‘Doctor Who’: 12 New Rules (and 4 Suggestions) for the Twelfth Doctor

This August, the “new,” revamped Doctor Who returns for its eighth series (or 34th series, if you count the entire show as a whole). Peter Capaldi took over the lead role from Matt Smith in the final moments of the last Christmas Special, and Whovians are excited to see what the man who played Lucius Caecilius Iucundus and John Frobisher will do with the role, apart from gesticulate wildly and talk about his kidneys.

Unfortunately, Doctor Who has run a bit off the rails since show runner Steven Moffat took over from Russell T. Davies in 2010. Moffat wrote all the best episodes of the RTD era; but under his tenure, let’s just say the overall storylines and plotlines have been less than satisfactory. Not terrible, mind you; but it hasn’t been the greatest era in Doctor Who history. There have been problems.

Sure, they’ve pretty much wrapped up shooting the 12 episodes that the BBC magnanimously permitted to be produced for the eighth series. But that doesn’t mean I can’t lay down some new ground rules for the show, which Moffat will be required to follow under the International Treaty for Bloggers to Have Absolute Control of the Things They Love signed in Berne, Switzerland in 1979.

Spoiler alert, by the way. Sweetie. Continue reading

The 20 Best & Worst Villains of All Time — Part 2: The Best

Now that you’ve seen the top ten worst villains, let’s check out my favorites.

Choosing just ten was agony. I’ve included a list at the bottom of my almost-rans, so don’t flame me until you check there. And my number one IS number one, no question.

Cut me out of THIS movie, I’ll break your legs!10. Francisco Scaramanga (The Man with the Golden Gun)

Let’s start off this list with a villain who’s got two great things going for him. He’s a Bond villain; and he’s played by legendary character actor Christopher Lee. (Trivia: Lee was Ian Fleming’s cousin, and J.R.R. Tolkien’s friend. Keen, huh?)

Scaramanga is the archetypical Bond villain. He’s an assassin and a hedonist, like James Bond. He has his own island with a secret base, complete with death traps and bikini girls. He’s egotistical and clever. He has a bizarre distinguishing characteristic, a third nipple; and an affectation (a golden gun with the victim’s name on the bullet). And in the movie, he has a superweapon, the Solex Agitator. He also has his midget sidekick, Tattoo Nick Nack.

Scaramanga makes the classic villain blunders, like welcoming his nemesis as a guest. (Trivia: In the novel, Bond is brainwashed by the Soviets and tries to assassinate M. Since they can’t trust Bond anymore, MI6 sends him to kill Scaramanga, the world’s deadliest assassin. They expect Bond to fail – it’s a suicide mission.) Seriously, dude, as soon as you see Bond, CAP HIM IN THE ASS. You’re an assassin, for chrissakes. Assassinate!

A side note: Scaramanga. Saruman. Count Dooku. Rasputin. Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster AND The Mummy. Lord Summerisle in The Wicker Man, Professor Stone on The Avengers — Christopher Frank Carandini Lee, CBE is the greatest villain actor who ever lived.

Do you hear that, Mr. Anderson? That is the sound of inevitability.9. Agent Smith (Matrix Trilogy)

As a sci-fi fan, there were plenty of things to dislike about The Matrix. It was derivative; none of its ideas, which blew the minds of soccer moms and middle school hessiers everywhere, were unfamiliar to anyone who had read William Gibson or Shirow Masamune. The action was ripped off from a dozen different Hong Kong martial arts films. And the lead actor had all the charisma and talent of a tube steak.

And yet, it still KICKED ASS.

Much of the credit belongs to the villain. Agent Smith starts out as just one of three (a “trinity?” Eh? Eh?) faceless Men in Black. But it’s soon clear that one of these things is not like the others. Agent Smith is more than a relentless, soulless machine. He hates. He loathes. He abhors. He yearns to destroy a world that repulses him. Because of this, he will do whatever it takes to take down the hero (Morpheus, not Neo) and his friends.

