Comparing Star Trek to Doctor Who

I have always been a big fan of science fiction. When I was a kid my favorite movies, TV shows and video games all had some sci-fi component to them. In the early years of my childhood both of my parents were united on their love of Star Trek. They both liked the original series as well as most of the films. Growing up I discovered I could tolerate the Next Generation but I wasn’t that into the others.

I didn’t discover Doctor Who until I was in my 20’s. I didn’t even learn my mom was into the show until I was in college. I had moved back in with my parents to save money while I attended university. It didn’t take long before I started making some comparisons to the two. The biggest difference was how easily I got into Doctor Who yet how hard it was for me to get into Star Trek.

Truth be told my interest in ST goes no further than the motion picture series and a handful of episodes from TOS and TNG. My curiosity has me peek into the different iterations from time to time only to be reminded why it’s such a chore to watch those shows.

Aside from being long running science fiction programs with some theatrical movies in the mix, the two franchises have very little in common.

Star Trek is very much an idealized image of what NASA is trying to be today. Even the most visible character in the pop culture with origins in either franchise, Mr. Spock, is really just a science officer. Now my love for what NASA does is why I continue to be deceived into trying to find some entertainment in the various Star Treks, but I digress lets compare the two.

TV shows.

Star Trek is divided into eras. There’s the Original Series, the animated series, Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Enterprise, Discovery, Picard and unofficially The Orville (which I will get to later.)

Doctor Who is broken down into three eras. Classic Series, the Fox movie, and the revival series. It’s a lot simpler on the surface because it actually lasted several DECADES not just multiple seasons. Star Trek failed to get to its originally intended 5 seasons being cancelled right away then saved by a vehement letter writing campaign only to be ended one season later. The short lived 3-season run certainly had a lasting impact on pop culture as well as the world of science fiction fandom.

In terms of organizational structure Star Trek breaks down by subtitle. You know what to expect with each distinct show, even though there is some overlap and cross overs between many of them.

Doctor Who on the other hand is actually in practical reality a lot messier. You see the Doctor, the main character of the show, is a space alien who basically is reborn every time he, or sometimes she, dies. In other words a new period begins not with a new subtitle and crew/setting, but rather when one doctor “regenerates” into another, usually at the hands of a Dalek. Or is it plunger? Anyways you have I believe 14 or so different Doctors, each one having a distinct personality and each ones adventures playing into that personality.

Then there are the movies.

Doctor Who hasn’t had nearly as much luck with films as Star Trek. The first wave were basically Hollywood attempts to Americanize the show. They were  basically retellings of stories that had previously run but changed to fit an American appetite. Star Trek has never had to be altered or revamped to be more palatable to the British audiences, to the best of my knowledge anyways, so that’s a point in favor of the series that gave the world The Wrath of Khan. Pure sci-fi gold.

But, Doctor Who does somewhat redeem itself with some of the modern movies although they too remain convoluted like the show. Mostly they are excuses to have multiple doctors team up for a storyline that tries to tie up loose ends. They tend to be more like extended length episodes than actual full budget films.

Except one, Doctor Who: The Movie, a made for TV film also Americanized but still firmly tied to the U.K. show unlike the previous films. That movie does stand well enough on its own, it’s actually quite entertaining. However, it doesn’t really connect neatly to the rest of the shows and serves more as a bridge  between Classic and Revived Who.

With the regenerations and cross over episodes plus the constant nods to what came before, Doctor Who feels like each season more or less rehashes what came before but with a slight twist each time. You’re always going to run into the Daleks, the cybermen, Santarans and a few other recognizable aliens. There is always going to be an episode where the doctor causes some great historical tragedy and has to cope with him being the one that kills innocent people. And there is always going to be an episode where a creature of mythology is explained as some alien being.

Star Trek tends to be formulaic too but in a different way. It’s more like here is a new world to explore and what specifically is special about this world or alien or space ship. They rarely return to earth and when they do it’s either a time travel episode, or a vacation gone wrong.

Doctor Who does spend an unnecessary amount of time in England when it is set on Earth. Star Trek tends to trot the globe while being largely U.S. centric for logical reasons.

Doctor Who also does a much better job exploring time and space. You are taken from the earliest beginnings of the universe clear to the end of time and everywhere inbetween. The show features a barrage of aliens, technology an worlds to explore. There is even an episode where the Doctor goes to Hell and defeats the Devil himself. Oh sure I could bring up the Star Trek movie where they meet God but we all know that isn’t a beloved film.

