Tag Archives: Pop Culture

Bill – the Doctor’s New Companion (and an episode review of ‘The Pilot’)

SPOILERS SWEETIE!

Pearl-Mackie-Bill-Potts-Doctor-Who

Pearl Mackie plays Bill Potts, the Doctor’s new Companion.

I like Bill. She is her own woman, and she will NEVER fall in love with the Doctor. She likes him for himself, even when she finds out he is an alien. Pearl Mackie seems to have hit the right note and is off and running as the new Companion. Did you little nod to Ace, in the sense that the Doctor is her Professor? She reminds me of Ace in that she is a fighter, and not a screamer or a whiner.

Throwing the book

There are a few reasons Bill reminds of Ace. When we first meet Ace, she is a waitress. The Seventh Doctor took a special interest in Ace’s education, and Twelve has shown a similar interest in Bill’s education. There was an ongoing rumour that Ace was a lesbian (her relationship with Karra), which an overt part of Bill’s characterization. Ace favoured jackets with patches, and so does Bill. Like Ace, Bill isn’t overawed by the Doctor, with my favourite quote  from this episode being,  “You run like a penguin with its arse on fire.”

Ace

Ace, the Last Companion in the original series.

Bill aside, I was very taken with the Doctor’s study, and the photos on his desk in particular.

Dear, darling River and his granddaughter, Susan, featured prominently on the desk. For me, seeing those photos was a high-point of the episode, as it showed who was still important to this Doctor’s hearts (two photos for two hearts, geddit?). Oh, what I wouldn’t give to have an day or three exploring the contents of that study. What are the books on those shelves? What are the knickknacks – and their significance? Why the stuffed owl? It is an owl or an alien?

 

Bill and Helen

Bill and Heather

I’m sorry if the plot of the episode seems incidental to meeting Bill and seeing the study. It was a basic ‘monster of the week’ story, with several huge plot-holes. What kind of civilised beings use a conscious fuel for their spaceships? And – for a man who knows the universe – how did the Doctor know so little about the fuel (or those aliens)?

Seriously … Daleks? I couldn’t really see any proper reason for the inclusion of the Daleks.

I did sorry for poor Heather. Incidentally, I have found out that William (Bill) Hartnell’s wife was Heather McIntyre. We all know there is never any coincidences in Doctor Who, so I am sure those names were deliberate choices.

A new Doctor Who episode …AT LAST! I hope Nardole gets the chance to do a little more snarking in the next episode. And I want a macaroon dispenser.

Twelve

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Filed under Companion, Doctor Who, Pop Culture, Review, Uncategorized

Tamatoa – the best Disney Villain Ever!

Moana-Shiny-Tamatoa

As I may have mentioned, I really enjoy watching a good villain. Villains always seem to have the most fun. The perfect example is Tamatoa from Disney’s Moana, who has the all the best lines and steals every scene he is in, while also having the best bad boy song ever. My only problem … as a zoologist, I looked at Tatatoa and immediately thought to myself “But most crabs moult. Wouldn’t that mean he would lose that love shiny shell every year?”

Nope. Juvenile coconut crabs do moult, and like hermit crabs, the little crabs wear scavenged shells for protection. However, as adults, they grow a tough outer integument. The coconut crab reaches sexual maturity around five years after hatching. but they reach their maximum size only after 40 to 60 years. They are fully terrestrial once they mature, and can drown if held under water for too long (hence Tamatoa living in an air bubble).

So Tamatoa could have grown to be huge, and he could be wearing a shell covered in treasure from one year to the next; even if has moulted, he could be wearing his old shell over the new one. These little details are important to me, even though giant singing crabs don’t exist. They certainly don’t have teeth!

So, why do I have to try and make sense of an animated character? Well, Tamatoa wasn’t the original form of the villain. It is obvious that the animators had done quite a bit of research of their own to come up with our glam crab. By knowing how they came up with such a charismatic antagonist might help me add a bit of that glamour to my own villains.

Tamatoa-Sing SHINY.png

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Filed under Antagonist, Characterization, Disney, Pop Culture, Uncategorized

From my Facebook page

I wrote a long-winded post on Facebook, and suddenly realised that I should share this to the blog.

Rocket for SCIENCE

Reading ‘The Martian’ to understand the contrast between modern Science Fiction to the old school ‘hard’ science in fiction of ‘A for Andromeda’. I suddenly realise that there is a good reason why my mother hates Science Fiction, since she would have first encountered the over-technical ‘gosh, gee, SCIENCE!’ of the Forties and Fifties before the revolution of the Sixties caused by writers more interested in how people react to science than just the science. So many bad stereotypes.

At least ‘A for Andromeda’ tries to break away from cliches of the era and gives the women characters equal billing as protagonists and antagonists.

