Viewing posts tagged totalitarianism

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 ...

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 ...

Happy Workers

From the January 2012 issue of Panic Moon.  Slightly expanded.


Some people say that 'The Macra Terror' is about holiday camps, but I think there’s more to it than that. The Colony is obsessed with work. It organises communal entertainment, but this seems to consist of revues about how great it is to be worker. The aim is to make people “happy to work”. These people are not on holiday.

The surveillance and brainwashing suggests totalitarianism, but the area where Barney provides makeovers looks less like Russia and more like a health spa or a salon on a Western high street. Polly is told she’ll win a competition that sounds like Miss World (which the U.S.S.R. disdained until 1989). The Pilot sits at a desk attended by a secretary, looking like a sitcom businessman. Ola’s guards look like the kind of American or British riot police who were, by this time, often being seen on the news, clashing with demonstrators.



.The key to understanding this strange tale is the fact that, by 1967, a lot of people saw tyranny on both sides of the iron curtain. In the 60s, Western society was largely ...

What's in a Name?

Why do some monsters have names while others don't?

The best place to start may be with the Cybermen.  After all, they went from having names to not having names.  Moreover, they did it more or less within one particular story, 'The Moonbase' (if I remember rightly, they had names in the script but these were not mentioned on screen).

The first thing to mention is that this is the story in which they went from being threatening because they are emotionless and logical to being threatening because they're one of those "terrible things" bred in those "corners of the universe" that "we" have to fight, when they were no longer fighting to save their planet but to steal ours, when they lost their human hands, when they started (so early!) saying things like "Clever, clever, clever!", i.e. when they became overtly and deliberately evil.  But there has to be more to it than that.  After all, vampires keep their names.  Loss of humanity and the acquisition of evil intent are not enough to strip them of their names.

Moreover, the Cybermen are not the only Doctor Who monsters to lose their ...

Skulltopus 6: Macra Revisited

According to China Miéville, the classic, early 20th century haute Weird of Lovecraft and Hodgson is the nebulous, meaningless, reactionary scream of incomprehension that greets the onrushing horror of modernity.

I think that, for 70s Doctor Who, a resurrected and processed form of the Weird is what the show draws upon when it finds itself haunted by repressed knowledge that it cannot face: the knowledge that the modern nightmares upon which it dwells are generated by capitalism.  When the themes of a 70s Doctor Who story suggest the possibility that capitalism could be noticed and indicted in systemic terms - particularly in terms of the exploitation of the worker, race and/or imperialism - the show tries to jettison the hauntological (realising that it is itself being haunted... nay, stalked) in favour of the Weird.

I intend to justify these outrageous claims in a forthcoming post.

In my last post - here - I casually asserted that the Weirdish ab-crabs in 'The Macra Terror' are a "prelude" to the connection the show will make in the 70s between the tentacle and capitalism.  It occurs to me that I need to expand a bit on my Skulltopus post about the Macra - here - in order ...

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