April 10, 2011

My thesis is nearly complete, and once I get my Linguistics diploma, I hope to return to regularly keeping this site running. Graduation is May23rd, and I hope to make my first post on the first Monday of June.


Too much work, not enough time

August 4, 2010

I thought I had accomplished enough to drop back into doing this regularly, but my grad school preparations leave me without the proper time to do this as regularly as I’d like. I think Ill go back to occasional posting with no real schedule.

Long Break

July 29, 2010

Now that I’m settled in my new house, sure I’ll be able to pay for my senior year of college, and have internet set up in my house, I should be back on schedule as of Monday.

Chapter Three

July 4, 2010

Is now up. As well, updates to chapters one and two have changed some things

Who’s your Doctor?

June 28, 2010

Much as Star Trek fans may argue over which crew members are best, or which ships, or even which universes, Doctor Who fans have favorite Doctors. I must admit to a paucity of knowledge of The Doctor before the recent resurrection of the series, staring Eccleston as The Doctor.

WARNING: There will be minor spoilers in this post. If you care about seeing the plot

This incarnation was in a privileged position in character development: the Time War between the Time Lords and the Daleks (Time Lords’ mortal enemies) had left them all dead, The Doctor as the only remaining Time Lord, and a few Daleks showing up as show villains from time to time. This left the Doktor angry, militantly pacifistic, and yet furious with the Daleks. This is best shown in Eccleston’s encounter with a Dalek, which drives him to spitting fury, and almost to murder. Eccleston embodies what evil lurks in the Doctor, the rage, the regret, and the loneliness of being the last of his species. While The Doctor had often kept humans around in his travels, Eccleston started the companion role, which has continued through the next two Doctors. He died redestroying the Daleks, and finally at peace with himself.

Eccleston gave way to Tennant, probably the best known Doctor. Whereas Eccleston was full of rage, this element was buried in Tennant, who spent much of his time being sad, and when he does exhibit rage, it is a quiet, silent rage, like in “Family of Blood”. Tennant’s main appeal is through his attempts at appearing alien, or in ‘explaining’ things to human characters in a way that leaves them wondering if anything has been explained at all. He brought humor to The Doctor in a way previous Doctors had not even tried, one-part penitent and depressed war veteran, one part optimistic time-changer, one part comic relief against a depressing backdrop. His many faces only make him seem all the more alien.

After three seasons, Tennant died to save the father of a companion after sealing off the Time Lords forever, and left the world with the same combination of sadness and optimism with which he had entered it with, his last words: “I don’t want to go”.

And with that, the older, more mature and sophisticated Tennant left, replaced with a new, younger, goofy looking Doctor. Many people reacted in shock, and were biased against this new Doctor, myself included. Tennant was my first and favorite Doctor, and I saw his replacement by a younger, less serious, goofy looking child as a sign that the show was headed in the wrong direction.

The new writer, on the other hand, had written my favorite Doctor Who episode of all time, so I tuned in to watch the new Doctor. What I saw was a blend of madness, alienness, and humor which may put Matt Smith (the new Doctor) on a higher level than Tennant, if he continues to grow as he continues the role. Whereas Tennant spent much of his time moping and brooding, Smith (and I write his name unintuitively; whereas Tennant and Eccleston stand on their own merits to me, Matt Smith is simply ‘The Doctor’ to me. Perhaps he has already affected me more than I think) is all full of bubbling optimism and humor. When he is world-wearied, his normal youthfulness makes those moments even more remarkable. He seems to have left his Time War baggage behind, as well, for the most part. His opinion on time itself differs from previous Doctors. Tennant had taken to labeling some moments in time as unchangeable, and while he tried and tried again, he proved himself right. Matt Smith, on the other hand, takes things to be the opposite, pushing for the people he meets to be the best that the universe has to offer. But where he really shines is in his expansion of Tennant’s role of the alien. Often times, he communicates in a way utterly incomprehensible to those around him. He has an utter lack of social ability, consistently insists that ‘bow ties are cool’ (which they are), and dances perhaps even as moronically as I do.

