Tuesday, 30 December 2008

The Next Doctor

I think it's only fair that I say how much I enjoyed the latest Doctor Who special. I've said some bad things about many of Russell T Davies' episodes since he took over, and while I stand by at least the ones I remember, when he's good he's fantastic. Midnight was excellent and so was The Next Doctor. And probably some others that I've forgotten.

I must admit, when I saw the trailer, I was afraid that Davies had introduced a shitty new Doctor as a parting blow just to ruin Steven Moffat's day, so I was very pleased with the resolution to that mystery when I figured it out well in advance of the reveal. At least, I figured out that he wasn't the real Doctor. Obviously the whole bit with the Cybermen having left their Doctor database on a USB stick on the train I didn't see in advance. I liked that bit. It nicely fit in: the TARDIS lands in the middle of an apparent battle between Cybermen and Doctor and the whole thing is explained by one event.

It was perhaps a shame that the Cybermen, a fairly interesting 'viral' villain like zombies or the Borg, were reduced to rampaging vandals, but they were probably necessary for the Next Doctor puzzle to work. I have no idea what the weird copper Cyber-ring-wraiths were in aid of, though. They were neither needed nor properly explained. I would have preferred they were left out, and that the Blink reference had stayed at the one line from Morrissey, but the episode was great with or without those things. I did like the "I can't not pull from this position" line.

Of course, the fact that I know Davies can produce such tight, clever plots makes it all the more infuriating when he doesn't, but that doesn't diminish my enjoyment of the ones he does write.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Dave Hitt Is... well, wrong.

The last Heroes annoyed me. It had some great bits, and some naff bits, because it was Heroes and that's what it does best. But it annoyed me just because the characters kept referring to the eclipse as 'a worldwide event', which eclipses demonstrably are not, at least, not unless you live on the Moon (and even then you can only actually see it from half of the Moon).

But I feel I have to defend it because... well, because someone has accused it of Jumping The Shark. "Jumping The Shark" is a phrase derived from an old Happy Days episode that many fans think of as the defining moment of the show's decline, and now means "I have appointed myself Supreme Judge Of Television, indeed I confidently expect to be asked to present the next series of Screenwipe, and I have noticed that something has changed in this show and therefore it is awful now". It can't be coincidence that without exception everyone who uses the phrase is disagreeable. They mostly drag it out when something happens that changes the initial setup of the show, such as Niles and Daphne getting together, or Chandler and Monica getting together, or some other yardstick event that points out that ten years is quite long enough for anyone to find themselves a girlfriend, and they're forced to either admit that they're socially inept or else start hating the show for letting the characters be happier than they are. Or whatever. I'm guessing here. Who knows, they might just be the same automatically-change-hating reactionary imbeciles that keep organising pathetic protests against the new-look Facebook.

In this case, though, I know the guy who's complaining of old. Dave Hitt and I have had our disagreements before, but he is at least a bit more refined than just some guy who turns off the first time anything clever happens. But still, he gets his basic facts wrong...

It’s not physically possible for an eclipse to happen simultaneously in Kansas, New Jersey (the location of Pinehurst) and Haiti, or to last for an hour.

Well, actually it's not only possible but highly likely, since the show clearly showed that a partial eclipse was all that was needed. None of those places are all that far away from each other. The eclipse was done wrong on a number of levels but these were not them.

There are also major continuity errors. ... Arthur Petrelli gains power by sucking other people’s powers away, leaving them powerless. But when he did it to Hiro, Hiro retained his powers and just lost his memory. Huh?

He absorbed Peter's powers, including the one he gained from Hiro, and he's always been able to wipe memories. What part of this is impossible? Question his motives for doing this, sure, but don't act like it's a continuity error.

None of the major characters in Heroes die and stay dead. Arthur Petrelli was supposedly dead, but then we find he’s really immobilized in a hospital somewhere. He steals Adams immortality, killing him, but we’ll probably see him resurrected later. In the last episode Noah kills a powerless Sylar, who is, of course, resurrected as soon as the eclipse is over. I’ve lost track of the number of times Clare has been killed. In this episode it looked like they finally killed her for real. Fat chance. She came back to life as soon as the eclipse was over. Of course. The result of these endless resurrections is that death has no dramatic impact in the series. Another character killed? Ho hum, what’s for dinner?

What? Of course major characters stay dead. Adam Munroe is dead. Elle is dead and so is her dad. Niki Sanders is dead, as is D L Hawkins. Alejandro is dead (and none too soon). Isaac Mendez is dead. Lindermann is dead. Parkman's dad is dead. Eden is dead, which is a shame because she was hot. None of these is coming back, except in flashbacks or dreams or whatever. The point is that it is clear which characters can do this, and therefore it's usually pretty clear which deaths are reversible: the only characters who have come back from the dead have done so as a direct result of Clare or Adam's regenerative powers. Arthur's surviving his apparent death was handled pretty well, I think, and in any case I don't think he was ever a major character before then. Similarly, things like Noah's ressurection using Clare's blood relied only on events that had been previously explained and was shown in the same episode as his death so nobody should feel too cheated by that. In any case, it was the resolution to the 'painting foretelling his death' plotline. If everything that was painted came absolutely true and was never subverted then the show would be fantastically boring.

Clare's death in the eclipse episode wasn't there to say 'look, we killed Clare' it was there to give Noah a decent 'oh shit, Sylar might still be alive' moment. I don't think it worked especially well, because we've had enough precedent by now that we all know Sylar and Clare won't be killed off halfway through a series.

The show has been entertaining, but spotty, and I’d been hoping it would improve. Instead it’s gone the other way, and now has officially Jumped The Shark.

It has improved. Series three is better than series two but worse than series one. Everyone in the world agrees on this. Now stop whining. If you want to make a point, don't pad it with nonsense. That only diminishes your argument.