This was a prompt by [personal profile] endeni; a comparison which wouldn't have occured to me. Though when I think about it, I can see some parallels. To start with some technical trivia: DS9's key writers - Ira Behr, Ron Moore, Hans Beimler - had all started out and graduated, so to speak, on TNG, but became far more influential in the spin-off. AtS similarly started out with several Buffy writers - David Greenwalt being the most important one for the first three seasons, after which he left, but also David Fury and later Steven DeKnight -, though it's important to note that the writer who in retrospect, taking all five seasons into account, had been the most crucial one, Tim Minear, had never worked on BTVS. (I'm open for a Greenwalt versus Minear debate, of course, as to who was more responsible for sharping AtS.) Both Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Angel: The Series were spin-offs, and their "mother shows", so to speak (TNG as well as TOS here for DS9), were more widely watched and popular at the time, while the spin-offs were generally regarded as darker and more serialized.

Mind you: the cliché that TNG was the fluffy reset button show to DS9's serialized and serious storytelling is as wrong as claiming Angel was darker than Buffy in general. Point in question: AtS' third season ran in tandem to Buffy's sixth. If you watched both, you know what I'm getting at here. AtS at least until Wesley got his throat cut looked downright frivolous by comparison to season 6 of BtVS. And TNG started to ongoing relationships and actual consequences in a Trek show thing; they didn't do it as consequently as DS9 was to do later, but pioneers rarely do. Still, as with every cliché that in its exaggaration is wrong, there's also a part that's true.

DS9, even in its early seasons where there were far more one shot episodes than later, was by the very nature of its set up different and darker. The Enterprise could come and go and was elsewhere the next week. DS9 was a space station next to a planet which had been suffering through a brutal occupation for 60 years, which was a forming influence to one of the regulars - who'd turn out to be in many way the key regular of the show, Kira Nerys -, which meant an ongoing situation even before new problems showed up. Its leading character, Benjamin Sisko, started out as a grieving widower and as a father with his son. (Picard had had tragedies in his life pre show, like the loss of the Stargazer and Jack Crusher's death, but they weren't something as defining the character from the get go as Sisko's losses and his relationship to his son were.) Kira's struggle to reconcile her freedom fighter/terrorist (this pre 9/11 show used both terms) past with her present were as ongoing as her relationships with various Cardassians, her former mortal enemies. Dax was a centuries old symbiotic being. O'Brien's past with Cardassians influences him in the present, even Bashir, the archetypical young freshman type among the regulars, turns out to have had a past and a secret. Among the recurring characeters, there's notably Garak, and Garak's gradually revealed past, the reasons for his exile on DS9 and the ways in which he did and didn't try to end it - you could say DS9, from the outset, had among other themes the way its characters past formed, burdened and even partially broke them in varying degrees, and how this influenced their present.

Angel from the beginning wanted to be something other than BTVS, version II, and succeeded (in season 1 there is still a sense of the writers trying to find their feet, but from the get go, the show does have its own voice), and one of the ways in which it did this was by a similar past/present situation. Of course, it had at its main character a centuries old vampire with an extremely bloody past and not a teenager trying to have a future, but this thematic treatment was true not just for Angel himself. "The past, she doesn't let go, does she?"' asks the short lived Doyle in the first half of the first season, and no, it doesn't. Doyle has something to atone for and does so promptly since he's quickly written out for, forgive the pun, Doylist reasons. But so does his successor, Wesley, who becomes as key to what AtS became as Kira does on DS9. Wesley on BTVS had been primarily used as a comic relief character in season 3 where he was introduced, but what happened to him then - failing his first assignment as a Watcher, falling out with the Council - is what he carries with him into AtS where it has far more long term results. When Wesley first shows up mid s1 he's still prone to comic relief scenes. But before the season is over, he'll have been tortured by Faith and then offered the choice of handing her over and getting his Watcher status back, which he refuses. Which is still but a prologue given that the show overall has in store for Wesley. Even Cordelia, the youngest of the original regulars, has her past as a reigning and very skillfully cruel high school queen as something to make up for. Of the later regular additions, Gunn is forced to stake his sister who has been turned in to a vampire in his introduction, and Fred has spent years in an alternate dimension that caused her to go ever so slightly mad. Again, as with DS9, the very nature of the set up means that dealing with your past (or running away from it, but even then it usually shows up to haunt you) is something ingrained in the regulars.