So while I David Tennant was my first Doctor, and I would call him my favorite Doctor for three reasons.

1) Tennant goes from angry to excited sad and back to excited seamlessly. Tying these emotions together is an excellent repertoire of expressive faces.

2) So many of Tennant’s episodes take place in awesome historical settings, as he visits Agathie Christie, the Shakespeare company, pre-WWI, The Great Depression, and even Pompey before its destruction. The writing may not be intrinsic to Tennant, but it is a part of the overall presentation

3) Tennant has some of the most fun, strongest episodes of Doctor Who, including “Family of Blood”, “Blink”, “The Sontaran Strategy” and “The Poison Sky”, “The Doctor’s Daughter” & “The Unicorn and Wasp”. I highlight some of these because central to their plot is an element of strong emotion that simply is only present with Tennant (with exception, of course, of Blink, which is so interesting because The Doctor cannot play a leading role). Family of Blood shows Tennant’s inner longing not to be alone, at the heart of The Doctor’s companionship. “The Doctor’s Daughter, on the other hand, shows how important being the last Time Lord is to The Doctor. The others on the list are just very interesting.

Matt Smith does have some strong supporting values, as mentioned above.

1) Revisiting the Weeping Angels of Blink was excellent. But that episode 2-parter is also indicative of the writing style of the new series. So many of the episodes feel either like unfinished one-parters, or unnecessarily long two-parters, as though the writers had written an episode and a half most often. Again, the writing is part of the presentation

2) Whereas sometimes Tennant sinks into the background, simply observing, and thus allowing for some boring episodes, Matt Smith never fades away. It means that, excluding the best episodes from either season, the average episode from Matt Smith’s series is more interesting than the average episode from Tennant’s series.

3) Matt Smith really seems alien all the time, from the very beginning, whereas Tennant seems a part-time alien. This element really expands the comedy of the series

So, as I said above, Tennant will always be my Doctor, but I certainly do like Matt Smith.

Thoughts? Who’s your Doctor?

UPDATE: I just watched the tail half of Season 4 of the new Doctor Who (Season 3 of David Tennant), from “Human Nature” through to the finale, and the beginning of “Voyage of the Damned”. First, I want to restate that “Blink” is the best Doctor Who episode I’ve seen. And Tennant’s confusion at The Titanic crashing through the Tardis’ wall is excellent. And ‘just Doctor, not Sir’ is excellent’.

Doctor Who

June 27, 2010

If  you’re a sci-fi nerd, as I am, doubtless there are certain classics which you must know. Star Trek and Star Wars come to mind, although I must admit to a relative paucity of knowledge about Star Trek, my interest in Klingon aside. While Science Fiction took strong root in the 30s and 40s, thanks to Isaac Asimov, who in my opinion is the most influential science fiction writer there ever was(I do not mean to lessen the writing of Robert A. Heinlein or Arthur C. Clarke, contemporaries of Isaac Asimov and hugely important to the science fiction genre). However, Much of the science fiction we know as classic Science Fiction comes from the 1960s, the decade that brought us Star Trek. However, an even older show from that time period is Doctor Who. While Doctor Who had limited appeal outside of the UK until its most recent reincarnation, it dealt with a number of the same issues as Star Trek. They are arguably very liberal and progressive shows: Star Trek was very culturally tolerant in its approach to alien civilizations, and The Doctor, the protagonist of Doktor Who, is known for his anti-violence stance. The Thatcher administration accused the show of propaganda against the state, and accusation to which they admitted only recently.

Star Trek can be summed up by its now famous intro, “Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before”. In form, Doctor Who is similar to Star Trek, albeit with a much smaller crew. The Doctor travels to different civilizations (although some of the original shows never left earth, due to budget constraints), and has to deal with their cultural differences, often while dealing with an impending threat to the world/mankind/universe. On the other hand, The Doctor travels not only through space, but time as well (The Enterprise does travel in time on accident, occasionally, but for them, time mostly passed at a linear rate, and in the right order).

