Monthly Archives: September 2013

Behind the Times

My blog will never be a good source for reviews of books and movies. Even if I wanted to write reviews (which I sometimes do, actually), I don’t know if what I’d end up writing could even be called a review. “Nebulous, lazy, stream-of-consciousness thoughts on a movie” would probably end up being a more accurate moniker. Even if I did write reviews, they wouldn’t do many people much good, because I am always far behind the times. I suppose there may be a place for reviews that are written weeks or even years after the initial release of their subject, but it kind of takes the steam out of your engine when you want to gush or rant about the latest cool thing when that thing is long past late and long since warmed over.

Four days since it premiered, and I haven’t even seen the first episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. yet, which is rather remarkable when you consider that I’m a superhero fan, an adorer of the Avengers movie and the character of Coulson, and an unapologetic Joss Whedon fanboy (you shut your mouth, Dollhouse was almost great). I’ve been eagerly awaiting Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. since it was first rumored, and I’m hoping that this is Whedon’s first true mega-hit for television so he can become even more influential and demand more creative freedom. But if I follow my usual pattern, I may not get around to watching Agents until it’s at least six episodes in.

I suppose I’ve just gotten too old. Work and kids and chores and even silly distractions like this blog always end up taking priority over trying to be on the cutting edge of my favorite entertainment. Technology also makes it easy to delay exposure to new content. Miss it in theaters, or when it originally airs on television? DVDs, DVR, and streaming make it easy to catch up on whatever you miss.

I kind of miss those days when it actually felt exciting to be at movie’s opening night, or when new television episodes actually felt like must-see tv. It’s all still must-see, but it’s turned from “must-see now” into “I’ll have to watch that sometime.”

Maybe I’ll end up writing a review of the first season of Supernatural. My students just recently talked me into watching it, and I’m only eight years behind.

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Steven Moffat is Such a Fan

Apparently Steven Moffat can’t do anything right, even when he blatantly is.

There is no accounting for taste. Sometimes we just like what we like, and preferring one era of Doctor Who over another is not only all well and good, but completely expected and accepted. It would actually be strange if Doctor Who fans didn’t have preferences. In fact, Doctor Who has been on the air for so long, it would be a little strange if long-term fans didn’t have eras they actively disliked. I myself have a couple eras that I find extremely problematic. However, it would be nice if, when we engage in our complaining, we ranted about stuff that actually had some bearing on what’s appearing on screen.

Some of the complaints about current Doctor Who show-runner Steven Moffat that I’ve encountered come in the form of griping about how he doesn’t reference past episodes enough. Some feel that Moffat needs to be referencing Classic Who more often. Others are hungry for more references to the first three series of New Who, when Russell T. Davies (RTD) was the show-runner.

These types of complaints are misguided on the face of it, because they ignore one of the best and most consistent traits of Doctor Who, which is that Doctor Who is a show that constantly changes. Complaining that Moffat’s Who isn’t loaded with nods, references, and connections to the past is kind of like complaining that the Fourth Doctor era doesn’t mention Susan, Ian, and Barbara enough, or that it doesn’t have episodes about the Tribe of Gum, the Sensorites, and the Zarbi. Well, of course it doesn’t. Those are stories and characters from the First Doctor.

But even worse is that Moffat’s Who is, in actuality, loaded with references to past episodes.

I guess Moffat could squeeze even more references in, if he wanted the show to be nothing but a self-referential exploration of Doctor Who nostalgia, but that would be short-sighted. Besides, that’s what the episode The Name of the Doctor was already all about.

And I suppose when some fans say they want more references to RTD Who, what some of them are actually saying is that they still want the show to be about how Rose was the Doctor’s one true love, or that they want Martha or Donna or Jack to return, but that would also be short-sighted. Fans rabidly clinging to a handful of companions year after year, when their stories have already finished and gone, is anathema to a show like Doctor Who.

And finally, I imagine that one strong disagreement with my assertion that Moffat’s Who is full of references to the past is that many of the references are obscure and not direct, to which I would respond by repeating that this has almost always been the case with Doctor Who.

