mjhearle

Month: April, 2013

Where is Australia’s Doctor Who?

Recently, I spoiled myself and bought a Doctor Who DVD boxset. The set included the first five seasons of the rebooted Doctor Who beginning with Christopher Eccleston‘s run, and continuing all the way through David Tenant‘s. I didn’t watch the show during its original broadcast. It was on Saturday nights and I was rarely home to watch it. I figured I’d eventually catch up when it was released on DVD. Nearly ten years later, I have. 

I was a big Doctor Who fan when I was a kid. It used to scare and confuse me in equal measure but I loved the show. I loved the scope of it, the monsters, the chintzy special effects. I loved K9. My favourite Doctor was Tom Baker, though I had a special place in my heart for Sylvester McCoy. This was probably because his series had an unabashed horror focus (remember the vampires rising from the sea in The Curse of Fenric? I do.).

The Curse of Fenric

The Curse of Fenric (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the reasons my interest for the reboot remained piqued over the ensuing years between its airing and my eventual DVD purchase, is the general consensus that it was (is) a pretty great show. A fine successor to X-Files, Buffy and Angel by all reports. So it was with a certain amount of excitement that I slipped in the first disc of season one and waited to see if this new Doctor would honour the timelord of my youth.

The first few episodes were enjoyable but didn’t blow my socks off. The pace of the show felt artificially sped up – as though the producers were particularly conscious of appealing to kids with short attentions spans. Everyone seemed to be running everywhere all the time and while the cardboard sets and paper maché monsters of the original series had been replaced by abundant cgi, the effects still looked chintzy, but less charmingly so. Still, it was Doctor Who and I enjoyed Christopher Eccleston’s vaguely bi-polar take on the character. He felt like he might snap at any moment. Billie Piper brought a much appreciated spunkiness to the traditionally marginalised companion role and I enjoyed her banter with the Doctor even while I questioned the sexual tension. The Doctor is supposed to be an immortal alien. It seemed a little odd that he’d be lusting after a nineteen year-old chav. Then again – Billie Piper. It wasn’t until I hit the episodes, The Empty Child and The Doctor Dances that my tempered enthusiasm became decidedly less tempered.

The Doctor Dances

The Doctor Dances (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The episodes were beautifully written, well acted and managed to spark the old fear that kept me cowering behind the couch when I was a kid. That boy walking around with a gas mask fused to his face still haunts me. The Doctor Dances also managed to introduce a healthy dose of sexuality to the Doctor Who universe in the form of the delightfully bi-curious Captain Jack. I was glad he stuck around for the rest of the season.

By the finale, I was so invested in the characters that I admit to being a little choked up by Christopher Eccleston’s demise. He’d proven himself an able Doctor and a compelling presence to hang the reboot on. I wasn’t sure the newly regenerated Doctor of season two, David Tenant, would succeed in his shadow. I was wrong. From his first scene, David Tennant owns the role, keeping a little bit of Eccleston’s manic edge whilst bringing his own sly wit.

I have yet to complete this season yet, but so far the Girl in the Fireplace and The Satan Pit are standouts, equal to anything in season one. Overall, the show seems to be going from strength to strength and I can’t wait to see where it takes me next. This may not be the Doctor Who from my youth but dammit if it isn’t just as good. If not better.

Which brings me to the point of this post, and a wistful one it is – where is Australia’s Doctor Who? By that I don’t mean why hasn’t Doctor Who been played by an Australian (though if an Aussie can be James Bond, then why not a timelord?) but where is our tv genre equivalent. I’m sure Australians have created science fiction or fantasy themed shows in the past though honestly nothing springs to mind (feel free to correct me in the comments). And certainly nothing with the cultural impact of Doctor Who. Shows like The X-Files, Buffy and Battlestar Galactica garner solid ratings here so why has no enterprising producer decided to create a homegrown character to capitalise on this genre love.

Currently, our local TV landscape is a depressingly sterile affair – the odd comedy, perennial soaps, and hours and hours of reality shows dedicated to either singing, building things or cooking. Where is the magic? The imagination? The visions of worlds undreamt of? Where is our Doctor?

M.J.

A Gambling Man

My wife was away for work recently so I found myself with a free night. Unsure what to do  I decided to try for a cliché – poker night with the boys. This, despite the fact I’d never played poker before. So the boys came round and we started playing poker – texas hold ’em to be exact. The first few rounds we played for nothing but our pride and then, once we were all comfortable with the rules (I wasn’t the only naif) we started playing for money. Not a lot of money but enough to keep things interesting.

An image of a person playing the poker varient...

An image of a person playing the poker varient, Texas Hold’em (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was keeping my head above water until midway in the game when I decided to gamble big. This was my hand – Ten of Hearts, Queen of Hearts, King of Hearts, and Ace of Hearts. All I needed was the Jack and I would have had a royal flush. A pretty much unbeatable hand. Three cards had yet to be turned over and I became convinced one of them was going to be the Jack.

Why, was I so certain? In every movie I’d ever seen about gambling when the hero was faced with a similar set of odds they bet big and won. Fate, according to Hollywood, rewards the brave and I had no reason to doubt Hollywood. It’s telling of my generally whimsical state of mind that I was shocked and disappointed when the Jack didn’t magically appear. Of course, it didn’t appear. The odds that it would have appeared were ridiculously poor. Not for the first time I was punished for confusing Hollywood reality with actual reality.

When I revealed my cards, Lee, one of the more experienced players, was shocked I’d bet so high when I had such a rubbish hand. I explained to him that I was banking on the Jack being turned over and geez, well wouldn’t that have been cool? A royal flush! How often does that happen? Lee shook his head sadly and offered me this advice – ‘Play the hand you have. Not the hand you hope to have.’

This struck me as being probably the greatest, most sensible advice of all time. For a while, anyway. And then I started thinking how often in my life I’d played the hand I hoped to have. When I asked my future wife out on a date, I had no reason to believe she’d say yes, when I bid at an open auction for our future house there was very little chance we’d win, when I decided to write my first book the chance of ever getting published was slim to none. And yet here I am married to a wonderful person, living in a beautiful home and two books sit in the shelf with my name on them.

So, I think I’ll keep I’ll keep betting big on nothing but a dream. Sooner or later that old Jack will turn up. I know it.

M.J.