Viewing posts tagged terry nation

Fearful Symmetry

There are several answers to the question "who originally created the Daleks?"  You could say "Davros" with geeky fidelity.  You could say "Terry Nation", as many people have (Trivial Pursuit used to also credit him with creating Doctor Who itself).  One could even start listing the people who actually constructed the props (wasn't the job outsourced to a company called Shawcross or something?).  As is usually the case, the most accurate answer is probably the most complex and contingent, i.e. "A consortium of people including, most prominently but to various degrees of importance, Terry Nation, Verity Lambert, David Whitaker, Raymond Cusick, Peter Hawkins, David Graham..." etc.  Without a doubt, however, the individual who did more than any other to make them a huge success was an in-house designer employed by the BBC called Raymond Cusick.  Cusick died a little while ago, widely recognised for his role by fans.

I'm a great advocate of 'ignoring the rat' or, as I prefer to put it, 'seeing past the bubblewrap', i.e. of giving weak aesthetics a pass if the story beneath them is interesting enough.  You shouldn't let the rubbishness of ...

Skulltopus 12: Come Out onto the Balcony and Wave a Tentacle

Okay, first a quick (well... relatively quick) recap and a few clarifications... because we've come a long way. And then onto some hot Zygon action.


The Story So Far...

If only 'Pirates of the Caribbean II' had looked this good.
According to China Miéville, the tentacular monster was introduced to Western SF/Horror literature in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by the loose style/affect/trend known as 'the Weird'.  Lovecraft, Hodgson, Machen, etc.  They used various new forms of the monstrous, especially tentacles, as a 'novum', unfreighted with previously accreted meanings and associations, which could express something of the unprecedented, inexplicable, inexpressible catastrophic horror that was engulfing modernity with the onrush of world war, mechanised imperialism and endemic economic crisis.  (There were a couple of important pre-eruptions of the tentacular and Weirdish courtesy of SF pioneer H.G. Wells and 'ghost story' writer M.R. James.)  Mieville says that the Weird represents a way of trying to express anxieties that is alternate and incompatible with the gothic.  The gothic - or hauntological - is an expression of something we already know which has been hidden (or repressed) and which haunts us, threatening to return.  The Weird is what we ...

Skulltopus 4: Attack of the Plot-Device Monster

The tentacle was already well established as a staple of monsterology long before Doctor Who was even a glint in Sydney Newman's eye.  When Who selected the tentacle as its semiotic method of evading/signifying capitalism  - as I'm going to argue that it did in the 70s - it selected it from a pre-existing toolbox full of potential signifiers.  But it didn't suddenly stumble upon the octopoidal.  It had encountered tentacles before, albeit only occasionally.

On the whole, the show's early years are pretty thin on tentacles... but there are quasi-tentacular manifestations in 'The Keys of Marinus' (the Brains of Morphoton have stubby little almost-tentacles), 'The Dalek Invasion of Earth' (the Slyther) and 'The Web Planet' (the Animus).  The only proper octopus monster in this era is the Mire Beast from 'The Chase'.  It lives underground and exists solely to provide a way for our heroes to escape from the Aridians without deliberately sentencing them all to Dalek-death.


Oh look... bar the Animus, those were all written by Terry Nation.  Hmmm...

By this point (the early 60s), the 'novum' of the tentacle had passed, but it had entrenched itself in the grammar of Western ...

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