Saturday, May 14, 2011

Octopus Prime

I watched the final episode of Stargate Universe on Wednesday, it was a series that, imho, was for a large part better than SG1 (albeit after Jack left) and much much better than the pooey Atlantis. This isn't rocket science and we are talking Stargate, after all.

Universe was Battlestar Galactica meets Voyager meets Lost in Space.

There were a couple of characters that really worked - Everett Young, the guy in charge; excellent character - watching him go insane on a weekly basis was a true highlight. Nicholas Rush played by Begby aka Robert Carlyle, a real post modern Zachary Smith, but with balls. And, Eli Wallace, who was the one that probably struck a chord with most SF fans - the computer game geek in space; David Blue's character was allowed to grow in the two series probably more than anyone else and it was fitting the final part should focus on him.

And what a finale? Keeping the grimy, nasty theme alive until the last knockings. It was a brilliant ending for a better than average series and it amazes me that SyFy (what an awful moniker) cancelled this and kept Haven. Universe had no big massive ending as such; it had both a hollow and oddly fulfilling 'conclusion' - if you can get your head around that. Great last 90 seconds though; really, really excellent; possibly the entire franchise's finest hour.

***

It very much appears that the jury is reconsidering its verdict regarding Doctor Who. Even some of Steven Moffat and Matt Smith's biggest defenders are questioning whether the series actually benefits from an ultra-confusing US styled season long plot thread. The speculation that the current plot is actually going to spread out across all 13 episodes rather than just this half season has got non-nerds contemplating their commitment. From what I've read - probably all wild speculation any how - is that the death of the Doctor, the child/Timelord, Amy and the one eyed woman, are not all necessarily to do with each other.

I had this entire blog entry called 'Multiverses' which delves into my own speculation regarding DW but I decided to not bother running it because of the way I was feeling; why don't I just cut and paste it in here?

The following contains Doctor Who spoilers and a couple of theories...

There's a new film coming out from Fox Searchlight Films, the indie arm of the Murdock owned film company. It's called Another Earth and looks like the next esoteric SF film success - the first being Gareth Edwards' Monsters. I don't know much about Another Earth apart from the trailer I saw a couple of weeks ago on IMDB, but it appears to be the story of what happens when a alternative Earth appears in our sky, with the same people, but living different lives. The premise is intriguing and it is a thoughtful and intelligent examination of the event rather than having space ships, ray guns and evil twins. It could be described as a 2011 Donnie Darko in that it will ultimately appeal to people who are not genre heads.

A couple of years ago there was a series called Charlie Jade, which had a great idea, but wasn't particularly very well executed. It was about 3 parallel universes that were either merging into each other or were infecting each other. it was a serious take on Sliders and probably failed because the idea was probably far too complicated for its target audience. In recent years, Fringe has the same concept of us existing in a multiverse rather than a single linear existence (an idea that hasn't been discounted by scientists, but sounds to me like a theory driven by human imagination and wish fulfilment rather than any solid scientific evidence) and has produced some really bonkers TV.

Just last week, one of the producers of Game of Thrones said in an interview that people who can't get their head around the geography of the new HBO series should try and think of it as different versions of North and Central America. It seems like the idea of parallel universes is de rigueur...

Don't panic, I am going somewhere with this; although I can't guarantee I'm going to understand much of it, so you're all well and truly scuppered.

[I just deleted an entire paragraph because no matter how I worded it, it just didn't seem right.]

Doctor Who. There are your Steven Moffat fans and your RTD ones. Those who love David Tennant and those that hate Matt Smith. There are so many different camps it's a little pointless wasting time explaining them all to anybody, so we won't. DW has generated a lot of copy since it returned at the end of March 2005 and that's because it's one of those rare British things - an SF programme that is almost universally appreciated. This is something that should be considered a high achievement considering it is ostensibly a kids' programme - ably highlighted in the most recent episode by the Doctor getting his hand covered in alien snot and then wiping it on Amy Pond's sleeve (one of the first times I've laughed out loud at the series ever - which also shows the kind of level my humour is at). There has been debate about whether DW is no longer for kids, but now for adults [with little brain power]; with some academics claiming DW is even too scary for kids. That's is answered in one word (maybe two, depending on whether you're that pedantic): Bullshit.

