This post is not to be confused with the above t.v. show, which both engrosses and annoys me.
No, this post is actually about a certain science fiction show about a time-traveling alien doctor:
^ Yes, this one
I love Doctor Who. Don’t you?
I think my favorite part is that it can really be anything: the premise is ripe for reinvention and exploration. Honestly, I think that the chance to work on Doctor Who is a speculative writer’s ultimate fantasy. At least, it’s this speculative writer’s ultimate fantasy. Sometimes, I daydream about what I would do, given the opportunity to work with the coolest writer’s toy out there.
So I thought it would be a fun exercise to share some of my ideas – and I want to hear your ideas, too!
- Lady doctor! I’d want her all quirky and clever and occasionally condescending to the plebes. Of course, you have to advance the Doctor’s recurrent themes about isolation in the universe, as well as the ethical implications of the Time War…
- When women go quirky, they’re infantilized a la Zooey Deschanel. When men go quirky, no one appreciates their genius. Actually, I think Zooey could do a great job, but I am a Zooey fan so your mileage may vary. Let’s just write her a character people appreciate as smart – or should, if they’re being smart.
We’ll even let her bring her ukulele – because ukuleles, like bowties, are cool
- Male companion with a crush on the lady doctor, even though she is out of his universe. (Literally.)
- Do I need to explain this one?
Thank you, Donna, for being apparently the only woman in the universe who can resist the Doctor’s man-musk (and yet you’re still the only person I ship with him)
- Scooby Gang! In a way, I understand why Doctor Who has stuck closely one or two companions – you don’t want the audience to get too attached to any group of companions, because Doctor Who is all about reinvention and Scooby Gangs have a way of endearing themselves to the audience. (See: Buffy.) Also, maybe budget concerns?
- But Doctor Who gives the Doctor the opportunity to make a diverse group of allies throughout the universe – and it seems a shame to waste the potential dynamics that a time-traveling, spacefaring group could create. I want to see a medieval milkmaid interact with a Martian – not just fleetingly, but over a long span of time. Focusing on the group dynamics of the companions might make the show slightly less about the Doctor, but couldn’t that be a good thing? I mean, there’s only so many times we can see different actors angst about the same Doctor issues.
- Extended storylines with decent pacing. Yes, we already have extended storylines. And Moffat seems to have steered away from them in this current season, maybe because there was so much backlash about last season? But the problem with last season wasn’t the extended storyline itself, which I think could have been cool. Like, the blueprint looks okay. But the storyline was frenetically paced, often rushed, and sometimes completely nonsensical.
- *SPOILER ALERT*
- Amy and Rory have a baby! But they don’t care about that baby, apparently, because they never talk about it? Oh my God their childhood friend is their baby! That just came out of nowhere and is never discussed again. While we’re at it, River Song’s entire story arc – which has been teased over two seasons – is going to be basically covered in a single episode.
- And now I’m going to stop whining about it because I think that a disappointing season of Doctor Who is still miles better than most television – but there’s no getting around the fact that we had a decent extended storyline, which would have been more satisfying if the pace had been slowed and characters had been treated as real people rather than tools existing to serve the plot.
- Less Daleks, more Sleeping Angels. ‘Nuff said. This is just shameless personal preference and I have no shame.
- I’d totally write an episode with fantasy tropes (dragons, magic, wizards, ect.) where it turns out to be a planet with advanced technology…
- Because I want to see the Doctor interact with a dragon.
- Because dragons are cool.
There you have it! Some of the basic ways I would change Doctor Who.
(It’s already pretty great, don’t get me wrong. Don’t mean to imply that it needs to be changed. Just having fun.)
What would YOU do with Doctor Who?
Why start a post about Deep Space Nine with a picture of Next Generation? Because I wouldn’t have started watching Deep Space Nine in the first place if I didn’t start watching Next Generation over the summer with my mother.
Yes, my mother is a Trekkie. She only reads science fiction books and science magazines. She is a woman after my own heart.
So we watched the first season of Next Generation, probably not the best season of the show, and a lot of it was cheesy and silly, but overall it renewed my enthusiasm for science fiction as a storytelling medium. For the love of God, why is there no space opera on tv right now? If Abrams can start a million other tv shows, then he can certainly start another Trek! And I’m not talking about the movies – they’re too infrequent to sate my palate for button-upped spacefaring adventure.
Except that Deep Space Nine isn’t button-upped. People call it gritty, because it shows that life in the Trek universe isn’t all lens flares and neat cuffs. And there’s very little spacefaring.
But the main thing that struck me about Deep Space Nine?
The diversity in the casting.
