A SECOND LOOK AT THE NEW DR. WHO, A LOOK BACK AT AN OLD STAR TREK: NEXT GENERATION AND THE PRO-LIFE MESSAGE

SHORT TAKE:

The recent Dr. Who shows have been FAR better than the pilot and rely on puzzles, history, and most importantly, in The Tsuranga Conundrum, features — a pro-life message.

WHO SHOULD WATCH:

Anyone.

LONG TAKE:

I was not wrong. The first of the new Doctor Who's was terrible. Click HERE to see why. However, the stories immediately began improving and I had already intended to write a revised blog. But episode 5, The Tsuranga Conundrum, put me over the top and inspired me to get it done.

Let me first say a little bit about the other improved episodes. Rosa, much like TOS Star Trek's "City on the Edge of Forever", where one person's decision changes the course of history, revolves around whether or not Rosa Parks will refuse to stand for a white person on a bus in the 60s. Her act of civil disobedience, striking a blow for the dignity of every human, sparked the Civil Rights Movement. The antagonist for the show was a fellow time traveler who wished to interrupt this key event. The Doctor and company were there to protect the time line. Rosa was a lovely story and the theme harkened back to Doctor Who's original 1963 intent of being a time-traveling historian and scientist.

The other shows highlighted the female Doctor Who's natural strengths of intellect and puzzle-solving. As a woman, she does not have the upper body strength to physically handle altercations. The other doctors, aside from Christopher Eccleston, though of  "academic" builds, were still far stronger physically than this one could be. So her strength lies in her being, as David Tennant put it often, "clever". And this comes off very well again in this story.

While her companions are still not especially noteworthy, you kind of get used to them, and they have the virtues of neither being bossy nor abrasive as previous companions have been. Neither is there some long game arc with them as the linchpin to the mysteries of the universe, which is pretty refreshing. So the shows have definitely improved.

But the most recent Dr. Who episode was the icing on the cake and deserves special commendation. Doctor Who has always been pretty pro-life, much like Star Trek was pro-life. The value of sentient life was recognized,  regardless of how they looked. And there was respect for life and Creation in general, (even though there was only rarely a reference to a Creator). And Doctor Who is very much in the same vein. Enemies' lives are respected, valued and protected with as much alacrity as friends' lives. Character arcs are often about redemption, and rarely does the concept of revenge in any form rear its head.

Acknowledgement of life's importance in all forms is an understood thread that weaves itself though both shows. But only once before this most recent Dr Who show have I seen the pro-life position so clearly and plainly stated as it was in "The Child," from Star Trek the Next Generation.  In "The Child" Deanna Troi finds herself pregnant from an unknown entity. The consensus from the rest of the command crew was extreme caution and Worf, the Klingon security officer, even recommended abortion of the "fetus". But Deanna, not even knowing how she got pregnant, not knowing what was the intent of the entity who, frankly, raped her, flatly stated to her captain: "Do whatever you feel is necesssary to protect the ship and the crew, but know this, I'm going to have this baby". Not fetus, not product of conception, but "baby".  The only issue to Deanna was protection of the child that she carried and an acknowledgement that it was indeed a baby.

DR WHO SPOILERS

I am so very pleased to commend this new Doctor Who, and obviously the writer, Chris Chibnall, for making the same clear pro-life statement. In episode 5, "The Tsuranga Conundrum", the premise is that The Doctor and her companions are trapped on a hospital ship without her TARDIS. Their literal deus ex machina is temporarily out of reach on a planet several days travel away. The main storyline revolves around an attack on the hospital ship by a new mysterious alien, the Pting. But that is not really relevant to the point of this blog, so I will let you enjoy that part on your own. 