Another shared trait: while the "mother shows" , TNG and BTVS, do keep their basic set up formula, the spin-offs don't as a shift happens. By which I mean: yes, Buffy & Co. leave high school after season 3, and, say, season 1 and season 6 are very, very different. But Buffy being the Slayer, needing the save the world, struggling to unite this with living in it as a teenager and then young woman, that stays. TNG at the end has put its regulars through some significant changes - Picard and his Borg experience, also Picard's changing relationship to his crew, Worf and fatherhood, plus he's in a new relationship with Deanna Troi as the show ends, the difference between Data in the pilot and Data at the end is highlighted by the three eras nature of the show finale - but the "Enterprise encounters problem, solves problem, moves on" set up did not change. Meanwhile, DS9's last three seasons are about the building and then erupting Dominion War (while there had been wars in the backstory of TOS and TNG characters, present day war for longer than an episode, at the end of which it was successfully stopped, was unheard of and hugely controversial at the time because it touched on a core ST premise, that the Federation Utopia was strong enough to prevent things from escalating this far). As for the original stated goal, Sisko, who in the pilot was charged with bringing Bajor into the Federation, not only ended up outright rejecting this (for prophecy reasons) but ended the dilemma betwen being the Emissary and a Starfleet officer by ending to be the later and becoming a sort of divine entity. (This wasn't Sisko's idea, I hasten to add, there were plot reasons, I know. Still: miles away from what he started out to do.) With AtS, the "redemption through saving people" premise from the start gradually drew in the background; not that the character stopped helping people, but season 4, the most serialized of the AtS seasons where one episode was directly followed by the next, had at its core a father/son tragedy where saving ended up only possible through a massive deception/selling out, while season 5 had altered the original format so radically that the characters started by running the chief antagonist's business and ended up triggering another apocalypse.

Now, none of this means that the spin-offs were Frank Miller style grimdark. They had comedy epsiodes, they had their regulars fond of banter and bickering throughout. (AtS wasn't afraid to put something like The Girl in Question, which made relentless fun of two of its male regulars, Angel and Spike, and included an affectionate dig at one of the mother show's most famous tragic scenes beside, only three episodes before the apocalyptic finale and after one of the regulars had already died.) (Meanwhile, the less said about DS9's THe Emperor's New Cloak in season 7, the better. Love s7, but not that episode.) But there was certainly a general darker streak and pessimisim about happy endings at work than the mother shows, by and large, subscribed to. None of this makes one better than the other. That was just the glory of them: that they could coexist in their fictional verses, offering the viewers not an either/or, but a both/and to watch.


December Talking Meme: The Other Days
(B)eside him on the settee was a brand which he had brought up in the shape of a slim, flame-like young woman with a pale, intense face, youthful, and yet so worn with sin and sorrow that one read the terrible years which had left their leprous mark upon her.

This is Arthur Conan Doyle's Kitty Winter, from the story The Adventure of the Illustrious Client. Kitty Winter in Elementary retains some of these elements - the intensity, her backstory containing the traumatic abuse by a man -, but since she's not living in Victorian times (or in our times surrounded by jerks), she's not regarded as "ruined" because of this. And so far, the way she deals with her backstory does not include vigilantism. Instead, she's channeling her anger and energy by being a detective in training.

Spoilers for the third season so far beneath the cut )

December Talking Meme: The Other Days
In a show with a premise that's essentially a fanfiction multicrossover and gleeful celebration of tropes and archetypes, both Victorian and current day, (Sir) Malcolm Murray (the show never says, but I'm assuming he got knighted for his explorations, as opposed to being born a baronet) owes his existence to several sources. For starters, he's Mina Murray's of Dracula fame OC father - I think both of Mina's parents are mentioned as dead in the novel, but it's been a while since I've read it so could be wrong. In any event, they don't show up. Like the most frowned upon OCs, Malcolm partially ursurps a canon character's role (gathering the vampire-fighting gang together is canonically Van Helsing's job), but for all that his family connection is with Dracula, the character himself is actually far more connected to another type of late Victorian sensational novel and reality. Think Allan Quatermain and Henry Rider Haggard. Malcolm is, among other things, a deconstruction/variation of the White Explorer, hero in Victorian times and mostly cast as villain in current day eyes.

it gets spoilery from this point onwards )

December Talking Meme: The Other Days
I first consciously noticed this one during The Miller's Daughter in season 2, but it's impossible to talk about without spoilers, and thus I shall employ the protective cut post haste.

Spoilers, spoilers on the wall )
I'm fond of most of the Old and New Who Companions, in varying degrees. But yes, I do have my favourites. And as far as New Who is concerned, Donna Noble is my absolute favourite, still. Which doesn't mean I don't like/love the others as well, or that I'm going for a "best of" title, because I think that's ridiculous. But she was and is the New Who Companion who resonated most with me.

This started during her first appearance, in the Christmas special The Runaway Bride. Now back then, reaction was mixed. Some, like me, liked Donna. Others complained she was too shrill, too shouty. (A commenter once told me this was entirely due to the first ten minutes of the special, one long slap stick and action sequence - during which, yes, both Donna and the Doctor shout. Which is followed by the wonderful quiet rooftop sequence, btw.) In any event, she was only a one time guest star, or so it seemed, until after the end of season 3 world got around Donna would be back. Given how popular she was by the time season 4 ended, and how great the outcry about the manner of her departure, it's worth remembering this was by no means greated by universal cheer (though I certainly cheered). The British SFX even called her "the most controversial companion since Bonnie Langford" (this was not a compliment), which mostly seemed to be biased on Catherine Tate's comedienne persona, and, once again, the idea of Donna in The Runaway Bride as "shrill. In retrospect, I suspect RTD might have anticipated this, because the first two episodes of s4 are showcases of Catherine Tate's range, from the superb comic timing in the season opener (the silent mimic scene between her and the Doctor being but one case in point, and who cares if RTD cribbed from himself in Casanova, where there's also a silent mimic scene between a David Tennant character and the female lead?) to the dramatic chops in Fires of Pompeii where she has to go to a place where she shares the responsibility for thousands of deaths with the Doctor? Mind you, the entire season 4 is a showcase for Catherine Tate's range, and the naysayers quickly grew silent. Today, sharing the Donna love is definitely a majority thing.

