Culture

More than a TV Show – Doctor Who Touching Lives

The_Master_Roger_Delgado

Roger Delgado as The Master from Doctor Who

I am suffering from Doctor Who withdrawal symptoms.

I just finished watching the 1971 Jon Pertwee Doctor Season 8 Serial “The Claws of Axos” on iTunes. It was fascinating stuff. The idea of a single organic life form that can is a sentient spacecraft and can split off and conquer worlds through duplicity is such an engaging idea. Doctor Who always was and still is the most inventive, imaginative and creative show on TV. I personally think that is the secret of its success.

Having watched all of the post-2005 revived Who episodes (in just a crazy 2 month period), I am now watching as many Classic Who episodes as I can in chronological order. I want to do it this way as many themes and character arcs are linked and developed across many serials. The whole of Season 8 is basically the arc of introducing The Master and his various plans to destroy Earth. Roger Delgado’s performance is, if you excuse the pun, masterful! He is suave, slick, conniving and manages to look cool with a goatee. He is a villain, but you just fall in love with his character and his portrayal, more slick loveable rogue than true evil. In the end, he always ends up helping the Doctor defeat the very foes he himself brought to destroy earth! And his suit manages to stay pristine.

So why the withdrawal symptoms? Due to financial considerations, I can’t afford to buy any more classic Who DVD’s, even though I love the amazing extras, with all their fascinating insights into the making of the classic episodes. My new idea is to rent the DVD’s via LoveFilm, but that means watching the DVD’s we currently have languishing within our dusty TV cabinet.

In the meantime my love of Doctor Who has been increased by this very touching article I came across from another WordPress blog.

My girls meet Peter Capaldi ( little Dalek ) – Blog Post

You Tube video from the post with Peter Capaldi talking to the post author’s daughters and reassuring her youngest daughter that Matt and Jenna say it’s ok for him to be the doctor. 

I really had to share it, and insist that all Doctor Who fans, and anyone undecided on the greatness that is Doctor Who, read this. It is about a young Doctor Who fan with autism who happens to be with her family in the same place where the new series of Doctor Who is being filmed.

It makes you fall in love with all the great people who come together to produce this work of TV that touches so many lives in many different ways. For my part Doctor Who has been there for me as a means of escape, comfort and joy during a very emotionally difficult time in my life.

I really wanted to reblog this post on Kamblog, but I am not sure about the idea of reblogging other peoples posts. I don’t know the etiquette behind whether or not one should reblog a post or just link to it. It also feels odd as Kamblog is meant to be my posts composed by me. Posting other blogger’s posts feels like cheating. It feels like stealing someone else’s thunder by posting their writing here.

Anyway please click the link, as the story is so touching and will make even the hardest heart feel good. It certainly put a smile on this Whovian’s face.

Rediscovering Doctor Who

Kam with Tardis

Kam with Tardis

My head is spinning like the TARDIS when it hurtles through time and space.

I have just watched the first 4 series and the 4 2008-2010 specials from years 2005 to 2010 of the revived Doctor Who series in just 1 month. My mind is rattling with the paradoxes of time, space, time locks and the last great Time War.

I finished watching “The End of Time part 2” yesterday. This is the New Year’s Day 2010 Doctor Who special which ends with the 10th doctor, played by David Tennant, regenerating into the 11th doctor, Matt Smith, and the TARDIS blows up around him.

In a way my head feels like it might explode too. I feel like I have been on a Doctor Who marathon, which of course I have. When he starts running sometimes he never stops. I feel like that myself. I’ve started so I must keep on going. Immerse myself further and deeper into the magical and exciting world of the Doctor, and escape the brutal truth of everything I am running away from within me.

No one can run forever though. Well, maybe the Doctor can. He’s been doing it for 50 years and there’s no stopping him. He has 2 hearts, however, and I only have one. Plus I’m really unfit. All the dramatic tension of the Last of the Time Lord’s recent adventures have helped me run away from facing my own inner conflicts, just at a time when I needed a new form of escape, a new drug to immerse myself in. Yet how much drama, excitement, world saving and adrenalin flow can one take? I only have one heart, and it’s telling me to stop and take a break.

