House: Is Three Stories the Best Hour of Television Ever?

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Of course, though, House isn’t just a narrator – he’s an unreliable narrator. It’s slowly revealed that these patients weren’t just chosen randomly; one of them is, in fact, House himself. Three Stories isn’t just any other patient of the week – we’re watching the origin story for our eponymous Doctor. This twist is what elevates the episode, making it more than just a very clever episode; after twenty episodes of getting to know House, we’re finally coming to understand the source of his pain. The fact that we’ve spent so long with this character means we’re far more invested with his story than we would be with any other patient of the week; Three Stories has a much greater and more immediate emotional impact than a lot of other House episodes.

An article I wrote on one of my favourite episodes of HouseThree Stories. I’m really pleased with this one. It’s a little too hyperbolic in the title; I know it’s not the best episode of television ever, and I hedge against that in the conclusion of the piece anyway. But it was one of the first pieces I wrote about, I suppose, “proper telly” – and that’s a very loosely defined thing, of course – and it got a nice reaction online, with David Shore sharing it in a friendly way himself. Which meant a lot to me at the time, and indeed still does now.

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Batman v Superman v Relevance

batman v superman poster who will win zack snyder david goyer henry cavill ben affleck logo red blue black white scratchy paper relevance perry white 1938 review bad

There’s a moment in Batman vs Superman where Perry White says to Clark Kent, “Maybe you were relevant in 1938, but not now”, or words to that effect.

I haven’t googled it, but I’m willing to bet that 1938 was the year of the first Superman comic. That sounds right, anyway; it was the 75th Anniversary of Superman sometime within the last couple of years or so, and 1938 is a pretty specific year to namecheck. Seems like the sort of thing they’d have in this movie – another little wink to the audience, just like “No one cares about Clark Kent taking on the Batman”.

Anyway.

“Maybe you were relevant in 1938, but not now.”

Struck me as interesting, that line. In context, it refers to two things – people buying newspapers, and Clark’s moral positions. The former is something bordering on a funny joke, I suppose, but the latter is far more notable.

Batman vs Superman does not think that a view of Superman as a compassionate, positive hero is relevant. Neither did Man of Steel before it, of course, and it seems that the DCEU as a whole does not consider this Superman to be relevant.

You can see that right from the beginning, of course; Lois is being held at gunpoint, and Superman comes to save her. Rather than talk this man down, Superman barrels straight into him, killing him; that’s the difference between a Superman who is motivated by compassion and a desire to help people, and a Superman who is a murderer.

The whole movie, of course, is trying to find some degree of relevance. And that’s fair, I think; when you’re adapting source material that has roots extending as far back as the 1930s, trying to answer the question as to what makes these characters relevant in the modern day is something that’s quite important.

“Maybe you were relevant in 1938, but not now.”

In broad terms, you can see that being done with the Marvel movies; X-Men has drawn on elements of LGBT experiences, Captain America: The Winter Soldier has some deliberation with regards to surveillance and personal freedom, and so on and so forth. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think that all of these movies have tried to answer this question of relevance. Sometimes, they’ve just gone as far as to say “A superhero movie is entertaining”, and I think that’s enough.

But the DC movies aren’t taking that route. They’re very reactionary, in many ways; I’m not using this phrase to describe their politics, but rather the manner in which they have been constructed. Everything about these movies is a response to what has gone before, in a desperate attempt to differentiate themselves from their main competitors.

Sometimes it works. Both Alfred and Lex Luthor are amongst the more interesting characters, by virtue of the fact that we haven’t quite seen them like this before. Alfred now takes a more active role alongside the Batman; an engineer, a pilot, a partner. Lex Luthor, rather than the more reserved and manipulative adversary we’re used to, is a jumpy and neurotic young man. It’s an understandable decision, I suppose, in a movie that’s so desperate to be relevant – jumpy, neurotic young men do seem to be the stereotype for the rich tech moguls these days. (Sorry, Mark Zuckerberg.)

For the most part, though, this does not work. An attempt to be “deep” or “intelligent” results in hackneyed dream sequences, so lacking in relevance to anything that all they really do is waste time. An attempt to set up future movies without resorting to an end credits scene results in a painfully lazy segment where Batman and Wonder Woman email each other YouTube clips from the upcoming movies.