And it remains irresistable to me. Donna was the first New Who Companion neither a girl nor a young woman in her 20s, but at least in her 30s, and one with a figure unlike the slender models to come, which she was utterly comfortable with. (Her insecurities were about other things.) She was loud and brash, yes, and tended to voice what she felt immediately, whether it was joy or fear, compassion or dislike. She loved talking. Which didn't mean she wasn't also a good listener (ask Agatha Christie). She could be oblivious, and she could be insightful. While she had never had a steady job - something which definitely did belong in the insecurities department and contributed to the stressful relationship with her mother - , she was really creative in putting all those years as a temp to creative use everywhere in the galaxy.

And she made a wonderful friend. Part of it was the Tate 'n Tennant chemistry and timing with each other - these were definitely actors who just clicked in a best buddies way - but part was also the way the Doctor and Donna relationship was written from their first outing onwards. She wasn't interested in him romantically, or vice versa, which was a welcome first in New Who; whether arguments or hugs, she gave as good as she got. They were mates exploring the univese together, and I wished it would never end while constantly aware that Catherine Tate had only signed on for one season. The manner in wich it did end is its own controversy, which I have absolutely no desire to revive in a post meant to celebrate Donna. So I will only say this: after having watched Donna Noble be her wonderful self through 13 episodes and a special, I had no doubt she would continue to be extraordinary even with missing memories and on earth. I still don't. Because Donna? Is too vivacious, brave, compassionate, funny and too much plain alive to be anything else.


December Talking Meme: The Other Days
Disclaimer: I haven't had the chance to watch the latest OuaT episode yet, so please don't spoil me for it in the comments. Also, it's been years since I read the Potter saga, so any inaccuracy is due to memory failure, and I apologize in advance.

This said, I love this prompt. It's not an obvious comparison, but if you think about it, the two do have their parallels. (And contrasts, obviously.)

Which are spoilery for all of the Harry Potter novels and seasons 1- 4.10 of Once Upon a Time )




December Talking Meme: The Other Days
Naturally, the reply contains lots of spoilers for The Americans seasons 1 and 2. But none for season 3. I am unspoiled and would lilke to remain so, so if you know anything, don't tell me.

Spies like them )



December Talking Meme: The Other Days
Looking back at BSG with some distance: a couple both remarkable for what they aren't and for what they are, and still very unusual in any fandom. Let's start with what they aren't which will make it clear what I'm getting at. In the original Battlestar Galactica, Baltar is an unambiguous megalomaniac villain, selling humanity out for power to the Cylons, who are just as unambiguously bad. There is no Six; there is the discreetly named Lucifer, who is most certainly not in love with Baltar.

Spoilers for four seasons of reimangined Battlestar Galactica ensue )

December Talking Meme: The Other Days
Among of its many virtues, Manhattan has this: enough female characters so that none of them has to bear the burden of being The Girl, i.e. the sole presentative of women in the narrative, whose actions and story are therefore read as somehow standing for the writers' opinions about all women, instead of simply the story of one particular woman. Liza Winters and Abby Isaacs are two of several, and thus each of their stories can be taken on its own value.

Their stories are of course spoilery for the first season of MANHATTAN )
Aka the post I thought I'd written a long time ago. When I was prompted, however, I checked the tags, and it seems while I've written about the episodes themselves and individual aspects of AtS, Season 4 - for example my lengthy Connor essay (though that one covers bits of s3 and s5 as well for obvious reasons) - I haven't yet put my thoughts as to why this particular season of Angel: The Series is on my opinion the best in one coherent post.

To be precise, the prompt asked for a defense of season 4, which implies it is still maligned. (I haven't kept up with the fandom.) But see, DEFENSE to me implies throwing yourself in front of a bedraggled bleeding child, whereas season 4 to me is a well armed, shiny and lethally beautiful goddess able to defend herself by just being that awesome. Now read on! )
Or, as [personal profile] intriguing put it when prompting, the TARDIS's relationship with the Doctor and what her POV might be.

Now, before I get down to details about this most quintessential of Doctor Who ships (in every sense of the word), first a word about which canon I'll acknowledge. Not the novels, because I haven't read a single one. Not the audios, because while I love me some Big Finish - and sometimes more than the tv show - , the audio canon on the Doctor and the TARDIS includes Zagreus, and I just can't cope with the state of affairs between the Doctor and the TARDIS in Zagreus. (They have a temporary very bitter breakup. This is just not on.) Also Zagreus has the TARDIS being downright misogynistic, disliking the female Companions as rivals, which is also not on. (Other audios don't have that, though she does dislike one specific female Companion, Charley, for which there are Reasons.) In conclusion: as far as the TARDIS and the Doctor are concerned, I accept only tv canon.

