Viewing posts tagged 60s

Catching Them at Their Best

The Pex Lives boys have done a supplemental podcast about the Star Trek movies.  Got me thinking about why I like Star Trek IV so much.  I decided to try writing something about it, since anything that even vaguely twitches my interest is worth grabbing hold of at the moment, what with my blogging mojo being critically ill and lying, sobbing and wailing, in a deep dark pit.

I don't like the movie because it's 'tongue-in-cheek' or because I have any sort of ideological attachment to the idea that SF in general (or Trek in particular) should be 'self-aware' or anything like that.  I like it because it is, essentially, a movie about a bunch of old relics from the 60s wandering around Regan's America and disapproving of it heartily.

This is not a deep movie.  It isn't hard to parse.  No great leaps of interpretation are needed.  Just look at what happens.

In order to survive in 80s San Franciso, Kirk must sell his beloved spectacles, a gift from Bones.  He, a man who - as we learn from this film - comes from a culture without money, must commodify ...

1

What can I do but cheat?

Three moments, not in chronological order.


1

Barbara Wright is in a junkyard.  She walks into a Police Box.  She's in a large, brightly lit control room.

This can happen on screen because of the cut.  The material conditions of TV production, manifested as a splicing together of two recorded moments into the appearance of one fluid event, makes this possible.  We have "discovered television".  We can put huge buildings inside small boxes.  We can put Narnia inside the wardrobe; Wonderland inside the rabbit hole.  The quintessential trait of British fantastic literature for kids - the eccentric relationship of impossible spaces - can be made visual.

Doctor Who's very nature as storytelling is utterly bound up with the limits of the material conditions of television production.  So much so that living on that limit became its raison d'etre.  Its development has always been inextricably connected with what can materially be done, and how it is done.  And what it has done has always developed what it wants to be able to do next.  As I've said elsewhere, 'The Space Museum' pushes ...

23

"You see Vicki?" says Tor, "Not only does the reply have to be true, it has to be the correct answer as well."

To the Moroks, 'truth' and 'the correct answer' are the same thing.  And 'correct' means 'official', 'integrated', 'obedient'.

"Do you understand that all questions are to be fully answered?" asks the computer, "What is your rank? What is your name? Do you have the Governor's permission to approach? Have you a requisition signed by the Governor? What is its reference number?"

'Truth' is defined as the correct answer to all these questions, the correct integration into the imperial system, the correct official position.  Legality is what power says it is.  And only the state, and its functionaries, have the legitimate right to use violence.

"Withdrawal requisition numbers are fed in from headquarters. It has to tally with the number given," explains Tor.

Systems of oppression run on tallying numbers.

Vicki's response is to rip the front off the machine and start mucking around in its arcane guts.

She reprograms it; forces it to redefine words according to her insurrectionary imperatives.

"What is your name?" it asks.

"Vicki."

"For what purpose are the ...

The Obligatory Returned-Episodes Post

Hurrah, etc.

As Lawrence Miles says, there's no point trying act all cool at a time like this.  It's great news and I'm very happy about it.  Sincerely.  You'd have to be a miserablist of a more perverse and determined stamp than I not to be as pleased as punch.

Of course, I could whinge about some things.

And will.

This blog has a USP after all.

I could, for instance, mention the way Nigeria - where the episodes were found - has suddenly swung briefly onto the mental radars of people who, until a few days ago, probably had only a dim idea that it existed at all.  It's ironic because, at more or less the time when those missing episodes were made, the Wilson government was helping the corrupt Nigerian military dictatorship crush Biafra.  Britain continued arming the junta for years, despite government denials.  The regime was engaged in a longstanding war against the Ogoni people - one of the forgotten persecuted peoples in the world.  Shell's exploitation of oil reserves in their region has had untold environmental and human costs, making the Niger Delta one of the ...

