Lots Of Planets Have A North

Today, I’m diverting things completely away from politics and such (because there’s way too much to write about and I have about 4 pieces already started)…to television, specifically Doctor Who.

I’m sorry, but I am an unapologetic Doctor Who fan of the first order.  Ever since the announcement this past weekend that Matt Smith, age 26, will be the youngest actor ever to play The Doctor; I have been watching every DVD I own (along with my wife and daughter) because of the excitement and well…we just love the damned program.  This doesn’t mean everybody’s happy.  The Internet is buzzing about with various complaints that the actor is too young and will not be right for the role…and the guy hasn’t even said a line of dialog in front of a camera yet.

I for one am looking forward to seeing his portrayal, and am more than willing to give the guy a chance.  It’s not going to be easy, mind you.  The current actor, David Tennant, is widely regarded as the best actor to play the Time Lord since his 4th incarnation when Tom Baker had the role in the mid-70’s and early 80’s.  In some quarters, he’s even seen as THE best Doctor.  Many people forget that playing a good role takes some time to get into the character, let alone one as iconic as this.  This is most particularly true in the first episode of a new Dctor’s appearance, because after the previous Doctor’s body “dies”, it is “regenerated” into a new form…and sometimes with a whole new personality attached as well.  This leads to a little “instability” in the character for an episode or two.  So, rather than explain how the previous incarnations of The Doctor regenerated (and the circumstances surrounding them), here are four You Tube videos that explain wha has gone on before:

THE SHORT VERSION: (A short explanation of what happened, and the process itself) Doctors 1-10:

THE LONGER VERSIONS: (What happened, along with reactions and dialog from the other characters in the show)

Doctors 1-4:

Doctors 4-6:

Doctors 6-10:

The Most Important Man In The Universe

He is over 900 years old and has two hearts.  He literally has 13 lives or “regenerations”, where not only can his body repair itself when it is near death or because of severe injury, but his appearance also changes.  He can live for thousands of years.  He has had countless companions over the years, as he travels through time and space crusading for justice and the rights of the oppressed in a battered old blue Police Box.  Well, that’s what it looks like from the outside, but upon crossing the threshold of the doorway, it is infinite space inside.  It is called a TARDIS, or Time and Relative Dimensions In Space; it can move through time as well as space, to any place in this Universe or others.  He is the last of a mighty race that once walked among the stars and were revered almost like Gods until they destroyed themselves and many other races in the Last Great Time War.

He is simply known as The Doctor.

Since 1963, the BBC program “Doctor Who” has been the longest running Science Fiction series of all time.  In all, ten actors have played the part since the show began; the most recent actor, the Tenth Doctor being David Tennant.  The show had a continuous run from 1963-1989 when it was put on “hiatus” by the BBC.  It was briefly revived for a telemovie by the BBC and Fox in 1996 in hopes of starting a new series, but the ratings never justified it being made into one.  In 2005, the show was brought back with a bigger budget (a far cry from the early years of cheap chroma-key and models flying on a wire BBC Special Effects) and a new Doctor, Christopher Eccleston, in the title role.  The show did so well, it was picked up for a subsequent season, but Eccleston’s contract was only for one year and that not only meant a change of actors but a new regeneration for the Doctor.  David Tennant became the new (and current) Doctor in the last show of 2005 and the Christmas Special that year and will continue in the role until the end of 2009, when a new actor, Matt Smith (age 26, the youngest actor ever to play the Doctor), will assume the mantle of The Last Time Lord from the Planet Gallifrey, The Doctor.

I’ve loved this show from the first time I saw Tom Baker (the longest serving actor in the role- 7 years- who was the Fourth Doctor) when it was first syndicated in the States back in 1977.  The following year, PBS stations across my area (NYC and its environs) picked up the show and even began to run programs from the first Three Doctors.  Although I was in my late teens, I was absolutely hooked and became a HUGE fan of the show (as did my wife via her brother, who was my age and a huge fan as well).  Once I saw my first regeneration scene in the episode “Logopolis” in 1981 (from the Fourth Doctor to the Fifth, played by Peter Davidson, then the youngest to play the role), I was a stark raving fan.  I called my car the TARDIS; I even had a TARDIS key (a prop from the series) hanging on my mirror.  I wore question marks on my lapels.  I would routinely walk around in long frock coats (like the Fourth Doctor) in winter.  Of course, I was in my early twenties and a raving drunk, but boy…was I a fan of the show.  When it left the screens in 1989, I was quite upset; and just as upset when the new series didn’t materialize in 1996.

