Over the past few years, a number of friends have urged me to check out the most recent version of Dr. Who. I’m on holidays at the moment, and there are some Dr. Who DVDs where I’m staying.
I watched the first two episodes, starring Christopher Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor, and Billie Piper (who I previously knew from Secret Diary of a Call Girl).
I had low expectations. I’m on vacation, after all. But, seriously, both episodes were pretty awful.
Eccleston seems to be acting in an entirely different show–a 30′s vaudeville act?—than the rest of the cast. The dialogue is clunky in an early Star Trek vein, and rarely amusing. Speaking of Star Trek, the special effects look like they belong in The Next Generation, circa 1990. All in all, it felt like television from a different era.
I should interject here that I’m a sincere lover of plenty of British stuff, from Martin Amis to Father Ted. So this isn’t some New World bias.
What is the appeal of this show? Does it depend upon familiarity with earlier versions of the show? Is there a kind of intertextual dialogue that I’m totally missing? The second episode’s story draw from Douglas Adams’s Restaurant at the End of the Universe, but that’s the only reference I picked up.
It seems apt to compare the newest Dr. Who to the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica. I found the latter show consistently terrific–dark, contemporary and culturally relevant–without being dependent on its predecessor.
I’m not a Trekkie, nor a Trekker. I’m not even a Star Trek enthusiast. I’ve seen most of the movies and some of the original series. I inconsistently watched “Star Trek: The Next Generation” through my adolescence, but then theatre school proved more than enough distraction. That said, whether dystopian or utopian, I’m always willing to give a science-fiction movie a try (for example, I look forward to Moon–autoplaying trailer ahead).
I was optimistic, this weekend, when I went to the new Star Trek movie. It’s creatively called “Star Trek”. I was encouraged by the director J. J. Abrams’s pedigree, and the raucous energy of the trailer. I wasn’t disappointed.
It’s an entertaning, rompin’ space opera. The first ten minutes are–as they must be in any good action movie–superb, full of the riotous energy that was so often missing from previous, more staid Star Trek movie. Abrams has assembled an excellent yet, by big budget movie standards, unknown cast. They look just enough like the original Star Trek actors to be convincing, yet they’re different enough for us not to be constantly reminded of the elder actors’ portrayals. The movie generally does a great job of recognizing its place in the Star Trek canon without getting bogged down in silly cameos or stunts to win the sympathy of hardcore fans (much to their dismay).
With a swashbuckling style (there’s actually a bit of swordplay in one scene) and unfamiliar cast, this “Star Trek” reminded me a lot of the first (by which I mean the 1977 movie) “Star Wars”. As it happens, several of the creative leaders on the “Star Trek” movie cite “Star Wars” as a major influence, including writer Roberto Orci. I was listening to the always-enjoyable Slate Spoiler Special podcast about “Star Trek”, and reviewer Dan Kois compared the film to Joss Whedon’s “Serenity”. I agree, I guess, though I thought “Serenity” itself owed a lot to “Star Wars”.
After seeing the dismal, rote “Wolverine”, “Star Trek” was the blockbuster breath of fresh air I was hoping it would be. You’d have to be a serious Debbie Downer not to enjoy it.
Derek points out that, like the Daniel Craig Bond movies, this film has redeemed the prequel.
UPDATE: I happened upon this video, which highlights the similarities between Star Wars and the new Star Trek movie. I blame Joseph Conrad: