Sunday, March 31, 2013

Doctor Whovey, You Were Absolutely Right

It has been Spring Break for the girls this past week, which has been kind of sub-optimal since Home Campus and its related institutions had their Spring Break the week before.  Once in a while they coincide, and my don’t we have fun then.

But we try to have fun anyway.

For example, last weekend we decided to go up to one of the Temples of Excess right up the interstate from us.  There is an entire town in Wisconsin dedicated to the proposition that water is infinite and if properly channeled into things like slides, lazy rivers and wave pools it can be insanely profitable.  Whatever one thinks of the former proposition, the truth of the latter is self-evident.

We left on Friday afternoon – the hotel rates tripled on Saturday – and spent a pleasant evening and morning in the waterpark.  I was hobbled by a spring cold of some kind, but the girls are old enough to hare off on their own now.  Lauren did convince me to go with her into the hot tub area, which actually felt good to my achy old muscles.  Plus, if you ducked through the hanging plastic curtain you could go outside and stay in the nice hot water while looking through the steam at the snow all across the ground.

But mostly we have stayed home, as one would imagine given that Kim and I were back at work all week.  There was a group sleepover Thursday night and we hit the soft-ice cream joint a couple of times during the week, and life was good.

Our main mission this past week, however, was to catch up on our viewing of classic culture, which boiled down to Monty Python’s Life of Brian and an attempt to view all 86 episodes of the most recent Doctor Who series, in order.

You have your classic culture.  We have ours.

I had never seen an episode of Doctor Who before.  I’d never felt I needed to, as – much like Monty Python’s Holy Grail – I had had friends quote it to me verbatim for much of my life and therefore I considered myself fully acquainted.  Plus, every time anyone mentions Doctor Who I get mental images of the Grinch.  But they’re all free on Netflix now, so Kim arranged some family time and we all sat down to see.

They’re not bad.  The action is entertaining, the dialogue is fairly snappy, and once in a while they sneak an idea or two worth remembering into the script, which is all you can ask for in a television show I think.  Although I do wish that the blustery chap would stop standing between Billie Piper and the camera as much as he does.  That should be a finable offense.

So far we have seen London menaced by a plastic blob, the end of the Earth (which, Douglas Adams fan that I am, I kind of wished had been viewed from a restaurant rather than a space station), Charles Dickens as a rather oddball caricature, a two-episode sequence about London being menaced by things that were rather unlike plastic blobs but which might simply have been the blobs evolved into a more talon-rich form, and an episode centered around a crass American (who knew?).

We go upstairs for bedtime reading after these episodes – a little Tiffany Aching goes a long way toward resolving the creepies left by all those Doctor Who visuals.  Doctor Who does not shy away from body counts and weirdity.

Life of Brian was kind of a disappointment, to be honest.

It had been decades since the last time I saw it, and I remembered it as being a lot better than it was – it simply has not aged as well as Holy Grail.  Oh, there’s all the classic bits that you love to quote at people: the grammarian centurion and the graffiti wall, the extended sequences with Pontius Pilate’s speech impediment, and (my personal favorite), the part where Brian tries to tell the crowd that they are individuals, and so on.  But unless you remember the endless posturing and pointless splintering of revolutionary movements in the 1970s a lot of the humor is going to pass right by you, and there is an awful lot of shouting that gets tiresome very quickly.  Not much of the dialogue is actually spoken at normal volumes in this film.

It also would help to have gone to church rather more than we’ve been doing of late.

But it was still funny – the humor is broad enough to appeal to everyone here, and “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” retains its power.  There was a radio station in Philadelphia back in the 80s that would broadcast that song every day, promptly at 10am.  It is part of the soundtrack of my youth, which probably explains a lot come to think of it.

So it has been a productive break for the girls, I think.  Soon they will be fully conversant with nerd culture in all of its many manifestations, and we can congratulate ourselves on a parenting job well done.


Ewan said...

You *do* know that Billie Piper != the actual latest season, right? :)

David said...

I suppose. ;) (I'm assuming that "!=" means "is not.")

It all depends on what one means by latest season, though. As near as I can tell, the actual cast members of the show (up to and including the Doctor himself) are rather ephemeral, and I know that there has been at least one other Doctor and several other sidekicks since 2005, when the episodes we're looking at were filmed. But I think they're all one run since then, and since there was a gap of some years between these and the older "classic" episodes, I just called them the latest season.

I have heard that she's coming back for the 50th Anniversary show, which (having now six full episodes under my belt) I find to be very good news indeed. :)

Ewan said...

Yes, I lack a struck-through equals sign in this font.

And: well, I grew up hiding behind the settee when Daleks came on screen, so I have perhaps the requisite inculcation to care, but there are definitely distinct seasons (in terms both of production and of story-arc). Most cast members persist for at least one season, and some recur across decades; the Doctor himself only changes through his death-equivalent (and we're probably due for a new one in a year or so, is my guess).

Ewan said...

'settee' inserted for extra Britcred, of course..

David said...


I had to look up "settee" - I'm usually pretty good at translating into American, but that one caught me off guard.

I will take your word for it about the characters and arcs, though - I haven't watched enough to know, and we're kind of stalled now that spring break is over. I'll no doubt be posting further as I discover things that longtime Doctor Who fans already know.

It's a whole subculture, I'm finding. So far, so good. :)