Viewing posts tagged Doctor Who

Epics and Monsters

Parts of the below were developed in conversation with Niki Haringsma, whose Black Archive on 'Love & Monsters' is forthcoming, and who was recently heard in conversation with El.  Again, I alone am to blame for the faults of what follows.

 

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So, contrary to those who feel it's become 'too PC' (a misprision that is interesting by itself), Doctor Who these days looks increasingly like it is taking a reactionary turn - albeit one of a complex kind - as it seems to drift from being an "accidental critique of milquetoast liberalism" (as Kit Power put it) into an outright accomodation with the systems it has found itself unable to effectively struggle against.  This makes Chibnall's show, in its own way, a mirror to Moffat's, which was also deeply concerned with the limits of resistance to systems.  

This is a space for analysing the political attitude found in the content.  But there is also reason to look at what the form tells us, what it assumes, what it permits, etc.  As we've already talked about elsewhere, the form and content are actually inextricable.

Let's take a detour into Brechtian 'Epic Theatre'.    

Brecht’s theatre ...

Empires and Metaphors

As noted last time, through its strategy - deliberate or not - of eloquent silence, 'Demons of the Punjab' almost says that Partition represents the British in India killing millions.  It establishes that the British are the ones drawing lines and then running away.  Later, the Thijarians say “Millions will die.” The episode aligns the parts of a statement... but never quite joins them up.

In a way this is fair enough, since the statement it never quite makes is both true and an oversimplification. Like many simple truths, it is one important part of a complex reality.   It is true that the British authorities didn’t mean to cause the horrors of Partition, didn’t themselves take part in the atrocities, and didn’t foresee them. It is true that most of the violence was committed by Indians attacking other Indians.  It is true that there has been - both before and after Partition - plenty of violence between Hindus, Muslims, and the other ethnicities in India.  It is true that intractable political arguments and gameplay between the Indian parties - mainly Congress and the Muslim League - helped stymie British attempts to avoid Partition.  It is true that the Muslims had real ...

Demons and Silences

The historian Yasmin Khan, who wrote a book about the Partition of India that Vinay Patel, the writer of ‘Demons of the Punjab’, has tweeted about having read as research, wrote that the Partition is “a history layered with absence and silences”.

Yes, her name is Yasmin Khan.   

What does that mean?  Does it mean anything?  We must simply add this to the list of questions ‘Demons of the Punjab’ raises, or almost raises, and then remains silent about. 

‘Demons of the Punjab’ is an episode haunted by silences.  Pregnant, eloquent silences. I don’t know if this is deliberate, in the sense of being a conscious strategy on the part of the people who made it.  Whether this matters is itself a question to consider.

The first pregnant, eloquent silence comes very near the start, when the elderly Umbreen remarks that she was “the first Muslim woman to work in a textile mill in South Yorkshire”.  This follows her remark, itself news to Yaz, that she was the first woman married in Pakistan. Umbreen has been very silent for a long time.

Contrary to myth and apologia, India before the British came was a wealthy, thriving country.  According ...

Fragile Talons, Part 2: Colonies in Space

"There has never been a document of culture, which is not simultaneously one of barbarism. Not even Doctor Who."

- Walter Benjamin,On the Concept of History’ (quoted from memory)

 

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Where was I?

Oh yeah, it’s unfair to pick on ‘Talons of Weng-Chiang’ for being racist because all Doctor Who is racist.

So what do I mean by that?

Well, I don’t just mean that there are lots of stories in Doctor Who that contain implicit or explicit racist ideas, representations, or implications … though it does, and it might be worth going through some of them.

There’s ‘An Unearthly Child’, for instance, which associates ‘tribal’ life with brutishness and savagery, and suggests that tribal people need to be taught concepts like friendship and cooperation by enlightened Western liberals from technologically advanced societies… as if, historically, enlightened Western liberals from technologically advanced societies haven’t been the ones slaughtering tribal peoples.  Native peoples, by the way, know what friendship and cooperation are. Sometimes better than us. And we are talking about native peoples in ‘Unearthly’. Because of Europeans’ historic encounters with native peoples as European imperialism and colonialism spread across the globe, we’ve come to associate the notion of ...

