Author's Interests - Part I

Some Great Sci Fi/Fantasy TV To Check Out

In a time when reality television reigns and medical/cop dramas brings in the ratings, it’s discouraging to watch TV if you’re looking for something different. We’ve had years of the Kardashians and sadly it looks like we’ll have more to come. Yet, the shows that roll the dice and take a chance on new ways of story telling seem to only get a season or two to tell their tale. If you know that you are looking for something different and are interested in the Sci Fi/Fantasy Realm, then let’s look into some great TV that you might have missed.

Doctor Who

Doctor Who first kicked off in the 1960’s. The show was British and aired in America too and an interesting note is that the first episode aired the day after JFK was assassinated and had to be re-aired a week later because most people had missed the episode for news coverage. It was on the airwaves up until the 1980’s and while it’s great to see that most of the DVD’s available are on Netflix, I’m not asking you to load up your queue just yet. The original seasons of the show are great and they created a pop culture icon for many. But even if you are old enough to remember the original seasons, if you are an American you may have missed the revival.

In 2005 Russell T. Davies brought The Doctor back to the BBC, and the best part is you don’t need to be an old school Doctor Who expert to fall in love with this show. In the very first season of the regeneration of the show, you are introduced to The Doctor (The ninth incarnation of the character played by Christopher Eccleston) and his human companion, Rose Tyler. We learn that The Doctor is from another planet and in fact an alien from outer space. His spacecraft, the Tardis (stands for time and relative dimension in space), is disguised to look like a blue police phone booth from the 1950’s. And in a nutshell he flies around throughout the whole of time and space in the Tardis with Rose Tyler and his sonic screwdriver (think a scientifically explained magic wand) and hijinx ensue.

The show very quickly moves beyond just a wacky space adventure. Through clever dialogue and compelling story telling the show poses big questions and slips in satire of all kinds while avoiding any agendas or preaching.

One of the most brilliant parts of the show is that the hero doesn’t die. How do you explain decades of the same character? The Doctor is a Time Lord. A Time Lord is a race of aliens from the planet Gallifrey, they watched over the universe and observed it throughout time. The benefit of being a Time Lord, besides having two hearts, is that when a Time Lord’s body starts to die, it regenerates. After the first season of the revival, Christopher Eccleston left the show and as The Doctor regenerated, David Tennant came in as the tenth doctor.

Tennant is arguably the most popular incarnation of The Doctor in the new series. He enchanted audiences for 3 seasons as he fought the Daleks and defended the Earth from Cybermen. As Tennant finished his tenure at the helm of the Tardis (not of course without having various human companions like Martha Jones and Donna Noble along the way), The Doctor regenerated yet again and Matt Smith stepped in to pick up the sonic screwdriver and taught us the bow ties are cool along the way. Besides the change in casting, Stephan Moffat also took over writing the show from Russell T Davies.

The show has so far gone through 6 seasons and it’s hard to convey exactly what the enchanting appeal of the show is without giving too much away. The Doctor takes his audience into the past and future, both on Earth and in outer space. He is the good guy that fights the bad guy and the show still tackles the grey areas in between. There is comedy and tragedy and really neat creatures and bizarre places. We see familiar faces in history and the versions of our future that Davies and Moffat are predicting. The best thing you can know if you are still deciding on whether or not to check out the show, is that you will be hooked after the first episode. You’ll always want more and six seasons won’t seem like it’s enough.

You will see story lines that are nothing like anything you have ever seen before. The episode “Blink” is a phenomenon in and of itself. The characters called the Weeping Angels are introduced as the villains. They are a deadly assassin race that looks like stone angels and they can only move when they are not being looked at. But they are fast enough to capture you if you even blink. But rather than kill you, they just steal your life. Then send you back in time and steal all of the life energy that you would have had.

The show is clever, sometimes complex, and always entertaining. The characters are so well crafted and developed that it’s hard not to feel something for every one of them. There is action, adventure, heart warming and heart breaking moments. The show is in syndication and thanks to BBC America, if you are in the United States, The Doctor is in. Some other great spin off series from Doctor Who on the BBC are Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures.

Being Human

A werewolf, a vampire, and a ghost all get an apartment together. It sounds like the start of a really dumb joke. But actually, it makes for some really great TV. This is another gem, courtesy of the BBC. Right now were suffering from an epidemic of glittering vampires. Being Human does not have a single brooding teenage vampire and none of them sparkle in the sunlight. Werewolves are not strapping, stoic guardians of teenage girls either. Rather the show portrays the main characters trying to manage their brutal and terrifying conditions as they also attempt a go at normal everyday life. At times the show is comedic as Mitchell (the vampire played by Aidan Turner), George (the werewolf played by Russell Tovey), and Annie (the ghost played by Lenora Crinchlow) go through the “getting to know you” motions. They are just a wacky group of friends that are sharing a flat.

