We Were Abused as Gamers Last Gen, aka Why I Have Soured on Nintendo

I would like to get a Nintendo Switch at some point, but I refuse to buy any system at launch since they are almost always “buggy” in some way. But that isn’t the only reason I’m hesitant to purchase a new Nintendo product. I used to be a HUGE Nintendo fanboy – when everyone else had a PS3 or X-Box 360, there I was waving nunchucks around like Chuck Norris. Then something happened, in 2010-11 Nintendo basically lost my support. They fell into the trap of thinking of the consumers as dollar signs and stopped caring about us. They were just another Japanese company lashing out at fans for something, they themselves, had done.

Let’s go back to that time period. A few weeks ago, I posted an article about how “the West” had been robbed of the third Valkyria Chronicles game at around the same time. Despite a new side-game coming out (7 years later), it seemed as if poor decisions had ultimately “killed” the franchise stone-dead. Up until recently I was in a similar frame of mind with Namco Bandai, who for years, made excuses and shifted blame for poor sales of numerous games in the west, only to suddenly see a spike in sales once they actually tried a mysterious thing called “promoting stuff”. Then we had Capcom. In perhaps the most infuriating example of this out of all the rest, They cancelled a game that was going to be called Mega man Legends 3, and went on a twitter tirade passive-aggressively blaming us for something they did.

it’s a shame the fans didn’t want to get more involved if we saw there was an audience for MML3 people might change minds

— Actual tweet from Capcom

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So yeah, Back to Nintendo, they were the straw to break the camels back for me. Remember Operation Rainfall? Something like six years ago, people were furious that Nintendo started blaming fans for not releasing games, even though they basically stopped supporting their own console in 2010. Fans started up a protest, and eventually got all of the games released, but it took years. During that time Nintendo acted like feudal lords that were annoyed by the mere peasants demanding things. The Wii went from a household name to a ghost machine that was literally collecting dust on many a shelf, like your Grandmother’s ancient 8 track player, and Nintendo did not seem to care. Having something to play during that time would have made it less likely for me to jump ship back to Sony, but there I was buying a PlayStation 3 like I said I wasn’t going to do.

My Question for all of you is: How can game companies complain about us not buying their games when they have abused us as consumers for the better part of this decade?

The first few years of the generation seemed to be characterized by a weird release pattern where all game releases were crowded around holiday periods leaving the long boring spring and summer months devoid of anything worthwhile. This made smaller games that had the audacity to get released in the autumn have an immediate death sentence. These guys immediately got buried under an avalanche of Madden, Call of Duty, and Mario games. This situation also made many people unable to afford all the “hot” games when they were still popular making folks resort to the used game market, rentals, and borrowing games from friends. Despite economists always saying that entertainment media is “recession proof”, people can’t spend all their money on games right now.

 

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Disaster: Day of Crisis

This has made a lot of these companies super-selective on what games get released, and in the case of Japanese companies that basically means no games at all most of the time (Thanks Konami!). I find it amazing that fans ask for games all the time, and are basically told that they are idiots. I remember Nintendo of America’s President Reggie Fils-Aime famously saying that he personally axed an American release for Disaster: Day of Crisis because he personally did not like it. So here we have Reggie saying that he “doesn’t think Disaster is a $50 game,” and regards the audio as “laughable.” Thanks Reggie, I seem to remember that being the summer where the Wii had no games at all, and the reason I ended up buying a PSP. But that’s not all; here is a list of first and second party Nintendo games that America never saw that could haave kept the Wii going a bit longer:

Another Code: R
Captain Rainbow
Chibi Robo New Play Control
Disaster: Day of Crisis
Eyeshield 21: The Field’s Greatest Warriors
Fatal Frame 4
Fatal Frame 2 remake
Line Attack Heroes
Pandora’s Tower
Pikmin 2 New Play Control
Takt of Magic
The Last Story
Xenoblade Chronicles

Zangeki no Reginleiv (aka Dynamic Slash)

Note: the games in red were those protest games and eventually came out, just much later on.

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Another Code R

Most of these were already translated into English, and yet sat there in Japan and even Europe, never to see the American gamer. Most gamers wouldn’t even care if the Wii was region-free like their handheld market used to be, but we couldn’t even import games unless we wanted to mod the stupid thing. Nintendo isn’t the only company guilty of this as I could call out Namco-Bandai, SEGA, and basically any Japanese company for these same shenanigans. Thankfully today, more and more consoles are once again region-less – finally I don’t have to modify hardware to buy a game.

So what happened after that in 2011? We got blamed for all shortcomings, Capcom yelled at fans on their message boards for being pushy, SEGA blamed pirates for everything, and others lashed out at casual gamers as if they are some sort of virus impeding on the gaming market. The problem is that these problems including, but not limited to: company closings, firings, layoffs, and even sales not meeting expectations all boil down to game companies taking us for granted.

fuck konami
Type “konami” into Google and see how the fans feel…

Somewhere some idiot got the idea that we somehow work for them, and not the other way around. We are seen as dumb sheep, a collective mass of slobbering idiots that should open our wallets for any game that rolls out just because they say so. God forbid we ask for games we actually want like import games, innovative games, new genres, and artistic games. Hell no, we’re going to play another franchise sports game or shooter, and we’re going to like it. If a niche game or something out of the ordinary does come out, it always seems to be set up for failure due to a stealth release, no advertising, or releasing it amongst the aforementioned Christmas avalanche. And don’t forget the inevitable “rubbing it in our faces” where the company basically says “see we told you that game would fail, we know all”.

 

Gone are the days when game companies actually hired marketing and PR types to, oh I don’t know, market and publicize games; we as gamers are expected to do that as well. Word of mouth is one thing, but when a company completely fails to mention a games release, and then whines about it not selling, and then blames the fan base – something is wrong. Since when did the consumer become the PR department? Since when are we expected to proselytize the virtues of a game that we may or may not like just because the company is too lazy to do their job?

