Category Archives: Commentary

Investing in the Space Opera Society

Oh, I’d like to tell you about the Space Opera Society.

They are a Canadian nonprofit company and they are trying to launch the dream that I am sure many of you along with I have. They are trying to start a global television network, although not actually on TV, that broadcasts new and innovative space opera science-fiction TV programs.  They have an Indiegogo project, a website and a list of names attached with their organization that many of you will recognize. They have writers from various science-fiction programs that you would know, perhaps an actor or two that you’ve seen and even special-effects artists from classic program such as Space: 1999.

As a nonprofit, their stated plan is to pay their artists but any profit that comes from their programs or merchandising efforts are rolled back into the production and development of new programs and services.  They intend distribute their programs worldwide, sell novels tied into their properties, even have a merchandising shop where you can purchase exclusive merchandise for the programs that they’ve developed. They’re also using a system of ratings that is going to be somehow democratically voted upon by the members.

It all sounds like a space opera fan’s dream because we all know that we are an underserved minority that is treated like trash by network and studio executives who are completely artistically bankrupt and only interested in the bottom-line.

I encourage you to check out their website and their Indiegogo project and decide if it’s the right thing for you and if the time is right for such an endeavor.

I absolutely adore this idea, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a couple of questions that I think need to be asked and hopefully answered.

For starters, they make a big deal out of the fact that as a nonprofit their books will be open and that you will be able to see where the money goes. This is a laudable ambition and it helps people who’ve invested feel as if their money has been well spent. It’s less clear to me however what the initial $200,000 Indiegogo start up costs will go to. Is there a detailed itemized list of what that $200,000 will accomplish other than just setting up production? How far will that get into producing programs?

How to do they sustain the model going forward? Another Indiegogo project? Are they going to be selling ads? If so, Will the ads be localized or worldwide? What will the ad rates be? Is it going to be members only, subscription or some mixed mode? How much will those subscriptions cost? How many people do they have to get invested in this idea, at least invested with their time and subscription money or commitment to watch these programs? These are questions that need to be addressed and preferably before someone invests money in the project.

I’ve been all over their website and their Indiegogo project and if the answers are there to be had, I haven’t been able to find them yet.  There are lots of ideas, but no apparently concrete plans.

It’s not too early to be asking these questions.  I realize that those maybe difficult questions for them to answer at this early stage; however, they are asking for investors and these are the sort of questions investors should be asking them.

Secondly, on their website they list a number of program ideas that they have “in development.” Most of these ideas are new programs, which is exactly what I would expect from the Space Opera Society. However, one of them is listed as Moonbase Alpha: Legacy – a “60 minute sequel drama series” based on Space: 1999.  They have also recently been pushing videos which were originally part of the Space: 2099 fan-lead project to revamp Space: 1999 with more modern special-effects and updating the dates so that the timeline isn’t so obviously out of whack with reality.

It’s a bit difficult to tell if Moonbase Alpha: Legacy is exactly the same as Space: 2099 but either way I have to ask a simple question: do actually have the rights to do this? (Wikipedia says, “no.”)

If they do, how much did that cost and how did they fund that?  If they don’t have the rights, how exactly do they think they’re going to be doing this? If people invest in their Indiegogo project thinking that some form of Space: 1999 is part of the package, isn’t promising a show they can’t deliver a form of bait and switch?

OK, I’ve vented my questions and I may or may not have either encouraged you or discouraged you from contributing to their Indiegogo project.  Perhaps, like me, you think that you can afford to blow $10 or $20 towards something that might be totally Quixotic and not feel too badly if it never goes anywhere.

On the other hand, also like me, if you felt more assured that there was a good chance of success, wouldn’t you be willing to contribute even more?

Twelve Doctors?

Now that Peter Capaldi has been named as the Twelfth Doctor, we can cast aside a couple of clouds that have been hanging over Doctor Who and get back to some proper speculating!

Who the hell is John Hurt’s “Doctor”?

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I’ll be very disappointed with the production team if the best they come up with is, “oh, he’s the actual Ninth Doctor, we just never mentioned him before.”  Despite the fact that even in just an episode before, the Doctors were enumerated explicitly – without an extra Doctor.  (And need I mention that during Peter Capaldi’s announcement extravaganza on TV, they repeatedly referred to him as the twelfth?)

