Meco - The Empire Strikes Back - 1980 (not available)
It was as inevitable that Meco would return to Star Wars as it was that George Lucas would. But this time, Meco changed tactics. In 1980, disco wasn't exactly dead, but it was certainly on the operating table. Meco had already done Star Wars disco, anyway, and it was time for something new. So this would be the first Meco album without arranger Harold Wheeler. Meco instead went to his guitar player, Lance Quinn, for the new arrangements.
The result is pretty damn good. It's a completely different sound for Meco, much more rock 'n' roll than disco; like an orchestral rock band with a horn section and sound effects. The sound effects, by the way, are the real deal this time around, and not approximations like on Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk. Lucasfilm had seen that record sell through the roof, and this time they were getting in on the deal and provided Meco with the actual sound effects he wanted.
Another good step is that this album--all of four tracks--only contained music from The Empire Strikes Back. None of that filler garbage on the B side like Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk and Superman and Other Galactic Heroes.
The A side starts off with "The Empire Strikes Back (Medley): Darth Vader's Theme/Yoda's Theme," which is, like the movie itself, a darker than the original. Vader's theme especially sounds awesome on electric guitars, and the second half of the track, when the horns bring up Yoda's theme, it's actually kind of thrilling. Surprisingly, it only last 4 minutes and 6 seconds; I'm so used to Meco's movie tracks going on for a quarter of an hour. The track is tight and exciting. The second track, "Battle in the Snow," is drum-heavy, but it's drumming for real, not those damn snare drums from before. Drums and electric guitar and keyboards and Star Wars themes.
The B side is just as good as the A, starting with "The Force Theme" and ending with "The Asteroid Field/Finale." "The Force Theme" is kind of like a funky version of the great theme, real saxophone-heavy and very eighties. It's glorious trash. "The Asteroid Theme/Finale" is like a cross between a video game soundtrack and epic orchestral rock. I can't think of any other way to describe it. It gets a little bit repetitive, but just as it starts to wear out its welcome, the guitars pick up and Vader's theme comes back into it, and the track slows down for a nice, soft rendition of my personal favorite theme from the score, the Han Solo/Princess Leia theme. It carries off into the finale, even adding echoes of the Throne Room theme, which even John Williams didn't do in the Empire finale.
This is a brilliant album, and it's a shame it's never been re-released in its entirety.
A Side: "The Empire Strikes Back (Medley)"
BlindSides: "Battle in the Snow," "The Force Theme," "The Asteroid Field/Finale"
DownSide: Not a one.
Cross-posted from Septenary.
Saturday, April 10, 2010
Too often, when I try to type the url for YouTube, I hit two keys at once and type out "youtuber.com." And every time, I always think that there should be a YouTuber site just for people who really love potatoes and want to show off what they do with them. There could even be some sort of potato exchange where people can trade different kinds of potatoes and other tubers from around the world.
It's about then that I realize this is why I'm never going to get any money to create a social network.
I've just finished reading a marvelous graphic novel called T-Minus: The Race to the Moon. It's a wonderful piece of work focusing on the US/USSR space race, primarily focusing on the engineering and the public relations that spurred the competitiveness. The implication isn't really here in the book, but I've always sort of felt that the competitive edge, the need to do something first, is what's lacking from space exploration now. Now, space exploration isn't a big deal to the government. The initiative isn't there. T-Minus looks back at a time when a nation's pride was on the line, and tomorrow needed to be captured before anyone else could get it. A time of growth, not of stagnation.
It's a fantastic read; anything not clear enough is explained in a brief editorial note (usually acronyms and engineering terms, but also nice bits of historical back story, such as the surprising fact that hardly anyone in the USSR knew the name of their own space program's visionary Chief Designer until after he died). It's not too long, but it's very involving nonetheless, beginning with the launch of Sputnik I and going all the way up to the landing of Apollo 11. And even though the focus is on engineering and less on dramatic character moments, the characters are very realistic and the drama is the drama of real life: the drama of daring to accomplish.
For anyone interested in America's space program--and I'm thinking specifically of curious children--this is a great entry point to that part of our history. It's a staging ground for a larger interest in the entire picture, and if you do have a child around 10 or so years old who's interested in science, I really recommend this book. And even if you don't, and you're just looking for something to read, this is so thoroughly engrossing that you could do a lot worse.
The creative team behind this book, by the way, are the same team behind another of my favorite graphic novels from the past 10 years: Bone Sharps, Cowboys, and Thunder Lizards: A Tale of Edward Drinker Cope, Othniel Charles Marsh, and the Gilded Age of Paleontology. You can tell what it's about from that cumbersome title--and bonus: Charles R. Knight is a character in this true story.
