Saturday, January 31, 2009

What I'm Watching: Doctor Who, Repo

Okay, so thanks to the prodding of reader "teatime brutality," I am fully on the "Doctor Who" bandwagon. After sampling a few episodes on BBC America, I now have the first four "series" sets in front of me, and I've been tearing through "The Complete First Series" all week.

Unintended side effect: my son has now become a HUGE Doctor Who fan. He's a kid who's really into "Spongebob Squarepants," "Pokemon," "Total Drama Island," and anything for the Nintento DS, so I assumed he wouldn't have much interest in a British sci-fi show, but he watched one episode with me and he was completely hooked. He loves that the Doctor solves problems with his brain and a sonic screwdriver. He loves that the show can be funny and sad and exciting. He wants a Dalek action figure.

So we've finished all of the First Series, and we'll be launching into Series Two any day now. And, by the way, at least two episodes that I've watched so far involve a defeated creature (or creatures) falling through time. So any Doctor Who fan must have read "Final Crisis" and thought, "oh, that old gimmick." Morrison, by the way, is a devoted Whovian.

I also watched "Repo! The Genetic Opera," definitely NOT with my son around. My wife wasn't interested in watching that one either, and I think that was probably for the best as she would have loved 70% of it but hated the other 30% so much that she would have, I don't know, punched the tv. Or hopped on a plane to track down director Darren Lynn Bousman and then taunted him about how much of a tasteless hack he can be.

Even though it can be schlocky and disgusting at times, "Repo" is a mostly great-looking movie, and the songs are good, and most of the performances are good. Anthony Stewart Head is fantastic. Even Paris Hilton is kinda good, and I never thought I would say that. She's perfect for the role, which involves not a little bit of self-parody. It's a gruesome, horrific rock opera, with spines ripped out of people who can no longer afford to pay for them, and old-fashioned "injury to the eye motif" action. It's sickening, and while (apparent B-grade horror icon, but still TERRIBLE actor) Bill Moseley gives the worst performance I've seen in anything that cost this much money to make, it's mostly a slick, original production.

I have no patience for senseless gore or cheap thrill horror, but "Repo" has an incredible sense of humor about itself and it looks like nothing else that came out last year. It may be trying too hard to attain a cult status, and it will probably succeed, but at least it's got some catchy tunes.

What are YOU watching?

14 comments:

andy khouri said...

My gf and I are re-watching LOST from the beginning. We're already into season 2, and we're actually enjoying it more the second time around. People give the show a lot of shit for just throwing shit to the wall, but knowing what comes later, they do an admirable job of making just about everything matter.

Now Battlestar Galactica, that show really does throw shit to the wall, and they don't do a good job of making any of it matter. But I digress.

I've been tempted to get into Doctor Who but it's just too much of a commitment. There's years and years' worth of stuff to watch, and I know myself well enough to know that jumping into Who will take too much time away from more immediate goals. I am that much of a nerd.

I've also started watching Mystery Science Theater 3000 again, in about as sequential an order as I can figure out. I loved the show as a lad, and was the first Singapore-based member of the official MST3K Information Club. But mainly I watch it now because I'm a hopeless insomniac and it helps me fall asleep quickly.

I want to start re-watching the amazing OZ from the beginning, but my girlfriend is annoying adverse to copious male-on-male rape. Sigh.

Justin said...

My son and I finally finished Superman Animated Vol. 3 - we started back in August!

Other than that, just the usual TV - both Lost and BSG were great this week.

Marc Caputo said...

Justin: yeah, LOST and BSG are just going ep for ep for their greatest seasons yet. I imagine this was what the 60s were like with the Beatles and the Stones.

Andy: I'm not understanding your POV on BSG.

andy khouri said...

**SPOILER WARNING: The following contains some spoilers for Season 3 and 4 of Battlestar Galactica***

Marc-

I LOVE Galactica. I thought the first two seasons (including the mini) were some of the most exciting television I've ever seen. Just outstanding. But from season 3 on, it became blatantly clear that the writers did not have a plan for the show, that they'd never even worked out what the Cylons' plan was, and that they were just making it up as they went along.

I haven't seen Friday's episode, but last week's is a good example for the literally laughable solution to the problem of Chief and Callie's baby.

Conversation in writers' room:

"Alright, the final episodes! Let's finally get into why it's SO IMPORTANT that Helo and Sharon had a half-human, half-cylon baby."

"What? Oh, shit, I forgot all about that."

"Yeah, remember how the whole first season was basically about manipulating them into falling in love and fucking?"

"Riiiiiiight. But since then we've had babies all over the place. Tigh and Six are pregnant, Chief and Callie already had their baby."

