Monday, July 26, 2010


The Ninth Doctor lasted all of one season, and then we were on to the Tenth. David Tennant turned out to be an ideal candidate for the role, as he was a fan way back (specifically the Fifth Doctor, who he would later team up with in a short episode that was as much fanservice as it was a story of a complicated time paradox) and perhaps it was that affinity that made Russell T. Davies steer the direction of the show more in a classic Who direction, or at least a classic who direction as he saw it.

This naturally led to a change in the show, as Davies tended to take things in more adventurous directions than he had done previously, as Who was a big enough hit that they had the money and clout to do a bit more. Ultimately, the Tenth Doctor's tenure runs four series plus an entire year of specials, which is quite an impressive run, and may very well be the longest run a Doctor will have in the new-model show.

Tonally what we ended up with in his tenure (the longest serving Doctor in the revived series so far) was a little from column A and a little from column B. When it worked, it worked well, whether due to Davies bringing his "A"-game and Tennant the same or one holding up the other or letting them down.

While there are very effective episodes in Tenth's tenure ("School Reunion," "The Girl In The Fireplace," "Rise of the Cybermen/Age of Steel," "Blink," "Midnight," and a few others) more than a few are marred by elements that Davies can't quite ever manage to sell, or if he does, he undoes any goodwill done by never leaving it alone.

Consider, if you will, the case of Rose Tyler. In the Ninth Doctor's run, the romantic tension between the Doctor and Rose had been a bit more on the platonic side of things--the Doctor functioned more as a symbol of escaping from your surroundings, wanting and getting more out of life, that sort of thing. A Nine gives way to Ten, the implicit becomes explicit and Rose and the Doctor all but become a couple. Except for the fact that this makes Rose a bit bratty in spots, it's not a problem, and it pays off splendidly at the end of "Doomsday"--at the end of it Rose has everything she wanted ideally: her boyfriend, her family intact again, but at the same time she's cut off from what she really wanted, and she can never go back.

Had Davies just left it there, things would have been grand--it's a rather dark and poignant ending. But lacking the presence of mind to leave a tender moment alone, Rose returns in "The Stolen Earth/Journey's End," (despite the plot of "Doomsday" making it clear that was impossible) Rose ends up with a happy ending and a life spent a clone made from the Doctor's severed hand.

Yeah, it's best not to dwell on that too much.

This "OK, that's it, no more--oh wait, just kidding!" thing ends up defining Davies, most especially when the time comes to ending a series. The Daleks are probably the worst offenders--they get completely and utterly destroyed at least three times, no possible way they could escape (bar I think two instances where a logical trapdoor was put in place) and then they're back in force over and over again.

What's worse, the constant inflation of these end of season threats (and Davies' resolve not to plan ahead all that much or gleefully chuck things if he gets a better idea) means the deus ex machina endings come fast and furious because there's no way out of the corner he's written himself into. It turns out that Davies best work (the aforementioned "Midnight") comes off so well primarily because the stakes aren't ridiculously high.

And then there's The Master. Ideally, the Master is the Doctor's opposite number (though at the shows worst, he's earned the label of "the camp one" as mentioned in The Curse of the Fatal Death) but when you have a manic, overcaffinated Doctor in Davin Tennant and you have pit him against a Master in John Simm who plays it like he thought Jim Carrey as the Riddler was a model of restraint, and the resultant signal to noise ratio is enough to make one's brain haemorrhage. That this is not even the most annoying part of the multi-part episode featuring the Master's return (never mind that I will happily watch any Who episodes in reruns except for those) should tell you a lot right there.

Anyways, with Rose out of the way, Martha Jones is wheeled out as the latest Companion, but with all the goodwill in the world and frequent returns after her tenure as companion, she was basically treated like shit--she silently pines for the Doctor the whole time she travels with him, yet he's still hung up on Rose and yet she behaves really passive-aggressive the whole time. That this is one of the shortest paragraph in this whole write-up should tell you something.