If you can find both books, don't hesitate.
Thursday, April 08, 2010
Jessica did a photo shoot for Marie Claire in which she's supposed to be unretouched and without makeup. And though she's obviously wearing some makeup (this is Jess, after all, and just like The Price of Beauty, she's not going to go all the way with what she's been preaching), this is certainly the most beautiful picture of her I've seen in some time. I miss my Jessica.
But the Republican Party does not absolutely repudiate the actions of right wing terrorists advocating violence against Democrats who voted for health finance reform. And I include Sarah Palin and her crosshairs among those people. When a hate group is quicker on the draw to separate themselves from other hate groups than you are to disassociate yourselves from people who want to bring down the government, you've got some serious mismanagement going on.
Wednesday, April 07, 2010
Just... just so much bugging the shit out of me lately...
I think the worst thing I heard of all week, though, was this shit in Fulton, Mississippi. It was bad enough that they wouldn't let Constance McMillan go to the prom because she was bringing her lesbian girlfriend. It was petty and terrible when the school decided to cancel the prom when the ACLU got involved, and then blamed Constance in an attempt to make her a pariah and get back at her for daring to make waves when confronted by that particular irrational hatred people tend to call traditionalism. But to send Constance and her girlfriend to a separate prom and then have the real prom in secret at the same time is just needlessly humiliating. Can they not see the parallels to segregation, or--much more likely--do they just not care? Certainly Fulton, Mississippi--a place I am ashamed to say is in the nation I call home--is willing to go to incredible lengths to satisfy their hate and to protect their rights to trample over civility and decorum in the name of hate.
And the Fulton kids now bragging about this on Facebook... What the hell is wrong with people? The people of Fulton, Mississippi are vile and cruel.
:: Speaking of stupidity in the South, Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia has declared that April is "Confederate History Month." Why are so many Southerners so damn proud of their slave-owning past? Get this through your heads: the Confederacy was treason, not a government; it was an insurgency, not an actual nation; it does not deserve it's own celebration anymore than Shays' Rebellion does. How about you guys stop electing officials who look back on a white-dominated past when women and blacks were property with such naked wistfulness?
Yes, you are celebrating a criminal act defended with violence in order to keep people enslaved. Be fucking honest about it.
(Oh, and the group that lobbied the governor for "Confederate History Month" are white supremacists who predicted race wars if Obama were elected because, of course, he would press hard for reparations. So, really, this could be construed as yet another idiot reaction to a black man being elected president.)
:: Thanks to the Texas School Board, I'm really afraid that America is going to lose all ability to compete in the world. Why are there so many people in this country that are just hellbent on turning America into an isolated country gnawing on the slipper of religion? We already have a pretty shitty standard of education in this country, but now it looks like it's going to actively be made worse by a few people who demand that their ancient sky mythology be published alongside actual scientific research as though they are both the same thing. It is, to me, the equivalent of listening to someone whine endlessly that their theory that a little man pops out of a box and turns off the refrigerator light when you close the door should be published in refrigerator repair manuals because we need to "teach the controversy!"
THERE IS NO CONTROVERSY WHEN IT COMES TO EVOLUTION! The idea that there is a controversy has been baked up by religious fundamentalists as yet another attempt to get creationism into schools. Sadly, it's going to work this time. So congratulations, you're setting every child in America up to fail in the future. Well done.
:: Bristol Palin starring in a PSA promoting abstinence. Good to know that Sarah Palin's hypocrisy didn't skip a generation, I guess...
:: According to a new Gallup poll, only 37% of Americans view the Tea Party favorably. That's lower than Russia, which is devolving into an organized crime operation, and Communist China. Sarah Palin is only slightly lower in approval ratings: 36.8%. That's still too high for both Teabaggers and Sarah the Quitter. Obama's at 55%.
:: Surprise, when it comes to net neutrality the federal appeals court has sided with the corporations, ruling in favor of Comcast's ability to gouge whatever it wants from online operations in order to keep content flowing at a fair pace. Now this is going to become a Congressional issue, and I don't see Congress voting to cut off anyone's slimy revenue stream.
And I'm ending with this footage that's been going around of American soldiers killing Afghan civilians, including a couple of guys from Reuters. This would be bad enough if it were just a case of mistaken identity or a cultural misunderstanding. But there are now stories coming out about the lies and cover-ups surrounding this and other such accidental killings. It was only a matter of time; war breeds immorality as it breeds a sense of authority and infallibility. And the extremely disturbing video does not show a battle, but an unprovoked slaughter.
