Tales told by an idiot…

So, yesterday I was thinking about the idea of “today” and today is yesterday’s tomorrow and you could really go on with that kind of talk forever. And it gets you thinking, every single yesterday and today and tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow…

And of course I’m talking about the soliloquy from Act 5, scene 5 of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. You know, that thing they made you memorize back in high school. The scene itself is brilliant, starting with Macbeth learning of his wife’s death and followed by the news that his enemies are fast approaching and that the prophecy that will end him is unfolding before his eyes, but there in that brief moment, Macbeth has some time to himself alone in his own ruin, and he can wax on with resignation and anger about the dreaded continuation of life, the despair and the agony and the lack of choices we get, and the futility of it all. Death comes. It always comes. But it’s left up to debate if Macbeth is possibly choosing his own death right then and there.

In fact, that was the nice thing about how we have Shakespeare’s plays now, so lacking of most stage directions, leaving them open to a vast majority of interpretations. And when you’re thinking about tomorrow, whether you’re dreading it or eagerly looking forward into it’s complicated winds, the last thing you want is anything written in stone, right? Things should always be open, breezy, the path changing along with you…

Anyway, some videos. Above is Ian McKellen tackling the role in 1978 (with Judi Dench as Lady Macbeth) and the soliloquy and below is Jon Finch doing it in Roman Polanski’s 1971 adaptation (with Francesca Annis as a younger, softer, more determined Lady Macbeth [who did her sleepwalking soliloquy - "Out, damned spot!" - in the nude]). They’re obviously differently staged since Polanski’s is an actual film treatment of the play and McKellen is starring in a TV adaptation of Trevor Nunn’s run with the play, but McKellen’s just absolutely seething and nearly exploding with presence and Finch just looks like a guy doing a bit of acting after a few rough weeks or maybe a bender or two. To me, anyway. But while watching the video above, I got a little bit of a flashback to James Marster’s peformance as Spike on Buffy The Vampire Slayer. I wonder if the works of young Ian McKellen informed Marster’s English impression/accent? Or maybe that’s just me too.

And, because I find it interesting, below I give you Sir Patrick Stewart (with something of a porn star mustache) giving you a little advice on how to perform the “tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow” speech just as it was given to him by McKellen. I think it’s interesting that they both stress that the word to be emphasized is and.

Ordinary people going nowhere.

Last week it was all about fighting invisible chicken monsters from outer space and getting inside the lonely, tragic head of a challenged painter who didn’t realize how important he would be in the eyes of all those who looked upon his works…

…and this week on Doctor Who it’s about the lives of ordinary people, in a pretty simple lo fi episode as we gear up for next week’s two part season finale…

And that’s this weeks’ episode, “The Lodger,” written by Gareth Roberts and featuring James Corden, whom I don’t think many outside of England will know, and I don’t know much about him either, except that he was going to be in this episode and, of course, was recently a dick to Patrick Stewart:

A lot of times after viewing an episode and before I write one of these things, I’ll do a quick scan online to see where my feelings fit in with the rest of the online, er, “community,” and usually, it’s a match. Well, for the most part. This week, I have to say, I was quite shocked to find that most of the viewers loved this episode, and perhaps more than loved it. In the typical fashion of any television show reaching the conclusion of it’s season, there’s the slow down before the great big ramp up and exit, and many online compared to this to “Love And Monsters” and “Fear Her,” and how much better tonight’s episode was compared to those, though I didn’t dislike those episodes or look upon them negatively at all. At least not “Love And Monsters.” Though none of them will compared to “Utopia,” of course.

And don’t get me wrong, I certainly didn’t hate “The Lodger,” not at all. It was quite fine, actually, but I’m starting to notice perhaps the tiniest thread of disconnect between myself and other Doctor Who fans out there. Many, it seems, are quite eager to proclaim this new season the best yet (since the revival started, I imagine, and probably before as well), and I don’t know that I would go that far just yet.

That said, I really did like this episode, maybe not as much as others, but it was very good. The Eleventh Doctor, left behind by a manufacturing TARDIS, and having to spend a few days pretending to be a normal human as he figures out and tries to stop whatever it is that’s interfering with his time machine. Brilliant set up. I tend to like all forms of (good) sci fi, but especially that which pulls it out of space and tentacle rape and girls with three tits and brings it down to Earth in a normal setting, showing humans dealing with the fantastic. And this episode did that, even though it appeared to be more of a showcase for just how weird Matt Smith’s incarnation of the Doctor is.

That and, in caseĀ  you didn’t know, that Matt Smith was just this close to becoming a professional footballer (that’s soccer for those of us stateside), until an injury derailed that and set him down the path towards acting.

