Intelligent Drama – Are viewers getting lazy, or is it all about the promotion?

Still no word from BBC America about a second season for ‘Intruders’, the spooky and compelling paranormal thriller about ex-LAPD cop Jack Whelan’s quest to find out what is up with his wife Amy following her disappearance and reappearance on a work trip, only to find his world torn apart as he learns that she is involved with a secret society which brings people back from the dead. Billed as ‘intelligent drama’ and chock-full of symbolism, ‘Intruders’  asks how well we really know anyone (even ourselves) and (like ‘Fringe’ and ‘The X Files’ before it) kept viewers guessing all the way to the end of its first season. It also had a stellar cast (John Simm, Mira Sorvino, James Frain and promising newcomer Millie Brown), a creepy score by Bear McCreary (who also did the score for the recent  ‘Battlestar Galactica’ reboot), a more-than-competent adaptation by Glen Morgan from the book by Michael Marshall, and was beautifully shot by directors Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Stamm.

I remember watching ‘The X-Files’ for years, as did millions of other viewers. We werent afraid to wait for answers, indeed, like ‘Fringe’, confusion and tension were part and parcel of what made both shows so compelling. And ‘Battlestar Galactica’ strung us out for several long years and gave the lead characters story arcs that actors would die for.

‘Intruders’ had all these elements, and yet despite a great advertising campaign by BBC America, and a less-than-satisfactory one by BBC2 (which carried it in the UK, two whole months after it premiered in the US on the same night as Peter Capaldi’s first outing as Doctor Who – a great opportunity missed in my opinion), the show has yet to be picked up for a second season, despite the cliff hanger at the end of episode 8.

So is Intelligent Drama no longer must-see television? Or was ‘Intruders’ lower-than-expected rating simply a result of a stellar lack of commitment on the part of the parent TV channel, BBC2??

Answers on a postcard please….

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Why we should never give up on our dreams… why crowdfunding works

If someone had told my fifteen-year-old self that I would one day create an appreciation society for a favourite science-fiction show (a club which is still going strong thirty-four years later) or that I would be invited to visit the set, go to sci-fi conventions and meet authors, directors and actors, write a novel, and have the opportunity to help create a new science fiction web series, I probably wouldn’t have believed them. I probably didn’t even know that I wanted to do all those things then. But I’ve always loved science-fiction; looking to the future has always been my thing (although I’ve enjoyed looking back into my family’s past – the Family Tree has been an ongoing project for the past twelve years, and now my son has taken up the mantle).

I created an appreciation society for ‘The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’  in 1980 because I wanted to join one and none existed; I never stopped to wonder if I could do it. I coerced my sister into becoming treasurer (she’s always been good with numbers), bought a supply of A4 paper, Letraset, and paper glue, and set to with a typewriter I borrowed from my Uncle. Some years later, I started going to science-fiction conventions, where I heard behind-the-scenes stories and watched out-takes in the days before DVD Extras (even before most of us could afford a video recorder) – all of which made me realise that I was just as interested in what it took to put my favourite shows together, as I was in watching the finished product on the goggle box.

A considerable number of years later, I began writing fiction – I took several creative writing courses to improve my writing after two already published and successful authors said nice things about what I’d written and suggested it might help make my work better. I attended a writer’s conference in York, met some very interesting people and made a wonderful friend, with whom I will one day collaborate on a project. I self-published a small anthology of my stories on Amazon, and began writing a full-length novel. Now I’m contemplating book covers and talking to a talented young musician about creating a promo video for the novel when it is finally published…

I’m a writer, not a movie-maker, but I’m discovering how crowdfunding can help to bring new projects to life, whether its a digital magazine created by a very talented interviewer who has had to reimagine her career in the wake of the digital revolution, or a science fiction web series.  The opportunities for people with dreams to bring them to life have never been better, even as other avenues may be diminishing.  Self-publishing used to be called ‘vanity press’ and wasn’t taken seriously by the literary establishment. Nowadays, even traditionally published authors self-publish! The advent of the Kindle and other digital readers means that you can follow your dream of being a published author.

I’m so glad that I eventually followed my dream to write stories other people want to read, and I’d urge you to follow yours… you may have a full-time job (so do I – I write early mornings and weekends and any other time I can) but I firmly believe that if you want something badly enough, you’ll get there.  Just look at this:  Third Contact – entirely crowd-funded, and what superb quality!