"What, how could we let Callie and the Chief have a baby? He's one of the Final Fucking Five!"

"Well we DIDN'T KNOW THAT when we gave them a baby!"

"FUCK! That totally complicates everything. The fans are going to be thinking there's some elaborate explanation for why it was such a big deal that Helo and Sharon had a baby when the Chief and Callie could have one no problem, and WE DON'T HAVE ONE!"

"Wait, wait, I think I have it. What if... CALLIE IS A WHORE!"

"SHE SLEPT WITH SOMEONE ELSE!"

"IT'S NOT CHIEF'S BABY!!"

"SHE'S A SLUT!"

"YES! SLUT!!"

Marc Caputo said...

Andy: OK, yes. That was one of the most ungraceful "retcons" I've ever seen. It's things like that that make we wonder HOW MUCH of the "I've had this all worked out from the get-go" is really true. Now, with LOST, they've made somewhat of the same claim, but with a major network show where you're dealing with the celebrity factor as well, we know that some people haven't worked out (Eko, Ana Lucia) as well as some have (Ben, Juliet.) I don't doubt that LOST has had a firmer grip on things end-to-end, but it's little tings like that that play into the whole destiny vs. free will theme from the outside.

I think you will be very happy with this week's episode, though.

jmb418 said...

When you get to series 4 you'll discover that Morrison and the Doctor Who writers borrow from each other. (for example an insect that creates parallel worlds by eating pieces of time, just to give one example)

Bill Reed said...

Mmm... Doctor Who is awesome. Have a go at the Sarah Jane Adventures, too-- it's aimed more for the kids, but it's often as excellent and mature as the parent show.

teatime_brutality said...

Doctor Who's great for a bit of intergenerational pop culture bonding. I've never heard anyone of my generation reminisce about the show for long without getting to the point where they're really reminiscing about thier dads.

It's odd that the next episode Tim's got waiting for him is 'The Christmas Invasion', as one of my fondest Who-moments was watching that when it first went out with both my grandmother and my daughter.

If I ever get round to starting a blog the first post will probably be on all the Doctor Who/Final Crisis connections. There's a scary number of them and they're coming from three different directions.

Some of them are because Morrison's been influenced by the show. Some of them because the writers of Season Four were responding to the same cultural trends as Morrison was. And some of them (in the last two issues of FC) are because Morrison noticed how close Season Four's finale was to his own story and seems to have decided to purposefully tie the two together.

mary janes said...

SpongeBob is a very popular show. Its quirky humor, colorful characters, and crazy plot lines make it irresistible. It's hard to avoid this show, even if you're an adult, or a teen. This show also cheers you up very easily.Catch all eps Download Spongebob Squarepants here..

jmb418 said...

I just caught a rerun of the season 3 finale. I had totally forgotten just how Morrisonesqe it was, almost as much as season four.

While there's certainly some cross pollination of ideas between creative people who are fans of each others work, I agree that much of this is that Moffat & Davies share a similar creative paradigm with Grant.

teatime_brutality said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
teatime_brutality said...

I think it's the conception of Eeeevil that feels so Mozza-ish about the end of season three.

Davies' strategy there is initially offering a baddie as awesomeness on a stick, before pulling back to reveal that he's actually a bit pathetic because he Just Doesn't Get It. That seems to be the usual Morrison way of dealing with the problem of evil too.

spiderboris said...

Hey there Tim, you really need to check out the two-part Doctor Who story 'The End Of Time' which aired in the UK over Christmas and New Years' Day, for a tale that's uncannily reminiscent of Final Crisis in so many ways. The similarities are all over the place.

I’ve always been quite convinced that Doctor Who’s now-former showrunner Russell T. Davies must be a huge fan of Morrison’s work. He is a professed comics lover, he named the character of Jack Harness in season one of Who after the Fantastic Four’s Agatha Harkness, so I’m fairly sure he must be aware of Morrison, although I haven’t read any comment from him stating this, so I could be completely wrong.

Without actually spoiling anything specific for you re. The End Of Time, I'll just mention some of the comparison points which quite frankly outdo the Matrix / Invisibles debate for any possible future plagiarism accusations from Mr. Morrison… This is a bit long (in two bits) but here we go.

As in Final Crisis, it marks a dark, apocalyptic 'final' story by the writer where all of reality and creation - and by dint, all of series ‘canon’ going back forty-odd years - are threatened with extinction and eradication by insane, corrupt dying gods who have fallen through time - having been previously forced out of heaven in a great war that ended a previous golden age - and returned to the present, where they declare all of life and human thought is futile and must be ended so they can ascend to a higher - or arguably lower - plane of existence.