The point is, DW has always been a kids programme, that way you can excuse the glaringly huge plot holes in most episodes. To emphasise that point, last week's episode had one of those moments that if you think carefully will make no sense at all. Back in the second ever new DW episode, when Christopher Ecclestone takes Billy Piper to the End of the World, there is an important part of the story that involves DW turning off the spaceship they're on and that requires him to go through an Indiana Jones styled adventure just to flip the off switch. I remember people at the time being apoplectic that something so stupid should be the thing the entire story hinged on. "Why on earth would the off switch be at the end of a deadly assault course?" Opined one of my friends, analysing the show far too much than is healthy. The excuse that it was just a kids show was pooh-poohed with gusto. "My kids are more intelligent than that!" Okay, it's not aimed at your kids then!

Throughout the 4 series of Ecclestone and Tennant, Davies came in for slagging off all the time - his stories were dull; they made no sense; they had characters doing things they wouldn't do; I can think of a host of complaints aimed at the series; yet all the critiques still watched it avidly every week. I sometimes think they did it to just be able to criticise it before any of their other dissenting friends could. My counterargument to the silly plots and impossible scenarios has always been to say its a kids show and that's always been thrown in my face; but kids like Indiana Jones films and they're full of bollocks that makes no sense. If a kid is playing a platform game on his PS2 then the simplest task is going to be made more difficult by the placing of an obstruction; even if it doesn't make sense. The game the kid plays will be as dull as dishwater if all he has to do is walk around a game encountering no threats. So having assault courses on the way to the off switch is the kind of thing a kid will encounter playing a game. Makes sense now, doesn't it?

Last Saturday's Doctor Who could have been one of those RTD episodes my friends were quick to complain about. It was riddled with plot holes; made little sense and could very well have been put in place just to allow the main plot to be advanced. Not only was it one of the weakest episodes of DW for years, it was also obviously aimed at kids - which, as I keep harping on about, is supposed to be the target audience. I did warn you earlier there were spoilers and here they come...

The Doctor, Amy and Rory turn up on a pirate ship, an incredibly civilised pirate ship it has to be said, even if the opening 7 minutes were a bit silly. They've arrived as the members of the crew are being picked off one by one by a Siren, a creature of the sea who takes anyone who has a cut or graze or in the case of the captain's son, a disease - if you are damaged in any way, it takes you. This gives way to essentially 25 minutes of running about, hypothesising, with a bit of human drama thrown in to make it look like half an idea. The Siren is actually 'the doctor from Star Trek: Voyager', but she's not so don't rush off to look. It's an automated nurse that got summoned whenever there's damage, but grows bored when the occupants of its spaceship all die. It decides to start treating injured humans instead. It exists on a different plane of reality, or as the Doctor put it, comes from a universe that sits inside ours - a different plane of existence - an example of multiverse. That's going to be important, that.

After several signposted plot twists, everybody lives happily ever after. The pirates flying through space in their new ship with a mega powerful nurse ready to attend their every medical need; Rory and Amy back on the Tardis and the Doctor feeling all smug. Except it was really poorly executed; the clever special effects on Lily Cole - the Siren - were overshadowed by some poor acting, some laughable decisions and the fact that any kid worth their salt would have seen most of the plot long before it came into plain sight. For me, the most glaringly bad part was when the Doctor, Amy and the Captain decide they have to go with the Siren. The three wake up in some hold on a ship - able to walk around freely and do whatever they have to do. They eventually find all the characters taken by the Siren, all wired into the ship's computer and unconscious, but being fixed, to the best of its abilities, by the medic. Why were all the crew and Rory on beds and unconscious and the Doctor, Amy and pirate captain not? How come the Siren/medic didn't place them three in the same medical stasis as the others? How did everyone make the leaps of logic they did without any real clues?

There's more; but I'll be fucked if I'm going to get all nerdy. The point is, it was as bad an episode as the worst of any that appeared when RTD was series runner; but regardless of how bad it was, I believe it explained what is going on in the rest of the series.

