Viewing posts tagged stalinism

This Irregularity Has Been Recorded

Doctor Who frequently did stories which critiqued capitalism to one degree or another.  But there's an interesting dialectical twist to this, which is that it usually cloaked such critiques in the aesthetics of (for want of a better term) 'totalitarianism'.

It begins, arguably, with 'The Macra Terror'... though so much of what that story does 'first' is actually just being done openly and consciously for the first time.  Other examples include (most graphically) 'The Sun Makers', 'Vengeance on Varos', and 'The Happiness Patrol'.  I'd argue for a few others to go on the list, but these are the most obvious examples.  'The Beast Below' carried on the tradition, as did 'Gridlock' before it (albeit mutedly).  Yet many of these stories have been subject to readings which interpret them as right-wing and/or libertarian attacks on aspects of socialism and/or statism (often assumed to be synonymous).  I might even (overall) support such a reading in some cases.  'The Beast Below', for example, is a story which critiques aspects of the capitalist world, but which (to my mind) ends up supplying more alibis than indictments - partially through its use of totalitarian/statist ...

Red Kangs Are Best

I very much enjoyed the latest episode of the Pex Lives? Podcast, which looks at 'Paradise Towers'.  During it, Kevin and James' guest Jane (of achairforjane? and many fascinating comments - and an amazing guest post on Lost - at Phil Sandifer's blog) suggests a Marxist reading of the story in which the Rezzies are the consumerist bourgeois who ascend a few levels via the system which later consumes them.  Totally valid and satisfying reading.  (And I'm grateful for the lovely shout-out, as always.)

I think, however, that it illuminates a certain interesting ambiguity about what constitutes a  'Marxist reading' or a 'Marxist analysis'.  I know Jane and the Pex Lives boys already know this, so this isn't in any way meant as a criticism of any of them, but I think a 'Marxist analysis' would really have to constitute more than finding some way in which aspects of the narrative function as an allegory of some aspect of the class struggle.  I hold my hands up: that's often what I do here, and it doesn't really cut the mustard.

To do that is to bring Marxist categories to a text, but still to treat ...

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 ...

14

"I've known many times," says the Doctor, "some of them much more pleasant than others."

"Well, I quite like it here, I must say," interjects Jo to cover the awkward moment, "Everyone's been most kind."

The Controller (what a giveaway that title is) nods in appreciation of her remark.

The Doctor, however, is unimpressed.  He swills more wine.  He looks like an sozzled, opinionated guy at an unsuccessful party, spoiling for a fight.

"Well, I met some people today who were far from kind," he says.  He spent the earlier part of the day taking a forced tour of the Controller's utopia, being subjected to the tender mercies of a surprisingly well-sketched terror state.

"That was a simple mistake, Doctor, I assure you," says the Controller, his voice as smooth and silvery as his strange, quasi-robotic face, "You must not jump to conclusions."

"Better than jumping from the crack of a whip from some security guard," snaps the Doctor, "Do you run all your factories like that, Controller?"

We have been granted an unusual thing earlier in this episode: a glimpse into the productive centres of a Dalek-ruled regime.  It looked like a ...

The Real McCoy and the Forgotten (Sacrificial) Lambs

I continue to round up my Timelash II stuff with these bits 'n' bobs about the McCoy years.  There will eventually be separate posts on some of the 'big hitters' left out below.


Paradise Towers

Very Whoish ideas. Lots of clever use of language, from the street names to the slang which incorporates degenerated formal rules, to the Caretaker lingo full of subsections and codes, etc. 

It suffers from 'Mysterious Planet' disease in that the production looks good but nothing looks right.

Mel's apparently monomaniacal fixation upon the swimming pool is decidedly odd.  But, if you approach this as children's television (which is clearly what it thinks it is) then you can enjoy it as a surprisingly sophisticated story about social entropy.

Brings to mind Le Corbusier and his notion of houses as "machines for living in"... which always had a tinge of the authoritarian about it, amidst all the utopianism of early 20th century modernism (which also always had a hidden inner core of mysticism beneath all the pseudo-rational stright lines, etc). The insistence upon a buried notion of virtue (you had to be a certain kind of healthy, high-minded, thin, modern-minded, puritanical ...

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