Viewing posts tagged pop between realities

Pop Between Realities, Home in Time for Tea 48 (Alan Moore's Spoken Word Pieces)

People who like this blog and in particular this entry are essentially certain to enjoy JMR Higgs's new book KLF: Chaos Magic Music Money, which is, by his description, "a story about The KLF, Robert Anton Wilson, Dada, Alan Moore, punk, Discordianism, Carl Jung, magic, Ken Campbell, rave, Situationism and the alchemical properties of Doctor Who." See? Right up your alley if you're reading this. The book is announced here, with links to where you can buy it in the US or UK.

The Cartmel-Virgin era began with overt and self-conscious parallels to the work of Alan Moore. Actually, that might be a little strong. Let’s try this: Andrew Cartmel was a comics fan, and he stole from the best. Sylvester McCoy’s audition piece, itself spun into the bulk of Mel’s departure scene in Dragonfire, was directly inspired by Dr. Manhattan in Watchmen. And much of Cartmel’s tenure as script editor can be read straightforwardly as an attempt to do Alan Moore’s Doctor Who. Given this, it’s a surprisingly honest one that understood what Moore was actually doing on a level beyond “he was adding lots of sex and violence to what ...

Pop Between Realities, Home in Time for Tea 47 (Touching Evil, The Grand, Springhill)

Let’s change the camera angle slightly, however, and look at Russell T Davies’s career in general as of the mid-90s. He was, at the time, undoubtedly a successful television writer. He was not, however, the Russell T Davies of legend. He was a working writer, making a living entirely off of his writing, and with rising acclaim. But he was not a superstar of television yet. And perhaps more importantly, his work just isn’t up to the standard of what his later work is like. I pointed Monday to the dividing line seems to be the overdose that Davies cites as what got him working on Queer as Folk. We will, of course, do a Pop Between Realities on that show when we get to its appropriate time period in late January and look at where Davies’s work really started to feel like Russell T Davies.

What is perhaps most striking about his projects immediately prior to Queer as Folk is that they are aggressively, unrelentingly dark. Which may sound familiar, because it’s exactly what we were saying about Damaged Goods on Monday. Indeed, let’s go one further. If Damaged Goods does not read ...

Pop Between Realities, Home in Time for Tea 46 (Our Friends in the North)

We’ve alluded a couple of times to the changing nature of the BBC in the late 1980s and early 1990s. If you start from 1984, when Michael Grade took over at BBC1, and go to 1995 there are only two instances in which a BBC1 or BBC2 program wins the BAFTA for Drama Serial or the nearest equivalent award. Obviously Grade was only in charge of BBC1, but let’s use his ascent to mark a particular attitude about what the BBC was. There were two more instances where BBC Scotland won, but let’s for the moment also treat them as a separate thing. Then, from 1996 to 1999 BBC1 and BBC2 had a straight sweep of the category for four years, and won seven of the twelve from 1996 to 2007. And inaugurating that sweep was Our Friends in the North.

Clearly something changed. And yet it’s difficult to straightforwardly identify what, exactly, it could have been. John Birt made a major reorganization of the corporation in 1996, but it’s difficult for a variety of reasons to just hand him credit for a revitalization of the BBC’s drama efforts. And after all, the BBC ...

Pop Between Realities, Home in Time for Tea 45 (Babylon 5)

There is a moment familiar to everyone who has ever enjoyed Babylon 5 in which they make the cataclysmically dumb mistake of trying to get someone else to watch it. It goes like this: “It’s a huge five-season story arc that was planned out from the start. The first season is mostly crap, but the second one has some really good stuff in it. And the third and fourth are quite good…” and then somewhere around admitting that the fifth season is also a trainwreck you realize that the case for Babylon 5’s quality is actually enormously strained.

And it’s true. It’s much, much easier to list the things that are very wrong about Babylon 5 than it is to articulate the case for it. I mean, the case isn’t that hard: the show’s basic conceit, a five year novel in television form, plotted from the beginning to lead towards a pre-defined endpoint that would pay all of its threads off, is impressive. Yes, the use of television for a multi-episode story arc had precedent, but J. Michael Stracyznski was the first person to really try plotting an entire multi-season arc out and executing ...

