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New Escapist Column! On How the Paradoxical Nostalgia of “Star Trek: Lower Decks”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. Star Trek: Lower Decks launched last week, the latest entry in the larger Star Trek canon.

Lower Decks is an interesting phenomenon. It is perhaps the most overtly nostalgic Star Trek show of the new era, given how transparently it harks back to Star Trek: The Next Generation in both form and content. However, the show’s aesthetics – an animated series with a modern comedic sensibility – are likely to alienate those fans most obviously yearning for a nostalgic Star Trek hit. At the same time, the show’s reverence for the trappings of Star Trek prevents it from working in the mold of good comedy – even good Star Trek comedy.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On How Rhea Seehorn Made Kim Wexler the Best Character on Television…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. The Emmy nominations were announce this week, and there was a lot of good news in there – with nominations for Watchmen, The Good Place and Succession. However, there was one notable and glaring omission. It was an omission all the more notable for it fifth occurrence: Rhea Seehorn was overlooked.

Over the past fives seasons of Better Call Saul, Seehorn has quietly turned the character of Kim Wexler into the most compelling and engaging character on television. This is particularly notable because Kim exists in the context of a prequel to a series in which she was never mentioned and did not appear. Kim was arguably created as a bit of padding around the show’s ties to Breaking Bad, but has emerged as the most complex character in the show: a collection of riveting contradictions with much greater depth than initially appeared. She is astounding.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Podcast! The X-Cast – Fight the Future Minute #86 (“Well-Manicured Sacrifice”)

So The X-Cast reached the end of the show’s fifth season, and approached The X-Files: Fight the Future. This naturally meant it was time for another breathtakingly ambitious project, so the podcast is going literally minute-by-minute through the first X-Files feature film. I’m joining the wonderful Kurt North for two brief stretches featuring the Well-Manicured Man.

And so my time on the Fight the Future minute comes to an end. It has been a pleasure. I like to think that Kurt and I go out like the Well-Manicured Man himself, in a blaze of glory. We discuss everything from the Well-Manicured Man’s flare for the theatrical, to his somewhat unnecessary killing spree, to how exactly we imagine the local papers are going to cover the weird murder-suicide-in-an-alley sequence. It’s fun, it’s playful, it’s a recording I really enjoyed – and which I hope you enjoy as well.

You can listen to the episode here, or click the link below.

New Podcast! The X-Cast – Fight the Future Minute #85 (“Well-Manicured Murder”)

So The X-Cast reached the end of the show’s fifth season, and approached The X-Files: Fight the Future. This naturally meant it was time for another breathtakingly ambitious project, so the podcast is going literally minute-by-minute through the first X-Files feature film. I’m joining the wonderful Kurt North for two brief stretches featuring the Well-Manicured Man.

And so my time on the Fight the Future minute nears an end. However, there’s still one minute left. So this provides a nice opportunity to talk about the weirdness of the Well-Manicured Man’s plan during this exposition-driven sequence that apparently includes crossing “double murder-suicide” off his bucket list. We also discuss the narrative conventions that require a propulsive conspiracy thriller like Fight the Future to generate completely absurd tension and suspense in place where it really has no reason to exist.

You can listen to the episode here, or click the link below.

New Podcast! The X-Cast – Fight the Future Minute #84 (“Well-Manicured Rationale”)

So The X-Cast reached the end of the show’s fifth season, and approached The X-Files: Fight the Future. This naturally meant it was time for another breathtakingly ambitious project, so the podcast is going literally minute-by-minute through the first X-Files feature film. I’m joining the wonderful Kurt North for two brief stretches featuring the Well-Manicured Man.

And so, after the exposition comes character motivation – which is handily provided via exposition. The limousine sequence in Fight the Future is notable primarily as a bridging sequence. In terms of the “play the hits” aesthetic of Fight the Future, it serves to get Mulder from Scully’s abduction to his Arctic expedition. As a result, it’s a section of the film tasked with tying all of this together, in a rather condensed and contracted period of time. The results aren’t always elegant, but there is something fun about them.

You can listen to the episode here, or click the link below.

New Podcast! The X-Cast – Fight the Future Minute #82 (“Well-Manicured Truth I”)

So The X-Cast reached the end of the show’s fifth season, and approached The X-Files: Fight the Future. This naturally meant it was time for another breathtakingly ambitious project, so the podcast is going literally minute-by-minute through the first X-Files feature film. I’m joining the wonderful Kurt North for two brief stretches featuring the Well-Manicured Man.

Who doesn’t like exposition? Especially when it’s delivered by a veteran British character actor trying to cram as much as physically possible into the space between two set pieces? We’re in an incredibly dense stretch of Fight the Future in which the film tries to offer a cliffnotes of the show’s mythology for the blockbuster audiences watching in cinemas. The result isn’t always elegant, but it’s surprisingly effective.

You can listen to the episode here, or click the link below.

 

New Podcast! The X-Cast – Fight the Future Minute #81 (“Well-Manicured Car”)

So The X-Cast reached the end of the show’s fifth season, and approached The X-Files: Fight the Future. This naturally meant it was time for another breathtakingly ambitious project, so the podcast is going literally minute-by-minute through the first X-Files feature film. I’m joining the wonderful Kurt North for two brief stretches featuring the Well-Manicured Man.

