March 28th, 2005


Finally saw the new Doctor Who...

Excellent stuff. Really, really good, and a very strong beginning to the series. Christopher Eccleston is quirky, mercurical, charming, strong, and, dare I say it, sexy.

Warren Ellis seems to think the new Doctor Who is too British for American audiences, but I disagree. Doctor Who has *always* been British in language and style, and while that can be too big a leap for some people, I think that it's less of a leap than in the past. Arguably the new Doctor is the most American yet when it comes to its look, style, pacing, and editing. If the SciFi Channel didn't swoop down and acquire the broadcast rights for the new Doctor as Ellis suggests, it probably isn't because of the show being too British. Rather, it is most likely that SciFi saw the new series as a big risk -- it is very hard to breathe new life into any established series, and there was every indication that the new Who could suffer the same fate of its last few "regenerations". From a business standpoint, the new Doctor might've looked like a very bad deal for SciFi, who would have had to pay through the nose if they didn't want to face competition from BBC America and hundreds of public television stations, many of whom must be clammoring to show the new series. Indeed, I suspect that Doctor Who can be much more successful in the U.S. by not limiting itself to cable television. The Beeb needs to rediscover the glory days of Doctor Who fandom in the U.S. That means they need to be generous with the local PBS stations, getting them involved in the act of promoting the series and bootstrapping the fanbase, rather than giving preferential treatment to BBC America. If the BBC doesn't loosen up on the airing rights, American fans will still find ways to watch Doctor Who... royalty-free, using filesharing applications. That would be a bad thing for all concerned, however.

The new Doctor doesn't appear to be the one we grew up with as kids, with 8-episode stories and obligatory cliffhanger endings. Rather, the first show, clocking in at approximately 43 minutes, is a story unto itself. In that sense, Doctor Who's format appears more in line with Star Trek or Buffy... and while that might not lend itself well to sprawling epics, it *does* lend itself to the kind of Doctor that people can sit down, watch, and have fun with, without worrying too much about whether they're "missing something". Americans simply won't notice whether the Doctor's accent is from Northern or Southern Britain. What they will notice, however, if they give the show any time at all -- is that it is very, very watchable.

Interestingly, the new storylines are reminiscent of the first Hartnell days of Doctor Who, with the Doctor playing the role of a time travelling tour guide... indeed, the next stop is the end of the world, followed shortly by World War III. Expect more than a bit of humor, as the Doctor throws a wrench into the fabric of time, possibly daring at times to contradict and even recreate his own history.

At last, the neverending battle through time of good vs. evil is fun again! Should be quite a trip...


Recently, the BBC's premier investigative news program, "Panorama", did an expose on Prime Minister Tony Blair, that does an excellent job in detailing what Tony knew and when he knew it. It should be required viewing for all British citizens before they vote in the upcoming election.

Watch a RealPlayer stream or download the broadcast. (35.3 MB)

It's interesting to note just how much trouble Iraq is posing for Mr. Blair. Even the BBC, previously cowed and disciplined by the Blair government for presumed bias and shoddy reporting, is smelling blood. The Sunday Herald, The Guardian, and other papers have already said as much, if not worse, and an informal Sunday Herald poll is showing that 83% of its readers believe that Tony Blair led Britain into an illegal war.

This has led prominent Labour Party leaders to write rebuttals to the papers, trying to defend the indefensible.

" I am only too personally aware that there is something deeper about today's disillusion among Guardian readers. . . All I say is that, right or wrong, ministers like me acted in good faith . . . the black-and-white rejection of Labour that Iraq has excited seems to me quite disproportionate when, for example, we have more than doubled the aid budget..."

And I'm sure that's a comfort to the approximately 100,000 Iraqis who have died thus far during an illegal war. Regardless of whether you yourself acted in good faith, your party leader, the Prime Minister, did not. He lied to his people and ignored the warnings he recieved about the legality of the war. And yet you're protecting him, doing your part to deny the public the full truth, rather than demanding that the Prime Minister come clean.

Nobody can deny that true freedom for the Iraqi people would be a good thing -- freedom to vote and say what you like, sure, but also freedom to walk down the street in peace, to go out at night, to shop, to have easy access to the riches of their country -- food, water, and fuel -- and maybe even freedom to run a business and have a better future. Hope.

Hope has yet to return to Iraq. Not when Iraq's wealthiest best, brightest, and wealthiest live just about everywhere else in the world but Iraq. Not when women -- half the population, last time I heard -- are having their freedoms and their hope for good careers systematically taken away. Not when civilians are terrorized by bombs during the day and by the Coalition at night. Not when they're being asked to take sides in a conflict where favoring either side will get you killed. That isn't hope, and that isn't freedom.

The problem for the Labour Party and for its leaders like Peter Hain, is that Tony Blair did a horrible, wrong, illegal thing. Even if you credit Mister Blair with the best of intentions, you must still view his actions as illegal, unethical, and unconscionable as a simple matter of principle.

Many of the British people are principled. That is why they won't vote for Labour until Labour Party representatives stop protecting Blair and put their house in order. Labour's politicians can sense the stench within their own party, but they think that the public's "black and white", principled response is "disproportionate". That, sadly, is because they are not being principled themselves. If they were, they'd replace Blair immediately and insist upon changes to make sure that the British people were never dragged into an illegal war ever again.

The public's "black and white" rejection of Blair isn't about British foriegn policy in Iraq, or whether their soldiers should stay in that country one more year or ten more years. It is about supporting or rejecting the rule of law. It's that simple.

If it's really the intent of the British people to give Blair the power to do whatever he wants regardless of law, then perhaps it's worth suggesting an alternative -- King Anthony I.

With Charles getting married and the queen getting on, I hear there's an opening coming up...