Their subplot, partially intended for comedy, is really the most important part of the story. Yoss is a young unmarried man, in the last stages of pregnancy. Now bear with me. Though the young man looks human, he is a different species and this IS a science fiction show. When asked how he knows the child will be a boy, he responds matter-of-factly: "Boys give birth to boys and girls give birth to girls. That's how it is." So – yeah – alien. Somehow this struck me as especially funny, as I am sure the writer intended. When two of The Doctor's companions, understandably confused, ask him how this could have happened, meaning – how could he, a man, become pregnant?!!! the scared new dad misunderstands and explains that it was the result of an ill-thought out one night stand.

Here is where the pro-life begins. There was never any mention of Yoss considering abortion even though he makes clear that pregnancy was the LAST thng he wanted at this time in his life and that he feels woefully underprepared to be a parent. In addition, the writer, through Yoss, goes out of his way to show the companions what his unborn baby looks like in a series of 3D ultrasound images. There was no plot purpose to this slide show, but it made a brilliant point and, I thought was the highlight of the episode. His species' gestation takes only 5 days, therefore the pictures he shows are a succession of developmental shots only a few hours after conception, then after the first day, the second day, third, and fourth, all of which show dramatic gestation of a species that looks just like a normal human child. The last picture of his unborn baby, taken three hours earlier, shows a full-term, perfectly beautiful,  baby boy to the awe and delight of the attending companions.

I thought this masterfully done. Whether the writer intended to or not, he makes it clear, even to the most uninitiated, that it takes no time at all to get from "conception" to "baby".  And giving this species a five day gestation brings that thought home in a very condensed way.

There are some predictable but still funny moments of two squeamish human men in a delivery room assisting with the C-section birth of a baby. But all the concepts are treated tactfully, so not to worry. The rest of the subplot is cute as well and involves his decision whether or not to keep his baby or give him up for adoption.

And there's a bit of lagniappe. Usually Doctor Who, and even my own beloved Star Trek, avoid religion at best and take sly jabs at it at worst. But in this Doctor Who, during the funeral for one of the guest characters, prayers are requested from saints! While, unfortunately, no mention of God was there, reference to saints, a distinctly Catholic spiritual concept, was a delightful and blessed breath of fresh air.

As I have not been shy of doing in the past, I have re-evaluated the show. I hereby backtrack on my previous overall negative impression of the new female Doctor Who. While I continue to maintain that the first was poorly done, it did not put her best foot forward. The steep incline of improvement has been quite a pleasant surprise.

So, I recommend for all of you Doctor Who fans who have not tuned in yet, to give Miss Whitaker's Doctor Who a try. Based upon shows 2 through 5 she deserves another chance.

And bravo to our new MISS Doctor Who for her profoundly pro-life message. I will be tuning in again.

THE LONG KISS GOOD NIGHT – INTENSE, BRILLIANT AND LITTLE KNOWN CULT CLASSIC WHICH PAVED THE WAY FOR ATOMIC BLONDE AND BLACK WIDOW

SHORT TAKE:

A rare example of a wildly successful, female-lead, action adventure about MOTHERHOOD — for adults only.

WHO SHOULD SEE IT:

Any adult who enjoys James Bond or one of the reboot Mission Impossibles.

LONG TAKE:

With the quality-questionable Uncle Drew being the most promising of the new movie releases this week, I thought I might do a review of one of my favorite movies you've probably never heard of: The Long Kiss Goodnight.

In 1996, far before Charlize Theron became  Atomic Blonde, and back when Scarlett Johanssen was still a child, starring in low budgets like Manny and Lo, well before she grew up to be Black Widow, a unique cinematic excursion was released called The Long Kiss Goodnight. Geena Davis, from Stuart Little, A League of Their Own, The Fly, and Beetlejuice costarred with the truly ubiquitous and eternally youngSamuel L Jackson (who looks no different now than he did 22 years ago – see my comment about this in my review of The Incredibles 2) in a movie about a woman named Samantha Caine. Samantha washes up, two months pregnant, on the shores of Honesdale, PA, a sleepy New England town, with nothing but clothes on her back she doesn't remember buying, a few fighting scars and complete "focal retrograde amnesia". She remembers nothing about herself: not her identity, where she came from, her age, who the father of her child is, nothing, except her name and even that is a guess.

