Leonard Nimoy (1931-2015)

It’s difficult to fathom right now, but a legend is truly gone.

Leonard Nimoy, icon of the stage and screen, has died at the age of 83.

Similar to most fans of his work, I knew him best as the stoic Mr. Spock in the Star Trek franchise. In that role, Nimoy portrayed a half-human, half-Vulcan science officer who was (supposedly) devoid of emotions and driven purely by logic. Ironically, he was the lens through which the show could analyze the human condition. His character acted in concert and counterbalance with McCoy’s emotion and Kirk’s authority, and became an Aristotelian trifecta by embodying logos, punctuated by pathos and the ethos of expertise and (later) command. Spock was perhaps the most well-rounded and defined character in the franchise.

Mr. Spock helped me in my youth as a role model for my awkwardness and gracelessness in social situations. Spock was an outsider among the Enterprise crew, but was well-respected for being an expert in his field and was also a valued friend. He was my favorite original crew member.

Of course, Mr. Nimoy was more than Spock. Beyond Star Trek, he was an accomplished actor, both on screen and stage as well as off screen with his fantastic and easily recognizable voice. He also was a director, producer, writer, singer, poet, and photographer.

I had the chance to see him on a panel at Dragon*Con, and his candor and humor was admirable. He sparred quite well with William Shatner on that stage, and his passion for life was palpable.

He was a quick wit, a true artist, and a kind soul.

It’s easy to say that he will be missed. It’s hard to quantify just how much.

 

Spock Chair

Timestamp: First Doctor Summary

Doctor Who: First Doctor Summary

Timestamp First Doctor

 

Starting with the last two serials for William Hartnell, they were pretty strong. It was obvious that he was starting to falter in the role, but the stories and supporting cast were strong enough to keep the show rolling.

As for the First Doctor, I enjoyed his stories a lot more than I thought I would. Many places in fandom categorize Hartnell’s Doctor as a curmudgeonly grandfather who wants to do things his way, and his way alone. His character has a lot more depth than that simple stereotype, and while he is a grumpy man, he also has a stunning capacity to love and care for those who he respects. Behind that gruff nomadic scientist is a sympathetic character with a childlike curiosity about the entirety of time and space.

I also had some trepidation about watching the older episodes, especially since so many are reconstructions, but the skills in acting and production shone through beyond the grainy images and telesnaps. I had watched The Aztecs long before starting the Timestamps project, and was thoroughly disappointed. To be honest, I needed the background of the preceding serials, and this time I had it.

The First Doctor’s adventures are truly worth the investment to watch them. And that’s why it’s so hard to say goodbye. Even after two serials of hardship in the fourth series due to the actor’s declining health, his farewell was quite up front and sincere. In those final two words, “stay warm,” Hartnell emoted his heartbreak and his gratitude for such a wonderful experience.

I’m glad I took the time to truly appreciate it.

 

The Smugglers – 3
The Tenth Planet – 4

Series Four (First Doctor) Average Rating: 3.5

 

Series 1 – 3.5
Series 2 – 3.7
Series 3 – 3.1
Series 4 – 3.5

First Doctor’s Weighted Average Rating: 3.41

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Power of the Daleks

 

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

Timestamp #29: The Tenth Planet

Doctor Who: The Tenth Planet
(4 episodes, s04e05-e08, 1966)

Timestamp 029 The Tenth Planet

This serial had a slow lead up to an otherwise enjoyable story. It’s the introduction of the Cybermen! Wow, they have come a long way in costume and character design. The Cybermen were a bit hard to understand, and were certainly more individual than the later versions.

It was good to get the backstory on such a popular villain, and the story keeps rolling with excellent tension surrounding the stranded astronauts and assault in isolation. Cutler was the trope of the blood-thirsty military officer, which felt a little bonk-bonk on the head with the message. That in mind, I get Cutler having no problem killing the Cybermen, but what didn’t follow was Ben enabling Cutler to kill them. Ben was terribly upset about killing in self-defense mere moments earlier, but then hands Cutler the gun without hesitation.

The Doctor spontaneously collapses and remains out of commission for an episode of the serial. This leaves the companions to carry the story, both in and out of the serial. Hartnell was obviously having a hard time with this one, and luckily the companion actors and characters are both strong enough to keep the gears turning.

Remember the rules, though: It’s a regeneration episode, so it get an automatic +1 on the score. They’re always hard episodes to do.