Thankfully, third time round, they get things right, although you'd never know it from first impressions. Donna Noble initially comes off as shrill and obnoxious (not that the show really needed one more screechy, obnoxious, character) in her initial appearance, but when the time comes in Series 4 for her to become a full-fledged companion, she's a much more evolved character in that she doesn't moon over the Doctor constantly, she will challenge him and deflate his ego from time to time (and oh lord was that ever needed) and one that actually brings us back to Davies' initial paradigm for the Ninth Doctor/Rose relationship--the Doctor inspires people to be better people, to find strength of character they don't necessarily know they have.

The arc of Donna's story, wherein someone who always thought she was completely worthless becomes the most important person in the universe, saves said universe, but has to pay an awful price--she has to become the rather sorry person she was again because the alternative is that she'll die. It's . . .well, one the one hand, it's bullshit, but on the other hand, tragic memory wiping of companions does have a precedent in Doctor Who, and for all that there are bits of it that don't work very well, that is sold with honesty and a very powerful punch (which is then betrayed by Davies in Tennant's final episode, but we're getting ahead of ourselves)

This seems like as good a time as any to mention another cliche that grew to bug me over Tennant's run. Every series, it seemed like the following happened: The Doctor, alone and looking very glum, fires up the TARDIS and slowly flies off, only for something inexplicable to happen to set up the Christmas Special which is forthcoming. Lord, that got old after what felt like the first 9 million times.

Now, I've done a lot of bitching about this tenure and I don't want you to think I hated it, because frankly, I loved it. There were enough high points to balance out the bits that don't work: the Cybermen are re-imagined as terrifying and powerful (threads not continued, but they are very effective in that first go-round) the Dalek arc comes up with a rather clever throughline which ultimately brings back Davros, who is realised better than he has been since his initial story, The Tenth and Fifth Doctors meet in eight wonderful minutes which balance perfectly appreciating the show's past and looking ahead to the future, the Weeping Angels are introduced and become an iconic monster off the bat because they're imaginative and utterly sinister, and the Doctor overstepping himself and declaring that he'll make the rules of time bend to him and the consequences of his hubris, and three little bits at the very end that I think are just fantastic .

"The End Of Time" is a big hot tranny mess of a finale, but it contains several bits of utter gold, I think. They don't redeem the two-parter at all, but stand out because they're incredibly well-written and excellent use of plot bits and bobs that were lying around. The first is a conversation with Donna's grandfather, wherein the Doctor confesses his fear about his upcoming death. He'll still live, of course, but as someone different, and he fears and frankly resents it. It's an excellent moment (helped immeasurably by the two actors, who sell it so well) that actually works to explain why whenever multiple Doctors team up, there always sniping at one another--each of them in turn feels his successor stole his life.

The next moment involves the big hook of the episode--the Time Lords return, and it's squeaky bum time for the universe. Because the Time War (and the subsequent Time Lock put on it to keep people from going back to it) was meant to equally lock the Daleks and the Time Lords inside, because in fighting the Daleks, the Time Lords, driven to survive, had become just as dangerous, and schemed to evolve to the next level of consciousness by destroying the universe entirely.

It's a great twist, and really the ultimate extent of the Time Lords' arc. Getting rid of them was one of the smartest things Davies ever did--as there was really only two Time Lord stories to be done--they're corrupt or meddlers, or both. But giving an apt explanation for it makes it all the more satisfying.

The final bit that works so well is the moment when everything's done, more or less. The Time Lords and the Master have been dealt with, and Earth has been saved once again, and he's crowing because, according to him, he's beaten the prophecy--he's still here.

And then he has to give it up to save one man, and loses his shit. He rails against it, curses the man, curses fate, and comes so dangerously close to that arrogance that caused him to proclaim himself the Time Lord Victorious.

Then he stops. He realises how close he is to being the Master and the Time Lords at that moment, gathers himself, and makes the sacrifice. While I could have done without the extended epilogue wherein he visited every Companion and whined about how "He didn't want to go" before he regenerated (which sounded so much like Howard Moon's "I've got so much to give!" lament) that scene was played perfectly, and it's so good in fact you wish it was in a better goddamned episode.

