Viewing posts tagged pop between realities

Pop Between Realities, Home in Time for Tea 32 (Knights of God)

There's a shift between the early and late 1980s that is difficult to articulate, but nevertheless clear. The cultural moment of the late 80s - one that, in practice, extends a few years into the 90s - is clearly a vibrant one. Swaths of really good bands release career high albums in this period, the much-feted British Inavsion of Comics hits high gear, you've got the Second Summer of Love, and, for good measure, Doctor Who has a creative renaissance.

Knights of God, which ran in 1987, airing the day before the episodes of Season 24 of Doctor Who, is clearly a part of this era. Which is interesting, as it was held back by two years and actually belongs to 1985, a very different era of television. And yet the delay is in many ways absolutely perfect - a case of something that would have been a few years ahead of its time instead ending up being an iconic example of its time.

Throughout the Baker era one of the running defenses we could fine was that it's not entirely clear what Doctor Who should have been in the context of television of that period. Starting, well, not quite ...

Pop Between Realities, Home in Time for Tea 31 (The Singing Detective, Edge of Darkness)

The weakness of Doctor Who in 1985-86 would be one thing if it were a weak period for British television in general. Instead, however, two of the most acclaimed British television productions of all time aired during the Colin Baker era. The first, at the end of 1985, was Edge of Darkness. The second, airing at the tail end of Trial of a Time Lord, about 26 hours after each of the last four episodes and then for another two weeks after, was The Singing Detective.

For those not reflexively versed in the nuances of British television, Edge of Darkness is a conspiracy thriller written by the creator of Z-Cars and directed by Martin Campbell, who went on to be a serious director who did such high profile work as the Daniel Craig Casino Royale and, less satisfyingly, the recent Green Lantern film. If the name sounds vaguely familiar as a Mel Gibson film, I'm very sorry for you, as that's Martin Campbell remaking the series as a film a few years back and very much not good. The plot concerns a police detective whose daughter is gunned down in front of him and the nuclear conspiracy that ...

Pop Between Realities, Home in Time for Tea 30 (Doctor In Distress)


I have for the most part avoided significant discussion of Ian Levine, typically gesturing to the fact that eventually I'd do this post. So let's take the bull by the horns here and lay this question out in its most damningly blunt form: can Ian Levine be blamed for Doctor Who's cancellation?

This is, of course, terribly unfair. Although no Gareth Jenkins, there's something that leaves a bad taste in my mouth about a sustained attack on Ian Levine's role in the series' history. At the end of the day, Levine in 1985 was a 30-year-old geek and acted the part. He was a poor spokesman for Doctor Who in the public eye, yes. But more than anything one feels bad for him for being put there in the first place. His biggest problem, in many ways, was that he played the role that the cancellation crisis cast him in - slightly maladapted uberfan - too well.

I'd also be lying if I said that, as a 29-year-old socially maladapted Doctor Who fan, I didn't have at least some visceral understanding of where Levine was coming from. Being an angry geek in 2012 is easy ...

Pop Between Realities, Home in Time for Tea 29 (Max Headroom, Tripods)

So what went wrong? I mean, the flaws are obvious enough in The Twin Dilemma. And it's easy enough to pin the blame. But what's the alternative? Throughout the Davison era, even when it was having its biggest disasters, it was at least relatively clear what the good parts of the show were. They may have frequently struggled to break through, but we could usually tell what good Doctor Who was supposed to look like. But the highlights of the Colin Baker eras, though existent, are so few and far between that it's difficult to say what they should have done. For a long time the conventional wisdom was "not cast Colin Baker" or "have a different concept of the Doctor," but as we'll see Big Finish proves that Baker's Doctor could have worked. Still, the advance in storytelling techniques over the nearly 30 years since this era aired mean that we can't just say "they should have done what Big Finish did." The question is what Doctor Who in 1985-86 should have looked like. 

The usual technique would be to look at what else was going on in TV sci-fi in Britain ...

