Sunday, July 16, 2017

The (new) Doctor will see us now...

Well the wait is finally over.  After the Wimbledon  final,  the BBC announced the actor who will take over for Peter Capaldi as the new lead in Doctor Who, is Jodie Whittaker.

In retrospect  we all saw this coming.   The show's producers have been dropping TARDIS sized hints that a female incarnation of everyone's favorite Timelord (lady)  was a real possibility.   Beginning with recasting the Master with the brilliant Michelle Gomez (aka Missy).   So  this should come as a surprise to ...well,  nobody.

Reaction has predictably, fallen into two distinct camps.  1) Horror, and predictions  that casting a woman as the Doctor will be final nail in the show's coffin, after what has been largely seen as a weak 10th season; and  2) Anger at those expressing disapproval, saying they are , closed minded sexists and misogynists who are unwilling to even  give Whittaker a chance.

As is often the case with a large shift in popular culture,  the truth  lies somewhere in between the two.    Let's get this out of the way right now, I have no problem with a female Doctor.  My issue is why the the BBC decided to do this now.

The BBC cast a female lead simply to show that they could.   Not because it made sense in terms of the narrative arc of the show.     How do I know this?   Simple,  if casting a woman as Doctor Who was done to further the show's story-line, they would have cast Olivia Colman, not Whittaker.

The show had already established  that  the Doctor can  deliberately choose the face of his (now her) next incarnation.   Peter Capaldi appeared in the episode "The Fires of Pompeii".  His character, along with this family  and was saved by David Tennant's Doctor.   The 12th Doctor deliberately picked that face to remind himself that he is the Doctor, and the Doctor saves people.

It was the brilliant actress Oliva Colman,  who as "prisoner zero" met Matt Smith's  11th Doctor in his first ever episode, and first told him that "silence would fall".  Setting up the brilliant story arc that ran all through  Smith's tenure in the role.

Casting Colman as the next Doctor would have been a perfect and completely  logical choice.  Now to be sure,  Jodie Whittaker is fine actress, but  let's be clear, her casting  was  PR decision not a narrative one.

Recasting gender in science fiction reboots is not new.   Most notably , the casting of  Katee Sachhoff and Grace Park as  Starbuck and Boomer, respectively  in Battlestar Galactica.  Both casting choices that worked out brilliantly and even added new depth to both characters.  

Yet it is worth noting that the Roles of  Commander Adama and Apollo  remained  true to their original male genders.   The American television series "Elementary" re-imagined Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's ever faithful Doctor Watson as an Asian woman, played brilliantly by Lucy Liu.   Yet, again it is worth noting they kept Sherlock Holmes and didn't go  for Shelia.   The great Dame Judy Dench brought wit and gravitas to the role of  'M'  in seven Bond Films. Yet again,  we still had James not Jennifer Bond.

In all of these cases, the Male lead was not recast, this wasn't because casting a woman was not possible, or even permissible.  It simply didn't make sense.  That is what we have here.   What the BBC have done here is the equivalent of doing a reboot of Star Trek Voyager and re-imagining Captain Janeway as a man.  Possible to do?  Absolutely.   Does it make sense?   No, not at all.

That being said, this could still work.  As always with Doctor Who, it boils down to the writing.  A strong Doctor can overcome a weak script.  We saw that over the course of this  past season, were Peter Capaldi had weak stories that  he was able to carry via the strength of his portrayal as the Doctor.    This new casting choice means the show's writers don't have that luxury.

The writers are now facing the daunting task of having  to win over a significant percentage of the show's existing fan base.  One weak episode and the TARDIS could very well  find itself grounded again, as it was following Sylvester McCoy's tenure.  Only this time, it could be permanent.

I certainly hope both the writers and Whittaker are up to challenge.   I look forward to tuning in Christmas Day to see how this goes.


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Trump Administration Colluded With Russia .... and?

Hey there Trump Voters!

As the massive plume of smoke spewing forth from the White House gets closer and closer to bursting into an actual political wildfire, I am thoroughly enjoying your desperate but none the less endearing attempts, to say the real scandal is, given the opportunity, Hillary Clinton would have done the same things the Trump Campaign did.

That’s so cute! It’s like a car-jacker telling the judge that he shouldn’t go to jail because if the car had been his to begin with, his victim would have clearly done the same thing.

What is painfully obvious, dear Trump Supporters is, You don’t love your country nearly as much as you (still, even now,) HATE Hillary Clinton. The fact that President Trump and pretty much his entire inner circle have lied about their collusion with Russia doesn’t matter. Your defence of the President of the United States having conspired with a hostile foreign power to interfere in our elections is to stick your fingers in your ears and yell ; “CROOKED HILLARY LALALALALALA!!!!”

Setting aside for the moment, that Millions of Americans are going to have their lives put at risk by the loss of their health insurance, just so the top 2 percent of Americans can get a huge tax break. Setting aside for the moment, that The United States is more isolated and marginalised than at any point since the turn of the last century.