Except, Mitchell is a vampire who has given up blood and losing control to this addiction means that he might violently murder someone. George survived a werewolf attack and now suffers from the curse. Once a month he has to find a way to contain himself or he could violently murder someone. Annie is the ghost of a woman who was violently murdered by (SPOILER) her abusive fiancé.

For all the violent murdering that happens on the show, it’s actually quite witty as well. Mitchell tries to find love and purpose and George struggle to find the same, though he struggles with believing that he can because of the curse. He and Mitchell form a great “best buds” type of friendship. And Annie’s story is sad but her character is also very quirky and good for a laugh. She goes through many issues on the show like her struggle to find out how she died and her struggle with crossing over.

Now perhaps you may have seen the American version of the show on ScyFy and you can’t seem to recall the show being anywhere as good as I am trying to make it sound. The American version of the show has already been canceled and for good reason. It was an extremely cheap imitation of its BBC counterpart. Honestly, cheap is really the best way to describe that public access quality gem. So hopefully if you are still reading this, you will not let any prior and foul experience with the laughable Americanized version taint your view of the real thing.

The dialogue is clever, funny, dark, and introspective. One episode can run through a wide array of emotions. Mitchell’s flashbacks to his past as a vampire before he gave up blood and killing are usually very intense and scary. But his witty banter with George and his kind demeanor at the hospital that he works at almost makes you forget that. George is very often part of the show’s comic relief. He is the classic nerd with his high-pitched voice, glasses and big ears. But the way his transformation from a man to a werewolf is portrayed on the she is unsettling and frightening. Others cannot see Annie besides supernatural creatures like Mitchell and George. She putters around the house and constantly makes tea to set throughout the day just because she enjoys making it. But the loneliness that she goes through on the show and her frightening experiences with death’s door are some of the show’s most chilling story angles.

This show falls under the category of dramedy and it executes it perfectly. Is dark without being too brooding and it’s clever and witty without being goofy. The characters are strong and it’ easy to connect with them. Any healthy imagination with the stomach for a little bit of horror should enjoy it.

Right now the show’s fourth season is scheduled to air in 2012. It is reported that the actor that plays Mitchell, Aidan Turner, is leaving the show and that a new character will be introduced. Despite any changes the show is making, it’s still refreshingly different from any of the other shows taking advantage of the current vampire/werewolf fad.

Once Upon A Time

Grimm’s fairy tales as well as other fairy stories are something that many of us are familiar with from childhood. It’s always fun to see different takes on what it would be like if these fairy tale characters got mixed up in our modern day world. And while ABC’s new show, “Once Upon A Time,” seems to be very similar to some alternative adaptations like the Graphic Novel series, “Fables.” But it also has the luxury of pulling from references from the Disney versions that we all know and love because of ABC’s affiliation with Disney.

Emma Swan (played by Jennifer Morrison, formerly of “House”) is just your average everyday bail bonds woman. She has a knack for finding people and always knows when people are telling the truth. And while the very opening of the first episode almost made her look like she should be on the reboot of “Charlie’s Angels,” Emma has a much more magical past than she knows.

That is, until the boy she gave up for adoption 10 years prior, now a ten-year-old boy shows up and brings her back to Storybrook, Maine. Emma’s son, Henry, has learned the secret that everyone living in the town is actually the character from a fairy tale. They all lived in a magical land until the Evil Queen unleashed a curse that banished them all to our world where there are no happy endings. None of them remember who they really are. They are frozen in time and doomed to never have their happy ending.

Through flashbacks in the shows, we get to see the fairytale characters as they once were in their homeland. We get to see very clever renditions of how these familiar stories “really” happened. The Disney influence is thankfully not overplayed. The subtle continuity is appreciated though.

Henry tells Emma that his adoptive mother, the mayor of Storybrook, is raising him and she also happens to be the Evil Queen. Emma is also told that she is the daughter of two very memorable fairytale characters and that there is a prophecy that she is the only one that can save them all and bring back the happy endings. It smells like there is going to be an epic battle of some sorts.

The show is definitely family friendly and has a definite cheesiness too it. However the classic fairytales are served with enough clever twists and dark alterations that any cheesiness is forgivable. We also get to see that the good guys weren’t always innocent so the plot is complex as well as interesting.

The show is still very new, but the characters seem to be developing nicely. Seeing Red Riding hood and her Granny running and inn and diner is funny and more familiar characters pop up with every new episode. Rumpelstiltskin was a trickster and magical dealmaker that has now become Mr. Gold, the shady pawnbroker that owns the town and seems to be one of our main villains for the show.

Right now none of the characters remember who they are yet, but it’s interesting to see these townspeople showing subtle traits of their fairy tale characters. Kids will appreciate the magic of the show and adults will appreciate the clever writing. “Once Upon a Time” is a great show for fantasy fans that will appreciate classic tales with a clever modern day twist.