Viewing posts tagged 70s

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"Don't get any ambitious ideas," says Castellan Spandrell to his prisoner.

"I just wanted to check it was the same staser," says the Doctor, examing the weapon used to assassinate the President of the High Council of Time Lords. "You see that symbol at the end of the corridor?"

The Doctor indicates a huge Seal of Rassilon.

"What about it?" asks Spandrell.

"You try and hit it," says the Doctor, handing Spandrell the staser.

"That's the kind of vandalism we're always running the Shabogans in for," grumbles Spandrell.

Spandrell is, basically, the Chief of Police in the Time Lord Capitol.  As such, the Doctor is his prisoner, having been caught holding a rifle in a gallery near the spot where the President was gunned down.

We never see any Shabogans.   The reference is never explained.  It just seems to be part of a Gallifreyan policeman's job to arrest people called 'Shabogans' for vandalism.  But let's not pass over this too quickly.  There is regular crime here?  There are hooligans running around the corridors of the Capitol of the Time Lords of Gallifrey? 

Well, yes, of course.

The Time ...

Punishing Viewing

Something I wrote a while ago, somewhat rewritten.  I'm re-posting it to mark the release of 'The Mind of Evil' on DVD.  In brief, being in colour doesn't make it any better.


There is a very old idea about ‘human nature’, that we are born with certain social characteristics already implanted or programmed in our brains, usually inherited from our parents and ancestors. You will find this idea laced throughout the whole of modern Western culture. Ruffians and villains in Conan Doyle are often said to have "vile antecedents". Oliver Twist is incapable of being a pickpocket because, despite being raised in a pauper's orphanage, he is a middle class child displaced amongst the scum classes. Similarly (because J.K. Rowling is nothing if not studiedly unoriginal) Harry Potter is filled with love just like his late mum, despite being systematically emotionally and psychologically abused up to the age of 11.  I could go on at great length.

This conception of human nature (please take the quote marks as read whenever I use that phrase) is directly and inextricably linked to class, and to questions of social role, crime, etc. It is still claimed ...

Hulking Metaphors

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


There’s no ambiguity about the dinosaurs in 'Invasion of the Dinosaurs'. They’re rubbish. In other respects, however, this is a deeply ambiguous tale. The ambiguity allows the script to make some scathingly ironic political observations, but ultimately leads us to a very bleak and bitter place.

In
this story, contrasting with other scripts from the period, the eco-activists are the ‘baddies’. It’s like Malcolm Hulke, influenced by the decline of the radicalism of the 60s and early 70s, was reacting against the whole idea of changing the world. It’s possible to read the people on the (space)ship of fools as a jaundiced parody of the left: a tiny, closed-off, self-appointed vanguard who plan to “guide” others while ruthlessly policing their own internal orthodoxy. But they’re also like Daily Mail  readers, with their “pure bread”, their plaintive cries of “I sold my house!” and their TV room where they can go to tut at the modern world. The film in the Reminder Room blames protestors even as it shows them being truncheoned. Ruth seems more worried by ...

Skulltopus 12: Come Out onto the Balcony and Wave a Tentacle

Okay, first a quick (well... relatively quick) recap and a few clarifications... because we've come a long way. And then onto some hot Zygon action.


The Story So Far...

If only 'Pirates of the Caribbean II' had looked this good.
According to China Miéville, the tentacular monster was introduced to Western SF/Horror literature in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by the loose style/affect/trend known as 'the Weird'.  Lovecraft, Hodgson, Machen, etc.  They used various new forms of the monstrous, especially tentacles, as a 'novum', unfreighted with previously accreted meanings and associations, which could express something of the unprecedented, inexplicable, inexpressible catastrophic horror that was engulfing modernity with the onrush of world war, mechanised imperialism and endemic economic crisis.  (There were a couple of important pre-eruptions of the tentacular and Weirdish courtesy of SF pioneer H.G. Wells and 'ghost story' writer M.R. James.)  Mieville says that the Weird represents a way of trying to express anxieties that is alternate and incompatible with the gothic.  The gothic - or hauntological - is an expression of something we already know which has been hidden (or repressed) and which haunts us, threatening to return.  The Weird is what we ...

Skulltopus 11: Changing States

Before the Skulltopus series moves on to the Baker years (and beyond), I feel the need to settle accounts with the Pertwee era, particularly with Peladon.  Also, I need to clarify something about the way capitalism is portrayed and perceived in - and by - Doctor Who.