Of which there is plenty, all 40 something years of it, and more recently even includes an episode in which the TARDIS does get to voice her pov, the sublime The Doctor's Wife, written by Neil Gaiman. (Which is probably while the TARDIS, temporarily trapped in a human body, has some slight resemblance to Delirium of the Endless.) Stating categorically that as far as she's concerned, the Doctor, aka her Thief, didn't steal her, she stole him, and she's not intending to give him back, ever. Basically, they chose each other, the Doctor and the TARDIS, all the way back in Gallifrey. They were both looked at as somewhat disrepetubable embarassments by the Time Lords for the majority of DW canon, too; practically every other Time Lord in Old Who canon refers to the Doctor's TARDIS disdainfully as an old fashioned model that should have been out of circulation eons ago. As for their opinion on the Doctor's driving skills... speaking of which, in One's day the Doctor has almost no control over the TARDIS' destinations at all, and this changes throughout the show until the present where he can do precision landings. Not that this always works; ask little Amelia Pond. Which brings me to the part in The Doctor's Wife where Eleven says somewhat accusingly to the TARDIS that she's not very reliable and she returns that while she didn't always bring him to where he wanted to go, she always brought him to where he needed to be, which he acknowledges to be true. This, in combination with the fact that the TARDIS is always aware of present, past and future simultanously would indicate that she does have her own agenda as to where to help and where to stay away from. Did she always, even during the days of the First Doctor? Possibly; she already was an out of date model then, i.e. older than the Doctor, who was for all his physical looks still young for a Time Lord, and learning. Whichever is the case, I find this very important in their relationship. The Doctor/Companion relationships all have some give and take, some are more balanced than others, but Romana - who as a Time Lady can steer the TARDIS - aside, the fact remains the Doctor is as Rose Tyler puts it in her second episode "the designated driver", which automatically makes them reliant on him to get home (or not), or anywhere. But in his relationship with the TARDIS, it's the other way around. Ultimately, she decides where they go (or not). He can't do anything against her will.

If the Doctor's relationship with his people is highly ambiguos, consisting of running away and being anything from a criminal on trial to the very temporary President to their destruction to their savior and back and forth, I'd say the TARDIS's relationship to the other Time Lords is even more so. For starters, they intended to retire her and never let her go anywhere else before she ever met the Doctor. And when the Second Doctor is captured by the other Time Lords, forced to regenerate and partially mindwiped to ensure he won't be able the TARDIS to time travel for the duration of his exile, the TARDIS herself is similarly treated. For the majority of the Third Doctor's era, she's crippled, though he tries relentlessly to repair her. (Mind you, their symbiotic relationship and shared exile sufferings don't exclude the Doctor cheating on her for the first and last time of his lives. Whatever the TARDIS made of that fling with Bessie, though, we don't know.) I could see the TARDIS minding the non-existence of other Time Lords post Time War mainly for the Doctor's sake, not because she actually cares for the species (and given her awareness of all eras at the same time, it's even possible she knows they're not really extinct). Though the lack of other TARDISes is another matter; when she sees their remains in The Doctor's Wife, she calls them her sisters and is visibly shaken.

(Sidenote: other TARDISes spotted in Old Who - who did have a functioning Chameleon circuit - don't show up enough to display personality or allow a guess as to their relationships with the Time Lords. Though I will say the Rani's TARDIS wins easily for "most elegant looking", which fits the Rani. Also the Master uses his TARDIS for something the show actually calls a "Time Ram" - I kid you not - parking it interlocked with the Doctor's TARDIS in order to mess with the Doctor in "The Time Monster". How "our" TARDIS felt about that one, no one can tell, but if she ever was sentimental about the Master, which I doubt, she certainly wasn't anymore after he put her through being a paradox machine.)

The Doctor and the TARDIS are both (more or less) unique and the last of their kind in New Who, which only heightens their bond. Does it also reduce the TARDIS' options? Not necessarily. True, if she ever grew tired of the Doctor, it's not like she can have her pick among other Time Lords, but then she didn't have that in Old Who, either, because, see above re: disdain. Whereas the existence of River Song in New Who proves that the child of two humans can mutate into a being enough like a Time Lord to both regenerate and to steer the TARDIS, whereas Journey's End demonstrates "normal" humans, several of them, can steer the TARDIS as well if shown how. So it remains the TARDIS' choice to stay with the Doctor, as he stays with her. Bad Wolf at the end of Parting of the Ways is an amalgan of Rose and the TARDIS, and it's as much the TARDIS' desire to save the Ninth Doctor as it is Rose's that drives her. (I'd say the kiss as energy transfer is also driven by both.) Whereas when the TARDIS is almost gone in the middle of the following season, the Tenth Doctor provides her with a part of his own life energy to revitalize her. It's a more blatant and literal visualisation of their bond than in Old Who, but its existence is nothing new.