What follows is a simplified, probably short list of references to Classic and RTD Who that are contained in Steven Moffat’s three series and specials. Much of this is pulled from the TARDIS Data Core (http://tardis.wikia.com/wiki/Doctor_Who_Wiki), a very helpful and informative site. I highly recommend exploring the Data Core if you want to dig further into these many points of continuity.

I certainly don’t expect anyone to actually read this entire list, but it should give us an idea of how thoroughly Moffat’s Who is entrenched in the program’s greater continuity. Steven Moffat is so obviously and unabashedly a Doctor Who fan.

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The Eleventh Hour

“Do I have a face that no one listens to? Again?” is an obvious reference to the entirety of both Classic and RTD Who and how his companions typically don’t listen to him.

The opening scene with the crashing TARDIS is a continuation of the final scene in RTD’s The End of Time.

“Wibbly-Wobbly, Timey-Wimey” is a catch phrase coined by the Tenth Doctor.

“What? What? What?!?!” is one of the Tenth Doctor’s catch phrases.

Opening the TARDIS with a snap of his fingers was originally done by the Tenth Doctor.

The Shadow Proclamation is a nod to RTD Who

We see images of all the previous Doctors and of creatures from both Classic and RTD Who.

The Eleventh Doctor’s lingering, glowing regeneration energy was a precedent established in RTD Who.

The Doctor being late to return for Amelia is making use of a trope firmly established in Classic and RTD Who. It’s comically common how often the Doctor never arrives where or when he wants to.

“You are not of this world.”

“No, but I’ve put a lot of work into it.”

This is an obvious reference to every time the Doctor has saved the Earth in Classic and RTD Who.

The Doctor telling the Atraxi to “run” is a nod to the Tenth Doctor telling Harriet Jones “I should have told [the Sycorax] to run.”

The Doctor’s immediate and virulent dismissal of carrots is a nod to companion Mel trying to get the Sixth Doctor to drink carrot juice.

The Doctor calling Earth a Level 5 planet is an RTD concept.

The Beast Below

The Doctor again refers to himself as “the last of the Time Lords,” an RTD invention.

A “Magpie Electricals” sign, first seen in RTD Who, makes an appearance.

The Earth being abandoned due to solar flares is a plot point established in Classic Who.

A Dalek makes a brief appearance at the very end.

Liz Ten mentions the royal family’s relationship with the Doctor as established in RTD Who.

A quick exchange between Amy and the Doctor establishes that the Doctor had family/children, but doesn’t talk much about them, a theme that has popped up in both Classic and RTD Who.

Victory of the Daleks

Daleks.

Threatening the Daleks with a Jammie Dodger is similar to the Fourth Doctor making the same kind of threat with a Jelly Baby.

When the Doctor threatens to send the Daleks back to “the void,” he’s referencing a plot point and concept from RTD Who.

Dalek Saucers have been seen in Classic and RTD Who.

The Doctor identifies the TARDIS as a Type 40 TARDIS, another nod to Classic Who.

The Daleks escaping through a Time Corridor is another nod to Classic Who.

The entire story is essentially a retelling of the Classic Who story The Power of the Daleks.

The Time of Angels

The Weeping Angels first appeared in RTD Who.

River Song also made her first appearance in RTD Who.

The crash of the Byzantium was first referenced during RTD Who.

The mention of “High Gallifreyan” is a nod to Classic Who.

There is a mention of perception filters, a concept from RTD Who.

The Doctor having his ego bruised by River Song being a better TARDIS pilot parallels the Fourth Doctor being annoyed when Romana claims that she is a better pilot.

The Doctor saying that he’s not a taxi service echoes dialogue from the Fifth Doctor.

The Doctor can speed read, which has also been seen in Classic and RTD Who.

Flesh and Stone

Events from RTD Who (the CyberKing, the Dalek invasion) are used to establish a plot point about history disappearing.

