Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘continuity

I Thought I Was the Only One

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May 21, 2011 at 10:02 am

Green Lantern’s Might

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May 24, 2009 at 4:39 am

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Yesterday Was No-Post Monday

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Sorry about No-Post Monday; my summer course starts tomorrow and I’m scrambling to get everything ready. I have a few links before I declare this No Post Tuesday.

* Eliza Dushku is twittering that Dollhouse renewal talks are going on as we speak. A better indication than if they weren’t.

* Miscellaneous Star Trek links:

* A fairly well-known story about TOS and MLK.
* Ultimately, then, “Star Trek” was prescient not for its futurism, with the Enterprise crew using communicators that look like flip-phones, but for exploring a universe absorbed with pop-culture history. David Hadju on Star Trek and popular culture.
* Continuity errors as honeypot.
* “Star Trek sucked so bad I can’t even think of a title for my rant.”

* The secret history of Jughead’s hat.

* Goonies reunion video.

* Larry David is Woody Allen as Larry David in Whatever Works.

* Apocalypse and the academy in The New Yorker.

* And some sad news: Craig Arnold is now believed to have died while traveling in Japan.

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May 12, 2009 at 5:42 pm

Star Trek

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Call it the soft bigotry of low expectations or heretofore unexpected reserves of good will for the franchise—or maybe J.J. just nailed it—but I found Star Trek surprisingly good. And “good” is an amazing accomplishment given the self-contradictions inherent to the project:

1) innovate and revitalize a franchise that, let’s face it, is built almost entirely on the bedrock of nostalgic repetition;
2) do so while further hamstrung by the excruciating prequel format.

But Abrams strikes a more or less successful balance, aside from a few hamhanded “R2-D2, meet C-3PO” moments and a little too much handholding and lampshade-hanging.

As is probably to be expected, the prequelization provides both the worst parts of the movie and its primary source of narrative pleasure. As a certified member of the Nitpicker’s Guild I confess I was a bit annoyed to see how little effort was made to stick with the original continuity, even granting the timeline shift. Many of the gadgets had different behaviors and limitations than in the original show; no one knew Romulans were related to Vulcans until part of the way through the original series; Chekhov didn’t join the ship until later; Pike wasn’t the first captain of the Enterprise; etc, etc, etc. (You can fanwank most or all of these away with “The USS Kelvin Changed Everything,” but that’s not very satisfying. Clear lines of cause-and-effect matter, especially in time travel stories.)

That this cherished original continuity is essentially bulldozed permanently by the film is pretty unfortunate and will, I think, permanently damage the franchise in the eyes of its loyal and notoriously defensive fanbase, especially as fifty years of strict adherence to Roddenberry’s particular Utopian vision has not prepared them well for our heroes to lose a planet, much less the entire timeline.

But at the same time it is quite fun to see these characters meet each other, and Abrams does an amazing job of capturing the feel of the original series (all the way from aesthetics right down to the level of contrivance and occasionally nonsensical plot points). That the actors playing McCoy and (especially) Spock are very good mimics of the original actors helps things along a lot as well.

It’s also astounding how apolitical the film tries to be; I went in with the idea of writing a post about neoliberalism and Star Trek and it just didn’t give me much to work with. Now, this is a neoliberal, United Nations fantasy of the future, to be sure, in which difference only exists to be flattened out—but that’s really true of almost all Trek, DS9 and some other choice episodes excepted. (There’s also a making explicit of the longstanding metaphorical connection between Vulcans and Jews, with a Vulcan Holocaust followed by a choice between diaspora, assimilation, and resettlement in a “new colony,” but I don’t know what to do with that yet.)

Star Trek (2009) is no better or worse, politically speaking, than what Star Trek‘s always been: a fantasy of what the world would be like if consumer capitalism had no labor or environmental costs and American military-cultural hegemony was pure, stable, and uncomplicatedly good. It remains our defining ideological fantasy, in other words, the thing that blinds us still to the sort of world we’re really living in and the sort of future we’re actually creating.

