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:


The 1913 Zone

This is actually the third and final part of a series of posts I began in 2012… which is pushing it, even for me. Here’s Part 1, and here’s Part 2. You don’t need to read them to understand what is below. While we’re talking about belated entries… I am planning some more Tricky Dicky and (unexpectedly) more Minnesota Normal. Be patient, my darlings. I finished Forward, to the Past! didn’t I?

The two televised Doctor Who stories which depict the First World War both approach it, as it were, from an angle, rather than head-on.  In 'The War Games' (1969), we see characters who are ordinary soldiers (both British and German) who've been abducted from the front in 1914-18, brainwashed, and placed in a simulacrum of the war, where they are commanded by alien impostors masquerading as representatives of the military top brass of both sides.  'Human Nature' / 'The Family of Blood' (2007) is set in England in 1913, just before the outbreak of the war, with 'flashforwards' to No Man's Land during the coming conflict, and an epilogue set at a Remembrance Day ceremony many years afterwards.   An important secondary character ...

Forward, to the Past! - Episode III: Rebel Yell

Or ‘American History X-Wing’


Yes, it’s the third and concluding episode in my trilogy of posts about Star Wars. I’m going to be making all sorts of generalisations about ‘America’ in this post. Please bear in mind, I don’t mean them to apply to all American people. Far from it. I’m talking about mainstream historical narratives, and the culture industries, and ideology, and so on. Also, in keeping with tradition, I’ve included an unnecessary and irritating (but also rather cute, if you’re honest) teddy bear. Oh, and in twenty years time I’ll come back and reissue these posts with crappy extra passages edited in for no good reason.


Three political categories dominate the Star Wars galaxy: Republic, Empire, and Rebellion. This is the arrangement in The Force Awakens just as much as in the original trilogy. Indeed, it is the apparent impossibility of telling a Star Wars story in which the galaxy is arranged any other way which determines the inevitability that The Force Awakens will be, and has to be, a ‘structre’ (as covered in previous episodes).

Galactic politics is in a constant state of fluctuation, but the fluctuation is between these ...

Minnesota Normal

Matt Fraction posted this on Tumblr yesterday on the subject of Fargo, the 1996 Coen Brothers movie about a kidnapping in Minnesota, and the subsequent investigation by a heavily-pregnant police sheriff Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand). He (quite rightly, in my opinion) defends the film and the filmmakers from the charges of being ‘arch’ and ‘mocking’. In reaction, here are some thoughts of my own.

(If you haven’t seen Fargo, go see it, because the following piece - like Matt Fraction’s - contains spoilers. And also because it’s a really good film that everyone should see.)

Formally, the film works in the same way as an episode of Columbo, i.e. it is one of those police procedurals in which we, the audience, see every detail of the crime, and know ‘whodunnit’ before the detective, and get to watch the detective figure it out. But whereas Columbo is a classical detective in other respects - he’s near-supernaturally insightful, always one jump ahead - Marge Gunderson is hardly a detective at all. Or rather, she’s a detective in a way that is far more like real life. She’s never one jump ahead. She amasses evidence and she follows it. She ...

Forward, to the Past! - Episode II: Cuckballs

Yes, it’s the second part of the trilogy. This time, I just made some notes and gave them to Irvin Kershner to write-up for me. Of course, he’s dead… which might explain why is take is a little darker than mine.

In Star Wars, we don’t see anyone on Alderaan die. We hear Obi-Wan say that their voices cried out in terror, but we never hear those voices ourselves. The only other acknowledgement of them in the film is Leia’s remark that “we have no time for our sorrows”, but even this is in response to someone saying that they “feared the worst” when they heard about Alderaan… meaning, in effect, that the murder of billions of people made them worried in case a Princess had been killed too. Of course, the context is that they’re worried about Leia because they think she has the Death Star plans, but it’s still a startling formulation. I confess to liking Leia’s pragmatic refusal to prioritise her own feelings. She never does the ‘girly’ thing (which would of course be to break down in tears). Even so, it’s worrying that she is given the task of comforting Luke about Obi-Wan’s death so soon ...