For those who kept saying this war is not another Vietnam... well, there are battles, and there's My Lai. I expect we'll be hearing a lot more about this and Feb. 12 slayings of three women which were lied about. There have been too many lies, and this is what we're going to be left with from this mishandled war. We need to stop this thing. It's gotten out of hand, and we can't win it. It's naive to think that innocent people don't die in war. But that doesn't make it okay.
A review of the films I've seen this past week.
EASTER PARADE (1948)
I woke up late in the morning on Easter Sunday and found that my TiVo was recording this off of TCM. I'll admit, too, that I decided to go back to the beginning and watch it because Ann Miller makes me unbelievably horny. She's a wonderful dancer and a joy to watch, but being honest, she also makes me incredibly horny. Anyway, as to the film itself... I haven't seen much in the way of Fred Astaire films, and every time I see him in a musical, I'm not sure why that is. He's a tremendous dancer. I'm more of a Gene Kelly fan, but you can't really compare the two in style: Kelly made bold, powerful movements, while Astaire is more graceful and even, I think, a bit more playful. The first musical number, with Astaire dancing in a toy store among those drums, is pure magic. The plot involves a famous dancing team (Astaire and Miller) who break up when she decides to go it on her own in order to headline her own show. Astaire then claims he can turn anybody into a perfect dance partner, and simply picks out a chorus girl from a bar (but she is Judy Garland, so who wouldn't pick her out of a crowd?) and... well, you've seen movies before, you know where this is going. Going into this movie, with all of the elements that make up classic 1940s musicals--Astaire, Miller, Garland, a script by Frances Goodrich & Albert Hackett, produced by Arthur Freed, music by Irving Berlin--you expect that it's going to be great. And it is. But I'm always surprised by just how much I get wrapped up in these films. A superlative musical; fluffy, but great. **** stars.
Tuesday, April 06, 2010
It's been announced now that Lucasfilm is going to be working with Robot Chicken creators Seth Green and Matthew Senreich and some Daily Show writer or other to make an animated Star Wars sitcom for either Cartoon Network or Comedy Central. And this news has been met with the typical Star Wars fan reaction: total skepticism in anything having to do with George Lucas.
This is the problem with this particular fandom. They're never excited by something new having to do with Star Wars: instead, they have to wait to judge whether or not it's worthy of their idea of Star Wars. It's like a lot of Star Wars fans--particularly your more obnoxious online ones--are just pissed that George Lucas isn't doing exactly what they want with Star Wars, and is instead doing what he wants with his own creation.
The online reaction is predictable. It pretty much amounts to an unspoken wave of 'Gee, I'd better wait and see how this fits into the Star Wars Universe as a whole before I have some kind of opinion on it."
How about just ignoring what you don't like and enjoying what you do? I don't give two whits about the Rogue Squadron stuff, but other people love them, and it's no skin off my nose. For me, Marvel Comics characters like Jaxxon and Plif the Hoojib are parts of the Universe to cherish; others think anything to do with Marvel Comics is anathema to the precious canon. Well, fine; my enjoyment isn't dependent on whether or not others approve of it. Some of us love Jar Jar and the Ewoks; others have spent their whole lives in childish tears because the Ewoks even exist. I actually don't even like the process of giving Hammerhead and Walrus Man names and back stories; to others, those are essential bits of info to the portrait of the larger Star Wars world.
What I'm getting at is this: the Star Wars Universe is a vast place that can accommodate characters I love (Ahsoka Tano, Tera Sinube, Grand Admiral Thrawn) and characters I don't (Dash Rendar, Tag and Bink, Luminara Unduli). Much too large to keep focusing and obsessing on the ones I don't.
It reminds me of something I saw on Tumblr the other day about the new series of Doctor Who: if you can't get over David Tennant, stick with the David Tennant seasons and stop just bitching about how Matt Smith isn't David Tennant.
That's how I feel about anything to do with Star Wars. Stick with the stuff you like, ignore the stuff you don't.
Monday, April 05, 2010
I've been doing a little reading lately about Saturday morning cartoons. I found some schedules, and decided to just look through them again and see what memories they touched off. Here, for no other reason, is an attempt to reconstruct how I spent my average Saturday mornings during my childhood.
Starting with the 1980-1981 season. I was four years old.
