2013.04.27: TV Thoughts

By numerical date it’s the two-year anniversary of The Tornado; by day, though, that will always be a Wednesday. It’s not the same if you’re not huddled in the basement of BB Comer as the power and internet and phones go out while from above you hear what sounds like the Hoover to end all Hoovers vacuuming the stadium.

Today it rained the tiniest bit and we had that golden summer post-rain glow as afternoon slid into an evening gown. We watched the newest ‘Doctor Who’, and got back on track with ‘Millennium’ and ‘The X-Files’. We’re still waiting for the storm the weather apps are promising.

I. Doctor Who: Journey to the Centre of the Tardis

I’ll have more to say about this episode elsewhere, but in short: I continue to enjoy the Pondless Whoverse, though I also continue to have issues with Clara. It just seems that she’s too likable … she’s the perfect companion from a viewer standpoint. She says the right things and asks the right questions; she’s in sync with the Doctor in a way. She’s smart and a problem-solver, curious enough, but also willing to listen to the Doctor.

A Manic Pixie Dream Companion? Sort of.

It feels as if we’re supposed to love Clara.

Anyway.

This week we check in with the Doctor and Clara while they’re just traveling in the Tardis with no particular destination in mind and they get captured by a salvage ship because the Doctor had the shields down while teaching Clara to drive … something like that.

Spoiler alert: it’s a mostly self-contained plot insofar as by the end most everything has been undone by way of time-loopage; in a way it did not happen.

Except for the parts that did. And this makes it a problematic story … for if it didn’t happen, what does it matter? But that’s a matter for another time and place. It’s wonderfully shot and paced and performed. So far I’m loving this season.

II. Millennium: Antipas

If I were not so much to summarize but rather characterize this episode, I’d say it’s one part “The Omen” (1976), one part “Don’t Look Now” (1973), and at least a little bit “The Shining” (1980). Add Frank Black, Lucy Butler, and leave out the obvious solution.

  • “The Omen”: ‘devil child’ (same footprint’s as Lucy Butler’s dead child … and we know all about Lucy …); plus, the father, John Saxum as a kind of ‘rising star’, not unlike the father in the “The Omen” … and we have to eliminate the mother first.
  • “Don’t Look Now”: a troubled marriage and losing the child … drowning in the movie and the early threat of drowning here … this is just my gut reaction watching the episode, not something that is well grounded textually.
  • “The Shining”: labyrinth and winding hallways, death of a gardener or groundskeeper.

The interior of the house/mansion reminds one greatly of that used in the second “X-Men” movie, but it’s hard to find any concrete information about the locations used in this episode.

As for the term ‘antipas’, see also:

As for the ‘obvious solution’? Frank connects the dots and realizes Lucy Butler is involved. He figures out where she is. He buries the hatchet and gives Peter Watts a call … the Millennium Group, which should also harbor a grudge against her … “takes care of business”. The End.

Aside: Madison, Wisconsin … my ass.

III. The X-Files: Aqua Mala

Todd VanDerWerff at the A.V. Club refers to this as a “famously bad episode” … and in a way it is. But there’s a brilliance here as well and I have mixed feelings about it.

It’s monster of the week fare and we have a potentially terrifying monsters: it comes from the deep(s), it strikes without much warning and because of the hurricane there is no place to run (so it seems), and while it manifests physically it’s practically invisible.

But then we get a crazy cast of characters: the police officer, the looter, the couple expecting their child, and the gun nut. We get snarky comments from Scully — noting how Arthur Dales manages to get to the bottom of things, especially liquor bottles — and a repeated line/joke about the nuts rolling down to Floriday.

And that is the problem with this episode in a nutshell: is it scary or funny? As for ‘funny’, its attempts at humor mirror those in episodes penned by Chris Carter, ones, like “Postmodern Prometheus”, that tend more to laugh at than with its characters; hey, aren’t those rubes funny! Mulder refers to the police officer as “Forrest Gump” in a mocking tone, and to see how that doesn’t work, compare it with Sheriff Andy Taylor in the much more disturbing and thoughtful “Home”; that episode engages with its American Grotesque setting.

It reminds, a bit, of another — and better — episode set in a similar location, the carney-centric “Humbug” (monster, Florida, confined location, freaky folks). That one, however, had the virtue of being written by Darin Morgan.

As VanDerWerff notes, there’s not much for Dales to do but snipe from the sidelines … he’s a narrative crutch, an explanation for why Mulder and Scully would know about this non-case and travel to Florida in advance of a hurricane. There are any number of better ways to lead in to a similar plot or story.

Yet still I have a fondness for this. I’d do away with much of the setup. It lags. Only once Mulder and Scully get to the condominiums do things pick up. If I were rewriting this episode, I’d make it into a kind ofRashomon narrative, though we had that recently enough with a Wilson brother, vampires, and Texas; here, though, it would be less about the subjectivity than about three moods … a snarky, Scully-centric rationalism; the humorous pileup and comedy of grotesqueries; and the actual horror-terror aspect. And a sort of reversal of survival horror tropes? Here locking yourself inside is precisely the wrong move … all you have to do is be like the cat and get out in the rain. I’d still bookend it with Dales and treat his scenes as kinds of Acts I and V; his only relevant moment — in terms of commentary — in this episode comes at the end when he changes his mind about Scully (after asking at the beginning why Mulder brought her along) and concluding that if he’d had a partner like her, he might have stayed with the X-Files.

Indeed.

See also:

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