What separates Doctor Who from so much of Sci-Fi is The Doctor. Who is The Doctor? I’ll let him tell you:  “I’m the Doctor. I’m a Time Lord. I’m from the planet Gallifrey in the constellation of Kasterborous. I am 903 years old and I’m the man who’s gonna save your lives, and all six billion people on the planet below. You got a problem with that?” But absent from Doctor Who, is the weaponry which is so present in other sci-fi classics. The Doktor has rarely held or used a weapon, and often, this has caused more death in the long run. But it has maintained the character of the Doktor, a character which has changed with each few seasons. You see, the Doctor can die, but when he does, he regenerates in a new body. This has allowed the role to continue on despite numerous changes of actors, and has also allowed for very dramatic season finales.

I can truly say there is only one sci-fi TV show I recommend more highly than Doctor Who: Firefly. I may put it on an equal level with the resurrected Battlestar Galactica on some days, but for the most part, it stands over it.

The sci-fi genre, especially on screen, has always been a bit campy, and Doctor Who is no exception. The enemies are the same 60s cyborgs, death machines, humanoid aliens, or aliens posing as deities. And the Doctor’s lack of weaponry leads to hundreds of chase scenes. If there is one thing I recall The Doctor saying more than anything, it is “RUN!”

As such, The Doctor does have an interesting underwhelmingly cinematic feeling to it. With all the derring-do, one expects an equally impressive hero to deal with the inexorably destructive enemies. But instead, one begins to feel that, much like Star Wars stormtroopers, the effectiveness of Doctor Who’s enemies has been exaggerated and mythologized. The action is often interrupted by speeches and arguments, adding very much to the mythological feel of it all, and vaulting it into a very space opera feel. This may sound like a list of complaints, but I see it as one of the high points of Doctor Who. You know he’s going to win in the end, the question is how well his moral character and personal fabric can survive.

There is only one caveat I feel I must add. Doctor Who is certainly science fiction: it relies on science for the ideas to be possible. Without time travel, without the TARDIS, the adventures would be impossible. The Doctor’s Sonic Screwdriver (the Swiss Army Knife of the future) can disarm seemingly any trivial problem, yet fails to offer a real solution to any of the bigger problems. But on the other hand, the science is soft.

This clip is The Doctor’s explanation of time, and this clip, his explanation of a time detector, both from the best episode of Doctor Who, hands down, “Blink”, although the recent Matt Smith episoe featuring the same plot elements is quite good.

This clip is the Doctor’s recovering from cyanide poisoning and is absolutely hilarious.

Doctor Who may depend on science, but that science is soft. If you’re looking for a show with blazing guns, melodrama and mercurial characters, Star Wars, Star Trek, or Battlestar Galactica are probably your cup of tea. But Doctor Who stands out as an cerebral drama, where morals are spliced heavily into action and speeches and plans defeat weapons and power, consequences of actions are well borne out, and everything is had at a cost.


June 27, 2010

So I haven’t written in awhile. Therein lie the drawbacks of planning too much. I am in the middle of relearning what Attic Greek I knew, and moving on into the meat of the language. In the words of my Latin professor, First Year Greek is the hardest language you’ll ever take, if you don’t count Second Year Greek, and that’s if you know Latin already. However, it is not this that is holding me back, but a number of projects that have taken root over the past two weeks.

Item the first: I am rewriting the paper I plan to use for my grad school admissions, and that must take precedence over anything else on this list.

Item the second: I have completed another chapter of The Edge of The Sky, and am in the final stages of editing it and the previous two chapters. As well, I am nearing the end of another chapter, and will begin editing it soon. I would like to have both of those up by a week from this Friday, but I move back across the country a week from this Thursday. The first chapter should be up by the end of this week, and the second will come up as soon as I can get it up, knowing that the move will complicate things.

Item the third: I have begun work on another project of mine, possibly the first writing project I ever sketched out. What is it? For now, I shall say little more other than that it is quintessentially Roman, if time travel were Roman.

And on the note of Time Travel, the subject of the sci-fi ‘book’ recommendation isn’t a book at all, but the acclaimed Doctor Who.

After that, I may post on Syntax if I’ve the time, but my next post will likely be Sunday, when I will recommend another piece of sci-fi/fantasy.