The maggots in 'The Green Death' are the Pertwee era's last gasp of the Weirdesque.  'Green Death' is also the last Pertwee story to properly notice capitalism.

Admittedly, there is some riffing on 'greed' in 'Invasion of the Dinosaurs'; and 'Monster of Peladon' regurgitates (in a reduced form) the political semiotics of its parent story.  However, in these stories, while class is in evidence... class struggle even!... there is no tracing it back to anything recognisable as capitalist social relations.

I'll get to this, but first I want to loop back to address something about 'Carnival of Monsters' that I should've mentioned previously: Vorg as an entrepreneur and how this relates to the society in which he finds himself.  Firstly, Inter-Minor isn't recognisably capitalist.  The latent revolution in 'Carnival' - the imminent revolt of the Functionaries that President Zarb (the panicky social democrat) is trying to placate and Kalik (the fascist ...

How Curses Work 2: This Fez is Loaded

The utility to Western imperialism of depicting Arabs with the kind of culturalist discourse of modern vs. pre-modern, secularism vs. cultish religion, democracy vs. theocracy, civilisation vs. medievalism, rationalism vs. fanaticism (translated out of code: good Westerners vs. bad Arabs) that followed in the wake of the "war on terror" is obvious.

This way of constructing Arab and/or Middle Eastern cultural identities in Western art, literature, media and ideology, is very old.

Edward Said's seminal book Orientalism outlines the way in which the West has constructed the East as an exotic, romantic, cruel, sensuous, decadent, fanatical, inscrutable Other.  (...though it is occasionally weakened - in my presumptuous and insignificant opinion - by the problems underlying Foucault's notion of 'discourse', which Said utilises.)

Jack Shaheen's book Reel Bad Arabs reveals how Hollywood has vilified and dehumanized Arabs.  Here's a great short documentary demonstrating his thesis.  It's central message may not come as a surprise to you, but it's still salutary to see the evidence collated and concentrated.





Such representations of Arabs pop up in the Doctor Who story 'Pyramids of Mars' (1975) as part of the show's tactic, at that time, of raiding the motifs ...

Cottage Industry vs. the Spectacular Tentacular Draculas

According to Miles and Wood, Barry Letts' eco views were very much influnced (as were many people's) by a text called Blueprint for Survival, co-written by Edward Goldsmith (now deceased) and published in the magazine he founded, The Ecologist, in 1972.  It was supported by many scientists and was subsequently released in book form to became a best-seller.  Miles and Wood identify it as the real-world model for Sir Charles Grover's Last Chance for Man in 'Invasion of the Dinosaurs'.  There is indeed something of Goldsmith's politics (small-c conservative; anti-industrial society) in the fictional Grover, who is simultaneously an eco-radical and an establishment elitist who wishes to turn the clock back (literally) to a kind of enlightened feudalism.  George Monbiot has described Goldsmith's politics as "a curious mixture of radical and reactionary", saying that he "has advocated the enforced separation of Tutsis and Hutus in Rwanda and Protestants and Catholics in Ulster, on the grounds that they constitute 'distinct ethnic groups' and are thus culturally incapable of co-habitation".  According to Monbiot, Goldsmith

assumes that culture is a rigid, immutable thing: that different communities can live only within the boxes nature has ...

Skulltopus 10: How Green Was My Death?

'The Green Death' is a ghost story.  Doctor Who itself may actually be best described, from one standpoint, as an anthology of ghost stories.


Okay, let's go back a bit.

Firstly, let me defend my notion about 70s Doctor Who sprouting Weird tentacles when it notices (and thus needs to evade and/or signify) capitalism.  'The Green Death' is clearly aware of capitalism and, sure enough, shows signs of Weird inflection.  (I'm aware, by the way, that I keep talking about the show as though its alive... a form of commodity fetishism that I'll address some day.)

Apart from anything else, there's a dirty great tentacle in 'The Green Death'.  It's only in it for a few seconds, during the Doctor's abortive trip to Metebelis III, but still...




As in 'Curse of Peladon', this is the tentacular riding in on past associations... however, it can't be said to work quite the same way as previous tentacles in the Pertwee era.  This tentacle is clearly not obscuring any potential thematic convergence upon the subject of capitalism, as in 'Spearhead from Space' and 'Claws of Axos'.  Nor is it standing in for implied ...

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