31 May 2013

I Hate [THAT BASTARD] Show Runner

First, I don't wish to offend anyone. Second, I'd like to try an experiment, so bear with me. Below are various quotes about different Doctor Who show runners/writers. All of the quotes have been anonymized and terminology updated to the present. See if you recognize any of the quotes said about [THAT BASTARD] you love.

Some Views of Showrunner: [THAT BASTARD]

Right now, I think [THAT BASTARD] is presiding over the weakest period of Doctor Who. He has a limited grasp of storytelling, and his casting is suspect. Sometimes his decisions and priorities seemed misplaced. He seems to be clueless about what makes a good director. I’m not a big fan of [THAT BASTARD] as a showrunner. While his enthusiasm is keeping the show going, I find his vision of Doctor Who to be the worst of the series.

The second area of disappointment I felt while watching this story was how uneven it was. [THAT BASTARD] opened the season with a magnificent story. The characters were fun, the story was intriguing, and it was truly an example of everything [THAT BASTARD] (and by extension, Doctor Who) does so well. [THAT CRAPPY STORY], also by [THAT BASTARD], lacks everything that [THE OTHER STORY] had. The characters seemed underdeveloped. The pace is uneven. I almost wonder if [THAT BASTARD] even cared.

You don’t need to overtly contradict anything seen on screen to get to the desired goal of [SOME BIG EVENT]. Which makes the scale of ’s retcon stick out oddly. Why retcon, essentially, the entirety of Doctor Who by rendering it all unreliable narration?

And My favorite

With hindsight, [THAT CRAPPY STORY] was a mixed-up product of some very uncertain and transitional times for the show, and it would have been a miracle if it had turned out any better. It could have conceivably been a lot worse.

26 May 2013

A "NOT" Doctor Who post

I'm in the midst of finishing the "That Bastard Show Runner" article1 when I knew with just a little more work, I could finish the Red Dwarf Timey-Whimey Time Line Infographic. And I did finish it. Since I've taken my "not so copious free time" and worked on something non-Doctor Who, I would like to share the fruits of my labour.

Red Dwarf Time Line photo reddwarftimeline-vertical_zpse53b7e51.pngThe picture is the best I can embed from Photobucket. Yeah, tiny...

So here's the link to the image that can be enlarged. Click for larger image. Then click the magnifying glass then click the magnifying glass, again. Pain in the ass, I know, but this is the only way I can do this from Photobucket. Maybe I need to investigate another image sharing site...

Considering how complicated the Doctor Who time line has been lately, I think this is a match for any of its craziness. And they were doing this before the Doctor came back to our screens in 2005.

1 and contrary to what you may think, the article is not solely about Moffat. He may be mentioned but only in context.

22 May 2013

Summer Time

Well, not summer yet—but close. Spring was hectic with the job loss, decision to move, the actual move, the job search, garden preparation, the job get, and settling down in my new digs. It really upset my plans. But things are settling down and I've gotten into a rhythm. I do two hours a day of reading and writing. Doesn't sound like a lot but it's much more than I had a month ago. I hope to increase that shortly.

The Season Finale
Doctor Who is over until the 50th anniversary. Who am I going to bash now? I better get used to writing about the show instead of how much I look forward to the day Steven Moffat hands in his resignation.

I enjoyed writing the comparison piece on introduction stories and can see more opportunities for similar pieces. Of course, one essay in the queue is a comparison about despised show runners. Didn't see that one coming, did you.

I've queried my former co-author and asked if he's still interested in writing more analysis pieces but am still waiting to hear back. I hope he does as his insight to the analysis side is invaluable.

Well, it's back to work as I'm writing this on my lunch hour. Definitely less time during the day to read/write. I will try to not let that affect the production of new essays.

13 May 2013

An Unearthly Child vs. Rose: The Introduction Stories

The two stories in the title are completely different, yet they have quite a few similarities. The biggest commonality is they are both introductory stories to the greatest science-fantasy show in existence. In 1963, no one had any idea the ride they were in for when the program first aired. It was designed to be a science fiction show with a bent toward teaching children about history. When the show returned in 2005, many of the new viewers, as well as many older viewers, we're also unaware of what was in store. The older viewers knew it wasn't going to try to teach us about history, but that was all we really knew.

Let's take a look at the similarities and differences between these two stories.

12 May 2013

Gaiman Is a Pretty Good Storyteller.

With only one more episode to go in series 7, part 2, I'd have to say that Nightmre in Silver was the best of the lot. I chalk this up to the belief that Steven Moffat did not want to muck around with Neil Gaiman's script, as I felt he has done, to the other writer's scripts. When you get a top-notch writer like Gaiman, you generally leave him alone to write you a good story. Why then does Moffat meddle with the stories of other writers? Given half a chance, every one of the stories in series 7 could have been much better.

