Archive for June, 2013

Richard Matheson reported dead

June 25, 2013

Richard Matheson reported dead

Richard Matheson’s work was never simple…but it was always accessible. The author could take the uncomplicated (but stunning) premise of a man slowly, inexorably shrinking, and use it to take us to a deeply philosophical exploration.

That’s part of what made Matheson’s work so adaptable to the screen (even when the screenwriting was done by someone else). The complex intellection was never there to keep readers out. It was, indeed, how many of us would react in those situations. We’re not all driven by blind athleticism, as is too often the case in “what if” stories…like Richard Matheson’s characters, we think about what is happening and what it means. The events, the plot, may have been visual and easily understood, which made them great for TV and movies…and they could stand without those self-conversations that were part of the novel or short story.

They worked both as literature and in the visual media…as did Richard Matheson.

This is a case where there are simply too many works to list them all. You can see Matheson’s contributions to geeky literature (starting with the science fiction magazines in 1950, and continuing through 2013)  here:

http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/ea.cgi?531

and movie and TV credits (including both works Matheson wrote and adaptations, from 1955 to 2011) here:

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0558577/

Many of Matheson’s literary works are still available here:

Amazon’s Richard Matheson page

Let me instead just mention some of the highlights in this remarkable career:

  • I Am Legend (novel, 1954): this first novel would be enough to leave a legacy. It has been directly adapted into three feature movies (The Last Man on Earth with Vincent Price ((my favorite of the three)), The Omega Man with Charlton Heston, and I Am Legend with Will Smith). However, it has inspired many more. It gave a fantasy situation a scientific explanation, making it contemporary. Would we have had World War Z or Night of the Living Dead without I Am Legend?
  • The Shrinking Man (novel, 1956): this became The Incredible Shrinking Man in 1957…with a screenplay by Matheson
  • House of Usher, Pit and the Pendulum, The Raven (screenplays, 1960 -1963): Matheson adapted Edgar Allan Poe (and I haven’t listed all of the titles) for Roger Corman
  • Twilight Zone (screenplays and adaptations, 1959-1964): some of the most memorable (and oddest) Twilight Zone episodes came from the mind of Richard Matheson, and that’s saying a lot, given the great writers who worked on that show. The Invaders (with Agnes Moorehead) is a story with almost no words, and a twist ending. Little Girl Lost is truly odd and creepy.  Nightmare at 20,000 Feet starred William Shatner, and was remade with John Lithgow for Twilight Zone:  The Movie
  • Star Trek (screenplay, 1966): While The Enemy Within may not be the best that the series had to offer, its splitting of Captain Kirk into two different personalities is memorable
  • H*ll House (novel, 1971): Matheson adapted this horror novel into The Legend of H*ll House with Roddy McDowall in 1973
  • The Night Stalker/The Night Strangler (screenplays, 1972 & 1973): these would become the Kolchak series
  • The Martian Chronicles (screenplays, 1980): Matheson wrote three episodes of the Ray Bradbury adaptation starring Rock Hudson)
  • Steel (short story, 1956): this robot boxing story (which was really more about humans were affected by the technology) became both an episode of Twilight Zone and the feature starring Hugh Jackman

Even with that listing, I may have omitted some people’s favorites and left off some other notables: What Dreams May Come, Stir of Echoes, Somewhere in Time, Trilogy of Terror, Dreamer of Oz (John Ritter as L. Frank Baum), Jaws 3-D, Amazing Stories, Night Gallery…

Richard Matheson told us that there is no escape: that the ancient horrors can still find us in our neat and orderly modern world. However, when that world becomes too safe  and predictable, we need imaginations like Richard Matheson’s to show us that mundanity itself can be escaped, if we only use our minds.

Good-bye, Richard Matheson…the world is less clever without you.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle.

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The Spoiler Zone: the real problem with Man of Steel

June 24, 2013

The Spoiler Zone: the real problem with Man of Steel

Note: this post is going to reveal things about the current Superman movie, Man of Steel, and that will include plot details. If you have not yet seen the movie and prefer to have that pure feeling of discovery that comes from approaching a work of entertainment with no foreknowledge (which I understand), I’d skip this one until you have seen it.

