Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Doctor is dead, long live the Doctor!

It was a glorious few seasons with David Tennant, the eminently likable Doctor Who, but all good things must come to an end.  For those who aren't familiar with the series, The Doctor is a Time Lord, a species that short of disintegration regenerates after death into an entirely new body.

The eleventh Doctor took the reins this season, and in a policy turnaround BBC America is showing the series in the US a mere two weeks behind the UK debut.  With a new Doctor, new showrunner, new companion, new sets and new opening, thing could go very right...or very wrong.

That's the reason why I'm so pleased by the two episodes so far.  They have had that magical Doctor quality, skirting the line between madcap adventure, social commentary, with a dash of science fiction wackiness for good measure.

So far the episodes have touched base with the series history, but the most fun for me has been the many nods to Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.  Douglas Adams had worked on several episodes in the series, and conversely both his Hitchhiker's series and the Dirk Gently series incorporated time travel.

In the first episode of the new season, ships hover above the Earth and are about to destroy it, but unlike the Vogon's the 2010 aliens can tap into our cellphones as well as TV and radio to broadcast their message of Doom.  At the end of the first episode, the Doctor's new lithesome companion joins him from her bedroom--and so spends the entire second episode in her nightgown, much like the hapless Arthur Dent in his bathrobe.

And oh yes, there's a whale.  In space.  I love the human imagination, always creating new variations on themes both strange and sublime.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

California Adventure

Last week my Mom flew down to Southern California for a week of fun in the sun during her Spring Break. First big stop on the list: California Adventure!

This park opened in Anaheim in 2001, so it was after I had left California for the East Coast. With the success of Disney World at sucking in visitors for a multiday experience, it was probably only a matter of time until a second park opened at the original theme park location as well. They took out the giant parking lot of my youth and replaced it with an enormous parking garage. The setup is still much nicer than at DisneyWorld, as a short walk to a tram takes you to the entrance plaza: Disneyland on your left, California Adventure on your right.

The park itself includes some of the best rides developed anywhere is Disney parks over the last decade. The Tower of Terror continues to thrill, and Soarin' is unique in concept and execution. Toy Story Mania is wonderful: at least it is if it is like the one in Pixar Studios, since the hour long line in California Adventure meant that this time we gave it a pass.

Unique to CA is the midway area. This includes some pay-to-play games (I won a Woody!) and several classic styled rides. Mickey's Fun Wheel is an enormous Ferris Wheel, but with a twist that the cars can slide in towards the center as the wheel turns. This gives it an extra excitement factor. California Screamin' looks like an old style wooden coaster, but is in fact a steel behemoth with a fast acceleration start, but completely outdoors. Very fun!
The day parade was short but fun, composed entirely of Pixar characters.  It was very easy to see characters:  one short musical show ended with three characters forming lines for meet and greets, and the plaza continually had new people buzzing in and out.

When I was last in San Francisco I had intended to go do the Boudin bakery tour and see the sourdough being made.  Too bad the day I went the tours were closed.  Fortunately, CA has it's own miniature version! Mmmm, chili in sourdough bowls!

The old Main Street Electrical Parade has now become Disney's Electrical Parade, and runs through CA every night.  Still a lot of fun seeing the thousands of lights.  Even if you don't have a ticket to Disneyland, we discovered that you can catch the fireworks show from the entrance plaza, or even the parking garage, at least if you can live without sound.

Altogether the time flew by:  this is a great place to visit, and since it's about an hour away from my place, I have a hunch I'll be visiting again soon!