Take "Hide" for instance. The story of looking for a ghost was a great idea. The two extras in the story were well done. The reveal that it was in essence a lot time traveler marooned in a bubble universe. Marvelous concept and execution. Can someone tell me why the story felt like the whole friendly monster was tacked on? Even worse, why it ultimately turned into a monster love story. And to top it off, why the time traveler had to be related to the two extras in the story. Everything got muddied up at the end and made me go from loving the story to considering it somewhat mediocre. All because of the way it ended.

And that's how I've felt for this entire season. No, for most of Moffat's run.

I understand the show runner needs to be on top of things to assure the story is running true. But it feels like there's too much fiddlin' around with things and in the end, the individual stories suffer. I know this is entirely my opinion and many people disagree with this. But I'd like to see other writers get some of the same freedom to create a great story as Neil Gaiman got. I feel it would have lead to a much more exciting season.

Regarding the posting schedule it looks like I will be able to put forth at least one essay a week for now. Time is limited outside of work as the summer gardening season has started. That in itself consumes a lot of my free time. So one a week. Two if I get a burst of inspiration and energy. Three, I kinda doubt [at least for now]. There is always the possibility of more of these shorts though.

11 May 2013

A Sorta Schedule

With the demands of the new job, I'm looking at starting back into this slowly. To begin, I will posting a 1,500 to 2,000 word essay a week. If I find the demands on my time ease up any, I will put out additional posts.

With the move out of Pittsburgh I no longer am in close contact with my writing partner. Analysis posts will be a little less frequent. Most of the posts will be concerned with how the classic series relates to the new series. I am working on a comparison of the two introduction stories, An Unearthly Child and Rose, their similarities and differences.

Before I do the Daleks/Rose network analysis, I need to reacquaint myself with the network program and the previous work I had already done. Things get a little hazy after being left alone for almost two months.

I also have a few a and chart projects in the work. I am finishing up the Red Dwarf Timey-Whiney Time Line project detailing all the time traveling the crew did. And a similar time line is being planned for the show Fringe. So it's not all Doctor Who but it does al relate to either time or space travel.

So after losing my job, deciding to move in with my girlfriend, and finding a new [more demanding] job, I think I am getting back on track.


08 May 2013

Why New Who Can't Be Like Classic Who

There's a misconception floating around. For some reason, people seem to think I hate the new series of Doctor Who. No, I do not hate the new series of Doctor Who. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I love Doctor Who. It's Steven Moffat I have a problem with. So now you're thinking, "Oh, he's one of those Steven Moffat haters". Again, that's not quite where I'm coming from. For the most part, I think Moffat is a decent writer. So what then, you ask, is the problem.

It is my belief that Steven Moffat is a prime example of "The Peter Principle". The Peter Principle is a proposition that states that the members of an organization where promotion is based on achievement, success, and merit, will eventually be promoted beyond their level of ability. The principle is commonly phrased, "Employees tend to rise to their level of incompetence." (wikipedia)

Okay, so my problem with the new series is with Moffat, not the show itself. Glad that's settled.

Now let's get down to the analysis.

There is a difference between the style of narrative used in the classic series than what is expected by today's audiences. Classic Who followed the general design of a linear storyline. The story started at point A and finished at point B. Sure, there were some small nuances. But there was rarely any complicated interweaving time lines. The Space Museum in Hartnell's second season was one of the first stories to venture into this area. The Doctor and his associates saw their possible future and attempted to change it in order not to become specimens in the museum.

The linear style of the classic series was due to one main reason. It was shot on videotape in a multi-camera style. In the sixties, videotape was outrageously expensive. Directors were not supposed to splice these tapes unless there was a major problem. That is the reason you see so many minor fluffs in classic episodes. So the show was shot in the order it would be shown using up to four cameras to capture all the action from different angles. It really was like filming a stage play. Hence the reason most of the stories were in a linear timeline. There was only so much room to create sets in a sound stage.

This style of story was generally done till Doctor Who went off the air in 1989. Yes, they shifted to the more advanced shooting schedule allowing them to shoot scenes out of order, but there still wasn't a lot of complicated time traveling. Some, but not much.

Then, in the 80s, something happened to American television which would change the landscape. That something was Hill Street Blues. It started a trend away from the standard episodic television drama and into a more complex story arc system. Small arcs at first, but arcs they were. For the first time, things that happened to characters in one episode were carried over to the next episode, and the next and the next. It was more like a real life drama than individual stories that came to a nice, clean reset of an ending. Kind of sounds like a soap opera, doesn't it.

Then into the 90s came other dramas which began to build more complex story backgrounds. Babylon 5 [1994] had a complex five year plan [which sort of got abridged to four years] and Buffy [1997], which effectively used the season story arc to build upon the larger series arc of fighting vampires and dealing with major teen angst. And after the millennium, producers seemed to ramp up the drama even more with shows like Alias and 24 each of which showed signs of complexity as of yet unheard of.

This is what Jason Mittel calls Complex TV. So in the early naughties, American TV shows were a mixture of large story arcs consisting of episodic dramas which stay connected to each other via the larger story arc. It appears that the standard episodic drama was quite dead.