As in Final Crisis, the conclusion sees a respected, pacifist crimefighter who never uses a gun, beaten and broken down - having recently gone through something of a schizoid break where he lost sight of his friends and become dangerously driven and unhinged - pointing a gun at a resurrected, despotic, quasi-Hitlerian god-figure he is familiar with from his own self-contradicting and canonically questionable past.

As in Final Crisis, this central protagonist - who is also a long-lived cultural icon recognized by many millions who may never have even partaken of the original source material - and a fictional character who is also part of many shared creative universes - is tragically killed and then later shown to still be paradoxically alive in a different timeframe - revealing that, as an iconic fictional creation, he will always survive death in all its forms, because he is essentially immortal.

As in Final Crisis, one of the characters is visited by an unnamed and never-identified godlike figure (a character I identified as the show’s writer, entering the fictive narrative in a Morrisonian fictionsuit, but maybe that’s going a bit too far) who speaks in metaphysical riddles and presents the character with a nondescript ‘weapon’ that is a key element in the predicted defeat of the evil gods and their plan to wipe out humanity.

As in Final Crisis, a ragtag band of survivor heroes escape to an orbital satellite to evade the evil, pseudo-Satanic brainwashing signal of the hero’s crazed nemesis, who has transformed every person on earth into his own exact mirror image in an attempt to forestall his own judgement at the hands of his former god-allies he believes dead. (Although this visual trick of replicating the evil character in everyone else, however, is blatantly and clearly stolen from the Matrix Revolutions, an irony Morrison may well have found hilarious).

(more below)

spiderboris said...

(Cont…)

As in Final Crisis, one of the characters caught up in events and taken to the station largely against his own will, gazes out of the station window at the planet below, and amazed, declares that he never thought he’d see Earth from outer space.

As in Final Crisis, there is a narration by a godlike, monitoring character who tells the story of how this was the day when the world ended.

As in Final Crisis, there are at least two clear points where the decimated, ruined human race is ‘restored’ to a previous state, in a universal ‘hard-drive restore’-style reset button event.

Like in Final Crisis, there’s a literal deus ex machina, an ultimate maguffin machine which can heal the populations of entire worlds.

Like in Final Crisis, a pivotal character is killed by radiation poisoning. (Ok that one’s a bit spurious, but hey…)

As in Final Crisis, there’s an extremely compressed attempt on the part of the creator to tell an epic, end-of-the-world saga, which is overblown, confused, confusing, contradictory and full of unresolved loose ends, illogical technobabble, unnecessary character cameos, and essentially is just another generic sci-fi story about stories, where an all-powerful evil force threatens to destroy all of reality, and the hero defeats them at the end with seeming great ease.

As in Final Crisis, it marks the supposed final written contribution and ‘last word’ on the shared universe the writer has been thoroughly involved in writing key portions of for the past five or so years, culminating in the writer going on to state they don’t intend to revisit these characters or franchises ever again. Except they probably will cos they’re inveterate liars.

As in Final Crisis, a huge amount of the writer’s previously hardcore fans absolutely detested it, and poured their incandescent scorn onto internet forums, declaring they would never partake of the writer’s respective chosen creative medium again.

And for a final comparison between Season Five of Doctor Who and Morrison’s Batman & Robin (neither of which I have seen / read yet, but anyway) they both sees a central iconic character appear to die, and be replaced in his role by a younger, newer and more optimistic character, with a newer, significantly younger sidekick to assist him in his neverending battles against evil and injustice. As is what happens with life, I suppose.

Phew, that’s it. Understand I'm just focusing on The End Of Time here, the Season Three two-part finale has got many of the same parallels - the main one being multiple ‘stolen’ planets crowded together, and the Earth being dragged through space by a team of super-powered heroes, but I’m surely getting carried away now. I’m sure some other obsessed Who / Morrison fan’s found many more of these elsewhere. Cheers!

Also, you might have mentioned this, but did you pick up on any of those rumours that Morrison was writing an episode of Doctor Who’s forthcoming fifth season? Sadly, the writers have now been announced, and he’s not, at least not yet, and neither is the also-rumoured Neil Gaiman…

Being a huge Doctor Who and Morrison fan, my first thoughts upon watching the first few episodes of season one of Nu-Who were essentially, ‘This is what Doctor Who would be like if Grant Morrison was writing it!’

ie, good versus evil, on a big, mad, cosmic scale, but with emotional investment and solid, ‘real-world’ character grounding.

Oh and Morrison really needs to put a Shilo Norman / Batman team-up in ‘The Return Of Bruce Wayne.’ That would so totally rule.