danieldwilliam: (machievelli)
[personal profile] danieldwilliam
I am watching more television than I usually do. A combination of feeling a bit tired and having access to some new television. I've recently started reading again (thank you Mary Beard scourge of the Daily Mail and defender of the Roman Patriachy). Before I forget here are some of the things I've watched and what I thought about them. There may be spoilers for Agent Carter, Accension, Designated Survivor, Firefly.


It all started with Gallivant. Gallivant is a musical comedy fantasy series about the adventures of a smug but affable knight. It's funny, very tongue in cheek. Vinnie Jones sings whilst playing Vinnie Jones. It's well put together. After two series I think they cast and the writers had probably done everything they could and stopped.

Agent Carter I quite enjoyed. I'm not a huge fan of comic books or the comic book characters that have become mainstream (1) but I did enjoy this Marvel tale of Peggy Carter, a Stark person, his butler and the legacy of Captain America . It's a nice bit of rough and tumble spy / detective thriller with a nice aesthetic. I've watched series one. I shall look out for series two.

Accension I did not like at all. I nearly did and now I feel a bit ashamed. It was bad science fiction. This programme made me consider what I dislike about bad science fiction. Largely because it did many of the things I dislike and did them without the benefit of a coherent and interesting story about engaging characters.
The plot and the interaction with the science needs to be done with care.

The premis of Accession is that in 1961 350 senior scientists and gifted children were put in a pretend generation ship on a trip to Alpha Proxima. The cover story is that this is a massive secret experiment in working out how a generation ship would work but the real reason was a eugenics programme to produce some sort of X-child who could harnes the power of the nuclear reactor to do things. 50 years after "launch" there is a murder and the "mission" and the mission and the MISSION all begin to unravel.

A lot of what was wrong with Accension is that the story wasn't coherent or engaging or about interesting people.

And bits of the science fiction keep failing and making me pick away at the under pinnings of the story.

For starters, I strongly dislike science fiction about emergant psychic powers which are happening on a scale of decades not aeons. Why put everyone in a multi-billion dollar a year tin can when you could probably achieve the same genetics and eugenics programme by offering the same people a few million dollars to have a child with the right person. Also, if we knew what combination of genes were needed to become a god we'd have done it already or it would have happened by accident and probably with unfortunate impacts on the former dominant species on the planet.

I found it incredible that a group of people so clever that the inventions they were coming up with were valuable enough to justify the continuation of the programme weren't able to work out they were being spoofed. People so brilliant that they could toss off the MRI scanner after being cut off from Earth for 25 years but so dumb that they couldn't spot that they had never left Earth.

The crew has a size of 600 and they live in a tin can that can fit in to a hanger and are given medical examinations and innoculations and yet it appears to be possible to hide the paternity of a small boy for six years.

And so on. The science in the science fiction kept flaking off but fundamentally people being locked in a tin can in order to produce a goddess said nothing to me about my life. I was not sorry that it was cancelled.

Firefly on the other hand I am sad about. I didn't watch it when it was on and I'm not a huge fan of Buffy but I am glad that I watched Firefly and Serenity. It's mostly a space western with science fictional elements set in a authoratarian state that is verging on a dystopia. What I found interesting was the cultural politics. It's a story about people who want to be left alone by the government and how they experience a strong central state. Admitedly the strong central state is not well behaved, not democratic and is out to get them but I thought it gave an interesting point of view of how people who distrust collective action are thinking and feeling.

I can forgive the emergance of psychic powers here. Surgery was involved.

And deep in the structure of the piece was a core of science fiction. The government is using science to advance its authoritarian agenda. It is reacting in an incoherent way to a crisis because it knows that the crisis is caused by its own failed use of science and fears exposure. The fundamental spring of the story is how would life be different if this technology was used by these people to do these things.


Designated Survivor is palace drama, political thriller and action thriller. A terrorist bomb at the State of the Union address kills everyone with a position in the Federal government or legislature from the President down except for the one member of the Cabinet who is made to watch the event from a bunker so that someone in the Presidential line of succession is left alive in the event of a large terrorist bomb.

The new President has legitimacy issues. No one had ever heard of him. He was on the verge of being sacked from the Cabinet. He mishandles a few early encounters with the public. The Federal Government is largely dead. State governors make a bid for independent power. He has to establish himself as the de facto and de jure and legitimate leader of the country. There are machinations.

The terrorist plot is not as straight-forward as it seems.

It become apparant to the viewer but not to any of the characters that the political machinations and the terrorist plot are more complicated and more connected than they at first appear.

It's good. I liked it. Sadly it's not great. Partly this is a problem of its reach exceeding its grasp. There's not quite enough space or quite enough fine crafting of the plot to fit it all in perfectly. Partly it's because some of the palace drama plot mechanisms are a little bit transparent. Whenever the new President goes out of his way to treat someone decently I keep expecting that person to turn up later, at an important momement and help establish the legitimacy of the President through an act of loyalty or by being the best they can be. It's a bit hopey change.

But I am looking forward to the next season in March.

I have also watched a lot of television with Toby Jones in it. Sherlock I am mostly enjoying with the proviso that the third episode will need to be brilliant to make up for the first episode. Rillington Place was superbly acted and directed. He seems to be popping up all over the place recently.

I'm sure I've watched other things but those are the ones that stick in my head.

Date: 2017-01-13 11:59 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] danieldwilliam.livejournal.com
That's where else I'd seen him recently. I knew he'd popped up somewhere else. That and The Secret Agent.

MLW and I were wondering what it was that either caused a sudden jump in someone's prescence or the perception that they have done lots recently.

Too much James Bond in Sherlock 4.1 not enough Sherlock Holmes in my view.

I'm not entirely convinced I watched Firefly in the right order. The copy I had access to seemed to have blurbs from one episode pointed at a different episode. I think I did. I certainly enjoyed the ones I watched later very much. I think that's a natural part of having a large ensemble piece. You have to do back story and character development and character evidencing for lots of people in parallel. Nine principle members of the Serenity crew?

Date: 2017-01-13 08:58 pm (UTC)
andrewducker: (Illuminati)
From: [personal profile] andrewducker
I didn't mind the fight. I did mind them fitting about three different plots into the episode, and none of it coming together well.

Firefly showed on TV out of order, so it's possible that the box set listings are a bit confused. It definitely takes a bit of time to bring everyone together and make you care about them, and it's hard to tell interesting stories about them until you know who they are. Which is probably part of the reason it was cancelled just as it got going. I'm glad we got an ending in the movie though.

Date: 2017-01-13 10:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] widgetfox.livejournal.com
I tried so hard to like Firefly but the main protagonist is So. Very. Unsympathetic.

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