While Man of Steel clearly knows a lot about Superman, there is something about it that is still bothering me more than a week after seeing it. Yes, they have allusions to other versions of Superman. That’s particularly apparent in the casting of actors that have appeared in Smallville and the Christopher Reeve movies, and names from the comics.

There’s nothing wrong, as far as I’m concerned, with not sticking exactly to previous continuity. That openness has brought us some of the most iconic things about Superman (flight, Kryptonite) as I noted about three years ago in

When Superman wasn’t so super

However, Man of Steel does much more than just add a new ability or weakness. What it does changes the nature of Superman…and of its universe’s connection to him as the inevitable sequels are released.

Superman kills.

On purpose.

Now, we could get into an argument here about when or whether killing somebody is justified, but that’s honestly beyond this discussion of a superhero’s own ethos.

Superman has killed (rarely) in earlier incarnations, but there is a really significant difference here…the impact it has on him.

In Man of Steel, Superman is struggling to stop General Zod from frying some people with his heat vision. They are locked together, with Superman basically having Zod in a chokehold.

Superman pleads with Zod, and appears to be clear to Kal-El that killing Zod is an option.

He snaps the General’s neck, and then he screams about it.

How does he feel about it later, though?

Doesn’t seem to faze him at all.

It’s after this that we see him considering how he can continue the work. We see (for the first time) him showing up at The Daily Planet with his Clark Kent glasses on.

If anything, it seems to end a period of uncertainty for him…it’s almost like it is a relief to have that over with, to have killed somebody.

That’s really worrisome, to me and to the future movies.

Let’s be honest here: a fifth grade writing class could have come up with a dozen other things Superman could have done to end that stand-off. He could fly up. He could smash down. He could use his own heat vision to cut an escape path for the cowering people (this whole process is slow). He could point Zod’s head towards the ceiling, to give them time to get away…that has got to be easier than snapping his neck. Instead, what happened?

Superman panicked.

He panicked, and he responded emotionally and violently.

From what we see in this movie, he behaved like a Kryptonian. These aliens seem to have serious impulse control issues…and yes, I’d include Jor-El and Lara in that group.

Kryptonians are the anti-Vulcans.

It’s possible that, if Krypton hadn’t exploded (arguably ironically appropriate for how the Kryptonians themselves behave), a Surak would have eventually arisen that led them to non-violence (as was related as having happened on Vulcan in the past on Star Trek).

Certainly, that was a problem on Krypton…but on Earth, it’s a crisis of, well, super-proportions.

We have to assume that, unless Superman made an effort to cover up what he did,  the U.S. military knows that Superman killed Zod. This was happening in a public transportation terminal: it’s very likely there was security video. While autopsying a Kryptonian might be difficult (does the invulnerability survive beyond life? Can you create conditions where cutting into the skin is possible?), snapping a neck is probably morphologically evident without invasive examination.

So, going forward, the military is dealing with a possibly unstoppable superbeing, who isn’t smart enough or self-controlled enough to find a non-lethal solution to a problem when emotionally stressed.

That is not a good thing.

I have to say that I would expect there to be very serious discussions within the government about asking Superman to leave Earth and never return. Otherwise, it’s like having a nuclear bomb walking around…with the emotionally maturity of your typical  chihuahua (no insult to chihuahuas is intended). Our society could become like the old Twilight Zone episode, It’s a Good Life, with everybody walking on eggshells around Superman as they did with Billy Mumy’s six-year old Anthony Fremont in that classic Jerome Bixby adaptation. Whatever you do, don’t get Superman upset…to paraphrase another superhero show, you wouldn’t like him when he’s angry.

