Viewing posts tagged malcolm hulke

Hulking Metaphors

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


There’s no ambiguity about the dinosaurs in 'Invasion of the Dinosaurs'. They’re rubbish. In other respects, however, this is a deeply ambiguous tale. The ambiguity allows the script to make some scathingly ironic political observations, but ultimately leads us to a very bleak and bitter place.

In
this story, contrasting with other scripts from the period, the eco-activists are the ‘baddies’. It’s like Malcolm Hulke, influenced by the decline of the radicalism of the 60s and early 70s, was reacting against the whole idea of changing the world. It’s possible to read the people on the (space)ship of fools as a jaundiced parody of the left: a tiny, closed-off, self-appointed vanguard who plan to “guide” others while ruthlessly policing their own internal orthodoxy. But they’re also like Daily Mail  readers, with their “pure bread”, their plaintive cries of “I sold my house!” and their TV room where they can go to tut at the modern world. The film in the Reminder Room blames protestors even as it shows them being truncheoned. Ruth seems more worried by ...

Unhappy Soldiers (The 1917 Zone - Part 2)

On 'The War Games'. From the January 2012 issue of Panic Moon.


The last Doctor Who story of the 1960s is the high point of the show’s attempts to engage with the radicalism of that era. It was made just as the worldwide protests against the Vietnam war reached a crescendo. It’s been called an ‘anti-war’ story, but this is wrong. It’s an anti-imperialist story and, up until the last episodes, it supports revolution.

Pacifism is not advocated. Carstairs uses his pistol to protect the Ambulance and the Doctor never bats an eyelid. The Resistance kill guards all over the place. The Doctor’s aim for much of the story is to raise an army to fight the aliens. 'The War Games' supports revolutionary violence.

The violence that 'The War Games' condemns is that of imperialism. The aim of the aliens is conquest. That’s all that lies beneath everything that goes on in their War Zones. Meanwhile, ‘Butcher’ Smythe and von Weich amuse themselves playing Risk with human lives. It goes beyond noticing that top brass can be callous. The British and German commanding officers have more in common with each other than with their men ...

Liberty in Space

From the October 2011 issue of Panic Moon.  Very slightly edited and revised.  This piece really only scratches the surface of its topic.  Please think of it as a 'place-holder' for something longer that I haven't written yet.


"In the end, the liberals always do what the empire wants."
- Christopher Hitchens (I got the quote via this.)

No story better demonstrates the ambivalence of Doctor Who’s liberal ethos than 'Colony in Space'.  It's an anti-corporate eco-parable.  Industrial technology has destroyed Earth’s environment and so the industrialists want to get their claws into other planets.  IMC even fit claws to their mining robots.  They lie, bully and kill for profit.  Interplanetary law seems to favour such corporations, even without Time Lord supervillains impersonating Adjudicators.  Big business is thus depicted as legal gangsterism.  Strong stuff for Saturday tea-time, as you’d expect from Malcolm Hulke.

"Here comes another one looking for a lost droid...
he'll feel the edge of my gaffi-stick and no mistake!"
Thing is, 'Colony' is also a sci-fi reiteration of the frontier Western genre.  Poor settler townsfolk versus unscrupulous railroad men.  And ...

Skulltopus 11: Changing States

Before the Skulltopus series moves on to the Baker years (and beyond), I feel the need to settle accounts with the Pertwee era, particularly with Peladon.  Also, I need to clarify something about the way capitalism is portrayed and perceived in - and by - Doctor Who.


The maggots in 'The Green Death' are the Pertwee era's last gasp of the Weirdesque.  'Green Death' is also the last Pertwee story to properly notice capitalism.

Admittedly, there is some riffing on 'greed' in 'Invasion of the Dinosaurs'; and 'Monster of Peladon' regurgitates (in a reduced form) the political semiotics of its parent story.  However, in these stories, while class is in evidence... class struggle even!... there is no tracing it back to anything recognisable as capitalist social relations.

I'll get to this, but first I want to loop back to address something about 'Carnival of Monsters' that I should've mentioned previously: Vorg as an entrepreneur and how this relates to the society in which he finds himself.  Firstly, Inter-Minor isn't recognisably capitalist.  The latent revolution in 'Carnival' - the imminent revolt of the Functionaries that President Zarb (the panicky social democrat) is trying to placate and Kalik (the fascist ...

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 ...

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