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I bet Kevin Spacey was super cheap

I know money is tough, but spending millions of dollars to have Hollywood voice actors appear in games, having lavish parties at big hotels, and generally pissing money away on nothing worthwhile is not only a lifestyle that has ended with the economic shakeup, but it’s pure irresponsibility. Much like the banks getting bailed out a few years ago, we are there to bail out the game companies. Instead of making a game that holds onto a budget, these guys make lavish Hollywood affairs that cost millions of dollars. This means that we are supposed to buy insane amounts of these games just to let the games break even.

Up to this point, we are given ultimatums: we must buy game X in order to see game Y released. If that doesn’t happen we get chastised like dogs that soiled the carpet. Sorry gamer you didn’t buy Barbie Horse Adventure; I guess you won’t get that new role playing game you wanted to play. Why do this? Then they vaguely say that the game “might be coming out” just to keep our hopes up, hoping we’ll forget about it in the meantime. “we’re listening to you guys, keep it up!” is a common bit of misdirection we always hear. truth is, we won’t see that game, they have no intention of releasing it at all. The simple act of the “bait and switch” that we get sometimes is not only unheard of in just about any other industry, but it really shows how much we are truly valued by these big wig game publishing houses.

We need to stand up as gamers and lay our collective feet down. Enough is enough and it’s time for a change in the way we are treated. As gamers we aren’t your guinea pigs, test group, PR department, marketing firm, and infinite money supply.  You need to take some responsibility on your shortcomings and do your damn jobs. We are not faceless barcodes with giant wallets for you to reap, we are a fan base and we can just as easily become fans of something else. If the masochistic ways that we have been treated do not stop, the collapse of the game industry will be at your feet. Your move, game companies.


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The Akira Remake Just Keeps Looking Worse…

One of my biggest pet peeves regarding Hollywood is not the tired “they have no new ideas” complaint, a complaint that is bolstered by dozens of films based on other movies, books, toys, and cartoons filling the cinemas. Mine is a broader concern that they have no regard for the fans when it comes to such adapted works. I don’t mind Hollywood remakes and sequels of stuff I enjoy, but what I don’t want to see is adaptation for the sake of itself, and missing the point of the source material.

A while back, Michael Bay summoned a veritable crap-storm of nerd rage when a script for his new Ninja Turtles film leaked to the masses. The story, characters, and general spirit of the original had been all scrapped in favor of something that was essentially the same plot of his Transformers franchise. Mr. Bay yelled at fans on Twitter, whined in interviews that he was misunderstood, pretended the script was fake, and eventually delayed the movie for some reason “totally not related to the backlash…seriously you guys.”

Luckily, it seems like the film is back on track, but the whole situation is almost baffling. Why would a film studio take something fairly popular amongst a very hardcore and vocal fan base and alter it to an unrecognizable state? Why not actually make a NEW franchise with nothing to do with an established franchise? It’s almost like this happens behind closed doors:

dumb-guy

“Hey guys, thanks for meeting me here today! The purpose of this meeting is that I have a GREAT idea, no not an original one of course, (chuckles) that would be difficult and my head hurts from all that blow I did earlier! So here’s what’s gonna happen….We gonna take something that already exists and we remake it. This is cutting edge stuff guys, nobody has ever thought of re-doing classic films before!! Here’s the catch about us remaking it though, we don’t! (everyone in room gasps!) This is the clever part guys, we throw away everything that made the original popular! We change everything about it, because despite the popularity and reverence for the original we know better than the original creators. It’s a stroke of genius, I know.”

This attitude seems to plague all of Hollywood, a place that has increasingly replaced artistic vision for dollar signs. There’s no wonder most “talent” is flocking to television, as that format seems to have more freedom for just about  everyone. That isn’t to say they aren’t without their issues as well. I remember reading about a San Diego Comic Con years ago where a group of execs slipped into a screening of the US remake of the popular UK science fiction drama Life on Mars, only to be horrified by the bad reception it was getting. Supposedly, they had no idea that the show had fans over here, and immediately re-shot the pilot with a new cast attempting to re-create the show exactly.

Japanese Anime and Manga seem to be the new hotbed for film licensing, and it has been pretty bleak. Executives seem to understand which are the popular franchises, but miss the entire point of why said franchises are popular. It’s like they assume that fans will see things based on name only, and will gladly accept massive changes to all aspects of a production. We thankfully dodged a Keanu Reeves Cowboy Bebop Film, a Zac Efron Full Metal Panic film, and even a Evangelion film that was supposed to be all action, and none of that pesky plot from the original. Sadly, we were “blessed” with atrocities such as the Fox Dragonball: Evolution film, so it hasn’t been perfect. Each time this happens, the possible directors of these franchises in the making, seem bewildered that there is so much outcry.

cowboy-bebop

The property that I am the most worried about in regards to this situation happens to be Akira, one of my most beloved science fiction stories. I basically have Akira to thank for getting me into anime, because I was completely oblivious that there was an entire industry devoted to “cartoons” that weren’t necessarily meant for children. I’m not going to pretend I understood the film when I first watched it over at a friend’s house back in 1992, but the mix of violence, psychological storytelling, and amazing visuals simply blew me away. I eventually bought all of the manga, animation cells, and even action figures related to it.

For about ten years now I have been hearing about a possible “American remake” of Akira being in the works, but they never get off the ground. Fans flip out about proposed changes, and each one dies a quiet death shortly after. The newest version of this project seems to be one helmed by a director named Jaume Collett-Serra. This name may be familiar because he’s been talking this project up for years now, and it seems perpetually stalled because he feels that he needs to drastically alter everything about it. In an interview with Coming Soon, the would be director had the following to say:

“I hope that I can bring strong characters. In the original source material, I don’t think the main characters are the protagonists. What I’m hoping is to bring characters.

Nobody’s interesting. Tetsuo’s interesting because weird sh*t happens to him, and Kaneda is so two-dimensional. That’s part of the Japanese culture, they never have strong characters. They’re used as a way to move the other philosophy forward.

