Monday, May 3, 2010

Anticipation...

From this morning's Guardian Dr. Who blog:

I'm just going to come right out and say it. Flesh and Stone can lay credible claim to being the greatest episode of Doctor Who there has ever been. That's better than Genesis Of The Daleks and better than City Of Death and better than Tomb Of The Cybermen and, yes, better than Blink. It's just ridiculously good – so much that there's scarcely any point in picking out moments because there was an iconic sequence every couple of seconds.

25 comments:

Generic said...

Must confess I found the Daeks in the Blitz episode a little worrying. The technology that allows the Brits to attack the saucer too sloppily conveniente even by Who standards, the result way, way too much like "Star Wars." And without a discernable wink.

Tulkinghorn said...

The wink apparently comes in references to WWI and WWII dogfight movies that would be unfamiliar to US audiences -- as in the following from the Guardian blog:



"One really good thing about this episode:

"Broadsword calling Danny-Boy, Broadsword calling Danny-Boy - over"

Excellent "Where Eagles Dare" reference! I can hear Richard Burton now."

Also this reading of the same problem you were complaining about, but with a different slant:

"I thought the way it asked us to suspend belief (jimmying spitfires in 5 minutes so that they are capable of space flight and engaging, Naboo starfighter style, in dogfights with round vessels) was very RTD-ish."

"very RTD-ish": As a criticism, that's fighting words in some circles....

Notwithstanding, there are about 100 unfavorable comments on the Guardian blog abut the Blitz episode, so you're not alone.

Generic said...

I endorse the "wibbley-wobbley, timey-whimey" approach. Maybe this one just need a little more dash or flair. Wasn't written by Moffett, after all.

Tulkinghorn said...

You remember, I'm sure, the comedy series "The League of Gentlemen", more frightening than funny, but enough of both to last a very long time--- Starred in and written by Mark Gatiss, who wasn't up to your standards the other night.

He also wrote a number of the Doctor novels.

Cool resume facts, from Wikipedia:

He also took an on-screen role in one episode of Doctor Who in 2007 (Professor Lazarus in "The Lazarus Experiment"), making him only the third person — after Glyn Jones and Victor Pemberton — and the first of the new series to both write for and act in the programme. In 2010 he contributed a voice part to "Victory of the Daleks", which he wrote and which made him the first actor to play two different parts in the new series. Also in 2007, he appeared as Robert Louis Stevenson in Jekyll, a BBC One serial by his fellow Doctor Who scriptwriter Steven Moffat.....

Tulkinghorn said...

Terry Pretchett, for one, thinks the series is ludicrous:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/tvandradioblog/2010/may/04/terry-pratchett-ludicrous-doctor-who

Cool quote:

"A decent detective story provides you with enough tantalising information to allow you to make a stab at a solution before the famous detective struts his stuff in the library. Doctor Who replaces this with speed, fast talking, and what appears to be that wonderful element 'makeitupasyougoalongeum'. I don't know about you, but I don't think I would dare try to jump-start a spaceship that looks like the Titanic by diving it into the atmosphere."

Generic said...

At heart, even when adult issues are folded in, DW is a kids show and has the logic of a fairy tale. One has to be young at heart, etc.

Terry Pratchett is an old poopy-pants.

Generic said...

Although "makeitupasyougoalongeum" is a great coinage.

Christian Lindke said...

Rebukes of Terry Pratchett, who suffers from Alzheimer's, are to be met with derision, disdain, and...MURDER!

Terry Pratchett is more of a craftsman, and work-a-day writer, than most. His criticisms are not easily dismissed. One may disagree, of course, as one may disagree with Moorcock re: Tolkien, but one must acknowledge that he is a writer who knows what of he speaks.

Ironically, the starting the spaceship by crashing it into the atmosphere example sounds like something one might find in a Terry Pratchett novel.

Tulkinghorn said...

Some of us had the sensitivity not to critize Pratchett...

One of the most moving things I've ever seen on TV was Pratchett delivering the annual Dimbleby Lecture recently on BBC One through a proxy because he could not speak for more than a few minutes in public. He did say goodbye, though.

Tulkinghorn said...

His subject was the desirability of legal euthanasia and suicide.

Feel bad yet?

Generic said...

I had no idea.

He's stil wrong about DW.

Christian Lindke said...

Or you are...

Generic said...

Arguments from authority only fly around here when the respondant happens to agree with them. I've learned this from bitter experience. Amis? Bellow? Convincing only when their testimony is superfluous.

Pratchett is a writer who plays so fast and loose himself that this rather looks like one of those pot & kettle thingees.

Sorry about his dementia. Best to his family, etc.

Christian Lindke said...

Actually, Arguments from Authority are only logical fallacies when the authority in question is one of the following: an unprovable omniscient being, an expert outside of their field of expertise, an authority figure with no real experience or knowledge (a parent who says "because I'm your father/mother"), or used insincerely.

Arguments from Authority are perfectly legitimate when the following conditions are met: The are experts in the given field and they have genuinely applicable knowledge.

Such arguments are exceedingly useful in a court room environment as it requires "expert testimony" in order to differentiate between mere opinion and scholarly opinion/knowledge and facts.

I don't necessarily agree with Pratchett and I pointed out that his example sounds shockingly close to something he would himself have written given that chance.

That said, his opinions regarding the craft of writing within the SF/F genre, in particular the comedy SF/F genre, is not to be taken lightly.

I also mentioned earlier that Moorcock's opinion regarding Tolkien is impossible to dismiss out of hand. He has reasons for his opinion that are more valid than a typically dismissive complaint and are rooted in the very strengths that make Moorcock such a titan in the SF/F field.