Now seems like a good time to do that. A pit stop on my Doctor Who marathon. The marvellous 10th Doctor, played with such a wide range of emotions and breadth by David Tennant, is no more. I’ll take a week off, recharge my batteries (even the TARDIS needs recharging now and again in the rift in Cardiff), and begin a new journey with the 11th incarnation of the Doctor.

I’m really excited to see what Matt Smith does with the character. I have heard really good things about him. It wasn’t easy avoiding watching or reading about the 50th anniversary special last month. I’m glad I did avoid watching it though. Everything in the world of Doctor Who is connected, and it makes sense to watch the episodes in order.

I loved and really got used to David Tennant’s 10th doctor. His sleek, geek chic, uber-cool, witty charm mixed with suppressed emotional turmoil, rage, ruthlessness and loneliness, all coated in a veneer of fun-loving, childlike curiosity and hyper-activity, kept me engaged with a character whose greatest selling point is you never really now him. He doesn’t believe in violence, refuses to carry a gun, yet leaves a trail of death and destruction behind him. He’s full of life and wonder, yet also has a depressive side to him. He is one of fiction’s richest characters, emotionally and psychologically.

Yet the last few episodes of series 4 and the specials pulled his character far too deep into his melancholic, bitter side. It was great to see this exposed, and see the arrogant side of him come out in “The Waters of Mars”, where he starts to feel he was not just a tragic survivor of the Time War but it’s righteous victor. However a whole series exploring this unresolved inner conflict, the conflict he seems to always be running away from, would have taken a lot of the light-hearted fun out of the show. Emotional depth in TV is always a good thing, but it needs to be balanced with jelly beanesque escapism too. In short, I’m glad a new Doctor awaits me when I begin series 5 next week.

Once I finish watching all the episodes of the new revived series, I plan to go back and watch the old ones from 1963 onwards. I already devoured the brilliant Genesis of the Daleks 6 part serial in one night, my first time watching Tom Baker as the Doctor, with his Jelly Babies, long Rainbow scarf and wide googly eyes confronting Davros, my favourite Doctor Who villain.

I’ve been jotting down reams of notes about my experience of rediscovering Doctor Who last month. How it has really impacted me and made me feel a wide range of emotions. I plan to write these up as blog posts, but they need to be split up and edited. This post is my attempt at keeping things simple and concise (never easy for me). I always have a lot to say, probably because as a child no one really listened to me, and Doctor Who makes me think about even more subjects and themes to explore.

It has been more than just a TV show for me. In many ways it has been my salvation during a really stressful period of my life. People take drugs to numb their senses, the inner pain, and I needed a drug to replace my love of food (having gone on an strict elimination diet to combat my IBS-D). Most people drug themselves, though they don’t think they’re being drugged, with religion, consumerism/ materialism, alcohol, food addiction, sex addiction, addiction to narcotic drugs, extreme sports or adrenalin junkies. There are many forms of escapism from reality, usually a mix of things, and high octane adventuring through time and space is the Doctor’s preferred way to bury painful feelings. I’m not religious, I ‘m trying to move away from consumerism, and food just seems to disagree with me. I don’t really drink, never agreed with drugs, so TV and films are my main drug of choice now. I’m too cautious and anxious to actually go on real life high octane adventures, so I live through fictional adventures that distract me from more painful feelings deep inside.

Sometimes something comes along just when you need it. Having quit many of my past vices and emotional crutches and with an increasingly stressful real life, I needed something to fill the void of escapism within me. To pull me away from facing the fire of my inner conflict, and being consumed by it. The Tardis must have heard my unconscious SOS call. It came into my life at the right time.

