Viewing posts tagged evolution

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What can I do but cheat?

Three moments, not in chronological order.


1

Barbara Wright is in a junkyard.  She walks into a Police Box.  She's in a large, brightly lit control room.

This can happen on screen because of the cut.  The material conditions of TV production, manifested as a splicing together of two recorded moments into the appearance of one fluid event, makes this possible.  We have "discovered television".  We can put huge buildings inside small boxes.  We can put Narnia inside the wardrobe; Wonderland inside the rabbit hole.  The quintessential trait of British fantastic literature for kids - the eccentric relationship of impossible spaces - can be made visual.

Doctor Who's very nature as storytelling is utterly bound up with the limits of the material conditions of television production.  So much so that living on that limit became its raison d'etre.  Its development has always been inextricably connected with what can materially be done, and how it is done.  And what it has done has always developed what it wants to be able to do next.  As I've said elsewhere, 'The Space Museum' pushes ...

Out of Eden

From the October 2011 issue of Panic Moon.  As ever, lightly edited and titivated... 'cos I just can't help tinkering.


When Doctor Who talks about evolution, it doesn’t usually bother getting the facts right.  'Evolution of the Daleks', for instance, seems to think species change when genes mutate morally because of lightning bolts.  Such ideas go right back to 'The Daleks', in which the two races on Skaro have changed totally in mere “hundreds of years” of mutation, with the warrior Thals becoming natural pacifists in the process.  (Incidentally, it’s ironic that this supposedly anti-Nazi parable speaks of blonde, blue-eyed, athletic specimens as “refined” and “perfect”.)

Real evolution does involve mutations, but they’re not sudden and drastic as depicted in, to pick another example, 'The Mutants'.  Instead we’re talking about tiny replication errors in genetic code which are preserved or rejected by natural selection, leading to big changes over very long periods.  This creates staggering variety on our planet alone.  However, most aliens in the Doctor Who universe look like British actors, which (accidentally) implies that the humanoid shape is a universal pinnacle or goal of evolution.  ...

Monkey Business

On 'Ghost Light'.


Let's leave aside the aesthetic beauty of the production, with its pattern of oppositions - light and dark, day and night, madness and sanity, stone and wood, feminine and masculine, dead and alive - which alternate until they start to bleed into each other and mingle until we are left with no certainties.

Let's leave aside the willfully abstruse script; the wonderful way it is deliberately constructed as a jewelled puzzle box; something to be studied and pondered and interpreted rather than just passively enjoyed.

Let's leave aside the scrumptious bevy of literary references, sly self-referencing jokes, puns, double meanings, allusions... all of which show an intense and highly self-conscious (though not glib) awareness and playfulness with language, text, genre and storytelling tradition.  You want an example?  How about the use of the word "wicked", which - with wonderful irony - appears in both the Victorian usage and as 80s teenspeak.  It's the last word of the story - the last word spoken by the Doctor in the last-filmed story of the classic series.  And when the Doctor uses it to describe Ace, he sounds like a Victorian moralist (of times past or present ...

Things Fall Apart

Here's a round-up of my Timelash II on Season 18.  I was holding this (and some of the stuff about Seasons 19-21) back because I was going to rework it into something bigger, but that isn't happening (too much else to do), so...


The Leisure Hive

Bidmead's script tinkerings somewhat dilute the essential idea of a leisure planet in favour of wannabe-big-conceptual stuff... which is pretty dull and lumbering, if we're honest.

The planet fails to convince as a leisure resort, which kind of undercuts all the lengths they go to to stress that the whole race have become employees of a going concern. All that boardroom stuff where they discuss investments suddenly looks redundant. What's it there to contextualise?

The stylistic overhaul is huge, ambitious and largely successful. There's a new willingness to try stuff out. They're happy to go all dark and quiet during the scene where Timson is stalked by the West Lodge Foamasi. I particularly like the slow, melancholy opening.

Mind you, the seeds of the later-80s problems are already visible. The Doctor is now wearing a uniform, etc.

The politics is weird. The war was about... what ...

Anxiety Satellite

The indefatigable Mr. Oliver Wake has put together and released the latest issue of the print fanzine Panic Moon.  It can be ordered here.


It contains (amongst other things) a judicious appraisal of the 'Day of the Daleks' Special Edition, a look at the way Hartnell's shade has taken to haunting the recent series, a clever thing about the way Daleks always seem to get some new physical ability in first episodes, an interesting look at the pre-Who 60s Pathfinders serials which are now out on DVD and an excellent analysis of 'The Sun Makers' which identifies some of its roots, going beyond the usual stuff about Bob Holmes being annoyed by a tax bill.

Once again, I've contributed two articles.  In one, I identify a blind spot in the lefty-liberal creds of 'Colony in Space' and try to tease out some of implications of this, leading me to briefly consider something badly amiss with liberalism itself.  In another article, I have a good old ramble about the various ways Doctor Who has creatively misrepresented evolution, often using it was a way of re-encoding mythic themes or addressing political concerns... though there is, I ...

Gonzo Marx

Ruminations on alienation, commodity fetishism, myth, etc.  Don't mind me.


Battle for the Planet of the Apes

Human beings have always made stuff.  Broadly, that's what humans are: the apes that make stuff.  Even before Darwin, Benjamin Franklin called man "the tool-making animal", a description apparently vindicated by our discoveries about early humanity, which seem to show the rise of the 'big brain' driven by the needs of the hand.

The flint tools and decorative beads of the hunter-gatherers.  The pyramids and ziggurats of the great slave empires.  The water wheels and ploughs of medieval Europe.

But the rise of capitalism brought the factory system.  The division of labour.  Specialisation without expertise.  Organisation of time.  The creation of new kinds of cities that worked as battery farms for thousands of corralled workers.  Mass production.  Heavy industry.  Conveyor belts.  Fordism.  Mechanisation.  Computer-run facilities. 

The ape that makes things started to make things faster than ever before, in greater numbers than ever before. And the things started to confront the thingmaker as alien, autonomous, controlling, dominating.  When you have to watch a clock ...

Flat Earth Society

The greatness and uniqueness of 'Image of the Fendahl' is shown in the scene where the Doctor "explains" what's going on to Adam Colby. Of course, he doesn't actually do any such thing. He suggests two possible explanations. He favours the first but his listener is sceptical so the Doctor offers an alternative which his listener finds more plausible. The Doctor also says that it might all be a coincidence. His tone is flippant but there is no real reason to suppose that he isn't being serious. It is clear that the Doctor is theorising and that he doesn't have the final answer.

This is fascinating and, as far as I can recall, unique in classic Doctor Who.

The Doctor has often been seen to behave superficially like a scientist (mucking about with test tubes, talking about oscillators, etc.) but this is the first and only real occasion when he really acts like one (like an idealised, Baconian one, that is). The Doctor is admitting that he doesn’t know and doing his best to come up with workable explanations which fit the facts. Moreover, the person the Doctor is speaking to is a scientist who ...

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