Pretty diverse, right? If a show started this season with this level of diversity, I’d pretty sure I’d wet myself – first with surprise, then with happiness. And yet, this is a show that started airing when I was five.
Well, the title of my post makes it sound like I have some profound things to say about the current state of diversity on television.
I just think it’s weird, that’s all, that this should be such a surprise to me. I should see casts like this all the time. Ideally.
Right now, Sinbad is the most diverse thing I can think of – but that’s necessitated because of the setting, and somehow there’s still a lot of white people, which annoys me because it doesn’t seem likely.
A lot of people have made a big deal out of the fact that we genderbent and racebent Watson. And I don’t want to diminish the fact that it’s cool. But I’m also depressed that this shocks us so much. And that so many people on the Interwebs are convinced that this means the downfall of Watson forever.
Dude, do you know who Lucy Liu is?!
She is my favorite
Anyway, you’re never going to be able to fully represent the entire spectrum of humanity in a single story. I acknowledge that. And it’s important to note that the casting on Deep Space Nine isn’t ideal: only two women, and both white? Nor do I think that Deep Space Nine handles issues of gender particularly well: there are moments of enlightenment, in that both female characters are awesome – but there’s also a character whose sexual harassment is treated as harmless and amusing because haha sexual harassment lol.
Irregardless, I want more of this thing that we apparently had twenty years ago. By which I mean space opera. And diversity.
Seriously, he is hot
I get into these genre moods where I crave a particular type of story: swords and sorcery, cyberpunk, plucky detective, ect.
Well, a few weeks ago I got into plucky detective hardcore, so I marathoned a lot of shows that I wouldn’t normally watch, such as The Killing and The Mentalist.
But I think my favorite new show was this British drama called Vera.
Vera is the Detective Chief Inspector in Northumberland Country, which is apparently a county in England – a beautiful county, with lush green grass and appropriately moody landscape (it’s always on the verge of a rainstorm). Along with her young colleague Joe, she solves crimes.
I find that different genres tend to represent different themes more heavily. For example, a story about dragon slaying is going to have a major theme of overcoming difficult obstacles. Similarly, mysteries are often less about the mystery and more about a psychological exploration of the detective. For example, that’s why I tune into the lackluster mysteries of Psych – I’m there for the antics of Shawn and Gus, not the intellectual acrobats of the plot. Monk is about Monk, not the dead body.
For a mystery series to hook me, the detective has to compel and interest me. I want to know why this person is inherently more important and interesting than anyone else solving crimes.
On that count, Vera definitely delivers.
Let’s start with the immediately evident thing: Vera is a middle-aged lady who’s put on a pound or two – and she’s the hero. Unfortunately, that means she’s a rare bird. In many ways, she reminds me of a modern-day Miss Marple.
Vera is slightly more realistic than other detective shows because there’s no gimmick for the lead detective. She just works very hard and she has a lot of experience and she’s very intelligent, not in a cartoonish genius way but a she’s-probably-good-at-puzzles sort of way.
Honestly though, I don’t think I’d like Vera if I met her in real life.
She’s cranky and mean-tempered and not particularly wise, given her age, and she condescends to her younger colleagues all the time. She’s emotionally selfish and surprisingly bad at reading other people – for example, there’s an episode where she’s coming to terms with living alone, where she has a telling exchange with her colleague Joe, because she’s talking so much about herself that she fails to see that he’s trying to ask her to be the godmother for his child. That brings me to her greatest flaw (in my opinion), which is that Vera is a self-imposed hermit who doesn’t realize her isolation is self-imposed. I’m not saying that her life isn’t hard, given the nature of her job, but she falls into the cognitive trap of failing to count her blessings.
If this sounds like someone you don’t particularly want to spend time with, I understand. After perusing the Internet, I found a lot of people who found her annoying. Personally, I find her fascinating. She’s flawed but heroic, which is my favorite combination. Honestly, I kind of wonder if she would receive the same reception as a male character – House is way worse and he remained pretty popular throughout his run.
If you don’t like Vera, then you might like Joe. Because every Sherlock needs a Watson.
Joe is Vera’s son surrogate, although personally I think the actors have a strange sexual chemistry with each other onscreen (and I might be the only person on the planet who feels that way). He’s a great foil for Vera, likable in all the ways the Vera is unlikable. In another show, he would be the main character – and I love the idea that the dashingly handsome perfect hero is the sidekick to the older, out-of-shape woman who also happens to be brilliant at her job.
Did I mention dashingly handsome?
So that’s my television recommendation for the day! If you like quirky detectives, then you might like Vera.