But things change. They always do, and things sure do change starting now. Exit Ten, Enter the Eleventh. Join us next time for a little fairytale about an actor who everyone doubted and assumed was going to tank the show all over again comes in and becomes one of the best Doctors of all time. Join us next time for Villain Rehabilitation, bowties, fezzes, sexy Scottish gingers, cracks in the universe, love, marriage, memory, and a madman with a box in the concluding (for now) chapter of our retrospective on a certain madman with a box.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

MAD MEN 4.1--"Public Relations"

"The winner of the ham battle is you."

It's my blog--I'll review Mad Men if I bloody well want to. I will, in deference to all y'all who are soon to embark on watching the first three seasons, I'll tread as lightly with the spoilers as I can manage.

Last year, in one of the best season finales ever, everything you knew about Mad Men (assuming you did, in fact, know about it) got blown up--Kennedy had been assassinated, our nominal protagonist Don Draper's "secret identity" got outed as his marriage crumbled under the weight of revelation and Sterling Cooper, assumed to be our entire base of operations was no more. Along the way, a few feuds got resolved and some characters that had drifted off came back to the fold at the head of a new agency--Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce--in one of the most effective "Holy shit, they're going for this" moments since Shane Douglas threw down the NWA belt.

It was an oddly happy cap to what had been a really dark season up until then, and I like to think there was a bit of an examination of Draper's line from earlier in the season that change wasn't good or bad--it just is. A repeated element of the show is how people respond to seismic changes, macrocosm and microcosmic, the world and their personal lives. How do you live with the ground shifting under your feet all the time?

Needless to say, given how things were left--broken, dissolute, uncertain, but oddly hopeful--waiting for Season 4 took a bit of willpower.

But now it comes and here we go--Mad Men is here again. We join our gang in Thanksgiving 1964 a year after the formation of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, now ensconced in swank new offices that eschew Sterling Cooper's teal and pink pastels for frosted glass and steel. Despite their sleek, mid-60s reinvention, all is not exactly perfect.

For one thing Don is feeling trapped, and when Draper is trapped, he will do stupid things both personally and professionally. It begins at the outset with him evading various questions put to him by an interviewer from Advertising Age in which the interviewer (who is a Korean war vet, a fact which is significant if you know Don Draper at all) asks The Question on which the whole series has pivoted: "Who is Don Draper?" (For those who came in late, any time you hear this question--and I can think of three places off the top of my head--nothing good comes of it) Because Draper can't (or won't) answer, the overall thrust of the interview paints him as a nondescript cipher and the interview fails to bring SCDP the good press it needs as an up and coming ad agency. Draper, being evasive as all hell as an integral element of his survival, isn't up to being the "face" of SCDP and can't self-mythologize himself enough to sell the narrative of them being iconoclastic hotshots.

Personally, he's a bit dislocated--he lives in a claustrophobic apartment (seriously, for a show that sticks people in spacious living areas full of 60s design, it's like a goddamn closet) and financially tries to cut the final ties to ex-wife (and three-year World Champion Most Awful Mother, New York Division) Betty, who continues to treat her kids with the care and gentility of Ike Turner if Ike had been a child psychiatrist. The main problem is Henry and Betty won't get out of his house, won't pay rent, and won't buy the damn thing, thus freeing up some desperately needed cash and allowing Draper some closure.

Moving forward, things aren't going much better. A date set up by Roger's wife (who has made getting him a new wife "a project"--there's a rather perpetual stigma about divorcees to overcome) goes badly for him, which is kind of a big thing as Draper doesn't often get cockblocked. It's slightly uncomfortable to see him totally fail to pick up on signals, as for the previous three years we've seen him be able to win over people and make it seem effortless, both personally and professionally. Now there is hesitation and uncertainty where vision and confidence once stood. Perhaps it owes to the fact that he's in limbo--still tethered to his past and finding reaching for the future a difficult prize to grasp.

So he does what any lonely bachelor would do on Thanksgiving: he hires a hooker to slap him whilst having sex. It's as American as football and cranberry sauce. It's odd, as traditionally he's almost always the aggressor in his relationships with women on the show, but whereas before he typified the 60's man's man . . .now he's a bit smaller and sadder this way. It's a microcosm within the macrocosm.