For however dreadful last week's episode was, there were a couple of key moments and I'm not talking about when Amy saw that curious one-eyed woman. The second was when the Doctor was looking at the scan of Amy at the end, the one that says she is pregnant and isn't in alternating sequence. This is the second time this has been observed and I think I've sussed out what Moffat is doing. Earlier in the same episode, the first key moment, Doctor is explaining to his team and the captain that the alien spaceship is occupying the same place in space as the pirate ship, but in a different universe; a different reality and that all over the place are spots where the two realities can interact - thin spots (borrowing from someone else again). The pirates in space final sequence had me frowning and scratching my head though - where were they? In our universe or the pocket universe the Doctor casually mentioned?

Now... who is the Impossible Astronaut? Who is in the suit that kills the older version of the Doctor at the beginning of the new series. There have been suggestions that it's the younger Doctor, it is Amy, it is River Song or it's the girl from the suit in the first two episodes. I'm swerving towards it being the Doctor who received the Tardis blue invitation (and not the one who sent it). I think the Doctor who gets killed at the beginning of the current season, the older Doctor, is actually the Doctor from an alternative dimension. I believe in that alternate dimension there is no Rory, so Amy has a relationship with the Doctor and has a child - the girl in the Impossible Astronaut - and the existence of that child has thrown the universe out of whack. Amy is alternating between being Amy of our Doctor's life and Amy from the other dimension; hence why she is pregnant, she isn't pregnant, she is, she isn't, etc.

That was as far as I got with it before I started to get my aforementioned blockage, but I was planning on continuing the piece on DW with a question that has confounded me. Timelords - Lords of time and space? Yes? Therefore, strictly speaking they always exist, or at least they exist at whatever point in time they stop at. If Ecclestone went to the end of the world, then technically Smith could do the same and might bump into himself. Do you see what I mean? What is there to stop Matt Smith's version to pop into the past/future and meet up with himself when he was #3 or #6 or Paul McGann? It's (sort of) how we had the 3 Doctors and the 5 Doctors episodes in the 70s. So when the clips from this coming Saturday's episode were shown and the Doctor was getting excited about there being another Timelord somewhere, surely there's loads of them, or were DW and the Master the only people to have Tardises? [I am also aware there were other Timelords, I just don't want to bog the entire story down with unimportant nerdy minutiae.]

And that's sort of how that ends. Probably should have waited until tonight's episode before hypothesising, or possibly writing it like there's a middle and end of it, but...

***

Smallville ended last night in the USA; 10 years of unbelievably poor formulaic TV. You can set your watch by this show. Intro, titles, 30 minutes to take the story past the intro and concludes on 30 minutes regardless of how hopeless the situation is to allow 11 minutes of reflection, humour, love and satisfaction.

By the time I realised that Smallville was the devil's poop it was too late, I was hooked like a [gender non-specific] whore on crack. The final series has had, on the whole, the best story arcs and most character development. There's elements of the series that I can't fathom, the most recent ones being Alison Mack's sudden disappearance from the show - presumably she wanted away for some reason, and we had to make do with only 5 appearances this season - and the anticipation that she's going to be around for the finale. The other was the emergence of Darkseid as the villain; it seemed like an afterthought once they realised they were going to struggle to bring Lex Luthor back for anything but an appearance in the final episode.

I shall enjoy sitting down to the final 90 minutes over the weekend and I can say that I won't be fondly remembering this series like so many others that have existed during Smallville's 10 years; but it was interesting to see how they either did comics well or really badly - sadly, badly wins by a considerable margin...

When was the last time you saw sadly and badly sitting next to each other in a sentence, huh?

2 comments:

  1. I'm convinced that the Future Doctor is a product of a rotten timeline and that it's the Doctor himself who kills him off.

    I think you're right about the universe-within-a-universe, and you may be right about the baby too.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hell, you'd love Mad Larry's website. Larry hates Moff, and has all kinds of unbalanced and personal opinions about the man and his work.

    ReplyDelete