Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Changing that sell-by date doesn't make the milk taste any better.

Anyone remember Gilligan's Planet? Like the title might suggest, it was an animated spinoff of Gilligan's Island, where the castaways build a rocket to escape the island, only to end up marooned on another planet. Yeah, about as good as it sounds, right? Although I was a huge fan of the original (the one with the giant spider scared the living crap out of me the first time I saw it. Seriously.) I don't remember being as fond of the cartoon or even watching it more than once or twice.

There was one episode I remember pretty clearly, though: being a "seafaring man," the Skipper was missing sailing and not feeling useful, so to make him feel better the castaways build a boat--something they somehow never, ever managed before. As was typical for the series, Gilligan manages to screw things up, to the point where they wreck on an island. Gilligan tries to point out, it's kind of funny: first they were trapped on an island, then trapped on a planet, now they're trapped on an island on a planet. While the status quo would dictate they somehow at least got back to the 'mainland' of the alien planet, I don't know how the episode ends, since even as a kid I was gripped with a white-hot rage to kill Gilligan.

This episode was the first thing I thought of, when I watched the season finale of Prison Break a while back. I've mentioned it once or twice here, and for those of you who haven't watched it, it's fluff, but entertaining fluff. Still, it would seem to have it's expiration date built right into the title, wouldn't it? The first year of the show was the eponymous prison break, the next year was the characters on the run from prison, and this year starts with most of the remaining characters in a South American super-prison. I don't know about this one, but I'll give it a shot. (There's a noticeable lag, between when I write these, the time I post them, and the real time; that I'm sure you don't care about.)

That's sometimes the trouble with fictional characters in serialized fiction: occasionally and often completely by accident, the writers can hit the point that should be the logical, satisfying, and sensible ending of a particular character's arc; but because the story must go on they have to string it along some more. Who cares if it makes sense or not...
'The sooner I kick your ass, the sooner I get back to voting Republican, ditching this costume, and not giving a crap about poor people!'
Some people felt that way about Batman finding his parents' murderer, for example: that doing so would take away his motivation, and that Bruce Wayne would just walk away from the Batcave and become that useless rich playboy he pretended to be. But, other writers pointed out that Batman wouldn't quit, either because he still had to make sure what happened to him never happened to anyone else, or because he's completely messed up in the head. And since Batman's a DC character, I've read about half a dozen variations on Batman finding, or not finding, Joe Chill; who killed the Waynes, or didn't kill them, or killed them on orders from someone else. Thanks heaps, Zero Hour! (Joe Chill not killing the Waynes is still a better idea than Metallo doing it, though.)

Another prime example: Bishop, of the X-Men.

I liked Bishop better in the cartoon, since it was a little more straight-forward: in a crappy, post-apocalyptic future, he starts off as a bounty hunter of mutants, until the mutant-killing Sentinel robots decide maybe they don't need a mutant for that job anymore. On the run, Bishop meets the aged inventor Forge, who's put together a time machine to try and change the past and prevent that future from coming to be. (Which could very well prevent Bishop from even being born, but Forge seems to neglect mentioning that.)

So, Bishop comes back to the present, and stops something-or-other, and returns to what should be a better, brighter, future; only to find it just as crappy as when he left. Forge asks him what happened, and Bishop explains he did his job, but in the changed future, Forge had sent him back to fix something else. I think that happened on multiple occasions to Bishop, giving him a certain Sisyphean flavor, and I picture him back for like the 90th time, just shooting the hell out of the place, not unlike Homer in "Time and Punishment."

But the cartoons are positively streamlined, compared to the regular, comics-continuity Bishop. Originally more of a cop-type character than he was in the cartoon, Bishop also seems to be from a slightly different crappy future than previously seen in the X-Men comics. I've lost count, but the two I usually think of are Rachel Summers' Days of Futures Past, and Cable's Apocalypse-ruled far-future; Bishop's time doesn't seem to quite match either. (There's more possible X-Men futures than that in the comics, and to a one they're all not very encouraging.) Chasing a fugitive back through time, Bishop encountered the X-Men, who were legendary heroes when he was growing up, before they were wiped out by a traitor within their ranks. Bishop joined the team to save it, suspecting Gambit of being the traitor; until it was eventually revealed to be Onslaught, the evil psychic gestalt of Professor X and Magneto. (Yes, Gambit would've made more sense.)

After proving no help with his initial mission, and I think on multiple occasions since, Bishop's been sent to yet other alternate/possible/maybe future settings. And space. And he's one of the only ones to remember the Age of Apocalypse. Currently, he's filling the crucially important role of "pro-superhero registration jerkwad/Iron Man lackey" that every Marvel comic must have. To be fair, Bishop backing registration seems to make more sense than it does for a lot of other characters; since he's from a future where it's apparently already happened, he takes it as a given.

Bishop isn't one of my favorite characters, and it seems like finding the X-Traitor (whether he was wrong or not) would have been a good place to end his storyarc. And yet, Bishop remains, like a cop who came to your house to investigate a crime, ran a lot of false leads and wasn't much help, and yet somehow stayed there to live. Since the X-offices seem unwilling to write him out or kill him off, Bishop keeps getting shoehorned into new roles, like time-travelling X-Man or space X-Man or detective X-Man. Maybe Bishop will eventually find out where he belongs, but if Gilligan and Michael Scofield are any example, that's not as easy as it sounds.

Woof. This was a helluva lot of words to justify me watching TV this evening.


Heinrich7 said...

Sooo... Bishop gets caught in the bug zapper, does a Hitchcock Vertigo fall and ends up in 19--...

Cool! Sign me up!

Also, I'm sorry it took so long for them to work Beast into the movies (and even then, with great casting but limited screen time) but no Gambit? And Josh Holloway would've been perfect!

... I'm not a fanboy. Honest.

Matt said...

I think Josh Holloway would've been good as Gambit, but I think that the same rule that applied to Maggie Grace probably would've applied to him as well - take the role and we'll kill you off (something that I've always thought was funny; Maggie Grace was threatened to be killed off on LOST if she took the role of Kitty Pryde, so she turned it down; they killed off Shannon anyway).

Maybe in the next one. Since we know X-Men 3 wasn't the last one.