Meanwhile, lest you forget this is an ensemble show, in our "B" plot we have a publicity stunt about ham going hilariously wrong. It serves to leaven the heaviness of Draper's problems by contrast, but also gives us a chance to see where everyone else in SCDP--Peggy has a little more power and is a little more open about speaking her mind and Pete is even more of a wormy little asshole than he was before (then again, it's his job to be so) When these two put their minds on dealing with their client's halfhearted attempts to build an ad campaign in the name of selling ham, they decide to liven things up (and save the account) they decide to hire two women to fight over a ham at the grocery store as a PR stunt. By the time this is all over with, bail and hush money are dished out, the whole mess is an embarrassment internally but it saves the account and everyone gets a free ham.

But it plays into another theme running along in the episode--SCDP is getting the wrong clients (who never seem to want anything adequately creative) The Ham people don't want to spend out for anything adequately creative, the bikini (sorry, "two-piece swimsuit") people want to sell product without playing on the fact that bikinis show more flesh, something which is about as easy as typing out an essay without ever using the "e" key. That last finally sets Don off on a roaring rampage of prickishness that culminates with him stalking off to another interview and acquitting himself slightly better in terms of portraying SCDP as the scrappy upstart, even if he comes off as a bit of a smug douche in the bargain. Then again, it was for the Wall Street Journal, and a good ad man knows his audience.

It was a pretty good episode. Sure, some of the triumph of the end of season three has worn off, but that's to be expected--counterrevolutions always follow revolutions and even blowing up the Death Star was a short-lived uptick on the way to Luke getting his sabering hand cut off, but it's a different sort of place and it's going in an interesting direction: A man who has constantly wrapped himself in one myth (or "lie" to be more on the nose about it) now has to adopt another and find out who he is essentially by himself. I really enjoyed this episode, even if it was uncomfortable--how many TV shows can have their main character slapped around by a hooker, learn what a supernumerary is and weave a plot around a fake fight for ham?

NEXT TIME--Well, there's little point in trying to decipher Mad Men's "next episode" teasers, as they are pretty damn opaque. Suffice it to say, something will happen, then something else will happen. A few times Draper will look pensive about something, Roger will say something bitingly witty. There will be a lot of smoking and drinking. Next time on Mad Men--"Christmas Comes But Once A Year." Destroy everything, connect everything.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Quesada Of Solace

Or: "So I will never work at Marvel Comics, ever."

So, Joe Quesada's reign as head creative mind over at Marvel is now into entering its second decade, the first of which had about three good years wherein there was unprecedented creative freed from the usual restraints of corporate comics followed by another seven of foisting his own stagnant illogical interpretations of the various properties under the Marvel banner.

One might charitably score that as a "push."

There's plenty of reasons not to like Quesada--he's obnoxious, confrontational, narrow-minded, stuck in the past, reacts to criticism roughly about as well as say, Galvatron (I take that back--Galvatron never justified his capricious decisions by saying "Oh yeah?! Well, my mom died! My father smoked himself to death! Trees hate me!" Also, Galvatron could turn into a laser gun.) He's undone 20 years of Spider-Man continuity because "a married Spider-Man doesn't work" (despite the fact that it did) only ten years after the last time Marvel tried it, and managed to do it in an even more inane and less-justified fashion, forced an arbitrary limit on the number of mutants in X-Men, hobbling the franchise with an edict that crippled the entire concept for five years, and OK'd a comic wherein the Green Goblin busts a nut all up in Spider-Man's girlfriend.

These are all great reasons to loathe Quesada's vision or lack thereof, but I think people are missing out on another great reason to hate Quesada--he's a breathtakingly shitty artist. Always has been. The sweet irony that a man who continues to be venerated for "making Marvel more creative and less corporate" is that he's actually a worse artist than Rob Liefeld. long the Patron Saint of Bad Artists. Wizard, in fact, once called him "a mix of Liefeld and Mignola," and surely any horrifying hybrid like that would live only a few days in oozing agony like the baby in Eraserhead. Seriously--I don't even want to think about it.

This is, on the face of it, sacrilege--Rob Liefeld has been the whipping boy for lazy hipster writers writing comics-themed articles on the Internet for ages now (myself included), and I certainly don't begrudge them for it, but what these people neglect is that there are much more awful artists than Liefeld--he just had the fortune to be the most popular at the wrong time and ended up the most notorious.

