Viewing posts tagged barry letts

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 ...

BBC Wales

The patronizing use of Welsh stereotypes in 'The Green Death' is evidence of the employment of centuries-old imperial condecenscion.  However, Welshness alone does not straightforwardly equal idiocy in this story.  Rather, it is the conjunction of Welshness with membership of the proletariat which produces characters who don't really have a clue what's going and need everything explained to them.

Clifford Jones and 'Nancy' (note how she doesn't need a surname) are allowed to be efficient and useful only because their Welshness (which entails them using cute provincialisms galore) is offset by their educated, middle-class boffinity and right-onitude.  Meanwhile, Jo marvels openly at her own foolishness in caring so much about the death of a "funny little Welshman" (who kept her alive).  The difference between these Welsh characters - i.e. between the ones who qualify as people and those who don't - is down to class.

The workers in this story are belittled, peripheral figures.  They are profoundly out of touch and their Welshness is but a conduit by which they can be further quaintified.  They miss the big picture, even when the hippy scientists try to explain everything to them. They side with Stevens ...

Reithian Values Meet 'The 60s'...

The old show was frequently highly reactionary but it also did better than most shows when it came to challenging establishment, bourgeois ideology and/or imperialist assumptions.

This division is the 'ethos'. Frequently reactionary but with a proportionately greater tendency to buck this trend.

The hero of the show is a white male with a professional title, a line in Edwardian clothing (which retains a formality despite veering between scruffy, dandified, bohemian, etc.) and who travels around in a symbol of the British state. The odd Jacobite aside, his companions are usually thoroughly respectable types.

So, even when he takes a moral line against exploitation, it can seem like the civilized Englishman taking it upon himself to explain ethics to the barbarians.

However, while it may be possible to characterise this as an "overall or originating ethos" (as a poster at Gallibase put it) it's one that has also been challenged from within.

At the start of the classic series, the Doctor is adamant that he cannot and must not intervene in history... including the religious practices of the Aztecs, a people destroyed by imperialism.

Then again, in that very same story, we also get a dose of condescension ...

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