Wednesday, November 4, 2009

V is for “vile”


Jewish date:  17 Marḥeshwan 5770 (Parashath Wayyera’).

Worthy cause of the day:

Topic 1:  Chapter 14 of The Subtle Knife (His Dark Materials, Book 2) by Philip Pullman.  We are told that the Specters, barely visible creatures which haunt the world in which Lyra Silvertongue and Will Parry met and attack adults, eat Dust.  I have no clue why Pullman put such things in his trilogy, expect maybe as an obstacle to be overcome.  Furthermore, the shaman John Parry/Dr. Grumman, makes use of his powers to create a storm and destroy enemy zeppelins.  This should not be a surprise, since in this trilogy witches also have real powers.  Also like witches, John Parry’s dæmon can go much further away from him than a normal human’s can.

Topic 2:  Last night I watched the pilot episode of  V (new series)—I enjoy science-fiction, including tearing it to shreds when it stinks—and the title of this post should give you a good idea what I think of what I saw.  It came off more as the Cliff notes to a whole season rather than a pilot.  Rather than dealing with how humanity reacts to first contact with an extraterrestrial race at a slow pace, the alien ships arrived, the aliens’ leader Anna introduced herself and her people (the Visitors), promising friendship and advanced technology in exchange for water and some minerals, and then suddenly the plot skips three weeks for no apparent reason and all suspension of disbelief is shredded by psychologically unrealistic writing as too many revelations happen too fast.

What I did not expect was for this travesty to have theological and epistemological aspects, which start with 29 cities on Earth shaking due to approaching Visitor spaceships (shaking added for drama, not physical plausibility).  In a (presumably Roman Catholic) church, a priest grabs some ritual items and runs out of the way of a falling sculpture of Jesus on the Cross.  This is arguably symbolic of the crisis of faith which this priest has three weeks later; he does not understand how to harmonize the existence of the Visitors with Christianity.  Why he feels this and why a crisisless colleague disagrees are never explained.  And it should be noted that in real life the crisis should not occur at all; the Vatican sees no problem with the existence of extraterrestrials, though it is not clear on whether they necessarily suffer from original sin.  Clearly the writers did not do their homework on this issue.  Furthermore, the church is packed with worshippers right after the three week gap.  How the arrival of the Visitors inspired so many people to turn to the Church is not explained.

Bad writing extends to beyond religion.  Humans come off as either pro-Visitor or anti-Visitor, with little in the way of exceptions.  The only thing allegedly good the Visitors bring are some “miraculous” cures and “hope”.  The bad things which the Visitors do are in secret, such as telling a reporter not to say anything to make the Visitors look bad when interviewing Anna or attacking people at a resistance meeting.  Most humans in either faction have little to say about why they believe what they do.  Even outright bad reasons would be better than this.

In short, this pilot dramatically, theologically, and epistemologically sucks.  The writing is so bad that even the dreadful Matrix Trilogy looks like poetry by comparison.

Peace, and please join me in praying that the network executives come to their senses and cancel V.