Masterpiece Theater: Victoria


British historical costume drama featuring not one but two Doctor Who related actors? I am powerless to resist.

Recently departed Doctor Who companion and Impossible Girl Clara played by Jenna Louise Coleman is Queen Victoria. I can’t help but love this as Clara is known to have been deposited all over time and space for the purpose of assisting the Doctor. No reason she can’t be Victoria. My headcanon has no problem mixing history and science fiction.

Eve Myles is the Queen’s senior dresser Mrs. Jenkins. Have you have seen a more disapproving expression?

photo: radiotimes

She played Gwen Cooper in Torchwood, of course, but also played a maid named Gwyneth in the Charles Dickens’ episode of Doctor Who. It does make one wonder.

Three episodes of the series have aired so far on PBS Masterpiece Theater of sixteen total listed as two seasons on IMDB. I am loving the cast and rich details in the set design and costumes. The Britishness of it all! The conversations consisting entirely of what is between the lines.

So far, I have resisted the temptation to read up on the Queen and her court as curious as I am. Better, I think, to wait until I’ve watched the series to enjoy the narrative to sort fact from fiction.

I’ll dig for more information at some point because it’s me. I will try to wait to scratch the itch because I prefer not to have spoilers. I’ll want to know historical details and how many of the household staff are real historical figures. I’m aware of Victoria as a general figure but not the details. I often come to an interest in a period or person in history based on a fictional account or a docudrama.

Forget the dates and facts; Give me the story.

As it happens, the series which has me making appointment TV arrangements over the digital antenna rather than catching a show later on the internet has a companion novel as well as a beautiful companion book. The pictures in the “look inside” sample alone make me want a physical copy rather than a Kindle edition. Something to set in your lap with a cup of tea on the table beside you on a rainy day and dream of velvet dresses and lace collars.

DEFENDING NETFLIX

The internet is all a Twitter with criticism for Netflix. Yesterday in a post on the company blog from CEO Reed Hastings, the company announced it’s plan to split streaming and DVD offerings into two distinct brands with separate websites and billing. Customers received the news, including an apology for poor communication preceding pricing and plan structure changes two months ago, via e-mail.

Both changes are being widely criticized across the social web. On the severing of streaming and DVD services, I’m neutral. I suspect the company has researched enough before the announcement to be confident the benefits will outweigh the risks over the long haul. I was ringside for a similar rebranding and name change when social media advertizing company Izea. The change from PayPerPost as both product and corporation to Izea the corporation as the umbrella for explained services including PayPerPost, SocialSpark and SponsoredTweets wasn’t popular with bloggers who worked for them. The company forum was filled with impassioned discussion of how foolish it was to change it. Flash forward, and Izea has gone public, acquired a competing Twitter advertizing service and landed many nationally known brands. Obviously, founder and CEO Ted Murphy knew what he was doing.

There is also a matter of audience. I know a few people living in too rural an area to benefit from streaming service who how don’t want to pay for service they cannot use. I hope they sign up under the Qwikster brand. It’s a great service, better than video stores or Redbox, but not as good as streaming. I would propose the new brand’s users aren’t as social media savvy as the streaming centric, so their voices are not being heard.

I didn’t find the price increase in July unreasonable. The basic package went from $9.99 for unlimited streaming plus unlimited DVDs, one out at a time to $7.99 for unlimited streaming with separate plans available for DVDs starting at $7.99 for unlimited DVDs, one out at a time.

At the time, I was too happy about all five Star Trek series being offered streaming to complain about what they need to charge to provide exactly what I want to watch.

Even with the heady pleasure of watching endless hours of Star Trek leveling off, I still find the prices reasonable. It is easy to do the math on how much the price increased.

($7.99 + $7.99) > ($9.99)

We are still talking, I humbly submit, about peanuts for the entertainment offered. Peanuts!

Since October when I canceled cable, Netflix has been our major sort of programing. Chris brought Hulu Plus when he moved in with me in March, but it is seldom used compared to daily Netflix usage. My Big Bang Theory fix comes from CBS.com where they post new episodes a couple days after original air date. We could cancel both DVD service with Netflix and Hulu Plus, even give away every DVD in the house, and never run out of things we really want to watch.

The outrage I’m seeing but not feeling towards Netflix has a simple source: Comparing what Netflix charges not to what they have charged in the past rather than the cost of services Netflix replaces.

Is there cable or satellite plan under $50 or $60 dollars a month.

Buying DVDs, around $15 a pop, and BluRay, around $25.

Remember renting DVDs at Blockbuster a decade ago? It was around five bucks for a new release and better take out a loan if you didn’t return the thing on time.

No one can convince me Netflix is less than the best entertainment value available. I suspect when the grumbling is over, most customers will stick around for lack of something better. Dollar for dollar, hour for hour of use, it’s fantastic.

*Not a sponsored post. I simply love me some Netflix.

STREAMING STAR TREK (OR STILL OBSESSED AFTER ALL THESE YEARS)

In the two months since Netflix has added four of the five Star Trek series to their streaming service (Deep Space Nine is to be added in October), Chris and I have watched nothing else. No hyperbole. If they offered a Trek only package, we wouldn’t miss the rest. We’ll go back to other things in time. Daniel Jackson and Stargate: SG-1 will eventually draw us back.

Going back to the beginning, watching The Original Series, has reaffirmed my dedication to Star Trek. I see why it was my gateway drug to science fiction. The characters are completing. The stories stand up far better than their television contemporaries. The acting is superb. Even Shatner – God bless his overacting soul – acts just as Kirk should. I could go on for days about Gene Roddenberry’s vision and how the show influenced entertainment and culture. Little can be said on the topic which has not been said, studied and documented by fans and scholars.