Honestly, the background pictures during the opening credits reveal WAAAAY more than they should or is necessary. So – if you rent or buy this movie, on first viewing, you should START AT THE THREE MINUTE MARK. You can go back and watch the opening credit images after you have finished the movie.

Eight years later, as the movie begins, Samantha is now a teacher in the local elementary school and a devoted mother to Caitlin. While riding in her adopted home town's Christmas parade, in what seems to be a complete non-sequitor, an inmate in a nearby prison, watching the event on a caged TV, suddenly goes into a fury. About the same time, Mitch, (Samuel L Jackson) the low rent detective Samantha hired then forgot about, unexpectedly comes up with a lead, and Nathan (Brian "Stryker" Cox), an old friend from Samantha's past, sets out to find her.

With the exceptions of Ms. Theron, Ms. Johanssen, and Gal Gadot, I generally find that action adventures featuring women protagonists fall pathetically flat. The Long Kiss Goodnight is the Gold Standard of exceptions and the predecessor to all the blockbusters in which the aforementioned ladies have starred.

Clever, rough, violent, funny, startling and profane, it is one of the most unusual, fascinating and memorable films about motherhood I know. It ranks right up there with Hotel Artemis (click to check out my previous blog) and Aliens. While the language, ironically, has even Mr. Jackson's character, Mitch, complaining, there is no blasphemy, and the sexuality is very low key for this genre. If you want to check the details of profanity and sexuality out for yourself click Screenit, if you are a member, before watching.

GENTLE SPOILERS

Geena Davis' slow transition from the sweet and charming, happily domestic Samantha to the fierce and indomitable Charley is a tour de force. Ms. Davis and Mr. Jackson make superb platonic team mates in the kind of movie relationship usually reserved for bromances. The plot is part James Bond, part North by Northwest, part Mission Impossible, with a little bit of Dr. Jekyl/Mr. Hyde thrown in for good measure.

One of the things I find most commendably endearing and notably rare about this movie in general, and Samantha in particular, is that there is not even a hint she ever considered killing her unborn child, despite the desolateness of her situation as Samantha. Even while Charley, the most unlikely of mother candidates,  lurks in her subconscious, she has and embraces her natural and powerful maternal instincts. And after re-embracing her distinctly ungentle previous life Samantha/Charley remains a profoundly dedicated mother.  The idea that motherhood would trump everything else, even for the fully re-realized Charley, is a truly inspiring thought.

MODERATE SPOILER

To the point about motherhood, one of my favorite all time movie scenes is the way Samantha/Charley protects Caitlin and handles the "One Eyed Jack" when he invades her home. That's a heck of a mom. I can picture Weaver's Ripley giving Samantha a standing "O".

So if you're in the mood for something different than your usual film fare, be sure the kids are in bed and no where near close enough to hear Mr. Jackson as he chides Charley for HER language, and cue up The Long Kiss Goodnight.

IN PRAGMATIC DEFENSE OF TWILIGHT

Bella and Edward

"….not only would I recommend this rather awful film series but had I the authority I'd be tempted to make it required watching for teens."

To quote my favorite expression from the re-booted Dr. Who series, oft spoke by Dr. River Song: SPOILERS!!!!

I'm not a big fan of sappy stories. I've watched more than my share but it's not my favorite genre. There are a few exceptions. Jane Eyre was my favorite book as a kid. Helped that George C Scott did an amazing movie version back in 1970. But Jane Eyre is less romance than it is a tale of righteousness over romping – that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

And I did see Titanic a couple of times over the years but frankly enjoyed the rather droll How it Should Have Ended animated satire more.

Which brings us to the Twilight series.