Shabcast L15TEN

You have to wait two or three years between Star Wars movies.  And that's when a trilogy is under way.  At other times you have to wait decades.  Hopefully it won't be that long before the next bit of my even-more-exciting-than-the-films Forward, to the Past! trilogy of posts appears.  In the meantime, here's Shabcast 15, AKA Shabcast L15TEN.

This month I'm joined by my online buddy Daniel Harper of the Oi! Spaceman podcast/blog which he co-hosts/writes with his wife Shana Wolstein.  (I know you know.  Phil, James, and I have all been guests on it lately.  I'm just covering all the bases.) 

Dan and I are both Moffat-sceptics (to put it mildly) but in this episode we talk at length about a Moffat episode we both really like, the series 8 classic 'Listen'.  We make time to snark at the man too, but generally we come to praise Moffat not to bury him.

Download or listen (ho ho - pun intended!) here.

We also talk a little bit about a certain recent news event.  If you can guess which artist has unwittingly donated songs to this month's edition, you get to download the ...

Forward, to the Past! - Episode I: Back to the Future

The first part of a new Shabgraff trilogy of posts about Star Wars. Yes, yes, I’m as surprised and upset as you are. Contains spoilers for The Force Awakens.


There is a spectre haunting my local Odeon. Actually, I think a better word to describe The Force Awakens is one I’ve just invented (by serendipitous typo): ‘structre’. The Force Awakens is a structre. The spectre of a dead structure. In this case, a phantom narrative.

The new film mirrors the original movie (which I will rudely insist upon referring to as Star Wars rather than ‘A New Hope’ or ‘Episode IV’) very closely, in structure. The First Order’s attack on Jakku mirrors the Star Destroyer attacking Leia’s ship; Finn and Poe’s escape to a crash landing on a sand planet mirrors Threepio and Artoo’s escape to Tatooine. When Han is killed by Ren as Rey watches, it’s impossible not to be reminded of Luke watching Darth Vader kill Ben Kenobi. A young budding hero (and, presumably, Jedi to be) watches powerless as her newly-found but instantly-beloved older mentor is struck down, by lightsabre, by an evil dude in black. Etc. This is all ...

The Beast of the Epiphany

The comedian Richard Herring has a Christmas story he tells about a thirsty cat in a bathroom. He was sitting on the toilet and reached across to turn the bath tap on for the cat, which then lapped enthusiastically at the water. He says he found the sight hilarious, but imagines that the cat also had quite an amusing view… though, as he goes on to observe, Jesus had the funniest view, getting the combined sights of the drinking cat and the “fat, defecating man”. Because, as Christianity teaches us, Jesus is always watching.

Now, I’m not sure I agree with Herring’s interpretation of Christian doctrine. He’s similarly dodgy in his representations of most religions, in his New-Atheisty way. He tends, as such people do, to take the worst and/or silliest possible interpretations of religious ideas and then generalise them, and to essentialise the religion he’s attacking along the lines of such thick-end-of-the-wedge strawmen. However, it’s also true that a) he’s unambiguously joking, what with saying most of this stuff as part of an open project of, y’know, being funny for a living, and b) he’s deliberately using his own infantile ...

The Eruditorum Press Christmas Party Shabcast

Take time off from wading through the flooded ruins of your home and join the entire 'inner party' (as it were) of Eruditorum Press - Holly, myself, James, Jane, Kevin and Phil - for Shabcast 14, a massive festive blather-session.  (Anna was invited, but was too tired from doing little things like, y'know, fixing the site.)

Like any office Christmas 'do' there will be simmering resentments and blazing rows, the awkward office joker will embarrass everyone, somebody will get spannered and photocopy their arse (or, these days, scan it and email it to people I suppose), the boss will be unconvincingly jovial with staff who can't relax while he's around, two people will sneak off for a tryst in an empty office, and the whole thing will be interrupted by terrorists led by Alan Rickman.

It's undoubtedly the finest piece of Christmas-related media you're likely to experience in the next couple of days.

Download or listen here

And have a pleasant end of December.



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