Yeah. So hopefully in my version that will be strong, and you’ll have a story that happens in that world that will show you a little bit of the mystery. Then, if you’re interested, they’ll make “Akira 2 & 3” then you can get deeper into it. I love the world, a lot of people love that world, so why wouldn’t we indulge in it a little bit and see how it would be if it was real? Like you say I don’t have to explain everything, but wouldn’t you like to spend two-hours in a world of “Akira” and follow a character and be like, “that’s cool”? That’s all I want to offer, is two-hours in a world you can actually feel. We’re working on it.”

So there you have it, get ready for the American Akira that nobody wants!

People That Whine About Science Fiction Being Too Political Are Media Puppets

Today I have decided to sidestep my narrow focus on British science fiction to discuss something that caught my attention relating to the genre of science fiction in general. My wife and I saw Neill Blomkamp‘s sophomore film, the visceral and gritty Elysium today. We both came away enjoying the film quite a bit; not in the Avengers sort of way where you want to high-five everyone after the movie and punch the air in happiness, but the more sombre “holy crap that was good, but also depressing” sort of way. This was what happened when we watched District 9 a few years ago, a film that lead to us discussing apartheid south Africa, something that really would not have happened had the film not taken our emotions hostage for two hours. When I got home, I decided to check the box office gross Elysium had, as well at critic reviews to gauge whether it is doing well or not. It did top the box office, and gained generally positive reviews, but the negative reviews the movie was getting are quite puzzling. People that don’t enjoy the film aren’t hating it because of the gore, the foul language, or the shaky-cam action scenes, but because it challenges their political beliefs in some way.

Take, for example a few of these little gems taken from a popular critic aggregation site, Rotten Tomatoes:

elysium-reviews

And here we have some choice quotes from some online reviews:

“Particularly towards the end, the political messages are just so overt, I don’t know how you can watch it without thinking of current events and connecting the dots that the director obviously intended to connect,” – Big Hollywood’s Christian Toto.

“It’s not just hypocritical to say this movie isn’t political, it’s hilarious,” – Dan Gainor, VP of Business and Culture at the Media Research Center.

 Elysium advances one of the more openly socialist political agendas of any Hollywood movie in memory.” – Variety Magazine review.

Those that have yet to see this film, might be wondering what all the hubub is about. Elysium tells the story of a future Earth that is so overpopulated and crime-ridden that the well-to-do upper class citizens have fled the planet Entirely. They all have decided to live in a space colony well away from the stench of the poor surface dwellers; the ultimate gated community, if you will. The citizens of Elysium have jumped so far technologically (in a sharp contrast to Earth’s urban decay) that they can afford to have no illnesses whatsoever due to the creation of a machine that can heal everything. This has caused black market operations to spring up promising illegal trips to Elysium, usually taken up by ill people trying to cure terminal illnesses. Since the majority of the plot has a vague notion of how everyone should have access to medical care, and that policies on illegal immigration are too tough, TV pundits and conservative bloggers alike have pulled out their pitchforks in protest. 

matt-damon-elysium

The thing that really bothers me about this mindset is that science fiction has ALWAYS been about taking social issues to their breaking point to illustrate the ills of our society as a cautionary tale. It’s not like Neill Blomkamp woke up a few years ago, and realized that nobody has ever talked about politics in film. These media-types have an ulterior motive here, as nobody can be so stupid than to think that science fiction has never been like this. One of the earliest modern science fiction epics, The Time Machine was essentially H.G. Wells‘ commentary on British social classes and social Darwinism. That was only the beginning, authors like Robert Heinlein promoted either fascism or communism depending on the story, George Orwell warned of the road to totalitarianism, and Ayn Rand promoted Objectivism. All very different political strains, all either championed or demonized depending on what the authors intent was.

To me, something like Elysium is only ruffling these conservative feathers because of the ridiculous political climate we live in and the 24 hour news cycle. When you have media stunts such as a left and right leaning media conglomerates claiming outrage at every turn, these people would love if we just watched paint dry all day, as to not put “bad ideas” in our heads or offend someone. I always find it ironic when commentators claim a subversive piece of literature or film is damaging society as is usually their viewpoint that the film is directly satirizing.

In Closing I leave you with a quote from Philip K. Dick on the media: 

“Because today we live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups… So I ask, in my writing, What is real? Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudo-realities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms. I do not distrust their motives; I distrust their power. They have a lot of it. And it is an astonishing power: that of creating whole universes, universes of the mind. I ought to know. I do the same thing.”

 

The Twelfth Doctor & Why I’m Sick of Nerd In-Fighting

Before I slip into full-on rant mode, let’s get have a brief history lesson that pertains to the issue at hand. In the mid-nineteenth century one particular group of abolitionists came up with an ingenious idea: since slave liberation seemed unlikely in America on an economic and political basis, was it feasible to re-locate freed slaves in Western Africa? You know the old saying “out of sight, out of mind” right? That’s basically the idea here. This was a two pronged attack: on one hand the slaves were being freed, which made the abolitionists feel good about themselves and their devotion to God. And if the Blacks were free, the largely evangelical movement didn’t have to actually socialize with these newly freed persons of color. They could keep white society and help set up a separate but equal colony far, far away. This group, The American Colonization Society (ACS) helped over 13,000 former slaves travel across the ocean to create new lives for themselves in a new country dubbed “Liberia”. The main problem that faced many of these “Americo-Liberians”, as they were now called, is that many were not African, and if they were, they were so far removed from their former culture that they simply could not relate to tribesmen on the interior of the country. This lead to a massive division where a lot of these former slaves saw themselves as more educated, more civilized, and simply “better” than the locals, leading to the creation of a leadership class that existed until the 1980’s.

So what does this African history lesson have to do with Doctor Who? I think the idea behind this event has a lot of ramifications in nerd culture at the moment, and I believe we ALL can learn a very important lesson here. Formerly marginalized “nerds” are being forced to mingle with people that they see as inferior, and are treating them like garbage as a result. In a way, the formerly oppressed have become the oppressors and I’m really sick and tired of it. Just because someone got picked on in school, doesn’t give them the right to strive for the very power used against them. This has been brewing for a while, but there is starting to be a real elitist attitude blemishing nerd culture. Some people are weary of, if not downright antagonistic to, any “newcomers” to their hobby of choice. Whether it be comics, TV shows, cartoons, or in this case Doctor Who, these people have invested so much time that they feel the need to protect their baby from the marauding barbarians.

