Viewing posts tagged first world war

The 1917 Zone - Part 1: Tim Nice-But-Then and the Curse of Downton Abbey

The first in a new series of posts looking at the way Doctor Who has tackled World War One.


Looked at from a certain viewpoint, 'Human Nature' / 'The Family of Blood' makes all the right noises.  All the proper sounds issue from it when it is tapped.  It notices social hypocrisy about war, perhaps even moralising about it.  For instance, while the young boys at the school are taught how to be good little soldiers, a veteran of the Crimean war is to be found begging outside the town hall.

There is also an acknowledgement that war is unpleasant.  The boys tremble and cry when forced to actually point weapons at an approaching enemy, with even the odious Hutchinson is seemingly relieved at the realization that they've been shooting at empty scarecrows.  Joan lost her husband at Spion Kop (a battle of the Second Boer War, which would've been a British victory but for the farcical incompetence of the British generals).  The Headmaster has his speech in which he describes using his dead mates as sandbags.

There is an attempt at balance, at the dramatic demonstration of values rather than the elaboration of a didactic authorial point-of-view.  Yet ...

Skulltopus 2: Bad Night at Fang Rock

Further to this post, in which I sketched out the ideas of the author China Miéville concerning the relationship between the tentacular and the Weird, and the superpositioning of the Weird and the hauntological in monsterology (please read that before you read anything below), here's my first attempt to look at Doctor Who through that lens.

'Horror of Fang Rock' (1977) seems like an obvious first port of call.  Set just before the First World War (in other words, in the years of the rise of the semiotic octopus, just before the explosion of the Weird), the Rutan is a tentacular monster, though the tentacles are rarely seen and, on the whole, the creature seems more like a jellyfish (even down to its "affinity with electricity").


It seems to be a manifestation of the nebulous electrified military modernity that the character Reuben so resents and fears.  It seems permeated with technology through its affinity with electricity.  It uses the generator, speaks of its ability to shape-shift as a "technique" and leaves bits of its own alien tech all over the place, including a "signal modulator" that chimes thematically with all the concentration on the lighthouse's wireless telegraph ...

Historical Memory

On June 16, 1918, Eugene Victor Debs made a speech in Canton, Ohio.  He urged workers to resist the draft. 

He also said this:

Wars throughout history have been waged for conquest and plunder. In the Middle Ages when the feudal lords who inhabited the castles whose towers may still be seen along the Rhine concluded to enlarge their domains, to increase their power, their prestige and their wealth they declared war upon one another. But they themselves did not go to war any more than the modern feudal lords, the barons of Wall Street go to war. The feudal barons of the Middle Ages, the economic predecessors of the capitalists of our day, declared all wars. And their miserable serfs fought all the battles. The poor, ignorant serfs had been taught to revere their masters; to believe that when their masters declared war upon one another, it was their patriotic duty to fall upon one another and to cut one another’s throats for the profit and glory of the lords and barons who held them in contempt. And that is war in a nutshell. The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has ...

Amnesia Day

I don't wear a poppy.  Laurie Penny has written a very good article, expressing many views that I agree with, here.  I don't engage in the silence at 11 o'clock either.  I know that most ordinary people who do observe the silence and wear the poppy do so for sincere reasons.  But I myself cannot stomach it.  I think my reasons are less intellectual and more to do with the sheer, physical revulsion I feel at the hypocrisy on display in images like this:



What's the collective noun for warmongers?  A troop?  A collateral?  Well, whatever.  There they stand, doing their best sincere and sombre faces.  All guilty of sending people off to fight and kill and die and maim and be maimed in order to protect the interests of the American empire and neoliberalism's access to markets.  And wrapping it all up in the rhetoric of 'sacrifice' and 'freedom'.  The poppy, the cenotaph, the silence, the 'Ode to Remembrance'... I can't help but see it all as cynical and calculated.  As ideology.  As an attempt by a warmongering, imperialist ...

Fang Rock, Class and the Tentacular Revolution

If you ask me, 'Horror of Fang Rock' is one of the best ever; a thriller that focuses on characters who really interact while they're trapped together, featuring Tom and Louise at their acme.

It investigates the nature of belief in an age of rising science and technology: Adelaide's astrology fetish compares to the superstition of Vince and Reuben, with Vince's terror as real as hers, and Reuben's fear of monsters more a manifestation of melancholy stubbornness at the rise of unsympathetic forces he doesn't understand (like electricity... which is also the weapon of the monster that kills and impersonates him). Meanwhile, Leela lectures Adelaide that consulting her "shaman" (despite Adelaide's denial, that is the right word for people like Miss Nethercote) is a "waste of time"... but, with relishable irony, the semi-educated Leela simply believes in science because her mentor has told her to.

'Fang Rock' has a quiet undercurrent about sex too. Adelaide is understood by Harker to be Palmerdale's "fancy woman" and Skinsale obviously envies this (though god knows why)... but he's also clearly very taken with Leela. Paddy Russell gives us a whole shot simply to establish how ...

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