Let’s talk budgets. Early seasons of Doctor Who look like they would be done by high school art and theater students today. TOS episodes on the other hand still look like care went into the production values. The sets tend to be more colorful and open on Star Trek where as Doctor Who often takes place in cramped spaces in the early days. Even once the show progresses I feel like the Star Trek special effects were doing things the Doctor Who people still struggle with to this day. You can blame some of that, or much of it, on budgets. CBS has tons more money than the BBC.

It’s not just special effects. While the control room of the TARDIS is, unique in its own way, it’s not as fleshed out and defined as the iconic Enterprise. Also, let’s face it the Enterprise looks like a space ship NASA could make some day, the TARDIS is just a phone booth.

It’s almost too easy to give a point to Doctor Who for being continuously on air multiple decades, even with a 20 year gap between the two eras, but Star Trek isn’t really that far off. Even though the Original Series did get cancelled right away, there was an animated show to fill in the gaps until the films pretty quick. Also, the gaps between one Star Trek series to the next is not as prominent as the huge gap in Doctor Who. I’d have to actually sit down and count total years represented but I would be willing to be if it’s close at all the edge still goes to Star Trek.

What about merchandise such as toys, comic books and video games? This one is easy. There aren’t any Doctor Who videos games to speak of. There’s a few slot machines and British exclusive computer games nobody has ever played. Star Trek doesn’t have the best games but it’s been represented in some shape or form in nearly ever major video game era. Star Trek also has a pretty solid comic book presence while Doctor Who’s is spotty at best. Same can be said for toys and other collectibles, the edge goes to Star Trek.

Storytelling and plots.

Both shows are heavy handed and very preachy. One presents a society aspiring to achieve utopia while the other has a God-like being enforcing his will across the universe. All of the Star Trek captains make judgement calls and impose the will of their respective federation ideology onto whichever alien or society is being encountered while simultaneously preaching some prime directive about not interfering.

The Doctor calls himself a Time Lord. And nearly every episode he is called out for lording over all of time and space. As his name implies he has an arrogance about him that indicates he believes it is right to impose his will on the universe. He see’s himself as the enforcer of righteousness and the distiller of vengeance on those who do wrong.

Star Trek presents a hopeful future where humanity learns to use technology to transcend its problems and spread those ideals to the rest of the galaxy. Doctor Who presents a Time Lord who whisks around all of time and space both as an observer and dictator of sorts. He spouts off about fixed points in time as a reason why he cannot interfere yet he too breaks his own version of the prime directive quite often.

Star Trek has spun off into other branches of itself. Each new series loosely connected while free from the boundaries of what came before. Doctor Who basically reinvents itself literally every few years with a complete reboot of sorts. There is one true spin off to speak of in the Doctor Who universe, a series called Torchwood, but that’s a story for another day.

Despite personally enjoying Doctor Who more because of the simpler story telling, easier to approach episodes and fast paced action compared to Star Trek, as I break it down Star Trek just comes out ahead in every measurable category.

Doctor Who’s strength is also it’s weakness. Each time the alien regenerates the TARDIS also has to be rebuilt into a new interior set design. This helps mark when a new run is going to being but it also reminds the viewer the show is not likely to give the audience any closure in story lines. When you have a time traveler who can hop dimensions and basically make his own rules, consequences don’t tend to have lasting effects. At least in Star Trek sure each episodes follows a predictable template, you still know that by the end there will be meaningful resolution to the story leaving you satisfied yet still knowing there is more out there should you crave it. Stay Cool.

Why does Chaos reside in the spiders lair?

The tagline for my website, blog posts, podcast and videos is always Welcome to The Spiders Lair, Where Chaos Resides. I have spent a lot of time ensuring the branding and message is uniform across all platforms. I do this to ensure consistency, it’s the first rule of design they teach you in college. The capital C in CRAP. When I was in college my teacher told me she was going to teach us CRAP I was intrigued. I was drawn to the idea of using a catchy acronym that relied on irony to get the point across.

