Thursday, June 19, 2014

10th Doctor Retrospective(slight spoilers)

The 10th Doctor Retrospective

When the 9th Doctor came to an end, I was almost ready to call it quits on Doctor Who.  Its the American in me that does not like when "title" characters change on me.  After so many years of cult movies I liked getting different leads to play the same actor and being "shit", I did not like "my" Doctor changing.  Christopher Eccleston was the 9th Doctor and the first Doctor to keep me interested in Dr. Who.  He had a toiled past about him, and no matter how cheery he got, he was a little tortured inside over guilt about something.  Then, when we were finally getting answers, he left the show after only one season.  For those that do not know about Dr. Who, he is sort of like a Phoenix or a Trill(from Star Trek).  The Doctor gets reborn at the time of death into a new personality but with keeping the memories of the previous.  The 9th Doctor was taken far too early for my sense of story sensibilities.

The 10th Doctor came out cheery, silly, and only randomly did bad things.  The companion, Rose, seemed to abandon the thought of 9th Doctor very readily because this 10th Doctor was "dreamy".  I watched that season and I took a good long break.  The loss of Rose was the last link to 9th Doctor and the new companion from the Christmas Episode that year seemed like a real "pill".  If I had known how great the 10th Doctor's 2nd and 3rd year were going to be, I'd have watched them a lot sooner.

The 2nd and 3rd year of David Tennant as the Doctor are some of the best seasons of television I've ever seen.  They rank easily up there with Star Trek Next Gen's best.  The writing started taking into account Tennant as an actor, and Rose was replaced with a caring Martha.  Where as Rose was flighty and ditzy and played  alot of "stupid" and "school girl crush" jokes, Martha was intelligent and not quite so susceptible to closed doors(you Whovians know what I mean).  We got kickbacks to the original Who series with guest actors that played the parts they played in the 70's and 80's.  We got the wonderful Sarah Jane, arguably the most beloved woman on British TV, coming back so triumphantly she got her own spin off show.  And we had David Tennant.

David Tennant was perfect at showing a child-like wonder with Dr. Who.  Everything fascinated him.  In the 2nd and 3rd years, we met the other side as well.  David Tennant could make Dr. Who heartfelt.  This is why 10th Doctor has won me over.  Unlike Eccleston, things that happened with Tennant made me tear up.  Whenever he knew someone was going to die, he would say "I'm sorry, I'm so very sorry" and after you believed that he was sorry, you realized someone in the room was going to die and it would bring up tensions.  They are not shy to have people you care about die in the Tennant era of Doctor Who.  When things are revealed we are only as surprised as the Doctor, and Tennat did this very well.  He was right mix of serious, funny, and just enough Scottish to remind us of a Time Traveling James Bond.  He had the best portrayal of a mischievious person, but just like the Dumbledore you read in the books, or Gandalf being silly in the Shire, there's a hint of "everything is under control, I know what I'm doing".  In this post alone, I've compared Tennant to Gandalf, Dumbledore, and his story to the very best of Jean Luc Picard's Enterprise.  These are lofty places in nerdom, and I think he belongs there.

Oh and that companion we thought we dodged a bullet on after the Christmas Episode?  She was Donna Noble and Tennant made us care about her.  I was determined not to like the woman, and their work together was easily the most emotional of any in the series so far.  Do not even ask me how it happened, but I ended up liking Donna Noble even more than Rose Tyler.

The Tennant Era is one big huge story.  Almost every thing that happens actually is building to something and oh did it end in a wonderfully huge finale.  You might think that each season is self contained for the most part, as each season gets it own resolution and completion, but you're lulled into a false sense of "finish".  Tennant's era finishes with "The End of Time" and this two parter takes every major story line of Tennants era and gives it a send off the likes of which are usually only matched by series finales.  And that's a big difference to what we got with the 9th Doctor.  David Tennant got a send off, he got to say goodbye to everyone, and the show treated his leaving as the passing of a crown, as should befit the passing of a benevolent king.  The lasting quote of the 10th Doctor, "we must look like ants to you"  "oh no, to me you look like giants" is a great summation of the 10th Doctor.

So the 11th Doctor has shown up and like the 10th, he hasn't given me a very good impression.  We don't know what we're getting for a companion and we can't imagine Doctor Who without Tennant.  As I said before in an earlier daily post... that's core for Dr. Who and an experience you have to get used to if you're a fan.  I'm looking forward to finding out if I"m a David Tennant fan, or a "Whovian" in the real sense.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Attack on Titan; Series thoughts

Attack on Titan is one of those shows that can straddle the edge of being "too much", and do it just enough to keep you watching.

The roughest episodes are the first.  If you can get past the first 4 episodes then you are in it for the long haul.  Attack on Titan is not a DBZ or white washed kids show.  Attack on Titan is a brutal, heart wrenching show that does not flinch when it comes to showing you the gritty details.  People will be destroyed in front of your eyes.  You will see them die in blazes of glory, but you will also see them die begging for their mothers, appealing to an uncaring enemy for mercy, and crying because they are not ready to die.  The show makes you lose hope because of all the horror and tragedy represented, there is just no way you feel like the sun will come up tomorrow.

So what is this show about?  Well, Western Europe is full of tales about giants.  From Ireland to Germany, we have fairy tales like Jack and the Beanstalk or legends about The Giant's Causeway.  Attack on Titan takes place in what looks to be Germany(and uses German language in the story).  Only the "giants" in this show are "Titans".  They are giant, generally mindless, representations of human cruelty.  Taken in a modern context, they are 20-100+ feet tall zombies that devour people without mercy.  To fight back, humans developed a sort of "Spider-man" rope system that sends the characters soaring through the air just like the masked web-slinger.  They then use swords to attack the vital parts of the Titans.

Why would anyone keep watching?  As much as the show makes you hopeless, it also brings you to lofty heights of pride and ambition.  I compare it to Independence Day.  Almost every episode is going to have a Bill Pullman-like president speech calling on everyone to be brave and do their part, and then someone you enjoy watching is going to make the ultimate sacrifice to save those they love.

It helps that the character's stories are interesting, including those around the main characters.  Eren's life, like many others, is turned upside down when the Titans start invading.  The death of those around him spurs him to want to kill every Titan with a tenacity that always impresses, intimidates and scares those he comes in contact with.  His childhood friends, Armin the very intelligent weakling, and Misaka the last Japanese person left alive, are ever at his side protecting him.  They all decide to join the military to learn how to fight Titans, and that is largely what the first season is about.  The surrounding characters rarely get the spotlight, and its a shame because the extended cast is just as interesting as the main three.

Hajime Isayama is the writer of the manga, and I would give you a big list of his accomplishments if there were any.  Attack on Titan is the first one he's done out of the gate, and he already writes like a seasoned pro. In Japan the comic it is based off of has not ended yet, and I do not know if they intend to ride it out for a decade or if they have an ending in site, but either way the first season is worth watching if you enjoy anime. I rarely like anime, I'm super picky, but Attack on Titan gets my seal of approval, with only my cautioning that it is brutal.