Now Simon Horrock is looking to create another science-fiction drama, this time a web series called Kosmos. Check this out:

Isn’t it a brilliant idea? To give people the opportunity to be a part of something like ‘Third Contact’ or ‘Kosmos’ (or the also fabulous ‘Minister of Chance’, also a crowd-funded project currently in production) will surely bring more talent to the creative world.  Anyone who dares to dream can do the same.  I’m living my dream, I’m quite sure that Simon is too… what about you?

author Elaine J Jackson

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Take a Deep Breath – We’re going to Heaven!

Doctor Who Series 8 Overview (Warning – here be spoilers)

Wow – what a ride that  was!  But, as always after a Doctor Who series finale has aired, I feel a little flat… nothing to do with what I thought of the series, mind, but rather because Saturday night telly won’t be quite as exciting for a while.

‘New Who’, as it is generally known as amongst Whovians (as opposed to ‘Classic Who’ for anything pre-the reboot by Russell T Davies) has been a ratings winner  for the BBC – better special effects, great writing, great casting, great performances, great directing – and for someone who has watched the show since the early seventies, it is always interesting to see how a new Doctor ranks amongst the cognoscenti and the general viewing public (or the ‘not-we’ as Whovians call them – as will be no secret to anyone following my twitter feed, I am a Whovian, and happy to be known as such.)

So what is my verdict on Doctor number twelve, Peter Capaldi, and his first series?  The ratings have been consistently good (average for the rebooted show) so we know that the general viewing public enjoyed it. As for me – I loved it. Even my husband loved it.  And I say ‘even’ because sci-fi isn’t really his thing – he is more into historical drama, preferring the past to the future.  He is almost certainly a ‘not-we’.  He enjoyed Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor, took a while to warm to David Tennant’s (blowing hot and cold depending on the story);  mostly disliked Matt Smith’s – but he loves Peter Capaldi’s version of the “idiot with a box”. He likes the overall darkness of series 8, the general lack of the ‘silliness’ (which I too feel permeated Matt Smith’s era) and loved the humour. About the darkness and the humour, I have to agree with him.

Because, dark as this series often was (more so than any other I can remember – although the revelation by  Eccleston’s Doctor that his previous incarnation had apparently committed genocide was, to be frank, pretty shocking and about as dark as they come), it was also very funny. Or rather, Capadi’s Doctor is funny. Not as touchy-feely as Smith, nor as humanity-friendly as Tennant, or as respectful of others feelings as Eccleston, or as morose and world-weary as Hurt’s War Doctor, and definitely not as sensitively whimsical as McGann’s half-human incarnation, Capaldi’s Doctor had some of the funniest lines ever – ‘look at this face, it’s permanently cross’ ‘these eyebrows, they’re attack eyebrows’… that was just for starters. His casual throw-away insults about Clara’s age, personal hygiene, his opinion of humanity as ‘pudding brained’, his leeriness about Danny Pink as a suitable suitor for Clara… I will need a complete series re-watch to remember them all, there were so many good un’s.  Each incarnation has had varying degrees of ‘alien-ness’, of course, but like Smith before him, Capaldi does seem to have really nailed that part of the Doctor’s personality, along with a general tetchiness and some physical humour; and it is endlessly entertaining. He is, quite simply, a joy to watch.

Each Doctor has his defining companion – Nine (Eccleston) had Rose (by default, since she was his only real companion); Ten (Tennant) had Rose too. because although Martha and Donna had their moments, it is Rose’s tearful goodbye scene that everyone remembers best; Eleven (Smith) had Amy (although again Clara was important, it is ‘fish fingers and custard’ that we remember; Twelve, well we can’t really say until the next incarnation comes along, of course, who his defining companion will be: so Clara holds the title for the time being.  Who knows (and I’m sure he will do) what the next companion will add to the legend?

Returning Monsters and Villains are a must, of course, and we had a smattering of those old favourites this time around:  Daleks, the Cybermen and the Master – classics all of them, but each a slightly new take on an old adversary.  And now we have the potential for more Master, more Gallifrey, and confirmation from the Doctor himself that he might, someday, be a Time Lady instead of a Time Lord. But that’s a topic for another blog, perhaps…

To conclude, and If we’re doing scores, I would have to give Dr Who Series 8 a resounding 10/10. Thank you Stephen Moffat, all the other writers, directors, cast and crew – it’s been great entertainment – what more can we ask for?

Author; Elaine Jackson

Tags:  dr who, the master, daleks, Cybermen, peter Capaldi, david tenant, Christopher eccleston, matt smith, john hurt, russel t davies, Stephen moffat