Yes, this is a sweeping generalisation. I do know that there are some very beautiful Science Fiction books written before the 1960s, that have fully developed characters and made sensitive observations of how science and technology could change lives. But they were the outliers. If you read the pulps from the Forties, there were rife with testosterone poisoning, but then, WWII probably influenced the tone of the era. It was an era of heroes fighting against impossible odds.

‘The Martian’ is all about fighting impossible odds. But the heroism is low-key. It is the humanity of our protagonist that defines him. Genre writing has moved away from being restricted by its genre and is moving into the realm of mainstream literature.

Yet, I’m still happy to sit down and watch ‘Rogue One’, which is all about explosions and white hats against black hats.

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What happened to Crabtree and McGee’s Writing Careers?

constable-george-crabtree

Jonny Harris as George Crabtree

Two of my favourite television characters have a lot in common, even though they exist in two very different universes. Constable George Crabtree, played by Jonny Harris, is a science-loving gentleman with literary ambitions. Special Agent Timothy McGee, played by Seam Murray, is  science geek & computer nerd who has literary ambitions. At one point, the literary ambitions played a major role in the plot lines of their respective shows. However, both seem to have abandoned the writing life.

murray_sean_ncis-as-timoth-mcgee

Sean Murray as Tim McGee

Now, I was thrilled when these young men wrote their books and saw them published. Sure, they were given a hazing by their friends and colleagues, but they were successful authors! In both television series, their new status as authors played a part in the plots of several episodes. However, all that has fizzled out. If their books or writing careers are mentioned, it is only in passing.

crabtree-teaching-a-writing-class

Crabtree teaching a writing class containing L. M. Montgomery, the author of ‘Anne of Green Gables.

I think it is a shame that this aspect of their lives ended up put on the back-burners (so to speak). I know they are both characters in predominantly crime-fighting shows, but these  shows have had decade long runs with plenty of time to build up the background and personalities of their characters. George and Tim just aren’t about their jobs. No character should be defined by just one aspect of a life.

tim

From writer to action man?

Both characters were light comic relief at the start of the run of their shows. But these are characters that have shown immense growth and added maturity. I hope that ‘growing up’ didn’t mean that they had to give up their writing careers. Writing isn’t a kiddies’ game.

I’m hoping that they both still write, but have developed the sense to keep it from their workmates.

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Filed under Characterization, Murdoch Mysteries, NCIS, Pop Culture, The Writing Life, Uncategorized

Friendship versus Shipping

spock-kirk

Kirk and Spock were the original shipping couple. It is easy to understand why this was the case when you see photos like the ones below.

There was a real homoerotic overtone to their relationship. This didn’t stop Spock being the fantasy fuel for millions of women. After all, everyone likes the idea of a romantic partner who is also their best friend.

Sherlock and Watson.jpg

However, these days, just about any intense friendship seems to be an excuse to ship a couple. Sometimes, this can add a certain mystique to the couple. Sometimes it interferes with the concept of platonic friendship. A good friend is just as important as a romantic partner, and can be just as much fun.

doctor-donna

Oy! We’re just mates, sunshine.

I do a bit of shipping myself, but I tend to keep it to myself. However, sometimes it seems a shame that best friends don’t take that final step until it is too late. What are your feelings towards this topic? To ship, or not to ship?

xena-and-gabrielle.png

 

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Filed under Humour, Just for Fun, Pop Culture, Uncategorized

Vale Richard Hatch

Usually, when you meet your childhood crushes, you are disappointed. Richard Hatch was nicer in real life than I ever expected. And he was a great hugger.

You will be missed, Richard.

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Firefly … still missed (by me, at least)

Picture a good Star Trek episode. Replace the Federation crew with a ragtag group of smugglers and the Enterprise with a rust-bucket held together by sarcasm and Chinese swears.

via Fireflying by the Seat of Your Pants — PhaserPhire

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The New Look Archie

New Archie.PNG

Finally, an understandable reason for why both Betty and Veronica chase after that two-timing goofball Archie. Fiona Staples draws my favourite graphic novel (at the moment), Saga.

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Australians replace the English as villains in American Television Shows

Possible Spoilers for Grimm – don’t read on if you haven’t yet watch Skin Deep.

Australian Villain on Grimm

Jonathan Wood, acting under the name Jonathan Patrick Moore in America, as the villainous monster-of-the-week in the Skin Deep episode of Grimm.

One upon a time in America, if you wanted to hint that a character was the real baddie, you made them English. Alan Rickman got a lot of work that way. Now – partially thanks to the superbly talented Ben Mendelsohn – you can pick the villain if anyone with an Aussie accent makes an appearance. Over the past month, I’ve seen several examples of this phenomenon, with the most recent example being the Skin Deep episode of Grimm. As soon as I heard the Australian accent, I suspected a villain, and I was spot on.