The Doctor kissing Amy on the forehead before leaving her in a dangerous situation echoes similar moments with Zoe and Jo Grant in Classic Who.

Vampires in Venice

The Doctor’s library card has an image of the First Doctor, the address of the junkyard where the TARDIS was located in the first Classic Who episode, and the name Dr. J. Smith, the alias that the Doctor has used throughout Classic and RTD Who.

Amy talks about all the running they do, a trope established by RTD Who.

Perception filter again, from RTD Who.

Amy’s Choice

The Tenth Doctor’s relationship to Elizabeth I is given a mention.

The Dreamlord’s comment about the Doctor loving redheads is a clear nod to Donna Noble from RTD Who.

The Doctor is called “the last of the Time Lords” and “the Oncoming Storm,” both monikers from RTD Who.

The possibility that the TARDIS “jumped a time track” is a nod to Classic Who.

The Doctor derides the TARDIS Instruction Manual, a joke that references Classic Who.

The Hungry Earth

The return of the Silurians, a Classic Who monster.

The Doctor ends up taking Amy to the wrong place after promising to take her to the beach. This has also happened with Martha Jones and Donna Noble (RTD Who) and Sarah Jane Smith (Classic Who).

The Doctor mentions the fate of the first Silurians he encountered in Classic Who.

Cold Blood

The Doctor asks for celery, a nod to the Fifth Doctor.

Fixed points in time are mentioned, which have previously been used as integral plot points in RTD Who.

The entire story strongly parallels the Classic Who story The Silurians.

Vincent and the Doctor

We see images of the First and Second Doctors.

The Doctor rifles through a chest full of junk and conveniently helpful devices to find what he needs. This has been seen in both Classic and RTD Who.

The flirting between Vincent and Amy echoes the flirting between Shakespeare and Martha.

The Lodger

Flashes of Classic and RTD Who Doctors and monsters.

Brief glimpse of Rose Tyler.

The song the Doctor sings in the shower is a song that has been sung by the Third Doctor.

“The Oncoming Storm.”

Craig’s “What? What? What?!?!” echoes the Tenth Doctor.

We see all the Doctor’s previous incarnations again.

The Doctor telling Craig “don’t spend it all on sweets” echoes the Ninth Doctor saying the same to Adam in RTD Who.

The Pandorica Opens

Silurians, Judoon, Sycorax, Sontarans, Autons, Cybermen, Daleks… All creatures who have appeared in Classic or RTD Who, or both.

“I… am… talking!” has been uttered by both the Ninth and Tenth Doctors.

The Big Bang

The Seventh Doctor also once wore a fez.

A Christmas Carol

The Doctor is unable to perform a card trick, much like the Ninth Doctor.

The Doctor has a photo of himself and Einstein, lending credence to the idea that the two are friends, as originally mentioned in Classic Who.

The Doctor wears a scarf that is similar to that worn by the Fourth Doctor.

This is not the first time the Doctor has seen flying fish, as the First Doctor mentioned having seen flying fish.

The psychic paper fails, as it did twice during RTD Who.

The Impossible Astronaut

References to River Song’s first episodes, which belong to the era of RTD Who.

“Brave heart, Canton,” is a reference to the Fifth Doctor’s “Brave heart, Tegan.”

Day of the Moon

“Magpie Electricals” makes another appearance.

The Doctor tastes something to get more information from it, a habit established by the Tenth Doctor.

Dwarf star alloy has been mentioned in both Classic and RTD Who.

The Curse of the Black Spot

Captain Avery was mentioned in Classic Who.

Two objects occupying the same space is a concept that has been used in Classic Who.

The Doctor’s Wife

The Time War.

The Doctor mentions having rebuilt the TARDIS before, which he has done in Classic Who.

Mentions using rift energy to refuel the TARDIS, an idea which originated with RTD Who.

A canonical reason is given for the long-running “unreliability” of the TARDIS.

Mentions the existence of older control rooms.

The Cloister Bell, a Classic Who invention, sounds.