That’s either the single most sloppy, half-assed lazy script planning ever (not to mention downright insulting of the audience’s intelligence) or… the answer is something else.

Obviously, this is a fantasy show written by people who have just pulled this stuff right out their asses previously, so we can’t discount the possibility.  It also means the sky isn’t even the limit for possible explanations.  Therefore, I shall engage in a bit of my own ideas-from-ass-pulling and suggest some ways to explain John Hurt.

Let’s consider one of the few things we know:  The Daleks will be in the anniversary special.  Also, let’s consider that the promotional pictures of the Daleks show them moving through the wreckage of architecture that looks remarkably like Gallifrey.  That more about the Time War will be revealed seems a given.

What do we know about the Time War?

  • We think it was started by the Time Lords launching a pre-emptive strike on the Daleks in Genesis of the Daleks.
  • We think it was fought during either (or both) the Eighth or Ninth Doctor’s lives. (Although, there’s good reason to believe that the Ninth Doctor had just regenerated prior to meeting Rose, making an Eighth Doctor war seem more likely.)
  • We know that the Master was recruited by the Time Lords to fight in the war and given a new life (or life cycle), which he promptly ran away from.
  • We know that the Time Lords under Rassilon (original or namesake?) went ape-shit insane and decided to destroy all of time.
  • We know that the Doctor pushed the button to time loop Gallifrey and the Daleks forever.
  • We know that hasn’t been perfectly successful.

Here’s a couple more things we know about the Time Lords

  • They can grant/transfer additional regenerations (Arc of Infinity/Five Doctors/Trial of a Time Lord/The Sound of Drums)
  • They can scoop multiple versions of a Time Lord up for their own purposes (The Three Doctors/The Five Doctors)
  • We also (sort of) know that a Time Lord who meets himself can remember what his future self did when he ultimately becomes his future self.  (Time Crash – I’m taking a liberty using that as canon.)

What does all that mean?

For starters, one possible explanation of John Hurt is that he is the 13th or later Doctor and that he, and perhaps other incarnations of the Doctor, were snatched up by the Time Lords to fight the Time War.

If they were desperate enough to recruit the Master, surely they’d return to their old standby of turning to the Doctor (multiple times) – especially since the Doctor is the Daleks’ greatest enemy.

That the Time War was a multi-Doctor story seems a no-brainer.

Perhaps John Hurt’s Doctor (hereafter referred to as the Nth Doctor) is the version that pushed the button ending the Time War.  Perhaps the 8th Doctor died trying to stop him.  Every Doctor, 9 and after, would share the memory of the crime he himself is someday destined to commit.

That’s just one possibility – here’s another:

Has anyone considered how random the process of regeneration is?  We know that the Second Doctor was offered a choice (and Romana seemed to be exercising some form of regeneration control at the beginning of Destiny of the Daleks) but refused to take it, but the others are characterized as random.

Most of the Doctor’s regenerations have been accidental, uncontrolled affairs, but was the result pot luck or destiny?  Consider: if Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor had survived the fall off his exercise bike and then regenerated a year later, would the form of Sylvester McCoy’s Seventh have been inevitable?

From a television show standpoint, obviously not, the real reason is because of casting concerns, but, trying to put ourselves in the continuity of the Whoniverse, is it a random scrambling or a set progression?

I rather think it’s random and, as such, even the delay in regenerating of a few seconds could lead to a completely different Doctor manifestation.

Again, looking at the Time Lord’s powers, what might have happened if, in the Five Doctors, the Second Doctor had been injured and regenerated?  Would Pertwee’s Doctor and all the subsequent ones ceased to be or would an alternate time line Third Doctor have been created?

The Nth Doctor might be an alternate regeneration – a product of the Time War – still technically the Doctor, but not the one we know.  The Doctor’s road not travelled.

Of course, all of this is pure speculation, but it is fun to speculate.  That’s really all we can do between now and November 23rd.

Why the Doctor Should Not Regenerate Into a Woman

Whenever the time comes for a Doctor to change actors, some bright spark kicks up the idea of changing the gender of the character from male to female.

I’ll be the first to admit, my immediate, visceral reaction is to respond with, “that’s stupid,” but I’ll admit, that’s an emotional reaction and not one based on any logical reason.

I’m not sure that logic holds true in Doctor Who.  Let’s face it, with the track record of the last few years, they could pull any illogical, stupid excuse out of their collective arses to justify such a change and try to dress it up under that old standby, “It’s such a flexible format, you can do anything!