I chose to make the theme of my website chaos for a number of reasons. The most important reasons I see my work as a reflection of the chaos we experience as humans in this universe we try to make sense out of. I mostly use the lens of pop culture and geek culture to filter out the chafe and get to the heart of the human experience. Thus I like the idea of a site branded around chaos. It gives me the freedom to pick and choose the topics as I see fit. I don’t have to shoe horn my thoughts into a theme like movies, video games or what have you. I can keep the topics fairly open ended. I enjoy that. I decided on naming my website The Spiders Lair, no punctuation, because I want to demonstrate I am appealing to basement dwellers and rebels. The rebellion against punctuation is not so much a concerted effort, it’s laziness on my part but that can be a side effect of rebelling. I am a loner. That is not a word I band about lightly. I literally live lone and spend my life alone. I rarely get out and socialize. Yet I do not feel alone. It’s a concept some members of my family struggle with relating to. Nonetheless I continue to live my life my way. It works for me for the most part.

I originally used the tag line To Organize Chaos. I felt it worked on a marketing level because it conveyed the idea I was trying to get across, that is a website with no central theme to speak of out side my own experiences and observations. I didn’t exactly want it to be a personal blog so to speak, just centered on my personal experiences and observations.

There is an episode of the sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond where Frank Barone tries to write a column for the newspaper called I was just thinking. In the episode he jots down random thoughts with no connection to anything. As a writer this is clearly not the way to keep an readers attention.

On the note of punctuation, I do my best all things considered. That being I dropped out of high school, earned a GED and then studied journalism at university. Between the quirks of AP style, my own deficiencies and well that pesky laziness I mentioned before, I often make grammatical and punctuation mistakes. I’ll admit I make an effort to look up a rule I broke after it is brought to my attention. I just don’t make much of an effort to learn the rules I am fuzzy on.

One thing that does appeal to me is writing a disjointed article with a few random, smaller topics to catch your attention. I suppose if one were to use sub heads to keep it organized it could work. Here are some random thoughts THE RAT would like to share with the world.

What makes Degrassi so damn appealing?

I first encountered Degrassi High when I was in middle school. I started out doing some detention during lunch and those kids who were considered at risk or prone to getting into trouble, like myself, were offered an opportunity to sit and watch Degrassi during our lunch period as a way to keep us, and our victims, safe from the violence we exhibited among one another. I wasn’t exactly a bully but I took my own frustrations of being bullied out on those weaker than I. It was not something I am proud of today. However it introduced me to a Canadian TV series I can honestly say shaped my life for years.

Once I grew up I decided to give Degrassi a second chance. I started at the very  beginning with Ida Makes a Movie. I enjoyed it enough to go through the next several iterations from Kids of Degrassi Street to the aforementioned Junior/Senior high incarnation. Then out of morbid curiosity I kept going well into Degrassi The Next Generation. I was several seasons in before I snapped out of my trance and walked away. I don’t know what it was that hooked me on this Canadian treasure but somehow it spoke to me in a weird way. I have contemplated going back to review the original series but I haven’t yet found an economical way of going about it. In a way it kind of makes me feel like a jerk asking friends and family to buy me the DVD’s for say Christmas or birthdays because I made a fuss about that one time I got a Jay and Silent Bob Do Degrassi DVD for Christmas. It was, at the time, a touchy subject because I was forced into the show for disciplinary reasons originally. Still, now that I have settled into my fate as an oddball I suppose I can go back to one of the shows that helped inspire my oddball behavior in the first place.

The Mortal Kombat, Freddy Krueger and The Mask connectivity

The story about how Mortal Kombat changed the video game rating industry is well documented and much discussed. The lesser known story is how Freddy Krueger is to blame for the famed film adaptation being slapped with a paltry PG-13 rating when the studio making the video game famous for its gore was itself famous for gore.

New Line Cinema chose to censor Mortal Kombat on the the grounds they already had A Nightmare on Elm Street as a violent, R-rated franchise. During the negotiation stage New Line picked up the rights to adapt The Mask, bloody/gory comic book series. Due to Wes Craven’s New Nightmare being a darker, gorier fare for the famed Springwood Slasher’s recent theatrical outings, the studio opted to use their new shiny prize, the recently signed rising star Jim Carry, to make a kid friendly comic book adaptation of a gory comic property. This worked so well the studio repeated the formula by scrubbing almost all the gore necessary from the big budget Mortak Kombat picture toning it down to a PG-13 action/fantasy martial arts flick rather than an R-rated horror/fantasy film it could have been. This has left a sour taste in the lives of fans the world over as the film, while a success, spawned a not-so-beloved sequel. Oh well.