The Ood, an RTD Who creature.

The Doctor mentions the Sixth Doctor’s umbrella.

Sending messages by Hypercube is from Classic Who.

The Tenth Doctor’s console room makes a return.

The first instance of the TARDIS trying to communicate psychically happened during the first series of Classic Who.

Deleting rooms to create energy was established as an ability of the TARDIS in Classic Who.

The Eye of Orion is a Classic Who reference.

The TARDIS says she likes being called “old girl,” which is a reference to all the times previous Doctors actually called her “old girl.”

Reference is made to the Classic Who idea that the Doctor stole the TARDIS.

The Third Doctor once travelled by TARDIS console alone.

The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People

“One day, we will get back. Yes, one day.” –The First Doctor

“Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.” –The Third Doctor

“Would you like a jelly baby?” – The Fourth Doctor

“Hello, I’m the Doctor.” – The Tenth Doctor

A Good Man Goes to War

Another mention of the Doctor having family, a running theme that pops up occasionally since the early days of Classic Who.

Cybermen, Judoon, a Silurian, and a Sontaran.

“I am so sorry” echoes one of the Tenth Doctor’s catchphrases.

Nods to River Song’s first appearance during RTD Who.

The Untempered Schism from RTD Who is mentioned.

Let’s Kill Hitler

A repeat of the RTD Who banana gag.

We see holograms of past RTD Who companions, Donna, Martha, and Rose.

The TARDIS being in a state of Temporal Grace is a concept from Classic Who.

River surviving being shot during the few hours after her regeneration is similar to the Tenth Doctor being able to regenerate his hand because his regeneration was still fresh.

Night Terrors

Sontarans and Daleks get a mention.

Perception filters, again.

Jelly Babies.

The Girl Who Waited

Ejecting parts of the TARDIS for extra power is mentioned again.

Rory’s “I am so, so sorry” echoes one of the Tenth Doctor’s catchphrases.

The God Complex

The Minotaur is related to the Nimon, a Classic Who creature.

We see photos of a Sontaran, a Silurian, a Tritovore, a Hoix, a Catkind, and a Judoon, creatures who originated with Classic or RTD Who.

Weeping Angels.

Cloister Bell.

The Doctor calling the Minotaur beautiful echoes the Tenth Doctor’s sentiments upon encountering some alien creatures.

Closing Time

K-9 reference.

Cybermen.

Cyber-controller.

Cybermats!

“I don’t like it!” is from the Second Doctor.

The Doctor goes on a farewell tour before his impending death, just like the Tenth Doctor.

Being able to fight and reject the Cybermen conversion process was established in RTD Who.

The Doctor mentions that he sometimes forgets who he is, which has actually happened a few times in Classic Who.

“Not a rat, a Cybermat!” is a line from Classic Who.

The Wedding of River Song

Classic Who’s Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart gets a lovely and sad mention.

RTD Who’s Charles Dickens makes an appearance.

A Silurian.

Rose Tyler and Jack Harkness get a mention.

Drawings of Weeping Angels, Daleks, Cybermen, and Silurians.

Elizabeth I gets another mention.

The question “Doctor who?” was asked in the very first Classic Who story.

Dalek.

The Doctor the Widow and the Wardrobe

The Doctor mentions Jabe, the tree creature from the Forest of Cheeb from RTD Who.

Classic Who established that the Doctor can briefly survive in the vacuum of space.

Asylum of the Daleks

The Oncoming Storm moniker is used again.

Skaro, the home planet of the Daleks since the first series of Classic Who.

The Asylum is similar in style to the Dalek city where the Doctor originally met the Daleks.

Different Daleks from the entire history of Doctor Who make an appearance.

Several encounters between the Doctor and the Daleks in Classic Who are mentioned.

The Doctor’s knack for manipulating and using teleporters has been seen and mentioned in RTD Who.

The Doctor mentions that he is familiar with Dalek prison camps, which he is, from Classic Who.

The Daleks have converted humans to Daleks before, in both Classic and RTD Who.

