Sunday, November 09, 2014

The Death of Doctor Who (As Engineered by Steven Moffat)


An excellent Doctor in need of a decent producer.
The Death of Doctor Who

(As Engineered by Steven Moffat)





After viewing Doctor Who’s final episode of the season, Death in Heaven, my husband said he could write a review of it in two words: Train wreck. I told him I could use only one:


Ugh.

Okay, okay I’ll explain myself: After eight months of anticipation brewing, we, the venerable sci-fi/fantasy show’s fans, eagerly looked forward to spectacularly talented actor Peter Capaldi gracing our television screens in the title role. Alas, many of us found ourselves rather disappointed in the twelfth Doctor’s rather weak presentation to the world in his debut episode (read my I Got the Doctor Who Let Down Blues). We didn’t lay the blame for its failure to inspire on the great actor or our beloved series’ basic premise, however. It was all too obvious the weak script poor Peter and company had been given to work with was to blame. I felt that the actors and craftspersons involved honestly did the best they could do with the material, but you could sense they were struggling at times. 

One of the better episodes not written by Moffat.
Holding our breath (some might say our noses), we, the long-suffering fans, continued watching the remaining episodes of the season hoping the quality of scripts would improve. After a few rare glorious moments, many fans felt we had caught glimpses of the magic from the earlier Doctor Who era—particularly in strongly-written episodes such as Mummy on the Orient Express, Flatline, and In the Forest of the Night. Huzzah! So, you could well imagine the crushing feeling fans like my husband and I experienced when we turned on the series’ two part finale… ugh. Not only had the beauty and strengths of the original source material and cherished characters been denigrated, but our hopes for a long run of the revived Doctor Who series have flagged.



Once again, my husband is right in saying our disappointment can be summed up in only two words: Steven Moffat.



Mr. Moffat is the show’s producer, to put it in American terms, or “show runner” to use the Beeb’s vernacular, and that makes him the person responsible for making editorial decisions. As a published author and editor myself, I know that responsibility for the success or failure of a creative venture rests with the person in charge of its editorial content. It’s up to the editor/producer to put his or her foot down sometimes and say, “We’re not going there.” Intelligently choosing scripts and hiring good scriptwriters to produce story lines is a big part of the job, in other words. It’s not a task to take lightly, especially when producing the fifty-plus year television milestone which is Doctor Who.



Alternate title: Mary Poppins Flies Again!
I’m not really the type of fan who has either the time or inclination to go around the Internet griping about the producers of Doctor Who (I’ve encountered fans who do), but I have to agree with quite a few of my fellow Whovians this year. We’ve been let down by Mr. Moffat. There’s not much positive one can say about the situation. There aren’t words enough to express how sad one feels watching what was promised to be a revival of the series’ special something, that je ne sais quoi, being flushed down the drain. And yes, it’s emboldened me to speak out before it’s too late.


For there is one other word that springs to mind apart from ugh to describe my reaction to Moffat’s Death in Heaven:


Disrespectful.



There’s a niggling sense of fan disrespectfulness in many Moffat-written or co-written episodes of Doctor Who, but perhaps they’re not all fully realized until this season’s finale. The fans’ sensibilities are once again taken for granted as the Cybermen’s genesis and motivations are co-opted in order to do a remake of Marvel’s Iron Man. Throw some very poor science into the science fiction—the part human/part cyborgs can now “grow” out of “pollen” that is “planted” into dead bodies—and one gets the feeling that Mr. Moffat doesn’t take the genre seriously at all. Zombies are all the rage now? Throw them into the mish-mash along with Iron Man!
“Look they can fly like Tony Stark can!”


You can almost hear Mr. Moffat laughing in the background… “Research? Bah humbug! Those silly Doctor Who fans don’t care about well-crafted sci-fi/fantasy. I mean, if they’ll believe a newborn space dragon can lay an egg the size of the moon a few minutes after it hatches (the premise of Kill the Moon) then they’ll believe anything. They’re all thick! They’re adults watching a kid’s show! We can do whatever we want and they’ll buy it.”



It’s a disrespectful attitude and insulting. Yes, another one word review: Insulting.