Ben Mendelsohn – an actor who just gets better with age, and he was amazing to start with.

American television likes to have foreigners as villains. It is easier to dislike the Other and Stranger. It is lazy writing. As well, it has the knock on effect that it makes stereotyping all strangers/foreigners as villains that much easier. This sort of thinking descends from the Red Menace and Yellow Peril propaganda of WWII and the Cold War.

A Fireman from the annual Firefighters Calendar. This man is not a model but a real life hero.

Australians, like everyone else, have a mix good and bad. And I am certain this current trend towards depicting villains as Australians will be fairly short-lived. However, don’t fall into the trap of stereotyping ‘furriners’ as inherently evil. This is just as bad as depicting every antagonist as beautiful or handsome. Characterisation shouldn’t be defined by expectations…break the mould and your characters will suddenly be more interesting and memorable.

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Filed under Characterization, Pop Culture, Stereotypes, Uncategorized, writing, Writing Style

Do Genre Restraints Create Ageism?

 

Wouldn’t it be nice to visit with Buffy now that she is middle aged?

Being a middle-aged woman who has been a fangirl most of her life, I find there is a dearth of middle-aged women characters in popular culture (unless you count all the evil stepmothers in fairy tales). And yet, with middle-aged women being one of the largest consumers and creators of pop culture and anything in the fantasy/science fiction genre, you would expect plenty of representation. I can only think of one or two really memorable middle-aged character; most female protagonists are usually very young or very old females.

My favourite is the menopausal witch, Jenny Waynest, in the Winterlands novels by Barbara Hambly.

This image is from the cover of Dragonsbane. That is meant to be Jenny being cradled in the talons of the dragon. As you can see, that damsel is a rather attractive young woman with a strategically torn dress. Jenny is meant to be short, mousy, and not fashion model pretty.

A quick search of the usual fan art sites on the internet comes up with just a few images of Jenny – with only one showing Jenny as a human. Most show her in her dragon form. If I turned up dressed as (the human) Jenny to a cosplay event, I doubt anyone would get my character right. Most would think I was Nanny Ogg or Professor McGonagall, who are considered elderly rather than middle aged (though McGonagall was only middle-aged in the books).

Lady Sybil with her husband Sir Samuel Vimes, the Duke of Ankh Morpork

Even Terry Pratchett has only a few middle-aged female characters, like Lady Sybil Vimes and Lady Margolotta (though, as a vampire, does Margolotta Amaya Katerina Assumpta Crassina Von Uberwald really count?). They are only secondary characters, though Sibyl does manage to play a major role in several Discworld novels. Middle-aged women are nearly invisible in Discworld, think Doreen Winkings (vampire by marriage), Mrs Evadne Cake, and the series of humorous landladies that pop up in the books. It must be noted that in all the Tiffany Aching books, we never learn what her mother’s Christian name might be, though we know her father’s name is Joe and her grandmother was Sarah.

(By the way Disney, you couldn’t do better than to convert Tiffany’s books into animated movies. The story for ‘Wintersmith’ will make everyone forget Frozen.)

 

Thanks to Doctor Who being such a long running show, we have had the opportunity to see characters age, including everyone’s favourite companion, Sarah Jane Smith. Sarah Jane managed to remain feisty, opinionated,and strong willed to the very end; it is a damned shame Elisabeth Sladen died so young and will never get to see an elderly old lady with grit and wisdom. And River Song has to be considered middle aged, even though she isn’t exactly human, as she is played by Alex Kingston who is 53 (same age as me).

Of course, genre has a major impact on the ages of your main characters. In Young Adult fiction, the protagonists are going to be teens or a little older (or at least look like teenagers, even if they are hundreds of years old – I’m looking at you Twilight). Older women might play secondary roles, but they are never going to be the protagonists. However, why does nearly every other television show, movie or dystopian novel assume only young people can be protagonists? Where are the middle-aged female superheroes suffering from menopause and finding it difficult to fit into the same clothes they were wearing in their twenties? Do the genre markers for our various narratives actually encourage ageism?

Captain Janeway – she never seems to garner the same enthusiasm in fans as Kirk, Picard, Sisko or Archer. (Except in slash fiction.)

Genre fiction is supposed to be able to take risks and envision strange, new worlds. So why are middle-aged women so under-represented? If you can think of a middle-aged lady protagonist in any Steampunk narratives (not a secondary character or antagonist) that will rock the world like Buffy, please feel free to let me know!

 

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Filed under Ageism, Characterization, Feminism, Gender and Sexuality, Genre, Genre Markers, Pop Culture, Steampunk Feminist, Steampunk Genre, Steampunk Writer, Subgenres of Steampunk, Uncategorized, writing, Writing Style