But let's spread the wealth around. There's plenty Liefeld does that Quesada can't manage. For one, Liefeld doesn't tend to leave half of an entire page black so he doesn't have to draw things he might find difficult, like anything. For another, occasionally Liefeld characters can stand erect, however difficult. For another, Liefeld does not approach the business of rendering muscles as if his characters are wet sacks of oatmeal held together by full-body condoms--muscles shouldn't be that gritty, really. Also, Liefeld's Spider-Man was never hydrocephalic, at least as far as I can remember. What I'm trying to say is looking at his art one begins to think that "Hmm, maybe we've been too hard on Rob Liefeld," which, like dividing by zero , is not a naturally tenable thought to hold in the human mind.

Also, Quesada was quite fond of that whole "open mouth, drool between teeth" bullshit which was all over comics from 91-96, and that was just . . .man, I never want to see that again.

Quesada's art is not as well-known, mostly because he never did that much. Quesada's major during the 90's was that he was the regular artist on X-Factor, which meant I think he did maybe five issues and none of them were consecutive. In between this, he was offered multiple opportunities for designing various new and old Marvel and DC characters, this despite the fact he has, in my humble opinion, about as much business designing characters as I have operating the Large Hadron Collider.

This article, then, is a journey, a dark ride if you will through Quesada's character designs. Come with me for a not-so-fond look back at Quesada's character designs from the past. Perhaps on the way we will look a bit skeptically at the idea of The Q as a "great creative mind." Or perhaps you will find my series of cheap shots and naked unvarnished contempt amusing. Either way, you're reading this and that means I've won already.

Random--Lift me lord, to a place where I will never see another Lobo clone again. In addition to everything else being ripped off in the oh-so 1990s, DC's Lobo was a big target. Liefeld spun off the utterly mush-brained Bloodwulf, and Marvel actually had TWO knock-offs--Random and Lunatik because my pain was like candy to him. Random had no reason to be in X-Factor, wasn't all that compelling (his hands turned into GUNS and he SHOT PEOPLE WITH THEM!!) and his power set was woefully inconsistent, and yet he became a member of X-Factor, and his origin got far more confusing from their because it turned out he was a little kid made of goo who had a crush on Polaris and turned into Lobo clone because oh Jesus Christ I hate goddamned comic books sometimes.

Exodus--Hey kids! It's a flying elf--kill it with fire! No, really, Exodus was . . .well, I'm not sure what the hell Exodus was supposed to be. The first harbinger of those moments when the X-Office would think up stuff and jam it into the books without thinking it through completely, Exodus came at the tail end of a whole bunch of new X-Men villains who were built up as huge threats despite being neither effective nor charismatic (Fabian Cortez! Trevor Fitzroy! Sienna Blaze! The Soul Skinner!) or ones that clumsily had "X" somewhere in the title (X-Cutioner, X-Treme, and some others. No X-Pialidocious, though.) Exodus was set up to be Magneto's right hand man and in service of that was given a ridiculous costume (seriously, what's up with the shoulder hooks?) an utterly inscrutable power set (basically "whatever the plot demands") and one of the most batshit insane origin stories ever: He was a knight from 1000 years ago who fought the Black Knight and went into a coma and look at the time: It's half past Jack Daniels!

Ninjak--Ninjak is what happens when a guy decides to become a ninja in the towel section of Bed Bath and Beyond. Ninjak was a comic from Valiant, a comic book company everyone loved, then hated, then loved, then forgot about again. The nicest thing I can say about Ninjak is that of all the titles Valiant put out, it was certainly one of them.

Ninjak is also the first example in our little list of one of Quesada's most irritating design tics--Big Chunky Gloves. I can only surmise that instead of How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way, Quesada took his cues from Popeye's anatomy. I wonder if that's the reason none of his characters can't stand up--their arms are too damned heavy.

Either that or Quesada sees every character as a painfully constipated ball of angst whose high-fiber diet has just kicked in and are scant seconds away from busting a grump equal for about 3/4ths of their body weight.