Bella Edward 2

Is the movie badly acted? Why, yes, the acting is terrible. Kristen Stewart's whispering, sniveling, gasping response to EVERYTHING has become a cliché of pitiful thespian skills. The Everything Wrong With… Twilight is hysterical and worth watching for their "Breathing, Laughing and other Bella Noises Bonus Round" alone. IMPORTANT CAVEAT – while I LOVE the "Everything Wrong With…." series on youtube.com, it is chock full of sexual innuendo and raw language, the latter of which is, while bleeped, pretty obvious.

Is Twilight well written? I'll let you judge:

Edward Cullen: I don't have the strength to stay away from you anymore. Isabella Swan: Then don't.

Edward bedroom

Edward Cullen: Uh, yeah this is my room.   Isabella Swan: …No bed?  Edward Cullen: Ah no I don't, I don't sleep.  Isabella Swan: Ever?  Edward Cullen: No, not at all. Isabella Swan: Ok, hmmm, boy you have so much music, what were you listening to. Edward Cullen: It's Debussy. Isabella Swan: Clair de Lune is great.

Edward Cullen: I hate you for making me want you so much.

And these are from us.imdb.com as memorable quotes. Need I say more?

So, it's sappy, badly acted, awkwardly written, ham handedly directed but——-not only would I recommend this rather awful film series but had I the authority I'd be tempted to make it required watching for teens."

But, you might reasonably ask…………..WHY!?!?!?!

BECAUSE – This movie advocates powerfully for some of our modern culture's most vitally important but least present virtues and makes those virtues irresistible to the very demographic audience who most desperately need to witness them.

Edward Bella wedding

Edward is a 100+ year old vampire in love with the atheistic Bella. (Quick quiz: Edward is played by Robert Pattinson. What other iconic movie series does he appear in?) Edward is in a family of vampires who have sworn to abstain from human blood, led by the beneficent and altruistic father-figure, Carlisle. I could and probably will add Carlisle to the Back to the Father series but that's for another post. Bella is a child of the current age anxious to demonstrate her affections for Edward and not afraid to make those feelings obvious. Edward ——– refuses.

Edward in Bella's room

Not only does he refuse but states that:

1. He will not put her IMMORTAL SOUL in danger, especially as he is already worried about his own given that he is now a vampire, and

2. He will give in to her amorous desires ONLY after they are married. It is Bella who drags her feet on matrimony, having watched her distant-cop Dad and hippie free love mother destroy their own marriage through self absorption and cluelessness. But Edward is true to his word all the way (so to speak). And, atypically for a modern movie, nuptials are NOT had until the nuptials are — well performed by a minister at the end of the third book. Yes, dear friends there are FOUR books and FIVE movies!!

Now let's think about what Ms. Meyers has written. Her story involves a vampire. And vampires have been analogous to sexuality since the inception of the idea was made popular by Bram Stoker 118 years ago. Twilight proposes, if a VAMPIRE – who is the very embodiment of lust – can restrain himself for moral reasons for the woman he loves, then Mister-taking-his-girl-out-to-this-movie, so can you. If Edward can keep himself from both Bella's blood and bed, then you, oh mortal boy, no matter how much you may tell your girlfriend you love her, should too. Because NO one can emote more than the Bella-Edward characters about how devoted they are, how much they love each other, how thoroughly they would die for each other than this sappy over the top couple. Furthermore Edward is abstaining for the right reason – for Bella's soul, and he is clear and blunt about this DESPITE Bella's insistence that she does not believe in God.

I can just hear the after movie conversation – "If EDWARD can restrain himself then YOU should be able to, too! Don't you love me as much as Edward loves Bella?" And the more the young man may try to convince his lady friend that he wants to show his affection for her, the more he will be hoisted by his own petard of love. I can't help but chuckle.

The second reason I would advocate for this movie strongly comes in the form of the unbelieving Bella. In the fourth book/movie she discovers, soon after the honeymoon, that she is what everyone thought impossible – she has been made pregnant by Edward.