Even more interesting to me is that the initial story to this episode started off as a comic strip in the Doctor Who magazine, and I always love that this show will mine other sources for it’s stories and adapt them. For example, Moffat’s own “Blink” was initially a short story starring a much younger version of Sally Sparrow, and the lovely two parter “The Family Of Blood” and “Human Nature” were based on a previous Doctor Who novel. Those two episodes, in particular, make you wonder why the Doctor would choose to go by “The Doctor” in this episode rather than his go to nom de plume of “John Smith.”

From what I can surmise though, the initial comic strip featured a then new Tenth Doctor getting separated from Rose and the TARDIS and having to move in with Mickey Smith for a week. Interesting enough, the angle of the comic strip was apparently how normal and more human-like David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor was than his predecessor and how much of an irritant that was to Mickey Smith, how that split him from Rose even more. And I think that’s a more than valid point, especially since Tennant’s Doctor was so likable, and in such a human way, and was more prone to walk into any situation and master it within moments and get everyone on his side.

from here.

And I think it’s interesting how they flipped that with Smith’s Eleventh Doctor, almost making him the exact opposite of his predecessor, all bow ties and weird hair and an alien understanding of the normality of the humanity he seems so obsessed with. Whereas Tennant’s Doctor read the last Harry Potter book and cried or loves chips (french fries), Smith’s Doctor can’t tell how time progresses for normal humans or how to properly greet someone in a particular era. He has blithe, slightly telepathic conversations with cats and, thanks to slightly rushed feeling writing, head butts people in a rather slapstick fashion to pass along quick psychic infodumps.

from here.

And for a quirky, amusing story, I should add that the humor wasn’t unwelcome, but as I believe I said last week, I’m eagerly awaiting next week’s return of Moffat and the deadly seriousness he can bring. In my wildest dreams, Moffat would write like ten out of a given series’ 13 episodes. I know, I know, that’s insane. But just imagine it.

That said, again, liked the episode, but thought parts of it were a bit rushed feeling. The silhouetted villains at the top of the stairs and the flickering lights were brilliant, but let’s face it, kids are fucking terrifying. At least to me. I thought the notion of an alien ship trying to built itself a TARDIS left me more curious and intrigued than the episode probably meant to do and I liked the cameo of Van Gogh again (on the fridge)(and rumor has it that another Van Gogh appearance is slated for next week).

And despite all his quirks and brain being in a million different places other than right here and now, the Doctor seems a bit lazy and pedestrian (again, perhaps that’s merely the writing) in tackling the unseen menace upstairs. And in that infodump of the Doctor’s history, we get yet another roll call of previous Doctors. Makes you wonder if the show is still struggling to cement Matt Smith’s place in the history of these other incarnations or if it’s going somewhere next week, with the Doctor perhaps finding himself erased from history…

And if the episode had one major flaw, it’s something the last few episodes have shared: Not enough Amy Pond. She started off so strong this season and then was a bit wasted. But now’s found the engagement ring hidden there in the Doctor’s coat and perhaps she’s remembered Rory? Or perhaps it’s something else all together, but either way, part of me is glad this season is ending now. It’s been a fun ride and especially after tonight’s brief landing with a group of ordinary people who are fine going nowhere in their lives, I’m happy to follow the Doctor and Amy Pond and River Song as they zoom off into time and space and adventure…

Next time: Time and space and adventure! River Song returns and accompanies the Doctor and Amy to Stonehenge. The return of a whole slew of nasty monsters and villains. Rory the Roman! And perhaps, at last, the Pandorica opens…

Tuesday, without a cluesday.

Well, first, there’s this:

from here and here.

Wow. That’s just a terrible picture. But it’s an instant classic example of FAIL, right? I’ve really grown tired of FAIL and the people who say FAIL ad nauseam, but this time, it’s justified. FAIL. An equal amount of fail to me, actually, is this picture:

ScarJo and Sandra Bullock sharing a calculated kiss at an MTV something or other? Fuck, could there be anything more boring?

Of course, it’s hard to get too excited about an awards show that’s seemingly calculated and concocted just to test the waters for a spin off movie starring a character that was a silly throwaway cameo in a previous comedy film and was assayed by an actor who had had some problems in recent years. Well, I guess the experiment worked.

I miss the classic train wreck celebs. Otherwise known as the genuine people tossed into the world of the glitz and glamor and stumbling magnificently in front of all of us. Too often celebs are no different from whatever brand of jeans or laundry detergent you’re buying. They’re just another product. Their lives are delicately planned and coordinated PR campaigns, as thoroughly put together as your average storyline in professional wrestling. And who’s the more remembered wrestlers usually?