Do I think they’ll deal with that in “Man of Steel 2”? Probably not…they’ll probably ignore Superman’s emotional reaction to killing somebody with his bare hands. We’ll probably see him smiling and joking like nothing ever happened…but it did…and it should matter.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle

My take on…World War Z

June 23, 2013

My take on…World War Z

Official Site
World War Z at IMDb.com
World War Z at MRQE.com
World War Z at RottenTomatoes.com

World War Z will bring you something new in zombie movies.

That’s part of the pitch for the summer movie I’ve probably enjoyed the most so far this year, but it does seem like a bit of an odd one. Are zombie movies really so much the same and formulaic? Compare White Zombie, Night of the Living Dead (one of the great movies of any kind, in my opinion), Dawn of the Dead, 28 Days Later, and this year’s Warm Bodies. It doesn’t particularly seem like  a theme (and it is that, rather than a genre) which is drowning in clichés.

That said, the movie is different, and brings us some new perspectives. The director, Marc Forster (Finding Neverland, Quantum of Solace) and cinematographer Ben Seresin (Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Unstoppable) move seamlessly between distance helicopter-type shots and  claustrophobic interiors.

The zombies are new, too. They are creepy, both as individuals (in particular, there is one with chittering teeth, like a cat who sees a bird through a closed window), and in groups. Their capabilities do make them interesting, without giving too much away.

The first three quarters of the movie or so were quite intriguing for me. Driven by following Brad Pitt’s character (and Pitt does a good job with making Gerry Lane believable: more capable than the typical person, but not a superhero by any means), the pace was good, allowing for both relatively quiet emotional scenes, and action pieces.

Before I address the screenplay (in as much of a spoiler free way as I can), let me say that I have not read the book on which it is based.

The odd thing for me was that the movie seemed more like a series of scenes than a linear story. It was as if the screenwriters (including Damon Lindelof from Lost and J. Michael Straczynski from Babylon 5) had divided up parts of the novel and each written a bit. Collaborations like that can certainly work, and can be more cohesive than you might think, but in this case, it made me feel like it was a bit disjointed. It was sort of like when each Star Trek crewmember used to get a scene in the movies, just to get those in there. I think the filmmakers wanted to nod to significant scenes in the book (which, again, I haven’t read…I’m just giving you my impressions).

That’s not to say that each of the sections wasn’t interesting…it might have looked like a patchwork quilt, but those pieces each worked.

As to the last quarter of the movie…well, for me, it didn’t stand up to the beginning. In fact, I said to my Significant Other that I think ending it much earlier might have been better…there was a spot I might have chosen.

SPOILER ALERT

I’m not going to reveal too much here, but I do want to comment on the end of the movie. If you’d like to have complete discovery about it, you may want to skip this next part.

The end of the movie simply tied things together too nicely…and even required quite a bit of voiceover exposition to do so (even if that voiceover was trying to make us think it wasn’t finishing so neatly). I also didn’t find the science convincing, although there were earlier indications that it might be. I liked how Gerry Lane was trying to measure and figure out the variables as things went along…that’s actually something I find myself doing. However, there were some things that were said and done that seemed contradictory…perhaps the book gives more of an explanation, but for me, there were big gaps in the explanation.

END SPOILER

Would I recommend that you see this movie? Sure. I enjoyed it. It could have been better (and I’m sure there will be alternate endings on the eventual home video releases), but it was good.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle

My take on…Man of Steel

June 16, 2013

My take on…Man of Steel

Superman comes from another world, and suppresses his different abilities to better fit in with those around him.

Man of Steel does the same.

It’s absolutely reasonable that Warner Brothers, Zack Snyder (director), and David S. Goyer (screenwriter…who co-wrote the story with Christopher Nolan) want Man of Steel to be another superhero blockbuster.

After all, it’s not just the reported $225 million in production budget that is at stake. It’s the future of the character.

