Saturday, December 12, 2015

Jobs for Voices

Sometimes Doctor Who doesn't need to make sense, as we learned last week. Last night I listened to the 2006 Seventh Doctor audio play Night Thoughts which made even less sense than last week's television finale. But it had some very nice atmosphere, working a sort of creaky gothic time travel vibe.

The Doctor and his companions Ace and Hex find themselves on an island on Earth some time in the future where a few people have gathered to do experiments. There's a little girl voiced very unconvincingly by a grown woman and there's some kind of invisible beast that records people and plays back the recordings when it attacks, particularly a recording it takes of the Doctor saying, "Will you walk into my parlour, said the spider to the fly." The explanation for this beast's existence, depending on some crude time travel device that sends recorded voices through time, not only doesn't make sense, it changes the nature of the monster after the explanation is given.

I get the feeling that a lot of times the actors don't read the script before performing in these audio plays. Bernard Kay as Major Dickens here seemed to be deciding whether or not he was supposed to be a broad villain type while he was in the middle of reading his lines. As he progressed from saying he killed someone, to saying it was an accident, to saying he was trying to save the person, back to saying he killed them on purpose, he seemed to be searching for the right pitch of hysteria.

It's not as bad as a Fifth Doctor story I had to stop listening to a couple weeks ago. Peter Davison and the actor who plays Turlough, Mark Strickson, kept getting their lines wrong. Maybe I'm detecting a lack of enthusiasm on everyone's parts because this was around the time the show had been revived on television.

Speaking of resurrected television series, you may have heard Mystery Science Theatre 3000 surpassed its goal, raising 5.7 million dollars on Kickstarter, breaking the record set by Veronica Mars. Hopefully it'll have more of a lasting impact than the Veronica Mars Kickstarter, too.

I still really don't get the logic of getting a whole new cast. Joel Hodgson points to the ever changing cast of Saturday Night Live but generally when people leave Saturday Night Live they do so voluntarily, or if they're let go it's reasons specific to the individual actor. Although all old cast members have been pretty gracious, and Rifftrax even offered a free short as a reward to backers, Bill Corbett, the second voice of Crow, couldn't resist a catty tweet. When someone asked if he'd be returning as Crow, he replied: "Doesn't look like it. Seems @TraceBeaulieu [the original voice of Crow] and I are way too old to do puppet voices."

I'm not familiar with the comedians who are taking the roles of Tom Servo and Crow in the new season. I like Felicia Day and Patton Oswald, who are playing the new mad scientists, and the diverse array of comedic talents--from Jerry Seinfeld to Dan Harmon to Robert Lopez, co-writer of the songs for Frozen--is impressive and I'd be surprised if the result wasn't something very funny. But I suspect it won't have the same flavour that most of the Kickstarter backers long for. There was something unique about the rapport the actors had on Mystery Science Theatre 3000, the kind of thing you get when it's a whole team that emerged from the same theatre or comedy scene, in this case Minnesota. There was the sense of an isolated universe that, despite its later influence, played by a different matrix of comedic sensibility than projects coming out of L.A. or New York or Chicago. For example, many viewers have remarked on how odd it was that a show about people making fun of movies come across as starring particularly nice people. More than anything, it had the sense of familiarity, like these were a bunch of men and women from not only the same neighbourhood but maybe the same house.

Well, we'll see what happens.

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