Whatever the failings of classic era producers and scriptwriters at least fans didn’t feel as if they were being talked down to, belittled or openly scorned for loving a family-friendly, sci-fi/fantasy television show. Yet Death in Heaven goes on to new heights of insulting fan sensibilities by turning the Doctor’s archenemy the Master into childhood icon Mary Poppins complete with the big hat and flying umbrella—because somehow ripping off recent zombie hits and Iron Man wasn’t enough. For the record, I’m not against the Master changing genders at all, but I am against a non-original and sexist interpretation of the beloved villain from the classic series. Which leads me to another one word charge that many, many female fans have leveled at Mr. Moffat:



Sexist.

"Love me--please?" (Or co-dependency is cool.)

There’s a great scholarly article on Sexism in Doctor Who (http://rebeccaamoore.com/2014/05/29/university-study-on-sexism-in-bbcs-doctor-who-infographic/) that I won’t reiterate here, but the author makes a very strong argument that many of the Moffat-written scripts fail the Bechdel Test—and fail it miserably. For the most part women in the classic series (1963 – 1989) were presented as strong, intelligent, reasoning individuals with distinct personalities, equal in ego-integrity to the Doctor. In other words, worthy companions. Sure, some female companions screamed at a monster now and then, but so did quite a few of the Doctor’s male companions. Nasty things jumping out from the shadows or dark alleyways can do that to a person of either gender.


Rest assured, the Moffat era of Doctor Who has put women in sci-fi firmly in their place—right where they belong beneath the men! Young, good-looking females are depicted as simply “girlfriends” who suffer from hormonal fluctuations of emotions which make them constantly fret about whether the Doctor is still their boyfriend or not (if he ever was) and occasionally even slap him. Careers? For women? Get real! It’s not deemed important to show the current crop of female companions as successful career women. The female companion’s career takes a backseat to all the worrying and fretting about the Doctor and her human lovers she is forced to do because of her inferior biology, just like it does for most twenty-first century women, right?



Angst-riddled dialogue and silly arguments abound among the romantic couples in Moffat’s Doctor Who, bringing back memories of the good ol’ days of seventh grade crushes and break-ups in the junior high cafeteria. Female companions need never mature to an emotional age of beyond twelve or thirteen it seems in Moffat’s fictional world. Ditto for their male lovers. The new era of Doctor Who has become an adolescent packed space opera—or is it simply a soap opera? Original Doctor Who producer Verity Lambert had it all wrong! (She was only a woman, you know.) Who needs intelligent characters working on solving problems intelligently using the scientific method?

A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down...and down...

This is particularly true if you’re a brilliant male scientist and you find yourself regenerated into the body of a woman. The Master, formerly depicted on screen as a capable, dedicated and determined evil genius, once converted over to the female gender gives himself a girlie nickname like “Missy” and dresses up like every little girl’s favorite Edwardian nanny, Mary Poppins. He/she still wants to take over the world, but now she does it while wearing bright red lipstick and trying to stick her tongue down the back of the Doctor’s throat. How grown up!



Moffat seems to be giving a wink and a nudge to all the sexist male fans, intimating that once a mad scientist has lost his masculinity he certainly wouldn’t want to impress people that he was still an evil genius by acting like…well, like an actual genius. A person with a brain and intelligence and a plan...but hey! Once you’re wearing a dress and lipstick you can’t act any smarter than a seventh grader, right? Must be those girlie hormones!

Sarah Jane's bravery and intelligence--awesome to watch.


No wonder fans of the classic series of Doctor Who despair. Where are ace scientist Liz Shaw, investigative journalist Sarah Jane Smith, and master teacher Barbara Wright when you need them? Thank heavens for those of us who can receive the Retro-TV channel in the U.S. Episodes of the classic series are broadcast five nights a week, and you can see these strong feminist role models there, a breath of fresh air compared to the twelve year old antics of Moffat’s female companions.



Thank heaven indeed—which leads me to another word that describes Death in Heaven: Tacky.



Perhaps tasteless would work as well as tacky. At one point in the story, the Doctor tells the U.N.I.T. team that they don’t want Americans involved with dealing with the Cybermen crisis because all Americans do is “drop bombs and pray.” Asking for Divine Guidance is a big no-no apparently since only stupid people (women?) would ever think it was a good idea. And perhaps attracting and maintaining American viewers isn’t at the top of the BBC America’s list of profitable things to do, either? 