Well, perhaps I should say, “It’s a future of the character.” No single movie can kill off \S/uperman…not that this one would Supes has been too much a part of our lives and our culture for the past seventy-five years. He’s survived many things: the introduction of flight by the Fleischer brothers (in part, to make animating the 1940s cartoons easier); the appearance of Kryptonite in the radio series (supposedly, to let lead actor Bud Collyer take a break); Beppo, the supermonkey…

So, like Clark Kent putting on his (completely unnecessary) glasses, Man of Steel puts on broodiness. “Oh,” says the movie, “and you want special effects laden slugfests? You got it…”

Seriously, and this isn’t really a spoiler, there are fight scenes that just go on and on, with nothing really fancy being tried. I punch you, you punch me, we run into each other…and a whole lot of property damage ensues. These scenes (and they are in many other modern superhero movies…Supes is just trying to be one of the gang) remind me of the battles in early Kaiju (giant Japanese monster) movies. It’s like Godzilla and Anguirus fighting in Osaka. Of course, these kinds of combats happen in comic books, too (“When Titans Clash” was a title used more than once), but the destruction feels much more “Tohotastic” to me.

It’s not a bad movie, but it just felt like it tried to be too current, too “normal” for now.

MINOR SPOILER ALERT

I’m going to go ahead and talk about a few things in the movie. I’m not going to give away any plot twists, but if you like  going into a movie with as few preconceptions as possible, you might want to skip this part.

I think one of the oddest things for me is how I keep reading that they wanted this movie to not be tied to the Christopher Reeve movies. For example, they didn’t use the John Williams music (as all of those movies, and  Superman Returns did). However, the bad guy is General Zod (accompanied by a female second in command and a giant “unstoppable”). Jor-El is an important character (played by a movie star in a lengthy Krypton prologue), who posthumously advises Superman. This movie owes a lot more to Richard Donner than it does to Siegel and Shuster.

One thing it doesn’t owe, though, is a sense of humor (unfortunately). Until Superman decides to be Superman, we almost don’t see anything funny. Yes, Lois Lane had a line that got some laughs. After the existential crisis is over? We get silly sight gags and a bit of George Reeves style banter.

As to performances…like the rest of the movie, they were all okay, not stand-out. The bad guys, in particular, don’t have much complexity. Michael Shannon’s General Zod seems to be permanently stuck in the personality of a three-year old…although it is hard to imagine anything much more frightening than a three-year old who can defeat a room full of adults. 😉 He didn’t seem like a great super-villain to me…he seemed like he didn’t get to watch his favorite SpongeBob episode…for the thirty-seventh time that day. 😉 Faora, who has some comic book roots, but like Zod is better known from the Christopher Reeves movies (although she is called Ursa there) seemed entirely one-note…that’s not the fault of actor Antje Traue, in my opinion. The role just doesn’t have much to do except glower and fight.

Hm…I want to be careful here to say that I didn’t dislike the acting. I want to give credit to Henry Cavill as Superman…and not least for being able to pronounce “Kansas” without a trace of his natural English accent. 😉 He certainly looks the part, and does a good job with what he is given to do.

Purists will have some problems with some plot elements…and I think that eliminating the whole “Clark Kent as an adult trying to fit in” dynamic in favor of another hour of special effects may not appeal to all.

END SPOILER

However, the movie has already opened strongly…and a third of its total box office is coming from outside the USA. Interestingly, at this point, that’s pretty much the inverse of Iron Man 3 (according to BoxOfficeMojo.com which has almost two thirds of take internationally. That percentage will change for Man of Steel over time, with major markets (including Germany, China, and Japan) yet to come.

I think word of mouth will be okay. It’s going to be fun to see with a crowd, maybe more than once…even if that crowd isn’t going crazy.

It might have been nice to see Superman try to stand out more, to be what he is…confident, not conflicted. That would have made him unusual in the current super-crowd that includes Spider-Man, Iron Man (especially in Iron Man 3), The Hulk, Batman, and even Captain America. This Superman wants to be like everybody else in the summer blockbuster lunchroom clique…and it looks like he may have achieved that goal.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle

Don’t make me feel sorry for Superman

June 14, 2013

Don’t make me feel sorry for Superman

Man of Steel officially opens today in the USA, so of course, I know it’s too late to have any influence on the content. I haven’t seen it yet, and I haven’t read reviews (I won’t do that until after I’ve seen it). It may break a record for June openings…but the trailers I’ve seen for it don’t give me very high hopes for me liking it. As my Significant Other said, though, “But we have to see it, right?”