Watching the First Doctor say goodbye was heart-breaking. The companions think he’s either worn out or going daft, but it felt a lot more like he was completely lucid in his final moments. Just in case this regeneration thing doesn’t work, “stay warm.”


Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”

 

UP NEXT – First Doctor Summary

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

 

Timestamp #28: The Smugglers

Doctor Who: The Smugglers
(4 episodes, s04e01-e04, 1966)

Timestamp 028 The Smugglers

It’s another new opening credits sequence on a nice cat-and-mouse game mixed with pirates and a mystery.

The Doctor seems surprised to see Ben and Polly, which puts a slight spin on my theory from The War Machines. That said, I don’t think he’s entirely upset about their arrival, as he gets over the anger quickly.

Polly is very bubbly and perky, and I like that Ben respectfully pokes at her by continuing to call her “Duchess” and “Ducks”. Their dynamic gets even more mixing as Polly gets mistaken for a boy during this story. It throws her further off her game while providing her a degree of power that she wouldn’t have as a woman in the era.

The reference to the Doctor as “Sawbones” (a slang term for a surgeon) is amusing, as is the play off of superstitions to break out of captivity. I can’t help but feel sorry for Tom and Jamaica for being so easily manipulated.

 

Rating: 3/5 – “Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.”

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Tenth Planet

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

 

My Only Hope for Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Star-Wars-The-Force-Awakens

I sincerely have one hope for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

I hope that it is good.

As silly as it sounds, I hope that is a good movie. Not just good in the it’s a movie with the original cast and has the words star and wars in the title so it has to be good sense, but rather the knock your socks off even if this is the first thing you’ve ever seen in the franchise and even Siskel and Ebert would have given this thing four thumbs up and more if they could find more hands sense.

My reasoning is pretty simple. There were sixteen years between Return of the Jedi and The Phantom Menace, and no matter how good the first prequel could have been, I don’t think it would have mattered. There was too much hype, and too many expectations among fans of the original trilogy. I grant that The Phantom Menace (and by extension the prequel trilogy as a whole) did not meet its true potential. It could have been more, and I fully acknowledge the faults. But, it was by no means as bad as the original trilogy fandom would have the world believe.

As The Phantom Menace and the rest of the prequels debuted, original trilogy fans took to the internet in droves to tear the films apart. Many of them waved their “I watched the first Star Wars (with no bloody Episode IV or A New Hope attached to it) in theaters so I know what makes a good Star Wars movie” privilege in the face of new fans. Critical reviews, both professional and otherwise, took the movie to task by addressing fandom, citing how real fans would disavow the new films, and how those who liked them should move out of their parents’ basement. The Red Letter Media reviews are particularly venomous, but are celebrated among the crowd dominated by bitterness even ten years after the last prequel debuted.

Of course, that’s after The Phantom Menace made $431 million domestically. That’s a lot of multiple viewings for a film that supposedly sucks so bad, but I digress.

Star Wars has become a generational fandom, and each new set of fans is usually kids: There was a set of fans who came to the franchise in 1977-1983, a set who came to it with the heyday of the novels in the late ’80s and early ’90s, a set that joined with the Special Editions and prequels (1997-2005), and a set that came of age with The Clone Wars. The Force Awakens will usher in a new generation of fans who will likely be kids as well.

I don’t want the prequel generation to develop the same bitterness about their fandom that their OT and novel era counterparts have.

Prequel fans deserve better than they have been offered. Sequel era fans deserve a fan community based on fun and love, not venom and hatred.

I’ve talked and written at length about how, first and foremost, fandom should be fun. No matter the franchise, this is all entertainment, not life and death matters. Being critical about the content and execution of the material is important, but being bonked on the head for the things that you love by self-instated gatekeepers is not fun.

Critical analysis and review should be limited to the material and never extended to the fandom. It is ironic that a fandom built around geeky exploits and adventures, a community that has long lamented and fought against bullying by others like the stereotypical “jocks,” should in turn bully their own for not walking the right way. I’ve fallen away from Star Wars fandom in recent years because of the way that older fans treat younger fans. Star Wars has lost part of the innocence and excitement that it once had, and not because George Lucas violated childhoods, but because time and again the fandom has forgotten Wheaton’s Law in their critiques.

I don’t want the prequel generation, the group that opened their eyes to the franchise with The Phantom Menace, the group that knows what it feels like to be bonked on the head continuously by older generations, to fall into that darkness. They need to remember that “real” Star Wars fans are anyone who loves the magic of Star Wars. They need to remember how it feels to be told that their opinion “can’t be trusted” based on what they like.

