Sunday, 1 June 2008

Weekly Geeks 5 - Second Favourite Form of Storytelling

So I'm a little slow. I actually wrote a whole post on this topic, and then didn't post it because i didn't like what I wrote. This was last Wednesday or so. Since then I've been giving it alot of thought. Do I write about all my tv shows? Movies? Favourites? How do I go about showing why this is my second favourite form of storytelling? And, as usual I am too late to make Dewey's wrap-up post...but who cares! I finally know what I want to say:

This past week's Weekly Geek was to post about our second form of favourite form of story-telling. Mine is tv shows. I kept trying to make it movies, because I do enjoy them, but the ones I get caught up in, and argue and discuss about, are tv shows, for the most part. By the way, I have to give a big thanks to Bride of the Book God, because she wrote about tv shows as her 2nd favourite form, and some of what she says crystallized what I had been trying to say last Wednesday in the unposted post. So thank, Bride! And you can go here to check out her post. TV are one of the things my family and I sit down to together to do. Over the years, my eldest son and I have watched Babylon 5, the old Star Trek (he still thinks it's cool that I can name the episode within seconds of the opening scene/music!), Lost, and Heroes: he, my daughter and I watch Smallville, the new Battlestar Galactica, my husband and I watch House (our tv show!), Life on Mars, Vicar of Dibley and host of shows from England (mostly on DVD now) and our whole family watches the new Dr Who from Britain. So, after watching the final episodes of Season One of Dr Who this weekend at my daughter's request, I realized that I want to talk about this episode as it encapsulates everything good about tv and visual storytelling.

"The Parting of the Ways" is an episode that even after viewing at least 4 times, still makes me cry. In fact, there were very few episodes that I didn't find myself moved by, because the new Dr Who is exploring who we are by going into the past - both Earth past and other worlds - and the future, again sometimes ours, sometimes ahead in the universe somewhere. The best of the episodes involve something personal, and Parting of the Ways is as personal as it gets: the Doctor sends Rose back to Earth to save her, and he and Captain Jack face annihilation, as well as the entire Earth, from the Dr's old foes the Daleks, and she does the unthinkable to save him and Jack. The power of this episode, and in this series as whole, is in its exploration of love. The Doctor, we learn in this episode, when faced with the dilemma of being a coward or a killer, chooses coward. He can't - he won't - kill to wipe out the Daleks, even though he is dooming the human race to painful extermination. He can't because at the bottom of his being is the hope that some way out can be found. The will to live, to survive, even when all hope is lost - that is the Doctor's secret. And in this episode, for the first time, we see what the Tardis is really formed of, for Rose, the Doctor's companion, looks into it, in order to save her Doctor from that annihilation at the Daleks. The picture as she emerges from the Tardis with the light pouring from her eyes and face, the light that is Wisdom incarnate, what the Goddess Sophia (who is Wisdom in Christian mythology) would look like if She walked the Earth - and what Rose says about time, is haunting and beautiful. She is beautiful, and how she destroys the Daleks and restores Jack, before the Doctor stops her, is magnificent. That is a perfect scene that understands the power of Spirit made bodily, and it is so beautiful that I am moved to tears - because Spirit - nor all of time, can't be contained in our bodies. We simply can't hold all that much power, and the Doctor tells her that; even he can't hold it. He can only touch it as a Time Lord, and because it powers his ship. It destroys his current body, and we all meet the new Doctor at the very end. Rose has no memory of what she has done, which is also fitting, because if she remembered, everything else that happened in her life would not mean anything in comparison to that moment she was All and saw all Time.
This episode is about saving the ones you love, if you can, and also about letting them go. When the Doctor sends her back to earth the first time, he tells her, "Have a good life. Have a fantastic life." So I started thinking about what is a good life? Do I live a good life? And Rose says to her mother (who doesn't understand Rose's need to try to get back and save the Doctor), "The Doctor showed me a better way of living my life. You don't give up, you don't stand around, you do something about it." And I thought, that's the recipe for a good life, both in tv land and in the real world. And that's part of why I love Dr Who so much - he goes into time that needs fixing or correcting, he acts. He can't stop time, he can't restore dead people - see the episode when Rose goes back to see her Dad, and what happens! Which Rose refers to in this episode, and how Jackie (her mother) reacts when she finds out - this show is all about love and the things we do for the ones we love, and how the impossible becomes possible if you do something about it. For a main theme of a tv show, that's not too bad! This episode contains all of the season's themes within it. Science fiction is a vehicle for showing us to our selves. What would we be like through other's eyes? What is the best of us? The worst of us? Dr Who shows us all this, with great storytelling and superb acting. I especially love long-arcing storylines, and most of my favourite tv shows (with a few exceptions) have had this as part of the writing. I love to see how one story impacts later on, how one character's actions come into play later. Because that is how our life works, even though we don't always slow down enough to see it. Stories, written and visual, allow us to see that causal effect.
This particular episode also featured the words "Bad Wolf", which were encountered in earlier episodes as well. We finally get an answer to what those words mean, and I thought about it later and I am intrigued by how two little words could catch our attention. And like almost nothing else - except other fairy tale words - do. "Bad Wolf", no matter what context we see it in, immediately grabs our attention because it recalls the fairy tales with the big bad wolf. We know these words mean something. And even as they are a signpost for us to pay attention, so do the Doctor and Rose pay attention, and follow them to the source. So once again I find fairy tales turning up at the most unexpected, least likeliest places!!
And it's one more reason for me to love Dr. Who and this episode!
And, by the way, my daughter has said that if the doctor came by in his blue phone box, she would hop in and travel around the universe with him. She's 5. That Doctor, he appeals to females of all ages!!!!