Dinosaurs on a Spaceship

Silurians.

The Doctor again claims that the TARDIS is not a taxi service, a nod to Classic Who dialogue.

Psychic paper, an RTD Who invention.

A Town Called Mercy

The characterization of the Doctor relies on his history of committing terrible acts. In other words, the Time War, an RTD Who invention.

The Doctor mentions the Master.

This is another episode about how the Doctor needs companions to keep him grounded, a conceit firmly established by RTD Who.

The Power of Three

U.N.I.T. is a Classic Who invention.

Kate Stewart is the Brigadier’s daughter, so she is a direct connection to Classic Who.

The Doctor mentions K-9 again.

The U.N.I.T. base under the Tower of London was originally seen in RTD Who.

The Doctor telling Brian about his past companions is a broad reference to all Classic and RTD Who companions.

The Angels Take Manhattan

The Doctor using regeneration energy to heal River’s hand is continuing a trend of regeneration energy being used for purposes other than regenerations, an idea that was originally used in RTD Who.

River says that the Doctor doesn’t like to see his companions age, which was a character trait established in RTD Who.

The Snowmen

Silurian and Sontaran.

Clara’s observation that the TARDIS is “smaller on the outside” only works as a joke because it relies on decades worth of characters observing that it’s “bigger on the inside.”

Strax’s inability to differentiate male from female is similar to the Sontaran Linx from Classic Who having the same confusion.

The Great Intelligence is an enemy that the Second Doctor faced during two different adventures.

The Fourth Doctor once dressed as Sherlock Holmes.

The Bells of Saint John

The Great Intelligence again.

The Doctor says that travelling short distances in the TARDIS is difficult, which has previously been stated several times in Classic Who.

The Anti-Gravity Olympics were also mentioned to Rose Tyler.

The Rings of Akhaten

The Doctor mentions his granddaughter, who we can only assume must be Susan, the first Classic Who companion.

The Time War.

The Doctor’s speech refers to events that he experienced during Classic Who.

Cold War

The return of the Ice Warriors, a Classic Who creature.

The Doctor activates the HADS, which was previously used by the Second Doctor.

The Doctor has a doll with blond hair, which might be an obscure reference to Rose Tyler.

The entire story is a nod to the Second Doctor’s style of “base under siege” stories.

Hide

The Ghostbusters references echoes a similar reference from RTD Who.

The Doctor says he used to have a place for umbrellas, referencing that some of the Classic Who console rooms had umbrella racks.

The Eye of Harmony from Classic Who is mentioned.

The Cloister Bell sounds.

Fixed points in time are mentioned again.

Psychic paper.

The Doctor poses as someone from Health and Safety, which he once did during RTD Who.

The Doctor mentions Metebelis III, a planet visited by the Third Doctor.

The Doctor visits a pocket universe, which he has done a few times in Classic Who.

The Doctor wears a red spacesuit which looks like the one worn by the Tenth Doctor.

Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS

The Time War.

The Great Intelligence is mentioned.

Dialogue from several old companions and Doctors can be heard.

We see the Seventh Doctor’s umbrella.

The Eye of Harmony.

Cloister Bell.

The TARDIS changes its interiors, something it has been able to do since Classic Who.

The Doctor derides the fashion sense of the Time Lords, something they have had a problem with since the days of Classic Who.

The Crimson Horror

The Doctor referring to a “gobby Australian” was a reference to Classic Who companion Tegan Jovanka.

“Brave heart…” was another Tegan reference.

Silurian and Sontaran.

Nightmare in Silver

Cybermen.

The possessed Doctor imitates past Classic and RTD Who Doctors.

We see images of all the Doctor’s past regenerations.

The Doctor takes advantage of the Cybermen’s weakness to gold, which has not been seen since Classic Who.

Cybermats are mentioned.

The Name of the Doctor

The Great Intelligence.

Silurian and Sontaran.

The Valeyard, an evil incarnation of the Doctor from Classic Who, is mentioned.