So if the TARDIS sees the Doctor as hers - which, going by "my Doctor" in Parting of the Ways and "my Thief" in The Doctor's Wife, she does -, what does she make of the Companions? Also hers? Rivals? Friends? Moving furniture? I'd say it depends on a case to case basis, speaking solely from tv canon. She and the Doctor don't necessarily agree on aesthetic preferences (see "Rory is the pretty one?!?" from Eleven in The Doctor's Wife, in a scene which btw also demonstrates the TARDIS doesn't necessarily think of the Companions by name; names generally don't seem to be her thing). The fanon says she has a particular soft spot for River Song, and I can certainly see why; River was conceived in the TARDIS who presumably is co-responsible for her Time Lord resembling biology, and the TARDIS certainly always is there to save her when required, with the exception of little Melody but that's another season 6 plot problem. Otoh there are two examples where the Doctor says the TARDIS reacts hostile to a Companion; Immortal!Jack Harkness in Utopia and Clara in the second half of season 7. The TARDIS-Clara aversion was brought up a couple of times but never went anywhere as a plot point; I strongly suspect it was simply thrown in to make Clara more mysterious since the point where it was dropped entirely was as soon as we got the explanation for why various versions of Clara had shown up before. On a Watsonial level, I can fanwank that the TARDIS was aware of Clara splitting up into various selves at one point in her timeline and that this felt to her as unnatural as Jack's being a fixed point in time does. Of course, I've seen plenty of fans declare Ten is simply projecting when saying "even the TARDIS ran from you" to Jack in Utopia, which is possible, but it's worth noting that the TARDIS takes off before the Doctor even regenerates in Parting of the Ways (but after having made Jack immortal in the first place), and that she certainly didn't make any effort to drop the Doctor back into his timeline before Utopia. Would it be unfair for the TARDIS to react against a condition she herself is responsible for? Absolutely, just like it's unfair from the Doctor to avoid Jack until Utopia and even there until they end up talking in the radiation chamber. But then, would a flawless being without any faults and biases pick the Doctor, who certainly has both in his various incarnations, to travel with and bond herself to? I doubt it.

Generally, I get the impression the TARDIS is fine with the Companions living and travelling with her, but that she's not invested enough to miss them once they're gone. Does she see them as competition for the Doctor? Nah. They have such short life spans (Romana and now Jack aside), and besides, they communicate with him so differently. It's a bit like imagining one partner in a marriage being jealous of their spouses' toys or pets. Which can happen, yes, but it's hardly the norm or even very likely if the marriage is strong.

Which it is. Note that I say "strong", not "healthy". The Doctor and the TARDIS are the picture of co-dependency. The show has given us some alternate time lines where the Doctor is truly dead. Both in Turn Left and The Night of the Doctor, the TARDIS responded to this by slowly dying herself. Not because no one else could travel with her (see above); because she evidently chose not to continue without him, if he was truly irretrievable. He's her Thief, and she won't ever give him back. Or up.

ETA: And of course I have to include the canonical Doctor/TARDIS song:



The December Talking Meme: the other days
selenak: (The Americans by Tinny)
( Sep. 16th, 2014 11:22 am)
More The Americans observations and meta, I'm afraid. The above sentiment is a statement voiced in both seasons, both times by a Jennings in conversation with a Beeman, but the context is quite different. (And the differences say something about the characters in question at their respective points in time.) Still, it occured to me that if Buffy the Vampire Slayer in its first three seasons did the "High School is Hell" concept literally, i.e. teenagedom with literal demons, you could say The Americans by marrying, sorry about the pun, the spy show/cold war concept to an ongoing exploration of marriage, partnerships and family (if marriage is hard, family is harder - "nothing prepares you for them growing up", one mother tells another in the s2 opener) uses the spy tropes like BTVS does the demons. In this world, lies and secrets between partners can have lethal consequences, and teenagers growing up who see their parents as hypocrites because they insist on truthfulness while being liars themselves are having an avarage teenage experience written flamboyantly large because of the context of the lies in question.

What makes and breaks a partnership, what makes and breaks a marriage (not always the same thing): love actually isn't the deciding factor (though it's certainly important). Spoilers are following - or tailing? )
selenak: (The Americans by Tinny)
( Sep. 11th, 2014 10:01 am)
Having marathoned the show only a few weeks ago, and despite real life business, I'm rewatching it already. In reverse order, first s2 and now s1. I can't help it! The Americans has two ingredients that ensure its hooks in me: more than one or two interesting characters, and the central relationship as something I can't help but get invested in, not least because whatever the romantic state of affairs between Elizabeth and Philip, they always have each other's backs as partners, and that's something you so rarely see in tv m/f relationships. Also, rewatching with the new knowledge of later events always makes you notice things you missed or didn't pay that much attention to the last time around; makes you judge what remained internally consistent and what didn't. Shows in the pilot and early episodes are still finding their feet, and I find it fascinating, from a writing pov, to try and figure out what comes across as planned (true or not) and what as improvised.

Spoilery thoughts from here on )
No new Clone adventure to contemplate today, so a few thoughts on why season 2 as a whole - while offering many good things - didn't work as well as s1 for me.

it's all about the focus or lack of same )


Other fandoms:


Penny Dreadful:

Short but very interesting interview with Timothy Dalton about a certain scene in 1.05 and the Vanessa-Malcolm relationship in general.