Setting aside for the moment, that President Trump released a budget with a $2 trillion math error. Setting aside for the moment, the gutting of environmental protections, and complete removal of science from the mission of the EPA. Setting aside the myth that somehow, coal is going to be America’s economic silver bullet, and let’s not even dwell on the fact that Trump has instructed the interior department to review dozens of national monuments to see if they could be scrapped or resized to allow better access for oil and gas drilling.
Setting all that aside… I get it, none of that matters as much as how much you hate Hillary Clinton. It doesn’t matter to you that the President of the United States rants on social media like a toddler on meth. It doesn’t matter to you that the President of the United States gets his understanding of the world from a cable news show that has to habitually issue so many blatantly obvious corrections that it has become a running gag on Saturday Night Live.  

Nope, none of this even registers with you, In your world it's fake news.
The fact that the actions of the this administration will hurt you far more than it will any of the creatures in the “swamp” Trump promised to , but then completely forgot to drain must, in your mind, just be a democratic lie to excuse their electoral college loss last November.

I get it, the fact that women’s reproductive rights, minority voting rights, consumer protections and access to affordable health care for millions of Americans are all being wiped away by theTrump Administration isn’t nearly as important as your being able to say, “We won! Get over it!” on internet comment threads. 
I get it, you are completely okay with having a President whose main response to the greatest single threat in terms of nuclear proliferation in the last 40 years is to tweet about it. You are totally cool with a President who has turned the executive branch of government into a money-making operation for his “brand”.

You are giddy with excitement that access to the President of the United States can now be booked online at

You are thrilled about rounding up kids born in this country, and then deporting them because their parents weren't. You really do believe building a wall on the Southern US border is physically possible, and a substitute for an actual immigration policy.

None of this bothers you at all.  You are standing by your man.  After all it's only smoke... lots and lots of smoke.  Which the Trump Administration's new Air Quality Standards claim is completely harmless. So breath deep Trump Voters. I really do get it. You hate Hillary Clinton, (and by extension, President Obama) far more than you love your country. 

Consequently you will happily accept any and all damage done to the country, as long as it means you never, ever have to admit that maybe, just maybe, you might have been wrong.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Independence Day Thoughts...

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

I have a mild obsession for the American Declaration of Independence, It is a magnificently written document that expresses in glorious Jeffersonian prose, the hopes, and dreams of the people living in those thirteen British colonies in 1776.

As a result, the Fourth of July, has always been one my favourite holidays. I love all the Americana that goes with it. When I lived in Chicago, I would practically force my friends to come with me and picnic in Grant Park where we would sit on the grass eating watermelon, waving sparklers and listening to the Chicago Symphony play “Stars and Stripes Forever” as the fireworks boomed over our heads.

It was always at that moment, seeing the thousands of people around me cheering and waving flags, I’d feel so fortunate to have been born an American. A nation that, despite all its flaws and foibles , has nevertheless, never stopped striving to be that place Katherine Lee Bates called “American the Beautiful”.

The experience of celebrating American independence from outside the United States is not a new one for me. Today is the fifteenth July 4th holiday in my life, spent as an “ex pat”.   I have observed this day in Germany, in South Korea and here in the UK. Friends and co-workers here, were surprised to learn I was not going to take the day off today. I had thought about it, but when you get right down to it, Tuesday, July 4th, is just another workday here. So when in Rome... or in this case, London...

Having served its original purpose in announcing independence, the text of the Declaration was initially ignored after the American Revolution. Its stature grew over the years, particularly the second sentence, which came to be seen as a sweeping statement in support of human rights:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

I have always loved those words, because at their core, they proclaim why American was designed to be different. What would set us apart from the other nations of the world. No feudal systems of hereditary privilege for us, thank you very much. You keep your Kings, and Dukes and Earls and Viscounts and whatnot.

For us, America would be a place where power and governance would rest in the hands of the many, not the one.

Now on this 4th of July I find myself feeling another emotion... Embarrassment. Now don't misunderstand, I am not embarrassed to be an American, quite the opposite in fact. I have been and always will feel I am blessed to have born a citizen of my country. No I am embarrassed by my country's Government, my country's electorate, and by its choices.

I am horrified, appalled and disgusted by my country's President.

On this day, of all days. It is worth revisiting that brilliant founding document. Jefferson's masterful expression of the American Mind. The American Declaration of Independence

Never in my lifetime would I hear those words and think that a passage written in defiance of a mentally unstable king, would apply so aptly to the President of the United States.

A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

The legacy of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, and all the other Men and Women who on this day in 1776, set sail in "a skiff, made of paper"; is now in the hands of a mentally unstable, narcissistic man-baby, whose infantile reaction to one of America's core freedoms, the freedom of the press,  was to take to the internet and post.... this:


This... whatever  you want to call it, is what passes for an official statement from the President of the United States in 2017.   To all Americans  wherever you are in the world, if  you are not embarrassed by that, then you are as ignorant of  what this day means as the rodeo clown  in that video is.   

It is my fervent hope that  my nation will soon come to its senses and  reclaim our legacy as an example to the rest of the world.  Instead of what Donald Trump is making it...  An embarrassment.

Happy Independence Day everyone.