Friday, June 20, 2008

New Classic Popular Culture

Entertainment Weekly's 1000th issue has an interesting look at the 1000 new classics that have been most influential in American popular culture as a whole in the past 25 years, in the categories of films, television, books, music, videogames, and more. They also recognize that individuals will have their own items that are most important to them, and the issue includes personal essays and top ten lists from authors, actors and musicians.

I especially like Neil Gaiman's list of "Top Ten New Classic Monsters" which includes "The Weeping Angels in Steven Moffat's terrifying 2007 Doctor Who episode 'Blink.'"

In that spirit, I wanted to write my Top Ten New Classic Doctor Who Moments from the new series since 2005. Check it out!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Russell T. Davies and his contributions to "Doctor Who"

The New York Times has a new article about Russell T. Davies and how his revival of Doctor Who has improved television in Britain in terms of the quality and range of issues that can be covered: Who Altered British TV? ‘Who’ Indeed. Another New York Times article from 2006 discusses the first series of Doctor Who and how Davies, the executive producer and lead writer, brought the show into the 21st century.

Outpost Gallifrey also reports that Davies will receive the OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) honor from Queen Elizabeth II for his work in writing and producing drama on television. This honor is well-deserved, since Davies brought Doctor Who back when it seemed like no one else could and made it as good as any dramatic series. After the last original series episode in 1989, and a television film in 1996, the show lived on in novels and audio plays, as well as in Doctor Who Magazine. Many of the writers on the TV show today, such as Davies, Paul Cornell, Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat, previously wrote for the tie-in media.

The new series brought Doctor Who back to popularity among general audiences in Britain, and gained it many new fans around the world. Davies' episodes are fun to watch and include spectacular events as well as character moments. The show today honors the past 45 years of stories as well as being original and unexpected. Since 2005 it has also won many prestigious awards, including BAFTAs and Hugos for best television drama. The spin-off series Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures take the world of Doctor Who in new directions as they explore the impact of alien invasions on Earth. The current fourth series of Doctor Who is the best and most consistent set of episodes ever in the show's history, with David Tennant and Catherine Tate doing excellent work every episode and all the cast and crew making it one of the greatest shows on television.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Doctor Who references in other media

Doctor Who in the comics! American liberal political cartoonist Tom Tomorrow features the Doctor in his latest strip about the presidential contest (thanks to Outpost Gallifrey for featuring this)

Pink Floyd in their 1971 song "One Of These Days" incorporated the rhythm and theme tune of Doctor Who. The KLF (Timelords) in their 1988 song "Doctorin' the Tardis" about the Doctor and Daleks hit the top of the UK singles chart. The band Orbital also reinterpreted the theme tune. YouTube search for the music videos.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

San Francisco Library Selection: Then We Came to the End

The San Francisco Public Library has a cool program in which they choose a book for the city to read, and make it more widely accessible to people to check out. Many of the books are contemporary literature, that have been critically acclaimed and on a wide variety of interesting subjects. The May/June 2008 selection is Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris, which is a 2007 novel about employees in a Chicago advertising agency and the contrast between the prosperity of the dotcom boom and the economic downturn around 2000. Ferris shows the personal and common experiences that the workers have.

Other stories like Douglas Coupland's novels JPod and The Gum Thief as well as the British and American versions of The Office have also examined this theme of contemporary life in the workplace and its moments of humor and tragedy. Then We Came to the End introduces an ensemble of characters and makes them distinct and interesting all the way through the story, using the first person plural narrative device that creates a sense of community with the reader and the protagonists. In the downturn, the workers find there are fewer contracts and redundancies are unavoidable. There is suspense in who will be made redundant and how they will react to the loss of their job, and also the effect on the workplace as a whole. Ferris creates a literary tone that is also funny and touching, connecting with contemporary life and the younger generation who is used to communicating by email and using computers as a part of everyday life. The novel also engages with how people support and occupy themselves with a job and also how they look ahead to realizing their future dreams.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Sarah Jane's Challenges

In the last part of The Sarah Jane Adventures series one, after setting up the characters and their personalities, the alien invaders test Ms. Smith and her friends on a personal level. In "Whatever Happened to Sarah Jane?" Maria finds herself the only one who can remember her new friend one morning, and must set out on her own to figure out how to bring Sarah Jane back and save the world. In the next story, "The Lost Boy," everything the characters have come to depend on is changed, and there are some developments I didn't see coming and that were very surprising. Looking forward to series two, The Sarah Jane Adventures has proved itself a great series on its own, complementary to Doctor Who and Torchwood in their exploration of different aspects of alien life in relation to the human experience.

Ratatouille and Pixar's Appeal

I just saw the Disney Pixar movie Ratatouille: it's a very unique and fun film that like Remy the rat transcends preconceptions about a animated film with cooking and rodents as the theme. It's really a film for everyone, taking the best aspects of animated and live action genres and combining them into a singular achievement for Pixar. While some previous Pixar films were targeted at the childrens' audience with a youthful central character, Cars and Ratatouille appeal to the older audiences with their themes of finding one's way in society. Like classic films of the 1940s and 1950s they are movies that everyone can watch but adults will connect with on a different level to children. Pixar movies like the early Disney animated films don't target stories down to children but earn their respect by making the films entertaining to people of any age.

In Ratatouille Remy and his human friend Linguini both want to be accepted by the restaurant community. It's a theme that continues on the special features on the DVD, where Remy gives a funny and informative history of the position of rats around the world in an effort to rehabilitate their reputation, in the cartoon "Lifted" a young alien tries to impress his superior in levitating a human, and the film's writer/director Brad Bird and chef Thomas Keller talk about their mentors in following their ambitions and how they motivate their associates. This DVD is recommended for increasing interest in both cooking and animated films as art forms.