Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Good Faith is For Bureaucrats

The Doctor is like James Bond: sorta British, an inexplicable womanizer, and played by more actors than you can count.

When I was a kid, my dad interrupted a vacation and dragged me to one of those time-share sales pitches where slippery salesmen tried to fenagle you into buying something that nobody really wants to own. You can identify the folks who are paid on commission. Some of them are deliberately obnoxious -- thinking if they're annoying enough, you'll buy something just to get rid of them. They latch on to you like barnacles to a galleon and try to prove their merit as human beings by telling... "jokes" ...

"Hey, kid, do you know why seagulls don't fly over the bay?"


"'Cause they don't want to be called bagels."

That sort of "trying too hard" aura that nauseated me then came over me again as I watched the Doctor Who pilot... with the... mannaquins tring to take over Earth.

The first episode of Dr. Who I watched, 15 years ago, was one from the 70's or somesuch. The doctor had an illustrious 'fro (the best part of the entire franchise) and he had a Bill & Ted's Excellent Transit Device™. I wanted there to be, you know, something happening but I suppose that was too much to ask of the BBC. They were holding out all entertainment value for Top Gear.

My sister-in-law, seeking to slake my wife's desperate hunger for entertainment recommended we give the Doctor Who remake a try. If Battlestar Galactica has taught us anything, it's that remakes have exactly one third as much potential as the original material they're imitating.

Like I said, that show tries too hard.

"Look at how corny I am! Isn't it quaint? I'm an endearing variety of bad! Appreciate my badness!" it said.

A few decent quips were scattered in the show like tasty, colorful gumdrops sprinkled upon a mound of browning, sun-baked roadkill --- the species of-which was indescernible in the cloud of flies and steaming carnage.

Shoot the glowing part, you fools!

The most compelling character was the first Dalek they met and he was only interesting for as long as it took for the writers to demonstrate that the show's budget was NOT its greatest (or even seventh-greatest) weakness.

Really, the budget wasn't a problem at all. That show just sucks.

Like brain-worms wiggling in my skull, one question tormented my thoughts as I watched: Why should I care at all about these people show? The Doctor is worse than Superman in his suspense-killing omnipotence and they try to gingerly stitch together a story by piling a contrived, nonsensical moral code onto the worn fabric of a not-quite-interesting character.

How does a man as retarded as the Doctor come from a species that can ruin conservation of energy, thermodynamics, causality, and the dignity of all sapient organisms to have ever existed in the lifetime of the cosmos?

He. Can. Do. Literally. Anything. And he wastes his time pseudo-courting Earth-girls and rescuing Earth governments that only differ from the horrible Dalek race in the scale of their effectiveness.

Though there wasn't really any nudity, the writing sure smelled like porn.

You spend a heck of a lot of time watching writers vacillate 'tweet arbitrary extremes along spectra of false dichotomy. Here are a couple of them:
  • "thou shalt not change history" and "thou shalt screw history like a drunken prom date for the good of good"

  • "this is a glib exploration of the feelings of two boring people who hang out together for no real reason" and "this is a childish attempt to quantify orders of magnitude by simply saying 'times infinity.'"

  • "death is a sad necessity of reality" and "sad necessities of reality are the battered housewives of plot."

But my head is filthy with solutions and I would never spend so much time whining without also offering a solution to you, my good reader.

If you want a good show with a bit of campiness, a little bit of contrivance, but a lot of entertaining ideas, a compelling premise, and actually interesting social commentary, I recommend you dig up episodes of the first season of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. It, too, was a reboot of an old story that tried to offer a more modern (for its time), human-feeling to dated material.

Gil Gerard's titular role is The Doctor done right. He's over-powered and a cheesy, pangalactic player --- but he's also realistically stupid (not absurdly stupd like The Doctor).

More importantly, the world that Buck Rogers fights to save makes some remote variety of sense. Unlike the Doctor's Earth, which is a riduculous charicature of stoned preachiness, Buck's world is fragile and actually needs protecting. Both characters are equally as methodical in their approach to saving the world. One pulls it off because The Writers Decree It and the other pulls it off because because the rest of the galaxy is stunned at his recklessness or is too busy trying to unlock the "not quite necrophilia" achievement by shacking up with a five-century-old-man.

Yes, if you're into pretentiousness that comes with a fish-and-chips accent, you'll be let-down by Buck Rogers. But if you want an interesting, campy bit of televised amusement, you should take this advice and watch Season 1 (I disavow Season 2) of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.