The Lost

There’s something grimly and hilariously inevitable about Class ending with the Weeping Angels. I mean, it’s not as though “The Weeping Angels try to invade Earth” is a particularly gripping premise in and of itself, but after a fourth episode of the Shadow Kin it’s more than slightly galling to see the show offer such a straightforwardly superior alternative, as though it wants to remind us one more time on the way out that this could have been a much more interesting show than it was.

Instead we get yet another case of the show being pretty good with a clear attitude of “will this do?” to it. The big bad returns. There are some carefully selected secondary character deaths - enough to flag “it’s the season finale and things are serious,” not enough to actually require that we grapple with it on a level other than having Ram or Tanya shout “my dad”/”my mom” in suitably distraught tones a few times. The trigger on the MacGuffin gets pulled, revelations are made about next season, and we end with a cliffhanger instead of a narrative resolution.

It’s not that there aren’t good bits. On the whole I quite ...

Build High for Happiness 2: High Rise (1975)

ecological analysis of the absolute or relative character of fissures

As the precise center of the hypercube, Ballard’s novel is even more tightly bound into 1975 than the Wheatley-Jump film. Lacking the externalizing vantage point of futurity, Ballard cannot look at what the brutalist tower blocks became, and is forced instead to extrapolate out from what they are. Which is, of course, Ballard’s basic job description. He’s a science fiction writer by trade. His first four novels imagined apocalyptic scenarios, starting with The Wind From Nowhere, in which the world is destroyed by constant hurricane-force winds, and subsequently The Drowned World, The Burning World, and The Crystal World, which feature flood, drought, and weird crystalline growths appearing on everything. But starting with his alarmingly experimental 1970 novel The Atrocity Exhibition, a series of reveries in which human bodies, mediated culture, and material carnage of the 1960s blend together into one of the most unsettling psychic landscapes of the 1970s (no mean feat given the decade), his career took a different track.

This resulted in a series of three books of which High-Rise was the culmination. These novels were still science fiction, but of an unusual sort in which there are ...

Close but no Cigar

“And that’s what he’s been like for forty-five years.  Fantastic!  Speeches that go on for four, five, six, seven hours...  I wonder if when he gets to 90 he’ll stop and say ‘But that’s enough about me… let’s talk about you’.” - Mark Steel, 2001

 

So, as you might have heard, Fidel Castro died.  Aged 90.  Ruler of Cuba since the revolution of 1959, which he led, and which unseated Batista.  Something something survived x many US Presidents something something Che Guevara something something Bay of Pigs something something...

...aaaaaand at this point we would normally go into a recitation of certain obvious points.  Different points depending on the political orientation of the writer, his publication, etc.

For the Right, we would recapitulate that Castro was a dictator, that there is little democracy in Cuba, that it’s a one-party system, that post-revolution Cuba has a dismal human rights record, that dissidents are persecuted, that political prisoners are often ill-treated, that the regime cruelly persecuted LGBT people, etc.

Unusually for the Right, this is all true. They generally don’t have to lie about Cuba.  They would if they had to, but they generally don’t need to.  Not about the basics ...

Myriad Universes: Hearts and Minds Part 3: Into The Abyss

Rom finds an obviously distressed Quark in his quarters, who inquires if his brother has consulted Odo. Though he doesn't understand what's going on, Rom answers in the affirmative, and that Odo told him to have Quark meet him at Docking Pylon C. As Quark leaves, he tells Rom to tell anyone who asks about him that he's “gone on vacation”. At the aforementioned rendezvous point, Quark fills Odo in on the situation involving Maura, namely how she threatened to kill him if he didn't sell her the bar. Odo agrees to check it out, but advises the Ferengi to do something he didn't entirely want: Sell Maura Quark's Bar.

In the Siskos' quarters, Jake arises early and tells his father he's worried because everyone around him is convinced the Klingons and the Cardassians will go to war. Ben says “When people believe that strongly in a thing, it makes it that much more likely it will happen” and Jake agrees, saying that's what he's told all his friends. But apparently, they're not listening. Jake hastens to add that he knows his dad is doing everything he can, but Ben ...

Eruditorum Press Books Make Great Christmas Presents

It's not still Black Friday or Cyber Monday or any shit like that, right? OK, good.

So, first of all, thanks everyone for funding us through eight Class reviews on Patreon. They've been fun, they've been infuriating, it's always nice to write adjacent to Doctor Who againI'll keep the $300 threshold for a Return of Doctor Mysterio review, and expect S10 to be in the same general range, maybe a little higher because I can probably get away with it. Still cheaper than making me go episode by episode through the Chibnall era might end up being.

Second of all, I did want to politely direct your attention to a few things that might be of interest during the holiday shopping season. Supporting independent leftist media is a revolutionary act, donchaknow. First of all there's Josh Marsfelder's Vaka Rangi, A briliant critical history of Star Trek that anyone who enjoyed TARDIS Eruditorum will get a kick out of. For the smart Star Trek fan in your life. Or because you want him to be in a good mood when I try to get him to podcast about Star Trek: Discovery next ...

Pex Lives 37: The Mind Robber

We're pleased to announce a new episode of Pex Lives - one that's actually about Doctor Who at that. (You remember Doctor Who, right? It's that show about hope that doesn't air in years like 2016.) Specifically, it's about The Mind Robber, i.e. the twelfth greatest Doctor Who story ever. There's also discussion about Fidel Castro, America's inexorable slide into a dystopian hellscape, and childhood mindscapes.

You can listen to that here.

The Metaphysical Engine, or What Quill Did

So we follow an episode that evokes The Edge of Destruction with one that evokes The Keys of Marinus. This goes about how you’d expect. It’s not that this is an episode devoid of interesting moments. And indeed, as I guessed it might be last week, it’s unusually light on genre cliches to hold the whole thing together. The problem is that it’s also lacking, in a forty-five minute framework, any space to allow the barrage of concepts to breathe and register. The result is that a series of reasonably clever ideas of the sort that previous episodes were painfully lacking in just sort of flash by without particularly registering. Which turns out to be far worse than the previous problem the show was having. 

Let’s start with the biggest and most staggering problem in this regard: Quill angrily and furiously confronting the god she doesn’t believe in. This is possibly the best moment of drama of the entire series. Conceptually, it’s the equal of anything Moffat has ever done. And Ballon’s response to her, even if it is lightly ripped off from that Joan Osborne song, is also phenomenal stuff. But it’s wasted in a scene towards the ...

Build High For Happiness 1: High Rise (2015)

a technique of rapid passage through varied ambiences

High-Rise is an arch film, its thematic building blocks routinely presented explicitly in dialogue. In an early and particularly gleeful instance Tom Hiddleston lectures, “as you can see, the facial mask simply slips off the skull” while literally stripping the flesh off a cadaver’s skull, a statement of theme and demonstration of method all in one. This is, of course, a Ballard thing; the assimilation of his characteristically declarative style into a cinematic language for which it is not an entirely natural fit.

A second example, from when Hiddleston’s character, Robert Laing, is first meeting the High-Rise’s architect Anthony Royal (a name contrasting with the similarly symbolic Richard Wilder, the film’s primary working class character): looking at a blueprint of the building, he proclaims, “it looks like the unconscious diagram of some kind of psychic event.” It’s as Ballardian a sentiment as has ever been expressed, and indeed a more or less direct quote from the novel. As with the casual declaration of the thin line between society and barbarism, this is a statement of both theme and method - in this case a restatement of the basic and underlying premise of ...

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