Viewing posts tagged Sensor Scans

Sensor Scan: Space Ritual

There's a certain set of expectations that are put in place when you put on a record with a title like Space Ritual. These are further heightened when you glance at album artwork like that, which has got to be one of the most gorgeously mind-warping bits of sleeve design I've ever seen. So suffice to say I guess I expected that whatever this album was going to sound like it simply had to be some kind of consciousness-elevating, perspective shifting head trip. What I experienced was not quite what I anticipated, but an experience Space Ritual certainly is.

Music is one of the hardest things for me to write about, and it aggravates me no end. Probably nothing resonates with me as powerfully as music does, but it evokes such a complex tapestry of emotions, moods and imagery for me I often find myself unable to translate my feelings into anything resembling coherent language. I'm no musicologist or music critic and maybe that has something to do with it, but either way, no place do I feel the torment of Avital Ronell's ethereal phantom dictator than when I try to say something intelligent about music ...

Sensor Scan: William Shatner in the 1970s

Modern genre fiction actors are superstars. They're today’s teen idols, appearing in multi-billion dollar film and television projects and have their name and face instantly splattered across the Internet the moment their franchise sees the merest inkling of popular success. Typecasting too is far less of a problem now then it used to be: Nowadays up-and-coming genre stars go out of their way to nurture a cult of personality as soon as they start to become famous, and take care to ensure each marquee role they play is a slightly different twist on their iconic public persona from the start: Benedict Cumberbatch, for example, plays a version of Khan Noonien Singh in Star Trek Into Darkness that can succinctly be described as “Evil Sherlock” even though he is self-evidently capable of a vast and diverse acting range. Likewise, there's not a whole lot of difference between Martin Freeman's Bilbo Baggins, his John Watson and his Arthur Dent, which was already an exaggerated and caricatured version of the character he played in The Office. This isn't so much a criticism as it is an observation that in contemporary genre fiction, typecasting is something that's acknowledged ...

Sensor Scan Bonus: Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!

This is the second part of my reading of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! in the context of Star Trek and the larger pop culture landscape of the late 1960s and early 1970s. You may wish to check out part one (covering the period of the show when it was actually known as Mysteries Five) first if you haven't done so already, or even if you have just for a bit of a refresher. This part goes into more detail about the actual show and what I think the main characters represent. And, like the previous part, it's a revised, remixed, expanded and otherwise tweaked version of a piece I wrote a year ago on one of my other blogs.

I'm not going to pull what Gene Roddenberry did with “Assignment: Earth” and pretend this isn't a backdoor pilot for another project I'd really like to write someday. This is manifestly why it's an overstuffed two-parter: I'm trying to condense my entire reading and thesis into one blog post when covering Scooby-Doo could well be a project of comparable size and scope to Vaka Rangi. However, the original
Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! is still ...

Sensor Scan: Space Oddity

First of all, let me say I am without question the least qualified person in the world to be talking about David Bowie. I'm as familiar with him and his career as the next person I suppose, but I certainly wouldn't consider myself any kind of expert. There are people who have spent their entire lives following David Bowie and to whom his music is as formative and important as, well, Star Trek is to me I guess.

That said there's simply no getting out of writing about “Space Oddity”. It's an irreducible part of the cultural zeitgeist of mid-to-late 1969 and having it released not a month after the original Star Trek was canceled (for real this time) is about as revealing as it's possible for an amateur scholar of media history to hope for. However, I'm also not going to pretend I have anything remotely resembling original insight to offer about something this iconic: I'll just link you to this piece by Chris O'Leary out of Pushing Ahead of the Dame, which is pretty much the definitive take on “Space Oddity”, and just humbly ask for your patience as I ...

Sensor Scan: The Transformed Man


William Shatner is one of those personalities who is so ubiquitous that their reputation precedes and obfuscates their actual contributions to art and pop culture. Shatner is so famous as Captain Kirk and the the king of unironic and self-evidently ridiculous camp that his iconic public persona dwarfs and overshadows his entire creative body of work. One of the reasons why I focus so heavily on Shatner in my overview of this period of Star Trek history (if not the primary one) is that his status as an omnipresent and immediately recognisable part of pop culture has ironically made it difficult to discern any reasonable erudition about the kind of actor he is, the style of performance he delivers and what the positionality he draws it all from really is. That's not to say Leonard Nimoy, James Doohan, DeForest Kelley, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols and Walter Koenig aren't equally as iconic and memorable in their roles, they are, but everyone knows they're brilliant and, more to the point, everyone largely knows why they're brilliant. That's not really the case with with William Shatner.

All of which is to say that in 1968 William Shatner released ...

Sensor Scan Bonus: Mysteries Five and 1968

Before I began Vaka Rangi, I was toying with the idea of doing projects of similar size and scope for other pop culture phenomena. I posted most of these "pilots" to this blog's sister site Soda Pop Art, if anyone's interested in some of the things I write about outside of Star Trek. One of the projects I've considered doing off and on for the past three or four years is a comprehensive critical history of the Scooby-Doo franchise, which, in my opinion, is one of the most frequently misread things in pop culture. And, when I was planning the between-season material for the gap between the end of the Original Series and the beginning of the Animated Series, there was one show from 1969 I knew was an absolute no-brainer for me to cover.

Unfortunately, I'd already written about it.

So yes, Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! is getting a Sensor Scan post sometime after "Turnabout Intruder". But as it's part of a larger project I'd still like to write someday and as its sociopolitical and ethical roots really date back to 1968, the production history of the show has its own post, which ...

Sensor Scan: Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In

Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In

The question of exactly how radical and progressive a television show can get when it's airing on major network television and supported by corporate advertising and ratings is an interesting one. On the surface the answer seems like a flat “not in the slightest”: Simply put, it's a rather noticeable conflict of interest to have a work deeply invested in overturning the current social order dependent on the tools and infrastructure of the very hegemony it's set itself in opposition to. On the other hand, one does sort of hope there's at least a little-wiggle room for this kind of thing in pop culture mass media: If you're a young person just starting to come to terms with your worldview and unaware of big underground counterculture movements, it's really helpful to be able to turn on the TV and see you're not completely alone, especially in a world without the Internet.

In the past, we've looked at this issue on the context of Star Trek: Supposedly the most forward-thinking and youth-embracing show on television in the late 1960s, the Original Series has in truth proven to be ...

Sensor Scan: The Prisoner


Let's get this straight right from the start: Entire analytical projects can, have been, and should be written about Patrick McGoohan and George Markstein's The Prisoner. It's rightly regarded as one of the single greatest and most influential, and most oversignified, television series of all time. Given I don't even regard the entirety of Vaka Rangi, which tackles just about every filmed moment of Star Trek and then some, as a definitive authoritative reading of the Star Trek franchise, there is absolutely no way I can be expected to come up with some comprehensive interpretation of something like The Prisoner in one blog post. That said, this is still one of the most iconic parts of the televisual landscape of 1967-8 (not to mention a show that was a massive source of inspiration for at least one future creative figure) so there's no getting away from me saying something about it.

Some assorted thoughts then. First, for those who might not be intimately familiar with The Prisoner, it's a seventeen episode (though apparently only seven were actually intended and are considered by the creators to be part of the overall story arc) miniseries aired ...

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