Tacky jokes cracked about the vast majority of TV viewers’ faith in a Supreme Being shows rather poor judgement on Moffat’s part. Sure, he can be atheist and anti-American, but he doesn’t have to be mean-spirited about it, does he? Didn’t political rhetoric, which insulted the conservative-minded BBC chairman, get the original series cancelled back in the 1980s? 


R.I.P. Brigadier

My husband found the idea of “resurrecting” the late Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart in the graveyard to be in extremely poor taste. Even if you don’t believe in an afterlife or heaven, why would you condemn a righteous and moral character such as the Brigadier to become a mindless cyborgs puppet for all eternity? There’s that ugh factor creeping in… Tasteless and tacky shouldn’t be words associated with a family-friendly show, but in this day and age of nasty trolling and snarky musings, I guess it was bound to happen to Doctor Who, too. So sad that Mr. Moffat couldn’t rise above it for the good of the series.

Because, in the end, it appears that Mr. Moffat wants out of Doctor Who. Why else would he risk insulting folks with tacky and tasteless quips, repeatedly show female characters in a stereotypically sexist light, and show outright contempt of the classic series and disrespect for the intelligence of the sci-fi fan base as a whole? Why would he do any of these rash and insipid things unless deep-down he wants the program to be canceled? Moffat’s production of Sherlock has done well in the ratings, and perhaps that’s where his heart lies. Certainly writing for a character such as his version of Sherlock Holmes, an autistic, emotionally-stunted savant, seems to fit better with Moffat’s outlook on life. He can express himself creatively there.



Disrespectful, insulting, sexist, tacky… ugh. I won’t even bother to point out plot holes, heavily-telegraphed plot points, and others inconsistencies in Death in Heaven. Nick Frost as Santa Claus—or should I say Father Christmas?--will probably fill them all in in the holiday special and tie things up with a nice big bow in a neat little package, right? For an atheist like Mr. Moffat to put so much faith in a saint (St. Nicholas) to perform such a miracle of scriptwriting during the one the holiest seasons of the Christian calendar is too bizarre to contemplate.

Time to move along, Steven.

Steven Moffat should depart Doctor Who and move on to pastures green, and he should do so now before the show loses any more support from the fans. Peter Capaldi’s portrayal of the Doctor deserves a chance to shine away from the dross of the Moffat era. Doctor Who deserves fresh air, fresh ideas, and maybe even some female writers and producers this next time out?


Are you listening, BBC?

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Remember, remember...

Remember, remember the fifth of November, gunpowder, treason and plot!

November 5 is Guy Fawkes' Day in the U.K., and my English husband loves a good reason for a bonfire (since that's the traditional time to burn poor Guy in effigy). And what better reason to build a fire on that day than to burn off your garden wastes to create some carbon for your compost pile, right?

Getting the fire going with scrap paper and twigs.

Of course, Guy Fawkes was just the poor sap who got stuck swinging for the gunpowder plot. The real brains behind it got away more than likely. I find it a bit telling how popular Guy Fawkes' Day has become in the U.S. after the release of the movie V for Vendetta. The idea of putting on a mask and anonymously taking revenge against those in power who want to cheat you of your rights is irresistible, isn't it? Interesting how close the day comes to Election Day in the U.S. as well... You'd hope more people would connect the two and get out and vote, making a less violent change in our society for the better. But many folks stayed home. They couldn't be bothered to take part of the political process. I guess they had more fun things to do on their iPhones or had movies that couldn't wait on Netflix. You know, important things.

It burned for some time. We had loads of tomato vines.

While we didn't attempt to burn down Parliament like Guy Fawkes this year, we did get rid of diseased tomato vines and tons of small frozen fruit that didn't quite make it. Silly how the tomato vines kept putting out flowers all through October... Didn't they realize how close the frost date was? It was a lost cause trying to produce fruit so close to winter. You'd think they'd spend their energy playing games on their iPads or Tablets, huh?

The parsnips are really going strong!