The villains.

Who gives a shit about the heroes?

I’m tired and it’s hot and it’s 2010 and right now, I just don’t give a shit about all the goodness and sunshine in the world. Maybe I will later when it cools down and the stars come out and I’ve had a cocktail or three or four, but right now all I want to see are the naughty bits.

Or the crazy fun bits, I don’t know, maybe.

Or maybe I’m only happy when it rains?

I don’t want to see the super heroes today. I want to see the super villains, the ones who crawl their way out of their comic book storylines and snort a few lines between the panels of art and story.

from here.

The Sandra Bullock/Jesse James story… I have nothing to add to this. America’s Sweetheart and the motorcycle guy with tattoos and he cheats on her with a girl with neck tattoo and Nazi-esque leanings. It’s fascinating on the surface and the more you dig, it’s sad. And weird. Like a perfect soap opera storyline that’s mutated and crawled it’s way into real life.

And granted, these are people’s names being dragged through the mud and vilified and hearts are being broken and it’s making somebody somewhere money. A lot of money.

Actually, it’s probably making everyone in this situation a lot of money, in different ways. And it’s just one of billions of celebrity headlines that I feel like I’m bombarded with on a weekly basis and it only leaves me hollow. And more and more, I feel like it’s just people playing a role, filling a requirement that’s out there.

In an easy “no duh” statement, are celebrities are doing the work of our pornographers, but we look down on one (aspect of ourselves) and seem to praise and adore another.

This has nothing to do with anything, I just thought it was funny.

I’m not really going to dissect it because I really have nothing to add to it. Complaints, maybe, but it feels pointless to complain about it, like maybe I should be saving my breath for something else, something important. Between Sandy and Jesse and Heidi and Spencer and Tom and Katie (and Suri/L. Ron, Jr.) all the other potential Bennifers and Brangelinas out there, the last one that really made feel anything (and it was laughter) was some headline about how the thing that attracted Brad to Angelina and broke up his marriage to Jennifer was that she (Angelina) gave really great rimjobs and apparently that’s what Brad is into it. I mean, that’s so surreal and absurd and I absolutely hope it’s true because, as ridiculous as it could potentially be, it at least feels human to me. And I miss that, and I really wish that I could turn on the TV and see a bunch of humans doing something…

I mean, look at this: The Queen of England knighting Patrick Stewart. That’s just great. And yet, I look at it and all I see is an old robot being plugged and marching out of her crate to do some ceremonial animatronics on the king of Shakespearean Sci Fi.

The other night I was talking to Maria and I threatened to do a blog post of nothing but pictures of celebrities drunk because I was feeling low and that would give me a temporary laugh.

And Maria, the classic enabler that she wonderfully is, merely said, “DO IT!”

Some day I’m worried that I might. Out of desperation, fatigue, or boredom, I don’t know. Reiterating from yesterday’s post

…but either way: Internet, give me something new. Please, I beg you. Show me something with flash or sparkle, something that’ll make me laugh or widen my eyes, and I’ll potentially follow you anywhere.

The end of time, part two: Geronimo!

NERD ALERT, part two. With spoilers.

This is what we had to look forward to going into “The End Of Time, part two,” the conclusion of David Tennant’s swan song as the Tenth Doctor in Doctor Who last night (airing today in America):

I tell you what, for a long time as I was watching this episode, as it swelling and building on it’s action and it’s emotional cadences, I was sure that I was going to walk away from it crying. Maybe just a manly tear or two, maybe just a bad case of the “watery eyes,” but I had that feeling. And in the end, no, I didn’t cry. But it was worse.

This episode broke my heart.

The plot so far: The Doctor’s mortal enemy The Master has come to Earth, freshly resurrected, but it’s gone wrong. He’s slowly wasting away and meets the Doctor who’s not only reeling from the prophecy that he’s soon to die, the victim of someone who will “knock four times,” but that “something is returning,” and said return will herald the end of time itself. The Master gets his hands on an alien medical device and writes his template onto all of humanity, turning the Doctor’s favorites, the human race, into the Master race.

Meanwhile, the Time Lords, still trapped within the confines of the Time War may have just found their way out…

And of course, there was some glorious references to Star Wars there, ranging from escaping from the Death Star to the Mos Eisley cantina, sort of.

At this point in the revamped show’s history, head writer Russell T. Davies has essentially become marmite. People either love him or they absolutely despise him. And, to be fair, it’s easy to want to see him go, especially with Steven Moffat waiting in the wings, but I think a lot of the criticism is massively unfair. If you love the show now, it should be hard to forget that it all goes back to RTD’s influence. And it should be hard to praise Davies as a massively effective writer, perfect to taking the show to massive crowd-pleasing heights all the while creating water cooler moments and turning potential weaknesses or set backs – Billie Piper leaving the show, or the actor playing Donna’s dad passing away – into victories, making them look like brilliant things planned out all along.