 The opening shots in this asinine “war” seemed to be a fairly misogynistic blog post from last year. The post in question, which I have placed below, is by veteran comic creator Tony Harris. Harris had problems with what he perceived to be “fake geek girls” at conventions, a type of woman that Harris suggests is there to either seduce or “cock-tease” unsuspecting geek guys. I could elaborate more, but you can read it yourself:

tony-harris-rant

I have been asked my opinion on this for a while, and I kept mostly quiet because internet crusaders made a huge deal out of the situation, and I have a tendency to stay out of giant internet fights. Also I DO NOT share the popular opinion of many nerds, and welcome anyone to do anything they want, and participate in anything they want to. My opinion is that Harris clouded what could have been a decent post about people dressing scantily at conventions with a ton of misogynistic garbage. As somewhat of an egalitarian on gender roles, I find his mindset terrible. It all boils down to this:

“Attractive women at cons are not really nerds, they are just trying to hurt you.”

“These girls are not fans of whatever they are pretending to be.”

“I should get more attention at cons because I make comics.”

“P.S. These girls are only hot at cons, in real life I bet they are ugly.”

 Without reading too much into this rant, one can see the bitter ball of hate that sits in the belly of many a nerd fan. After this was posted, many women were incredibly mad at Harris. He seemed unready to accept the gigantic backlash he got afterward, and tried to back-peddle a bit. He did have his supporters though, as it’s not like Harris came up with this all on his own. There is a real problem with folks attacking “fake fans” whatever the hell that means.

This finally brings me to Doctor Who, and the recent announcement of Peter Capaldi taking over the role from a departing Matt Smith.

doctor-who-live-peter-capaldi

For the better part of a decade now, the lead actors in Doctor Who have been on the relatively young side. Long time fans will know that this is a new trend for the show as a whole, but for some new fans this is the ONLY reference they have. This shift to a younger demographic helped bring one type of fan into the Doctor Who family that seemed elusive for years – young women. Many young women have become fans of the show because they were initially attracted to the main actors, then got into the fun of the program itself. This is exactly what the production team wanted to happen, and it worked very well. In no time at all, the show’s fans went from a small inclusive crowd to a worldwide audience including casual fans of all ages.

For this next example, let’s try to think like a teenage girl, and if you are a teenage girl- BONUS! So imagine if you will, having a crush on this actor that you really like then he announces that he’s leaving the show. Even though you fell in love with the guy before him, you were really starting to like this new guy, and he’s already leaving. You’ve sat down to watch them announce the successor and someone as old as your grandfather comes walking out!

This puts The Doctor way outside the romantic comfort zone for many of these fans. Thus the reason for videos like this:

In the video above, a girl that is obviously a huge fan of the show ends up less than happy about the choice of Peter Capaldi. I’ll agree that the video seems superficial, and the girl seems rather annoying, but let’s go deeper. The video is almost besides the point, as my real problem lies with all of the “real fans” that feel the need to be nasty to a young girl for “being fake”.

“Bye Fangirls! WHO don’t need you! Go listen to bieberand STFU”

“Back to Loose Women and X-Factor for you, slattern. You have “squee’d” your last.”

“Im surprised she wasnt fatter. Good job being superficial kid!”

…And it just goes on and on.

This video was circulated quite a bit over the weekend, and the “fake geek girl” crusade finally made it’s way into Doctor Who fandom. My question is: since when did we need to prove how much of a nerd we are to gain “street cred” with stuff like TV shows? Are we supposed to collect merit badges now, or are we simply measuring the size of our nerd genitalia here? I honestly see no difference here to what happened when Matt Smith was announced for the role in 2009. Many old-timer fans were furious that someone so young was offered the role, facetiously suggesting that the Twelfth Doctor was going to be ten years old. Some stormed off and claimed to never watch the show again because of such a decision. Fans like me may have said: “good riddance  to them, as they are just as annoying as the video above. 

So what if someone hasn’t seen 50 years of a TV show, does that mean they can’t enjoy it? Maybe they enjoy it for a different reason than you. Just because somebody chooses to express their love for a show doing something like writing erotic fan fiction about it, that doesn’t make them part of some subservient class under the almighty uber-nerd class you you obviously are part of. If they are a “fake fan” then they will simply disappear when the next big thing comes along, why would they hang around something they hate?

We, as nerds, need to GROW UP. We need to realize that things like science fiction, and comic books, and movies based on comic books have all gone mainstream. That thing that you are a fan of? Millions of new people like it as well, and that doesn’t mean that they are any less fans because of it. Some may not memorize random trivia related to the show, some may even concentrate on something you could care less about like wearing costumes from the show, but they are still fans. There are not “fake nerd girls” trying to destroy the lives of nerdy guys, because that sounds utterly ridiculous when said out loud. Yeah that cheerleader may have made your life hell in high school, but what if you both like Batman movies? Doctor Who? Comics? Maybe we should strive for common ground, and not perpetuate stupid John Hughes movie high school class structures into adulthood, it just makes us all look bad.

Space Nazis – The Trope That Needs to Die

A few days ago I decided to watch a purposely bad B-Grade Nazi exploitation film called Iron Sky. In the movie, modern astronauts go to the moon to mine hydrogen 3, only to find a fully built factory of the same purpose already there. The astronauts soon discover that they weren’t supposed to find this facility, and are taken down by a group of jack-booted and gas mask wearing S.S. troops. It seems that a handful of fully operational Nazi soldiers fled to the moon during the death throes World War II, and set up shop where nobody would find them.

Iron Sky is a fun movie based on the fact that it is so over the top, in bad taste, and well….bad that it has that same vibe one gets from something like Snakes on a Plane. It also stands as a parody of all the SERIOUS works of science fiction and alternate history that revolve around the discovery of a fully formed group of Nazi remnants in full operational capacity (and ready for blood) in a cartoonish fashion. This really got me thinking – should Nazis really be the “be all and end all” bad guys from here on out? Or are they just lazy writing in all fiction – simply designed to shock and bring back a sense of patriotism that hasn’t been there for seventy years? What about “space Nazis”? That’s even worse…

The PlayStation game series, Killzone, does a great job of disguising the space Nazi trope.
The PlayStation game series, Killzone, does a great job of disguising the space Nazi trope.

