Dreaming on the Screen

I don’t tend to watch tele­vi­sion or movies as often as I read, and I real­ly did­n’t pay much atten­tion to SF&F movies or tele­vi­sion for a long time. I think I expect­ed all of them to be some­thing like Star Trek, and I had nev­er been a Trekkie at all. I’ve nev­er seen most of the episodes of any ver­sion of Star Trek. (I have recent­ly start­ed to watch TOS, though, and I plan to go through the oth­er series and the movies.)

It Started With Babylon 5

Way back around 1996, a then-SO got me to watch Baby­lon 5 with him—he want­ed me to watch just one episode. Once. Real­ly. Of course, he showed me the first part of a two-part episode, which was cheat­ing. Then insist­ed that I watch all the pre­vi­ous episodes (two sea­sons worth, as I recall) before see­ing part two! Of course, I was com­plete­ly hooked by then and con­tin­ued watch­ing through the rest of the series’ five-year run.

The biggest dif­fer­ence between Baby­lon 5 and any­thing else I’d seen was the qual­i­ty of the J. Michael Straczyn­ski’s writ­ing and the fact that there is a cohe­sive sto­ry that con­nects the entire series. The arc may be moved along a lot in one episode, and bare­ly at all in anoth­er, but it is always there. I like that much more than the sole­ly episod­ic nature of Star Trek. B5 also had very good spe­cial effects for a TV show at the time it was pro­duced (they look cheesy now, but few spe­cial effects age well). 

The char­ac­ters also made B 5 pret­ty spe­cial. They weren’t paint­ed in black and white. Even the main char­ac­ters had their faults. You could­n’t be sure that a main char­ac­ter would always be around, as some were killed. There was­n’t one char­ac­ter who was always the hero, but an ensem­ble work­ing togeth­er. There was at least one love sto­ry going on between two main char­ac­ters, but that was­n’t the main thing in their lives or in the show. They showed women being strong, assertive fight­ers who were still fem­i­nine, and men who were sen­si­tive but cer­tain­ly not wimpy. These are all Good Things in my book. 

And Then Came Xena

Katie some­how got me to watch Xena: War­rior Princess. She even got me to learn how to pro­gram the VCR so I could tape and pre-screen the episodes before she saw them (they weren’t all appro­pri­ate for chil­dren by any means). Heck, she even got me to go try horse­back rid­ing because she want­ed to be like Xena, and to have a cool Xena cos­tume sewn for her one Hal­loween. I was hap­pi­er to have her emu­lat­ing Xena rather than Barbie!

I can’t claim that my fond­ness for Xena was sole­ly due to Katie, though. The show was entire­ly unbe­liev­able, but hap­pi­ly, campi­ly so. It did­n’t claim to be true to tra­di­tion­al Greek mythol­o­gy. It hopped around from sto­ries involv­ing Aphrodite to retelling the Bib­li­cal sto­ry of David and Goliath. The com­bat scenes were sil­li­er than any­thing I’d seen since the ’60s ver­sion of Bat­man. And all that was just fine—if you’d sus­pend­ed your dis­be­lief enough to think that a war­rior is going to run around in a leather miniskirt and armored busti­er, what could­n’t you believe? 

Xena was fun­ny and smart and moody and no-non­sense. She was strong and irrev­er­ent. She had, and acknowl­edged, her dark side, although she strove to be a good per­son. Nei­ther she nor Gabrielle was ditzy. They were occa­sion­al­ly sil­ly, and Gabrielle was naïve at times, but they weren’t stu­pid. They were both strong while stay­ing very fem­i­nine. Revers­ing the more tra­di­tion­al order of things, they were usu­al­ly res­cu­ing the men­folk rather than being res­cued. I had to like that role rever­sal! I did­n’t like some of the sto­ry­lines in one of the last sea­sons (the whole mes­sian­ic thing) as much as I liked the ear­li­er, campi­er episodes—but they were still enter­tain­ing and engag­ing. I did like the fact that Gabrielle grew and changed into a very dif­fer­ent per­son than she was in the ear­li­er seasons. 