What’s more, he’s played by Hugo Weaving, whose portrayals of Agent Smith and Elrond Halfelven have made him the actor most beloved by geeks since Christopher Lee passed away. (Whaddya mean, Christopher Lee’s not dead? Didn’t being in the Star Wars prequels kill him?)

Smith is scary because he’s not robotic like a robot – he’s machine-like like a machine gun. He’s viral, unrelenting, and very angry. When Neo kills him off, it’s a great moment because relief floods over you. And when he returns in the sequel, it’s even better, because you’re glad he’s back. And back and back and back and back….

This is my weapon. I thought it was so-so but actually its not so bad. Found Yoshimi and Kuramoto dead next door, strung up all cozy. Not my scene! I’LL NEVER DIE LIKE THAT!

8. Souma Mitsuko (Battle Royale)

One brand of villain that unfortunately got the short shrift on this list is the psychopath. Hannibal Lechter, Frank Booth, Tyler Durden, Keyser Soze; everybody loves a charismatic sociopath. But when that sociopath is a sexy Japanese teenage girl, it tends to stick in your memory.

If you haven’t seen 2000’s Battle Royale, click away from this article and go Netflix it right now. It’s a disturbing film, and American distributors won’t touch it. A classroom of middle school kids is kidnapped, dropped on an island, and forced to murder each other until only one is left. Some try to cooperate to survive; others reluctantly become killers; but two revel in the opportunity to slaughter their classmates. One is Souma Mitsuko, Shiroiwa Junior High School, 9th Grade, Class B, Girl #11.

Pretty but unpopular, Mitsuko snaps — and gleefully sets off on a revenge-killing spree, slicing up other kids with a kama (a Japanese scythe). She doesn’t hesitate to pretend distress, or flirt shamelessly, to lure her victim into a false sense of security.

When the film’s other sociopath, Kazuo, kills her, one of the best shots in the movie is the astonished look on her face, quickly replaced with sadness.

There are a lot of unforgettable things in this violent, manipulative, brilliant film. But apart from the video “Big Sister,” sweet little Mitsuko is the most memorable of all.

You know my name but who are you? Just another American who saw too many movies as a child? Another orphan of a bankrupt culture who thinks he’s John Wayne? Rambo? Marshall Dillon?7. Hans Gruber (Die Hard)

He’s a former German terrorist turned thief, a literate and fashionable killer in an expensive suit. He’s smart, confident, and wily. He can fake an American accent, and deftly handle a Heckler & Koch P7. He’s Hans Gruber, the most memorable non-super-powered villain in cinema.

It’s the role that made Alan Rickman’s career; facing off against a shoeless Bruce Willis in Die Hard. The Citizen Kane of action flicks, Die Hard hit every note perfectly, including the most important – having a great villain. The best bit about Hans Gruber is his growing, comical frustration that his brilliant plan (and it is indeed a great plan) is consistently and increasingly sabotaged by one barefoot New York cop. Indeed, failure to improvise is Gruber’s downfall. All he had to do was let McClane take his wife and go.

The audience identifies with Gruber as much as it does with McClane, and there’s a small part of you that would be perversely satisfied if Gruber did blow up all the hostages and make off with the money. And that’s the best kind of villain – the sympathetic one.

I don’t know, rocket fire at long range - somehow it lacks that personal touch.6. The Master (Doctor Who)

One villainous archetype is the evil doppelganger of the hero; a person identical in almost every way, except a dark mirror, a cautionary tale about the path the hero could have taken. Indiana Jones has Rene Belloq; Luke Skywalker has Darth Vader; Sherlock Holmes has James Moriarty; and The Doctor has The Master.

Seven actors have played The Master canonically. He’s The Doctor’s enemy, and his brother; nemesis and compatriot. Driven insane as a child by staring into the Untempered Schism, The Master seeks to dominate all reality. The Doctor heals; The Master harms.