For me, \S/uperman isn’t complicated…and shouldn’t be. My image of Supes has to do with incredible power, and a selflessness in using it. That’s the basic thing. I mean, can you imagine this conversation?

“If you could be any superhero, who would you be?”

“Superman.”

“Oh, you want to fly?”

“No, I want to be an orphan with no chance of ever finding love.”

😉

Of course, Superman didn’t fly in the beginning…he could “leap tall buildings in a single bound”, but it was a John Carter of Mars like impact of a different gravity. It wasn’t until the Fleischer brothers asked DC if they could make \S/uperman fly in the cartoons, because it was easier to animate, that he got this ability to just hang there, look around, and change directions.

\S/uperman, even with a science-fictiony origin story, is pure fantasy. Don’t try to make him real, don’t give him angst…he’s doesn’t only have superspeed, he’s super sure he’s right.

I wasn’t even comfortable with the opening to the old 1950s TV show…I thought I had it memorized, and remembered the last line as “…leads a never ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way.” I was actually surprised later to hear it again, and find out it was “…fights a never ending battle”. “Fighting” seemed fundamentally different to me than “leading”. “Fighting” suggest weakness to me: you are struggling against something which might defeat you. “Leading” is more what \S/uperman does, in my mind…you can lead people to work for truth and justice. They are the ones that are battling, and they are battling their own natures.

\S/uperman rescues people…\S/uperman isn’t particularly about beating bad guys. That’s very different from Batman, which is all about the bad guys. How many \S/uperman villains can the average person name, outside of Lex Luthor? (Geeks, I know we can do more). How many Bat-Villains?

I thought this was a great line from Michael Caine…good enough that I included it in my book of quotations:

“Superman is the way America sees itself, but Batman is the way the world sees America.”
–Michael Caine
quoted by Christopher Nolan
Entertainment Weekly, August 1, 2008
collected in Bufo’s The Mind Boggles: A Unique Book of Quotations

MINOR SPOILER ALERT

I’m about to mention something which has been widely mentioned publicized about the movie, but in case you are able to go into it with no foreknowledge, and prefer the wonder of discovery, you might want to skip this next part.

That’s why I was disappointed to see that General Zod is in the movie. While they were making a big deal about this not being based on the Christopher Reeves Superman movies (in the same way that Batman Begins was supposed to be a new direction), they chose the prominent villain from the second movie…even though that character didn’t show up in the comic books for decades after \S/uperman debuted in 1938…and is much more associated with Terence Stamp’s film performance than anything that happened in the comic books before that.

Why go with another Kryptonian? That takes a bit away from \S/uperman’s coolness, in my opinion.

END SPOILER ALERT

Okay, okay, I know: drama needs conflict. It wouldn’t be enough for us to simply “believe a man can fly”…hey, it happens in the movies all the time now. However, the conflict doesn’t have to be internal. \S/uperman can exist without doubt, and the challenge can be to encourage that greatness in others…and in the world.

Will we see the movie this weekend? Yes, I think so. I hope I like it…just let me keep my idealized fantasy…and wonder what I would do with that power (both the physical and the emotional strength).

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle

Better geek next year? Movies of 2014

June 9, 2013

Better geek next year? Movies of 2014

How like a geek of me…always looking to the future. 😉

Of course, there are  a lot of major geek movies yet to come out this year, but the 2014 slate is shaping up.