Also, his name wasn't "Jack," which I thought was bullshit. Maybe Mighty Bomb Jack threatened to sue.

Azrael--Big Chunky Gloves, again. Oh, and he only has three fingers, for some damn reason. Azrael's suit looks hella cool until you realise the following: One, he just designed the top half of it and left the rest blank because he only had a half-hour to go before lunch and Two, unless he's standing in a vacuum all the time, there's no way his cape, his ascot, and those weird things on his back aren't constantly whipping around and slapping him upside the head.

But hey! BIG FLAMING SWORD HANDS! The best part about this is this was only a harbinger of what was to come, because Azrael would one day take over for . . .

Batman--Re-designing Batman's suit is not easy. Hell, DC put out a whole sketchbook of potential Batman redesigns in the 1990s (before just deciding to make the whole thing black) Quesada, however, was having none of that bullshit, and gave us the following: The Black Panther in a yellow traffic warden's vest, with a few little hooky things poking out of his shoulder (I have a feeling the words "Cape?" were scribbled in the margins) and gave him big chunky claw-gloves and once again didn't bother to detail anything below the chest. Joe, you can not knock this shit off a few minutes before lunch on a Friday--there's a certain lack of effort that is becoming apparent.

Ash--Ash is a firefighter powered by angels, and if you hate him, you hate Our Brave Firefighters and Jesus. Also, his hair is on fire, but just the one little bit there. I recommend a change of conditioner to take care of that. You would expect me to write something here about his Big Chunky Arms, wouldn't you? Well, I'm not going to. I will, however, say that I left Painkiller Jane off the list because some things are too stupid even for me to mock and also Painkiller Jane can kiss my ever-loving ass.

The "Iron Spider" Costume--OK! So, uh, why are there three arms instead of four? We're too good for balance or symmetry I guess. Created to signify that Iron Man was Spider-Man's new BFF (because comic readers are too stupid to work that out for themselves unless the characters involved CHANGE THEIR CLOTHES to underlie the point. Remember: Comic readers of today are subtler, more genre-savvy, intelligent and everything I just said is a wet tissue of lies) so Iron Man made him an ugly new outfit which he apparently came up with by looking at the ketchup and mustard bottles in the Stark commissary. Spider-Man apparently didn't eat that day, which is why he looks so emaciated in the picture.

Spider-Man, like Batman, is a tricky character to redesign--the original suit is such an effective design (although I'm sure it's a pain in the ass to draw all those webs) but they've succeeded a couple times with their redesigns. The black suit is very effective and strips the design down to the essential elements in a Batman Beyond kinda way and even the re-design they gave Ben Reilly (and later Spider-Girl) is a good riff on the original suit. There's room to play around with it and come up with something visually cool.

This . . .well, this is more on the Spider-Armor scale of things, which means it's pretty awful. We have the three arms, the half-boots (seriously, did he run out of yellow or what?) and also the fact that Spider-Man is goddamn red and yellow for some reason I don't understand or care all that much for. It's like Daredevil has a large tick on him or something.

So, there you have it--a small peek into the works on the man who has pushed Marvel into the 21st century for a whole decade now. Are you excited? Enlightened? I'm excited! What will he do in this brave new decade? Who else will he give big chunky arms to? Who else will he redesign with garish colours and stupid shit coming out of his back? Suckas gots to know!

Thursday, July 22, 2010


So, when last we left off, Doctor Who had been resurrected for one movie that, as it turned out wasn't very good. That opportunity missed, things went back to where they had been after the original series had been canceled--lots of tie-in books radio dramas, etc. and it looked like the chances of a return to TV (or films, which they spent the 90s trying to do again) seemed utterly remote.

Enter Russel T. Davies. Davies had recently come off of Queer As Folk, Second Coming and a few other projects and had the clout to do whatever he wanted, and as it happened, what he wanted to do more than anything was revive Doctor Who, and in 2005--nearly 15 years since the TV series ended and ten since the TV movie--he got his chance, bolstered quite a lot by the fact that the BBC was actually willing to spend some money on it this time.