I really am getting addicted to the world of Doctor Who. I’ve started reading The Doctor Who magazine and collecting all my bookmarked Whovian links on a Doctor Who page on my website Razaweb.com. I even find myself walking around the house with the 4 beats of the sound of drums pounding in my head! Don’t worry though, I won’t try and use an alien medical device to make everyone else in the world look and talk like me. I’m crazy but I’m not that crazy. 

I do feel rejuvenated in finding something I’m really into that I can also help me connect with other people, especially friends who I already feel I relate to the most. I’m not into sports or cars so that alienates me from most other guys. I am a geek at heart and rediscovering Doctor Who has helped me reconnect with the geek in me. That’s a long neglected side of me that I feel more comfortable embracing. I have always loved the wonder and excitement of the science fiction. It fires me up in a way I can engage with. In fact I owe much of my getting back into Doctor Who to 2 friends of mine. They started a Cricket and Doctor Who podcast this year, and although I’m still not into Cricket, they did make me think about going back and watching Doctor Who.

Anyway I plan to write up my notes on how I came to rediscover Doctor Who and how surprised I was at the revived show being as good as it is. Other posts will also review The End Of Time episodes, which I loved, if for nothing more than having Timothy Dalton (one of my favourite Bond’s) as a great villainous Time Lord President Rassilon and watching John Simm devouring a whole roast chicken with his bare hands

Man Of Steel Review

Man_of_Steel_PosterI finally got to watch Man of Steel, the new Superman reboot by Zack Snyder, last night. It is not a great film, especially given all the hype, but I did find it a fun film and it was actually better than I expected. This is probably because I expected it to be rubbish after reading lots of negative reviews, and it was hyped up so much it was going to have to be something really special to meet that hype.

On the plus side it obviously had great visual and special effects, and looks brilliant. Krypton looked great, I loved the old world silver grey metal and rock look, and there’s no cheap, hammy bluescreen effects like in the original Superman movies of the 1970s. More importantly, for me at least, it had good ideas, and some good acting too. Henry Cavill was good as Superman, playing the role very differently to Christopher Reeve which was good. Russell Crowe is surprisingly good as Jor-El. Michael Shannon hands down gave the best performance as General Zod, the ruthless single-minded villain. He made the film better than average, giving it some meat. As with most superhero movies it’s the villains who make the difference in the quality of the final cut, and he made the film for me.

On the negative side the problem with man of steel was the problem with most modern Hollywood films, especially superhero ones. It was overkill on the action front. Everyone is trying to compete with Michael Bay. There were far too many explosions and buildings blown up, far too much destruction, and far too many fights, which go on for too long, and eventually just get boring. A few short, sharp, intense emotionally charged fights or explosions would have been better. The action covers up what is a film with lot of good ideas and potential. The problem is that these ideas, about identity, inner conflict, power, the class system and how society should be structured, the impact of technology on nature, environmentalism, genetic engineering to name but a few, are fascinating, but none of them are developed enough. Like and the characterisation and plot, they don’t have any space to breathe or develop in a meaningful way as they get interrupted by unnecessarily loud, long and ridiculous action sequences. The style cuts in just when things get interesting. Maybe I am getting old and this is what the smartphone, Facebook, YouTube generation want. For me, the idea of Superman as a conflicted loner, a drifter, an outsider who doesn’t fit in anywhere or doesn’t seem to belong to anything bigger than himself, at least yet, (something that resonates with me personally) struggling to come to terms with his power is a fascinating story, that is engaging enough, and the best bits are when this is explored. I would have liked more film time on his childhood and dysfunctional relationships growing up.

So whilst I do love action and the action starts off great, it gets too much, which is the problem with the film for me. His final fight with General Zod sums up the way the film ended up. It if far too long, but the way they end it was great, and it has a dense emotional undertone. Trying to get under the skin of moral dilemmas when it comes to the subjects of power, especially the power of life over death, is what kept me engaged. I didn’t want to see lots of skyscrapers exploding into dust, as that’s exactly what every other Hollywood movie gives us too much of. The final battle scenes are just like the final battle scenes in Avengers Assemble. I didn’t need to see all that again.