I’d like to think that my generation and the first generation of Star Wars fans can be brought back from the brink of bitterness, but I don’t hold much hope for it. I believe that many of them are beyond redemption for sacrificing their own for the honor of being right on the internet.

I want The Force Awakens to be so good that fans can look on it in admiration and joy, basking in the happiness and escape that fandom should embody. I want prequel fans to avoid the fate that befell the generations that came before. I want them to be critical without feeling the need to attack their own tribes. I want them to remember that it is okay to not like things.

I want them to remember what it means to be a fan and not a self-appointed savior of the franchise.

I want them to remember the feeling they felt when they heard the Star Wars theme in theaters for the first time.

I want them to remember what it means to be a Star Wars kid.

Most importantly, I want them to help new fans to find that moment as well.

Timestamp Special #2: Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D.

Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D.
(1966)

Timestamp S02 Daleks Invasion Earth 2150 AD

 

It’s seems to be a standard with the Peter Cushing Doctor’s stories to speed up the pacing while simultaneously upping the production budget. This story hits the key notes, but the faster pace removes a large amount of the tension. This is readily apparent in the sequence when the Dalek emerges from the river. That big reveal just isn’t as dramatic when it moves at a breakneck pace.

Production-wise, the Dalek ship had a good new look, and wasn’t too shabby for the era. The Robomen, however, look like rejects from an unholy union of CHiPs and THX 1138. Good lord, those get-ups were silly, but at least they get their three square meals of nutritious… jellybeans?

In character notes, the police officer Tom, who replaced Ian in the plot, was a major step up from his Cushing-era predecessor. It was nice to see Bernard Cribbins again, particularly in his first voyage in the police box before he joined David Tennant as Wilfred Mott. An equally fresh breath of air was Louise, the replacement for Barbara, who was much more engaging and intelligent than her predecessor.

On the downside: Dortmun, the wheelchair-bound scientist, died a very meaningless death in comparison to his television counterpart. There was no need for him to attack them or die since the van could have very easily outrun the Daleks, just as easily as it ran the blockade moments later.

Anyway, this rating won’t count toward anything since this isn’t an official Doctor.

 

Rating for The Dalek Invasion of Earth: 5/5
Rating for Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D.: 3/5

 

While we’re on the subject, let’s talk about the Peter Cushing Doctor. I like Peter Cushing, but his Doctor would have been better served with original stories. When Hollywood tries reboots in the modern day, I try to divorce my brain from what came before and offer up the benefit of the doubt. However, these two projects were designed as a near reproduction of the two Hartnell stories, so it’s almost as if the producers are asking audiences to compare in hopes that they will find the bigger, flashier, and colorful exploits to be more engaging. Similar to Gus Van Sant’s shot-for-shot remake of the classic Psycho, these projects pretty much demanded to be compared to their source material.

Cushing’s Doctor isn’t Hartnell’s Doctor. He’s far less proactive, and far less analytical, but he’s superficially warmer and easier to relate to. He would have been a worthy successor on the actual show, but in near exact remakes, he was merely average.

 

Dr. Who and the Daleks – 3
Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. – 3

Cushing Doctor’s Weighted Average Rating: 3.00

 

Onward to Series Four.

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Smugglers

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

Timestamp: Third Series Summary

Doctor Who: Third Series Summary

Timestamp Logo First

 

I really enjoyed the third series, though it was not as strong as the first two. The Daleks got a wonderful serial that went on a bit long, and it finished strong with three good stories that I felt started to bring the show into a good stride. There are some less exciting adventures, like The Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Eve and The Celestial Toymaker, which brought the score down a bit, but overall I’m still enjoying the First Doctor a lot more than I thought I would.

It will be sad to seem him go with only two serials to go. Before I start into Series Four, however, I plan to visit the Peter Cushing big screen interpretation one last time with the remake of Series Two’s The Dalek Invasion of Earth.

 

Galaxy 4 – 3
Mission to the Unknown  – 4
The Myth Makers – 3
The Daleks’ Master Plan – 4
The Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Eve – 2
The Ark – 4
The Celestial Toymaker – 1
The Gunfighters – 3
The Savages – 4
The War Machines – 3

Series Three Average Rating: 3.1/5

 

UP NEXT – Special #2: Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D.

 

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.