The second stretch kicks off here, with a minute that is largely about building atmosphere and tension. It kicks off the second of the film’s extended sequences focusing on the Well-Manicured Man, but we have a little room here to talk about the actual film-making of Fight the Future, the small differences that distinguish the summer blockbuster from the weekly production of The X-Files as a television show – particularly the little flourishes of Rob Bowman’s direction that take advantage of longer production time and a higher fidelity format.

You can listen to the episode here, or click the link below.

New Escapist Column! On the Future of “Star Wars” on Streaming…

I published a new piece at The Escapist yesterday. With the announcement that Star Wars is launching a Bad Batch television series off the back of The Clone Wars, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at why the franchise’s future might lie on streaming.

To a certain extent, Star Wars has suffered because it is no longer a pop cultural monolith. It arguably hasn’t been a monolith since the release of The Empire Strikes Back in 1980. Since then, Star Wars has built a fanbase populated by different audiences who want different things from the franchise. There are a lot of problems with The Rise of Skywalker, but at least part of the problem comes down to the fact that the film tried to avoid offending anybody and so satisfied nobody. Streaming offers a chance for Star Wars to be multiple things, to multiple people.

On streaming, freed from the burden of being a box-office-record-smashing success, Star Wars has the opportunity to be more experimental and more bold. It can also specifically target particular segments of its diverse fanbase, offering a little something for everybody while still potentially offering room to grow and expand. If managed wisely, Star Wars is in prime position to make the jump from big screen to small screen.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

“Doctor Who?” The Deconstructed Davison Doctor…

This week, I had the privilege of stopping by The Galactic Yo-Yo to talk a little bit about Doctor Who with the wonderful Molly Marsh. In preparation for the episode, I rewatched the bulk of the Peter Davison era for the first time in years. I talked about it on the podcast, which is worth your time. But I also thought it was worth jotting some of the thoughts down in more detail.

Rewatching the Peter Davison era of Doctor Who is a strange experience for a number of reasons, not all of which are good.

The Davison era arguably served as a point of transition. It existed in the negative space between two particularly memorable incarnations of the Time Lord. Tom Baker is justifiably considered the most important and influential actor to play the role. Notably, he was the only lead from the classic series to get a showcase scene in The Day of the Doctor. Despite Colin Baker’s protestations, this made a great deal of sense. For an entire generation of television viewers – not just Doctor Who fans – Tom Baker is the Doctor.

On the other extreme, Peter Davison was succeeded by Colin Baker. Whether rightly or wrongly, Colin Baker occupies a similarly important place in the mythos. With his garish costume and his string of terrible stories, Colin Baker was long the public face of the decline and decay of Doctor Who as a cultural institution. This isn’t entirely fair. The rot had set in considerably earlier than Baker’s arrival, and there’s a sense in which he suffered from terrible timing. Still, Colin Baker wound up serving as the face of the show’s hiatus and the embarrassing Doctor in Distress.

This puts Peter Davison in a strange position. He is caught between these two hugely important moments in the show’s history. However, he also arguably lacks a strong cohesive identity like other iconic iterations of the character. The Fifth Doctor is a markedly different character from the iterations around him, and Davison was subject to criticisms from fans that his interpretation of the title character was “bland” or “boring.” It’s arguable that the Sixth Doctor’s abrasive personality was a direct response to this perceived blandness.

However, in just under three full seasons in the role, Peter Davison left quite a mark on the Time Lord. His final story, The Caves of Androzani, is rightly regarded as one of the finest Doctor Who stories ever made. (Indeed, it is one of the rare stories to have topped polls of fandom.) More to the point, it’s notable that Davison would become a surprisingly strong influence on the revival series. Tom Baker got to occupy centre stage in The Day of the Doctor, but Davison returned first in Time Crash. The short served primarily as a love letter to Davison’s influence on the role.

There’s a lot of very fascinating stuff happening during Davison’s time in the role, most of seemingly happening by accident. The most striking thing about Davison’s tenure in the role is the recurring sense that he doesn’t quite fit. The Fifth Doctor often seems to struggle with the basic narrative conventions of Doctor Who, wrestling with the series’ core concepts and underlying assumptions. Over the course of Davison’s three seasons in the role, Doctor Who seems to ask what might happen if there were an iteration of the Doctor who wasn’t up to the task.

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New Podcast! Galactic Yo-yo – Peter Davison’s “Doctor Who”

I was very thrilled to be invited to guest on the Galactic Yo-yo podcast by the wonderful Molly Marsh, to discuss Doctor Who.

We’d talked a little bit about Doctor Who before the podcast, and I’d wanted to talk a little bit about classic Doctor Who, because I don’t always get a chance to delve into the classic series. Plus, with the recent blu ray collections, I’d been watching a bit of it. More than that, I’d been delving back into Peter Davison’s almost-three-seasons in the role and was quite impressed with the way in which the Fifth Doctor often seemed to be a protagonist trying desperately to stay on top of a show that was falling to pieces around him. So we talked a great deal about Peter Davison.

Anyway, it was a huge honour to be invited to the show, and I hope that you enjoy it and I didn’t embarrass myself. You can subscribe to the show here. You can listen to the episode here, or click the link below.