While release dates are always subject to change, here’s a look at some of the geek-friendly movies we’ll probably see in the USA in 2014:

Sequels/Prequels (continuing a movie series, with events taking place after or before early entries)

X-Men: Days of Future Past (July 18)

This is a sequel both to the original X-Men movies and to X-Men: First Class, and will bring together stars from both using a time travel plot (which may also serve to patch continuity). Hey, Bryan Singer…it’s not a competition with Joss Whedon to see how many stars you can put in one movie. 😉

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (May 2)

Marc Webb again directs Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone. Jamie Foxx is Electro and Paul Giamatti is The Rhino. Dane DeHaan plays Harry Osborn

Transformers IV (June 27)

Michael Bay directs: Mark Wahlberg stars

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (April 4)

Robert Redford joins Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson

How to Train Your Dragon 2 (June 20)

A Haunted House 2 (March 28)

Marlon Wayans is back…the first one was quite profitable

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (May 23)

Andy Serkis returns as Caesar…also featuring Gary Oldman and Keri Russell

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (November 21)

Resident Evil 6 (September 12)

W.S. Anderson again directs Milla Jovovich

The Hobbit: There and Back Again (December 17)

Rio 2 (April 11)

Jesse Eisenberg and Hathaway are back

The Amityville Horror: The Lost Tapes (January 3)

Night at the Museum 3 (December 25)

Shawn Levy again directs

Sidequels (movies set in the same universe as previous movies, but with events not in continuity with the others…may focus on other characters than the previous movies)

Minions (December 19)

The Minions from Despicable Me…voices include Jon Hamm and Sandra Bullock.

Pedigeeked originals (original movies, but with some geek cred to them…director, actors, screenwriters, source)

Guardians of the Galaxy (August 1)

From Marvel, featuring Zoe Saldana and Glenn Close. This one is definitely riskier for Marvel than some of their other recent movies: for one thing, a raccoon is a main character. 🙂

Divergent (March 21)

Based on the Veronica Roth novel, this young adult dystopia stars Shailene Woodley, and features Kate Winslet

Vampire Academy: Blood Sisters (February 14)

Based on the Richelle Mead novel, Sarah Hyland stars with Gabriel Byrne and Joely Richardson

Significance (November 18)

Based on the Shelly Crane novel

The Lego Movie (February 7)

Will Farrell, Elizabeth Banks, Morgan Freeman

Interstellar (November 7)

Christopher Nolan (which is likely to make this really original) directs Jessica Chastain and Anne Hathaway

Transcendence (April 18)

Speaking of Christopher Nolan, Wally Pfister has worked closely with Nolan as a cinematographer, and now directs a first feature with Johnny Depp, Kate Mara, and Cillian Murphy

The Maze Runner (February 14)

Young adult dystopia, based on the James Dashner novel

Noah (March 28)

Darren Aronofsky directs Russell Crowe in the Biblical epic

Jupiter Ascending (July 25)

The Wachowski siblings direct Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis…oh, you’re okay if I stop there? 😉 Terry Gilliam! Sorry, couldn’t resist…

All You Need Is Kill (June 6)

Based on the Hiroshi Sakurazaka novel, Tom Cruise stars in Groundhog’s Day…with aliens!

Tomorrowland (December 19)

Disney is still trying to repeat the “movies based on the parks” success of Pirates. This one is directed by Brad Bird, co-written by Damon Lindelof, and starring George Clooney and Hugh Laurie

Maleficent (July 2)

Angelina Jolie as Disney’s Sleeping Beauty’s baddie; also stars Elle Fanning and Sharlto Copley.

The Good Dinosaur (May 30)

Pixar animation

I, Frankenstein (January 24)

Based on the Kevin Grevioux comics, and starring Aaron Eckhart

Mr. Peabody & Sherman (March 7)

Ty Burrell and Max Charles voice Mr. Peabody and Sherman…others include Mel Brooks and Stephen Colbert

Big Hero 6 (November 7)

Marvel/Disney animation

Happy Smekday! (November 26)

Animation, based on the Adam Rex book…voices by Jim Parsons and Rihanna

The Black Water Vampire (February 10)

Sounds like a “found footage” movie…with Dee Wallace

Midnight Show (December 25)

The Nut Job (January 7)

Animation with a squirrel. Will Arnett, Maya Rudolph, Katherine Heigl…and sure, why not Liam Neeson in this, too? 😉