But in a strange way, they need each other. The Doctor never tries to destroy The Master, only to redeem him. The Master doesn’t really want to kill The Doctor; he needs The Doctor to witness his triumph and suffer for it, or the victory is meaningless. In the last season ender, the mortally wounded Master refuses to regenerate and save himself, knowing that sacrificing himself is the only way to hurt The Doctor. When The Doctor thinks The Master is dead (apparently he’s not), our hero weeps openly, cradling The Master’s lifeless body. He then gives The Master a hero’s funeral by pyre, identical to the one Luke Skywalker gave his father in Return of the Jedi.

The Master is an archetypal villain in other ways as well; the black Nehru jacket and goatee, the megalomania, the cavalier attitude towards life.

Also, unlike The Doctor, The Master travels through time and space in fully-functioning TARDISes. Although he has a habit of misplacing them.

I find your lack of faith disturbing.5. Darth Vader (Star Wars, original trilogy)

When I was 11 years old, Star Wars opened, and life changed forever. There was no “New Hope,” no Jabba the Hutt, the dewbacks didn’t move, and Han shot first. It was the single greatest movie in the history of the Universe, and quite possibly still is.

The next day at school, I described the film to my friends who still hadn’t seen it. The best character, I said, was the bad guy, “Dark Invader,” who fought with a sword made of light and could choke people from a distance. The first moment he appeared on the Tantive IV, striding out of the white smoke in his jet black armor and flowing cape, I was scared shitless. What the hell was that mask supposed to be? And what horror was it hiding?

Not a pasty-faced old guy or a sniveling teenager, I can assure you that.

The guy blew up entire, peace-loving planets, fer crissake. Well, Gran Moff Tarkin did, but Vader just stood there and watched!

In Return of the Jedi, I thought Vader’s conversion back to good was a bit… sudden. But I attributed that to Luke’s powers as a Jedi Master, rather than bad writing. Little did I know. I was disappointed with the final reveal of Vader’s face, but just because I wanted him to be horribly scarred and mutilated. Why did he wear that helmet all the time, just so his underlings wouldn’t know he was doughy?

I keep coming up with complaints about the original Darth Vader, but they’re affectionate taunts. He was a fantastic villain, from the costume to the voice to the mysterious past. The mysterious past that I wish had remained mysterious.

Such a shame. She was so beautiful.4. Magneto (Marvel Comics)

If comic book villains dominate my top five, it’s only because villainy is so central to the genre. In other types of fiction, the moral differences between the protagonist and antagonist can be subtle, confused, or even reversed. In comics, some Marvel and indie titles notwithstanding, it’s often a squeaky-clean hero versus an absurdly malevolent villain, each wearing outlandish outfits designed to clarify who’s good and who’s bad.

Our number-four villain has done some truly terrible things, but he’s not wholly evil. He just wants to save his ethnic group/human subspecies from slavery and annihilation. Is that so wrong?

Erik Lensherr survived the Holocaust to work side-by-side with future nemesis Charles Xavier in an Israeli hospital. Fleeing with stolen Nazi gold, Lensherr founded the supervillain group with the most direct and descriptive name ever, The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.

Magneto’s mutant power was control of magnetism, and his power level swung from awe-inspiring to godlike, depending on the writer. He was also a leader, at various times commanding the Brotherhood, The New Mutants, The X-Men, and the entire island nation of Genosha.

Magneto was always an exceptionally cool and well-written villain, from the earliest Silver Age X-Men comics through the “Classic” X-Men era in the 80s and 90s. He would probably have made this top ten anyway. But it’s Sir Ian McKellen’s portrayal of Magneto in the X-Men films that bumps the Master of Magnetism to epic villain.

McKellan’s pitch-perfect portrayals of Gandalf and Magneto have made him the actor most beloved by geeks since Vincent Price passed away. His Magneto is smart, wily, wise, angry, driven, an ideologue; and most importantly for any villain, charismatic. Patrick Stewart is also an excellent actor, Hugh Jackman is dead-on as Wolverine, and Famke Janssen is just smoking hot. But the one performance that stays with you when the movie is over is McKellen’s. Even in the suck-fest known as X-Men: The Last Stand, the scene where Magneto abandons Mystique was one of the most powerful in the series.