Pop Between Realities, Home in Time for Tea 28 (The Adventure Game)

I am not entirely convinced that I have, in the course of writing this blog, actually watched anything weirder than The Adventure Game. It is the sort of thing that, as one watches, one has the increasingly clear realization that nobody who has never seen this would ever believe me about what it’s like. The Adventure Game is really the first 1980s example of what we saw back with Children of the Stones - one of those pieces of television that sticks, deeply embedded, in the brain to later come out in a triumphantly cathartic conversation to the effect of “yes, yes, I remember that!”

The easiest way to describe The Adventure Game is that it’s what everybody who foolishly wants the Celestial Toymaker to come back should watch instead. It is, in effect, that story done right and as an ongoing series. In each episode a trio of celebrities from the B-list or below (possibly far below - I’m not actually sure everybody who appears on the show is actually a celebrity) are stuck on a fictitious alien planet and left to escape by playing odd real-life board games and solving puzzles. And, you know. Talking to angry ...

Pop Between Realities, Home in Time For Tea 27 (The Cleopatras)

Defense of Time-Flight aside, and complete lack of defense of The Arc of Infinity aside as well, watching Doctor Who in the John Nathan-Turner era often involves a fair amount of staring incredulously at the screen and bewilderedly asking “what the fuck were you people thinking.” This is somewhat odd. Time-Flight is not, in point of fact, worse-made than The Power of Kroll, to pick one of five or six examples from the Graham Williams era that people are far more willing to defend. Nothing The Arc of Infinity does to Gallifrey is prima facie stupider than The Invasion of Time. The Black Guardian is no more of a ham sandwich in Mawdryn Undead than would be expected given his servant in The Armageddon Factor. And yet what is defensible, if not necessary forgivable, under Graham Williams is a source of incredulity under Nathan-Turner.

There are reasons for this. We’ve just wrapped 1982 in the series. Defending it because it compares reasonably well to Doctor Who five years before increasingly doesn’t wash. On top of that there is a question of overall aesthetic. The Graham Williams era was cheap and silly, yes, but it was cheap and silly ...

Pop Between Realities, Home in Time for Tea 26 (Coronation Street)

The Davison era is described, usually by its detractors, as a soap opera. “Soap opera,” it should be noted, is one of the great denigrating terms in science fiction fandom. There is nothing, including the Star Wars Christmas Special, quite as bad in the world as being a soap opera.

To anyone outside of science fiction or soap opera fandom this is completely insane since the two are self-evidently the exact same thing. To someone uninvolved in either there is no difference whatsoever in what die-hard sci-fi fans do and what die-hard soap fans do. Both are equally objects of mockery. One dresses up more, the other sends panicked letters in that don’t quite seem to grasp that the characters are fictional. But other than that they’re exactly the same thing.

Consider a recent example. In 2011 Coronation Street brought back the character of Dennis Tanner, who had not appeared in the show since 1968. The only thing that can possibly be reached for as an analogy would be something like bringing Sarah Jane Smith back to Doctor Who in 2006 when she hadn’t appeared in it since 1983. Or bringing Leonard Nimoy as Spock back in ...

Pop Between Realities, Home in Time for Thrill Power 25 (2000 AD)

There are, of course, many ways in which British culture has jumped over and influenced American culture. But the British Invasion in the comics industry remains one that it's easy to miss the significance of, in part because its three leading lights - Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, and Neil Gaiman - have largely sucked the oxygen from the event, obscuring the fact that for a significant period of time the overwhelming majority of significant comics writers and artists in the US were, in fact, British. Consider the following list: Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Neil Gaiman, Garth Ennis, Peter Milligan, Jamie Delano, Andy Diggle, Mike Carey, Andrew Cartmel, Paul Cornell, Mark Millar, Lawrence Miles, Warren Ellis, Tony Lee, Alan Davis, Barry Kitson, Dave Gibbons, Glen Fabry, Kevin O'Neil, Bryan Talbot, Gary Erskine, Frank Quitely, Trevor Hairsine, Sam Kieth, John McRea, Frazer Irvine, Brian Bolland, Garry Leach, Steve Yeowell, Steve Dillon, John Ridgway, Carlos Ezquerra, Pat Mills, John Wagner, Jock,  John Bolton, Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, and Mark Buckingham. Aside from one or two Doctor Who names I threw in there because this is a Doctor Who blog after all, these are some of the biggest names in comics, whether because they ...

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