For the past month and a half, the DVD backlog has taken a back seat to Netflix, in part because of a free month given away via Xbox Live. Granted, I had been long considering joining up, but the free month was the tipping point. Through the service, I’ve seen such things as the British Office and Fawlty Towers for the first time, as well as reacquainting myself with Inspector Gadget, and even giving Batman: The Brave and the Bold the full attention it deserves. Suffice to say, the experiment has been a great success.
However, two of the first things I decided to use Netflix for have provided some particularly interesting results: Galaxy High School and Doctor Who.Galaxy High School was kind of a no-brainer, as cereal:geek has been teasing the hell out of the show since its inception, and despite the time slot it had (near the end of CBS’ Saturday morning lineup, around the time that the animated Teen Wolf and CBS Storybreak aired, both of which being shows that I know I viewed regularly), I failed to recognize the show at all, but what I saw did interest the hell out of me. So, once the first disc arrived in the mail, I was surprised to realize that I did remember the show after all, based upon the first two episodes. Granted, this was tempered by seeing the names of two people I loathe in the credits: Danny Goldberg, who, following his life as a music producer and agent (his role on Galaxy High School) effectively murdered Air America Radio and most of its original (and best) lineup, and John Kricfalusi, whose rigid opinions on animation (i.e., that the late Bob Clampett represents the end-all, be-all of what makes animation good) drives me crazy. Despite this minor test of my gag reflex, I did enjoy what I saw.
The thing is, the show left me thinking, “That’s it?” after the final episode, “It Came From Earth”, which I also remembered seeing back in the ’80s. After thinking about it, I realized what was bothering me: while CBS certainly did not interfere with the series to any obvious amount (though I suspect that they may have been the primary advocates behind “The Brain Blaster”), Galaxy High School would have been far better served with a companion 65-episode syndicated season, like the one that The Real Ghostbusters received. For one thing, I suspect that the full cast would have been better used under this arrangement (Henry Gibson’s characters in particular disappear after the first few episodes), and that there would have simply been more. As it stands, the relationship between Doyle and Aimee is barely established, and Wendy is only briefly teased as a spoiler to that relationship. Furthermore, Beef is the only character who received enough exposure and development for me to be satisfied with a paltry 13 episodes.
My thoughts turned to the possibility of a remake or sequel series, and I had to quickly dismiss the idea for a variety of reasons. First, the deaths of Howard Morris and Henry Gibson would, I fear, negatively affect things in a revival. While Icenstein is certainly overused as a plot crutch, Luigi is not, and I fear that no suitable replacement for their two extremely distinctive voices. Secondly, Aimee is too much of a product of the ’80s to be successfully adapted to modern times. She is very much cut from the same cloth as the likes of Molly Ringwald, and really, you had to be there to understand her appeal. Besides, most teen starlets these days are, quite frankly, jailbait. Aimee, like Molly Ringwald in her heyday, exudes a maturity well beyond her years, and most certainly was never staggeringly beautiful (and that was a big part of the appeal). A revival would see a lot of this disappear. The final reason, however, is the most damning: the prevalence of CGI today would mean any revival would be a live-action re-make. I hate live-action revivals of cartoons. The entire concept has been little more than a cash-grab that has upset fans of shows left and right, starting with the first of these revivals, The Flintstones, when Rosie O’Donnell was cast as Betty Rubble simply because she was a famous stand-up comedienne at the time, and could accurately replicate Bea Benedaret’s famous laugh (which was ironic since the then-current voice of Betty Rubble in the cartoons, B.J. Ward, was never known to replicate that same laugh). Not shockingly, though, a CGI animation studio called Vanguard Animation has some proposal sketches online for a re-make, which inspires absolutely no faith in yours truly.
On the side of things is Doctor Who, which has a revival currently in production, in addition to an extremely long lifespan. It’s this long life, added to the rather vague presentation of the series (until I looked online, I literally had no idea which episodes came first) and the 108 lost episodes that have kept me away for well over a decade. Now, with Season 1 of 31 (plus some specials and the ’90s revival TV movie) out of the way, I must say that I’m quite pleased with the show. The cast is generally great, even if it took me a while to properly appreciate everyone. I enjoyed Susan’s character from the start, and Ian and Barbara warmed on me by the end of the first story, and I fully warmed to The Doctor during the Marco Polo story (which is quite ironic since that story exists only as the soundtrack with various screenshots and promotional stills forming the imagery for the fan reconstruction). Likewise, the guest characters got stronger as the season proceeded-the famed Daleks are the first interesting guest characters, and Derren Nesbitt is genius as Tegana in Marco Polo, but starting with The Keys of Marinus, the guest casts begin to become more interesting overall.
The production values are certainly up to snuff, but the reasons are visibly obvious: the show was shot on video, and it seems particularly obvious in the early going that the budgets were limited: The Edge of Destruction for one is a classic “bottle” show, featuring only the main cast in the main TARDIS interior set, and the scope of The Daleks is communicated a lot more with inference and dialogue than in later stories. However, you can tell that the crew put forth a top-notch effort: the sets and costuming make the most of the limited resources, and what special effects there are are direct and greatly effective.
Perhaps most impressive are the stories: for a television series that was intended as “family hour” programming, there’s no attempt to dumb down things for younger viewers: violence in the historical stories (which include the Aztecs and France’s Reign of Terror as their subject matter) is handled accurately and without editing (though, obviously, said violence is not graphic). Additionally, there’s some really smart material: the Daleks are not robots are I initially suspected, but creatures that have retreated into suits, relying on the bulky things for all physical tasks. The Aztecs centers on Barbara’s vain attempts to bring an early end to the Aztec human sacrifice rituals, and The Sensorites touches on racism and xenophobia. In the end, I can’t helped but be pleased with the decision to-finally-leap into the world of Doctor Who.