Kneel before Zod, son of Jor-El!3. General Zod (DC Comics)

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Superman is the dumbest superhero ever invented. Just awful. To summarize the problem: there’s nothing less interesting than a guy who can do anything. Compare Supes with the actual best superhero ever, Spider-Man, and you’ll see the difference. It’s Spidey’s limitations, not his powers, that make him so interesting.

Superman has given us a few great villains though. It was painful not to include Lex Luthor on this list. The brilliance of Luthor is that he goes up against the god-man Kal-El with absolutely no superpowers whatsoever. He’s definitely number 11 in this top ten.

The best way to give Superman an interesting villain is the guy with no powers. The only other way is the guy with exactly Superman’s powers. Enter Zod.

Dru-Zod was Military Director of the Kryptonian Space Center, until he created an army of robot duplicates and tried to take over the planet. Banished to the Phantom Zone, he later escaped and attempted to conquer the Earth and destroy Superman. As a fellow Kryptonian, he got the same superpowers from Earth’s yellow sun.

As a comic book character, General Zod was, you know, okay. At least Superman usually has to trick him to defeat him, instead of just relying on muscle. But it’s as a film character, in the otherwise disappointing Superman II, that General Zod became a classic villain.

As portrayed by the English actor Terence Stamp, Zod is arrogant and megalomaniacal, actually disappointed that his yellow-sun powers make conquering the world so effortless. His charisma and effete British charm made him far more likable and interesting than stupid ol’ Clark Kent.

It’s Stamp’s portrayal that made “Kneel before Zod” a common geek meme, and puts General Zod near the top of this list.

Curse you, Richaaaaaards!2. Doctor Doom (Marvel Comics)

Ah, beautiful Latveria. Nestled where Serbia meets Romania and Hungary, this tiny Eastern European paradise features centuries-old fairyland castles, skiing, hunting, fishing and more. And it’s ruled by the greatest supervillain the world has ever known.

Victor Von Doom was born to gypsy parents. His mother was murdered by a Satanic demon, his father hounded to his grave by the Baron of Latveria. Young Victor vowed to take his revenge upon all of humanity.

Attending college in New York with Reed Richards, Von Doom used his superior intellect to master advanced science and occult magic.

He devised an experiment to communicate with his dead mother; Richards warned him it was too dangerous. Von Doom’s face was maimed in the explosion; although some say it was only a tiny scar, magnified in Von Doom’s mind to hideous proportions by his vanity.

Fleeing to Tibet, Von Doom crafted his famous steel suit, and crafted his plans for world domination. He returned to Latveria and crowned himself king.

Von Doom is the archetypal supervillain, the way Kirk is the archetypal starship captain or Indiana Jones the archetypal adventurer. He’s brilliant, fanatical, monomaniacal, diabolical and malevolent. He’s the master of both science and magic. He rules with an iron fist, protects himself with robot duplicates, and schemes ceaselessly against his do-gooder enemies. Best of all, he perverts his diplomatic immunity as King of Latveria to shield himself from prosecution. There’s nothing like taking advantage of a “hero’s” greatest weakness, the Rules.

Of any villain who is actually a human being, Doctor Doom is the greatest of all.

Note: movies like to ruin comic book villains – Bullseye, Mr. Freeze, Dark Phoenix. The worst known case of this is the pathetic excuse for a “Doctor Doom” we get in the Fantastic Four movies. There’s just one word for this guy: FAIL.

There is no life in the Void.1. Sauron the Deceiver (Tolkien’s Legendarium)

He’s an occult villain, capable of changing shape, invading minds, bending wills, and spying over great distances. He’s a supervillain, complete with secret bases, hidden death traps, and countless fanatically-loyal henchmen. He’s a politician, the commander of vast armies, conqueror of most of the world, the greatest totalitarian dictator in history, casting a shadow over the whole of the Earth. He’s a monster, a werewolf, a creature of fire and iron. He’s immortal, a fallen angel, a god.

