guy is in the middle of a wide open space like a parking lot or a field in one shot. Then we move to a close in shot as the bad guy smiles thinking he got away with it all and then there’s David Caruso showing up in the background with his gun out and his sunglasses in the business position.

How did he get there? It defies all rational explanation. Episode after episode he appears in places he just shouldn’t be without being some sort of wizard who travels the world dealing out justice with one liners and gratuitous application of sunglasses to his face, but every episode he pulls it off and gets the bad guy.

They both have an impressive bodycount

Jason is Jason. That should be pretty self explanatory. Killing teenagers for doing things that were considered no-nos in Reagan’s America like doing drugs and having sex is his schtick even though we’re well past those bad old days. Horatio is a little more surprising. The thing is, if you watch CSI: Miami long enough you’ll realize that Horatio is a dude with an impressive bodycount to his name.

There was the time he shot three guys who stopped an ambulance he was riding in with his stricken wife. There was the time he traveled to South America to execute the dude responsible for killing his wife. What about the time he was extradited back to South America for killing the guy who ordered the hit on his wife, and he straight up goes full Terminator on a bunch of South American gangbangers who tried to kill him?

That’s not even counting all the one off episodes where he’s forced to kill some criminal who’s gunning for him and then David Caruso gets to look soulfully into the camera before he puts his sunglasses on and delivers another trademark Horatio one liner about how no one should fuck with Horatio because they tend to die.

Sure Horatio kills bad guys. Jason kills people who may or may not deserve it depending on what era we’re talking about. Both think they’re killing to exact justice on the world even if Jason’s idea of justice is a little screwed up.

Forget Jason vs Freddy vs Ash, we need Jason vs Horatio

Imagine how awesome it would be. Two characters with all the same superpowers. One uses his powers for murdering people, the other uses his powers to apprehend people who murder people. It’s the perfect setup, and whoever owns the rights to these characters needs to get on that asap. Of course it would turn into a never ending ouroboros where Jason teleports in to get the killing blow on some poor hapless camp counselor, Horatio teleports behind him with his gun out ready to make the arrest, and they rinse and repeat for all of eternity.

Still, that’d be pretty awesome. Someone needs to get David Caruso and Kane Hodder on the horn and make this happen.