Pop Between Realities, Home in Time for Tea 44 (Red Dwarf, Discworld)

Oh, come now, did you all really think I wasn’t going to cover these two? What’s next, being surprised by the Queer as Folk post? It was just a matter of timing. And with Sky Pirates! Coming on Wednesday, this seems to be the time to finally deal with the strain of British comedy devoted to sci-fi/fantasy. It’s worth noting, first of all, just how important this subgenre was in the mid-90s, simply because it’s easy to overlook, especially for American readers for whom the works are not part of their basic cultural context. Red Dwarf was never huge as such, but it was the BBC sci-fi show that was still running in the mid-90s, which, at least for Doctor Who fans, put it in a position of considerable envy. Terry Pratchett, on the other hand, was and is absolutely massive: he was basically Britain’s best-selling author until J.K. Rowling came along. Given this, it was basically all but inevitable that Doctor Who, then a novel series with lingering resentment about being recognized by anyone other than a die-hard fan as a cancelled television series instead, was going to do at least one ...

Pop Between Realities, Home in Time for Tea 43 (Independence Day, Sliders, Xena: Warrior Princess)

I’ve been batting around the phrase “cult television” for a while, but have managed so far to avoid talking about it in any depth or detail. I mean, we did Star Trek: The Next Generation, but the whole point of that was that it wasn’t cult. We did The X-Files, but had too much fun with paranoia to do its cult aspects. So we should probably slip one more in that deals with cult television. And, perhaps, for good measure, what it’s not. Actually, let’s start with that, simply because “actually successful science fiction of a sort” is probably a more useful baseline to have. So let’s go with Independence Day.

Improbably, and in addition to being an extremely successful movie, Independence Day is absolutely ridiculously fun. And a lot of this comes down to the fact that it is a movie that does not make the slightest effort to be taken seriously. It is not a movie that lends itself to any reading based on its supposed sincerity. Yes, it’s an overtly jingoistic film about how America is the greatest country in the world and Macs are compatible with anything up to and ...

Pop Between Realities, Home in Time for Tea 42 (The X-Files, Ghostwatch, Twin Peaks)

We have already discussed in passing the rise of conspiracy theories and a fascination with UFOs in the 1990s. Since the next book we want to deal with is David McIntee’s First Frontier, the New Adventures’ big stab at a 1950s UFO story, it is, I suppose, time to deal with that more thoroughly. The obvious text to look at here is, of course, The X-Files, though we’ll circle back and find a larger pool of things in a bit. 

Unfortunately, if you’re tracking the influence of The X-Files on Doctor Who it is difficult not to have the bulk of it be overwhelmingly negative. The story goes roughly like this: the success of The X-Files, which became Fox’s most successful show among its desired advertising demographic, let to Fox doubling down on “cult” television. This is a phenomenon we’ve talked about in passing a few times, but as we’re finally on the big watershed show in terms of it, we may as well deal with it. The basic idea of cult television is that it has a smaller audience than standard-issue “hit” television, but that its audience is exceedingly loyal. From a ...

Pop Between Realities, Home in Time for Tea 41 (rec.arts.drwho)

So there’s this thing called the Internet, and it’s kind of a big deal, so I suppose we should talk about it. I mean, it’s been lurking about in the background for a while, but it became a genuinely important thing in what Doctor Who was around this time, to say nothing of a somewhat important thing in my life. Because something we haven’t really talked about in the context of the Virgin era is the nature of Doctor Who fandom.

We’ve talked broadly about the way in which computers became standard consumer technology in this time period. The early 1990s were the period where everybody finally got around to agreeing that computers were the future. And so a sleepy bit of high-end technology called the Internet started trickling into mass consciousness. For those who are young enough to have always known an Internet based on the World Wide Web, it may be worth pausing to explain what this meant.

The World Wide Web was publicly launched in August of 1991. But it didn’t really hit breakout “everybody is using this thing” status for a few years. Major bits of the Web like Amazon ...

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