Buffy Snuck In

I did­n’t even plan to watch one episode of Buffy: The Vam­pire Slayer—in fact, I don’t think I knew it was a show, though I’d heard of the movie when it came out. We did­n’t have cable at the time, and rab­bit ears did­n’t real­ly work that well in our area. But I was ordered to bed rest due to a back injury, tired of read­ing and stitch­ing, and bored sil­ly, so I picked up the remote one night and start­ed flip­ping chan­nels. I saw a group of teenagers toss­ing off wise­cracks while fight­ing peo­ple with weird ridged fore­heads, yel­low eyes, and fangs. The too-skin­ny blonde was obvi­ous­ly some sort of super­hero. The dia­logue pulled me in. I watched the rest of the show and found myself watch­ing it again the next week. 

I did­n’t see all of the episodes until this past year when Rick and I watched the whole DVD set of Buffy, then Angel. I did read most of the orig­i­nal nov­els that were released years ago. We rent­ed and watched the orig­i­nal movie, which was cute and campy but did­n’t have the same qual­i­ty of writ­ing as the TV show.

Wil­low is my favorite char­ac­ter on the show. She’s intel­li­gent and sweet but always comes through when the chips are down. I was unhap­py when Oz left. Why could­n’t he have stayed? They could have shown Wil­low involved with both him and Tara in a nice, healthy, polyamorous vee. Sure­ly that could­n’t upset any­one any more than her being part of a les­bian cou­ple, right? 

Firefly

I remem­ber when we first start­ed hear­ing about Fire­fly. We were so excit­ed, know­ing the qual­i­ty of Joss Whe­do­n’s writ­ing! When it came out a friend came over to watch with us and we had the whole fam­i­ly in front of the tele­vi­sion. That was unusu­al because we did­n’t even keep the TV out most of the time. “The Train Job” was the first episode broad­cast, but it was some­what con­fus­ing because “Seren­i­ty” was sup­posed to be the first episode. The show was as good as promised, though, and we were hooked.

We were ter­ri­bly dis­ap­point­ed when the show was can­celed. Sam and I par­tic­i­pat­ed in the fan cam­paigns to save it, but it just was­n’t to be. Seren­i­ty was a huge treat when it final­ly came out, of course, but the show should have been on for years.

Doctor Who

By rights, this should be near the top, because I actu­al­ly watched it before any of the oth­ers. Way back in the ear­ly ’80s, Scott (the fel­low who would become my first hus­band) and I ran across a weird British sci­ence-fic­tion show on PBS quite late one Sat­ur­day night. The sets and spe­cial effects were ter­ri­ble. The act­ing was sil­ly. The main char­ac­ter was a tall fel­low wear­ing a striped scarf longer than he was tall, and he went around offer­ing jel­ly babies to every­one he met. We enjoyed it so much that we made an effort to see it on the fol­low­ing week­ends, but the episodes did­n’t seem to be shown in order. When I moved to a dorm at Agnes Scott Col­lege in the fall of 1984, Scott bought a lit­tle black-and-white TV for my dorm room so we could con­tin­ue watch­ing. It was sched­uled right up against the dor­m’s cur­few, though, and we fell out of the habit of watch­ing it, then nev­er picked it up again. The next time I ran across the show, the Doc­tor was a new guy and I did­n’t take to him. I pret­ty much for­got about the whole thing

Fast for­ward to 2005. I start­ed hear­ing about a Doc­tor Who reboot. I watched the first episode and found it much more inter­est­ing than the old show. The pro­duc­tion val­ues were far bet­ter (although it still required a lot of sus­pen­sion of dis­be­lief, of course). I liked Christo­pher Eccle­ston, but when David Ten­nant came along, he was my favorite Doc­tor. I was­n’t a Matt Smith fan, and Peter Capal­di always seemed to be a bit off-kil­ter, but I’m enjoy­ing Jodie Whittaker.



Then there was Torch­wood in 2006, and I liked it even more. It was aimed at more mature audi­ences and the lead­ing lady was­n’t a side­kick. I did­n’t like where the show went in lat­er sea­sons (I did­n’t ever fin­ish watch­ing the last sea­son), but the first two were mar­velous. Rick and I are watch­ing them now. (I intro­duced him to the Doc­tor short­ly after we met.) 