The Sycorax (RTD Who), the Daleks, and the Cybermen are mentioned.

The Doctor’s deeds being undone and the stars going out echoes what happened when the Tenth Doctor was killed prematurely.

We hear dialogue from several past Classic and RTD Who Doctors.

We see the TARDIS being stolen by the First Doctor.

We see a glimpse of Susan.

We see footage of or flashes of every single past Doctor.

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Hate Steven Moffat all you want, but let’s stop pretending that he’s not a fan of Doctor Who and that he’s ignoring Doctor Who continuity. The truth is, one of the reasons his version of Doctor Who is the way it is, is because he enjoys Doctor Who very much, and because he understands Doctor Who very, very well.


Nostalgia Trip: The Chronicles of Narnia

Revisiting nostalgic favorites: a pleasant return to comforting, cherished memories, or a one-way ticket to disillusionment.

The Chronicles of Narnia may be the literature that most informed my early years. Like many a child, I dreamed of stumbling upon a portal that would lead to thrilling, magical adventures with Aslan, the Pevensie children, and the daring, diminutive Reepicheep. I habitually checked the backs of closets, knowing that my hands would meet the resistance of a wall, but still disappointed when my fingers didn’t brush against snow-covered pine needles. Walking through woods, or slipping through the gap in a hedge, I always imagined that, upon passing through to the other side, I would find myself in a different world.

Narnia was my first exposure to many fantasy tropes that continued to fascinate me for many, many years. I’m still a sucker for stories about alternate worlds and dimensions: Piers Anthony’s Apprentice Adept, Michael Moorcock’s Eternal Champion, Joel Rosenberg’s Guardians of the Flame, Matthew Stover’s The Acts of Caine…  Just about any half-decent story of dimension-hopping has been able to grab and hold my attention.

I’m even tempted to blame my fondness for Doctor Who and British sitcoms on Narnia’s innate and obvious British-ness, but that might be stretching it a bit. The culprit could as easily be the adolescent fascination I had with the adorable Elizabeth Sladen and Felicity Kendal.

Point being, I had placed Narnia on a pedestal stacked so impossibly high with childhood wonder and personally mythic importance, that I wasn’t at all surprised when revisiting the books as an adult resulted in disappointment. I was, however, surprised at the source of my disappointment, which was my discovery that the books were so blatantly, heavily, and simplistically allegorical.

I don’t have a kneejerk, negative reaction to literature that’s influenced and inspired by religion, or even literature that celebrates religion and faith (Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings is unapologetically a Catholic text, and it’s one of the seminal pieces of fantasy fiction for damned good reasons), but there’s a thin line between stories with religious elements and stories that proselytize, and when a story is as transparent a religious allegory as Narnia, it’s slipping into preachy territory.

I still have a fondness for Narnia, to the point where I’ll still geek out and rant over things like the newer printings of the books being reordered chronologically (they’re not meant to be read in chronological order, damn it!) Still, I can’t help but be saddened when I think of C.S. Lewis dedicating The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to his goddaughter.

“I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I had not realized that girls grow quicker than books. As a result you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. You can then take it down from some upper shelf, dust it, and tell me what you think of it. I shall probably be too deaf to hear, and too old to understand a word you say, but I shall still be your affectionate Godfather, C. S. Lewis.”

Either Narnia is not a very good fairy tale, or I have outgrown fairy tales.

Either option is sad, though I feel fairly confident that I have not outgrown fairy tales.


Stranger than Science Fiction

Do you ever have one of those moments where you realize that reality has become more science fiction than science fiction? And then you realize that the moment really shouldn’t be so surprising, because the time we’re living in is already so science fiction.

Gas stations are amazing. It’s utterly futuristic that you can scan your credit or debit card at the pump and avoid the hassle of dealing with the station attendant or cashier (pesky human interaction). The majority of convenience stores have only been using this technology since about 2002. Just over ten years, but it feels like forever. But it’s not a big deal. Banking is all electronic, and credit and debit systems have been in existence for at least decades, and we all know that everything is connected through a vast web of data, and automatic teller machines are everywhere. Pay-at-the-pump only makes sense. It would be dumb to not have pay-at-the-pump.