And as for Doctor Who, it was beginning to awaken from its long slumber by Russell T. Davies [RTD] who was working to revitalize the show. But it would be an amalgamation of both an old version and a brand new version. But it needed to start slowly. In general, the Ninth Doctor's stories followed the linear style of classic Who. Rose contained the TARDIS moving solely from place to place in London, although, at the end, he does mention it also can move through time. But as the show progressed, a strange thing had begun to get noticed. There was this Bad Wolf reference in some of the episodes. The viewers were beginning to see a continuation thread emerging. This led up to the wild and crazy conclusion to series one with the defeat of the Daleks and the regeneration of the Doctor. And the fans went crazy!!!

So far, I'm completely OK with what has been done to Doctor Who. It took something old and put a new spin on it. Doctor Who had come back with a vengeance. And though I was not happy with how human RTD made the Doctor toward the end of Tennant's run, I was still OK with that. After all, my show had returned from the grave and that made me happy.

Jason Mittel's studies trace how television has gotten more complex plots and characters since Hill Street Blues, and especially in the new millennium. And this has affected the style that Doctor Who has morphed into. There is no way the show could have ever come back in its original format. It would have failed [and miserably]. People now want more mystery, more drama, more [dare I say] timey-whimey plots. From all the chatter on the Doctor Who forums, that is the main reason many viewers who were introduced to Doctor Who by the new series don't really like the classic stories. They claim they are dull and boring and nothing happens. I feel they are wrong but that's for another entry.

So Doctor Who was moved into the 21st century, only giving enough of a backward glance to show it had a connection to that 20th century show. But in order to succeed, it needed to shed its shackles and fly free. And again, I can live with that.

But now we get to the part where Steven Moffat is taking over as show runner. At first I thought he was the ideal choice as I generally liked his stories [ even with the odd plot holes and dangling plot threads ] but it seemed like a minor problem [ like the Doctor falling in love with Madame de Pompadour and forgetting about his undying love for Rose ].

Moffatt's plan as show runner was to create a mysterious Fairytale landscape. He was to be a mystical being who finds a special girl. An slightly David Whitaker outlook for the Doctor. Okay, so instead of the quirky sci-fi show we had under RTD, we would get a more magical story style. I can live with that too. It all started out well enough. Amy was a mystery, as was that crack in her wall. And as the season went on, more and more mysteries began to be added. But wait a minute. Wasn't that how LOST went about things. That's the reason I didn't like LOST. Adding more and more questions without really answering much is not good storytelling.

But this is where we bring back the name, Jason Mittel. Mittel is an associate professor of American studies and film and media culture at Middlebury College whose research interests include the history of television, media, culture, and new media. In the 21st century, people want more from the entertainment. And RTD and The Moff were ready to give it to them.

But the word we began hearing more and more about the show was "brilliant". Everything that came out of Cardiff was brilliant. If came from Moffatt's mouth, from the fans mouths, from everyone involved mouths. As season five came to a close, I was still enjoying the show. Matt Smith was a delightful Doctor and I couldn't be more pleased. But I wasn't seeing the brilliance of the show. What I saw was a dark cloud on the horizon.

Season five ended with the destruction of the universe. The Doctor had to sacrifice himself to reset it. And only through Amy, the special girl, remembering about the Doctor did she magically conjure him back into existence [ Hey Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat ].

Season six ended with the destruction of the universe with all of time jamming together having Pterodactyls living with humans, Charles Dickens on TV, and the Roman Empire which never fell. Yeap, the end of the universe all due to the Doctor not dying when he was supposed to. So the Doctor had to die in order for the universe to live. But the Doctor decided to pull a fast one on time itself. He replaced himself with the Tessalecta [ and it's crew of miniaturized people ] take his place. Funny ha-ha, the Doctor fooled time. Time thought the Doctor died so everything was restored. Isn't that special...

Season seven looks like it's building up to yet another destruction of the universe when the Doctor reveals his name. I wonder what reset button Moffat will think of this time.

Remember when I said I was alright with those little plot holes and dangling plot thread from Moffat's stories in the RTD era? During that time he had someone [ namely RTD ] to rein him in so they didn't get completely out of line. The plot to The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances was originally going to be a convoluted, timey-whimey mess but RTD over ruled him. Unfortunately as show runner and head writer, there is no one to tell him he's gone a bit wonky. This is a prime example of, "The Emperor's New Clothes". With no one to stop him, there's no telling where he might take the show.

Too bad they didn't keep one aspect from Classic Who. There was a producer and script editor who were in charge of the show. And neither of these two was supposed to write anything unless it was absolutely necessary like when a script fell through or there was a need for a massive rewrite in order to make a writer's script workable. I do not believe it's in the best interest of the show to have one person in charge of the show who also decides he is going to write all the major stories AND also tell all the other writers what they need to put in their own stories.

It's the old saying, "With great power comes great responsibility". Something Moffat has neglected.

On the other hand, his favorite saying should be, "If you can't dazzle'em with brilliance, baffle'em with bullshit".