I'm pretty sure my day started at 7 in the morning with Superfriends. I used to watch that show quite a bit. That was on for an hour, and then Scooby Doo and Scrappy Doo was on for an hour and a half. I think I used to switch back and forth between that on ABC and The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour on CBS (which, despite its title, was on for 90 minutes). I liked the Looney Tunes, but I LOVED Scooby Doo, so I probably watched more of Scooby Doo. Thundarr the Barbarian was on after Scooby Doo, but I have no memory of ever actually seeing it, so it's more likely I watched Popeye on CBS. The Drak Pack was on after that, which I've never seen, so I probably went out to play before Popeye was even over.
In the spring, ABC switched its schedule around, and Superfriends was followed by The Fonz and the Happy Days Gang, which saw Fonzie, Richie, Ralph, and the hideous anthropomorphic dog Mr. Cool traveled through time with a girl from the future. It was just as awesomely terrible as it sounds. But I was four and I loved it. ABC followed that show with The Richie Rich/Scooby-Doo Hour, which I probably watched intermittently: I loved Scooby Doo but I effing hated Richie Rich. NBC ran 90 minutes of The Flintstones starting at 8, so I probably watched a bit of that. I think there are some times when I flipped over to CBS' The Tarzan/Lone Ranger/Zorro Adventure Hour, but I only recall watching Tarzan. After that I definitely watched The Heathcliff and Dingbat Show and The Plastic Man/Baby Plas Super Comedy Show on ABC. Which now seems weird since NBC had an hour of Batman on at the same time...
1981-1982 season. This is the first year I remember for sure that Saturday morning were a big deal. Superfriends had been shortened to an hour, so at 7:30 I would quickly turn to NBC to watch The Smurfs, which was a huge deal, as these things go. It seemed to get so much attention; those little blue mothers were everywhere. I watched the whole hour, so there goes The Fonz. After that, it was over to CBS to see the last two-thirds of The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour, and then back to NBC for Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends at 9:30. At 10, my choices were either bowling on ABC, Blackstar on CBS, and Space Stars on NBC. I've never seen Blackstar, but I remember some of Space Stars. It actually had four segments, but the only segments I remember definitely watching were Space Ghost and The Herculoids.
I was encouraged to go out and play a lot as a kid, so I was probably out playing before that show was even over. Either that, or I was watching TV with my dad. We used to watch wrestling, old kung fu movies, Godzilla movies, and the Three Stooges on local channels. Those were the best days.
In the spring, it was still Superfriends and then The Smurfs, but The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour was bumped down to 8:30 and was on for two full hours, so I probably watched that all morning before doing whatever else made up the day.
Moving on to the 1982-1983 season, I was still watching Superfriends at 7. What's funny is, I wasn't much of a DC kid. I was definitely a Marvel kid; I liked Spider-Man and the Hulk. But I liked them more from television than comic books. I didn't get big into comics until I was in 5th or 6th grade. The comics I was into at this time were Donald Duck or Uncle Scrooge.
At 7:30, thanks to my sister, we'd end up watching Shirt Tales. She loved those stupid things. Then The Smurfs started at 8, and it was on for 90 minutes, which is way too much Smurfs. Besides, at 8:30 it was over to ABC for Pac-Man, a show which I easily acknowledge as one of the stupidest things ever, but which I loved as a six year-old. I loved Pac-Man in all forms. We even had the board game! After that was over, I flipped to either the second half of The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour (now reduced to its titular hour) or the last half-hour of The Smurfs. Then it was the awful Gilligan's Planet (Gilligan! In space!) on CBS and then The Scooby and Scrappy Doo Puppy Power Hour to round out the morning.
The spring schedule was pretty much the same, except at 9:30 on CBS there was the terrible animated version of The Dukes of Hazzard, followed by a second hour of Bugs Bunny.
In 1983-1984, the schedule had some big changes. Superfriends was gone, but I still started the day at 7 on ABC. But instead I was watching The Best of Scooby-Doo. I guess his best days were long over and no new episodes were being produced by this point. Then, from 7:30 to 8:30, CBS had the Saturday Supercade, with a bunch of Atari-based cartoons. Does anyone remember Soupy Sales as the voice of Donkey Kong? Such lame, lame thinking, but that's the way cartoons were in those days; it's the same way they turned Pac-Man into a factory worker with a family... he seemed a lot less cool as the Fred Flintstone of the arcade world.