While we didn’t get that First Series (2005) here in the States on the Science Fiction Channel until 2006, I picked up the complete series on DVD from the UK.  Having a multi-region/format DVD player, I was able to see just what was going on, and how absolutely special the program had remained and had become once again.  When I got those DVDs, I decided I would turn my then 8 year old daughter on to Doctor Who, and she absolutely loved it.    She devoured every DVD or tape we had of every Doctor sitting around the house and is becoming quite well versed in the show’s history and backstory.  When David Tennant decided to leave the role this past October (after filming 4 special BBC Movies in place of a full 2009 Season) in order to do the National Theater in the UK, the hunt was on for a new actor.  Rumors flew around the Internet; the possibility of a Doctor of a different race or a Doctor being a woman were bandied about.  It was the most closely guarded secret (as most changeovers of the Doctor’s actor are) since The Manhattan Project.  There was not one single shred of solid evidence or substantiated rumor until today’s announcement.  My daughter and I have been on pins and needles until today, and it certainly looks as if the show will definitely be going in an interesting direction.

While it is always sad to see an actor leave the role, it is also an exciting time to see just what the new person in the role will do with it.  Each of the ten actors who have played the Ten Doctors have had a different take on the role, but the core values of the Doctor (and core personality) have remained…as well as the ever present jelly babies.  Below is a short 5 minute interview with the new Doctor, Matt Smith.  Here’s much luck to you!

Allons-y!

“One day, I shall come back. Yes, I shall come back. Until then, there must be no regrets, no tears, no anxieties. Just go forward in all your beliefs and prove to me that I am not mistaken in mine” – The First Doctor

“I am not a student of human nature. I am a professor of a far wider academy of which human nature is merely a part.” – The Second Doctor

“Courage isn’t just a matter of not being afraid. It’s being afraid and doing what you have to do anyway.” – The Third Doctor

“There’s no point being grown-up if you can’t be childish sometimes.” – The Fourth Doctor

“I tried keeping a diary once. Not chronological, of course. But the trouble with time travel is, one never seems to find the time.” – The Fifth Doctor

“Planets come and go. Stars perish. Matter disperses, coalesces, forms into other patterns, other worlds. Nothing can be eternal.” – The Sixth Doctor

“There are worlds out there where the sky is burning, and the sea’s asleep, and the rivers dream; people made of smoke and cities made of song. Somewhere there’s danger, somewhere there’s injustice, somewhere else the tea’s getting cold.” – The Seventh Doctor

“The world’s about to be destroyed, and I’m stuck in a traffic jam!” – The Eighth Doctor

“I’m a Time Lord. I’m the last of the Time Lords. They’re all gone. I’m the only survivor. I’m left traveling on my own, ’cause there’s no one else.” – The Ninth Doctor

“I don’t age. I regenerate. But humans decay; you wither and you die. Imagine watching that happen to someone that you…you can spend the rest of your life with me, but I can’t spend the rest of mine with you. I have to live on. Alone. That’s the curse of the Time Lords.” – The Tenth Doctor

THE ELEVENTH DOCTOR, MATT SMITH:

The Thing That Will Not Die!

Does she not get the hint?  Well, there HAS been no hint, and that’s been the problem.