Plus, and this is just a personal thing, you have to love the technobabble that RTD comes up with, especially when it comes to the Time War: The Nightmare Child, the Shadow Proclamation, the Medusa Cascade, the Horde of Travesties, and the Could Have Been King with his army of Meanwhiles and Neverwheres. It’s ridiculous but it’s just glorious sci fi word puff.

But one of RTD’s many strengths in his run on Doctor Who has been with words, not just the glossolalia of sci fi puff or fantasy technobabble, but the arcwords, things like “Torchwood” and “Bad Wolf,” the recurring way just talking can scare us or excite us. He’s practically programmed his audience to howl with joy whenever Tennant screams “Allons-y!” or to curl up with sadness whenever the Doctor again refrains with “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.”

And while a lot of people had – and rightfully so – a lot of complaints about last week’s episode, there was still something brilliant in it’s frantic chase to the end, this beautiful insane pace as these two men, former friends and now bitter enemies, tried to outrun each other and their own mortality.

And then the evil Timothy Dalton had to show up and start spitting all over the place.

And I have to pause here to toot my own horn for a moment. I totally saws the return of the Timelords coming (and perhaps it was hard not to?), though I assumed it would’ve been in last year’s mega-finale of near fan fiction proportions, “The Stolen Earth”/”Journey’s End.” I had assumed that hidden away there in the Medusa Cascade was the locked away Time War. And part of me was glad it wasn’t.

Mostly because I was dreading their return. I know this show, this revived edition from 2005 to now, and every time I dabble in the 40+ years of lore of the show prior to that, I just have to shudder. The embarrassment of those involved, I think. It’s everything that we mock about the BBC shows, particularly their sci fi: looks like it was all shot on video for pocket change, lots of guys in rubber masks and trash cans wheeling around while a bunch of overacting thespians with bad teeth start shouting at each other. And then there’s the Time Lords with their funny hats and silly robes.

I once read an interview with RTD where he prided himself on the fact that he was a long time hardcore fan of this show, since childhood, and that as showrunner, while he may play with certain elements and tweak things here and there within the show’s vast continuity, he had never contradicted the show, not once. And to his credit, I’ve never heard that he has. And I think, based on the things I’ve seen with the Time Lords in the past, that he’s been true to that in this incarnation of them. Here, with the exception of the woman whom I think is clearly painted as the Doctor’s mother, they’re painted as villains, insane dictators of space and time, willing to cleanse and sanction the universe at their whim, and that seems pretty accurate to who and what they’ve always been.

Plus, I think Doctor Who works wonderfully with that nice little bit of pulp roots there, the lone survivor of an ancient and once noble race, lonely as he wanders the universe, seeing everything there is to see and and helping out where he can. It’s a nice bit of dress up for a show about an adrenaline junkie crossed with your classic British pacifist hero who just happens to have a device that punches holes in the universe.

Speaking of which, I was fascinated that a significant aspect of this episode was trying to tempt the character to take up arms. Though, for all the moral high ground that RTD’s Tenth Doctor has taken up over the years, its’ been a shaky, topsy turvy high ground. Sure, he wouldn’t shoot a man in revenge for killing his daughter, but there was the man who offered “no second chances” to the Sycorax leader above London all those years ago in that first X-mas special.

Two other items of tooting my own horn: The sound of the drums in the Master’s head? I totally called that being something involving the Time Lords and their return. Probably blatantly obvious, but still. And I always unfortunately worried that Wilf would be the man who knocked four times. And it was mostly confirmed last week when he became the only person (still living)(and a “he”) that the Doctor had previously told of the prophecy.

And it’d be criminal not to mention Bernard Cribbins as Wilf in this episode. The cafe scene last week was merely prologue to the vulnerability and sweetness he displays here. This wonderful character actor doesn’t just deserves to be awarded for his part in this episode, he deserves to be knighted.

But from that, I think we got a delicious bit of anger from Tennant’s Doctor. All the good he’s done, all the joy he’s caused within his time in the universe, of course he’d be angry that it has to stop, and stop because some silly old man goes and gets himself locked up with a nuclear device, even if he was saving the life of some poor technician. Though his anger is fleeting, it’s natural and perfectly within the character, I think. A year ago in a brilliant regeneration tease, he decided that he didn’t want to die, and he feels the same way still.