Star Trek:

We learned the sea : beautiful love declaration to the various shows (TOS, TNG, DS9, Voy), their captains, and their relationships.
selenak: (Cora and Rumpel by Hewontgo)
( Apr. 24th, 2014 10:32 am)
Having rewatched The Miller's Daughter in light of 3.18., I take back my assessment of the later as being great despite some clunky retcons, because actually, the new revelations fit with the old ones surprisingly well and even add to some of the characters' interactions if you go back and watch it.

Spoilery thoughts for both eps )
Rewatching the first half of s1 in the light of current events is fascinating. It also made me want to committ meta, spoilery for both seasons as broadcast so far.

Nice town you've picked, Norma )
Taking a break from my Yuletide reading to resume December Meme duties, to talk about today’s requested topic.

Just about the first thing you have to explain to people who never read Mary Shelley’s novel is that Frankenstein (first name Victor) is the name of the creator, not of the monster, that’s how much the Universal movie icon came to dominate pop culture consciousness. (Though Boris Karloff’s character isn’t called Frankenstein in the two Whale films, either.) Mind you, today I just probably exempt Benedict Cumberbatch and/or Johnny Lee Miller and/or Danny Boyle fans, since Boyle’s stage production starring these two actors switching between the roles is very much based on the novel, not the movies.

So, the novel. Very much a product of the Romantic era, with its author being the daughter of two revolutionary philosophers, book-obsessed, and already with some traumatic events in her own nineteen years old life behind her. Starting with her mother, the feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, having died shortly after her birth. There is a notable absence of mothers in “Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus” - the full title of the novel – safe in a nightmare, Victor F. embracing the rotting corpse of his dead mother. And of course the whole premise is an all male act of creation turning into a nightmare birth sequence, with the second attempt – when Frankenstein comes near creating the woman his first creation requested, and then destroys her just before completion, deciding this is the responsible thing to do – a miscarriage, an abortion or horror of the female form, however you want to interpret it. Mary Shelley – at this point still Mary Godwin, Shelley’s first wife still being alive – would lose all but one of her children, and the death of the first one wasn’t far away. Her older half sister Fanny, her mother’s illegitimate daughter, would kill herself, if I recall correctly (though I haven’t looked it up and may misremember).

But Victor Frankenstein isn’t a mother. He’s a father, and a pretty rotten one. It’s not surprising that the character who changes most in the adaptions tends to be Frankenstein. With the caveat of the major, major change James Whale made when letting Karloff’s monster be inarticulate in the first of his two films and only capable of a few words in the second; Mary Shelley’s monster learns to speak, read and write in true Rousseau fashion, by observing the family he’s, unknown to them, hiding with and narrates a third of the novel in first person. The principle of the monster not starting out evil, only horrid to look at, but turning violent as the result of the universal hatred he meets remains. (Mary Shelley starts her novel with a quote from Paradise Lost, created reminding creator he didn’t ask to be made.) Frankenstein, on the other hand, can be an obsessive amoral scientist not caring about victims when played by Peter Cushing in the Hammer horror movies, or a well intentioned and misled obsessive scientist in the Universal horror movies, or, in Kenneth Branagh’s adaption a noble scientist eager to defeat the death who took his mother and who makes a fatal mistake when abandoning his creation, but is excused from this mostly by illness and trying to make up for it later. This isn’t just cinematic convention but something of a necessity when adapting the book; Victor Frankenstein in the novel is one of those characters who may have been intended as sympathetic but effectively never is, all high flown Romantic language and callous behavior, abhorring his creation for looks alone the moment it becomes animated, not daring to reveal the truth even when Justine dies for it (but expecting to be the one deserving pity for this), managing to make the one attempt to actually do something for the being he created into yet another disaster, and then somehow missing the point of the “I’ll be with you in your wedding night” threat by immediately proposing to Elizabeth and leaving her alone in said wedding night, looking for the monster.
I say “may have been intended as sympathetic”, because I can’t be sure. Mary gave a third of the novel to the monster to narrate, after all, making his case quite fervently (also, the one still alive at the end of the book isn’t Victor, though the monster announces the intention of suicide); and her own father had disowned her for practicing his own philosophical principles by running away with Shelley (whose money he however was quite eager to take). And then, there may have been an ambivalence in her not only about parents and children and the act of creation but also about romantic heroes; Shelley had already tried to get her in a three way situation with one of his friends en route to Switzerland, which hadn’t been her idea of free love, and she had an illustration of what can happen if you crush on someone who just sees you as a brief diversion by her stepsister Claire and Byron.

The big confrontation between Frankenstein and the Creature which starts with Frankenstein being outraged about his brother’s and Justine’s death and ends with him promising to create a mate for the Creature after the later had accused Frankenstein in turn is one of the novel’s highlights and the one where I’m sure we’re meant to sympathize with the Creature the way we do. Incidentally, my favourite adaption of this isn’t in any of the Frankenstein movies but in Blade Runner - the scene where the android Roy Batty meets his maker. “I want more life”, yes indeed.