It is rather the intimate aspect of being a fan – I self identify as a Trekkie – I wish to discuss. Being a fan, as apposed to simply liking something, means whatever you are fanatical about never gets old. What you love shapes how you look at the world. With Star Trek, the morality behind the story is part of the appeal. Not only respecting other races and cultures, but looking at problems through the prism of logic and science are Star Trek values. I have always said I can’t be raciest (any other type of bigot, for that matter) because I’m a Trekkie.

I have watched Star Trek: The Original Series since I was a kid. My family watched reruns after dinner. The Next Generation came out and my second grade friends at school thought Wesley Crusher was dreamy. My heart always belonged to TOS and Spock, but I was glad my obsession wasn’t as weird thanks to the modern version. I thought about the characters and wrote myself into the script in my head. I remember crafting a communicator out of a paper plate. Not the most typical imaginative play, no?

As the years passed, I spent less time watching Star Trek. I don’t know why, but my family didn’t finish watching The Next Generation in first run. I have theories. With only one television in the house programing competed with Nintendo. Dad loves video games, nuff said. I retreated more into books for entertainment and company.

My best friend Kate and I had Star Trek – specifically Star Trek loving moms who passed along their passion – in common. When we meet, two short blonde sixth graders living in Navy housing in Hawaii, Star Trek it was like finding as sister. Her mom had stacks of paperback Star Trek novels against the mirror on her dresser and a deep love for Captain Kirk. I admired the dedication and loved having someone to discuss Spock, McCoy and the others with. Oddly enough, I don’t believe in the two years we spent practically living in each other’s homes we ever watched Star Trek together. It was Quantum Leap repeats on USA in the wee hours of the morning and Indiana Jones on VHS until we could sing “Anything Goes” in Mandarin.

In my teens I read classic science fiction. Issac Asimov and Robert Silverberg primarily. One could spend ages reading Asimov without making it through his extensive catalog. I didn’t come close.

I grew up, married a non-geek (I know, what was I thinking?), went about my business. I read romance, crime, whatever books came to hand, watched Law & Order and documentaries. I didn’t deliberately avoid Star Trek and science fiction, but didn’t seek it out either. One could argue the problem with that period of my life is I didn’t seek out what I loved and what makes me happy, but I digress.

A few years ago, three maybe now, I let Kate pick out a handful of Star Trek novels for me at the annual YMCA booksale in St Louis and I filled my DVR with various incarnations of Star Trek. Worth mentioning, too, is the 2009 reboot which pleased me greatly. I don’t recall which came first, but, as the cliche goes, the rest is history.

I won’t be going years without Star Trek again. Might go days or weeks, but never years. I haven’t seen every episode of Deep Space Nine, so my October and beyond program choices are sewn up. It’s all rewatchable for pure pleasure and for noticing details. Best of all, I love finding connections between the various stories and crews. I smile every time it crosses my mind how horrified McCoy would have been to see Dr Phlox using leeches and worms in Sickbay.

It is no coincidence Chris and I can sit around for hours watching Star Trek together. Our first messages back and forth, around a year ago now, centered around our mutual love of Trek. He was preparing for Dragon*Con, putting the finishing touches on his Klingon costume. I was planning a pilgrimage – yes, a pilgrimage – to see Captain Kirk’s chair at the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in Seattle before leaving for South Carolina.

Any wonder we’re planning a Klingon wedding?

CUTTING THE CABLE

I canceled my cable in November.

 

I wasn’t trying to cut back on my television consumption. Nor do I deny the value of the programming available. It’s popular to talk about how bad, shallow and devoid of intellect the old boob tube is. I’ve said for years, it all depends on what you watch. I admit my enjoyment of all sorts of random programs. History Channel or Discovery Health in the middle of the night? Yes, please.

 

Here’s the thing: I moved into my apartment the first of September and started cable service within a week. I opted not to get a DVR since I was living alone and my schedule, at the time, was wide open. I set a reminder on my Blackberry for the two first run shows I cared about seeing. Big Bang Theory, of course, and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

 

After watching the first episodes of the new season of SVU, I found I simply didn’t care. It is impossible to say if the change was me or the show. The Law & Order franchises where something I’d always watched with my ex making it a part of a different time in my life. Plus,  I’ve seen so many episodes of the various incarnations the stories had begun to run together.  I’ll always think of myself as an Law & Order person, but it was clear I needed a break.

 

I went along for a while watching Big Bang Theory on Thursday night. It was an event. I’d typically bake off some refrigerated cookie dough and brew tea to enjoy while I watched in bed because I didn’t own living room furniture. Even with all the excitement in my life lately, that half hour was a highlight of my week.

 

One Thursday night in October, I turned on my modestly sized flat screen to the realization it was tuned to CBS. I racked my brain to figure out what I’d been watching when it hit me: Big Bang Theory is the only CBS show I’ve ever watched on a regular basis. I hadn’t so much as turned on the TV in an entire week.

 

It was strange to come to this place from television as my primary source of entertainment for years. Man, I’d loved my DVR.

 

I struggled with the decision to give up Big Bang Theory. I’m almost embarrassed to admit how much. But Sheldon’s love for Spock makes my love for Spock seem normal and proportionate.

 

Lucky for me, CBS.com began streaming episodes of Big Bang Theory a few days after airing on the network. Problem solved!

BAZINGA!