I can handle a hypothetical situation where a crew of sci-fi guys travel to a planet and a totalitarian regime is in place that may or may not be similar to the Nazis. They can have flags, even red flags, skull based insignia, and even labor camps for that added shock value. The Daleks in Doctor Who might as well be space Nazis, but they are nicely changed in many ways as to be more inconspicuous in that regard. But when you have honest to god, born in Berlin, but somehow ended up in space, Nazis I want to kill people. The worst offender is Star Trek, a show that has dabbled in the Space Nazi theme so many times that every series seems to have a contractual clause to include at least one episode based on it. Here is the plot from a classic episode:

“When the Enterprise approaches the inner planet Ekos to investigate the cessation of communication with researcher John Gill, it is attacked with a rocket carrying a nuclear weapon. This is puzzling as well as dangerous, since neither the outer planet Zeon nor the inner planet Ekos is technologically advanced enough to possess rockets or nuclear warheads. The Enterprise retreats to maximum orbital distance and Kirk and Spock beam down (after having position-broadcasting transponders surgically implanted in case of mishaps).

Kirk and Spock discover that a Nazi movement has swept the planet, complete with genocide of the “Zeon pigs” residing on Ekos. They view a public newscast in which the Iron Cross second class is presented to Daras, hero of the Fatherland. Kirk and Spock are also shocked to learn that Gill appears to be the leader of the planet’s Nazi movement.”

star-trek-pattern-of-force-space-nazi
The originator of offense

I could just chalk it up to goofy 1960’s TV, and the fact that WWII had just ended less than twenty years prior, but this still goes on today. It was fresh When Edgar Rice Burroughs created the concept of Space Nazis way back in 1938, but it’s 2013. Don’t we have any modern socio-political issues that can be satirized in this way? Are we so worried as a society that we might offend someone that we can’t have space North Korea, Space Al Qaeda, or Space class warfare?

Victory_of_the_Daleks
Victory of the Daleks was creepy because the Daleks are basically space Nazis by virtue of action and ideology, no need for swastika flags and goosestepping!

If you have any ideas for what can take the place of space Nazis, please sound off!

Should there be a Hollywood Doctor Who movie?

NO.

I guess I’ll elaborate: The recent news of the (now confirmed as bogus) preliminary production on a big theatrical Doctor Who film had me both excited and worried. I’ve seen what happens when a “movie” version of the franchise gets made, and although Peter Cushing Tried his best, those were some “craptacular” films to be honest. The budget was bloated to the point where some guy obviously said “the TV show doesn’t have color, so let’s jack this thing to the brim with so much color that even Liberace will find it garish and unappealing…”

More proof that using garish colors is not better

This combined with a need to “change the story to fit the medium” and other movie-maker B.S. led to a product that didn’t feel like the show it was based on, and somehow seemed “cheaper” than a show that was filmed in a flea infested backlot for the first few years. I know that if I had even seen the movies at the height of “Dalekmania” back in the 60’s I might have loved it, but I’m a jaded Gen X /Gen Y guy and both movies bore the pants off of me. It really doesn’t help that my favorite episode of classic Doctor Who is The Dalek Invasion of Earth, the basis for the second film.

So anyway, there have been rumblings for a few years now that there would be a big budget Doctor Who film at some point. The sheer shock of this sentiment was only made worse when big nerdy websites started suggesting “dream casting” with actors such as Johnny Depp that were somehow in the running to play the Doctor. It seemed that someone had missed the point and we were in line for Depp’s bizarre take on a classic fictional character. “Sweet!” I thought to myself “we’ll get a Tim Burton directed Doctor with a loud cross between a camp homosexual accent and British accent, and insane clothes just to make sure people know he’s eccentric! And maybe Danny Elfman can do the soundtrack!!” This was of course sarcasm as that would be nearly unwatchable.

UGH!

It’s not that I don’t want something like this to ever happen, it’s just that Hollywood has a habit of jumping onto something popular, raping it for all it’s worth, then dropping it in the gutter if it fails to be the next Avatar. I could come up with one-hundred examples where this has happened, but I’ll run with another UK-based TV show to film conversion: the mid-90’s Bean Movie. I always liked the Mr. Bean episodes that ran on PBS around that time, I guess it had something of a U.S. resurgence then due to HBO frequently running the episodes, and plans were made to create a movie for American Audiences. Suddenly the title character, as played by Rowan Atkinson, was sidelined as the main character and everything was Americanized. There was nothing particularly wrong about the new characters added in, but let’s be honest here, nobody cared about an uptight American family; all they wanted to see was Mr. Bean. It was like watching a high school theater version of a Shakespeare play; the spirit was there, but everything seemed off. The movie did poorly as a result, and thank the lord that a real Mr. Bean movie came out later, one that felt like a continuation of the show.

This is what would happen with Doctor Who. The Hollywood producers would cast aside everything that makes it what it is in favor of trying to make a new audience. Last time I checked this cross-global whitewashing and repackaging has NEVER worked aside from a few Japanese horror films!

Luckily these tweets make me feel better:

(Twitter Images floating around on the net, not sure original source)

“If, and when, the movie happens it will need to star television’s Doctor Who — and there’s only ever one of those at a time. And it would need to come out of the same production operation that makes the series … Doctor Who is a vitally important BBC brand with a huge international audience and not even Hollywood can start this one from scratch. So sorry if there’s been any confusion, but on the plus side it has reminded us all what an exciting prospect this could be.”

Is Doctor Who anti-Religious?

This message is a continuation of something that was posted on “Matthew C.’s” blog Tea With Morbius in which some guy yelled at him for being a conservative and liking science fiction. This stance has always confused me completely as many people I know have religious beliefs and watch tons of science fiction TV. I’m even a Gnostic-Christian that leans libertarian and have no problems at all with having my beliefs questioned.