Still, as someone who was always a fan of Freddy and became a fan of the Mortal Kombat video game independent of all the stuff New Line was plotting to do, I can say it was a strange twist of fate learning how interconnected these three properties became. I was already an instant fan of The Mask upon first viewing. Years later upon learning how it was loosely connected to the franchise that spawned, literally, my favorite film of all time, well that was a treat in itself.

Discovering Doctor Who for the first time was a thrill

I don’t often get into British shows. To be honest aside from the above mentioned Degrassi, I rarely find myself entertained by any foreign TV shows. One day I was flipping through the cable channels when I stumbled upon the Sci-Fi channel, before its rebrand. I saw a blue telephone booth smash into the side of a building and a disoriented man stumbled out. A blond woman asked a girl who the man was, she replied the doctor, and the woman asked “Doctor Who?” Then the opening credits began to scroll.

The theme song caught my attention so I figured I would give it a shot. I had heard references over the years to a time traveling space alien science fiction show called Doctor Who so I was curious to check it out. Following the first commercial break I lost interest. The so-called “doctor” was pointing a “sonic screwdriver” at a killer Christmas tree that was attacking the family. I rolled my eyes and changed the channel thinking I would never go back.

A couple of months later I was again flipping through the channels and once against landed on the SyFy channel, as they had since rebranded. I was puzzled by the odd spelling so I figured I would watch a little until I came across a bumper that might explain what I was seeing as networks often advertise rebranding. There was a British man talking to a young girl about her son who was killed by a bomb that wasn’t a bomb. The exchange between the two characters caught my attention. The next scene an American gentleman was sitting atop an invisible space ship hitting on that same blond I saw from before. I figured this was another episode of that Doctor Who but this time it didn’t seem so juvenile.

The episode, I found out later, was called The Empty Child. The episode got me instantly hooked. I sat there for what I quickly learned was a marathon. I followed it up with The Doctor Dances. The two-parter was all it took to get me sitting there for the rest of the day. Immediately following the end of the season the show began to unravel. The doctor had died at the end of the episode and suddenly a new man appeared in his place. It was that goofy looking fellow from the Christmas episode, which this time I watched to the end. Having some context, and a heart beat for Rose Tyler, I decided to give the show a chance.

It didn’t take long before I became a die hard fan. I ended up, thanks in part to Neflix and some other shadier portions of the internet, going back and watching the first 40 or so years of the franchise. Oh it was an instant love affair. I had been craving a science fiction show of this sort and here it was running not only the course of my entire life, but once I discovered it I learned my mom had watched it when she was a kid. So it became a tradition for the two of us to sit and catch the latest Doctor Who episode each week on BBC America. One of these days I hope to go back and cover my favorite episodes more in depth. I am only saddened by the way Netflix has discarded the show making it harder for me to view.

More Than Meets the Eye revival ignites the interwebs

The year was 2001. I had just finished my tumultuous high school education and was beginning to branch into the wild west of web design. Once online I discovered a community of Transformer fans who called themselves “TransFans.” Needless to say bonds were made, friendships were crafted and things were going good. Then as time went on the word Trans began to take on a new meaning, leaving Transformer fans unsure if they should continue using the moniker. Despite the growing tensions between the car-robots “trukk not Monkee” blow hards and the “Beasts are better” cult, things got heated. Eventually Hasbro discovered a way to tap into the community’s need for nostalgia by launching several retro lines intended to milk money from those fans now beginning to enter the work force. Everything culminated in the launch of a live-action series that started in 2007 with a love letter to those same fans. Finally the main stream was willing to recognize what me and my friends had known all along, giant alien robots make good entertainment.

This is only a small sampling of the insights THE RAT stores up here at the Spiders Lairs, Where Chaos Resides. For more deeper thoughts, unfiltered uncensored and completely uncut be sure to check out The Dark Web Podcast, a show made by a basement dwelling oddball for other basement dwelling freaks. Stay Cool.

The Kimberly effect on MMPR

The last article I wrote on Power Rangers centered on the science fiction aspect of the show. While you could make a case it’s technically more fantasy than sci-fi with all the magic, the technology defeats the magic forces so in a way it’s science versus the supernatural. I never really considered it any deeper than that. However there is one factor missing from the previous analysis of the show, Kimberly or the Pink Ranger.