Worse still, of course, is where we end up in terms of the very tone of the movie – and that brings us right back to Perry White earlier.

“Maybe you were relevant in 1938, but not now.”

In their attempts to reject the precedent set by their competitors, DC has managed to entirely miss just what it is that makes the Marvel movies successful. It isn’t the fact that they engage with the cheesier comic book elements. It isn’t the quips, and it isn’t the bright colours.

It’s the fact that they have heart, and that they have a vision. There’s a coherence to those movies that’s missing from Batman vs Superman; Kevin Feige understands what he is doing far moreso than Zak Snyder does.

Please, though, don’t misinterpret what I’m saying – the Marvel movies aren’t perfect. The Thor movies are a little dull, Guardians of the Galaxy has a weak antagonist, and sometimes set up for future movies overrides the needs of the current movies. When it comes down to it, I actually prefer the DC characters over the Marvel ones, any day of the week. I wouldn’t be invoking this comparison if Snyder and co weren’t so fixated on it themselves.

In a recent interview – one of the many he’s giving, trying to defend his decisions – Zak Snyder says he didn’t appreciate the fact that people got angry at him for “trying to grow up their character”. He refers, of course, to his choice to depict Superman as an unrepentant mass murderer. When Perry White dismisses the relevance of Clark’s moral positions, this is Zak Snyder dismissing the relevance of such questions in the movie as a whole.

That’s why, in Batman vs Superman, the scene that should have held an exploration of ideologies ends in an explosion. Rather than Superman explaining his position – rather than a debate – we just blow it all up. Rather than anything that might resemble a character moment, we get more and more CGI flames enveloping the scene, and Henry Cavill doing his best angsty face.

“Maybe you were relevant in 1938, but not now.”

When trying to find something relevant – something new, something different – Snyder decided to be “mature”. Snyder decided to be “realistic”. I use the quote marks mockingly, of course, because it’s ridiculous. There was nothing of the sort in Batman vs Superman; what we got was something that revelled in darkness for the sake of darkness.

Superman murders people, because that’s what a powerful God would do if he were real. Batman murders people, because that’s what a billionaire vigilante would if he were real. Wonder Woman gets an upskirt shot, because objectification is what women would get if they were real. (Oh, hang on…)

Laughably, of course, the film had to begin by retconning the end of Man of Steel to minimise the damage done by Superman and Zod last time; rather than levelling the city, it was more like a 9/11 type event. Of course, it’s swiftly forgotten – for all their talk of addressing the end of the last movie, for all the talk of “consequences”, that’s not what Batman vs Superman is interested in. All this film cares about is getting us to another sloppy CGI fight scene, where matte model after matte model can be reduced to virtual rubble, constantly mistaking the scale of the fight for the level of our investment.

“Maybe you were relevant in 1938, but not now.”

Batman vs Superman does not know what it is doing. In a desperate grasp at relevance, there was nothing to be found.

This is a film that wants to be adult. It is a film that wants to be mature.

It is not.

This is a film that thinks cynicism and darkness is mature. It thinks that wallowing in destruction is clever.

It is not.

This is a film that, really, has no idea what it’s doing – no idea how to be relevant. It believes that if you take things, make them “grimdark”, and throw them at the wall, something is going to stick.

It is not.

And so what we got was a mess, because Batman vs Superman was little more than shallow and superficial nonsense. It’s an adolescent fantasy that wants to be edgy and grown up, but is in fact very generic and naïve.

“Maybe you were relevant in 1938, but not now.”

I really hated that line, in case it isn’t obvious. Also, the movie.

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How The Night Manager gave us the Best TV Villain of 2016

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The Night Manager gave us one of 2016′s best TV villains so far – Hugh Laurie’s Richard Roper, international arms dealer, and supposedly “the worst man in the world”.