For me, religion and science fiction go hand-in-hand for many reasons, most notably for the concepts in many of the actual stories. We can’t have things like The Matrix, Philip K. Dick Stories such as Blade Runner, or even Star Wars without some bit of respect for religion. I know that this will make a few people angry that hold the “the religion is stooped!!11one LOL” mindset, but that’s how it has always been. Lately there has been a big smugness cloud hanging over fans of science fiction, one in which many that do not believe in any sort of deity take everything as a symbol of atheist pride. Let’s say that we find ourselves watching and episode of Doctor Who, and The Doctor finds out that a civilization’s “god” is actually a guy in a suit…BOOM TAKE THAT RELIGION! I guess it all boils down to a side-effect of the somewhat recent trend of both sides of the utterly stupid “religion vs. science” geek war that has been raging for a while. Don’t even get me started on the fact that the two institutions co-existed fairly well for nearly a millennium with only the occasional blemish such as throwing scientists in prison for heresy. Not everything is Galileo vs. The Church for Christsakes!

There are many instances of a somewhat anti-religious stance in Doctor Who, but I honestly chalk most of it up to lazy writing. Akin to my much beguiled “space Nazis” trope (I need to write something on here about that), the lazy religion bashing episode sometimes comes off as just as lame. In Doctor Who, one such episode sticks out like a sore thumb to me as the literal archetype for this type of story: Meglos. While not a particularly bad episode, Meglos excels is painting a world in a somewhat one dimensional manner in which religious folks are raving lunatics, and scientists are the best at everything. On one hand we have the citizens of the main planet split into two philosophical groups: “savants”, a group with an utterly patronizing name right from the beginning, which worship science fighting it out with the deions, a group that follows religion. This episode also features an evil cactus monster just to show how serious we can take the eye rolling religious debates.

Another motif that has clumsily popped up in Doctor Who a few times, and about 70 billion times in the original Star Trek, is the “people worship what they don’t understand” trope. In Star Trek we had the episode where the civilization worshipped the U.S. Constitution, The episode where the kids worshipped some guy in a mumu, the one where people worshipped a computer…and so on…Planet of Fire showed this when we find out that people are worshipping an empty spacesuit and the Face Of Evil did the same thing with an evil computer, there must have been a run on god-like evil computers somewhere.

These more-clumsy episodes paint religion as the total antithesis to science, something that uncivilized morons take part in. This is not the norm for the show however, as much of Doctor Who is a lot more “nice” with religious imagery and concepts, even bordering on painting the Doctor himself as a “space Jesus” of some sort. For me Meglos was simply a fluke, if anything Doctor Who teaches us that we should question authority when reasonable, something that actually chimes with my Gnostic worldview, does this mean that I feel that the show is made in that regard, NO, but just like many atheists I can see what I want as well.

As In posted in the original comments section of the thread that kicked my stream of mind ranting, I feel that more recent Doctor Who episodes are far more forgiving of religion, something that may confuse people as both show runners have been uber-super-duper atheists. One episode in particular stands out to me as the showpiece for my viewpoint, a Russel T. Davies penned episode called “Gridlock”. The plot centers around a trip to New New Earth, a planet plagued with terrible traffic. Every day the masses that live and die in the traffic jam hear weather reports such as the following:

“The sun is blazing high in the sky over the New Atlantic—the perfect setting for the daily contemplation… This is for all of you out there on the roads. We’re so sorry. Drive safe.”

For me this was obviously a reference to what these people see as heaven, something attainable if everyone has faith that the traffic will ease up. Suddenly everyone breaks out into an old hymn called “The Old Rugged Cross”:

On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
The emblem of suffering and shame;
And I love that old cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain.

Refrain

So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown.

O that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,
Has a wondrous attraction for me;
For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above
To bear it to dark Calvary.

Refrain

In that old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,
A wondrous beauty I see,
For ’twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died,
To pardon and sanctify me.

Refrain

To the old rugged cross I will ever be true;
Its shame and reproach gladly bear;
Then He’ll call me some day to my home far away,
Where His glory forever I’ll share.

Refrain

As we can see Martha breaks out into tears as we see these people hopelessly clinging to the faith that they will emerge from this ordeal and go to where they plan to go. The Doctor takes it upon himself to save them, and literally leads them out of the traffic in an almost biblical way. If Doctor Who was so unanimously anti-religion, why would there be an obvious allusion to The Doctor being Christ-like in this episode. It doesn’t end there either; season 3 seems to me to be the most religious of all the seasons considering the ending. At one point, the world is in ruins and everyone has lost hope that they will survive as the Doctor is incapacitated and The Master has seemingly won. Martha literally travels the world spreading the gospel of The Doctor’s name until everyone thinks of him. This somehow gives him all the power of the world, and he flies around and kicks ass. To be honest I wasn’t a fan of this Doctor as a Space messiah revelation, but it still stands.

In closing, Doctor Who isn’t anti-religion, but some writers may write it that way, as you have seen I can find examples of the exact opposite as well.

British Science Fiction VS American Science Fiction: Why All The Fuss?

Anyone stopping by this site might wonder why exactly I don’t just talk about ALL science fiction, I mean it’s not like I don’t watch stuff from my home country at all. Keeping in mind that I am a Star Trek fan, I’ve dabbled in Star Wars, and I love some old Buck Rogers, that doesn’t excuse the fact that I am shamelessly addicted to stuff from the “other side of the pond”. The question remains, is there really a difference to the two different styles, can one distinctly draw a line between the two sides and separate them? For me, the answer is yes.

I think the main difference can all be chalked up to the argument of mood vs spectacle with the British productions geared heavily towards atmosphere, mood, and concepts and most American helmed productions relying mostly on spectacle, visuals, and special effects. As one can imagine, most of this can be chalked up to budgetary constraints, as anyone with access to millions of dollars in production budget would love to make something as grand as Star Wars, but if you are given far less you may have to settle for Blakes 7. What this usually means is that the actual scripting for these British programs has to be scripted to concentrate on tension, horror, and relationships versus escapist imagery. This forces the writers to go for ballsy content that will grab viewers and hold them; while there are a few American scifi shows that have taken this route, many “wuss out”.

