Posts Tagged ‘Doctor Who’

4 of the Weirdest Alternate Realities – Friday Four

D'Argo JoolOne of the most interesting opportunities presented by science fiction shows is that of the alternate universe. It gives us a glimpse at another version of our heroes, in a reality where things turned out slightly differently. Perhaps they lost the climactic battle, or maybe someone died early on and caused the group to splinter. Sometimes the differences in these alternate universes (or realities, or timelines, or any other different world from the primary) can be absolutely huge–entire characters might be missing or new ones exist in their place, or worse, the entire landscape of the setting is changed, like with Star Trek‘s Mirror Universe. But there are also these, alternate universes where one can’t even quite imagine how they got to the state they’re in.

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Why “It’s Just Science Fiction” is No Excuse for Bad Science

Shuttle on the MoonIf you’re not a fan of Doctor Who, you probably wouldn’t know it, but the recent episode “Kill the Moon” has been divisive, to say the least. Most of the disagreement hinges on one thing: the believability of the plot. Scientific accuracy in science fiction is often a sticking point for fans. Some enjoy very “hard” sci-fi, kept extremely realistic by using only technology that is plausible today. These kinds of shows are rare, since that means no faster-than-light travel, no artificial gravity (which is very hard to film), no humanoid aliens, etc. The alternative is “soft” sci-fi, which bends the rules of reality for the sake of storytelling. On TV, this is often not just story-influenced, but influenced by the budget, as well. Star Trek didn’t use human-like aliens because they wanted to; they didn’t have a choice, as puppetry or stop-motion would be too expensive, and CGI wasn’t an option in the 60’s (and barely an option for TNG in the 80’s). Even today, CGI often breaks the budget, so having CGI aliens in every episode isn’t possible. So why are some deviations from real science okay, and some not?

While I don’t want to focus too much on “Kill the Moon,” some discussion of it is necessary, so spoilers for that episode ahead, if you care. Read more

4 Awful TV Dystopias You Wouldn’t Want to Live In – Friday Four

AvengersWatching TV can be a very enjoyable experience, but have you ever considered what it would be like to live a life like your favorite character’s? While we tend to look up to our heroes and hope to emulate them, if most people really thought about it very few would want to be them. The kind of world that TV protagonists live in is often an awful one full of crime, corruption, enormous alien threats and facing death on a daily basis. Take Agent Coulson, for example–he got stabbed by a Norse god and forcibly brought back to life, forever changing who he is. The organization he dedicated his life to is in shambles, and now all the responsibility for trying to rebuild it is on him, including the lives of both the people under his command and of the innocents caught up in the crossfire. But it wouldn’t just suck to be Coulson, or part of SHIELD; imagine being an ordinary Joe in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, left powerless while gods and supersoldiers do battle for the fate of the planet. It’s downright horrifying, when you think about it.

And while there are some exceptions (I think we all want to live in the Star Trek Federation. Replicators and holodecks, anyone?) TV is littered with these kinds of unpleasant worlds. So here are 4 of the worst universes to live in that have ever been shot on camera.

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4 Strange Sci-fi Crossovers – Friday Four

Doctor Who Dimensions 2Crossovers are a funny thing; as I alluded to earlier in the week, most early crossovers were between popular shows on the same network that weren’t necessarily meant to be in continuity with each other when they were created. That’s how we end up with things like Adam West’s Batman and the original Green Hornet in the same universe. This tends to have some strange consequences, where previous in-jokes (like Batman watching Green Hornet on TV) no longer make sense or cause outright contradictions when trying to combine the two continuities. And while a main character crossing over is by far the easiest, most obvious, and hardest to deny of all the crossover types, there are many, many other ways for two shows to imply that they coexist in the same universe–some of which don’t even necessarily require permission from one of the shows! And that’s how we end up with these, some of the weirdest crossovers seen on TV.

