Viewing posts tagged alienation

Turning the Tables

“A commodity appears at first sight an extremely obvious, trivial thing. But its analysis brings out that it is a very strange thing, abounding in metaphysical subtleties and theological niceties. So far as it is a use-value, there is nothing mysterious about it, whether we consider it from the point of view that by its properties it satisfies human needs, or that it first takes on these properties as the product of human labour. It is absolutely clear that, by his activity, man changes the forms of the materials of nature in such a way as to make them useful to him. The form of wood, for instance, is altered if a table is made out of it. Nevertheless the table continues to be wood, an ordinary sensuous thing. But as soon as it emerges as a commodity, it changes into a thing which transcends sensuousness. It not only stands with its feet on the ground, but, in relation to all other commodities, it stands on its head, and evolves out of its wooden brain grotesque ideas, far more wonderful than if it were to begin dancing of its own free will.”

- Karl Marx, Capital vol.1


Consciously or not ...

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 ...

35

Lytton and Griffiths are wandering across a quarry.  It actually is a quarry.  Something is being dug up or mined there, by slaves watched over by Cybermen.

Lytton has a device that detects Cybermen.

"There are two very close," he says.

"That's right!" shouts a very human voice from behind him.

Bates and Stratton - two escapees from the Cybermen's labour gangs - disarm and frisk Lytton and Griffiths.

Lytton has been looking for them, and they've been looking for him.

"Are they Cybermen?" asks the perplexed Griffiths.

"Almost," says Lytton, amused.

"This is what the Cybermen do to you..." sneers Bates, removing his glove and sleeve to reveal a cybernetic arm, a chilly construct of steel and pulleys.  His metal hand closes on Griffiths' fleshy one and squeezes.  Bates watched Griffiths' pain with dead eyes.

"How much of you?"

"Arms and legs."

Bates and Stratton are rejects from the Cyber-conversion process.  The Cybermen turn their rejects - the ones that cannot be entirely consumed - into labourers in their quarry.

So... the Cybermen start with the arms and legs.  The legs that give locomotion.  The arms and hands that lift and move and ...

36

The Doctor, Zoe and Jamie are brought in to see the Master of the Land of Fiction.  He has dossiers on them.  He is, as Zoe says, very well organised.

"We have to be," he says, "The running of this place requires enormous attention to detail. It's a responsible position, but very rewarding"

A 'responsible position'.  So it's a job.

"Responsible to who?" asks the Doctor.

Not to a person, says the Master, to "another power. Higher than you could begin to imagine."

A system, an inhuman hegemon.

He congratulates them on the way they handled their tests.  They have passed the job interview.

It transpires that the Master is a writer.

"Did you ever hear of the Adventures of Captain Jack Harkaway?" he asks.

"No, I can't say that I... wait a minute, a serial in a boys' magazine?"

"The Ensign!  For twenty-five years, I delivered five thousand words every week!"

"Twenty-five years, five thousand words a week..." Zoe adds it up... "that's well over half a million words!"

"That's why I was selected to work here," says the Master.  He got headhunted.

He spent his life working ...

41

Early morning in Britain.

Shop-window dummies twitch, stand up and smash their way out into the high street.  They stalk past the shop logos and brand names and adverts.  Price tags dangle from their fashionable clothes.

Their hands are not like human hands.  They're not organs of manipulation, to be used for work.  They flip open to reveal weapons.

The dummies encounter shoppers, or people waiting for the bus to work.  They gun them down.  People fall and die next to the shop fronts.

The dummies are plastic effigies of people.  Products, manufactured things, fashioned in the human image.  They alienate the human image from humans.  They were made in a factory, on a production line, by workers.  Sold to shops.  They are hostile commodities, made for a capitalist concern; made by people working for a wage, yet out of human control, invested with a life of their own, confronting people as an external, dominating, fierce, blank, gothic, inhuman power. 


The alienation of the worker in his product means not only that his labour becomes an object, an external existence, but that it exists outside him, independently ...

44

In a prison cell on Skaro, the Doctor and Jamie watch as Maxtible is paid by the Daleks for services rendered. 

"The secret you promised me!" he demands.

Maxtible is a wealthy, propertied, Victorian gentleman who thinks of everything in terms of business transactions.  His charity to Waterfield and his daughter has given him - Maxtible - proprietory rights to use them as he wishes, as servant and collateral.  His pact with the Daleks is a "partnership".  He is providing a service in return for payment.  His payment is to be a secret that he has been pursuing fanatically, at the expense of anyone who gets in his way.

"The secret of transmuted metal," confirms the Black Dalek.

A series of formulae flash up on a screen.  For all the talk of "atomic weight" and "specific gravity", the details are occult.  But the transmutation is achieved.

"Gold!" cries Maxtible, "Iron into gold!  I told you it was possible!  They've kept their promise!  It's true, it's true!  They have!"

He thinks he has completed the alchemist's project... but that project was about harnessing purity and immutability in the ...

Dreams About Unicorns

On 'The Mind Robber'.  A regurgitation of something originally buried in the middle of an old post.


1. The Review

Just one of the best things ever, this story is a gloriously trippy metafictional journey into Doctor Who's own status as a text.

'Robber' picks up the Troughton era handbook for writers, stamps on it, scrawls insulting and anarchistic slogans upon its pages, rips it up and sets fire to the pieces. There is no isolated base, no croaky computer, no catalgue of disposable characters who are laser-beamed to death, no unstable authority figure, no creeping infiltration, no standard fight sequence for Jamie, no scene where someone goes into a bonkers tirade and storms out of a control centre... instead we have a deeply trippy ride through sheer weirdness; a totally unpredictable variation of content, style and pace from episode to episode; an intelligently created elllision of symbolism and literalism; a classic surreal quest narrative drawing on Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland yet beholden to neither.

The Doctor and his friends leave their universe and enter a non-spatial, non-temporal buffer zone... and this buffer zone is a world of fiction. An empty nothingness until imagination works ...

Prometheus Underground

Warning: Triggers and Spoilers.  And waffle.


Sex & Monsters

In Prometheus, the Engineers are ancient Titans who created humanity... and, it is implied, seeded the galaxy with their DNA. There is something very noticeable about them: they are all men. Meanwhile, there is a definite vaginal look to a great many of the alien bio-weapons they created and which then subsumed them. However, I don't think its really possible to read the battle between Engineers and their bio-weapons as a battle of the sexes. The weapon creatures are also phallic and penetrative, as in previous iterations of the Alien universe. All the same, it's true that presenting the creators of life (in their own image) as exclusively dudes does imply that generative power resides in the male alone. It is enough for one Engineer to dissolve his DNA into the waters of a planet to kickstart the process that will lead to animal life (if that's how the opening scene is meant to be read). The Engineers are male but apparently sexless, capable of asexual reproduction. The deadly runaway bio-weapons, which seem hermaphroditic, look like the intrusion of sex into a male but sexless world. Sex is ...

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