Thursday, May 19, 2005

So, today is my birthday (and I guiltily point out my Amazon Wish List to family members), and in about 2 1/2 hours, I'm heading out to see the new Star Wars movie. Which I might not have gone to see opening day, except that it did happen to fall on my birthday, so I figure that's a sign. So expect a nerd-tastic post later in the day.

Already, all signs point to a good day. I got the three new Doctor Who novels based on the new series in the mail yesterday--they were scheduled to be released today--so that's a nice birthday present, albeit one I paid for. Ditto the DVDs of the first season of the wonderfully surreal Nickelodeon The Adventures of Pete and Pete. Classic stuff.

And speaking of classics on DVD (or, well, stuff I like) I found a site selling DVDs of 80s and 90s TV shows I like that haven't been officially released on DVD. It's someone I had ordered a set of Tales of the Gold Monkey from in the past, and the quality was okay, considering that the source were VHS recordings of episodes off someone's TV. Apparently, she's branched out, and theoretically, I now have on the way The Adventures of Briscoe County Jr, a weird western comedy adventure starring Bruce Campbell, Bring 'Em Back Alive, which premiered the same year as Gold Monkey, also capitalizing on the success of Raiders of the Lost Ark, not as good as Gold Monkey, but co-starring Cindy Morgan, who I had a crush on at the time, and, finally, the holy grail of lost TV for me: QED. This was a very short-lived series about a wacky inventor in pre-WWI Europe, starring a fairly young Sam Waterson, now on Law & Order.

Monday, May 16, 2005

What to write about... Well, I finished Silverfin, the first Young James Bond novel. Most of the reviews I had read agreed that it was a well-written book, but "wasn't James Bond." Well, I can now say that they're absolutely right, but it's not James Bond, it's Young James Bond. He isn't a spy yet, he isn't a womanizer yet, he's just this kid. I thought it was a good, tense, thrilling adventure story, and the character did feel like he could plausibly grow up into the hero I knew and loved from the Ian Fleming books. So, you know, mission accomplished. Reviews from the hardcore Bond fans seem to indicate that they'd rather have something closer to the originals, which is fine, but those need to be taken for what they are.

Now, I'm reading Zorro, a literary novel by bestselling novelist Isabelle Allende telling the story of the classic pulp adventurer. Not too far into it yet (just into Diego de la Vega's teen years, a la Young James Bond), but it's pretty good so far. According to what little I can find online, the Zorro folks asked her to write the novel, and will use her fleshing-out of Diego's childhood as the basis for a trilogy of Young Adult novels coming out next year (coincidentally around the same time as the new Antonio Banderas movie...). So, we'll see. (Me, I've always liked Zorro and James Bond, so new books about them--as long as they're well-written--are definitely of interest.)

The final issue of Green Lantern: Rebirth came out last week, and I finally have something good to say about the series: it's over. Oh, and the art was nice all the way through. Shame about the story. I don't even want to complain about it any more. I'm just glad it's finished.

Speaking of appalling ends, I also watched the final epsiode of Star Trek: Enterprise. Now, I realize it's just TV, and just Star Trek, but that's no reason to screw it all up at the end. Especially since the series had managed to become so improved by this season, it was challenging Deep Space Nine for the title of my favorite Trek series. But the final episode... It's not just that the story was a fairly pedestrian hour, as opposed to the two-hour conclusions the other shows all got, which gave them all a certain sense of closure. No, this was just another Enterprise adventure, distinguished only by setting it on the day Enterprise was due to be decommissioned.

But what really screwed it up was the conceit that, instead of showing us the final voyage of Enterprise, we saw it in the guise of a holodeck story being watched by Jonathan Frakes and Marina Sirtis as their characters from Star Trek: The Next Generation, set during an episode of that series. How pathetic, and somewhat condescending, that the cast of Enterprise didn't even get to star in their own finale. The drama was constantly being undercut by the intrusion of the Next Gen characters into otherwise tense scenes. But by far, the greatest slap in the face to those of us who will miss Enterprise and--speaking for me, anyway--who don't care about Star Trek: The Next Generation, would be allowing the Next Generation characters to cut off an emotional moment at the end of the episode, and giving them the final words. I understand that the producers wanted to give the whole broad spectrum of Star Trek a farewell, as this is the last TV episode of any series for the forseeable future. However, to do so at the expense of drama is just sad. (And, by setting this framing story inside an existing episode of Next Generation, and making constant references to it without explaining the whole story, just shows that the producers expect that the viewers of this episode to be completely familiar with that one. Which, really, would be one of the problems with Star Trek reaching a larger audience these days, wouldn't it?)

Meanwhile, the new episode of Doctor Who, Father's Day, written by nicest man in the universe Paul Cornell, was fabulous. And I've already read one comment, posted on David Howe's web site complaining that the episode is too much soap-opera and not enough sci-fi/fantasy. And it's an episode about Rose Tyler going back in time, saving her father, and the creatures from beyond time who are unleashed and devour the planet as a result of her time-altering actions, and if that's not sci-fi/fantasy, I'm not sure what is. Once again, I think what we're seeing is the need for fans (Doctor Who fans, in this case) to put things in neat, specific boxes, and a desire for only specific elements. Science fiction fans seem to be much more interested in plots filled with artificial twists and bullshit technobable, and less in stories that deal with an emotional core (hence the popularity of the soulless Star Trek: The Next Generation over it's considerably more complex and interesting spin-off, Deep Space Nine. So, to have an episode of Doctor Who that deals with the emotions of the characters... it must be soap opera. (Never mind that, if the show didn't deal with fully fleshed-out emotional characters, it probably would only be attracting an audience of hardcore nerds, instead of the mass popularity it has achieved. Never mind that, as Russell Davies points out, there's a difference between a story that deals with the emotions of the characters, and soap opera. No, it's obviously either/or in some people's minds. Thank goodness they're in the minority.)