Christopher Eccleston…

…May actually have become my favourite Doctor. Hmm, yes, maybe even slightly squeaking past Tom Baker and Sylvester McCoy. And the “New New Doctor”, David Tennant, who let’s face it is a great, great Doctor, but…

I dunno. Christopher Eccleston. Mr. “Lots Of Planets Have A North”. He really is terrific.

But, it isn’t just him. I’m so incredibly impressed with the younger generation’s ability to create (if I may heaken back to my second-ever post) Real Doctor Who, I can’t even tell you. The effects may be better, but they’re still writing it like the walls were made of particle board and the costumes were nicked (as Bully might say; note to self, must remember to write a post on things British that Bully might like) from the Shakespeare productions next door…and here’s your proof of that commitment: at the end of every episode they actually mostly give away what’s going to happen in the next one, in terms of action and conflict and drama…

But, because in the end it isn’t all about the action, so they really can’t truly give anything away, no matter how much they show. Because it’s all in the acting, the writing, the…well, what is the correct word for it…the prestige. The pulling of expected rabbits from expected hats, in what is (somehow) an unexpected way. And not excepted from what they pull: my adoration for the way they do it. Yes, everything about this new productional incarnation of Doctor Who positively screams that hello! this is the same thing, we’re the same and you’re the same, and you’re that thing so precious beyond words, our audience, and we want to please and amaze you…

And yes, why do you ask? As a matter of fact I am working on an extremely large post about Quesada, Millar, Bendis, Brevoort, and the “new new Marvel”, that it seems to me doesn’t actually consider me their precious audience, at all…in which I hope to finally articulate, in an economical way, my annoyance with a certain type of Marvel scriptwriting that’s been bothering me more and more lately…
It’ll be up in a day or two, promise.

Meanwhile, let us consider not just Christopher Eccleston but Billie Piper: it’s a bit nerdy, but on occasion I wonder to myself if I am not just the tiniest bit in love with Rose Tyler…ah, again, nice job, new generation. Thank goodness Joss Whedon isn’t among you, or she would’ve been dead after a month and a half, just to shock me out of my complacency about happy endings…or to make me relive being broken up with by my first girlfriend…like there’s a difference, damn you…
Well, okay, not exactly fair. And I think Joss is great. So let me retract the above statement, thusly:

She might have been dead after a month and a half, just to shock me out of my complacency, etc.

Sixty percent chance she would’ve lived, honest.

…But seriously, has anyone considered the thing I’ve been saying for years, that the problem with SF/Fantasy TV and movies is that the people who are writing and directing them now are the people who grew up reading Big Two comics in the Eighties? People weaned on the Death Of Phoenix or the Death Of Electra…people who have an inbuilt emotional shorthand for “wow” that demands more, more, ever more…YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENS NEXT ISSUE/EPISODE! I AM TELLING YOU YOU’RE GOING TO FREAK OUT! Gee, that sounds like me, circa Grade Nine, trying like Dan Pussey to get someone into X-Men who’s previously only shown some liking for Electric Ladyland or The Godfather. “Look, it’s just like The Godfather, Wonder Man is like Fredo…!” “Look, it’s just like Electric Ladyland, there’s a huge crescendo of time-travel madness, and then the drums kick in…!” “No, Phoenix dies, really DIES…!”
Has no one else noticed the preference for dramatic-yet-super-emotionally-distancing camera shots in American film and TV, that are kind of theatrically useless, but that in the comics medium would probably be extremely cool? And, has no one noticed that in comics these days everyone is willing to sacrifice their footing for a killing stroke, storytelling-wise?
Has no one noticed that everything we wished for has come true, but just not in a good way?

And it’s only going to get worse…

Can you imagine Jim Lee’s incredibly glossy adaptation of the movie “Network” to comics?