Speaking of, I must have gotten over my Pac-Man Fever by then because I was definitely leaving it on CBS to watch Dungeons and Dragons, possibly the greatest Saturday morning cartoon of my childhood. After that I probably watched the last half-hour of The Smurfs on NBC, and then right into Alvin and the Chipmunks, a show I inexplicably loved in the 1980s. I may have occasionally watched The Littles instead, because I remember watching it. I know I didn't pop in too often on The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show, because that was about the time in animation when you used to be able to hear Snoopy's thoughts, and I just hated that. I don't think I watched anything after that in the morning. I must've been eating breakfast; my parents slept in on Saturdays, but I usually woke up around 6 in the morning. Still do.
Spring days started out with another one for my sister, The Monchichis. Remember those horrid things? I think my sister had a stuffed one, too. Were those the ones that could suck their own thumbs? If so, then that's what she had. She sucked her thumb, too, for years and years. I think that's why my parents got her the stuffed animal.
After that, the schedule was the same--Saturday Supercade, Dungeons and Dragons, then a half-hour of The Smurfs or possibly Tarzan, then Alvin and the Chipmunks. If I watched anything after that, it was Bugs Bunny, which was back on at 90 minutes. (It was only on for half an hour in the fall.)
In the 1984-1985 season, Superfriends was back on, but I was over on NBC watching The Snorks for some reason. It was just an undersea version of The Smurfs. Oh, and it gets worse: we would then flip over to CBS and watch the execrable Get-Along Gang. Oh, jeez, those damn shows that were supposed to teach us about caring... But at 8 was the sublime Muppet Babies, and that's just gold. I must have stuck with Saturday Supercade at 8:30 or flipped it over to The Smurfs, because I don't think I ever watched Dragon's Lair, which just seems weird to me. How did I never watch that show? After that it was Alvin and the Chipmunks and Kidd Video. Every time I think of that show, I get Ashford & Simpson's "Solid" in my head...
In the spring, Saturday Supercade was canceled and replaced with more Bugs Bunny and the return of Dungeons and Dragons. Otherwise, my schedule was unchanged.
Moving into 1985-1986, this was the first time I was faced with real dilemmas--such as dilemmas can be when you're 9 and talking about Saturday morning cartoons. Bugs Bunny had been moved to 7 am, so I was probably watching that, but at 7:30 CBS had The Wuzzles and NBC had Gummi Bears. Disney finally gets into Saturday morning television, and they have two shows up against each other? I know I saw both shows, but The Wuzzles was merely okay where Adventures of the Gummi Bears was awesome, so eventually I ditched trying to watch The Wuzzles and stuck with the Gummi Bears. Then, at 8, I had to choose between Muppet Babies and Monsters, now an hour, or head to ABC to watch Ewoks and then Droids. Muppets, or Star Wars? I think Ewoks won out most of the time, but I was never as into Droids. I loved Ewoks, and then I saw it on SciFi Channel about 8 years ago, and... ouch. What a terrible show.
After that was Hulk Hogan's Rock & Wrestling for an hour on CBS, then Alvin & the Chipmunks on NBC, and finally Dungeons and Dragons on CBS.
The spring was slightly different. Bugs Bunny was moved to 7:30, so I probably started the day with Scooby's Mystery Funhouse, went over to Gummi Bears, and then caught the first half-hour of Muppet Babies (which was the actual Muppet Babies part, anyway). Then it was Ewoks, and after that either Rock & Wrestling or, if my sister really wanted it, we'd watch Punky Brewster, that terrible cartoon with Glomer, her alien friend. Yuck. Then Chipmunks and Dungeons and Dragons.
Isn't this just riveting?
The 1986-1987 season started off with The Wuzzles at 7, then Gummi Bears at 7:30. Then the full hour of Muppet Babies and Monsters (I was avoiding Flintstone Kids like the plague), but then I was torn between The Real Ghostbusters on ABC and Pee Wee's Playhouse on CBS. I think I just alternated, because I remember watching both of those shows. After that, I may have watched Alvin and the Chipmunks, or I may have gone outside. I was playing Panther Football that fall, so I was out practicing a lot. The spring schedule was the same, actually.
In the 1987-1988 season, Gummi Bears was moved to 7, and then there were 90 minutes of Muppet Babies at 7:30, followed by Pee Wee's Playhouse (which was up against the animated version of Fraggle Rock, but it was an easy choice, because that show had zero of the magic of the HBO series it was based on). After that, I must have still been watching Alvin & the Chipmunks (or playing video games), because I do remember watching the animated series ALF, which was on right after. It was pretty much as bad as the sitcom. Or, really, worse. The fall schedule was pretty much the same, except ALF had been moved up against Pee Wee, so I probably just stopped watching TV that much earlier.
