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:


Tricky Dicky, Part 4: Of Performity

Just a reminder: I recently guested (again) on the Oi! Spaceman podcast to talk about ‘Caves of Androzani’. Download here.


What makes an English king ‘bad’? It certainly isn’t starting wars, brutally oppressing peasants and vassals, invading places, or killing and exploiting lots of people. If it were, most of them would be seen as bad, and Edward III (who basically started the Hundred Years War) and Richard I (crusader) wouldn’t have the perennially good reputations they still enjoy. Generally we seem to decide a king is bad if he lost something. We - by which I of course mean 'someone somewhere' - seem to have decided that John, Edward II, Richard II and Richard III were the 'bad' kings.  Losers all.  John lost a lot of France, and a lot of his power to his barons, an event marked by Magna Carta. Edward II lost to Robert Bruce at Bannockburn, thus losing control of Scotland, and then lost control of his kingdom to his wife and Roger Mortimer, Earl of March. Richard II was challenged by the peasants’ revolt, and ousted from power twice by his barons, being finally deposed by Henry Bolingbroke, Earl of Lancaster. Richard III ...

Shabcast 17 - It's So Stimulating Being Your Hat

As promised, hot on the heels of Shabcast 16, here's Shabcast 17 ... hopefully making up for our regrettably Shabcast-free February.

As also promised, this episode festures special guest Shana Wolstein of the Oi! Spaceman podcastOi! Spaceman is the best Doctor Who podcast I'm not directly financially linked to... though I am the podcast's official boyfriend (which is not something I ever expected to say). 

Back on the subject of Shabcasts, this episode is plenty-minutes of Shana and I chatting about two of her favourite films (and mine) the 80s Jim Henson fantasy masterpieces The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth.

Also, if you didn't catch it, remember to check out Shabcast 16 from last week, in which Kevin Burns (of Pex Lives) and I spend plenty-minutes attacking The Matrix trilogy... amusingly, I hope.

On that subject: I now slightly regret the timing of that last Shabcast, for obvious reasons.  But I hope it's obvious that disliking some of Lilly Wachowski's films doesn't mean Kevin or I have anything but best wishes for her personally.

Podlings of the world, unite!


Shabcast 16 - Do White Saviours Dream of Electric Sheeple?

I'm planning to make up for the lack of any Shabcasts in February by providing loads in March, and here's the first. 

This time I'm joined by the amazing Mayor Kevin Burns - my favourite US politician, and one half of the Pex Lives team - to talk about the Matrix movies.  For some reason.

I wanted to hear him indulge his hate, you see.  I went in intending to sortakindamaybe half-play the role of 'good cop' (at least with regards the first film) but that didn't last long.

Please enjoy our show, in which we analyse (i.e. pillory) the three films, review the old 'do movies cause violence?' debate, complain about the Hollywood CGI singularity, ponder the unfortunate obsessions and attitudes of the late 90s-early 2000s, and look back with sadness and shame on our wasted youths.

Download here

Next time I'll be joined by the wonderful Shana of the Oi! Spaceman podcast, to talk about some good films, the 80s Jim Henson fantasy masterpieces The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth.


Minnesota Biblical

Spoilers. And, more broadly, the assumption you’ve seen it.


In ‘Kafka and his Precursors’, Borges lists texts and writers which, as the title suggests, he sees as foreshadowing Kafka. It is strange that he omits Dickens, whom Kafka admired, and whose Circumlocution Office - in Little Dorrit - is surely a direct influence. The Coen Brothers could do justice to the Circumlocution Office, as indeed they could do justice to the absurd bureaucracy which tyrannizes Joseph K in The Trial, the bizarre events and grotesque characters encountered by young Karl Roßmann in Amerika, and the rural Zeno’s Paradox experienced by K. in The Castle (Zeno’s Paradox is one of the precursors Borges adumbrates). Indeed, in A Serious Man (2009), the Coens seem to take some affectual and stylistic cues from Kafka.

Borges also remarks:

If I am not mistaken, the heterogeneous pieces I have enumerated resemble Kafka; if I am not mistaken, not all of them resemble each other. This second fact is more significant. In each of these texts we find Kafka's idiosyncrasy to a greater or lesser degree, but if Kafka had never written a line, we would not perceive this quality; in other words, it ...

Say what you like about the zombie apocalypse, at least you don’t have to go to work on Monday morning

There are fucking zombies everywhere these days. There are so many fucking zombies around these days that there are things complaining about how many fucking zombies there are around these days everywhere these days. There are so many things complaining about how many fucking zombies there are around these days that we’re on the verge of crossing a kind of things-complaining-about-how-many-fucking-zombies-there-are-around-these-days event horizon, whereupon all the things-complaining-about-how-many-fucking-zombies-there-are-around-these-days will collapse in upon themselves and be crushed to a things-complaining-about-how-many-fucking-zombies-there-are-around-these-days singularity. Or something. Whereupon there will suddenly not be many things-complaining-about-how-many-fucking-zombies-there-are-around-these-days. Or many fucking zombies, for that matter. No more than usual, anyways. No more than before the recession, which is the event which caused the already insane proliferation of zombies to escalate to a kind of meta-proliferation. The zombies will die down. Back to their original, natural level of presence and prominence. The only thing you can be sure of is that The Guardian’s arts/culture opinion writers will notice and announce it as an exciting new development (which they alone have noticed through their unique powers of penetration) exactly three years and eight months after the very last member of the category known as ‘Everyone Else’ already got ...

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 ...

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