Eva said...

I love good TV shows too! I think people who don't own TVs are missing out, unless they watch the shows when they come out on DVD.

My top favourite right now is Bones, despite a really bummer of a season finale. I also love The Office and I enjoy What Not to Wear. I used to watch a bunch of Law and Order reruns, but I've seen so many now that I only watch them if they're new-to-me, so maybe one or two a week. I've converted my mom to Bones, so we always watch that together and even my dad joins us for What Not to Wear! Mom and I also watch CSI: NY together. And I really enjoy The Amazing Race when it's on! I turned my mom on to that show as well, and while we haven't lived together during a season of it yet, we used to call each other right after watching it and talk about it. :)

So that turned out to be really long-winded. I guess I'm just happy to see another person who appreciates TV, and doesn't disdain it for being 'below them.'

Kerry said...

Susan, thanks for coming over to my blog and saying hi. Your post about "The Parting of the Ways" is just lovely and you've made me want to go back and watch season 1 all over again.

I must say that as much as I loved the end of the first season, I thought the end of season 2 was amazing and really one to rip your heart out.

They've just had an episode in the latest series where the Doctor and Donna meet Agatha Christie and end up in a 20s murder mystery which was great fun. The next one (must go and see if it is available yet) is set in a library so I'm relaly looking forward to that.

Nymeth said...

Just the other day my boyfriend and I were talking about how unfair it is that TV shows are so often treated with contempt and not recognized as perfectly valid art forms, which they are. I think that my favourite TV shows are as good as my favourite movies, and while movies are treated with respect, TV just isn't.

I have been neglecting my favourite series lately...normally I wait for the DVDs because the times they are aired here in Portugal (if at all) are just ridiculous. Midnight to 2am in some cases. Plus I don't like commercial breaks. But yeah, like you I am a big fan of Babylon 5, plus I love Stargate and Scrubs and Futurama and Six Feet Under (the few episodes I've watched), and yeah, I could go on.

And I need to watch Dr Who. You like it, plus Neil Gaiman likes it...I have the feeling I'd like it too.

Susan said...

Eva: I find that it is common to say that tv is for the lowest common denominator, etc, and much of it is. But when the truly good tv shows come along, I think we should celebrate them and tv for the art form it can be! I forgot about The Office, which my husband and I love, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I like CSI NY, and actually watched them all (CSI Las Vegas, NY and Miami) but I think I OD'd on them and now can't watch any!! Your family sounds like it has it's tv shows & nights too, and isn't that fun?

kerry: there are so many wonderful, excellent, haunting episodes of Dr Who. I really think that it is among the top tv shows ever done on tv - along with the new Battlestar Galactica, and others through the years. TV can be good! and you're right....Season Two had amazing episodes, and when Rose 'dies' and end up in the alternate world, but he can never see her again, it is so sad and beautiful too. And Mickey finally gets his courage up to act! I am so anxious to see Season 4. I'm so envious of you and Bride of the Book God!

nymeth: I love that you love Babylon 5 too! and my husband and I watched every episode of Six Feet Under. I tried Dead Like Me, which I did enjoy, but I found it didn't always have the depth Six Feet has. And having lived in England, I understand about US shows being shown late at night over there in Europe!
and *grin* if Neil likes Dr Who too...*sigh* you know you will too!!! lol
and see above for what I say to Eva about tv and art form. When tv is good, it can be the best. Though still, books are my favourite!!

C. B. James said...

I agree with you about the high quality of good television these days. More than a few critics I've read believe we are in a golden age of television drama. My personal favorite is The Wire which actually made it on quite a few top ten best MOVIE lists last year.

My partner, who generally hates television, is a fan of the current Doctor. We've just started season three. It's lots of fun.

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