Others

I enjoyed Lost Girl, but Rick nev­er got into it so I lost inter­est and did­n’t fin­ish the last sea­son or two. I keep mean­ing to go back and do so. I like Killjoys but it’s the same—Rick does­n’t enjoy it so I don’t get around to watch­ing it. (Anoth­er tough chick. Yes, I have a type.) We watched the first sea­son of The Witch­er and are look­ing for­ward to the next. Rick had played the video game, but I was new to that uni­verse. The Man­dalo­ri­an was good, too. We’ve just begun Picard, but since nei­ther of us saw most of the episodes of Star Trek: The Next Gen­er­a­tion or saw most of the Trek­movies, we think there’s a lot that we’re miss­ing. We’ve seen most of the first sea­son of Altered Car­bon but haven’t fin­ished it yet. The series has a very high “ick” fac­tor for me and it’s extreme­ly dark, but it goes well with the Shad­owrun cam­paign we’ve been play­ing in. 

Movies

Galaxy Quest is one of my favorite movies. It’s cute and fun­ny, and while it’s obvi­ous­ly a par­o­dy of the orig­i­nal Star Trek series it was obvi­ous­ly done by peo­ple who appre­ci­at­ed Star Trek and its descen­dants. Rick and I went to see Nev­er Sur­ren­der: A GalaxyQuest Doc­u­men­tary a few months ago, cel­e­brat­ing the movie’s 20th anniver­sary. It has aged very well!

Con­tact is the only movie I’ve ever described as beautiful.


One of the very few movies I’ve ever bought on video for myself is The Princess Bride. I was amused when I found that Katie absolute­ly loved it. She watched it four times the first week­end. For a while, she was con­stant­ly going around doing an Ini­go Mon­toya imi­ta­tion and gig­gling (which is rather con­fus­ing to those who haven’t seen the movie). 

Sam and I saw Prac­ti­cal Mag­ic expect­ing to hate it, fear­ing just what kind of nasty things it would have to say about witch­es. We were more than pleas­ant­ly sur­prised. It’s a won­der­ful movie. I adore the sound­track, as well. I’ve recent­ly heard talk of a movie or TV show fea­tur­ing the aunts from the movie in their younger years. That would be worth watching! 

Anoth­er movie whose sound­track I love is The Fifth Ele­ment. That’s a movie I can watch over and over again despite not being a Bruce Willis fan. It’s mar­velous­ly quotable, too.

Way back in 2008, when the Mar­vel movies start­ed com­ing out, I did­n’t pay that much atten­tion to them. I did see each one (even­tu­al­ly) and enjoyed most of them. I was­n’t lis­ten­ing to fan chat­ter so I did­n’t real­ize how many there would be, or that there was an over­ar­ch­ing plan for them. When we saw Guardians of the Galaxy, I don’t think I even knew that it was a Mar­vel prop­er­ty. I’m not sure when that changed, but it was some­time after see­ing GotG in the the­ater. I think we saw most of the Mar­vel movies that came after it in the the­ater. I know that we saw Avengers: Endgame and Avengers: Infin­i­ty War there. I enjoyed the whole series, but the chronol­o­gy starts to run togeth­er on me when I try to look back at them. Dead­pool, though—that stands out on its own because it was hilar­i­ous. It did­n’t hurt that it had More­na Bac­carin from Fire­fly in it, either.

I admit­ted­ly haven’t kept up with the D.C. movies near­ly so well, but Won­der Woman got me to won­der­ing how they were, so we went back and watched them. I’m just not into the char­ac­ters oth­er than her for what­ev­er rea­son. I did­n’t real­ly care about the Bat­man v. Super­man con­flict and Jus­tice League left me cold. I did see Sui­cide Squad recent­ly, but it was only in prepa­ra­tion for Birds of Prey. I don’t feel any need to own any of these movies oth­er than Won­der Woman, or to see them again. I think the dark­ness of so much of the D.C. uni­verse just does­n’t appeal to me.

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