Viewing posts tagged 80s

Red Kangs Are Best

I very much enjoyed the latest episode of the Pex Lives? Podcast, which looks at 'Paradise Towers'.  During it, Kevin and James' guest Jane (of achairforjane? and many fascinating comments - and an amazing guest post on Lost - at Phil Sandifer's blog) suggests a Marxist reading of the story in which the Rezzies are the consumerist bourgeois who ascend a few levels via the system which later consumes them.  Totally valid and satisfying reading.  (And I'm grateful for the lovely shout-out, as always.)

I think, however, that it illuminates a certain interesting ambiguity about what constitutes a  'Marxist reading' or a 'Marxist analysis'.  I know Jane and the Pex Lives boys already know this, so this isn't in any way meant as a criticism of any of them, but I think a 'Marxist analysis' would really have to constitute more than finding some way in which aspects of the narrative function as an allegory of some aspect of the class struggle.  I hold my hands up: that's often what I do here, and it doesn't really cut the mustard.

To do that is to bring Marxist categories to a text, but still to treat ...

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 ...

7

The Doctor has refused Enlightenment.  Turlough is nonchalantly (rather too nonchalantly) picking at his fingernails when the White Guardian offers him a share.

"It's a diamond," he says, staring at the massive, glowing crystal, "The size!  It could buy a galaxy. I can have that?"

The White Guardian tells him he can.

"I would point out," interjects the Black Guardian, "that under the terms of our agreement, it is mine... unless, of course, you wish to surrender something else in its place. The Doctor is in your debt for his life. Give me the Doctor, and you can have this," he indicates the crystal, "the TARDIS, whatever you wish."

Turlough is evidently extremely tempted.  He has to struggle with himself.  When he shoves it towards the Black Guardian, it couldn't be more obvious that he is angry and disappointed with the choice he feels have has to make.

"Here," he shouts petulantly, burying his face, "take it!"

Even so, he does make that choice.

The Black Guardian bursts into flames and vanishes, gurgling and screaming.

"Light destroys the dark," comments the White Guardian.  "I think you will find your contract terminated," he tells ...

21

Earl plays a C on his harmonica.  It starts a sympathetic resonance in the pipes that stretch under and through the regime on Terra Alpha, like the arteries in a body.  What flows in these arteries is sugarly gloop, the outpourings of the Kandy Kitchen.  It fills the regime with the glucose it needs to survive.  And the regime uses it to kill dissidents or refuseniks or men wearing pink triangles, drowning them in sweetness.  Earl's note causes the encrusted, crystallised, fossilised sugar coating the insides of the pipes to crack and fall.  Tonnes of the stuff falls on top of Fifi, Helen A's savage attack dog and beloved pet.  She sent it into the pipes to kill the Doctor and the Pipe People, the surviving aboriginals on her colony.

"Happiness will prevail," says the artificially fruity voice on the colony tannoy system, "Factory guards are joining forces with the drones to destroy the Nevani sugar beet plant here in sector six. We will keep broadcasting."

This is a revolution.  The killjoys are marching and demonstrating, and having their own melancholy parties in subversion of the rules.  The factories ...

29

Midge walks into the Gym.  You get the sense that it's not the sort of place the old Midge would've visited.  The old Midge would've been scared of the self-defence crowd.

The new Midge is all swagger, in his shades and his shiny jacket.

"Waiting on the Sarge?" he asks the room full of silent, watching, bemused, singlet-and-sweatpants-wearing blokes.  "He's been held up. He asked me to have a little chat with you."

This is a lie.

"I learned a secret today. The secret of success. Thought I'd share it with you."

Midge has been learning all sorts of things.  He's been quarry in a quarry, hunted through a rocky wilderness on another world, stalked by carnivorous beasts.  He chose to survive at all costs.  He killed... not just to survive but for fun, for revenge, for a feeling of power that - one senses - is entirely new to him, a new experience in a stunted and powerless dead-end life.  Of course, in the process, he adopted the viewpoint of the beasts.  The logic of tooth and claw.  The logic of 'fuck you, I'm all ...

Apocalypse Below (or The Tractate Face-Off)

From Panic Moon, July 2011.  Edited, and with new material in a seprate coda.


This is the end
Beautiful friend
This is the end
My only friend, the end
Of our elaborate plans, the end
Of everything that stands, the end


At first, 'Frontios' seems like the odd one out amongst Christopher H. Bidmead’s Doctor Who scripts. Unlike 'Logopolis' and 'Castrovalva', it’s overtly political and doesn’t seem to be powered by any underlying scientific concept. Also, it has monsters in it.

Bidmead included monsters – reluctantly – at the insistence of John Nathan-Turner.  On reflection, this seems a dodgy call. Monsters from Bidmead were always going to be too concept-heavy to realise properly on screen. Sure enough, he comes up with giant woodlice that can disguise themselves as rocks until they unexpectedly uncurl… which was never gonna look good on the day.

Apparently finding the macabre more fascinating than he expected, Bidmead also included alien machines made with bits of corpses. This was very tuned in to the then-current turn towards biomechanics and ‘body horror’ in the fantasy genre, but it proved too horrific for Doctor Who to attempt on screen (though it livens up the novelisation ...

Private Ownership of the Means of Inhumation

or 

Sex, Death and Rock 'n' Roll - Part 2

(Part 1 can be found here.)


Some disjointed observations about 'Revelation of the Daleks'; fragments of a larger and uncompleted essay that's been in the draft drawer for ages... just so that I can say I've served up more this month than an off-the-cuff whinge about how much I hated P.E. lessons.


Hang the D.J.

He skulks in his private studio. He almost prefigures RTD’s quasi-fan characters. He’s a geek, a dweeby enthusiast. He sits alone, watches TV, greets a visitor very shyly and comes alive when given a chance to enthuse about his pet obsession: the old style D.J.s and music of America. When he learns that Peri is really American, he reacts like… well, like a Who fan meeting Nicola Bryant. You get the feeling that he might ask for her autograph. He’s almost a parody of the nerdacious loner. He has little or no direct contact with any of the other characters. Apart from Peri, he’s only ever seen with Jobel – and they don’t speak to each other. One gets the sense of someone asocial and ...

Beyond Redemption

I think there is something inherently dodgy about the notion of 'redemptive readings'.  It seems to imply a determination to look at a text in a positive way that is at odds with what could be called 'proper scepticism'.  This objection is itself open to the objection that it's silly to approach a piece of entertainment product with 'scepticism', especially when it is part of a series of which one is supposedly a fan.  But, this loses sight of context and agency.  There are various ways of choosing to watch the same thing.  When you sit down to enjoy an episode of a show you like, for fun, you're a bit odd if you're not expecting, hoping and trying to like it.  When you're watching it with the express intention of analysing it and then writing about what it means, proper scepticism becomes appropriate.  Trying to like what you're watching becomes a somewhat iffy strategy in that context.  Besides, doesn't the necessity of trying to find ways of praising what you're analysing tell us something in itself?  This muddle also loses sight of the distinctions that are always to be found within ...

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