The relationship between Superman and Lois Lane is also not fully explored or developed well enough. It’s fragmented and lacks the subtlety, playfulness and humour of the original Superman films. The lack of humour, subtlety and depth in this film and most modern Hollywood films really disappoints me.

In the and I did enjoy watching the film, and it’s worth watching on the big screen, but it didn’t live up to the hype, and it leaves you feeling that it could have been so much more, had they not wasted so much time blowing things up, which has finally got too predictable to have any lasting impact. The ideas within the film, though covered in a layer of dust from all this overblown action, are what made it worth watching, and I have been left thinking about them 1 day on. Not bad for some nonsense about an alien flying around in a red cape.

EXTRA THOUGHTS (added later):

A few more thoughts on Man Of Steel.

I did enjoy it, yet felt there was more to offer. It was too fast ion places, taking us form A to B in a rush, something modern movies do a lot of now. Going too fast often means we don’t have the time to take ti all in, which si the problem with the Lois/ Superman relationship here. If they had cut down some action sequences, which dragged on, then they could have added more depth and nuances to furthering the characters and their relationships with themselves and each other, or certain plot ideas. The problem with the fight scenes and trying to build tension from action is that we know Superman won’t die, we know Lois won;t die, so why do we care about long action sequences in which they get thrown around? The tension, for me at least, would come from wondering whether or not they would make it “out of there alive”. the scene in the spaceship where Lois meets Superman is quite tense, but she obviously gets saved. So the tension needs to come from somewhere else. that’s what makes TV Shows like the Sopranos or Game of Thrones so good. You really don’t know if someone will be killed or lose a limb!

Also, I did think Kevin Costner was great as Jonathan Kent, adding depth and emotion where it was needed. The only problem is that the way he dies is ridiculous, as was mentioned on other reviews, and confirmed on viewing!

It is worth watching though, as it made me think about a few things, looks great visually and is fun at the end of the day.

RIP James Gandolfini

I woke up today to the shocking news that one of my favourite actors of all time, James Gandolfini, has passed away at the age of 51.

James Gandolfini will be remembered best for his role as Tony Soprano, in the hit US TV drama The Soprano’s, which is my favourite TV Show of all time.

I had just finish watching the entire series of The Soprano’s for the 2nd time, after my wife had been persuaded by her fellow psychologist colleagues at work to watch it. It was even better second time round and is a show that I engaged with on many different levels, and which left a significant impact on my life. Violence, mental health issues, psychology, cross-cultural issues, Tony’s obsession with food and love of History all resonated with me. yet the show was brought alive by James Gandolfini’s magical performance as Tony Soprano. He gave the character such depth that you never doubt that he is a fictional character. He also gave the character tremendous breadth. He could be a violent monster one minute, then transform to the funny sad clown in the blink of an eye.

My wife also finished reading the Book “The Psychology of the Sopranos”, lent to her by her boss at work, only last night, and we were talking about it over dinner. It is a strange and sad coincidence.

There will be many more glowing tributes to the great actor, who I also loved in the film In The Loop, so instead of trying to compete with them I will post up links to a variety of articles and obituaries here on this post.

I don’t often think of death, which surprises me as I’m always thinking about too many things at once. I was thinking of it only a few weeks ago when my wife’s 24 year old cousin went missing whilst scuba diving in the Red Sea. He was lost for 24 hours, but luckily survived and was found by a rescue helicopter after his partner was rescued first, and not being spotted by the rescue helicopter that  winched up his diving partner, he found the energy to swim to a nearby Island, from which the rescue team finally found him. We all had to face the thought that this young life, so full of promise, may have been taken away, and the relief when we found out he was rescued was all encompassing.

This is my first post of this blog and it is sad that I begin the blog this way, but my admiration for the actor James Gandolfini and the way in which he was a part of my life, in that strange way that fictional characters become entwined with our own real lives, motivated me to finally sign up for this blog and start writing.