The idea of a man-created humanoid becoming a monster and/or demanding justice has haunted sci fi and fantasy ever since Mary wrote it. And I think it will do so for quite a while yet. It’s the most powerful legacy of the novel, and I wish, between all those dead children, Shelley and her father, she could have known.
Full subject title, which Semagic didn't accept was: Forget about it: Magical solutions for Life, Universe and Everything by Regina and Willow. I swear this subject was given to me before a certain OuaT episode was broadcast. However, it's impossible to talk about without spoilers, so without further ado:

Spoilery musings on magic, issues, and memories )
For today, I was asked to talk about that Liverpool band I like so much. It's good to be reminded why, because like any other fandom, Beatles fandom comes with the downsides as well as the upsides: kerfuffles, the sense that people go on about the same old points and partisanship in the sense of not allowing any other pov. But every time, just when you reach the eye rolling point, you have a dicussion or find a gem that reminds you of the loveliness of shared enthusiasm, the bright side of fandom as well, luckily. Incidentally, not the least interesting aspect of Mark Lewisohn's three volume biography, the first of which just got published this year, is that he interviewed the very early fans as well - those around long before Beatlemania, when the Beatles were simply another teenage Northern band just barely out of school - and it made for some great stories about what it was like, getting enthusiastic about a rock'n roll band as a female teenager in the late 50s with your parents convinced this was the beginning of the end.

Now, what it all comes back to is the music, of course. The Beatles' first single got released in 1962, and they officially ended in 1970; in between that time, the sheer range of musical development and variety is breathtaking. Which is one reason why you have fans who only love the early tunes and fans of the "only the late Beatles are musically interesting" persuasion and anything in between. I appreciate the entire canon, so to speak, and I like that depending on my mood I have such a great variety of songs to choose from. It's not every day you want to be disturbed by She Said She Said or Helter Skelter, after all. Sometimes you'd rather be soothed by way of Let it Be or be irresistably cheered up by She Loves You. Or you are hiking in the mountains with friends and family and are in the mood for a Yellow Submarine singalong. (Don't ask.) Or you want a discussion about why Joe Cocker totally gets it wrong when making With a little help from my friends a throat tearing soul hymn instead of the casual mixture of mocking affection and pastiche it is when Paul and John wrote it for Ringo to sing. Truth is, I might not always be in the mood of active fandom but there hasn't been a time in my life, no matter whether happy or miserable, when a Beatles song or the other hasn't added something to it or helped.

(Two years ago, when I lost weight together with my mother, I brought Revolver along, and my mother asked me since when I was into those ghastly techno bands. "Mum," quoth I, shocked, "first of all, this is not techno, and secondly, these are the Beatles." "No, they are not!" she said determinedly. Turns out she missed the entire psychedelic phase in the mid 60s, though she did recognize Eleanor Rigby. Anyway, I can assure you listening to George Harrison complaining about having to pay a gigantic amount of tax in Taxman is helpful to losing weight if you're me.)

The great musical variety, of course, is the result of various lucky circumstances, including having an awesome producer ready to go with experiments, George Martin, but most of all the result of having not one but three great composers, even if the third one didn't come really into his own until the last two years of the band. And of having not one but three vocalists. And of having Ringo as a drummer, both because of the drumming (it's quite satisfying to read Lewisohn establishing once and for all that Ringo pre-Beatles really was one of the top drummers in Liverpool and they were lucky to get him), and because he was in many ways the glue balancing three egos together.

The band dynamics are of course another case for fascination. The pre-Beatles cases of world superstardom were mainly solo singers - Sinatra and Elvis Presley mainly - and for that matter, that goes for post-Beatles cases as well: Michael Jackson. If there was a band, there was a clear leader, and a clear hierarchy. But not for the Beatles. Now the Beatles themselves, not agreeing on much in hindsight, always agreed on how lucky it was that when fame hit the way it did, it happened to the four of them. They weren't alone with the mass adoration, life in the goldfish bowl and corresponding almost inevitable change in friends and family to minions and courtiers. (Ringo once summed this phenomenon up thusly: In 1963 the attitude of my whole family changed. They treated me like a different person. One absolutely clear vision I had was round at my auntie's, where I'd been a thousand times before. We were having a cup of tea one night and somebody knocked the coffee table and my tea split into my saucer. Everyone's reaction was, 'He can't have that. We have to tidy up.' That would never have happened before. I thought then, 'Things are changing.' It was absolutely an arrow in the brain. Suddenly I was ‘one of those’, even within my family, and it was very difficult to get used to. I’d grown up and lived with these people and now I found myself in weirdland. Home and family were the two things I didn't want to change, because it had all changed 'out there' and we were no longer really sure who our friends were, unless we'd had them before the fame. The guys and the girls I used to hang about with I could trust. But once we'd become big and famous, we soon learnt that people were with us only because of the vague notoriety of being 'a Beatle'. And when this happened in the family, it was quite a blow. I didn't know what to do about it; I couldn't stand up and say, 'Treat me like you used to,' because that would be acting 'big time'.) Being four, not one, was a way to at least keep that bit of groundedness. Though like everything, it was a two-edged sword. There was also enormous group pressure. (For example, when Paul refused to take LSD for near two years.) And when things started to implode, you got the ugly in-fighting that happens when people know each other really, really well and know exactly where to hit.

