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Liz Tells Frank What Happened In the 1996 “Doctor Who” Back Door Pilot

Dear Frank,

As you may be aware, the history of Britain’s classic science fiction series Doctor Who is epic — we’re talking about a show that premiered the day after Kennedy was assassinated and is still on the air. But the show hasn’t been running non-stop since 1963; between the “classic” Who years and the Russell T. Davies relaunch, the franchise experienced a fallow period. A very long fallow period. During which some truly crazy shit happened.

See, in between the show’s initial cancellation in 1989 and the recent reboot, the Fox Broadcasting Company got the idea that maybe Doctor Whowould work for American audiences. This was the year 1996, at which time Fox had established a proud tradition of airing crazy sci-fi shows, including The X-Files, Strange Luck, M.A.N.T.I.S. and VR.5, so the idea of them picking up Who isn’t as bizarre as one might think.

Hedging its bets, Fox pulled a pretty common network move, commissioning a back door pilot to be shot in Canada (another proud ’90s Fox tradition!) and starring a new (younger and presumably hotter) Doctor — if it worked, then Fox would continue the series, and if it didn’t work, all that would happen is an embarrassing memory for all involved. (GUESS WHICH ONE HAPPENED GUESS!!!!) Read the rest of this entry

“Doctor Who” 2005-2009: The Skip It/Watch It Guide

Hey, want to catch up on the entire series to date? “Doctor Who”: 2005-2013 can be found in “Liz Tells Frank: The Skip It/Watch It Guides,” now available on Amazon!

So I’ve been a Doctor Who fan for years now, and one nice thing about sticking with it for so long has been seeing more and more Americans get on board with the show — especially over the last year or two, thanks to a big push by BBC America and a high-profile change in star and showrunner.

Like most established series, though, Doctor Who can be intimidating to new fans worried about having a lot to catch up on — a fair concern, given that the show officially premiered in 1963. (That is a long time ago!)

So in 2005 the show was relaunched with a new take on the tale of a man with a magic box that travels through space and time, a new take that would allow new viewers to jump in without needing to be aware of decades of back story. But now 2005 is also a long time ago! And new Doctor Who fans who want to limit their consumption to the modern era still have some catching up to do. Hence, the below (by reader request). Read the rest of this entry

Liz Tells Frank What Happened In “Babylon 5”

Dear Frank,

So I don’t think it’s any secret that I pretty much spent the 1990s watching whatever sci-fi television was readily available to me. But one that I’ve never given much thought to was Babylon 5, J. Michael Straczynski’s five-year tale of a space station caught in the middle of intergalactic war. Maybe a part of it was the fact that my heart at that point belonged to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and there were only so many space station shows to which I could pledge eternal fealty? I dunno, to be honest. I just know that it’s weird, because I have been rewatching Babylon 5 this week, Frank, and Babylon 5? Actually kind of awesome.

The basic deal was this: Babylon 5 was a space station created as a port of call for a Mos Eisley cantina’s worth of alien races as well as a neutral seat of politics for various planetary federations — ostensibly doing what the United Nations did after World War II to prevent another interstellar war.

Instead, though, it ended up becoming an independent political force that led a war against a totally ancient first evil called the Shadows (you know they were evil because their space ships looked like giant spiders, and yes, it’s a first evil with space ships, just go with it), not to mention an Earth gone completely fascist and no shortage of inter-species fighting. It’s an incredibly dense four seasons of narrative, covering the political situations on at least four different planets simultaneously with the on-station intrigue, while also managing to find time for some incredibly endearing characters, romance, time travel, religious symbolism, telepaths and the occasional Looney Tunes clip. Read the rest of this entry

Liz Tells Frank What Happened In “Uncanny X-Men: ‘Days of Future Past'”

Dear Frank,

Whoof! We’ve had a rough two weeks, haven’t we, between cross-dressing weirdos and John Travolta… Wait, no — I’ve had a rough two weeks, because I had to watch the damn movies. You’ve gotten off pretty light.

Which is why I want to take it relatively easy this time, focus on something non-painful, print-based and fun. In short, I wanna read a comic book, and as you’ve never read the classic Uncanny X-Men storyline “Days of Future Past,” well, there we go!

The catch, of course, is that this is a comic written initially in 1980. As you know, Frank, I consider myself a pretty big fan of the comic book medium, but while I enjoy superheroes as much as the next girl, most comics prior to the modern era of writers and artists have always struck me as a bit silly. The trade paperback I found Uncanny X-Men #141-142 in, for example, includes some other issues surrounding the classic storyline, and, look, I don’t want to make too much fun of old-school comics, because I know how many people still have fond memories, but, lemme just show you this… Read the rest of this entry

Liz Tells Frank What Happened In “Gargoyles”

Dear Frank,

Okay, we’re doing something a little different with this week’s installment. First off, we’re two days late. (Sorry about that! Change in work schedule = bad thing. Will prepare better in the future.) Second off, because I want to make sure that this gets done, this time I’ll attempt something entirely new.

Using the best application ever, I’m going to attempt writing the bulk of this week’s installment in a half hour, without Wikipedia, without video, without references of any type — just me, my time-damaged memory, and 30 minutes to write 1000 words. This will probably go badly.

So let’s talk about Gargoyles! Read the rest of this entry

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