Across the first episode, we don’t actually see much of Roper; primarily, we hear of him by reputation, and reputation alone. The murder of Sophie Alekan is attributed to his machinations, and it tears apart the entire world of our protagonist, Tom Hiddleston’s Jonathan Pine; his business associates in Cairo are shown to be thugs and brutes, indulging in their own frequent bouts of violence. We can see the dedication with which Olivia Coleman’s Angela Burr pursues him, throwing all her resources at ensuring his capture, and describing him as “the worst man in the world”.

So when Roper eventually does appear, we expect to hate him. We almost want to hate him. But we can’t, not really. Laurie’s performance is charismatic in the extreme; from his first introduction – “Hello, I’m Dicky Roper” – there’s a sheer, infectious charm about his character. Laurie does a very good job of winning over the audience immediately; primed though we are to hate him, all of that is done away in an instance.

I actually mostly disliked The Night Manager – Tom Hiddleston struck me as uncharacteristically flat, mainly because the only character he was given was a fairly tired fridging/revenge plot – but one thing I loved was Hugh Laurie’s performance as the villain of the piece.

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Peter Capaldi talks Doctor Who diversity – will we see a Muslim companion?

doctor who new companion rakhee thakrar shabnam masood muslim character

Peter Capaldi said “the thing about Doctor Who is, it’s at its best when it reflects the culture and the times that it’s in. Because it’s a very successful show, sometimes it just digs its own groove of success, and I think it’s time for us to be more recognizable as being in the 21st century”, going on to note that it “could easily be time” to see a Muslim companion.

A news article I wrote when it seemed like this was a possibility – I suspect I was riffing on something the Radio Times wrote? Not sure. Certainly, there was a rumour that Rakhee Thakrar was going to be the new companion (enough of a one that I suspect in hindsight that she probably did audition) and I’m almost certain the Radio Times would’ve done an article linking Rakhee Thakrar, potential Doctor Who companion, and Rakhee Thakrar, actress who played a Muslim woman on EastEnders. Probably wouldn’t title this the above if I were writing it now, anyway, since I don’t quite like the way it removes Rakhee Thakrar from the headline.

Weirdly, despite publishing this on Yahoo, I had published the text of it on my tumblr about sixteen days earlier. Ah, the days before the exclusivity clause.

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Doctor Who: A tribute to Christopher Eccleston’s “fantastic” Ninth Doctor

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Today, the 26th March 2016, marks eleven years since Doctor Who returned to our screens – almost as long a time as it had been away. It’s strange to think, really, just how long it’s been since Christopher Eccleston first graced our screens as the Doctor, bringing Doctor Who back with a bang.

The Ninth Doctor is, for me, a bit of an oddity. He was the first Doctor I ever saw, true, but I only caught the very end of his tenure; Bad Wolf was my first episode, and then a week later the Doctor regenerated. So, I’ve not exactly got a big emotional connection to him – but I do have a huge respect and affinity for the character.

Yesterday was the eleventh anniversary of NuWho! Weird to think, that. I’ve reached a point now where Doctor Who has been a part of my life for longer than it hasn’t.

To celebrate, then, I’ve written this tribute to the Ninth Doctor, who really was… fantastic.

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Repitching the premise of Star Trek: Voyager, and some thoughts on how it might have been better

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So, the question of Star Trek: Voyager and missed potential is one that rears its head whenever the series is referenced; typically, the stand people take is that it should have been more serialised, more of a focus on scarcity, struggles with integrating the crew, etc etc.

Whenever the question arises though, I always think of another possibility: at the beginning of the series, it was said that Voyager was 70 years away from the Alpha Quadrant.

What if each of the seven seasons had taken place across a ten year period?

I’m approaching this purely from a story standpoint – I’m pretty sure it’d be difficult to pitch something like this to a network, or even to keep it on the air, given that it’d be much closer to an anthology show than what we’ve traditionally seen of Trek.

In any case, though, what I’m picturing is sort of akin to DS9’s Children of Time, or Enterprise’s E2, but on a much longer timeframe.

Each series would have a ten year scope, and then within that timeframe, the writers are allowed to position their episodes how they want; the first few episodes might take place within their first couple of months in the Delta Quadrant, but maybe there would be a six month gap between the third and fourth episode. Perhaps you’d have a mini arc as they travel through Vidiian space, where all the episodes are reasonably joined together, before moving swiftly on the next time. Each episode would need to have a stardate title card; “63 years until returning to Earth”, or some such similar.

Across the first two seasons you’d seen Janeway and Chakotay, integrating the Maquis crew; at the same time, though, you’d start to see them getting older and greyer. Perhaps in the third series, they’ve left active duty – they’re not longer Captain and First Officer, but much more elderly ‘honourary admirals’ types. Perhaps they’d die in battle, or simply pass away from old age or disease between seasons – they certainly wouldn’t still be around in the fourth season.

That immediately posits some interesting possibilities to me, in terms of the themes of legacy; who replaces Janeway as Captain? How do they face up to this role? Do the crew accept them as the new Captain, after such a long time being lead by Janeway?

There would, obviously, be some continuity of cast members – Tuvok, I imagine, would stick around for a while, given he’s a Vulcan, and it’d be nice to see Harry Kim rise up through the ranks. Perhaps we’d see Captain Tuvok and First Officer Kim? Obviously, the EMH would be a stalwart as well, and you could easily have Neelix as a long term crewmember. (Or not.)

Depending on how significant a time jump they would want to have between seasons, or even between episodes, it’s possible we could have seen Kes’ life play out in full across the first season; there’s potential there for some really interesting, and I think quite poignant, character development.

star trek voyager time travel janeway harry kim chakotay future's end timeless kate mulgrew garrett wang robert beltran old now admiral janeway

Another interesting potential plotline is the fact that, by the time we reach the fourth season, presumably very few of the crewmembers would have actually been to Earth – the question would arise as to why, exactly, they were risking their lives to a home they’d never known. Maybe you would have a group of the crew splitting off to form their own colony; perhaps, across the forty years so far, something of a proto-federation has grown up through the alliances Voyager has been forced to make.

At the minute now I’m just thinking through the stories we actually saw, and how they might have translated to this sort of series set up – the Krenim and the Year of Hell might offer potential for time travel shenanigans, allowing guest appearances from Janeway, Chakotay and other characters who have long since been abandoned.

Similarly, with the Borg, maybe someone like Tom Paris could be assimilated in one season, and then “rescued” the next season – and in turn being forced to deal with the fact that ten or twenty years have passed since he was last on Voyager, and the ship has changed significantly in that time. Perhaps he’d meet up with elderly Harry Kim, now also an “Admiral”, and reminisce old times.

The question of children would, presumably, come into play at some time or another, and it might be interesting to see Naomi Wildman ascend through the ranks, to eventually reach Captain – in my head, I’m sort of picturing her as the Captain when they reach Earth, though that wouldn’t really work with the 70 year gap. (Not that it’d need to be a hard rule, obviously, they can still find ways to speed things up – I imagine cannibalising and retrofitting the ship would be a significant plot arc across the different seasons.)

That, in any case, is my idea. Obviously, there are flaws; from a logistical point of view, it’d be difficult to sort out aging makeup and whatnot, and we wouldn’t have one nice, easily identifiable Captain for the show.

But, on the flip side, there’s a lot of potential here for something quite different, letting us see a Star Trek series unlike any other; really pushing the limits of Voyager’s format as far as they can possibly go.

What do we all think? I’ve got to say, I’m not wholly convinced by it myself; it might just be a little too out there. But still, it seems like it could be an interesting point of discussion.

This article was recently posted on the Yahoo TV website. It has nearly 200 comments at time of writing, which is slightly insane.

Related:

Bryan Fuller’s Star Trek – Five Things We Might See

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5 potential premises for a Star Wars Netflix TV show

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I think it’s fair to say that the Star Wars galaxy is a vast one, with a lot of storytelling potential – and I’d love to see it expanded with a Netflix show, no matter what form it may take.

Here, then, are a couple of potential avenues that they might be able to explore…

So, here’s a few ideas for a possible Star Wars Netflix show! It includes a suggestion for a new animated series, a couple of different anthology shows, an Office-style show set on the Death Star, and a Coruscant crime drama.

Of the different ideas, I think the one I’d be most interested in seeing personally is… hmm, actually, which one? I’m fond of the idea of Tales from Maz Kanata’s Castle, as an anthology show featuring a series of vignettes focused on different characters, though admittedly as a commerical idea that might not actually work out. That’s probably why I like it best! If limited to the ones that are actually, like, likely, then I think the space noir Coruscant show is one I’d be interested in seeing.

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The Flash: Is Barry Allen going to die?

the flash barry allen wally west death the death of barry allen grant gustin keiynan lonsdale

Grant Gustin plays Barry on the CW at the minute, but Ezra Miller is set to depict this iteration of the Scarlett Speedster in a big screen release slated for 2017. Judging by the precedent [of killing television characters before their cinematic counterparts debut] established on Arrow, we may well see Barry bite the bullet before the end of the third season – perhaps even as early as the midseason finale.

You’d think, of course, that this is impossible; after all, he is the main character of the show. Interestingly though, that may not be entirely the case.

In the comics that the show has spawned from, the Flash is a legacy character; a mantle inherited by many different people. Barry Allen is one of the most well-known, yes, but far from the only – and this year, we’ve been introduced to television versions of two other individuals who have been the Flash: Jay Garrick and Wally West. Notably, Barry Allen was, for quite some time, known as a character who died; in 1985, Barry was killed during the Crisis on Infinite Earths plotline, and the role of the Flash was taken on by Wally West. Barry remained dead for twenty five years – a record time for a comic book character.

It’s possible, then, that this is a storyline they’d choose to adapt for the third season of The Flash; with the movie outing being released in 2017, the midseason finale of series 3 and last episode of 2016 may well be the last time we see Grant Gustin as Barry Allen.

A theory about The Flash, and what we might see from it in future. Increasingly I think I’m finding that one of the aspects of superheroes that interests me most – or, one of the aspects we don’t see that interests me most – is that whole idea of legacy heroes, of one person taking up the mantle of another.

It seemed to me like a really interesting way of doing things on The Flash, at least for a while; kill off Barry in the midseason finale, let Wally take over as the Flash for the next 13 episodes, then in the season finale tease a possible return for Barry, then working towards that can be the arc for the first nine episodes of the next season. They never did it, of course, but it’d be interesting to see.

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Five TV Crossovers We’d Love to Watch

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We all love crossovers. There’s just something really enjoyable about watching our favourite characters from different shows interact with one another; that’s why the perennial Arrow and The Flash crossover is so successful each year.

But those shows are spinoffs of one another anyway – what about programs that aren’t related to one another? What then?

Here I’ve picked out five TV crossovers that I’d love to watch… but what do you think? Let me know in the comments which crossovers you want to watch!

Some of these, in hindsight, feel a little too obvious. Which they were admittedly meant to be – it was a very sort of vanilla, “hopefully this should get notes on tumblr”, sort of thing. Which, hey, it’s one way of writing.

I’m sure I thought of a show I’d love to see a crossover between recently, but it’s completely gone out of my head. Hmm. As I said at the time, I guess, “let me know in the comments which crossovers you want to watch”.

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The Frustration with UK Broadcast Delays

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A good example of this is Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD; its broadcast on Channel 4 in the UK has been a rocky one. Despite very high ratings for its initial premier – notable being broadcast only three days after the American release – there was a notable decline in ratings over the course of the rest of the season. In part, that’s because of undeniably rocky levels of quality in those early days, but it’s far more easily attributed to the variable scheduling the show received; it wasn’t uncommon for there to be a break in the broadcast every couple of weeks.

Hoping to avoid this, Channel 4 held back the broadcast of the show for a month after the American premier – the idea being that, if they could air each episode in a row, they’d be able to maintain their viewers each week. Of course, though, the majority of the people who were interested in the show had pirated it by this point, meaning the show ended up with increasingly poor ratings.

A recent article on the Yahoo TV website, for which I am a contributor.

(An early one! A rare attempt at a general, overview type article, which I’ve not really done a lot of since. I’m not sure why, exactly; I suppose I tend to find them a little harder, but often also just don’t really have opinions about the state of television as a holistic whole like that.)

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