May 7, 2006

Changing Worlds and Changing Time (Lords)

In many ways, Geoff Johns and Russell T. Davies share many characteristics - both have a strong sense of the history in which they write; both can handle "inter-continuity" well, being able to acknowledge the past without being slaves to it; and both have successfully revitalized two key "franchises", if you will.

However, there's a key difference in their approaches that's more than just an ocean apart.

Like many in the blogosphere, I read Infinite Crisis # 7 since...well, since Identity Crisis, and I have to say...what was the point?

Understandably, DC wanted to (again) reboot and straighten out its continuity. In addition, the entire story of Infinite Crisis served as metacommentary between those who believed in "old" ways of heroism, those who believed that darker times call for darker measures, and fans who wish that things would "go back" to the way they once were. If you were looking for some measure of won't find it in Infinite Crisis # 7.

Yes, there are some big Jerry Bruckheimer moments - "Thin Green Line"; "Like hell", and even "it's good to have friends"...but ultimately, Infinite Crisis serves as an ironic reminder that the more things change, the more they stay the same. (The fact that Alexander Luthor points out some key differences in exposition - or that the whole pre-Byrne Doom Patrol was referred to before the current team was made "in continuity" - says volumes about John's ability to pull these plot threads together. Ultimately, it's a great ride...but afterwards, the promise of a "changed world" is empty. All that has been lost - and gained - is a few dollars from fan wallets.

However, having caught the first three episodes of David Tennant's run on Doctor Who shows a great masterstroke on Davies' part. Had Christopher Eccleston's depature been kept quiet, it would have been a great shock and surprise to see Eccleston (who carried the role as if playing it for years) change into Tennant - however, had Eccleston stayed, he wouldn't be part of another "franchise" revival.

Although I've referred to Tennant's Doctor as the "Caffeinated Davy Jones Doctor", he's probably more the "Lonely Defender Doctor" - if Eccleston wore the scars of the Time War, Tennant has integrated them and moved on, the last of his race, with no checks or balances on him. (Or to paraphrase his declaration in "New Earth", there is no higher authority than the Doctor). He is much more "human", but to a point - quick to turn on injustice, he is less misanthrophic than Eccleston's Doctor (we're not "stupid apes"), but there is a lessened tolerance for nonsense.

"The Christmas Invasion" is no "Spearhead from Space" (nothing is), but thankfully, it's not "The Twin Dilemma", either. Spending most of the episode unconscious, we see the Doctor's "family" (Mickey, Rose, and Jackie) dealing with an impeding invasion. Even when Rose attempts to "be" the Doctor, we see her fail....only to use a bit of Whovian mythology cleverly in the reveal. This Doctor initially doesn't know who he is....but as the episode progresses, we see a new positive - yet somehow, more punitive - personality emerge. One could see him visiting and having drinks with another doctor of a similar temperament.

"New Earth" acts as a semi-sequel to "The End of the World", and highlights Davies' main strength (putting DW in a 21st century context) and weakness (although his scripts are Ok, there's a flatness and...well....weakness to them). The subplots crackle with immediacy, and the bodyswapping is first rate...and the final scene is heartbreaking, giving a new Who villian a humanity that could have helped much, much earlier.

(And I've only checked out clips from "School Reunion" on YouTube - will give an opinion later).

However, Davies redeems himself with "Tooth and Claw" - a werewolves-in-19th-century-Scotland story that simply rocks, even with the corridor running. Mixing Hong Kong Action, Victorian Drama, and some quite clever plotting, this episode shows that new Who is hitting a watermark.

Ok, so JJ Abrams is doing Star Trek, Johns is helping recreate the DC Universe, and Millar has created a "civil war" in the Marvel Universe....but thankfully, Davies got there first.

Watch and learn, everyone.

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