Sauron Gorthaur, the Dark Lord, the Black Hand, the Necromancer, Lord of Barad-dûr is the eponymous character of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Contrary to what you may have seen in a certain otherwise-excellent series of films, Sauron is not an evil lighthouse. He is a fallen god, born at the beginning of existence, servant of a much greater and darker evil. Turned to darkness and corruption, he seeks power and dominion over all the earth, and very nearly succeeds in getting it.

In the First Age, Sauron takes the form of a tremendous wolf, and leads the Armies of Angband in war against Elves and Men. He corrupts many servants, Elf and Man and Maia, to his cause – the absolute dominion of Melkor over the earth. He suffers a mild setback, however, when Melkor is defeated by the Valar and chained to the outside of the sky.

In the Second Age, Sauron makes his big comeback. With Melkor out of the picture, Sauron is free to claim the earth for his own. Seeking dominion over all races, he takes on a pleasant guise as Annatar, Lord of Gifts, and helps the hapless and witless Elves forge the Rings of Power. The scheme fails against the Elves (in the short term), but soon the Dwarves are corrupted and the Kings of Men of Middle Earth fall under his sway.

Sauron is “captured” by the Númenóreans, but it’s all part of his evil plan. He succeeds in utterly destroying Númenór, and returning to his homeland of Mordor, goes to war against the Last Alliance of Elves and Men. There Sauron suffers for his Achilles heel – he put too much of his power in the One Ring. It’s stolen from him, Sauron is weakened, and has to go into hiding for a few millennia.

In the Third Age, Sauron returns, tanned and rested. He quickly regains dominion over the Men of the East, and marshals his invincible forces against the West. There’s just the matter of one ring, “a trifle that Sauron fancies.”

No villain in fiction is as powerful, pernicious and frightening as Sauron. The Lord of the Rings is the only book I’ve ever read where, three-quarters of the way through, I genuinely believed the good guys could not possibly win. Sauron never even makes an appearance in the book, yet fear of him drips from every page. He is the greatest villain ever.

Read his blog here.

In no particular order, here are some villains who just barely missed the top ten: Lord John Whorfin, The Borg Queen, Hannibal Lecter, Jerome Facher, The Terminator, The Alien, Roy Batty, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, Khan Noonien Singh, Dark Phoenix, Edward Rooney, Lex Luthor, Keyser Soze, Sephiroth, Hank Scorpio, Galactus, Gaius Baltar, James Moriarty (both original and Star Trek), Desire, Sir William Gull and The Invisible Man.

The 20 Sexiest Sci-Fi Babes Part 2

Originally posted 11/26/06 on Furinkan High School Kendo Club.

Be sure to read part one.

Max Guevera10. Max Guevera (Dark Angel 2000-02)

I could make all kinds of inappropriate jokes about a girl with spliced-in cat DNA, but I’ll restrain myself.

I don’t have to tell you that Max, aka Government Experiment X5-452, was hot – she was played by Jessica Alba, who takes hot to a new level not possible under the standard laws of physics. (Hey, I know! Let’s cast her as Invisible Girl!) But the show was kind of centered on Max being sexy, as well as kicking ass. Sort of like a futuristic, Seattle-based Abercrombie & Fitch ad.

Maybe Max would go out with me if I could score her some tryptophan. (Wait, the tryptophan prevents her from going into heat? Never mind.)

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Lana Lang9. Lana Lang (Smallville 2001-Present)

Yeah yeah, you’re with Clark, you’re not with Clark, you’re with him, you’re not, with, not, with, not, then you find out he’s Superboy, you die, come back, and Lex gets you pregnant. It’s too much drama, Lana. Especially since he’s just gonna move to Metropolis and fall for Lois.

You’ve got that Chinese-Dutch thing working for you, Lana. You’re gorgeous. Work it. Find yourself a real human male, not some Aryan übermensch from space.