For the past three months since that ghastly Thing called Sarah Palin was unleashed upon an unsuspecting world, we have had to endure things we never expected to in our lives.  First came the daughter who was pregnant out of wedlock hiding her future kid while holding the future uncle of said kid in front of her in order to mask her bulge.  Then there was the so-called First Dude of Alaska, he of snow machining fame and full-time shadow Governor.  Then came the revelations of her being able to hunt, and skin, and do whatever it is you do with a moose in order to put it into your crock pot for chili.  Then we got even more insight into her view of animals because she just loves to hunt wolves from helicopters.  We can go on: the Wasilla Hillbilly shopping sprees (still the best description I ever heard; thank you anonymous McCain Campaign source);  going “rogue” during the campaign (which pretty much killed McCain’s chances); the disastrous interviews (even Sean Hannity couldn’t save her from herself, although she fared better there); the crazy religious zealotry…it was all there.  The coup de grace came on Election Night when she wanted to give a concession speech of her own.  Uh, hello lady!  The VP Candidate NEVER gives their own concession speech; certainly comments about it the next morning in whatever newspaper she happens read but can’t name, but NEVER on their own on a night that belongs to the victor and the vanquished.  And just like Barry Goldwater’s running mate, should have dropped off the face of the planet forever, or even taken a cue from Dan Quayle who vanished for about a year or so (Murphy Brown was canceled by then) then briefly resurfaced.  It should have been over and done with on November 5th.  Hell, even Tina Fey took a break!

But no…like “Plan 9 From Outer Space”,  the movie so bad it’s good (and considered to be the worst movie ever made)…it became “The Thing That Will Not Die!”, a real-life movie so horrific and so terrible; it’s makes “Plan 9” seem like “Citizen Kane” in comparison.  Ever since we all thought it was safe to come out of our homes, The Thing went home to Alaska and started talking up the media about her experiences on the campaign trail in those famous phrases, you know, the ones that make absolutely no sense…but seem to make it on the nightly news regardless and give Conservative Men wet spots in their BVDs in the process.  She downplayed any talk of someone going through her closets for GOP-owned duds, and of course a Senate run (should Ted The Felon have won his Senate seat and gotten kicked out by the same guys that gave him a standing O the other day if there was a Special Election held for his seat.)

Oops!  Looks like we got foiled on that little front there Governor Moosebrain!  So what does The Thing do?  She decides to pardon a turkey the other day, and in a scene that could only have been scripted by Monty Python or SNL, starts talking more about her rapidly tanking political career with the turkey farm as a backdrop…while they were decapitating the birds behind her.  I was both mortified and laughing hysterically at the same time.  She was using phrases like “on the chopping block” when asked about the State Budget cuts for God’s sake while the death rattles of a recently departed fowl took place behind her.  I am just awaiting this evening’s SNL to see what they plan on doing with this little faux pas…it should be a doozie.

So what happens next?  What will this pathetic Thing that passes as a human being do next, and will the media continue to cover this clueless and vile creature, making her The Thing That Will Not Die?  Only the people of Alaska know for sure,  and I am hoping that the next Gubernatorial Election they put themselves, and us out of our collective misery!

“A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five.” – Groucho Marx

My Two Hour Oasis From Life, Monday Through Friday

After an entire day of bad news on Wall Street, the latest insanity in the political arena, driving the kids to the myriad of after school activities, and writing my memoir and this blog…I take a time out.  A well deserved time out; an intelligent and thought provoking respite from the syncopated pandemonium that is my life.  I switch on the home theater, flip over to FIOS Channel 103, and sit back for two hours of fantastic news analysis and discussion with Countdown With Keith Olbermann and The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC at 8PM and 9 PM Eastern Standard Time.

I’ll admit it: I’m an out of the closet Liberal-Libertarian who absolutely MUST watch these two every night.  These are two of the smartest people on television, both with wicked senses of humor and a unique (READ: REALISTIC) view of the day’s events.  Bill O’Reilly and Hannity & Colmes?  Please, I’d rather have all my teeth extracted without any painkillers by a student dentist from National Health in Great Britain.  Campbell Brown and Larry King?  I’m starting to like you Camp, especially after your grilling of clueless McCain lackey Tucker Knowsnobounds…but you’re just not quite there yet.  And I don’t who looks more like the living cadaver of the year: Larry King or Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis, but it’s pretty damned close. (One of these days, I’m fully expecting a headline to read “Larry King Dead” and it’s unintentional puny consequences will be just too priceless.)  Plus Larry’s getting downright cranky in his old age!  While I get my straight news from various sources (and I can NAME them all too!) on the Left and the Right, I do like my commentary to be left-leaning, and thoroughly entertaining.

