Viewing posts tagged panic moon

Moons of Madness

Panic Moon is back, and it's about time.  I'm in it again. 

Och aye the noo Doctor.


Just like old times.

Get it here.  It is good.

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 ...

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 ...

Last God Standing


This is a slightly edited and expanded version of something originally published in the April 2011 issue of Panic Moon.  Many thanks to Oliver Wake, the Editor, for commissioning it.


When the Doctor first encounters the White Guardian, we are encouraged to think – just for a moment – that the TARDIS might have been waylaid by God himself. Nothing so grand (or potentially offensive), as it turns out. However, the White Guardian is clearly a powerful, godlike entity. Yet he is suavely seated, sipping crème de menthe, as the Doctor stays on his feet.

Later, when we encounter the White Guardian again, he and his opposite number sit at a table on Wrack’s ship, while everyone else stays standing.

I wonder if you, Constant Reader, have ever noticed how often ‘gods’ in Doctor Who are depicted sitting? Sutekh spends most of his story sitting. Indeed, that’s his problem. The Keeper of Traken has to sit for thousands of years in a chair, but that’s the price of being the patriarch of an entire empire, able to flit about the universe at will... and meanwhile, all the Melkur wants to do is ...

My Irresistible Rise Continues...

Yes folks, my empire continues to expand.  My influence spreads.  Soon, very soon, I shall be published for the second time.  Tomorrow, the world.

Robert Smith?'s latest project - Outside In - arrives on 23rd November. 


Astonishingly, my name isn't on the cover.  Must've been an oversight.


Full details here, but basically it's a compendium of reviews.  Every Doctor Who story reviewed... and here's the thing... by a different writer.  The promise is that these reviews are going to be a bit different, offering a new take. 

I'm in there, reviewing 'Snakedance'.  It's a slightly tweaked version of a piece I originally wrote for the (sadly resting) fanzine Panic Moon, so the editor - the estimable Oliver Wake - must share credit for dragging the essay out of me in the first place.

Green Day

This is a slightly-tweaked version of something originally published in the January 2011 edition of Panic Moon.  Back issues of this excellent fanzine (now, sadly, on hiatus) are still available, here.


Plant monsters. That’s an old one. Where does it come from? Maybe it’s about the Venus Fly Trap, the cactus or the thorns on the stem of a rose. Maybe it’s about the faces that we see in the gnarled bark of trees; the faces that gave us generations of tales about tree folk. We see this in 'The Seeds of Doom', in the initial humanoid shape of the monster, in its booming threats, in its communion with Chase, in the way that the Doctor keeps calling it Keeler ironically, having chided Sarah for referring to the transformed Winlett by name.

Maybe it’s the sheer unnerving silence and mindlessness of things that nonetheless seem to have flesh and veins and skin, that nonetheless grow and move and breed.  We see this in 'The Seeds of Doom', with all the emphasis on skin, blood and pain… and Chase’s obsessional desire to “see what happens when the Krynoid touches human flesh”. We see this in the way the Krynoid moves, unfettered ...

Independence Day

This is a slightly-expanded/tweaked version of something originally published in the January 2011 edition of Panic Moon.  Back issues of this excellent fanzine (now, sadly, on hiatus) are still available, here.


In 'The Mutants', Earth’s empire is the British Empire in decline, as it disassembles itself out of economic necessity (true in general terms but misleading in particular; the British were usually savage in their resistance to independence). The Marshall echoes Ian Smith, who ran the racist apartheid state of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and tried to hang on after the British cut him loose.

We get a positive view of a national liberation movement. Ky is clearly the figurehead of a powerful anti-Overlord groundswell; they’re called “terrorists” naturally, and maybe they are, but they’re fighting for their freedom. We get no patronising sermons to oppressed people about non-violence.

The system is depicted as inherently racist, featuring a version of apartheid. The Solonians are not black, but then neither were the Irish… and they were the first to come under the British heel. 'The Mutants' shows racism, quite rightly, as the ideology of empire, not the cause.

There is an apologia for empire that stresses the “progress” it can bring to its subjects. The concept of “progress” is ...

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 ...

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