Cross-genre fiction … ever heard of it? That’s when a writer mixes a couple of different types of story into a single piece of fiction: a novel, short story, screenplay, etc. A good example is the science fantasy of the Star Wars movies or the science-fiction-romance of The Time Traveler’s Wife.
But those are the exceptions. Believe me. The last time I tried to publish a short story that overlapped the boundaries of science fiction, fantasy, horror, mystery and humor, the publisher took one look at the manuscript and said, “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!”
But evidently the producers at the BBC were a tad more open-minded to this kind of story.
A great example is the Doctor Who episode “Smith and Jones” (s03e02), with David Tennant as the Doctor.
This is the episode where we’re introduced to a delightful new Companion, the staggeringly smart medical school resident Martha Jones. And we get to meet her in a hospital. Oh, and on the moon. And being threatened by an extraterrestrial plasma vampire. And among a race of humanoid-rhinos. And … oh, that hospital? It was on the moon.
No, this episode wasn’t a reject from Space:1999 or a 50s’ schlepp flick. This was the critically-acclaimed 3rd-season opener for a British TV drama that’s been on the air for 9713 years and 5 months.
Since a gazillion words have zigzagged over the globe describing the characters’ chemistry, which is undeniable, I wanted to give my thoughts from a different angle. I stared with wide-eyed incredulity while a plot unfolded not unlike the story I’d written that caused the publisher to go, “Ahhhhhhhh!”
Every damn rule of fiction was broken in his one, single episode. Every last one of them. The writer, Russell T. Davies, threw the kitchen sink into this flick and … it worked. I threw the kitchen sink into my own story and it was rejected.
Here’s a brief list of things that happen in this show. I’m going to play devil’s advocate for a second and provide snarky remarks as if I were someone who hated SF and wanted to throw rotten tomatoes at the screen. But these snarks are not how I really feel, as you shall see.
- Doctor Who removes his necktie, shows it to Martha, and says, “… like so!”
- Chekov’s gun disguised as menswear.
- Doctor Who refers to himself as John Smith, an homage to the very first Doctor Who episode (1963) and his granddaughter.
- Quiz: Was she a Time Lord also?
- The first Doctor’s granddaughter was listening to a rock-n-roll group called “John Smith and the Common Men.”
- No worse than The Quarrymen, I suppose.
- Martha is a resident at a London hospital and witnesses rain falling up.
- At least I didn’t expect that.
- There’s an alien vampire in the hospital who has body guards dressed in motorcycle gear. Their helmets make them look like Roswell aliens
- Shouldn’t people be changing channels about now? But they’re not. And neither did I.
- The Judoon are chasing the vampire creature because she killed one of their princesses.
- BLANK STARE
- Laser beams
- To their credit, the characters in the hospital, which is now on the moon, ask how and why they have air.
- Well, this is science fiction, after all.
- The Doctor is asked if he has a brother and he says, “Not anymore.”
- sniff, sniff
- The hospital is inside a domed force-field
- No. No cliches here.
- The vampire’s victim is a Mr. Stoker
- The Vampire modifies an MRI machine to destroy all life on the moon.
- Kinda makes you pine for reverse-tachyon beams, doesn’t it?
- The Judoon leave, but transport the hospital back to earth before the atmosphere gets too low.
- Waste not, want not.
- After a bad fight with her maniacally-dysfunctional family Martha spots the Doctor and the TARDIS.
- Wonder where this is going?
- To convince her he is indeed a time traveler the Doctor travels back in time, reappears, and tells Martha that he can’t make a time travel trip into existing timeline …
- wait for it …
- “Except for cheap tricks, … like so!”
So how’d they do it? How does really good drama emerge out of that much campiness? We all know the answer: Character. But damn, does it really take 49-frakking-years to establish a set of characters so you can write any kind of plot you want? Maybe so.
What I do know is that I love this episode. On a scale of 1-to-10, I’d give it a 9.1. For comparison sake, I’d give Doctor Who’s “Blink” a 9.8, and Star Trek’s “The City on the Edge of Forever” a 10.0.
Once again, I find myself mystified as to exactly why I like it, but if I had to guess it’d be because … oh, yeah! It’s because Martha Jones is hot! And I reckon the Doctor is okay, too.
Copyright © 2013