Saturday, February 13, 2010

What Kind Of A Nerd Am I?

Over the past couple months, I started watching Firefly capped by Serenity late last week, an exposure amounted to my first prolonged exposure to Joss Whedon. Prior to Firefly, I'd only seen incomplete snatches of Buffy reruns and the opening issues to his Runaways run, none of which ever grabbed me, mostly because I never particularly enjoyed his mannered talkativeness. Not surprisingly, then, I had to actively get used to the dialogue on Firefly (not to mention the Chinese, which is its own unique dialect); in the end, I did become acclimated if not entirely fond of the dialogue. I also had certain expectations going which were refracted by Battlestar Galactica -- even though I've heard all of the "sci-fi Western" talk, I still expected a space opera going in. As a result, I didn't settle into the groove until the hospital heist episode, where I realized that the show was pulpier than I anticipated. (The pulp looseness of the series, I think, really undermined the film, which was a tonal mishmash that straddled both cynicism and naivete -- no mean feat.)

That said, as much as I like pulp (see Doctor Who), Firefly has some quality that keeps it from being something more than just an amusing diversion, beyond the stilted dialogue and line readings. What's more, though I don't love BSG, I tend to prefer its quasi-realist/military tone over Firefly's chummy, loosey-goosey "band of misfits" vibe. Furthermore, although Firefly seems to have invented the verite-in-space techniques (shaky cameras and zooming in on spacecraft), I rarely ever noticed it while I was watching, and it certainly didn't fit with the general pulpiness of the series. On the other hand, the same techniques were used on BSG to much more viscerally beautiful effect. (I'm sure BSG had a better budget for special effects on top of being made later with better technology, all of which no doubt improved the looks of the techniques.)

As to why I prefer Doctor Who, which may have even less of a budget to Firefly (I'm just guessing here), it'd have to do with the acting, I think, specifically Tennant, who could singlehandedly carry a show. Even then, he's often got great supporting actors, especially in RTD's last specials (the female captain in The Waters of Mars, and of course, Bernard Cribbins any time he's on screen). But usually, acting doesn't make or break a show (or film) for me, so I'm stuck trying to find another reason... such as the fact that Who can go further afield in terms of genres and stories -- Time Lord! TARDIS! Giant steampunk Cyber Kings rampaging through 19th century London! -- than Firefly as a Western in Space can manage, which is still going to be confined by a certain mode of physics.

Indie rating: Alice Coltrane – "Universal Consciousness"

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