Viewing posts tagged revolution

Koba the Ape

Post-Spoilerocalyptic.


I went to see Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.  Banalities first:  A well-crafted film.  Cogent and coherent in terms of aesthetics and plot (though there is a pleasingly bathetic moment when, following lots of atmospheric shots of apes engaged in social interaction, one ape suddenly addresses another in sign language as "Maurice").  Nicely acted by the principles. 

Now.

In The Dark Ape Rises, the 'good' ape leader is Caesar and the 'bad' ape leader is Koba.

Caesar is the reasonable one, the compromiser, who wants peace with the humans.  Koba is the nasty one who can't let go of his resentment of humans, who doesn't trust them, who betrays Caesar and launches an all-out war against the humans.

Thing is, Koba is fucking awesome.  Because, unlike Caesar, he understands that when you have the oppressor on the floor, you don't help him up and dust him down.  No.  You stand on his neck.

Here's Koba, riding straight at the enemy (who are armed with rocket launchers by this point) while simultaneously holding (and firing) two machine guns instead of the reins of his horse ...

1

What can I do but cheat?

Three moments, not in chronological order.


1

Barbara Wright is in a junkyard.  She walks into a Police Box.  She's in a large, brightly lit control room.

This can happen on screen because of the cut.  The material conditions of TV production, manifested as a splicing together of two recorded moments into the appearance of one fluid event, makes this possible.  We have "discovered television".  We can put huge buildings inside small boxes.  We can put Narnia inside the wardrobe; Wonderland inside the rabbit hole.  The quintessential trait of British fantastic literature for kids - the eccentric relationship of impossible spaces - can be made visual.

Doctor Who's very nature as storytelling is utterly bound up with the limits of the material conditions of television production.  So much so that living on that limit became its raison d'etre.  Its development has always been inextricably connected with what can materially be done, and how it is done.  And what it has done has always developed what it wants to be able to do next.  As I've said elsewhere, 'The Space Museum' pushes ...

3

"Not so much of that oatmeal, girl," says Meg to one of the kitchen drudges, "It's only pikemen we're feeding, not horses."

They're in Irongron's castle, somewhere in the century or so following the Norman Conquest.  Sarah is undercover, cooking Irongron's stew.

"Don't the guards on the gate get stew?" she asks, wanting to know in which pots to drop the Doctor's knock-out potion.

"What, meat for those common creatures? I should say not. They'll have oatmeal the same as the rest of us, and lusty enough they are on that. So you watch yourself if ever you take out that skillet."

So class is, perhaps, a more fundamental division than gender, but gender oppression brings its own particular problems.

"I'm not afraid of men. They don't own the world."

Well, they kind-of do... but Sarah isn't discussing actual property relations.  She's talking about the way the world should work, with no one group 'owning' it.

"Why should women always have to cook and carry for them?" she demands.

"What else should we do?" asks Meg.

"Stand up for ourselves. Tell the men you're tired ...

12

There's so much I love about 'Planet of the Ood'.  Picking a moment will be hard.

I love some of the things other people hate.

Unlike Lawrence Miles, I love that Donna ticks the Doctor off for his "Who do you think made your clothes?" crack.  Why the hell should Donna put up with smuggery like that from a guy wearing Converse trainers?  Who makes your clothes, Doctor?  (Apart from anything else, one answer is probably 'women'.)  Okay, he apologises for making her feel uncomfortable, which is problematic... but it isn't as if the episode lets the matter rest there.

Unlike many people, I love that the Ood thank DoctorDonna for, essentially, doing nothing.  I love that they free themselves without any help from the Doctor.  I like him better as an ally than as a messiah.  The Ood don't suffer the fate of the N'avi: they don't get Whitey leading them to freedom.  The DoctorDonna doesn't interfere.  DoctorDonna renounces any claim they might think they have to judge the oppressed, to moralise when the oppressed free themselves by any means necessary.

I love ...

21

Earl plays a C on his harmonica.  It starts a sympathetic resonance in the pipes that stretch under and through the regime on Terra Alpha, like the arteries in a body.  What flows in these arteries is sugarly gloop, the outpourings of the Kandy Kitchen.  It fills the regime with the glucose it needs to survive.  And the regime uses it to kill dissidents or refuseniks or men wearing pink triangles, drowning them in sweetness.  Earl's note causes the encrusted, crystallised, fossilised sugar coating the insides of the pipes to crack and fall.  Tonnes of the stuff falls on top of Fifi, Helen A's savage attack dog and beloved pet.  She sent it into the pipes to kill the Doctor and the Pipe People, the surviving aboriginals on her colony.

"Happiness will prevail," says the artificially fruity voice on the colony tannoy system, "Factory guards are joining forces with the drones to destroy the Nevani sugar beet plant here in sector six. We will keep broadcasting."

This is a revolution.  The killjoys are marching and demonstrating, and having their own melancholy parties in subversion of the rules.  The factories ...

23

"You see Vicki?" says Tor, "Not only does the reply have to be true, it has to be the correct answer as well."

To the Moroks, 'truth' and 'the correct answer' are the same thing.  And 'correct' means 'official', 'integrated', 'obedient'.

"Do you understand that all questions are to be fully answered?" asks the computer, "What is your rank? What is your name? Do you have the Governor's permission to approach? Have you a requisition signed by the Governor? What is its reference number?"

'Truth' is defined as the correct answer to all these questions, the correct integration into the imperial system, the correct official position.  Legality is what power says it is.  And only the state, and its functionaries, have the legitimate right to use violence.

"Withdrawal requisition numbers are fed in from headquarters. It has to tally with the number given," explains Tor.

Systems of oppression run on tallying numbers.

Vicki's response is to rip the front off the machine and start mucking around in its arcane guts.

She reprograms it; forces it to redefine words according to her insurrectionary imperatives.

"What is your name?" it asks.

"Vicki."

"For what purpose are the ...

The Cut

On 'The Space Museum'


Recently, while tracking some hits this blog received, I discovered a new Doctor Who podcast called Pex Lives.  It's great stuff, well worth listening to... and I'm not just saying that because the guys who make it - Kevin Burns and James Murphy - kindly linked to me and mentioned me in one of the episodes.  Their third and latest podcast is just out, and centres upon 'The Krotons'.  Their second podcast is about 'The Space Museum' and they delve into the piece with lots of wit (in both senses of the word) alongside anarchism, Tolstoy, progress and political change.  Not many Who podcasts touch on stuff like this.  My favourite quote: "we're both ambivalent about violent revolution".  (For the record, so am I.)   It also helps that they both have likeable voices.  Kevin sounds like Terry Gilliam (i.e. he has one of those American voices that sounds as though it is filtered through a permanent grin of enthusiasm) and James sounds like a gigantic, sentient, wryly raised eyebrow that has somehow gained the ability to talk with the voice of a hip-hop DJ.  Even ...

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 ...

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