But then there’s that moment where everything you were taking for granted suddenly feels like science fiction. My family and I pull our mini-van into the local gas station. We don’t have our smart card on us (another nifty bit of technology that allows you to save a few cents on each gallon), but the wife, being stubborn, uses her smartphone to access the smart card site, which auto-enters our location with the phone’s global positioning system, which then prompts us to enter the pump number, which then activates the pump. We activated the pump and paid for the gas with a telephone. It feels like magic, but it shouldn’t. It’s just another clever use of existing technology.

Joss Whedon’s Firefly has a throw-away scene that is an example of these little moments of epiphany. Or, I suppose, un-epiphany, once the quick rush of epiphany wears off and you realize that the moment is actually rather mundane.

Wash: Psychic, though? That sounds like something out of science fiction.

Zoë: You live in a spaceship, dear.

Wash: So?

Nah, I’m going to stick with epiphany, because no matter how commonplace the science fiction realities we experience become, we’re still living the reality of science fiction. How cool is that? We’re living in a freaking spaceship.


Metaphors Be With You

Metaphors are capable of cutting to the truth of a matter, or of casting images that sear and brand the mind, in a way that simple descriptions or statements of fact are not always capable of.

Odysseus threw the stool.

Odysseus let the stool fly.

The first example perfectly explains what happened. Odysseus threw the stool. The second example explains the exact same action, but it simply and poetically implies the grace and strength with which Odysseus hurls the stool, as though the stool has a mind of its own and wants to fly toward its target. The second example is laced with a sense of power and truth that the first lacks.

Fantasy and science fiction can have a lasting, hard hitting impact on audiences because fantasy and science fiction are fundamentally geared toward the delivery of striking, powerful metaphors. More than that, fantasy and science fiction are fundamentally geared toward being read and interpreted as extended metaphors. When a story is set in a fictional world, or an altered world, it’s easy to begin perceiving it all as symbolic and metaphorical. Witness the compulsive need that some readers have to interpret The Lord of the Rings as an allegory for World War II, despite all the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. The human brain is so adept at perceiving patterns that it perceives patterns even where none exist. Fantasy and science fiction, lacking a one-to-one parallel to reality, is open to being formed into very personal and deeply held patterns that the reader places onto them, even in the lack of such a pattern.

I wonder if this is why some fans (myself included, if I’m being perfectly honest) develop fan obsessions that can resemble some form of religious zealotry.

Luke Skywalker is not really a young farm boy who becomes a Jedi. He’s a metaphor for the pains of transitioning from youth to adulthood.

Buffy Summers doesn’t really battle demons, but rather the perils and hurts of high school adolescence.

Captain Malcolm Reynolds isn’t really hiding from and ineffectually railing against the Alliance.  In truth, he’s the geek’s patron saint of lost causes.

These are metaphors that can speak to us in very personal, meaningful ways.

I wonder if this is why some of us fly into a rage when our favorite properties “betray” us by transitioning to a new mood and tone, to a new storyline, to new characters, to new themes… Perhaps we become so lost in our personalizing of these stories that when these stories change, it doesn’t simply feel like change, but like a personal attack on aspects of ourselves that we hold dear.

But before we become angry, maybe we should consider the opportunity that’s being offered us to discover and formulate new metaphors, new patterns, and new meanings.

And sometimes we simply outgrow our stories, or our stories outgrow us. That’s just life.

And sometimes something is just not very good, but still, that doesn’t mean that the Star Wars prequels kicked your puppy or ate all your french fries.

Metaphors be with you.


When Fans Hate

**Some not-so-nice imagery and language may follow**

What is it about fandom that causes fans to voice such hate and anger toward the writers and creators of their favorite shows, movies, and books?