One of the most famous descriptions of the late Beatles dynamic comes from Ray Connolly, who compared them to a classic dysfunctional family, absent deadbeat yet brilliant Dad (John), hard-working Mum keeping the family together but also perceived as nagging shrew for doing so (Paul), rebellious teenage son (George) and adorable toddler whom everyone loves (Ringo). This is a far cry of the public selves their audience was used to from A Hard Day's Night, when they they were sold as The Witty One, the Cute One, the Quiet One and the Funny One. It's also not how they themselves would have described themselves in either phase, other than the marriage/divorce metaphor, which was used already extensively in 1969 and 1970 when they split up by both John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Which is another reason why the whole Beatles story is interesting to me; it's very much a case of the Rashomon principle at work, depending on who tells it and who gets emphasized, and that holds doubly true if the person at the heart of the story is someone other than the Fab Four - say, Brian Epstein, their manager, or one of the wives. I like complex situations which can't get simplified to X was always right, and Y was always wrong, and I like messed up family dynamics; which is why the entire biographical situation still holds a certain fascination for me.

But really, it always comes back to the music. And the way it became a way to perceive reality to me. I can't see an old lady shuffling through the streets and not think of Eleanor Rigby, having a face that she keeps in a jar by the door. When I hear about parent/child disputes (of the none abusive type, I hasten to add!), generational conflicts, I hear She's Leaving Home, which manages to be simultanously on the side of the girl and present the point of view of the parents (which itself makes it clear why she left without the parents being demonized). When I'm in that strange state of not sleeping but also very tired, it's impossible not to think my mind is on the blink with appropriate chords. Submarines always let me down a bit due to not being yellow. Once there was a way to get back home. And well, some times, you've just got a hard day's night. :)
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Farscape newbies: this icon isn't showing Aeryn Sun, but Chiana. I don't have an Aeryn icon; she's one of those characters who always make me feel slightly guilty because they ought to be my favourite, and they're not. But I do like her a lot, and am happy to ramble on about her.

TV character wise, Aeryn Sun is in many ways a direct descendant of Susan Ivanova on Babylon 5 and Kira Nerys on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Not just for the general warrior woman archetype; Ivanova, Kira and Aeryn are all basically female Byronic heroes. They're the ones haunted by their part (and past guilt, in the case of two of them) while in the present presenting an every day cynicism, complete with sneer disguising inner vulnerability, being sexually attractive to many, when (except in Kira's case) in swoops a male wide eyed idealist who is openly emotional and cheerful in the way they are not. Of course, this is where the reversed gender Gothic novel pattern breaks down in all cases. Marcus Cole on B5, well, those are spoilers for another entry, and John Crichton while playing the wide eyed vulnerable duck out of water to Aeryn's tough warrior woman early in the show, he then proceeds to get broken in as many ways as the show can figure out to do (seriously, Farscape has to set some kind of record for male lead getting put through rape and torture tropes) and emerges, not surprisingly, a very screwed up if also very interesting being (most definitely not a wide-eyed naif anymore), while Aeryn gets more openly emotional by the season. By the time The Peacekeeper Wars, a two part film that thankfully got made after the show got cancelled abruptly, wraps up their story, they're in balance re: their degrees of past guilt, present toughness and vulnerability.

Aeryn is also, with the lamentable exception of season 4, a character with a rich set of relationships other than the one with John Crichton. Her being the product of a fascist society and adjusting to a different life while never losing part of what originally shaped her is very much part of her characterisation (insert here, as in many other things, "with the lamentable exception of season 4"). She starts out her story on the show being stuck on a ship with people who have every reason to resent her, to put it mildly, considering she used to be part of the force that imprisoned and maltreated them, and is now on Moya not because she wanted to leave but because they kicked her out. It's not an easy place to be in, but she starts to make it her place. Other than the one with Crichton, Aeryn Sun's main relationships on Moya are with Pilot (if you never watched the show: he's the one everyone is thinking of when saying "the Muppets will make you cry" to people who don't want to get into Farscape because two of the regular characters are created by Jim Henson's people - Pilot is the symbiotic being with multiple arms who steers the ship), with whom it turns out she shares a breathtakingly tragic backstory (that directly involves what Aeryn used to do in her fascist past), and with D'Argo, whom she bonds with on a warrior-to-warrior level that's delightful to watch and never has a breath of UST. Her most interesting relationships outside of Moya, the sentient, living ship she travels on, are with her former superior officer, Bialar Crais, and with a character who like Pilot is not human but no less a person because of that: Moya's child (yes, another sentient space ship - they're leviathans, deal) Talyn. Crais spends most of s1 as the main villain before we get to meet the guy who takes over that position for the next two seasons, which benefits no one as much as Crais, from a Doylist pov, because Villain!Crais is your avarage crazed bad guy, whereas after Scorpius shows up he becomes Morally Ambiguous!Crais who might or might not be on a path of redemption (you'll find out when you watch) and whose actions are often a wild card because you can't be certain of his loyalties.

More detailed spoilery talk under the cut )
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