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Rose Tyler8. Rose Tyler (Doctor Who 2005-07)

One day she’s a poor London shopgirl living in a council flat with her overbearing mother and shiftless boyfriend; the next, she’s a time-traveling Universe-saving inter-galactic superheroine (and a very, very Bad Wolf). How does a girl pull it off? By batting her beautiful eyes at any Time Lord who wanders by, of course.

Rose is smart, funny, vivacious, and in love with The Doctor, although the two of them never want to admit it. And it doesn’t hurt that she’s played by Billie Piper, the British Britney Spears.

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Theora Jones7. Theora Jones (Max Headroom 1985, 1987-88)

The United Kingdom takes four of the top twenty (and an honorary fifth for Trillian? She was British in the books).

As Edison Carter’s brainy and beautiful controller/sidekick/partner/love interest, Theora Jones was guardian angel to Network XXIII’s star reporter. If you were a geek in the 1980s, then Theora Jones was your ideal woman.

As Max Headroom would say, “I-I-I-I-I-I wouldn’t kick her out of bed for eating crack-crack-crackers!”

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Kaylee Frye6. Kaylee Frye (Firefly 2002, Serenity 2005)

“Goin’ on a year now I ain’t had nothin’ twixt my nethers weren’t run on batteries!” You know, Kaywinnit Lee, if’n that tree stump of a doctor ain’t gonna help y’all out in that respect, I reckon’ I might be willing ta fill in there.

Little Kaylee is as much the heart of Serenity as the ship’s photon-reaction drive. But the plucky, homily-spouting cutie is apparently a wildcat in the sack as well. She’s the one ship’s engineer with whom I’d like to get trapped on an island. Sorry, Scotty.

Kara 5. Kara Thrace (Battlestar Galactica 2003-Present)

They said a woman couldn’t be a cigar-chompin’, bar-brawlin’, whiskey-chuggin’ hotshot Viper pilot. Well, by “they” I mean Dirk Benedict. Dirk, you have officially had your ass handed to you.

In a stellar ensemble cast, Katee Sackhoff’s Kara Thrace is first among equals. It’s not just that she’s incredibly sexy – she shares screen time with Boomer, Six and Xena the Warrior Princess. Kara kicks ass and takes names in every way the original Starbuck did – PLUS she’s clever, bitter, loving, conflicted, and secretly paints pictures. She’s neither the stereotypical kick-ass superheroine, nor the stereotypical kick-ass superheroine who is secretly fragile. She’s the kick ass superheroine who is secretly fragile, but will never let that fragility take her down. Not ever.

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Seven of Nine4. Seven of Nine (Star Trek: Voyager 1995-2001)

Who would Annika Hansen have been if she hadn’t been assimilated by The Borg at the age of six? A big fat nobody, that’s who! Well, maybe not big and fat – on a typical Federation diet, she would have been at least Jeri Ryan-hot. But she would never have been Seven of Nine-hot! There’s nothing like a skin-tight gray jumpsuit and a metal eyebrow to turn a guy’s crank.

Sure, Seven was emotionally unavailable, but that was just because of her alien upbringing. Also, if your only choices were the “men” of Voyager, you might choose chastity as well. Yikes. No wonder she only hung out with the Doctor.

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Jean Grey3. Jean Grey (X-Men films 2000-2006)

First let’s get something straight. The real Jean Grey committed suicide in The Uncanny X-Men #137 in 1980. Every issue since then with “Jean Grey” in it is a PACK OF LIES.

That said, Famke Janssen’s Jean Grey in the X-Men films is its own, separate character, and that character is amazing. Call it the superheroine who is openly, obviously, heart-breakingly fragile. You just want to run over to her and wrap your arms around her, even if it means, a la Brett “Let’s destroy the franchise” Ratner, she’ll disperse you into millions of colored CGI chunklets. If there’s another X-Men movie, let’s hope this time they do bring Jean Grey back from the dead.

Oops, that was a spoiler. If you haven’t seen Last Stand, don’t read that last sentence.

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Sharon 2. Sharon Valeri (Battlestar Galactica 2003-Present)

Grace Park plays three characters on BSG.