Sorry, that’s rhetorical. I actually know the answer to this question. I’m sure we all know the answer to this question. I well know the feeling of being disappointed, even resentful, when a franchise you once loved has declined in quality, or when it’s gone in a direction that seems to be abandoning everything that made you like it in the first place. It’s silly, but it’s almost like a sense of betrayal when you witness a beloved property go completely off the rails. For me it’s happened with Star Wars, Star Trek, Peter Jackson’s Tolkien movies, Northern Exposure, The X-Files

So I get it. I really do. I understand where the hate and anger come from, and I understand why the hate and anger is triggered.

But hate and anger? Really? Disappointment, frustration, sadness maybe, a sense of loss that something you were enjoying is slipping away… but hate and anger?

I was going to write in length about a specific television writer who has been spawning more spiteful, over-the-top, disturbing fan hate than I ever recall seeing before, the kind of stuff that’s typically only reserved for child molesters and occasionally politicians, but it’s just not worth it. With this kind of rant, you’re either preaching to the choir or pounding your head against a brick wall. Many of you will probably already know who I’m talking about, and if you do know who I’m talking about, there’s a chance you’re one of those who thinks the hate is justified. I just wonder how some of us have become so bitter and twisted that we can decide, based solely on disliking his style of characterization and plotting, a few awkward interviews, a few out-of-context quotes, and a sarcastic sense of humor, that a man we don’t even know is a proud and evil misogynist, racist, and homophobe. I wonder and worry about those of us who have jumped to conclusions such as “he probably rapes his wife,” and I’m greatly perplexed by those of us who wish for horrible things to happen to him, such as “I hope someone cuts off his cock and shoves it down his throat and chokes him to death.”

It’s gotten so bad that I’ve seen people not even question the validity of the accusations; “I used to really like his work, but then I heard that he didn’t like women. What a douche!” I feel like I’m seeing mob mentality in action; “You say he killed someone? Lynch him!” Even when someone says something nice about him, it often comes with a disclaimer; “I know he’s a misogynist, but…”

Try reading Dave Sim’s Cerebus if you want to actually experience the writing of a vocal and proud misogynist.

Honestly, people. Let’s get some perspective.

Or maybe the problem is that I’ve been perusing the wrong online communities lately. I really hope that’s the problem.


Rewriting Tolkien

I love J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings because it’s dense, sprawling, and epic. I love it for its fractured but organized structure, its sense of depth and verisimilitude, its melancholy tone, and its sense of loss even in the face of triumph.

I love J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit because it’s light, focused, and personal. I love it for its simple structure, its immediate sense of childish wonder, its lively tone, and its sense of triumph even in the face of loss.

These are generalizations, of course. The Lord of the Rings is not without its light moments, and The Hobbit is not without depth, but there is no denying that these are two works that, despite some similarties, are inherently and deeply different from each other; different in authorial intent, different in theme, different in characterization, different in mood, different in tone, and different in audience.

I like Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings because, despite several qualms I have with the films, they are largely an attempt to capture the dense, sprawling, epic, melancholy nature of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.

I am greatly disappointed in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey because, despite some things that I like about the movie, it is largely an attempt to capture the dense, sprawling, epic, melancholy nature of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.

I wouldn’t have even brought this up until seeing all three parts of The Hobbit (as if there could be anything more damning than adapting The Hobbit into three long films), but the trailers for The Desolation of Smaug have clinched it for me. A trailer for The Hobbit where two characters who never appeared in the book (one of whom is fabricated solely for the movie) are focused on as much or more than the title character is all the further evidence I need to know that these movies are not for me.

I had been reading The Hobbit to my five year old daughter. We were about halfway through when An Unexpected Journey was released on DVD. My daughter, being the sweet child she’s sometimes capable of being, excitedly convinced her mother to buy me the movie for Father’s Day. She was so pleased and happy that I agreed to sit down that afternoon to watch the movie with her. About fifteen minutes into the movie she turns to me and says “I thought we were going to watch The Hobbit!” Yeah. That would have been a nice movie to see.


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by Mark van Dyk

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