To dismiss valid arguments from authority are mere self-centered hubris. To get defensive when taking light-hearted ribbing is to be the very "old poopy-pants" you accused Pratchett of being.

One must separate one's own blind fandom, a natural and beautiful thing BTW, from one's critical opinions. I adore the 1979 Flash Gordon while understanding that it isn't actually all that well executed. It is best not to stake one's pride on what one enjoys.

The fact that YOU enjoy DW is what really matters to you with regard to your own enjoyment. Just don't try to argue its transcendent literary merits without being willing to take criticism. The show doesn't hold up that well. If it did, comparisons between Coleridge and RTD wouldn't seem invalid.

Generic said...

I would never argue the transcendent literary merits of "Doctor Who" That's sorta the point. Contra some HG regulars, not everything has to be transcendent.

There was a good line to this effect on a recent episode of "House," but I can't remember it. Dementia?

Generic said...

And re. "Flash Gordon" -- a very good example of a film that offers many eye-popping pleasures (the production design of Danilo Donati; Ornela Muti in her prime -- causing grown men to "cry out in pain," as Kael memorably put it) though as an admirer of Mike Hodges films such as "Get Carter," I'd have to take another look before writing it off as poorly executed.

A Din D. film from the same era that holds up better for me is his gorilla suit "King Kong: Great John Barry score and the young Jessica Lange in short shorts, "causing grown men..." etc.

Christian Lindke said...

The failures of execution re: Flash Gordon have a great deal to do with the performances, but that is neither here nor there. Nor is this the place to discuss how nihilism might be used to discuss Mike Hodges' Get Carter.

We must get back to the point here, which is DW and criticism.

Christian Lindke said...

"I would never argue the transcendent literary merits of Doctor Who"

Really? See, this is when you vex me. You truly vex me.

"Flesh and Stone can lay credible claim to being the greatest episode of Doctor Who there has ever been...It's just ridiculously good – so much that there's scarcely any point in picking out moments because there was an iconic sequence every couple of seconds."

Twice in the above statement, you have used evaluative statements that assert universality rather than individual taste -- greatest episode and ridiculously good. These are absolute statements that you have written with authority. Authority that you defend by bringing up examples of "inferior" episodes of the show.

A claim to excellence, especially universal claims to excellence are prima facie claims of transcendent value. The underlying assumption one comes to when reading those statements, written by a critic no less, is that those are substantive claims rooted in something more than mere opinion -- as the critic ought be someone who evaluates by standards other than merely what that one individual finds entertaining.

Such an exercise requires standards outside of ones own opinions and into the realms of objective truth or widely accepted norms. Both of those transcend individual opinion.

Which brings me to the crisis of modern criticism. The modern critic too often mistakes ones own enjoyment, or displeasure, with a thing to be equal to the normative/objective quality of the thing. This isn't at all true. Were it true, criticism would serve no purpose but verbal/written onanism. But real criticism does serve meaningful purposes. When based on accepted/expected social norms, it aids the consumer. When based on objective or widely accepted artistic principles, it helps to improve future artistic efforts.

If RTD believes that each episode he wrote gets as some "Truth," then he believes in the transcendent value of the show. So should you, unless you want to amend your statements to become "I enjoyed" which is a personal statement reflective merely of personal taste.

My Flash Gordon example was given specifically to demonstrate a place where my personal taste and my understanding of artistic principles/norms diverge.

Generic said...

Having spent my formative years as a critic as something close to a card-carrying Paulette I'm not the least bit uncomfortable with writing favorably even about some works that are a complete mess. More of a mess than either DW or FG... .

Generic said...

That wasn't me. It's Tulk quoting the Guardian.

I'm at work, which this activity is NS for, so more later.

Generic said...

The reason we should always use blockquotes when quoting stuff...

Tulkinghorn said...

I spend a lot of time educating my taste -- and almost none thinking about or analyzing it. Except, of course, to the extent necessary to finish the sentence that begins: "I like this because..." Most of the time it ends in a simple tautology.

That's about all there is to it. Ideas and standards, objective or subjective truths... whatever, are not that interesting to me.

At the same time, I am very impatient with people who like things that I dislike.... Which, if I thought about it, would mean that I believe in objective standards.

But I'm very much more interested in people's taste than in their ideas -- which is why an effusion from a very smart guy in the Guardian seems worthy of posting -- even though it is otherwise devoid of content.

Generic said...

"I am very impatient with people who like things that I dislike..."

Just thought that bore repeating.

Leaving aside the question of how you can "educate" yourself in any area without "thinking about or analyzing it..." -- not without giving a little more ground to the "chaotic" than you seem to be willing to.

To some extent being a critic means trying to account for taste. Or at least trying to describe it. Which I do think is possible. A waste of time, I guess, from your point of view, even though you do seem to spend a fair amount of time reading, revering and quoting critics. What up with that?

Tulkinghorn said...

As always you go too far and attribute to yourself descriptions that I meant only for myself...

Of course I don't think the process of criticism is a waste of time, I merely meant to say that discussions of what MY standards are or of the consistency of my opinions one against the other or of whether there is an absolute standard of aesthetics -- the development of a system of taste -- were not that interesting to me.

I don't think at all about martinis, but I have a pretty highly developed sense of what works for me. Not to mention, ahem, more private matters.

That shouldn't even need to be set aside, but assumed. Truth is, you're more dialectical about such things than I. Which makes me dull company at a museum. I just look and judge, but have never said an interesting thing about art in my life.

Generic said...

Making strong men weep since 1976:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d3t7DE_rhWM&feature=related