A prime example of this neutering of concept in favor of spectacle can be seen in the American version of Life on Mars, a remake of a UK show from a few years ago. At first glance, the shows seem similar, but anyone will immediately notice a stark difference between the two. First and foremost, we have the production values in place hammering away any subtlety in concept. Instead of filming in antiquated areas, and keeping things dingy, the American show goes for a smooth veneer of CGI effects on things to add in the twin towers and other relics to constantly remind us of another time.

Screw subtlety, here we have "shock and awe"

I was constantly baffled by the use of yellow lense filters to instill a weird vibe on the show, it made it look like portions were filmed on Venus or something. I know folks had a hideous concept of color back then, but wouldn’t it be better to actually use sets with yellow, green and brown things in them instead of just tossing a filter over everything? It’s not like the sky was yellow back then, though I was born in the 1980’s so maybe I missed that memo. This basically ruined the show for me right from the beginning because it makes it hazy and hard to see anything in any of the shots. Instead of thinking “man, Gene Hunt’s office has terrible décor”, I thought to myself “why is he at work at sundown in a foggy yellow-lit room?” While both shows do a fairly decent job of keeping the early 1970’s fashion and hairstyles in check, the American one looks a bit too “shiny” and somewhat gratuitous. The acting seems more “Hollywood” and fake, and everything looks too clean and sterilized. Even the classic cars seem to all be from car shows, no spec of dirt on any of them. The U.K. Life on Mars excels on “not trying too hard” and succeeds by keeping everything simple. The U.S. version tries far too hard, and as a result fails.

Another huge misstep is the overall casting of the show. In the original, Sam was a normal sized guy, athletic but not too large. This was at odds with Gene Hunt’s large size and physicality. We were to believe that if the two were to ever get in a fight, Hunt would decimate Sam with sheer size and brute strength. Instead we have a Sam that towers over Hunt, a sixty year old Hunt to be exact. I know Harvey Keitel is a well-liked actor, but how am I supposed to believe that he is a hardass, if it looks as if he could break a hip at any moment. Everyone else looks “too pretty” if you get my drift, nobody looks like a real person, and it seems like they cast the show from a modeling agency.

Dear God! Why is the sky yellow?

My final real problem is that the show has been whitewashed to be more politically correct. In the original Gene Hunt is not a nice man, he is a corrupt cop that uses his rank to bully everyone around him. Aside from that he is a chauvinist, he is racist, he is homophobic, and he has the manners of a drunken frat guy. While a bit of that stays in, things like racist views are taken largely out, as to not offend people. I can see why this happened, but the whole point of the character is to show an exact opposing view to Sam, someone that Sam tries so hard to avoid being. This way, when Gene starts to soften up, especially in the sequel show Ashes to Ashes, he is that much more endearing.

I could keep going, but I’d rather not nit-pick the entire show to death. Truth is, had I never seen the original version I still would have been annoyed by the show, and probably not finished it.

By doing this comparison, I am by no means belittling American science fiction as the inferior product, but it does show why one can almost never truly adapt a program from there to here, our sensibilities are so different. On the flip-side imagine a show like V (the new one) being created in the U.K., it would be an entirely different show. So yes, there is a difference in the two brands of sci-fi, and I prefer one over the other.

A Fandom Divided: Stop The Insanity!

Craig Ferguson said it best when he put lyrics over the iconic theme for Doctor Who, lyrics in which he tried to sum up the point of the show for those that may have not seen it:

“One thing is consistent though and this is why the show is so beloved by geeks and nerds.
It’s all about the triumph of intellect and romance
over brute force and cynicism.
Intellect and romance over brute force and cynicism!”

Cynicism can hurt any sort of fandom as it gives many a false sense of what the general opinion of the masses could be. It also makes it hard to attract new fans, as the older fans are seen as jerks by the general masses. I try to stay away from acting like this if I can, but fail miserably when it comes to things like WWE wrestling; something I used to love, but struggle to tolerate today. The difference between me and other fans, is that I try not to get too worked up about things; if something pisses me off, I simply distance myself from it for a while as to not prolong the torture I endure when I attempt to watch it. This however is not a trait shared between me and other fans of certain shows I like, Doctor Who being the one that caused this reaction.

I’m all for having differing opinions on things, in fact, while doing this blog I began to read a fellow blogger’s site, Tea With Morbius run by a Mr. Matthew C. We don’t see “eye to eye” with our views on the show, but he doesn’t attack me for it, we just have polite discussion about things we both like. That’s the beauty of a show like this; it has been going on for so long that it has many fans of many different eras. This common courtesy has not been happening on a lot of Doctor Who related message boards as of late, with one of the more popular ones out there turning into a vile cesspool of trolling, personal attacks, and utter disgusting behavior. Sadly I decided to stop attending one such site today, not because I don’t like seeing different opinions, but because I don’t like seeing a group of people scared to say what they believe with fear of being attacked.

This isn’t just from cynical “haters” of the current season, but smug “fanboys” as well, while I don’t like such brandings, they are sadly the best way to illustrate the situation. On one hand we have folks that post their undying hatred for the current show to the degree that some have begun to personally attack others for liking it. This has caused a group of “cheerleaders”, folks that champion the current series, to show up and try to counter them at every turn. All I see are two groups of asinine people fighting for no reason. I guess it may just be my current annoyance with many dualistic institutions such as our current government and its sudden inability to work together; but I don’t want my favorite fandom to suddenly get a huge schism right down the middle. I have seen this happen with other things such as the aforementioned pro wrestling scene (WWF vs. WCW in the past, currently WWE vs. TNA), The Japanese anime Gundam (UC fans vs. “Wingers”) and many more.