Edward had promised to make Bella a vampire, against his own better judgment, after they are married. Bella wants to start their honeymoon as a human. So subsequent to the mortal/vampire coupling and before the vampire changing process can begin, Bella finds herself with child. Rushing back to Carlisle, who is a doctor, they are told that a full term pregnancy will be terminal for Bella.

Bella, the atheist, in a welcome about face to her up to now single minded obsession with Edward, decides to die for her baby. And in a surprising but believable character shift, the life respecting Cullen family, so desperate are they to keep Bella alive, try emphatically to convince Bella to abort. Up to now Bella has almost worshipped the Cullens. But not only does Bella successfully fight them on this, she enlists the assistance of the one Cullen who hates her, Rosalie.

Rosalie and Bella pregnant

Rosalie is a vampire who was turned by Carlisle, in what he thought was an act of mercy, when he found Rosalie left for dead after a brutal attack. While grateful for the rescue she has grieved the loss of her  ability to bear children ever since. (Why male vampire have sperm which are alive enough to impregnate women but women vampires do not have living eggs is never explained, but is convenient to the plot, so just go with it.) And she hates Bella because Bella is voluntarily throwing away what Rosalie rightly sees as a blessing. So when Bella asks Rosalie for help to protect the unborn baby, Rosalie is more than willing to stand guard.

Bella alienates ALL the Cullens who love her and welcomed her to ally herself with the one Cullen who would be happy to kill her — all for the sake of her unborn child, whose continued existence is guaranteed to kill her.

Pregnant Bella

You really can't get a more pro-life scenario than that. With that one decision I became rather fond of the up-to-then rather annoying Miss Bella. You can't help but respect a woman readily giving up: the love of her life, the approval of the only real family she has ever had, and her best chance at immortality she believes she has, since she does not believe in an afterlife and the Cullens doubt they will be able to change her to a vampire after the birth of her child in time to save her — well, not life — but continued existence.

As it so happens they do, of course, save Bella, or it would have been a much shorter book, there would have been no fifth movie and the series would not have been NEARLY as popular with the teen crowd as it is.

So —- having created characters and a love story rivaling in the youth popularity pretty much every love story since Gone With the Wind and Love Story combined, Ms. Meyers makes a lust-representing vampire chaste, THEN turns a self-absorbed and atheistic modern female into a self-sacrificing pro-life mom.

Twilight fight

Then I'll go you one better – now this is a big spoiler so be warned. At the end of the series there is a climactic battle between the Cullens and their allies against the Volturi – bad scary vampires who want to take away or kill the Cullen child for her powers. But vampires from all over the world are enlisted to come to the aid of the Cullens. Those coming to fight side by side with the Cullens include: your traditional 1,000 year old vampires who snack on people as a matter of course, other "veggie" vampires who abstain from human blood, and…werewolves. OK they aren't your run of the mill werewolves, but more shapeshifters as they can change at will and are around to PROTECT humans rather than eat them, but these guys DO change INTO wolves.

Now many of the ancillary reasons these disparate groups have for fighting the Volturi include: vendettas against the Volturi, desire for autonomy from the Volturi, respect/affection/old debts owed to the Cullens. But all are drawn primarily under one simple principle: to protect the life of —- a child. An innocent whose one life is properly seen as more important than the dozens of grown ups who have pledged to protect her.

And you wonder why I endorse this series of books/movies? Stephanie Meyers takes virtues we need more desperately in this culture than Bella needs Edward – chastity, protection of the unborn child, and protection of child against the forces of evil – and plants them right into two characters who have fired the imagination of the very demographic part of our culture which needs to hear this the most – the teen and twenties. From a pragmatic view to culture change she has done an enormous good.

Twilight movies   Twilight books

God bless you Ms. Meyers. I own and have read every page of all your books and have sat through every single minute of all five movies – it's the least I could do to thank you.