As the 1988-1989 series began, I was 12 years old and getting tired of a lot of the repetitiveness of Saturday morning cartoons. I think I didn't start watching any 'toons until 8, with New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, and then opting for Slimer and the Real Ghosbusters, which had returned, completely foregoing Muppet Babies and Pee Wee's Playhouse. Then I'd switch over to CBS for Garfield and Friends, a show I didn't really like a whole lot and probably didn't watch all the way through. After that, I went and did something else lest I fall prey to the Ernest or Ed Grimly cartoons.
Then, in the 1989-1990, I basically gave up watching every Saturday morning cartoon except for Slimer and the Real Ghostbusters and Captain N: The Game Master (because Nintendo was the shit). And, of course, I was watching Saved by the Bell in the late morning, but that was because of Kelly Kapowski... oh, yes...
So, it ends with a petering out, then. Weird. What pointless memories I have.
Meco - Moondancer - 1979 (not available)
After four albums of disco versions of movie music, Meco finally decided to record an album of straight disco music. The sound is pretty different, partially because some of the songs are original, and partially because he did the album without the same collaborators from the last four.
As a result, Moondancer is a little less fun to listen to than the others. He tries to keep up the same science fiction theme--the album cover, designed by Meco, is apparently inspired by a dream he had of "creatures of the night" dancing at a disco in a gorge on the moon. If only the album were as interesting. (Take that as you will.)
There are only six songs on the album. The opener, "Moondancer," is the only track actually (co-) written by Meco. Even with the sound effects and the nice instrumental break, the song sounds like background music to a video game. "Love Me, Dracula" is background with a really, really cheesy chorus. "Grazing in the Grass" has some energy, but it's not a patch on the original version by The Friends of Distinction.
Flipping over to side B, "Spooky" is the high point of the album. A disco cover of the hit by The Classics IV, it totally justifies itself. This is one of Meco's best tracks. And despite its cheesiness, "Devil Delight" is campy fun. The album closes with "Living in the Night," a track so subdued and uninteresting that I've already forgotten what it sounds like.
"Spooky" is on The Best of Meco, which is available, and it's the only one you need.
A Side: "Spooky"
BlindSide: "Devil Delight"
DownSide: "Living in the Night," I think
Cross-posted from Septenary.
Sunday, April 04, 2010
I'm giddy with excitement from the premiere of the new series of Doctor Who. I really enjoyed it. Where David Tennant was more or less a continuation of the Christopher Eccleston series, this one really felt like the kind of reimagining I tend to expect from a new Doctor. It does still have certain elements we've come to expect from Doctor Who 2.0--the running, the shouting, the sense of urgency--but we've really got a new characterization this time around, and it's quite exciting.
I liked Matt Smith. I don't know that Steven Moffat really needed the scene where we saw the previous 10 Doctors and Matt Smith stepped through the image to cement his place as the Eleventh Doctor, but as a fanboy, I certainly loved that moment. I thought Smith did well; I never felt the sort of unease I always get as the new Doctor shakes himself down and the new actor becomes comfortable with a characterization. (I think it took David Tennant several episodes to find the character, although in "The Christmas Invasion" it was obviously done to ease new viewers into the regeneration process.) Matt Smith's Doctor emerged fully formed, and much more playful, I think, than the last couple of Doctors.
I enjoyed the last year of Doctor Who specials, but it's nice to have something fun and less dire. I hope we can stay away from the whole idea of the Doctor as burning everything and everyone he touches for a while. I also hope we can steer clear of the romantic entanglements, which has already been done (and not always successfully, as I still don't much care for the first half of the Martha Jones season).
Becca and I are divided on whether or not a romance is being set up between the Doctor and Amy; I think they aren't, Becca thinks they are. I guess we'll see. I do like the new companion so far. It helps that she's incredibly adorable (freckle-faced gingers rule!), but I like her willingness to embrace the weirdness. I always give extra points to companions who get over shock quickly. I also liked introducing Amy as a 7 year-old and having her meet the Doctor that way. I felt like it established the Doctor as a sort of authority, someone older, very quickly. For me, it dispelled fears of a romance, since this new Doctor is so alien that he's almost casually arrogant about who he is, what he does, and how late that can make him. It also does a lot for audience members worried about taking such a young actor so seriously as the Doctor.
Bottom line: I'm thrilled to start another ride on the Doctor Who train. Matt Smith has my confidence. And I love the new design of the TARDIS.