Ah, but now can you imagine what Gilbert Hernandez or Eddie Campbell would make of it…

(Sorry, that’ll be a completely different upcoming post, actually…)

But no one will ever ask Gilbert or Eddie to do it, that’s the problem, and they probably will ask Jim Lee. At some point. But oh well. On to other (if related) matters: you know when I was seventeen, I wished that there would be a resurgence of the swing music scene…little did I dream that it would happen, but that the people in it would be awful poseurs whose real personalities were bound to reassert themselves after four drinks, and ruin it for everybody else…well okay, just me…and never mind their tailor-made white tuxedos, they were all yelling for “She Sells Sanctuary” at the end of the night…

Gah. Yes, sometimes I wonder if there’s an astrological system in which I was born in the year of the Monkey’s Paw…

But, enough negativity! And this all began so well, too…say, did I tell you yet that I can’t watch Arrested Development without somehow thinking I am getting a privileged glimpse into what RAB‘s sense of humour is? I swear I don’t know why I think this: as far as I know he has never expressed any online liking for Arrested Development. And yet whenever I see it I picture Ron Stoppable chortling, or worse, RAB’s own picture doing so (shudder). I can’t help it. Whenever I read Estoreal, I hear “The Final Countdown”, and hear Michael Bluth saying “that dance you’re doing doesn’t look like a chicken”. Also, I’m a tad late, but go over and wish Sean a happy one-year blogging anniversary, if you please…and then join me in petitioning him to create new categories on his sidebar: Online Discussions Worth Noting, Cover Month Posts, Blogs By Illustrators, Sean Reads Post-DC Kirby Comics…

Personally, I’d like to see you conduct a couple interviews with colourists and letterers, Sean…they always get short shrift…
Oh, but I fear I’ve run out of babble, finally. Just one more thing: I’m very surprised to be impressed by the bestselling author from my neck of the woods named William Deverell. I thought he was just a Canadian version of John Grisham, but not so! He can write half-decently, and anyway a mile and a half past Grisham. Mr. Deverell, I take back 95% of all those things I said about you before. You ain’t no Chandler — hell, you ain’t any Lawrence Block, neither! — but you’re okay in my book, and I can be very tough on B.C. writers you know. Suffice it to say: what you write from now on, I’ll be reading.

…Oh my God, is that really the time?


9 responses to “Christopher Eccleston…

  1. This is seriously the funniest thing I think anyone will ever write about Civil War #7, by the way:

    8. Actually, it ends with, like, five pages of Mark Millar patting himself on the back, only, like, channeled through another horrible letter. I like this one because it sounds like something a little kid would write to his mom from summer camp, only it’s supposed to be a grown-up writing a love letter to his wife. But I kinda actually half-believe that if Mark Millar wrote a love letter to his wife, it would include ads for upcoming Marvel comics, so– maybe it is a little believable.

    Read Abhay

  2. people who have an inbuilt emotional shorthand for “wow” that demands more, more, ever more…YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENS NEXT ISSUE/EPISODE! I AM TELLING YOU YOU’RE GOING TO FREAK OUT!

    What this reminds me of is the time I saw the trailer for Mission Impossible: 2. It was all special effects, explosions and chases and explosions, scenes all cut together at breakneck speed. I tuned out almost immediately. I was all, stop trying to freak me out and tell me a story!

    It’s not that I don’t like explosions and chases…

  3. I’ve always felt like a tourist talking about comics here, but Doctor Who is my fandom.

    I love Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor! He does personally beat out McCoy for me, though the latter has better stories. I’ve never thought that much of Tom Baker. Tennant is fine. Eccleston is just there, he just IS the Doctor.

    The new generation have done a good job, but then they are all fans who have been inspired to become television people and have always shown their love of Doctor Who… when Russell T Davies made Dark Season, when Steven Moffat made Press Gang, when Mark Gatiss made League of Gentlemen, when Paul Cornell revived Doctor Who as a series of novels in the ’90s… as you say, they’re not here to show you everything you knew was wrong!

