Confessions

Confession #98: I'm Wary of Change

Feb
10

Moffat's out; Chibnall's in.

The news is now weeks old, and every podcaster and other blogger seems already to have offered their thoughts in some shape or form. Having spent these weeks taking in others' opinions, I can't say for sure that giving myself time to stew on it all has allowed my own views to mature, but they have at least solidified.

My initial reaction was twofold. On the one hand, I was ecstatic to hear Moffat's time was finally coming to an end. Regular readers will know I have long since tired of Moffat's style of arc storytelling, though I have still enjoyed individual stories (or pieces of them) and one-liners, so this should come as no surprise.

On the other hand, I was none too thrilled with the choice of Chibnall as heir to the throne, despite having been braced for it for months based on speculation in various corners of the Internet. Why did I feel that way? Let's review Chibnall's writing credits.

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Confession #97: I Love Being Fannish

Dec
23

With the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens this past weekend, there's been a frenzy of Star Wars fannishness around the Internet, with calls to avoid revealing spoilers interspersed with endless memes, think pieces, and quizzes. I consider myself a Star Wars fan (among many other fandoms), so all this felt normal to me.

Then I saw someone say something about how overwhelming it all was. Is this, the person wondered, how everyone else feels when we get all in a tizzy about the latest Doctor Who news du jour? The very idea turned them off so much they felt chagrined about participating in the hoopla in the past and talked of turning off all their social media accounts to avoid subjecting the rest of the world to such nonsense in the future.

I think this startled Who fan has taken the wrong lesson from the experience. There are two major classes of reactions one can have when presented with this sort of behavioral mirror: recoil or embrace. The former is the route my unfortunate acquaintance took, and springs from an exterior perspective. When seen from the outside, fannish behavior can appear irrational, overzealous, and occasionally even militant—in short: fanatical.

When one is confronted with another fandom's behavior for the first time, the intensity can be really frightening. That's true whether said fandom is based on a particular flavor of SFF like Who or Star Wars, on a video game franchise, on a sports team, or on any other Thing-someone-else-loves-but-about-which-you-don't-give-a-rat's-ass. This is why die-hard sports fans and SFF-convention-goers tend to give each other such serious side-eye. Each group is thinking, "it's normal for me to dress up and get rowdy about my team/my show, but those weirdos are incomprehensible!"

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Confession #96: I'm Not Listening

Sep
16

With a brand new series nearly upon us, teaser trailers, images, and episode titles for Series Nine are everywhere. If one spends any time at all online, they're easy to find, and difficult-to-impossible to avoid. I'm not a complete spoiler-phobe (which is good, because I wouldn't be able to use the Internet if I were), but I do like to maintain a certain level of surprise going into a new season. It makes me feel like a stick in the mud, but with all the publicity on social media (which is where most of my Internet experience happens), I've gotten to the stage where I pretty much stick my fingers in my ears and shout, "LA LA LA!" to keep from learning things ahead of time.

I do watch trailers put out by the production team—that's part of the show, in my opinion—and there is some news that I could only miss if I were oblivious to other fans online (e.g., return or casting of certain characters/actors). For the most part, though, I ignore the hype: I don't go look at the behind-the-scenes, on-set photos that the BBC spams out; I've only watched two trailers once each (I don't even know if that's all of them or if there are more); and I have not read the titles of any of the episodes beyond the first two (which were plastered all over the prologue video), though I mistakenly glanced at a couple that I didn't scroll past fast enough in my Twitter feed. (By the way, I'd like to offer hearty thanks to the others in the FB groups of which I am a member for only linking to the list, rather than posting it outright.)

Although I recognize that there are those out there who like to skip to the last page first to find out whodunnit when they're reading a mystery, or who need to read the ending of their book after the first chapter or two to learn whether or not their favorite character survived the slaughter, I do not actually understand such people—not at a gut level. I'll to do the whole "live and let live" schtick with someone who wants to know everything possible ahead of time, but the idea that it's fun to learn every twist before even knowing the story just baffles me.

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Confession #95: I Like Odd Correlations

Sep
09

A couple of years ago, when the fiftieth anniversary rolled around, we were marveling at the fact that Remembrance of the Daleks was as far behind us as An Unearthly Child was behind Remembrance. Now Survival, which marked the end of the original run of the series, is as separated from the present as it was from the show's beginnings (give or take a couple months). Wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey indeed.

This kind of temporal comparison fascinates me (something I realized when a different pop cultural correlation occurred to me the other day: Star Wars (the third top-grossing film of all time) came out thirty-eight years ago; Gone With the Wind (all-time top-grossing film) came out thirty-eight years before Star Wars). One can come up with all sorts of interesting pairings—whatever time frame you can think of can yield a new perspective.

For example, nearly fifty-two years down the line from An Unearthly Child, the effects and staging of the episode look positively archaic. At the time, though, it was stretching the medium in new ways. And, after all, it was technological leaps and bounds beyond the cinema of fifty-two years before. In that year (1911), feature films were still a brand new phenomenon. The Italian silent film L'Inferno (The Inferno, from Dante), released in 1911, was perhaps the third or fourth feature film worldwide, and became (Wikipedia tells me) what some consider the first blockbuster.

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Confession #94: I Won't Evangelize

Sep
02

I'm going a bit off the beaten path from my usual approach with my confession this week. What I have to say probably counts as an Unpopular Opinion, and it may shock some of you, so ready your burning brands and pitchforks. Despite what I've implied plenty of times before, Doctor Who isn't for everyone.

You heard me. Some people simply shouldn't be brought into the fold—shouldn't even try. "What?" I hear you say. "That's ridiculous! Our Show has something for everyone!" Well, yes; there's an awful lot of variety in the ~250 televised stories, never mind the vast additional oeuvre of books, audios, comics, and so on. But I argue that there are still some people for whom even this extensive selection is not enough in which to find a truly enjoyable story.

Heresy, I know.

Yet Doctor Who works best for those of us willing to overlook—or better yet, embrace—the silly or way-out-there-unbelievable to find something deeper inside. It may be a personal lesson we embrace, teaching us about tolerance or personal responsibility or the value of vulnerability. Perhaps it's a vision of how life on Earth could be, good or bad (usually, but not always, based on how some alien culture works). Or maybe it's just a thrilling adventure that lights a spark of joy and wonder.

But not everyone is built to "get" speculative fiction. There are folks whose entire pleasure reading list consists of non-fiction works. Some of these people may go so far as to classify any fiction, let alone spec fic, as frivolous, pointless drivel. (Okay, perhaps "drivel" is taking it a step too far...) In other words, some people simply aren't wired to enjoy the kind of wildly imaginative, quasi-scientific storytelling that is Doctor Who's stock and trade.

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