Filming location for spaghetti westerns in Almería, Spain

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© 1987-2016
Scott Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

May flies

Okay, time to take a break from blogging about dead people.

The sun is finally out in Ireland. May is here. The month that makes me crazy. At this time of year every bit of small talk is about the weather. Just this morning the woman at the shop said, please God, this is finally the beginning of the summer. I said, and hopefully not the middle. And she said, or the end of it. Summer can seem very ephemeral here.

Why does May make me crazy? Well, because film festivals are going on in Cannes and in Seattle and I’m not in either place. But at least I got to watch the Eurovision Song Contest, since that is broadcast on TV. But I think I’ve been living in Ireland too long. It actually now bothers me that Ireland came in dead last in the competition. The lad they sent this year was actually very good and he deserved better. Maybe it’s time to revise that old headline about Britain: to paraphrase, Irish music hidden in channel fog, continent cut off.

On top of all of the above, the summer blockbuster movies started coming out this month, and I can barely manage to keep up anymore. Also the May sweeps on U.S. TV manage to leak over here because, at the end of the day, we get a lot of the same shows on UK and Irish TV and the broadcasters often manage to have the big season finales coincide fairly closely with what’s being seen in the home country. And this year that includes our favorite, Doctor Who—which is on a weird schedule that began last autumn, took a break until Christmas Day and then another hiatus until Easter.

Please take note. I am now going to do my best to spoil not only Doctor Who but also Iron Man 3 and Star Trek Into Darkness as well. So you have been warned.

We finally (well, after only a few weeks, really) found out the story on the Doc’s newest companion, the mysterious Clara. If you haven’t been watching Doctor Who for the past 50 years (really, it will be 50 years in November), the Doctor pretty much always travels around with a nubile young woman, although sometimes with others as well. When Russell T. Davies rebooted the character eight years ago, he upped the emotional quotient on the Doctor-companion relationships, turning each one in the end into a wrenching tragedy of cosmic proportions. When Steven Moffat took over four years ago, he took things to yet a new level, making each new companion some kind of cosmic conundrum to be resolved. He spent two and a half series telling the tale of the lovely Scottish lass Amy Pond who, it eventually emerged, was/would be the Doctor’s mother-in-law. By comparison, Clara’s story seems to have been horridly rushed. Although it was teased that she might be a character already known to fans from earlier iterations of the show, she turned out to be pretty much what she seemed, and the mysterious stuff about her was owed to all the timey-wimey timeline paradox stuff that Moffat likes to do. Basically, any drawn-out mystery on this show can pretty much be explained by the companion jumping into the TARDIS’s (or some other) time energy stuff and spreading clues back over past episodes. If you watch the show, then I can close with just two words: Bad Wolf.

It’s now a long six-month wait for our next Doctor fix, which will be the 50th anniversary special. Traditionally, these specials have been an excuse to bring back old actors and have the Doctor meet previous iterations of himself. Unfortunately, the 2005 Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) won’t be there because he did not really take to the whole Doctor Who thing and apparently wants nothing more to do with it. But the wonderful David Tennant will be on board and also John Hurt (of all people) as some other, previously unseen, iteration of the Doctor. The implication is that we will finally get a look at the oft-referred-to Time War that destroyed (well, locked in a time bubble) all the other Time Lords, destroyed the Daleks (well, not really) and which occurred during the nine-year gap between the Paul McGann Doctor Who movie and TV series reboot. That would be cool. But you know what I would really like to see in the special? I want them to bring back Jenny, the Doctor’s biologically generated daughter who appeared once in a 2008 episode and then was never seen again after she set off for the far reaches of space to have her own adventures. Not only was she a great character, but she is part of the family in more ways than one. She was played by Georgia Moffett, who is not only the real-life daughter of the fifth Doctor, Peter Davison (and Sandra Dickinson, who played Trillian in the 1981 Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), but she is David Tennant’s wife.

Speaking of Doctor Who (watch what I do here), one fondly remembered TARDIS passenger showed up in Star Trek Into Darkness and promptly blew up London. That would be filmmaker/actor Noel Clarke, who played Rose Tyler’s erstwhile boyfriend Mickey but who is now known as Benedict Cumberbatch’s pawn in the opening of the new Trek movie.

Is it just me or is there a trend already discernible in the summer blockbusters? Is it eerie or just a lack of originality that both Into Darkness and Iron Man 3 kind of have the same plot? Obviously, the world (or at least Hollywood writers) are preoccupied with terrorism and its effect on the culture. In the Iron Man movie Ben Kingsley appears to be blowing up things left and right in a bid to destabilize America. Cumberbatch is doing something similar in the Trek flick. All this is kind of unnerving, coming as it does while the memories of the Boston Marathon attack are still fresh in our minds and the story of the Benghazi attack refuses to go away.

Should we feel uncomfortable that fate has conspired to make such bloody headlines fodder for our popcorn-chomping entertainment? Probably. But movies have always been a way for us to collectively face our innermost fears safely (usually) in the dark. If studios are raking in big bucks in the process, well, that’s just part of the healing process. What’s interesting, though, is each movie’s take on the terrorism it portrays. Iron Man says it’s not the ostensible terrorist we need to worry about but rather the out-of-control high tech company. Star Trek says it’s your own military that is the root of the problem.

That’s right. It may be 2013 in the Marvel universe or stardate 2259.55 in J.J. Abrams world, but in Hollywood it’s still 1968.

-S.L., 21 May 2013

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