This week I'm joined by Deb Stanish of the Verity! podcast and Mad Norwegian's delightful anthology Chicks Unravel Time to talk about the stunning mess that is Kerblam! Because obviously she's just your go-to person for things with exclamation points in them.
As noted last time, through its strategy - deliberate or not - of eloquent silence, 'Demons of the Punjab' almost says that Partition represents the British in India killing millions. It establishes that the British are the ones drawing lines and then running away. Later, the Thijarians say “Millions will die.” The episode aligns the parts of a statement... but never quite joins them up.
In a way this is fair enough, since the statement it never quite makes is both true and an oversimplification. Like many simple truths, it is one important part of a complex reality. It is true that the British authorities didn’t mean to cause the horrors of Partition, didn’t themselves take part in the atrocities, and didn’t foresee them. It is true that most of the violence was committed by Indians attacking other Indians. It is true that there has been - both before and after Partition - plenty of violence between Hindus, Muslims, and the other ethnicities in India. It is true that intractable political arguments and gameplay between the Indian parties - mainly Congress and the Muslim League - helped stymie British attempts to avoid Partition. It is true that the Muslims had real ...
Here's Part 2 (well, part "2c") of Ben Knaak's Alternate Histories project exploring how to model a materialist conception of history through video games. Be sure to follow along on his blog and YouTube Channel!
It is on its face absurd that the crisis over the Panama Canal Company could by itself lead to the largest and bloodiest war the world had ever known. That the two-headed monster of Boulanger and Déroulède would make their usual hash of things was no surprise. That the Panama Scandals would bring about the peaceful downfall of a government which, after regaining Alsace-Lorraine, had no further reason to exist, might have been predicted. That the departure of the pro-British Boulangists, combined with the refusal of the Colombian parliament to approve the sale of the canal concession to Britain, would pit France against her traditional enemy is perhaps understandable. The American invocation of the Monroe Doctrine is practically reflexive. But without recourse to other causes, Britain's insistence on backing the cause of Panamanian separatism to the point of worldwide destruction makes absolutely no sense.
Back in my TARDIS Eruditorum post on The Caretaker, I mused on what Gareth Roberts might have written if he’d been allowed to write Doctor Who that reflected his politics of English middle class supremacism as opposed to being constantly pigeonholed into writing comedy romps, suggesting this would have been preferable and interesting. With Kerblam! we finally test that, and the results are as fascinating and infuriating as you’d expect.
On one level, this is the biggest political fuckup of an episode in recent memory. I mean, it’s a satire of Amazon that comes down firmly on the side of Amazon. It’s consciously pitched as a critique of labor activists in favor of exploitative corporations—one that is overtly hostile to younger generations and that treats concerns about the effects of automation on individual workers as contemptuous. It is overtly in favor of of corporations that aggressively micromanage workers’ exploitation in favor of efficiency, of bullying and abusive bosses, and of automated systems that kill people to make a point. It’s like the Cartmel and Davies eras as rewritten by Nick Land.
The thing is, that’s actually a hell of a pitch. And the first part of it is key—this episode ...
The historian Yasmin Khan, who wrote a book about the Partition of India that Vinay Patel, the writer of ‘Demons of the Punjab’, has tweeted about having read as research, wrote that the Partition is “a history layered with absence and silences”.
Yes, her name is Yasmin Khan.
What does that mean? Does it mean anything? We must simply add this to the list of questions ‘Demons of the Punjab’ raises, or almost raises, and then remains silent about.
‘Demons of the Punjab’ is an episode haunted by silences. Pregnant, eloquent silences. I don’t know if this is deliberate, in the sense of being a conscious strategy on the part of the people who made it. Whether this matters is itself a question to consider.
The first pregnant, eloquent silence comes very near the start, when the elderly Umbreen remarks that she was “the first Muslim woman to work in a textile mill in South Yorkshire”. This follows her remark, itself news to Yaz, that she was the first woman married in Pakistan. Umbreen has been very silent for a long time.
Contrary to myth and apologia, India before the British came was a wealthy, thriving country. According ...
We here at Eruditorum Press are unrepentant SJWs, and so we care about diversity. Accordingly, we decided it wouldn't do to have an entirely homogenous lineup of podcast guests, and so have made a token diversity hire this week to bring you an actual cishet male to comment on Doctor Who. We would like to assure you that Jack was hired with no consideration whatsoever to his merits, and his entire existence is simply an act of crass virtue signalling.
Here's Part 2 (well, part "2b") of Ben Knaak's Alternate Histories project exploring how to model a materialist conception of history through video games. Be sure to follow along on his blog and YouTube Channel!
In most 4X games in which the player controls a nation, that nation's identity, attributes, and associated play style remain static and constant. Rather than a contingent cultural and political reality that arises from particular circumstances, the nation is an eternal reality. It will often have a set of statistical bonuses or accompanying debuffs, or a unique unit or building it can construct once the correct technology has been researched, simply by virtue of being itself. The nation exists at the beginning of the game, and barring conquest by another nation it will exist at the end. Every player who chooses "America" begins history with the founding of Washington in the year 4000 B.C. Where did these people come from? Are they white? Patawomeck? Who is this Washington they named their settlement after? It's not important; welcome to the United Neolithic States.
This works fine ...
In any previous season, this would have been a minor gem; in this context, it feels like a cool drink of water in the desert. After five episodes that repeatedly struggled at the task of being about things where the one that seemed to know what it was doing had its own deep problems, here we get an episode of admirable clarity and focus that deftly balances the broad historical and intimate personal scales. There’s nothing save for the agonizingly overdue engagement with India that makes the story extraordinary, but there’s also a refreshing lack of any significant flaws, and all in all this feels like the most developed idea of what Doctor Who should be in 2018 that we’ve had to date.
Let’s start with the politics. There are obvious fallings short; the clangingly bad line about the Doctor forwarding Prem’s complaints on to Mountbatten next time she sees him being the worst. And more broadly, there’s a milquetoast tendency throughout to place responsibility for the violence of partition on the masses instead of on the British empire, which finds itself blamed more for the carelessness of partition than for the exploitation that preceded it. None of this was ...