The parsnips, cabbages and Brussel sprouts all love the colder weather, so they'll hang in there until the snow buries them. Alas, everything else dies in the first hard frost of the season. We're turning over the beds and planting a cover crop of winter rye (which we grew and harvested ourselves last year) to work as "green manure" in the spring. But as of November 6, for the most part it's time for our garden to go to sleep. The rain barrels are emptied and turned over to prevent them from cracking in the freeze and the potted plants are brought inside.

Now is the time to spend energy online researching ways to improve next years' garden and finish those book manuscripts, right? Maybe even a story about a guy with a gunpowder plot to blow up Parliament?

What do you plan on growing in your garden in the spring? What things are you going spend your energy doing during the coming cold months?


Saturday, October 25, 2014

My Sexy Saturday -- Happy Halloween!

This week's My Sexy Saturday blog hop postings are supposed to revolve around Halloween. Excerpts are supposed to come from spooky, scary, frightening, or chilling adventures where your hero/heroine meet and get into a lot of hot water or they're being chased by brain-eating zombies, etc. For those of us who tend to write more romantic-comedy than horror fiction, this can be somewhat of a challenge!

Here are seven paragraphs from my romantic-comedy Leaving Who... A scene where things get a bit on the scary side for Cici Connors when she sees her friends John Smith, Captain Mac and Babbling Brook as they really are and not as she normally perceives them.


Leaving Who
from Mojocastle Press

After touring the universe with the sometimes inept time traveler John Smith, Cici Connors wants one more thing—to go home. Will the imminent destruction of Earth throw a kink into her plans? 

“She looks different than when she first came through the door, you mean,” I repeated. “Please tell me she is one of your lot.” Before the words had left my lips the figure in front of me blurred and reformed into the image of tattered dress-wearing Idris, better known as the Doctor’s wife. “She’s… she’s done it again!”
Captain Mac sat beside me and put an arm around my shoulders. “Don’t fight it, Cici. Your mind is trying to find the best way to represent what she is. She’s a tough one to get a handle on—even for us.”
“You mean you see her as a multitude of personas, too?”
“I mean I see her like I’ve always seen her—like how I see John and myself. We’re not human so we don’t have to visualize each other as humans would.”
“You’re saying you don’t even remotely resemble the way I’ve imagined you?”
I looked at Mac’s hand resting on my arm. Suddenly the hand lost its five fingers as they melted together and began to curl upwards, rapidly changing from a human flesh tone into a bright mauve color. The arm became a tentacle and flowed into a solid blob instead of a torso. I willed myself to look into his face and then at the faces of John and our female guest…morphing and blurring into a pinkish, purplish, grayish mass of endless eyes and tentacle-like appendages and fangs dripping saliva and…
I passed out for the second time in as many days.

Leaving Who and Loving Who are available in e-formats and print from Mojocastle Press, Amazon and wherever fine ebooks are sold online. (Coming soon: Losing Who--is it the end for Cici and John Smith, or has Cici just lost her mind once too often?)

Enjoy the rest of the My Sexy Saturday excerpts!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Inequality--Blog Action Day 2014

http://www.blogactionday.org
From time to time I go off the rails. I mean, I get serious and stop posting fun snippets from my books or talking about attending sci-fi cons and actually write an opinion piece. This is one of those times. You can leave now if you wish. You've been warned.



 


If you're still reading, welcome to Blog Action Day 2014. This year's topic is inequality. Bloggers around the world are posting pieces about inequality today. The above Facebook meme really speaks to me about inequality because it directly affects me as a woman. Just because I was born with two X chromosomes this somehow it means I need my life choices regulated by a bunch of old farts in the statehouse or Washington, D.C. That thought really raises my blood pressure.

What is it with these men (mostly men--I realize there are some "good ol' gals" among these politicians who toe the party line) that they feel women are incapable of making decisions about their own bodies? Are we an inferior species? If that's the case, then why did the Creator give us the ability to bear children and nurse them? Seems to me women are far from inferior creatures! It could even be argued women are both physically and psychologically superior to men since God thinks we're the gender with the best attributes to carry and nurture babies. But apparently women are mentally and morally deficient--and the government has to step in and tell us how to think and act for our own good.

