South Park Self

ye cannot change the script, Jim!

Friends hosted a distributed-cooking Christmas In July last night, which means I'm lolling around the house still incredibly full of snacks and soup and turkey and Jo's amazing roast potatoes and baked potato gratin with the cream content of a small herd of Ayrshires (Jo and potatoes, it's the love story of the century). I didn't have room for the trifle, but since I made it (my signature Black Forest trifle, i.e. with black cherries and chocolate ganache on account of how I spit upon this custard/peaches nonsense) there's still half a one in the 'fridge. I'm eyeing it speculatively for lunch. Hmmm.

Last night was interesting because of the way a lot of the chit-chat was integrated with blog posts. In our sadly geeky crowd various people's blogs become almost another character at the table: they contribute to the conversation, sparking discussions and subsequently weaving in and out of them. We inevitably got onto Star Trek because I've been watching and blogging a fair amount of it, and I ended up both explaining the Wesley Crusher Problem to diced_caret, and joining in a general excoriation of the writing in STNG Season 1.

This resulted in the best slightly drunken metaphor I've ever generated for the problem: those poor actors occasionally quite obviously approach their dialogue with the sort of dubious poke you'd give to a giant plate of something ethnic and unidentifiable you've just been served at a diplomatic function, and which is looking at you because it's full of eyeballs. As a result, they end up mouthing the more horrible bits of dialogue rather gingerly, with politely-concealed distaste. It's a pity, because the show actually has a very good cast (apart from some obviously ham guest stars), and they deserve to be given something better to say. It's also the basis of the Wesley Crusher problem - it's nothing to do with the unfortunate actor, the character's just really badly written, poor lad. So now I have a new insomnia cure: where before I used to lie awake at 3am whiling away the hours by designing lesson plans for Hogwarts Divination classes (I don't believe in divination, but anyone with half a brain for symbol analysis could do a better job than Sibyl), now I lie awake re-writing the most recently-watched STNG script to make the character and plot motivations actually, you know, make sense. It's really not that difficult.

I'm also interested in how far my sense of "OMG this is badly written!" is about writers who haven't yet hit their stride, and how much of it is simply about dated values for dialogue and acting. Even in the good episodes the beats seem slow to me, and the interchanges frequently stilted: is the same true of most TV from that time? As someone who's come to TV anachonistically, late and on DVD rather than in any contemporary sense, I really don't have the wherewithal for comparison. I darkly suspect, though, that Joss Whedon may have spoiled me.

On a completely unrelated note, this morning I stumbled across the deliriously happy concept of the Desert Bus video game, which made me giggle like a twit for several minutes. I am apparently a huge fan of ideas taken to their logical conclusion and beyond until surreality sets in.
  • Current Mood: tired Sundayish, food-hungover
  • Current Music: Depeche Mode, for which I completely blame Wil Wheaton.
I absolutely don't mean "semiotics". Semiotic criticism is a whole can of particularly writhing worms, with which I can writhe if put to it, but I'd far rather not. I mean "analysis of symbols" in a much more straightforward sense.

Also, you just accused me of Dan Brown. Pistols at dawn, sirrah!
I tend to get twitchy now whenever symbols are mentioned without context - presumably Brown considers "symbology" to be a tribute to Umberto Eco. I consider a bullet in Dan Brown's head to be a far better tribute, not to mention of massive benefit to humanity as a whole.
Right, valid on all points, particularly the bit where you put a bullet through Dan Brown, although I don't quite aspire to your levels of misanthropy and would be content with a hail of incendiaries through The Da Vinci Code. Now I suddenly miss Cyberpunk. Bother.

Contexually, I analyse symbols a lot because my work is in fairy tale and fantasy and mythology and what have you. I therefore feel that I am infinitely better qualified to teach Divination than Sibyl Trelawney.
Wait until Riker grows a beard. ;)

I love Deep Space Nine deeply and profoundly, but I found the first few seasons a bit stilted and cheesetastic. It gets much, much better later, and so does TNG.

I think both writers and actors need to warm up to realistic and natural-sounding dialogue. Season 1 of TNG is not only the first season of a series; it was the first season of a franchise reboot. I think it took them a while to figure out the show's strengths and weaknesses. When the writers stop messing around with wacky aliens-of-the-week and let their awesome stage actors do their thing, that's when the show is at its best. I've always been impressed by the professionalism of the Star Trek actors, and their ability to play the setting completely straight (sometimes in spite of a terrible script).
I like Riker, actually, even pre-beard. He appears to have a sense of humour. I do take your point about the preliminary nature of the season, though. It really does feel like it's still warming up, and I am very much aware that it's considered to hit its stride somewhere around Season 3. I may whinge about the bad writing, but I'm still watching, and, as you say, the professionalism of the actors has a lot to do with that.

I may need a Star Trek icon, I still have six seasons to go...
Also, I am determined to send you the BBC's Luther, the antidote to hardboiled detective fiction. Unless there are torrents available to you, which is of course immoral.

Very strongly recommended. Also - only 6 parts.

I really hope there's a Season2.
Oooh, Idris Elba, we like him. He was great in Ultraviolet (the Brit vampire series, not the laughable US movie). I shall ask my Immoral Downloading Contacts to keep an eye out for it.
(Anonymous)
Incidentally, was the dr who still in the letterbox the next day?
Is this Mac? I did leave you a thank-you comment on a previous post - yes indeed it was, and I am appropriately grateful, and all primed to get down with the funky lizard people. (Although I've kinda stuck halfway through the second part of that two-parter, they're all being such twits it's almost a relief to go back to STNG, where at least I don't have actual expectations of the scripting).
TNG is generally felt to improve to the middle of the second season, where it held steady at amusing with moments of brilliance. Writers changed after season three, and I found it unwatchable. But then, I found Riker and Troi mostly unwatchable anyhow.

You may be right about the writing of the time. I fell hard for B5 because it felt so tight, and as though each episode moved everything along, where TNG was routinely less tightly plotted, and had less forward drive over the length of a season. Of course, it took B5 a season to get rolling as well.