The Shabogans are the invisible underclass on Gallifrey. The plebs. The nobodies. The skivvies. They're not the posh drop-outs. They're not the soup-making rustics. They're the unseen guttersnipes trapped inside the Capitol. They always leave the room just before you enter it. They're the vandals who shoot stasers at the Seal of Rassilon. And maybe, sometimes, they do more than that. Maybe they riot. Maybe they erect barricades. Maybe they throw stones. Maybe they daub things like "GALLIFREY WILL NEVER BE HAPPY UNTIL THE LAST CASTELLAN HAS BEEN HANGED WITH THE GUTS OF THE LAST CARDINAL" on the walls of the Time Toilets. Because if there is hope, it lies in the Shabogans.
I'm Jack Graham. Gothic Marxist. Advocate of the struggle in terms of the strange. Shakespearean villain. Doctor Who fan. Less an organic intellectual than a one-man morbid symptom.
And I did this:
1. Chickens, Eggs, Context
Remember the Bird Sanctuary in ‘The Three Doctors’? Makes me think of eggs and chickens. The solution to that riddle is that neither came first because both emerged dialectically, as the negations of previous forms, through the transformation of quantity into quality. The incremental changes of evolution. Just as the chick is the negation of the egg, so they are one. Just as the egg/chick unity is the negation of older forms, so they are one with older forms, part of a sequence. Evolution is the natural Dialectic in action. Every form is transitional.
Dialectical materialism is one way of saying 'Marxism', but there is also the Dialectic of Hegel. Marx gets the dialectic from Hegel but, famously, he has to turn it upside down in order to set it on its feet. Marx makes the dialectic material. The dialectic of Hegel is thoroughly, even perversely, ideal. (To clarify, 'ideal' or 'idealist' in the philosophical sense, in the sense of meaning something like 'the realm of ideas or thoughts, or at least of 'the immaterial'.)
Tell you what, let’s try to explain this in terms of ‘The Three Doctors’.
For some ...
The BBC's Moscow Correspondent, Steve Rosenberg, recently tweeted this:
Now, despite the air of handbag-clutching sanctimony, I agree with the implied criticism here. If true, it's wicked that Russian kids are having their history censored. However, the other implication - that 'we' would never censor history for 'our' kids - is trickier to agree with. Media Lens promptly responded to Rosenberg with: "Try reading a British or US kids' history book on the Vietnam war (for example)".
I myself, monomaniac that I am, was instantly reminded of 'Victory of the Daleks', in which Winston Churchill is presented to the kiddies as the Doctor's bezzie mate; a naughty, fallible, but essentially heroic fighter against evil. Nothing in that episode about, say, the Bengal famine, or the Black and Tans in Ireland, or the conspiracy to unseat Mossadegh, or the pointless firebombing of Dresden. Sticking with Russia, Churchill was the leading British politician behind Allied 'intervention' (i.e. aiding the counter-revolutionary Whites) against the Bolsheviks in the Russian Civil War... a war that (arguably) indirectly helped bring Stalin to power. You might well argue that there is no place for such things in an episode of Doctor Who. You could be ...
On 'The Ark in Space'.
"And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons." - Genesis, 3:7, KJV
"...a bee puts to shame many an architect in the construction of her cells. But what distinguishes the worst architect from the best of bees is this, that the architect raises his structure in imagination before he erects it in reality." - Karl Marx, Capital, Vol.1
"I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae [parasitic wasps] with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars..." - Charles Darwin, letter to Asa Gray, 22nd May 1860
As I've said before, I think SF is fundamentally the reiteration of mythology in the idioms of modernity, particularly the age of science and technology brought in by the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution and their legacies. Christian stories of creation and apocalypse are probably the most important mythological narratives reiterated by SF because the genre originated in the West, and is fundamentally concerned with the implications of the modern epoch which began in Western Europe. But there's more ...
Join Jack (i.e. me) and my buddy, actor Elliot Chapman (Big Finish's new Ben Jackson, and recent Pex Lives guest), for our very belated Hallowe'en Shabcast, in which we chat Dracula.