Could these myriad of U.S. regulations aimed at controling women's bodies be an attempt to keep us in our place? Think about it. If women are free to do as they like, we might do things that men (especially old farts) don't like. We might decide that they don't want to stay at home in the kitchen all day long, barefoot and pregnant. Women might use their minds to study and hone their skills and have--gasp!--actual careers! Women might even aspire to position of powers over men... The horror!

Insecure males can't have females competing against them for jobs and positions. It's just not done! Here's a telling quote from an article about a recent remark made by Microsoft's CEO Satya Nadella saying that it’s “good karma” for women not to ask for a pay raise, but to “trust the system” to eventually reward them


Nadella’s words have struck a sensitive chord with the public, as the discrepancy in salaries women and men get is notable. US women received 78 percent of what equally qualified men received in 2013, according to research by the American Association of University Women, cited by Reuters.(Full article at http://rt.com/news/194740-karma-women-microsoft-criticism/   Another good article about women and how they are perceived in the workplace: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/28/opinion/sunday/learning-to-love-criticism.html?smid=fb-share&_r=1 )

Women throughout history have been forced into second class citizen roles to keep us in our place. Less pay, less chance for advancement, less reward for our hard work... What better way to shut women up permanently and keep us at odds with each other than to attack us at our most vulnerable spot--the very control of our bodies?

We've all heard the old adages "good girls don't" but that "boys will be boys." By legislating a double standard we impose a twenty-first century equivalent of slavery on the female gender. If forcing women into sexual and economic slavery doesn't count as inequality, what does?

We're unequal before the law. A woman can't even make an intimate decision about her reproductive health with her doctor without some buttinski politician forcing his opinion into the mix. The decisions women are forced to make are sometimes terrible, agreed, but I do believe no woman takes these types of decisions lightly or believes she has a better option at the time. Let's trust that women who need to make these decisions aren't moral or mental defectives. Let's trust them to make their own decisions about their bodies and health. Let's leave them in peace and give them the privacy to do so.

By making access to birth control more difficult through legislation which actively prevents medical coverage for it, the double standard shines brighter than ever. Viagra is covered under many health insurance plans, but the Pill isn't? Why would any sane person in the year 2014 think that making birth control methods harder to obtain is going to stop women from have sex? After all, a male can forcefully use a female's body for his own sick pleasure, but she is stuck with the damning labels of "adulteress" and "murderer" if she chooses to terminate the pregnancy his vile actions caused? Why are the victim's rights and mental/emotional/physical health not as important as her rapist's?

I think Jesus said it best: Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

Inequality is sin. Women are God's creation, too. God made us capable of making our own decisions. Old farts--leave our bodies and our decisions alone!





Look for these hashtags to find more Blog Action Day posts on the topic of inequality: #BAD2014, #Inequality, #BlogAction, #OCT16, and #BlogAction14

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Off to the cons!

We're off to a couple of sci-fi cons this month--Archon 38 and ConClave 38. What better way to celebrate this wonderful fact than by posting some flash fiction I wrote at the last con we attended, the NASFic DetCon1?

(Okay, there's probably a better way to celebrate, but this is a family friendly blog!) 

Now for the wonderful flash fiction, written under duress in five minutes on a Sunday morning at DetCon1...




Writing prompts: Two old friends, a mistake, an airlock



“No, you did not just do that!”


Bob scowled at his dear old friend Bill. Yeah, Bill was getting forgetful, but he hadn’t slipped into Alzheimer’s quite yet.


“I did. He deserved it, Bob. You heard what he said about the Sixth Doctor. That man deserved to die.”


“But Bill—come on! It was just a flippant remark about a centuries’ old sci-fi TV show... It wasn’t worth it.”


“Yes, it was!" Bill stood proudly. “The entire Doctor Who fandom was at stake. It had to be done.”


“Oh, all right.” Bob sighed. “What do we tell the captain then?”


“We just say Rick stepped out for a breath of fresh air.”


“Fresh air?” Bob smacked his forehead. “Through an airlock? On a space station in geosynchronous orbit around Earth?” He thought for a moment. “Well, all right.”



I'll be posting news about a couple of book contracts I recently lined-up very soon!