    But then, I am a bit disappointed in the new series. It doesn’t seem to inhabit its format as well as the old series does, the stories don’t really breathe. And Season 1 was a bit reliant on deus ex machinas, Season 2 was a bit reactionary. The trailer for Season 3 was a bit too much of the “special effects, explosions and chases and explosions, scenes all cut together at breakneck speed”… but there’s still a lot to like (I count three classics!) and I hold out hope it’ll shape up a bit before Davies (maintaining tradition) ships out.

    You might be interested in what I wrote and linked to here and here.

    And I’ve just remembered your comment here, and I’m really not sure what you mean by teleplay style scripts verus…, er not…?

  4. Ah, some links: interesting stuff, David.

    Me, I think that “format-inhabiting” thing you’re talking about is just growing pains: a result of reintroducing not just the series but the concept of Doctor Who to a general audience who may find its style a little confusing. In fact, it’s how basic Real Doctor Who-ness is still put across despite this (arguable) necessity which pleases me most of all, in these new episodes. I’m pretty confident the awkwardness you notice will fall away once the new generation of viewers has been thoroughly exposed to the idea of an SF adventure show that doesn’t have to conform to the widespread assumptions about “how things work” that you can probably lay at the feet of Star Trek’s popularity…much as I hated Chris Claremont’s chauvinistic appropriation of “transmat device” from Doctor Who (in his FF run), I rub my hands together with glee at the thought of somebody being confused about why they just don’t call it a “transporter”, or (better yet) wondering why no one’s talking about the pattern buffer or the shield recalibration…and the answer is, of course, because everything doesn’t have to be the same all the time, and isn’t that great, kid? You just know there’s some new viewer out there wondering how the Doctor can do all these things when it’s so clearly against the Prime Directive…

    Yeah, I’m saying there’s an awful lot of SF boilerplate out there being mistaken for genre convention at the moment, I guess. I guess that’s what I’m saying. I suppose I’m trying to suggest that at the moment, the Doctor Who scripts might still be trying to wean people off all that stuff. But, y’know, I could be wrong about that! Still, it’s a nice thought. Farscape did the same thing, really, but it was so supersonic it probably drove away most of the people who weren’t already educated in this way…

    Oh, and on the “teleplay” thing! Yeah, I like this: if you look at Golden Age TV, you see that basically what’s being mounted there is a play, only with a camera where the audience should be. Then, very quickly, TV cameras start to get rather Citizen Kane with their moving around — writers churn out scripts that are much more a collage of shots than they were accustomed to doing before — the camera is still where the audience should be, but now the audience can be Tinkerbell, they can be behind the hero’s ear, looking up at him from the floor, etc. This is film stuff, obviously. But, even in film there was such a thing as the value of the plein Americain, and TV shows had tight budgets, and an established “look” they had to adhere to episode after episode…and the, hm, “Silver Age” of TV featured many, many scripts that were still a lot more like plays than they were like movies…or at least, they were still half-and-half. Focussed action. A set number of standard angles on a central part of a set…like Kirk’s chair. Kojak’s office. Mary’s apartment. This type of “teleplay” production (in my humble opinion, natch) was very clever, and very cheap, and it really had a marvellous pace: these were its identifying qualities. But nowadays, it’s perfectly possible to produce a show which is much more like a film than a play, or even more like a comic than a play. Look at the original Star Trek: action, action, action, action, beat beat beat beat, close-up on Kirk, close-up on Spock, close-up on McCoy, moral delivered and we’re OUT! Whew. But now look at ST: TNG…

    Or, hey this is even better, look at something like The Rockford Files, the establishing shots are comically static, and they practically punch you in the face with their information. Establishing shot of a skyscraper…zoom in on one window in the skyscraper…psst! Jim’s in there, eh? Didja get that, viewer? Takes about a half-second to get it done. But now, look at virtually any establishing shot in a modern TV show: the camera weaves around, there are people interacting everywhere, multiple angles, it is total chaos compared to the hilariously aphasic (yet effective) establishing shot in Rockford, and it takes way longer. And it’s more interesting, more filmic, perhaps more comicky, in almost every way it is better, but I don’t call it a teleplay, and it does not lead, as a matter of the natural outgrowth of technique, to boom boom boom boom beat beat beat beat here’s what this scene is ABOUT, viewer! As Star Trek, no matter how virtuosic it got, always did.