There’s Athena, who the producers call Sharon and fans call Caprica-Boomer. She’s Helo’s wife, and mother of the Cylon Miracle Baby. She lives on Galactica.

Then there’s the one the producers call Boomer and fans call Galactica-Boomer. She was in love with the Chief, shot Adama, and teamed up with Caprica-Six to “save” humanity. Now she lives on a base star.

Finally, there’s Number 8, which is all the other thousands of Sharons, who always call Athena a traitor.

And I am in love with all of them. Even the ones that would kill me.

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Leeloo Dallas multi-pass!1. Leeloo (The Fifth Element 1997)

The perfect woman, the Supreme Being. That’s Milla Jovovich. No, sorry, I mean Leeloo, a.k.a. Leeloo Minai Lekatariba-Laminai-Tchaii Ekbat De Sebat, a.k.a. The Fifth Element.

Is it the orange dreads? The pale blue-green eyes? The perfect body? The Gaultier outfits? The adorable accent? The martial arts? The saving the Earth from the Ultimate Evil?

Out of all the science-fiction female ass-kicking secretly-fragile alien super-powered hotties, Leeloo is the ultimate. The perfect prototype. The geek’s ideal mate. Sigh. Too bad she doesn’t exist.

Be sure to read part one.

The Best and Worst Sci-Fi TV Show Openings (Part 1)

Photos and YouTube links updated 5/7/09.

I suffer from insomnia, and you benefit. Here are my picks for 10 Best and 10 Worst Opening Credits for Genre TV Shows.

By “genre,” I mean science fiction, fantasy, and horror. I only included shows made in English. I also decided to limit myself to those credits sequences I could find online – but this turned out not to be a problem. Hooray for YouTube! Hooray for copyright violations!

I was worried that I would subconsciously rate the title sequences not on their own merit, but based on the quality of the show overall. But I ended up with one of the worst shows of all time on the “Best” list, and one of the best on the “Worst” list. And they both have the same title!

Numerical order is approximate.

The 10 Best

BSG v.110. “Battlestar Galactica” (1979)

One of the most common mistakes made by sci-fi TV openings is the “expository monologue,” with which jittery television executives try to explain the show’s premise to viewers who don’t “get” sci-fi. As I researched this list, I learned how ubiquitous this problem is. Blah blah blah.

The original BSG features a long, long, loooong expository monologue. Yeah yeah, Toltecs and Mayans, got it. But the monologue is well written, and it’s read with tremendous gravity by the brilliant Patrick Macnee, who also voiced the Imperious Leader. The theme song kicks ass. And most importantly, the edited scenes (viewed through a circle — why?) really make the show look impressive. Too bad it sucked ass.

The Greatest American Hero9. “The Greatest American Hero” (1981-83)

It’s all about the theme song, baby. Mike Post’s theme song is goofy, poppy, cheesy, and almost but not entirely unrelated to the content of the show. And once you hear it, you will NEVER get it out of your head. This credits sequence is fun, funny, and engaging, and it has no expository monologue whatsoever. That UFO, left over from one of Steven Spielberg’s garage sales, is also very cool.

Watch for snakes!8. “Mystery Science Theater 3000” (1988-1999)

“Robot roll call!” We’re only concerned with the first two credit sequences here, the original Joel Hogdson credits and the first Mike Nelson opening. After Frank Conniff left, the show jumped the shark; and once it moved to the Sci Fi Channel, well, it’s just best not to think about it. Catchy song, goofy models and puppets, and the iconic “corridor crawl” a la “Get Smart.” And the theme song doubled as the expository monologue, which was a real time saver.

Make it so.7. “Star Trek: The Next Generation” (1987-1994)

What do you get when you cross the theme from “Star Trek The Motionless Picture” with the Shakespearean monologing skills of Patrick Stewart and a clever tribute the opening of the original “Star Trek?” Um, this opening, duh. By the way, the original “Star Trek” opening was pretty weak (“whoosh! whoosh!), although nowhere near bad enough to make the “worst” list. As far as I can tell, “Space… the final frontier…” invented the expository monologue.