Remakes/Reboots (based on previous movies or TV shows)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (June 6)

Megan Fox as April O’Neil…and Whoopi Goldberg

Godzilla (May 16)

The Big G is back…features Bryan Cranston (sure…isn’t he in everything?) 😉

RoboCop (February 7)

Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Keaton, Gary Oldman…

Dracula (August 8)

Dominic Cooper and Luke Evans…

Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return (May 9)

Lea Michele voices Dorothy in this animated musical. James Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, and Kelsey Grammer are (respectively) The Cowardly Lion, The Scarecrow, and The Tin Man

Popeye (September 26)

Genndy (Hotel Transylvania, Dexter’s Laboratory) Tartakovsky

The Canterville Ghost (December 25)

Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry voice

There’s a lot more than that, but that should get you into anticipation mode. 🙂

Dates subject to change…

For more information on upcoming events (movies, TV shows, cons, games, books), see

The Measured Circle current events calendar

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle.

Matt Smith leaving Doctor Who at the end of the year

June 2, 2013

Matt Smith leaving Doctor Who at the end of the year

Doctor Who fans (“Whovians”) say You never forget your first doctor. Like many Americans, my first was Tom Baker. Baker played the part for seven years (the longest tenure). In 1978, Doctor Who appeared on PBS stations in the USA, with the first four of Baker’s seasons (DW had been tried here before, in 1972, but hadn’t caught fire). Bug-eyed, whimsical, quirky, and with that very long scarf, for years, when you said “Doctor Who”, I thought, “Tom Baker”.

Now, that’s no longer true.

My first thought is of the latest Doctor, Matt Smith.

When I first wrote about this incarnation of the Doctor (the 11th Doctor), I said,

“I like Matt Smith, and I do think he can develop nicely.”

Indeed he did.

I made some more observations of Smith, and stand by them.

There is a real duality about the Doctor. Given a choice, he appears to be light-hearted, curious, almost childlike. However, there are some dark things in his past, and his current situation (last of his kind) could be depressing to many.

I think Matt Smith’s brilliance in the performance is that his Doctor wants to be that wide-eyed naif, and tries to be…but those flashes of hurt and anger sometimes show through.

Like Doc Savage, Spock, and Kwai Chang Caine (three of my fictional heroes), this Doctor Who thinks he has failed…while others think he is a superior being. Yes, he playfully talks about how good he is…but deep down, he blames himself (not entirely unreasonably).

So, I was sad to hear about Matt Smith moving on after the 50th anniversary and the Christmas special.

No, it’s not a surprise, of course. In fifty years, the Whovians count eleven doctors (an average of under five years), and since 2005, there have been three (an average of under three years).

Doctor Who, you see, is an alien who can regenerate periodically…and gets a new body with a somewhat different personality (and played by a different actor).

The obvious question is, “Who will it be?”

They sometimes like to do a contrast, and there is talk of going with an older Doctor (a considerable transition from Matt Smith, the youngest actor to play the role). Hm…I suppose one interesting twist would be to go with…Tom Baker. 😉 I don’t think the 79 year old would do it, though, nor do I think they would make that choice.

Last time around, there was some discussion with going with a Doctor who was female, or a different race. There wouldn’t seem to be a barrier to that, and that would be a way to respond to a recent accusation that Doctor Who is “thunderingly racist”. How about this for an interesting suggestion? James Earl Jones. That would bring a non-white, American actor (how is that for a change?) to the part…and one who has the necessary mischievousness. I don’t really think that would happen, although Jones has been working steadily, and I could see him being interested.

There is time enough for that discussion.

Matt Smith, thank you. Your respect and passion for the series has been clear. You have played the Doctor as no one else has, or will.

We wish you success (and challenge, for what fun is success without that?) in the future. As a fan, I say the door to the TARDIS is always open to you…and remember: the Whoniverse is bigger on the inside. 😉

BBC article, including full statement from Matt Smith on leaving Doctor Who

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle.


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