    Well, it’s just a pet theory, though. Again, I could be wrong.

    Oops! Now is the hour of the day for reading in bed, so I won’t go on about it any more. Was that clear at all, David, or did it just do a dance around the question?

  5. Woefully late to this party, I know, and I’ll have to come back later to say something sensible about your wise thoughts on Doctor Who…but I needed to acknowledge that you’re absolutely bang on target about my tastes in humor vis a vis my fanatical devotion to Arrested Development. I can only be stunned by your perspicacity. But then I always am…

  6. Am I fashionably late enough yet for this shindig? :)

    I have to say that I have been summarily impressed with this new round of Dr. Who overall. It could’ve gone the way of a Paul McGann Doctor, and I’m sure we wouldn’t have seen David Tennant at all if that were the case!

    Personally, I prefer Tennant a bit more over Eccelston. Nothing against him, certainly — he did an outstanding job — but I think I prefer Tennant’s more whimiscal side. Not quite so broody as Eccelston. And come on: how can you not love the guy after his “Very Arthur Dent” comment in his first appearance? Still, it’ll take me another season or two before he surpasses Tom “all teeth and curls” Baker in my mind. Tom was my first Doctor, and there’s always going to be a soft spot in my geeky heart for him.

    I’m gonna have to disagree with you on Rose, though. I see where the writers are coming from with her, and I appreciate that, but something just never quite sat right with her for me. I think it must have been the “love affair” angle that was continually played up. I liked that the Doctor always kept some emotional distance from his companions — even his granddaughter! — despite how beloved they were. It seemed to make little sense to me that, after seeing his entire race destroyed, he would become so open and attached to someone. (In representative fairness, The Wife was actually quite fond of Rose for exactly the same reasoning.)

    Of course, I was never keen on Sarah either. My first episode with her was “The Hand of Fear” and the inflection of her repeated “Eldrad MUST live” annoyed the living daylights out of me. I’ve warmed somewhat to Sarah over the years.

    All that said, I do like Rose’s interactions with everyone BESIDES the Doctor. She has an almost American attitude towards excitement and danger (without the often offensive inflated ego and bravado) that helps spur the stories forward. Her cat-fight with Sarah in “School Reunion” was priceless, and was a highlight for both characters.

    Finally, damn Fox for cancelling Arrest Development — the best show since Firefly, which they also cancelled, and The Tick, which they also also cancelled.

    And really finally, thanks for the celebratory note. Much appreciated! Just let me know when you get that petition together, and I’ll take a new look at my side-bar. I might even see if I can tag Albert Deschesne or someone to chat with. :)

  7. So, I’ve never seen any Dr. Who ever. Does that mean I have to turn in my nerd card?

    Electric Ladyland, so ambitiously overstuffed, is my favorite album. The only comic book I’ve read that comes close to its dizzying stylistic twists and virtuosity is Kabuki. (specifically, “Circle of Blood” & “Metamorphosis”)
    Your Dan Pussey story reminds me of trying to convince a girl comics were not childish by showing her Hellstorm. Worked out great, really…

    I see your point about Dr. Who and its audience, but isn’t trying to please the core audience a big problem with the Big 2? I agree that Civil War showed disdain for its audience, but heroes fighting heroes and Big Consequences! (with pretty pictures) are what the bulk of super-hero fans seem to be looking for, coherent story be damned.

    Oh wait, “monkey paw.” You already got where I was going. Never mind.

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