Like Babylon 5, but slightly less sucky.6. “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” (1993-1999)

There was nothing special about the DS9 opening until season four, about the time the show started to not completely suck. The morose theme song got a boost from a bouncy backing track, and the CG guys added a bunch of business involving spaceships, little space-suited construction workers, and the Defiant flying into the wormhole. Suddenly, Deep Space 9 became a place you might conceivably care about. Then, in season seven, they screwed the whole thing up. This award goes to seasons 4-6 only. (Special props to DS9 for dropping the “Final Frontier” speech.)

What if the bad guys had salads for heads?5. “Star Trek: Voyager” (1995-2001)

Finally, the “Star Trek” credits sequence perfected. Great theme, excellent effects. Voyager actually interacts with its surroundings, which gives the sequence more reality.

Of course, in 9 out of 10 episodes, once the opening credits ended it was all downhill from there.

This show was saved near the end by exactly two things — marginally better writing, and Jeri Ryan.

So, what's the plunger for again?4. “Doctor Who” (1963-89, 1996, 2005-present)

First let’s discuss that theme song. When some hack isn’t ruining it by trying to “update” it, Ron Grainer’s “Doctor Who” theme is spacey, dramatic and memorable. Most of the “Doctor Who” credits sequences have been mediocre or terrible (see this – Jesus Christ, did that Zardozian giant floating head just wink at me? Exterminate! Exterminate!), but two really stand out. Coincidentally, they’re the openings for the two best Doctors to date. Tom Baker’s (1974-81) was modeled after previous openings, and included the dreaded “head shot.” But the music was great, the effects were cool, and you got to see the TARDIS fly around. In the Christopher Eccleston/David Tennant credits (2005 – present), the music was great, the effects were cool, and you got to see the TARDIS fly around. And no headshot! Plus, “Doctor Who” has never burdened us with an expository monologue. Can you imagine trying to explain “Doctor Who” in 30 seconds?

D-d-d-d-d-d duh duh duh duh duh.3. “The Six Million Dollar Man” (1974-78)

The awkwardly-titled series that made Lee Majors a star had opening credits as heart-pounding and dramatic as anything on TV. Steve Austin’s whole origins story was presented in under a minute – and they didn’t tell us, they showed us. Sure, Richard Anderson (no relation to Dean) talks through the credits, but he’s in the story, trying to convince his unnamed listener that blowing $6,000,000 in 1970s dollars to turn a crippled astronaut, and the astronaut’s girlfriend and dog, into cybernetic freaks isn’t a violation of the public trust. This opening is artistic and beautifully edited; and the cheesy theme song doesn’t cut in until the last 15 seconds.

SEPT!!! 13!!!! 1999!!!!!2. “Space: 1999” (1975-77)
This is a really interesting case. Some openings, like “The X-Files” or “Farscape,” were good, but not good enough to make it onto the “Best” list. (To answer your question – “The X-Files” had a great theme, but the visuals were dorky as hell. Oh look – Mulder is falling into an eye! Spooky!) Some were bad, but not terrible enough to make the “Worst” list (see “Lost In Space”). Only “Space: 1999” almost made it onto both lists.

The great: brilliant music, heart-pounding action, real drama, and no expository monologue. The terrible: it’s overwrought to the point of silliness – “SEPT 13!!!! 1999!!!!” In the end, the good beats out the bad. BTW, we are ignoring the hideous second season opening, just as we ignore the hideous second season.

(For more Gerry Anderson goodness, check out “Thunderbirds,” which just barely missed the Best list.)

Gorram Fox Network!1. “Firefly” (2002)

Wow. Just… wow. I’m not going to ruin it with words. If you don’t get it, nothing I say can help. Burn the land and boil the sea – you can’t take the sky from me.

(And Gina Torres gets to be the only actor on both the Best and Worst lists, unless you count Richard Hatch.)

Now read… the 10 Worst!