Why can’t we all be more moderate? With Doctor Who, I mentioned that there are many different flavors for fans to like. In my case, I grew up watching old Tom Baker episodes on PBS in the late eighties, when it came time to actually watch more than just the handful of 70’s serials I had seen, I made a real effort to take it all in. I fell in love with the William Hartnell episodes of the 60’s as well as those same Tom Baker episodes immediately. I did, however, not take to the 80’s era as much and still do not regard it as one of the better eras of the show. But that’s the thing; it’s just my opinion in the end. Many HATE the older episodes, and love the very same ones I do not like. Do I feel the need to yell at those folks and get them to my side? NO! I respect the show too much, and generally like any era of the show. I’d take a “bad” episode of Doctor Who over pretty much anything else on TV most of the time, well that is except for the TV movie (I kid, I kid!).

We all just need to chill out, and stop the penis measuring contest. In the grand scheme of things there are more important things in the world to get riled up about, and a science fiction show isn’t one of them!

Speaking of U.S. Remakes…

After posting that trailer for Being Human (U.S.) I started thinking about the sad state of the American TV industry when it comes to original ideas.  Whenever I turn around, it seems like “new” TV shows are either based on popular U.K. shows that already have a following here, or are reality garbage.  I know it may just be my opinion, but I feel that most TV shows that are translated from the U.K. to the U.S. are vastly inferior to their U.K. counterpart.  Even a network show such as NBC’s The Office, being written by the same folks behind the original, suffers from being drug out far too much as it enters its seventh season.  Shows like Coupling, Red Dwarf, and even the IT Crowd have had failed pilots over here, and it’s no mystery – people that like the original shows will resent the new show from the outset.  With one exception in The Office*, I have found that TV execs produce the show in one of two ways, both of which ruin the show:

1) Leave it “as-is” basically making a shot for shot remake – This baffles me completely as a TV fan.  I know that some accents from the U.K. can be rough to American ears, but I have no idea why they just can’t air the original show.  The problem with these “as-is” remakes is that the humor is not styled for an American sensibility.  The jokes always fall flat due to our mannerisms, a general lack of understanding in irony, and other things too numerous to list.  Fans of the Comedy Show Spaced have undoubtedly seen the TV pilot scenes that leaked not too long ago, and I feel those scenes speak for themselves

Or even this ghastly version of Red Dwarf:

2) Same plot, but let’s re-write it to make it “better” – I know I just said that leaving it the same hurts the shows chances, but this is usually worse, especially for fans of the old show.  Life On Mars (U.S.) is a prime example of this as it was originally supposed to air at least one year before it actually did.  ABC screened the show at the San Diego comic-Con to a horrible response, supposedly many of the execs had no idea that it had a fan base in the U.S. and were scared of the reception.  A new pilot with different actors was ordered, and it failed due to declining viewership.

So how do we fix this America?  Let’s come up with our own damn ideas!  I love British science fiction, not crappy remakes of popular British science fiction.  There has to be more than one creative guy in U.S. TV, and rather than block any new shows, how about we nurture our own creative minds.  With the announced releases of Skins, Shameless, and even X-Factor the pain keeps going….and going….

Here is a list of the crap that gets made sometimes, count how few actually took off.

* season 1 of the Office is basically a re-shoot of the U.K. version, but it went vastly in it’s own direction thereafter, minus a few things…thankfully

 

C’Mon Syfy Channel

Has anyone seen the new trailer for Being Human on Syfy?  while not a huge fan of the original on BBC, this looks pretty crappy:

 

 

Once again, we can’t have an original idea and remake everything….sigh

An Open Letter to Joss Whedon fans:

It may be no mystery that I am not a fan of the science fiction show Firefly, in fact I can’t stand the show to be quite honest.  When I am talking with my sci-fi buddies, there is usually someone that doesn’t understand the idea that people have different tastes and tries to sway me to their side.  Not only is this annoying as hell, but it makes me not like the show even more.  Some of these guys even go so far to call themselves “brown shirts” or “brown coats” which unbeknownst to them is the same name that Nazi storm troopers were referred to as.  The name fits, as some of these folks are “Nazis” in the sense of the modern vernacular which attributes anyone being over-zealous and generally “douche-baggy” as a “Nazi” e.g, Grammar Nazi.

So why don’t I like this show, and why do I get angry whenever people get pissy because I don’t like it?  I think a lot of it stems from Joss Whedon’s messiah-like status in some fan circles, as if he can do no wrong, and everything he touches turns to gold.  This is of course despite the fact that he wrote large portions of dialog for the first movie X-men including this gem:

Storm as played by Halle Berry: “Do you know what happens to a toad when it gets struck by lightning? … The same thing that happens to everything else.”

UGH!

He also wrote the script for Alien Resurrection and blamed everyone else for the movie sucking, saying that it was miscast and such.  Don’t let me seem like a total ass for ripping on Whedon as I liked the original Buffy movie and the first 3-4 seasons of the show.  He may come across as an arrogant self-centered type of guy, but he is a pretty decent writer for dialog.

So the problem must lie in his fans, not just the “brown coats”, but all Whedon-media fans.  To me Whedon-ites are to science fiction fans what The Hitler Youth are to youth organizations.  Instead of watching and talking about their favorite show with other like minded fans, they see the need to try and indoctrinate everyone else into it.  If anyone resists The Lord Whedon, they immediately have to turn in their nerd license.

This very thing happened to me at work when I was helping a customer find a Battlestar Galactica DVD.  We started talking Sci-fi and he mentioned Firefly, to which I responded that I wasn’t really into the show.  The man then, obviously annoyed, asked “well….why NOT!?”  This was as if I somehow offended his religion or something.  I explained that I had not seen the whole show, but I was not a fan of the four episodes I did see, and did not plan on watching anymore.  The man then went into full-on siege-mode and started throwing out reason after reason as to why the show was underrated and why I should like it…etc.  I basically had to say “have a good one” and walk away.  It’s like rather than enjoying his show, he let the fact that it was cancelled become a bitter fist-shaped aura in his mind, waiting to punch anyone who says the show isn’t a masterpiece of human achievement.

Let this be a lesson to you guys, badgering folks and trying to essentially force people to think the way you think about a show is stupid and puts folks off of it.  If anything you guys have made me not want to read / see / hear about anything else that Joss Whedon ever produces.  Surely I can’t be the only one out there with this mindset.  It’s fun to like your own stuff, but calm down just a tad.