Fragile Talons, Part 1: Of Its Time

Thanks to the various people who looked over this and made suggestions, especially Holly.  The mistakes are, of course, mine alone.

This post was originally going to have the alternative title ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to Doctor Who Fans About Race’ but Andrew Rilstone got there before me, damn his eyes.  Seriously, go read Andrew’s post because it’s excellent.  Amongst other things, he looks directly at the arguments put forward in Marcus Hearn’s Doctor Who Magazine editorial.  Which is, of course, what started this.

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We live in a strange world.  I’m being told, on the one hand, that Jeremy Corbyn, the most consistently and committedly anti-racist MP in the Commons, is an antisemite, and, on the other, that ‘Talons of Weng-Chiang’, a story in which a Fu Manchu style villain - played by a white actor in rubber ‘yellowface’ - abducts white women with the help of a Tong of “opium sodden” Chinese cultists working out of Limehouse, isn’t racist.  You just know, don’t you, that some professional Doctor Who hacks are convinced that Corbyn, if elected, would institute Britain’s very own reenactment of the Final Solution, but will also quibble with you over whether or not Julius Silverstein ...

Pandorica Opens Commentary

Hello everyone.  This week it's audio time.  Again.

Firstly, here's a commentary I recorded with our esteemed site editor on 'The Pandorica Opens'. Yes, we finally did it.

We had a lot of fun recording this, and I'm sure you'll enjoy listening to it.

If things go according to plan, our commentary on 'The Big Bang' will be dropping next week. In true Moffatian tradition, our resolution to our own cliffhanger will entail a narrative substitution.

Then I'll be back to my ruminations on Ron Paul, the Austrian School, Murray Rothbard, libertarianism, and the alt-Right.  People who give me as little as a dollar a month on Patreon can get instant and exclusive advance access to the next five posts in this series.  Also, I will be finishing my trilogy of posts about 'Last Jedi' at some point - promise.  My Patreon sponsors will probably get advance access to that as well.

In other audio news, Wrong With Authority has produced two new podcast episodes I haven't yet told you about here.

There was this commentary that Kit, Daniel, and I recorded on original Ghostbusters (a real giggle, this one ...

The Pilot Review

I’ll confess, I went into this with no small amount of pessimism. It was hard (and still is, really) to imagine Moffat crafting a better way to go out than Series Nine. Sherlock felt so utterly tired and creatively spent that it became easy to fear that Moffat was simply done. The Return of Doctor Mysterio was neither here nor there. So it was easy to assume that we were already past the peak in terms of what I wanted out of Moffat writing Doctor Who. And with the sure to be frustrating Chibnall era looming, well, my excitement’s definitely short of 100%. None of that’s changed based on The Pilot. That’s not to say I didn’t like the episode or anything. It was fun; in no way a classic, but Moffat’s season-openers generally aren’t. It’s just a sort of necessary bit of context. My initial setting here is cautious engagement.

And perhaps more to the point, that feels like the mood. I’ve been thinking about the Capaldi stretch of TARDIS Eruditorum, which I reckon will happen in 2018, Patreon willing. And obviously, there’s a Pop Between Realities on Brexit and the awful Doctor Who-less shitstorm that was 2016. I ...

The Circle in the Square (Doctor Who)

(Content note: This post references childhood sexual abuse, the objectifying male gaze, and the repression and processing of traumatic events in general.)

Given that, let’s start with something really abstract.  A symbol, and a pretty basic one as far as symbols go.  A circle, circumscribed by a square.  Simple geometry.  And the Circle in the Square is by no means a hugely important or influential symbol in Western esoterica – it’s minor enough to take some digging to uncover, and what’s uncovered isn’t exactly consistent.  Which, you know, is kind of part and parcel for abstract symbols. 

The first thing that might come to mind is a problem of geometry – “squaring the circle” refers to creating a square of the same area as a given circle, using a finite number of steps with only a compass and a straightedge.  It was eventually mathematically demonstrated to be an impossible problem, which is actually kind of delightful given the subsequent esoteric usages -- for if such fusion is technically impossible, its success is necessarily transcendent, pointing to Ascension. Anyways, in basic symbolism, the Circle represents the infinite, the cyclical, the eternal, totality and perfection.  ...

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