Monday, May 06, 2013
Cult-TV Theme Watch: The Diary
A diary or journal is a record of one’s own experiences, travels, and adventures. Such chronicles are usually arranged by date, and personal in manner of expression.
In cult-television history, the diary has appeared frequently as a mode of guiding viewers through the complexities of a story.
The most famous “diary” is likely Captain Kirk’s spoken diary or Captain’s Log in Star Trek (1966 – 1969), which relates in detail the voyages of the starship Enterprise. The device of a voice-over captain’s diary was later repeated in all ensuing franchise series, from The Next Generation (1987 – 1994) and Deep Space Nine (1993 – 1999) up through Voyager (1995 – 2001) and Enterprise (2001 – 2005).
Later, Glen Larson’s Battlestar Galactica (1978 – 1979) featured a variation of the Captain’s Log, with Commander Adama (Lorne Grenee) recording his own journal via a microphone, a journal which the viewer would then see the computer transcribing into written format. The same device was utilized in Galactica: 1980.
In the far-flung universe of Farscape (1999 – 2004) there is no captain to speak of aboard the living ship Moya in the Uncharted Territories, but human John Crichton (Ben Browder) frequently records his thoughts and experiences for benefit of his father, back on Earth, with whom he hopes to be reunited one day.
Sometimes diaries are used in sci-fi TV for other purposes beyond recording the lead character’s adventures.
In the Land of the Lost (1974 – 1977) episode “Follow that Dinosaur,” the Marshalls discover the lost diary of a Revolutionary War soldier who once became lost in Altrusia. The family follows his footsteps and journal entries in hopes of finding a way out of the deadly land. In an unexpectedly grim resolution, the Marshalls find the last pages of the diary along with the soldier’s corpse in a small Sleestak cave.
In Twin Peaks (1990 – 1991), the Diary of Laura Palmer plays a crucial role in resolving the series’ central mystery: her brutal murder. Through the (sensational…) details of the diary, we learn of Laura’s behavior, lovers, friends, and even enemies. And all these entries provide crucial leads as Agent Cooper probes into a world of secrets and lies.
As its title suggests, The Vampire Diaries (2009 - ) involves a diary of a sort, and in some episodes of the CW series, we are privy to Stefan Salvatore’s (Paul Wesley) journal of his century-plus as a creature of the night.
In Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997 – 2003), Dawn kept a diary in Season Five, when nobody knew who she was, precisely, or how she had (mystically) joined the Summers family.
And in Veronica Mars (2004 – 2007), Meg Manning’s (Alona Tol) diary proved a critical plot point in several second season episodes.
The series Grimm (2011 - ) involves a detective, Nick (David Giuntoli) who must frequently consult his ancestors’ journals to fight the monster of the week, known as “Wessen.”
Finally, in the new Doctor Who (2005 - ), the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) willingly became an amnesiac human school professor in “Human Nature’ to avoid aliens who were hunting him. Without his Time Lord memories intact, the Doctor often wrote fanciful tales of his “other life” in a Journal of Impossible Things. Later -- in the 21st century -- his journal was published.