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Babylon 5

Jun. 20th, 2011 03:13 pm
cbrachyrhynchos: (Default)


I watch old television.

For some reason, I've started to watch Babylon 5 now that I'm finally over the negative association I had with a certain ex who took it way too seriously. Anyway, it's a mixed-bag of a science fiction series. On the one hand, it has a tendency to get overbearing and preachy, especially when it comes to the whole Delenn/Sheridan interspecies partnership as the chosen ones of a prophesy (involving wibbly-wobbly time travel) to save the galaxy from Big Bad.

On the other hand, where the show has some real magic to it is in dealing with the Little Bad of Londo-G'Kar-Vir. For most of the first season, Londo plays Bugs Bunny to G'Kar's overly serious Elmer Fudd. That changes when Londo takes a devil's deal to rekindle a centuries-old war between Londo's Centauri and G'Kar's Narn, with obvious parallels to Poland, Palestine, and Vietnam.

Londo is a nicely conflicted villain who embodies Neil Gaiman's maxim, "The cost of getting what you want, is getting what you wanted." G'Kar, no less a bigot than Londo, emerges as the moral prophet of the series. While Vir is the sorrowful low-level functionary who can't do much more than stutter apologies or say, "I told you so."

One of the best scenes involves minimal dialogue, Vir backs into an elevator to find an angry G'Kar staring at him. Over the course of a long silent minute, Vir works up the courage to mutter a heartfelt apology. G'Kar lets Vir hang for long moments, before delivering a poetic rejection.

It's the small moments like this where the show shines, and it's tendency to get preachy is forgivable.

In other random spew, I'm thinking about getting the Generations expansion for Sims 3, but I'm holding off until I get my current family through the 10th generation. Although I'm starting to have the ugly load-time curse at Generation 9.
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Checking out The Tudors was primarily an exercise for NaNoWriMo. I figured "when in doubt, chew the scenery" and the Tudors had it in abundance. Besides, I got tired of snarking on CSI.

So we're midway through Season 2 and I'm struck with how uneven the whole thing is. The saving grace of Season 1 was a quite surprising Sam Neil as Cardinal Wolsey. Neil's Wolsey as someone who's utterly loyal to England while being fundamentally corrupt ended up imported wholesale into my draft. He was placed directly opposite a horribly written and hence horribly acted Henry. I suppose that while changing Henry's motivations from episode to episode is supposed to communicate either complexity or fickleness of character, the end result is muddled.

The first part of Season 2 was carried by Northam's portrayal of Thomas More. More is something of an ambiguous martyr who burned people at the stake when he had power and then appealed to freedom of conscience when the political tide turned toward the reformation. Northam carries the moral dilemmas or the saint much better than Meyers does of the king.

Alas, More gets martyred early in the season, so we're apparently stuck with Anne Boleyn developing a textbook case of cinema mental illness and George Boleyn repeatedly Kicking the Dog. What's interesting to me is the lengths they go through to make the historical frame-job of Anne Boleyn look marginally reasonable. It's not that the King got what he wanted through political and emotional pressure along with torture, but that Anne's relationships with George and the gay, gay, gay, Mark Smeaton was misunderstood by her Ladies in Waiting.
cbrachyrhynchos: (Default)
Ouch, I remembered this made for TV western much more fondly through the glaze of prescription painkillers I was on when it first aired. But some of the highlights:

Jack Palance and Tracy Walter as a pair of trappers with shitloads of gay subtext, in spite of the fact that they spend the entire movie talking about beaver.

Sam Eliot, who could read from the phone book as far as I'm concerned.

Angelica Huston's breasts.

A much bowdlerized revisioning of the friendship between Calamity Jane and Dora DuFran.

Stock Footage!
cbrachyrhynchos: (Default)
For those of you not in the know, MI-5/Spooks is a UK series that centers on spies in the UK's internal security services. It's sort of like "24" but with actual intelligence and without the pretense of a deadline for the season. I'm currently working my way through Season 4, and I'm seeing signs that the series is running out of steam.

Repeating Romantic Plotlines: Season 2 had Danny's one-sided infatuation with co-worker Zoe. This was terminated when Zoe, convicted of conspiracy to commit murder, gets shipped off to a foreign country with a new identity. Season 5 has the brief dating relationship of boss Harry and trusted confidant, Ros. This relationship is, of course, terminated when Ros is accused of murder and shipped off to another country with a new identity.

Repeating Romantic Plotlines (Part 2): Season 2 also had the failed romance between leading man Tom Quin and a civilian woman who is kept in the dark about his morally-ambiguous day job, eventually leading to Tom's rejection from the service. Season 5 has leading man Adam Carter in an affair with the Nanny, with growing questions about his future in the service.

A Character is the "Only Hope": Much of Season 4 and Season 5 has involved a reaction to the U.S. torture scandals pitting old boss spy Harry Pearce against not only terrorists, but also threats to English democracy and jurisprudence. Ros takes the fall for a fake murder rap to protect Harry, who is the only hope against the growing acceptance of torture within the security services.

However, signs of the narrative apocalypse that we've not seen yet:
Episodes done entirely from the point of view of the villains, victims, or minor characters.

The musical episode.

An entire episode that takes place within a dream.
cbrachyrhynchos: (Default)
I have to say that I've not been linked into the fandom of either show as I work through old episodes, but I've been mulling over the similarities and differences in regards to how they portray sexual orientation, and been generally more impressed with Dr. Who.

Torchwood certainly gets credit for adopting the campy slasher's maxim that just about anyone in a science fiction program can be read as implicitly queer. The problem is that Torchwood at times seems a little bit too camp, a little too forced.

But honestly I find Dr. Who (in the revival form) to be generally more impressive. As he travels backwards and forwards through time, mostly he focuses on the areas bordering the human universe. And in that universe, he engages in conversations with dozens of different people, some of whom just happen to be gay or lesbian. What's interesting is that the 21st century companions often have more significant reactions than The Doctor, but it's also significant gay and lesbian characters of the future have no reason to dance or play word games about their relationships. Captain Jack flirts with everyone. The lesbian car-spotters of "Gridlock" chastise another driver (himself in an inter-species relationship) for not identifying them as an old married couple. And the tragic divorcee Sky Silvestre of "Midnight" (perhaps a reference to the novels by Alastair Reynolds?) doesn't skip a beat in talking about her ex-wife.

Whoopi Goldberg made an argument about 14 years ago that minorities go through certain stages of representation in cinema, with inclusion of characters who just happen to be ___ as the end goal of inclusion. To me, Dr. Who strikes me as closer to that goal than Torchwood.

Like many science fiction shows, the futures of Dr. Who are a function of the country where they are produced rather than reflective of global diversity. Firefly and Star Trek are distinctly American futures, and the Doctor's futures are projections of the contemporary UK.

To me, that kind of representation is important, and makes the Dr. Who universe feel markedly different from the universes of other narratives I currently follow (Lost, Spooks, CSI, Fringe, Heroes) where GLBT characters so far are invisible or marginalized.

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