All Along The Watchtower

films . videos . television

Friday, March 17, 2006

Kirk, Adama and the Doctor

What is the point of fiction?

Some types of fiction depict what is -- humanity with its flaws and failings, and the reality of life with hurt and hardship. Some types of fiction depict what might be -- the larger-than-life, mythological, what we might aspire to. Don't let anyone tell you that one or the other of these is the be-all and end-all of fiction. I happen to believe that both are important. It is, however, important to understand what your intent is as an artist or a consumer.

The documentary "How William Shatner Changed The World," which aired last Sunday on The History Channel, made an argument that Star Trek's strength was in the larger-than-life depiction of a humanity that had overcome petty differences and was ready to face new challenges. As Rick Berman regime took that vision darker -- introducing elements of conflict and frustration that Gene Roddenberry would never have countenanced -- it became less successful. At least, that was the documentary's interpretation of events. Oversimplified, perhaps, but not completely dismissible either. That's not to say that there's anything wrong with darker and more complex storytelling; quite the opposite. But Star Trek had a special heritage; people expected a particular type of storytelling from it, and (as the special documented, most entertainingly) its first two incarnations inspired many to dream of infinite possibilities.

There could not be a greater contrast between the two different types of storytelling than the TV show which ended its season last Friday night on SciFi and the TV show which began its season this Friday night. Both are remarkable efforts, but one deals with a grimy reality of genocide and war and slavery and betrayal while the other is fun, larger-than-life and mythic.

I actually think we don't give larger-than-life storytelling the credit it deserves. I think sometimes we learn more about ourselves from Superman than Sipowicz.

There's not a whole lot I can say about Doctor Who that others here haven't already said much better. I'm not through with the second hour yet, but the first hour exceeded my already-high expectations. I think I was afraid that the new version was going to lose some of the fun, some of the joy and whimsy of the orginal. I needn't have worried. I have to say I'm already dreading Christopher Eccleston's departure at the end of this season; I think he's great.


At 4:26 PM, Blogger Michael said...

The thing is..I've seen the entire season. And while Eccleston is good in the first four to five eps, episode six called Dalek...

He owns the role.

Man, I hope I'm not overhyping it...

But it only gets better.

Also, go back and in End of the World, listen for the words Bad Wolf....they are as you come out of a break but they are important to the first season.

At 5:41 AM, Blogger Michael said...

As good as Eccleston is, the one epiosde I've seen with the new Doctor...David Tennant..he does a great job as well. Of course, said episode really only has Tennant on screen for about 15 of 60 minutes...but when he's there, he just demands you pay attention to him.


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