April 19th, 2008


Doctor Who: "Voyage of the Damned" (with very slight spoilers)

Huh. Okay. Here's hoping the rest of season four is better than this Christmas special.

It wasn't terrible -- it was no "Daleks in Manhattan" or "The Idiot's Lantern" -- and there was some good stuff (London being deserted because everyone is now superstitious about Christmas after the events of the last two Christmas specials; the "you're not falling, you're flying" line), but this episode was purely by the numbers. Doctor Who can, and has, done better than "Voyage of the Damned".

Also, it's really, really time to stop having female characters throw themselves at the Doctor. It's just trite now. It was sweet to see the Doctor kiss someone the first few times. Now it makes him look like a neurotic womanizer.

Mr. Copper's line at the end, "I'll always remember her," felt especially empty. It glosses over the fact that over a thousand other people died, including two others in their initial band of survivors -- one of whom gave her life quite valiantly to save the others from a rampaging Host robot -- but since none of them stuck their tongues down the Doctor's throat, I guess they're not worthy of mention.

The program's long-running fear of robots in service positions raised its ugly head again as well. The 1977 serial "The Robots of Death" has a lot to answer for.

Maybe Russell T. Davies is stretched too thin. Maybe he shouldn't be doing Doctor Who and Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures. We've seen this happen before with creative minds like Joss Whedon and J.J. Abrams. Sometimes too many kettles makes the stove burn less hot.

Balthrop, Alabama

Every once in a while, I like to have what I call "Culture Night." That's when I actually go out and see something that involves a live performance. It's a rare occurrence, usually because I'm not up on what's happening around town, and also because I can't spend the money. But last night was different. Last night was my first "Culture Night" in just under a year, and though money is tight, I felt that I had to go.

See, there's this band called Balthrop, Alabama. Catchy tunes, fun songs with a morbid sense of humor, and a great hook: each band member takes on the identity (and costume) of a denizen of the fictional town of Balthrop, Alabama. There's the milkman on sax, the plumber on bass, the butcher on accordion, etc. I think there were eleven band members on stage at one point. It makes for a great live show. But that's not really why I went to see them.

This is the funny part.

I know them. I know each and every member of the band -- but I met them all separately, before I knew Balthrop, Alabama even existed. I met them through working at the video store, or from frequenting the coffee shop so many of them work at, or from defeating them handily at Trivia Night, or just from around my neighborhood. When I first saw their website, I was shocked to realize I knew everyone in the band -- it was one of those weird, "small world" moments. But I'd never seen their band play before, despite hearing about them for at least a year now, so last night I went to their big, sold-out gig at Joe's Pub, and wow, what a great show!

What made it even greater was the addition of artist Michael Arthur drawing live art for each song, projected on an overhead above the stage for the audience to see. (He does the art for one of the music videos on Balthrop's website, too.) Also, one of my favorite customers from the video store, Caithlin de Marrais, opened for Balthrop and revealed a fantastic voice and singing style I never knew she had.

Have you ever had one of those dreams where you're someplace unfamiliar but you're surrounded by familiar people? That's what the show last night was like. And I'm not just talking about the people on stage, either. Looking around the audience, I was like, "I know that guy, and that gal, and that guy over there, oh and look, there's so-and-so." Honestly, we all should have rented a big bus to take us from our neighborhood to the show and back again.

I'm starting to feel like there's too much talent in my neighborhood. I think we're at critical mass. They're going to need to open up yet another Lucky Brand Jeans or American Apparel to offset it.