Elliot's company have recently performed Liz Lochhead's acclaimed theatrical version of Bram Stoker's novel, and we use that as a subject in itself and as a springboard for a wider discussion... during which I think I can safely say that we touch upon every single piece of Dracula-related media ever created, and thoroughly cover each and every one of them.
You should know: this is the first Shabcast to experiment with a new process... Glorious Immersive Scenariosoundarama™.
Please download here. And listen at night, in a large room lit only by candles.
Cheers me dears.
or 'Young Men Are Dying For It'
or 'Don't Mention the Chasms'
When I complain about the ideological message of this or that text, am I not tacitly admitting that Mary Whitehouse had a point? After all, isn't the worry ultimately about the effect it will have?
We know that cultural artifacts influence people enormously. Moreover, most of us (and I definitely include myself in this) get most of our most deeply embedded ideas and assumptions about the world from fictional media rather than non-fiction. The News has a great influence on our ideas about the world… but, as Aristotle said, Tragedy is a great deal more philosophical than History because History treats of what happened whereas Tragedy treats of the kinds of things that happen, or that we think happen. Fiction is largely about representing our ideas about how people work and act in our society, about how they function in the world, and make the world, and interact with it. It is inherently social because to partake of fiction is to interact with all sorts of other people and social processes, and to take away from fiction an understanding of the world which then changes our ...
The recent Zygon two-parter (which I shall, from now on, refer to as ‘The Zygon Inv’ for convenience’s sake) by Peter Harness and Steven Moffat was an extremely well-crafted piece of television in almost every respect. Aesthetic considerations aside, it was a politically committed piece of drama which engaged with vital and loaded current issues. In many ways, it answered a call that I have repeatedly made in recent years for Doctor Who to re-engage with social and political issues, and to position the Doctor as a social actor in struggles. Moreover, it was clearly and unambiguously intended as a liberal statement of tolerance and opposition to war – a surprisingly forthright one, given the current political climate, and the current predicament of the BBC, surrounded on all sides by reactionary hounds baying for its blood.
In many ways, this story shoots for picking up the baton dropped by Malcolm Hulke long ago. Malcolm Hulke was, of course, only the most open and conscious of the many Doctor Who writers to infuse their stories with liberal politics. Yes, I said liberal. In his writing, he reveals himself to be a liberal rather than a communist. Only in ‘The War Games ...
I was there at the birth,
Out of the cloudburst,
The head of the tempest.
Murder of calm.
- Kate Bush, ‘Little Earth’
Let’s, for now, posit a classical Hegelian dialectical triad. And let’s take the pig as the first point of our triad: the thesis. And let’s - as per Phil’s suggestion - take cancer as another point of the same triad: the antithesis. What would be the synthesis?
It’s worth making a short digression actually, on the issue of whether or not cancer and pigs are antithetical. In one sense, obviously not. Pigs get cancer. Pigs are used in cancer research. Eating bacon - even a tiny bit, once - will definitely give you cancer, as research has recently proved.
David Cameron is a cancer eating away at the heart of our society, and he once had intimate relations with a pig… and yet it’s hard to say that those relations, for all their intimacy, were not antithetical. After all, the pig in question was dead, and had presumably been killed and decapitated so that it could be brought to table for the members (ahem) of the Piers Gaveston society. There can hardly be any more ...
William Shakespeare lived at the end of the reign of Elizabeth I and the start of the reign of James I (and VI of Scotland). This was a time when modernity was coming into being. Feudalism was crumbling and fading, and the capitalist epoch was in the process of being born. That’s why we call his time the Early Modern Period (another name for the Renaissance, basically). Modernity is essentially another way of saying capitalism, from its beginnings as a predominant social system onward. (We won’t here argue about whether we currently live in post-modernity.)
Shakespeare lived and died in an era of what Marx refers to as ‘primitive accumulation’. This was the process whereby feudal property was appropriated, broken up and turned into capital.
The basis of the feudal system was land, owned by lords, farmed by peasants who were tied to the land, generally not allowed to leave (which is why it’s such a clever joke when, in ‘The Androids of Tara’, the fourth Doctor responds to Zadek’s observation “You don’t look like a peasant” with “Well of course not, I’ve travelled”). The peasants farmed and produced their own subsistence directly. For ...