So it’s no surprise that at this point my thoughts turn to the mediocre, to the unchosen, to the radicals and the subaltern and the dissidents. What becomes of difference in this future? We see these people only sometimes, in the background: Sisko’s dad, Picard’s brother. Usually they exist only to be made Star Fleet officers or good Federation citizens by the end of the episode, and we see no one like this in this movie at all. The lack of flexibility in this narrative template has grown, I think, exhausting, and it’s for this reason that over the years I find myself much more drawn to presentist and mundane SF, or apocalyptic futurity, or to anti-Trek futures like Firefly, the first few seasons of BSG, or Samuel Delany’s Triton.

But all the same every so often it’s nice to come home again.

Just one request: no more product placement, please; there’s no money in the future, much less corporations…

On The ‘Who’s The Final Cylon?’ Hour

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Twitter gives me access to instant commentary on things from some of my regular readers, which gave me a head’s up about what to expect for last’s night return of Battlestar Galactica, which I watched this afternoon. (Catch up on BSG minutiae here. Get Steve Benen’s take on politics and BSG here.)

Bill wrote: BSG=meh. more melodrama. I won’t be sad to see it go.

And Fred wrote: I didn’t even know the season premiere of Battlestar Galactica was tonight. Man, my enthusiasm for that show is waning.

It’s absolutely true that Battlestar Galactica is a far worse show than it was in its first season, when it was easily one of the best science fiction series ever aired. Ron Moore let the show get away from him in a few senses:

* He attempted to “humanize” the Cylons without thinking through “cylonicity,” turning the series’s main antagonists into confused and jumbled mush;
* he got so caught up in trying to fool the audience that he forgot to tell an intelligible, coherent story;
* he fell in love with poorly thought-out cliffhangers;
* he thinks the audience cares about the sexual relationships of these characters far more than most actually do;
* he left himself far too many Secret Cylons (12!) to get through in too little time, unnecessarily turning the final season and a half of the show into Who’s The Final Cylon? Hour;
* and this is the worst crime, encompassing all the others, the one that cuts down so many great series: he failed to plan ahead.

All that said, I think it’s too early to turn Battlestar into Star Wars; the reputation of the series will live or die in what happens in these next few episodes and it could still go either way. Melodrama aside—and yes there was a lot of it last night—I think there are reasons to believe. The Final Cylon mystery has finally been resolved, unless it turns out that either Tigh is wrong about Ellen or else the forums are right and Cylon Ellen is actually an aged version of either Kara or Number Six.

And with that mystery aside and Earth apparently discovered, destroyed, and rejected, the show appears to be setting its sights on the wonderful silent mystery that has sustained it all these years—really, a mystery about narrative continuity itself—and which drove so much of the initial interest in the show: “All this has happened before, and all this will happen again.” The cyclical nature of history in this universe is more than just a metajoke about the existence of the original series—the epic size and scope of the universe gave the show an expansive depth that it almost completely squandered in the hermetic middle seasons. If these final episodes are to be about history, and History, alongside everything else, that’s very promising.

For a time these teases helped make Battlestar Galactica seem somehow bigger than itself, and with the final season returning to that place I’m hopeful it can regain some of that early luster. Earth, and everything after, should help—the show hasn’t felt this utterly desolute since 33. I haven’t lost hope for BSG, and god knows I’m usually the first one off the bus. So sit tight: I think there’s still a chance for Moore to pull this thing off, if he does everything right, and if this last half-season is better than good.

Last night’s episode was the capper of the first season, made immediately following the start of the writers’ strike. In that sense it’s sui generis, for good and for bad, with the real last season starting next week…

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January 17, 2009 at 9:31 pm

Batman, Superman of Planet X

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This pair of scans_daily posts are by themselves a nearly complete lesson in just what superhero comics have become in the so-called Dark Age—incredibly dark, yes, but also deeply layered and remarkably postmodern. Grant Morrison’s current story on the Batbooks requires at least a passing familiarity with the entire sixty-nine-year history of the franchise to make much sense, including long-abandoned plot points like the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh and Bat-Mite and a rather advanced understanding of meta-concepts like continuity and canonicity.

These features, to varying degrees, dominate the major creative output of both DC and Marvel, and have for at least a decade, though Grant Morrison’s comics are certainly near the top of the curve.

Personally I think this sort of labyrinthine narrative complexity is always unequivocably wonderful, but opinions on this point definitely vary.

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July 7, 2008 at 2:21 pm