I’ve been a fan of Keith Olbermann (may I call you Keith?) since his early days on ESPN where he and Dan Patrick would just have me in stitches.  Keith’s intellectually funny in a way that Dennis Miller used to be before he was replaced by some sort of pod person, and he’s also pretty straight up funny as well.  When Keith goes off on a rolling cascade of humor, there is no one better.  (The best part for me is the laughs from the camera crew and staffers in the background; it very much reminds me of those Ernie Kovacs kinescopes I watched- and still do, thanks to DVD).  On his “Worst Person’s In The World” segment last night, the #1 Worst Person was a National Review editor who had written about Sarah Palin’s debate performance like some sort of steamy short story in Playboy (which had to be read to be believed).  As only Keith could, he read through that turgid prose inserting relatively “excitable” emotions as the writer might have intended them to be, then chided him, “If you’re going to go off and masturbate, at least don’t let America know about it!”.  Good God, I was doubled over laughing.

Now Keith is also a serious journalist…make no mistake about that.  He’s done dozens of outstanding interviews with political figures, asking pertinent and intelligent questions, always showing respect for the person he’s interviewing regardless of political persuasion.  Where he truly shines is in his “Special Comment” section, which usually happens at least once every 4-6 weeks or more frequently as the need arises.  It’s usually something that Keith is very passionate about and has to completely step out of the role he is on the screen at that moment and be a complete human being on display, most times showing outrage at the complete stupidity or utter lack of humanity someone or something has displayed.  Hillary Clinton has been a target after her “RFK Moment” in the primaries.  The GOP was a target after they completely aired an inappropriate so-called “9/11 Tribute” that featured footage that both psychiatrists said should never be aired, and networks agreed never to air again.  The networks then got suckered in to airing it.  In his most infamous “Special Comment”, Mr Olbermann lambasted President Bush for giving up his golf game when asked what sacrifices he made since the Iraq War began.  It ended with Keith telling President Bush to “Shut the hell up”.  When asked in a magazine article why he said that, he replied “Because I couldn’t say ‘shut the fuck up’ on National Television”.

Then we come to Rachel Maddow, who is quickly becoming a sensation in cable news, and rightly so.  An Oxford scholar, she did her thesis on AIDS among the incarcerated in America’s jails.  She has a full-time radio gig on liberal Air America every day just before she goes on with her own TV show at 9PM.  She started as an MSNBC correspondent and began to fill-in for Keith Olbermann on Countdown when he ill or had a few days off.  What the network found out was that people wouldn’t easily turn off Countdown when KO wasn’t there…she was holding the audience.  What I found out was, I was doing the same.  I liked her intelligent delivery, skillful writing, and rapier wit.  So did the Network.

Her show has been on almost a month, and it’s beaten Larry King numerous times, and those two clowns on Fox Noise regularly.  Not only does she hold on to the Countdown audience, she actually builds upon it.  She is incredibly prepared, and took that sharp writing style and rapier wit with her to her own show.  What I absolutely love about her interviewing style is that it’s non-confrontational, but she will not hesitate to point out (respectfully) when you’re not quite telling the truth (OK…LYING!).  She will always ask an intelligent and thought provoking question, and an equally challenging follow-up.  What’s more, she asks the questions that are NOT obvious; the ones that make you say, “Damn!  Why didn’t I think of that?”.

While she may be a left-leaning lesbian (she’s open about it and is in a long term relationship with an artist), if you expected her analysis after the recent Presidential and VP Debates to be propaganda, you would have been dead wrong.  Her analysis was as non-partisan as they get.  Her debates (and sometime agreements!) with Pat Buchanan are a delight to watch because you have the Georgetown and Columbia educated Pat versus the Stanford and Oxford educated Rachel.  Two outstanding minds going at it is always a pleasure to watch, especially in this day and age.

So, yes…these guys are my two hour oasis amid the talking heads of television, the politicians, my wife, my kids, my cats…these guys are my SANITY on some days.  Every time I want to tear my hair out and scream at the TV because of something outrageous Johnny Boy and Sarah Baby did or said, they make me feel all better, somehow making me not feel alone in my disgust, outrage, or amazement at sheer stupidity.  I even have my 11 year old daughter hooked on both of these guys, and she often stays up to watch them with me.  Yeah, she’s only in 6th Grade, but she’s getting a great education in politics.

And outside of me, I can’t think of two better teachers.

“We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. When the loyal opposition dies, I think the soul of America dies with it.” – Edward R. Murrow