The Cut

On 'The Space Museum'


Recently, while tracking some hits this blog received, I discovered a new Doctor Who podcast called Pex Lives.  It's great stuff, well worth listening to... and I'm not just saying that because the guys who make it - Kevin Burns and James Murphy - kindly linked to me and mentioned me in one of the episodes.  Their third and latest podcast is just out, and centres upon 'The Krotons'.  Their second podcast is about 'The Space Museum' and they delve into the piece with lots of wit (in both senses of the word) alongside anarchism, Tolstoy, progress and political change.  Not many Who podcasts touch on stuff like this.  My favourite quote: "we're both ambivalent about violent revolution".  (For the record, so am I.)   It also helps that they both have likeable voices.  Kevin sounds like Terry Gilliam (i.e. he has one of those American voices that sounds as though it is filtered through a permanent grin of enthusiasm) and James sounds like a gigantic, sentient, wryly raised eyebrow that has somehow gained the ability to talk with the voice of a hip-hop DJ.  Even ...

The Worm That Cloned

'Airlock' is quite a find, as it turns out.  There are some very interesting, unexpected things in it.  Not least, an honest-to-goodness flashback sequence (in dumbshow apart from a voiceover), filmed in first-person POV!  This is the sort of stylistic flourish that old-fashioned Who usually didn't bother with.  It ain't Kubrick, but it's unusually ambitious by the standards of the time.  Also, Stephanie Bidmead - a Shakespearean actress - plays Maaga in a far more physically expressive way than the audios might lead one to believe.  She delivers great swathes of her dialogue - which is ostensibly directed to her fellow Drahvins - direct to the audience, staring into the camera.  Nothing like that was seen (apart from Tom's occasional bouts) until Morgus... and even that was an accident.




Of course, charming and fascinating as it is, the story remains hopeless.  The Drahvins are a near-perfect illustration of mainstream 60s attitudes towards 'the woman question'.  Contemptuous, we-know-better-dear, patronising smugness at the sheer unworkable, extremist silliness of 'women's lib'.

The race of evil alien feminists are marked out from other baddies of the era by their towering stupidity and shambolic incompetence ...

Unhappy Soldiers (The 1917 Zone - Part 2)

On 'The War Games'. From the January 2012 issue of Panic Moon.


The last Doctor Who story of the 1960s is the high point of the show’s attempts to engage with the radicalism of that era. It was made just as the worldwide protests against the Vietnam war reached a crescendo. It’s been called an ‘anti-war’ story, but this is wrong. It’s an anti-imperialist story and, up until the last episodes, it supports revolution.

Pacifism is not advocated. Carstairs uses his pistol to protect the Ambulance and the Doctor never bats an eyelid. The Resistance kill guards all over the place. The Doctor’s aim for much of the story is to raise an army to fight the aliens. 'The War Games' supports revolutionary violence.

The violence that 'The War Games' condemns is that of imperialism. The aim of the aliens is conquest. That’s all that lies beneath everything that goes on in their War Zones. Meanwhile, ‘Butcher’ Smythe and von Weich amuse themselves playing Risk with human lives. It goes beyond noticing that top brass can be callous. The British and German commanding officers have more in common with each other than with their men ...

Happy Workers

From the January 2012 issue of Panic Moon.  Slightly expanded.


Some people say that 'The Macra Terror' is about holiday camps, but I think there’s more to it than that. The Colony is obsessed with work. It organises communal entertainment, but this seems to consist of revues about how great it is to be worker. The aim is to make people “happy to work”. These people are not on holiday.

The surveillance and brainwashing suggests totalitarianism, but the area where Barney provides makeovers looks less like Russia and more like a health spa or a salon on a Western high street. Polly is told she’ll win a competition that sounds like Miss World (which the U.S.S.R. disdained until 1989). The Pilot sits at a desk attended by a secretary, looking like a sitcom businessman. Ola’s guards look like the kind of American or British riot police who were, by this time, often being seen on the news, clashing with demonstrators.



.The key to understanding this strange tale is the fact that, by 1967, a lot of people saw tyranny on both sides of the iron curtain. In the 60s, Western society was largely ...

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