October 16th, 2007

Solomon

Requiem for a Recapper

So Jacob over at Television Without Pity isn't recapping Doctor Who anymore, and I think that's fucking tragic.

Who gives a crap about recaps, you say? The new companion is a far worse fate. And in that you would be right. But there's a couple of things going on with me here, all of them far too earnest to be posted here, but I'm going to be naked for a minute. Let me explain.

Television Without Pity is an inconsistent site at best, and it's only been getting worse since it was bought by Bravo. The recaps have by and large become simple play-by-plays, with little or no commentary, and very, very little actual snark. I guess that's what happens when you let a TV network buy a site that makes fun of TV shows. Snark becomes a product, gods save us all. In that fallen universe, Jacob's recaps were something really different and special--they reached the highest goal I think a recap can aspire to--they fundamentally changed and augmented my viewing of Doctor Who (not quite so much with the other shows he recapped, honestly) and without them I don't think I would love this stupid show as violently and embarrassingly as I do. Which is not to say they were perfect--he got a little carried away sometimes, and seemed categorically incapable of just saying something was bad or poorly done. But I'll take that.

See, Jacob took it seriously. The silliest SF imaginable sometimes, and he looked at it straight on, without fan goggles, and told us where to find the face of god in all those idiotic farting aliens. I am not even kidding, and if you haven't read them, you should click that link and start straightaway. They are beautiful pieces of writing in their own right. He took a more or less Gnostic view of the doings of the TARDIS, and damn does it work. He lays it out, bit by bit, why "you never waste your time when you love this show." Why it, and by extension, SF at large, is neither silly nor about silly things, but about yearning, and grace, and trying so hard to touch light. To the stars by hard ways. The lonely god and the poor, striving, flawed Companions. And if I couldn't see it, always, in Cybermen and space rhinos and space misogyny, Jacob managed to pull something real and true out of the text that made it just a little sublime. You cannot ask for better criticism than that, and I take my hat off to him. I loved this show before I read the recaps, but I find that when I was most moved, when my heart lurched after a big blue box, was always when the two were combined. One on top of the other, like a palimpsest, making that terrible, awful, unanswerable longing that is the root of all fan culture.

Because, you see, it's bigger on the inside, this show. This genre. Maius Intra Qua Extra.

So I sat down to his Season 3 recap (which is all of a piece, for closure more than anything) thinking: Ok, explain it to me. Explain why it's ok that so much of this season was terrible. Show me the godhead in Daleks in Manhattan and that excerably dumb season finale. Make it better than it was, please.

And you know, he did. Even Donna, a little bit. Except for Daleks in Manhattan. Even he doesn't know what the hell to do with that. It was beautiful, particularly the conclusion, and I lamely teared up. Stupid recapper.

Because I take things seriously, too.  I have only big love to give to art, and anything less than that almost entirely fails to register, which is why I have a reputation for hating everything. Not so. I just don't  have time for things that don't graft themselves onto my heart. Why a show with a serious excess of deus ex machina and zombies should do so is beyond my mortal understanding, but I'm pretty sure Jacob had something to do with it.  Bigger on the inside. I know it's why I have been able to see myself so much in the various arcs--I have never, you should know, purchased TV merchandise for a show before--because while a space/time ship and body swapping is not universal, I, too, strive for the light out of the shadows. I, too, need grace. I, too, look out from where I stand and imagine better, more, bigger. I, too, want so much, so much I cannot touch in this life. I, too, know nothing of god, but require no less forgiveness and revelation for all that. And I swear this show is about those things along with giant crabs.

And so I am sad that Jacob won't be there to make Donna ok, to make whatever stupid crap RTD throws at us beneficent and luminous. It was the best thing TWOP ever did, and if they really axed it because we've all torrented the episodes by the time they air in America, well, that's just moronic. Then recap them on British time, geniuses. It's worth breaking the mission statement.

What I want to do is take up the mantle and recap them myself next year. I may. The truth is I'm not sure I can. I'm a good writer, but sometimes I need help to see with those eyes. Doctor Who has been around during pretty much the most horrific parts of my adult life, and it has, as Buffy did before, provided metaphors and ways of seeing that got me through it, to some extent. Guides through the dark. I know that sounds just entirely too fannish and dumb to believe, but in this world, you take revelation where you find it, and dammit, sometimes that's something made out of foam core and CGI. Sometimes it's a big blue box with a heart of gold. So maybe I will, maybe I'll try. Maius intra qua extra. Maybe that goes for me, too.

But for now, I mourn the lack of those Companion pieces. I tell myself I am not alone. I look for the Bad Wolf, and hear no drums. I strive for light, out of shadows. I hurtle forward, into the red, and never back.
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