And, of course, there’s, “He’s a Time Lord, not a Human.  You can’t say what that means.”

Yes, yes I can.  For example, we know from repeated examples that the Doctor’s life depends on his hearts and although he has a respiratory bypass system (Does that mean he can breath through his butt?) he still needs to breath, just less often.  In short, Time Lord biological functions do bear some resemblance to human biology – he isn’t filled with rainbows farted by unicorns – at least, not yet.

I’ll take a stab at explaining why it isn’t very logical that Time Lords would be gender-switchers – even though that’s not why I think he shouldn’t change.

Put simply, like humans, Time Lords/Gallifreyans seem to have biologically similar gender functions. Pairings such as Leela and Andred or Susan and David carry the notion of compatible biology far enough.  Also, assuming that regeneration is still working with the same basic genetic material and that each version of the Doctor is at least a potential recombination of the same genes, not only does a gender swap seem improbable, it confers no evolutionarily beneficial purpose.  How could it provide Gallifreyans with a reproductive advantage?  With the Doctor being the last of his species…  not much point.

There is; however, one circumstance, where it might convey such an advantage.  In certain reptiles and amphibians here in the real world, there are documented cases of spontaneous gender changes – but these always seem to come about in extremely one-sex dominated populations – a necessary step to continuation of the species.  Perhaps, under those circumstances, I could find a compelling excuse.

(For example, if the Doctor and the Master were stranded on an island, and one of them regenerated into a woman…  yes, I could see that as an advantage to both the continuation of the Gallifreyan race and to crap-awful fan fiction writers everywhere.)

But, as I said, the best arguments for a female Doctor are never about plausibility.

They’re about story-telling and role models for young women.

The former is wishful thinking.  There’s no reason to believe that the stories would be any better, nor would they really have any extra flexibility unless they’re going to take Doctor Who down the path of addressing gender issues all the time. They’re simply not going to do that.  Casting the Doctor as a woman would be a gimmick and would not have any meaningful change on the content or pattern of the show, because that’s not what the show is about.

The later argument is the one I find most compelling.  There is a school of thought that says girls need more nerdy female role models.

I agree.  They need to see that women can be smart, intelligent, science-based, competent, inquisitive, compassionate, problem-solving leaders – all those qualities that the Doctor embodies.

They need to believe that a woman can achieve all the things men can do – and not because of some government program that forces quotas or other equality measures – but because they earned it themselves.

I firmly believe that – and that’s why the Doctor shouldn’t regenerate into a woman.

Because a female-regenerated Doctor didn’t earn her place in the TARDIS.  It was handed to her by all the male Doctors that came before.  It’s a cheat.  Hell – it’s an insult.  Romana earned her stripes as a woman and a Time Lord, a female Doctor would have earned neither.  What message does that send to young woman?

By all means, let’s have more female role models on TV and in the movies, but lets make them real ones and not just gimmicks.

Episode 055 – Top 10 SciFi Shows of All Time – Part 2

The website Newsarama recently published their “10 Best Sci-Fi Shows of All Time” list, which got us thinking — What are OUR top 10?

In part one of this two-part podcast, Ben and Eugene discuss Newsarama’s list and where they got it right and where we think they got it wrong.

In part two they discuss the shows that should have been on the list but weren’t.

Episode 054 – Top 10 SciFi Shows of All Time – Part 1

The website Newsarama recently published their “10 Best Sci-Fi Shows of All Time” list, which got us thinking — What are OUR top 10?

In part one of this two-part podcast, Ben and Eugene discuss Newsarama’s list and where they got it right and where we think they got it wrong.

In part two they discuss the shows that should have been on the list but weren’t.

Sidecar 002 – Smoking Heroes and Role Models

In an offshoot of their discussion on the UFO episode, Survival, Ben and Eugene get diverted onto the topic of smoking in television, public perception, and the nature of heroes and role models.

Sidecar 001 – Radio Drama

Sidecar episode 001

Eugene and Simon discuss a variety of disassociated topics, including Big Finish Sapphire & Steel adventures, the state of radio dramatizations in the US and the UK, adaptations as period pieces and media mogul logic…

It’s a grabbag of stuff that was previously left on the cutting room floor – or more precisely, the editing suite bit bucket.

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