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Crossovers and Verisimilitude in the Shared Universe

Ent-D at DS9When you have a shared universe, one of the biggest benefits is the crossover–bringing characters from one show within the property over to another show. Agents of SHIELD is starting off its second season tomorrow with a crossover of sorts, featuring flashbacks with Agent Peggy Carter before her own spinoff starts early next year. While this situation is a little different, as both Agents of SHIELD and Agent Carter are spinning off from the same parent property, they still have enough in common to enjoy the benefits of a crossover. And with that in mind, I thought it would be a good time to examine the crossover and how it helps with the cohesiveness and plausibility of a shared universe. Read more

The Webisode and Online Supplements

Vastra JennySo, we’ve discussed the history of the webisode, and looked at some of the earlier examples. But as I said at the end of that piece, those early webisodes are quite different from how this medium is utilized today. If webisodes aren’t usually spinoffs, then what are they? And why should anyone care to look them up?

As we’ve already established, webisodes have been linked with sci-fi for a long time. You occasionally see them for sitcoms (Scrubs: Interns comes to mind), but more often than not, the invented world of a sci-fi show provides the kind of room for exploration needed to create interesting web content. One of the biggest shows to utilize the webisode format has been Doctor Who. As an early adopter to the idea, Doctor Who has experimented a lot trying to figure out what makes for a successful webisode. Naturally, then, I’m going to be using it as an example frequently throughout for the different varieties out there. Without further ado, let’s explore the concept and what value it has in a storytelling capacity. Read more

The History and Origins of the Webisode

Pond LifeNew forms of media are always going to be hard to deal with. Back in the 90’s, and all the time before, a TV viewer got what came on the screen, at a specific time, and nothing more. Did they have to cut a scene for time? You’ll never know, cause you’ll never see it. That started to change when DVDs with bonus features emerged, but it took a while for studios to figure out that adding extra material to the discs could be a real selling point. Deleted scenes, blooper reels, commentary tracks, behind-the-scenes featurettes, even concept art–all these things and more are what helped DVDs become the new default home media experience over VHS. Well, that and ridiculously improved picture quality.

But just as it took time to work out what benefits a DVD offered, so, too, is the usefulness of the Internet being worked out. It’s been known for a long time that the internet offered a very unique point of leverage with a show’s fanbase. Look around Memory Alpha and you’ll see that AOL web chats with the producers (Often Ronald D. Moore, specifically) were common among Star Trek fan circles in the late 90’s. It gave fans some insight into the production of the show, how certain plot points were decided upon (“Whatever happened to Thomas Riker?” being a popular one), and allowed the writers to have some back and forth with the fans, to get a feel for where the show was succeeding and where it was failing to resonate with them. Of course, you always have to be careful when taking advice from the fandom; we often don’t know what we really want, and there have been no small number of shows that have died from catering too much to a picky fanbase. Read more

4 Doctor Who Spinoffs You Didn’t Know Existed – Friday Four

K-9When people like something, they want more of it. It’s a fairly simple concept, and one that lies at the heart of the franchise phenomenon. Doctor Who is, of course, no exception to this. Its varying levels of success over the years have led to the creation of a large number of spinoffs throughout its 50+ year history. Modern ones like The Sarah Jane Adventures and Torchwood are fairly well known and popular in their own right. Some are strangely specific, like the K-9 spinoff that ran on Disney X D in Australia. Hardcore fans are likely familiar with older attempts, such as the Peter Cushing film Dr. Who and the Daleks, which is about a human male named Dr. Who, who creates a time machine and proceeds to go on adventures strangely similar to those from the series. And then there are these, spinoffs that have all but fallen off into the abyss of time.

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Dawn of a New Doctor

CapaldiIt’s kind of a big deal when a new Doctor comes around. As far as most viewers are concerned, it’s only happened twice so far: Eccleston to Tennant, and Tennant to Smith. That’s not to belittle the importance of the older Doctors from before the 2005 series, it’s just a fact of the show with its current level of popularity. So for many of them, the upcoming season 8 premiere will be their first time seeing a new actor in the role without the benefit of hindsight that they have when looking back at Eccleston or Tennant. Naturally, it’s an exciting time in the Doctor Who fandom, and hopes are riding high on Capaldi’s performance dealing with what some perceive to be the problems plaguing the show as of late. So, you might ask, what does a change like this mean?

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