Plus, it nicely echoes Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor transforming into the Tenth. Both men absorbed too much bad radiation of some kind and watched as their cells slowly began to break down and their regeneration energy started to build up. A particularly nice echo also when you consider that I, like so many, was devastated when Eccleston left the part. I figured, “I’ll give this Tennant chap an episode or two, but I’ll probably tune out on the wanker then.”

And somewhere along the journey, David Tennant became my Doctor.

David Tennant with the newly knighted Patrick Stewart in Hamlet.

And I’m glad that my Doctor got his just rewards, a final look at his friends through the eyes he was soon to leave behind. Goodbye, Sarah Jane and bratty son. Goodbye, Captain Jack, who know gets to work his naughty magic on Alonso Frame, replacing dead Ianto after the events of “Children Of Earth.” Goodbye, Mickey Smith and Martha Jones, the new Smith and Jones. Goodbye, Journal Of Impossible Things. Goodbye, Rose.

I knew pretty much everyone was coming back for some filming, except I was under the impression that Freema Agyeman wouldn’t be among them, busy with the British version of Law & Order. And it would’ve been understandable if she didn’t make the return trip, especially when you consider how her character got shit on before she left. First, she’s stranded for an episode in a mud pit with a bunch of fish aliens who can’t speak English. Then she’s berated for the whole Osterhagen thing. And then, finally, she’s stranded with Ricky Mickey. Oh well. Martha, you were still my favorite companion.

And I liked that last scene, well, the scene before the last scene, the goodbye to Rose quite a bit, more than I thought I would. I never disliked Rose, but I didn’t think she was as great as were lead to believe she was all this time. I think certainly she was just a nice chav girl who was in the right place in the right time, and a much needed bit of common sense for the Doctor on occasions. At least for Tennant’s Doctor anyway, since she was always the daughter/audience proxy archetype for Eccleston’s Doctor.

But here again, the two characters had a lovely dichotomy. For him, this will be the last time he ever sees her, and while she doesn’t realize it, this is the first time she’s met him, there in the snow on New Year’s eve. The same as the always recurring arc word “Bad Wolf,” which for Rose, always meant something good, but for the Doctor, it was only something bad.

And then there was the Ood in the snow again, singing the Doctor to his goodbye, well, at least his goodbye to this incarnation. To the regeneration that we’ve been waiting for… for over a year now? This song must end, but it’ll start up again with new instruments and new voices. But the music endures and continues and hopefully only gets better.

And those brilliant last words. We don’t want you to go either, David Tennant. But everything ends. The day before the episode aired, I emailed a friend a bevy of linked related to this episode – preview scenes, reviews, those bingo cards for the finale – and then a little later, I realized I had gone a bit nuts there. I emailed her back to apologize and she said, “Don’t worry. It’s understandable. It’s the end of the era and there’s no better time to go crazy.” Quite right too.

“We’re not in the business of being nostalgic, we’re making nostalgia for the future, new monsters, new friends,” said the brilliant Steven Moffat as he gets ready to take over the show (well, more than gets ready to since they’re probably finished filming the next season by now). Everything Moffat touches tends to turn to brilliance, from Coupling to Press Gang to all of his previous Doctor Who episodes, particularly “Blink” and “Silence In The Library”/”Forest Of The Dead,” and of course “Girl In The Fireplace,” to upcoming Spielberg movie version of Tintin.

Nothing filled me with more confidence than when Moffat told Comicon last year: “Doctor Who is at its best when it’s brand new and you’ve always got to remember that there’s a new bunch of eight-year-olds watching every year and it has to be original – it has to belong to them.”

Well, like I said, first Eccleston was my Doctor, and then, despite my intentions, David Tennant became my Doctor and the show felt it belonged to me. Personally and selfishly, I hope to retain that sense of ownership when Matt Smith’s Doctor takes over, even if he does look like a strange little boy, which may just be perfect for this character.

from here.

I know that the Daleks show up next season, but hopefully there appearance is a short one. I’m a bit Daleked out, personally. Other than that, with Davies raising the bar high on threats faced – the end of reality itself in “Journey’s End” and the eponymous end of time – I’m hoping Moffat will respond with quieter, more intimate bits of dread. I both like watching this show gripping my armchair and cheering along with it and watching it from behind my couch.

Oh, and as I finally wrap this up, here’s a bit of geek-ish warning. Just as we obsess over shows like Lost and Mad Men here at Counterforce, it’s a new year and a new era, and I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, but I’ll probably be coming at you with quite a bit of Doctor Who when the new series starts in the spring. Hope you’re along for the ride…

And then there’s how it ended, not with an ending, but with a beginning, with something new making contact in 2010: