June 12, 2006

JB joins the JAMMs

Sorry - I have to fix my E2 references Macro, so some views of this may be mangled slightly with hardlinks and these things.

I'm The Doctor.

Who?

The United States has hairy-chested heroes (well, with their chest hair pomaded out) with Big Fucking Guns. In space. They split infinitives in the name of manifest destiny made steel, or duralloy, or transparent aluminum, or what-have-you, and they go as representatives of something Greater Than Themselves. They have rules that they are handed down by elders for the good of All, and they break them when needed - but it's a show when they do. Going places requires sturm und drang, and enough people to run a small town all fiercely concentrating on their jobs even if they have iron bananas sticking out of their ears, or blue light bulbs burning their retinae into their skulls.

Still, it's all great fun, of course. It's just that it's so...much. That's us all over though. Never do something simple like walk out the door. Make a plan, draw up a committee, have a budget, tax the nation, allow twenty percent for shrinkage, never buy one when you can have two for twice the price. Slip quietly out and have a peek at the endless reaches of the universe, maybe with a friend or two along? Naaaah. Better build a Dreadnought, Dick and Jane, because we're gonna damn will bring home along for the ride and damn the gas mileage.

Then, of course, there's the other method.

I have been a part- Whovian for many years, albeit not a very knowledgeable one due to my lack of consistant access to public-access television broadcasting here in the benighted colonies. As such, my experience with the first quarter-century of The Doctor is extremely fragmentary, made even more so by U.S. stations' tendency to show Who episodes in four half-hour slivers. Given that I didn't have a television in my home until I was of age to imbibe, much of my fascinated adoration of The Doctor's wanderings is hazy. It is part and parcel of a sort of muddled confusion of bad sets and costumes, inexplicable storylines made worse by interchangeable backdrops and planets which all looked like a Cornish countryside instead of southern California, and continuity errors which would cause Uwe Boll or Ed Wood to blush.

No matter.

The Doctor represents an entirely different sort of approach to Out There (capital letters included free of charge). While many folks have lambasted the new Doctor Who series, as reincarnated by Russell T. Davies in 2005, I find it captures this alternate approach beautifully. While US-ians have had heros with beat up spacecraft of dubious reliability, and have had heros with no particular destination or home in mind, we've rarely had one with both. Add on top a delighted air of wonder at it all that (so far) both Christopher Ecclestone and David Tennant have managed to pull off with different emphases yet identical open-mouthed glee, and you have...something different.

"Either you're with those who love freedom...or you're with those who hate innocent life."

"All inferior creatures are to be considered the enemy of the Daleks and be destroyed!"

"Well either you're with us...or you're with the enemy."

"We obey The One...we are the superior beings!"

George W. Bush and the Daleks, Dr. Who on Holiday by Dean Grey

The Doctor isn't a representative of a steely-eyed collective. He's not the tax man. He's not your mom. He's not here to make everything nice and pretty and paint the picket fences white. He's here for a few reasons, likely only one or two of which he'll share with you (if you're lucky) and of course because he can be - so why the hell not?

The TARDIS, the most constant character on the show (it doesn't regenerate - at least, not nearly as frequently) exists solely to wander not just space but time. The Doctor, who doesn't own so much as have a relationship with it, picks destinations by looking up at the sky and pointing at a star before dashing off into the callbox with the sudden happiness of a ten-year-old who has been told there's an entire flock of penguins in his bedroom and they really want him to come teach them to rhumba. No battlecruisers for him. There are plenty of warships and empires and Federations and Evil Death Rays and monomaniacal baddies in the Whoverse, but they're all...them. The Doctor doesn't even carry a weapon. Nope.

See, The Doctor is a nerd. Yeh. He carries a screwdriver.

"Who has a sonic screwdriver?"

"I do!"

"Who looks at a screwdriver and thinks 'ooh, this could be a little more...sonic!?'"

"What, you've never been bored?"

Captain Jack Harkness and The Doctor ( The Doctor Dances)

Well so okay, it's a sonic screwdriver, but that's another story.

Anyway, that's about it. Sure, there was a bad bit we won't talk about where he's involved with the military, and is exiled on Earth to save on scenery budgets, but really, let's move on. He traipses about the universe armed with the equivalent of a Swiss Army Knife and his wits. This makes...wait a minute...this makes MacGyver look like a fucking piker. He didn't have a time machine, fer cryin' out loud! Much less one that needed not only repair but psychotherapy once in a while, usually at critical moments.

No wonder he ended up back in the arms of the military, where things are predictable.

Oh, yes, I was talking about music. See, there's a lot of it that talks about the Doctor. Why? Why so much about the Doctor, and so little of it (that's any good, really) about That Other Show with big primary-colored toy food and miniskirts? Well, That Other Show is great for namechecking. You have instant Geek Cred if you know enough about it to know your TOS from your TFF, or to know that the Impulse Drive has nothing to do with the word ' impulse' other than as a clever reference (Ha! Betcha didn't know that, didja?).

But the Doctor, now, that's different. The Doctor awakens an instant yearning in us all. At least, many of us. I think. I hope. Or I'm weirder than I know. But at least some of us, or there wouldn't be such a massively great response to music that is designed to make enormous crowds roar and sway and thrash their heads to the words of four-foot-tall Hoovers with terminal throat cancer. Nope nope. Try this: put on the theme to That Other Show. You can find it, of course. The one that has the pretty woman with the steel banana in her ear singing, even. See what it evokes in you.

Okay? I'll wait.

Great. Now go find a copy of Doctorin' the Tardis, by The JAMMs. Put that shit on. No? Okay, take the Dean Gray track mentioned above. Put that on crushingly loud. Crank it. Blare it. Listen to your head vibrate in tune. Now listen. Listen to the theme.

Maybe it only works if you've seen it, I don't know. But there's this appeal, which the new version of the show is perfectly positioned to proffer tantalizingly forward. BAM, here's the call box. Open the door. Walk inside. Keep your cool at the origamicybergeometric unfolding of spacetime inside, just to prove you're an openminded badass. Nod slightly, grin halfway, ask "what next?" and pray he grins back and points at an angle off into the sky without looking and says,

"That one."

Walk the fuck out of your life and the planet's miserable stagger. Wander. Go Walkabout. Put footprints on a world that no human's ever seen. Hell, find a world that no living creature has ever seen, and dance a jig on the surface - let the next group of thinking protoplasm bags to come across it spend six months trying to figure out just what the hell your footprints mean.

Find wonders we haven't room for down here. Look at them. Swallow your tears and fears. Live the danger.

But don't wait for The Guv'mint to take you there, with its rules and regulations and small-town-starships. Fuck that.

Walk into the box.

Posted by jbz at June 12, 2006 6:23 PM | TrackBack

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