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 ...

Faeces on Trump 3

Or ‘These Theses on Faeces and Fasces’


First some very important business.  There’s a new podcast in town, Wrong With Authority, created and starring myself and my friends, familiar to you all, Daniel Harper, James Murphy, and Kit Power.  It’s yet another movie podcast… but it’s also about History.  So that’s exciting then.  Specifically, it’s about movies about historical events, and how full of shit they are.  Our first episode is just out and it covers the movies Murder by Decree and From Hell (adapted from a graphic novel some of you may have heard of) and their relationship to the historical ‘Jack the Ripper’ murders.  Download our first episode here.  And please feel free to recommend and share.  We won't mind, I promise.



As you probably noticed, the word ‘fascism’ is being thrown around a lot in response to Trump and his election.  I don’t happen to think terminological issues are unimportant.  I think this issue is worth investigating.

For instance, I agree with Phil that the term ‘alt-Right’ cannot and should not be reduced to ‘neo-Nazi’.  Just to be clear (as if I haven’t made it clear where I stand): this is not ...

Myriad Universes: Hearts and Minds Part 2: On the Edge of Armageddon

There is no time to process what has just happened. No time to even be shocked about it. Not only has the dust not cleared from the explosion onboard the runabout that killed Tal Berel, but it actually hasn't even finished exploding yet before Kol immediately blames Marok for assassinating the ambassador. An indignant Marok fires back, demanding Kol explain why he feels the Cardassian Empire would have any reason to destroy a Federation runabout and murder a mediator. Kol threatens to kill Marok where he stands, to which the Cardassian diplomat basically says “bring it” before Commander Sisko intervenes, breaking up the fight and imploring the delegations to stand down until an official investigation can be launched.

But Kol is not having it, demanding Sisko and the Federation back the Klingons because of their treaty arrangements. But for his part, Marok tries to manipulate Sisko into siding with the Cardassians, claiming that the Cardassians and the Federation have always been “brothers in spirit”, and transparently threatening him with Gul Dukat's presence, claiming that he “would hate to see him get a chance to sit down in his old chair again”. Meanwhile in Quark's, it's after ...

The Genocide of the Vampires

A guest post by Noah Berlatsky, from his new book The Hammer Dracula Films: And Other Vampires. Which is great stuff that you should check out.

You can’t see a vampire in the mirror for the simple reason that the vampire is your reflection. The monsters onscreen are projections of human desires. Hammer audiences lick their fangs with Christopher Lee at all the delicious bosoms beckoning. Dracula pierces the exposed neck with a phallic oomph, just as the vampire hunter drives his rigid stake into the nubile beauty’s trembling form. Lust and blood drive both the living and undead; the population of Stephen King’s Jerusalem’s Lot is murdered by proliferating vampires, and then murdered again by the heroic vampire killers. First the vampires rage through the town like a consuming fire, and then, at the end of the book, they are themselves consumed. The same townspeople are destroyed once, then twice— as if the first time was so much fun it needed to be rewound and watched again.

In King’s Salem’s Lot (1976), the fact that the vampires are in fact, just us, is the point of the novel and its horror. King hates the people of Jerusalem’s Lot, and ...


Well that was a pleasant surprise, albeit on the whole more pleasant than surprising. It’s not quite fair to say that bottle episodes are easy to do well, because they’re very definitely not, but once you’ve got them working they tend to end up with enough momentum to pull off impressive things. “Detained” is a case in point. It doesn’t shed Class’s persistent problem of never aspiring to anything more than cliches done well, but it does at least manage to take the cliche to an interesting place that’s based firmly on what Class can do as a show.

What that is, given the singular lack of an original idea at any point so far this season, is good character work with an impressive ensemble. Which is maybe an obvious thing to say about a bottle episode - character work is what they inevitably end up hinging on. But “Detained” is a bracing reminder of just how good a cast of characters the show has. Even Matteusz and Charlie, who have generally been the weak links in the cast, get moments to shine here. The use of Matteusz as the first person to pick up the stone on one level ...

What is a Moral Person on Arrakis? (Dune)

This one has been a long time coming, I'm afraid, mostly because A) I took an extra week to get the book read, B) one recorded, I took my sweet-ass time getting the damn thing edited and C) this fucking election has taken basically all of my intellectual and creative energy over the last few weeks. Thankfully on the last, the election is now over, and all is back to something like normality, right?


Anyway, in this episode James is back and we're chatting Frank Herbert's Dune. I know there was some question about whether we'd be talking about the whole series or any of the ancillary material, but the original novel is more than enough I think for a single podcast episode. If James is up for returning to this universe in the future, we might do supplemental bits, but that's not on the agenda anytime soon. 

Go give it a listen, if you like. If nothing else, an extended chat about the Great Houses of the Landsraad and the difficulties of resource allocation should completely distract us from the shitshow that 2016 has become. Or, you know, not. 


Notes on Fascism

Or 'Faeces on Trump 2½'

Or 'Fasces on Trump'


So, a lot of people seem to be talking about fascism these days.  It's the 'next big thing' stateside, they say.  There are even some people who say it could catch on here in the UK.  So I thought I'd take a moment to have a look at it and tell you what I think.  So here goes. 

First, a disclaimer: There are many perspectives on fascism.  I've just written down mine.  I have not gone into others here which I don't agree with.  Because they're wrong, and the people who hold them WILL be punished.

Oh, and another disclaimer: Fascism shouldn’t be reified into a 'thing' that can be easily and neatly classified.  Fascism is a spectrum, not a discrete alien phenomenon.  Fascism has contained many variations which have almost as many differences from each other as they do similarities: Italian Fascism, German Nazism, Spanish Falangism, possibly even Japanese militarism (this is hotly debated and I know comparatively little about it… which is my eurocentricity showing).  Even so, certain essential common features can be delineated ...

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