Viewing posts tagged macra terror

Happy Workers

From the January 2012 issue of Panic Moon.  Slightly expanded.


Some people say that 'The Macra Terror' is about holiday camps, but I think there’s more to it than that. The Colony is obsessed with work. It organises communal entertainment, but this seems to consist of revues about how great it is to be worker. The aim is to make people “happy to work”. These people are not on holiday.

The surveillance and brainwashing suggests totalitarianism, but the area where Barney provides makeovers looks less like Russia and more like a health spa or a salon on a Western high street. Polly is told she’ll win a competition that sounds like Miss World (which the U.S.S.R. disdained until 1989). The Pilot sits at a desk attended by a secretary, looking like a sitcom businessman. Ola’s guards look like the kind of American or British riot police who were, by this time, often being seen on the news, clashing with demonstrators.



.The key to understanding this strange tale is the fact that, by 1967, a lot of people saw tyranny on both sides of the iron curtain. In the 60s, Western society was largely ...

Skulltopus 12: Come Out onto the Balcony and Wave a Tentacle

Okay, first a quick (well... relatively quick) recap and a few clarifications... because we've come a long way. And then onto some hot Zygon action.


The Story So Far...

If only 'Pirates of the Caribbean II' had looked this good.
According to China Miéville, the tentacular monster was introduced to Western SF/Horror literature in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by the loose style/affect/trend known as 'the Weird'.  Lovecraft, Hodgson, Machen, etc.  They used various new forms of the monstrous, especially tentacles, as a 'novum', unfreighted with previously accreted meanings and associations, which could express something of the unprecedented, inexplicable, inexpressible catastrophic horror that was engulfing modernity with the onrush of world war, mechanised imperialism and endemic economic crisis.  (There were a couple of important pre-eruptions of the tentacular and Weirdish courtesy of SF pioneer H.G. Wells and 'ghost story' writer M.R. James.)  Mieville says that the Weird represents a way of trying to express anxieties that is alternate and incompatible with the gothic.  The gothic - or hauntological - is an expression of something we already know which has been hidden (or repressed) and which haunts us, threatening to return.  The Weird is what we ...

Skulltopus 6: Macra Revisited

According to China Miéville, the classic, early 20th century haute Weird of Lovecraft and Hodgson is the nebulous, meaningless, reactionary scream of incomprehension that greets the onrushing horror of modernity.

I think that, for 70s Doctor Who, a resurrected and processed form of the Weird is what the show draws upon when it finds itself haunted by repressed knowledge that it cannot face: the knowledge that the modern nightmares upon which it dwells are generated by capitalism.  When the themes of a 70s Doctor Who story suggest the possibility that capitalism could be noticed and indicted in systemic terms - particularly in terms of the exploitation of the worker, race and/or imperialism - the show tries to jettison the hauntological (realising that it is itself being haunted... nay, stalked) in favour of the Weird.

I intend to justify these outrageous claims in a forthcoming post.

In my last post - here - I casually asserted that the Weirdish ab-crabs in 'The Macra Terror' are a "prelude" to the connection the show will make in the 70s between the tentacle and capitalism.  It occurs to me that I need to expand a bit on my Skulltopus post about the Macra - here - in order ...

Panic on the Streets of London...

The January 2012 issue of the extremely good, fetchingly illustrated, conveniently pocket-sized and infeasibly cheap print fanzine Panic Moon will be released soon and is now available for pre-order. Click here.


This month the Editor has taken the existence of the publication very much into his hands and granted me even more space than usual.  I have no less than three pieces in this forthcoming issue, looking at 'The Macra Terror', 'The War Games' and 'Invasion of the Dinosaurs'.

I see all these stories as milestones in Doctor Who's engagement with the radical movements and ideas of the 60s.  'The Macra Terror' is a much-misunderstood starting point which came just before the protest movements peaked, 'The War Games' a subversive high point which came just after the ferment of 1968 and 'Invasion of the Dinosaurs' marks the ambivalence and disillusion brought by the subsequent downturn in struggle.

There's loads of other stuff in the fanzine besides me, so don't be put off.

Skulltopus 3: Yes, We Have No Macra

If any monster in the history of Who was ever a gothic, hauntological thing embodying the 'return of the repressed', it was the Macra.

All the ostentatious happiness of the Colony is there to cover unease.  They know there’s something wrong, otherwise why deny it so desperately?  Why would the Colony go to such lengths to contain and silence Medok unless he was speaking the unspeakable truth that everybody else wants to deny?  The Macra haunt the Colony, scuttling around at night, hiding in the shadows, unseen then glimpsed and then disappearing.  They haunt the people, who all know about them (even down to having a name for them) but claim to disbelieve in them.  They represent repressed knowledge that is insisting upon being remembered.  This is pure gothic.

But... they’re also a bit Weird, in the sense of the ‘Weird fiction’ of early 20th century horror (something I've discussed in previous Skulltopus posts).  William Hope Hodgson, one of the greatest Weird writers, used giant crabs a lot in his peculiar and deeply unsettling maritime tales.  As previous noted, the author China Miéville has written that the ...

Abide With Me 2.0

This is an edited and partly-rewritten version of something I posted at the old site.



In a world in which 99% of all TV is 99% predictable 99% of the time, ‘Gridlock’ seems like an impertinent rejoinder to everything else on the screen, as though the Doctor Who production team are blowing contemptuous raspberries at the people who churn out all the beige wallpaper that constitutes most modern telly. ‘Gridlock' hammers every bit of mass-produced, by-the-numbers, formulaic drama that clogs up the channels. Then, just for good measure, it laughingly refuses to play by the rules of Doctor Who, old or new.

There is no invasion and no tyranny to topple; there are no corridors and no captures (well, there’s one… sort of) and no escapes; there are no fascist guards, no rebels, no evil masterminds; there is no ticking time-bomb, no race against time, no evil plot for the Doctor to foil. Other writers might have made the story about the Doctor trying to stop everyone dying because of the BLISS patches. In ‘Gridlock’, RTD has the Doctor arrive when this is all over and almost everyone is long dead. Imagine what ‘The Ark in Space’ would’ve ...

Troughtonite Revisionism

I reposted my Hartnell stuff from Timelash II pretty much as it originally appeared. I've rejigged the following Troughton stuff a fair bit, however, so you'd better read it all over again very carefully, in case you miss a syllable of my searing insight and sage wisdom.


'The Underwater Menace'

I could easily tear this story to pieces, yes? And feed the pieces to my pet octopus, yes??? But this story has sense of humour! I too have sense of humour!!!! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha haaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!

Look, if you think this story is any more silly than any other Doctor Who story... well, it isn't.

Look at the amount of thought that went into the costumes and sets. Polly spends a lot of the story with a detail from a doric column on her head! Look at the detail in which Atlantean society is depicted. There's a throne room, a temple, a lab, a hospital, a market... there are priests and acolytes, beggers and traders, slaves and workers, guards and orderlies... there are intimations of popular dislike for the forces of the state... Look at the variations in the personalities. Look at the ...

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