For all I would disagree with Davies' approach as his tenure wore on, he had the perfect approach to bring this back, summed up in a quote excerpted here and one I mentioned in a previous post:

"But the people who loved the original series [of Doctor Who] when they were young are now in their 40s, and I’m not remotely interested in making a show just for them. That would be tragic. It’s too good an idea to be pigeonholed away with that small of a demographic . . . If they’d wanted a cult "Doctor Who" for the cult audience, I would have made that. I equally know how to do that. And when the BBC first asked me to bring back "Doctor Who," the first thing I did was make sure it wasn’t for a nostalgic cult audience, and it was going to be for everyone. "

In a perfect world, the pack of nabobs who create supehero comics at the moment would have that quote tattooed on the inside of their god damned eyelids.

Anyways, this was going to be a fresh start, that would use the history of the series but not demand that you knew the ins and outs of Doctor Who's history. Davies approach was to make the story more about following the Companion, Rose Tyler--we would meet the Doctor at the outset and be our entry point into the world of Doctor Who and gently introduce everything people loved about the series.

To draw a line under things, but to keep things handy to be brought back later, Davies came up with the Time War, a handy little deck-clearing exercise that was designed to sweep away things which had really never worked all that well (the Time Lords, for one, and good bloody riddance) and keep everything else on the table until the time was right--the reasoning being once they liked the show, then Davies could start building continuity taken from the past without having to painfully footnote how we got from 1989 (or 1996) to the present.

So the Ninth Doctor appears on the scene, and he's rather different from most the previous Doctors, and not just because he's not wearing a costume, or because he's seen at a certain distance, but because he's a lot edgier than Doctors have been. He's cranky and shows little patience for stupid humans, but also shows great affection for humans who show the will to be a bit more than they are, and it's his only his interaction with Rose that ultimately begins to soften him and gradually, over the 13 episodes he did, he gradually becomes the Doctor we all know and love.

Along the way we get some great episodes (most of which were written by folks who cut their teeth on the Doctor Who novels of the Nineties--"Dalek," "Father's Day," "The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances" 2-parter) and some not-so-great ones (The ones with the Farting Aliens are really rather silly, as it's impossible to take them seriously as a threat--as almost parodies of the standard Doctor Who monsters, but even then, we didn't need three of them) but on the whole, it was a very strong season, and just what was needed to get the program back on its feet, and it become one of the most-watched programs on British TV. After a decade and change, Doctor Who was back, and back in a way that people who'd seen the original's slow decay could possibly imagine.

But things being what they are, even in the best of times, there's upheaval. Ultimately, the Ninth Doctor lasted one season, the actor involved deciding he had better things to do, I guess. Ordinarily, this would be the kiss of death for a show just finding its feet, but what was to come with the advent of the Tenth Doctor was the moment Doctor Who's resurrection completes itself and captures the imagination of two coasts and I can think of no better teaser for it than "it was the best of times and the worst of times." Join us, won't you?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

And In Other Comics News . . .

Atlas, has, once again, been cancelled. Cue the wailing and gnashing of teeth from those people who decry yet again that everything would be fine if only you read and enjoyed the same comics the four of them do.

Y'know, I read the thing pretty consistently, but even I have to admit that the third time around maybe it's time to confront the issue that Atlas just doesn't have the readership to sustain an indefinite series. Even if there was, I'm not sure that an extended storyline featuring the godforsaken 3-D man (played by the even more godforsaken Triathlon) that steadfastly kept the titular Agents of Atlas off their own book for most of the first issue wasn't the smartest idea to sell new people on the 13th go-round of this concept.

So save your tears, people--good as it may be (which, after the initial miniseries, it was only fitfully so) it can't sustain month-in and month-out. Mythologise it all you want as being "too good to last" and enjoy the sweet rarefied air of delusion, because that's what it was.

Ideally the solution to this inability to sustain an ongoing would be to feature them in an occasional limited series, but as this is far too intelligent a concept to grasp, it will not be done, because comics do the smart thing only after all other options have been exhausted.

And speaking of other options totally exhausted:

Your Three-Sentence Review Of X-Men #1: So really, all you need to turn people into vampires is to have them explode and get some of themselves on you? Vampire bukkake--how very well thought out. I look forward to not giving a shit about any of this for many months to come.