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Adelaide screams at the sight of Palmerdale's dead body.

Leela slaps her across the face, silencing her.

This is horrible.  It's one of the relatively few examples of serious, realistic, non-Fantastic, gendered violence in the show.  Companions are captured by monsters, etc., but this kind of thing happens rarely.  It is better in some places.  Worse in others.  In 'The Time Meddler', Edith's implied-rape is in there simply to tick a box of genre tropes.  Yeurch.  In 'Vengeance on Varos', Maldak slaps Peri across the face to assuage his bruised ego.  It's utterly gratuitous and revolting.

But this is a woman slapping another woman.  (That's not worse... except in the sense that the representation, authored by a man, alibis male involvement in violence against women by ostensibly disappearing its gendered dimension.)

More than that - it's Leela slapping another woman.  Wonderful Leela, who has never done anything like this before.  Okay, she's a ruthless killer in battle... but slapping a 'hysteric' like she's James Bond or something?  Normally, though she dreads weakness in herself because of her self-identification as a ...

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 ...

Skulltopus 13: Return to Fang Rock

My monomaniacal focus on the quasi-Weird(ish/esque) in Doctor Who resumes (after a bit of a hiatus... during which I just couldn't be arsed) and reaches the Graham Williams years, the heyday of the tentacular in the Baker era.  See here for links to all previous Skulltopus posts and here for the last one (which includes a summary of the whole thing so far).



I started the whole Skulltopus thing with 'Horror of Fang Rock', but that was ages ago (and before I really knew where I was going with this topic) so I feel the need to go back to it, if comparatively briefly.

Okay, so 'Fang Rock'.  Hmm.  Well, it's a Terrance Dicks script, isn't it?  Uncle Tel is, as we all know, well dodgy on politics.  He writes about how the working classes are happy being poor, and aristocrats are dandy, and the empire was kind of okay.  His baseline assumption is one of contented 'capitalist realism', of unquestioning acceptance of the status quo.  Plus he's rubbish on the question of women and sexism.  He's so bad on ...

Shabby Efforts

I'm sometimes rather startled to realise just how much Doctor Who I've missed.

I mean, chronologially, the last actual TV episode I saw was 'Night Terrors'.  I watched that ages after transmission, as part of a foolhardy attempt to catch up with the series (which I finally gave up watching upon transmission roundabout the time of 'A Christmas Carol', which I liked about as much as I like Ian Duncan Smith).  I was hoping that I'd either get my mind changed by the catch-up session - i.e. become persuaded that Who under Moffat isn't just empty, bombastic, cynical, reactionary, sexist, culty drivel - or, alternatively, that my justified hatred of what I was seeing would give me something to furiously blog about.

As it turns out, my undignified little scrape with 'Night Terrors' (see here) put me off the project again.  Initially inclined to be soft on it, despite some nitpicks, I was soon convinced by commenters that it's actually the story where the Doctor becomes David Cameron, lecturing the clueless working schlubs on how to solve their problems by being better parents.  Dispirited, I quit again.  So, I've not ...

Fang Rock, Class and the Tentacular Revolution

If you ask me, 'Horror of Fang Rock' is one of the best ever; a thriller that focuses on characters who really interact while they're trapped together, featuring Tom and Louise at their acme.

It investigates the nature of belief in an age of rising science and technology: Adelaide's astrology fetish compares to the superstition of Vince and Reuben, with Vince's terror as real as hers, and Reuben's fear of monsters more a manifestation of melancholy stubbornness at the rise of unsympathetic forces he doesn't understand (like electricity... which is also the weapon of the monster that kills and impersonates him). Meanwhile, Leela lectures Adelaide that consulting her "shaman" (despite Adelaide's denial, that is the right word for people like Miss Nethercote) is a "waste of time"... but, with relishable irony, the semi-educated Leela simply believes in science because her mentor has told her to.

'Fang Rock' has a quiet undercurrent about sex too. Adelaide is understood by Harker to be Palmerdale's "fancy woman" and Skinsale obviously envies this (though god knows why)... but he's also clearly very taken with Leela. Paddy Russell gives us a whole shot simply to establish how ...

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