All too often young boys will hide their true feelings on things because they are constantly bombarded with notions of masculinity and what is “appropriate behavior” for a boy. If you then find a young boy drawn to a strong female character in a science fiction show, and it’s not romantic or sexual in nature, people get weird about it.

I discovered similar reactions when people find out I like Sailor Moon, Aeon Flux and Buffy the Vampire Slayer and it wasn’t sexual in nature. I guess if you have a crush on a female it is acceptable to root for her success but otherwise it’s creepy? I don’t know I have friends who refuse to watch any film or TV series with a strong female lead. In fact I know certain people who are turned off by the new Star Wars movies just for that very reason. There is another side, the less obvious but also worth confronting, that is the anti-feminists. In other words those who are so strongly anti-feminism they refuse to accept anything that doesn’t fit into that narrative. No, I am not really trying to sound political, because I have my own views on feminism that might contradict the mainstream narrative if you take them at face value. But I can certainly appreciate, and root for, a strong female protagonist without having to feel guilty about it. Especially when I know for 100 percent fact my admiration for the character is not rooted in sexual desires. I mean, no I never had a “crush” on the Pink Ranger. I had a crush on Melissa Joan Hart I make no secret of that. But seeing Kimberly over come her valley girl, prissy, spoiled brat attitude and transform into a kick-ass super hero fighting evil with the rest of the boys, and the stereotypical Asian chick, it was something I could look at and think yeah okay keep kicking ass. I was also one of those who rooted for Tommy and Kimberly to hook up, not something a boy with a crush would do (I wished nightly for the death of any boy caught kissing my beloved Sabrina on screen).

This was further complicated when I grew up. Being raised in a very conservative Christian home I do carry with me plenty of values and morals from that upbringing. Despite the evangelicals on TV crying how “evil and Satanic” Power Rangers was, I discovered I could tune those ridiculous cries out yet when confronted with justifying liking the Pink Ranger and admitting it wasn’t  physical attraction (again not to “objectify her” but she wasn’t that pretty in my eyes back then). But still I think I mostly hid my liking of this show more because it was un-masculine and ‘pro-feminist’ if I admitted liking it for the reasons I did. I am still not sure how to handle the #metoo movement or feminism as a whole, hey cut me some slack I am a guy. I am also a 35-year-old virgin by choice so let’s not complicate things by dragging my preferences through the mud. All you need to know is not everything has to be broken down into leftist verses right-wing politics. I mean, it’s a silly kids show for crying out loud, why can’t it just be harmless entertainment?

I will, however, freely admit that seeing Kimberly being replaced by the much more pleasing to look at Katherine in Season 3 was certainly a motivation for me to keep watching despite being heartbroken at watching the cast I had grown to admire leave, one by one. I was ready to also call it quits when I learned Kimberly would no longer be donning the Pink Ranger suit. It wasn’t because I had crushed on her or felt betrayed personally, it was just I had developed a strong respect for the character as she was the most developed on the show by that time. At least of the original cast. I still believe Billy remained a caricature throughout the series while the other rangers were allowed to become somewhat real character, even if they were cookie cutter variants of a signature type. Especially seeing Bulk and Skull, the bullies of the show, blossom into likable characters you ended up rooting for in the end. Secretly I always felt Skull was a big softy he just needed to be tamed.

If I admired the character for being a female who could kick ass but not someone I wanted to imagine myself doing nasty things to, what does that mean of me and my masculinity? Well, again as someone who as abstained from sex by choice I can say it’s not really that hard to not get too sexually arouse by gorgeous women if you see them as people and not objects. I know that sounds political but screw it, I mean I think it’s a balance of Christian upbringing and being raised in a house with 3 sisters and no male influences outside my dad. So say what you will, make fun of me call me names belittle me for having different views and seeing girls as people. After all my best friends were always girls and I never gave into temptation to engage in sexual behavior with any of them. Not that I wouldn’t succumb to the pleasures of a female if I was in the type of relationship my personal views would allow, it’s just I actually get more out of doing little things like making her smile or getting her to laugh when she was down, than I would treating her like a sex toy. Take that for what you will but for me I will continue to see this show as both a form of harmless entertainment, and a source of food for thought.