Answer: He was in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire as the ill-fated Cedric Diggory.

Photo credits: empireonline.com, amazon.com, fanpop.com, arkansasbride.com, iamnotastalker.com, twilightfanpage.blogspot.com,  twilightsaga.wikia.com, dailymail.co.uk, geeksofdoom.com, wordsfueledbylove.com, iTunes.apple.com

Rob Roy: Prolife Historical Action Adventure

Rob Roy is the story of the Chief of the Scottish Clan MacGregor. Set in early 1700’s Liam Neeson plays Rob Roy, an honorable man who seeks only to protect his family and better his Clan. Towards this end he borrows money from Montrose (John Hurt) in hopes of making a go of purchasing and breeding cattle which the MacGregor Clan has heretofore only eked out a living protecting from rustling.

SPOILERS

The borrowed money is stolen and Montrose offers Rob Roy an opportunity to wipe the debt clean if Rob Roy would falsely testify against one of Montrose’s competitors. Rob Roy refuses and what befalls the MacGregor clan and how Rob Roy fights to regain his honor and defend his family provides the bulk of the rest of the action. There are chases and intrigue, sword fights and near escapes.

But there is one thing that makes this movie stand apart in a way that, sadly, few movies do. Cunningham (Tim Roth), a brutal penniless aristocrat, is hired by Montrose to torment the MacGregors. Cunningham goes to the MacGregor estate and rapes Rob Roy’s wife, Mary (Jessica Lange), in an effort to provoke Rob Roy into an open fight. (Rightly) fearful her husband will hunt Cunningham down and probably get himself killed in the attempt to revenge her, she conceals the attack. Months later, while on the run, Rob Roy finds out about the rape. When he returns home Mary confesses she had thought to abort the baby (unfortunately abortion was not invented in the 1970’s) but she couldn’t bring herself to do it. Rob Roy says: “It’s not the child that needs killing.” The baby – and I emphasize baby – is innocent. The child in the womb, created from a violent act of rape, is recognized as innocent. In this world there are no exceptions for rape (and presumably not incest). A child is a child. Such an acknowledgement is rare as hen’s teeth in a Hollywood film and a breath of fresh air in a culture that discards “surprise” children as one would a wart. Furthermore, as Rob Roy leaves his wife to go to an honor duel against Cunningham which will clear his name, and wipe the debt but almost certainly end in his death, Rob Roy tells Mary: If the baby is a boy name him after me, if a girl, name her after you. He not only recognizes this “product of rape” as an innocent human baby but with an open heart accepts the child into his family.

(Quick Quiz: There was another movie which dealt with a mistreated Scottish clan chief who was inspired to action by the abuse of the woman he loved. Made in the same year, 1995, it massively overshadowed Rob Roy, garnering 10 nominations and winning both Best picture and Best director, where Rob Roy only won a best supporting nomination for Tim Roth, which Roth didn’t even win. What was this other movie?)

The rest of Rob Roy is a great story too. Excellent historical drama. The cinematography is lovely. Filmed on location in Scotland the landscape is breathtaking. But this one intimate scene between Rob Roy and Mary at night in a cabin by a simple fire has always stuck in my mind as the most beautiful.

WARNING

The language is occasionally coarse and there are some truly vulgar sexual scenes involving Cunningham. The scenes, including the rape, are not gratuitous as Cunningham is awful and these scenes define his loathsome character, but they are NOT for the kiddies. There are also some gory bits, including a man literally being cleaved in twain by a broadsword.

SO — I have, on occasion, simply shown my kids isolated appropriate scenes in movies that are otherwise too old for them. Those scenes would have to be worth the trouble, and the scene between this husband and wife who recognize the preciousness of infant human life irrelevant of origin or biological parentage is one of those scenes. Delicate and gentle in a movie full of cruel men and fierce retaliation, it is a small film unto itself.

6-3-15

Answer: Braveheart