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This machine mildly irritates fascists

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L.I. Underhill is a media critic and historian specializing in pop culture, with a focus on science fiction (especially Star Trek) and video games. Their projects include a critical history of Star Trek told through the narrative of a war in time, a “heretical” history of The Legend of Zelda series and a literary postmodern reading of Jim Davis' Garfield.

8 Comments

  1. K. Jones
    August 14, 2015 @ 7:27 am

    Of course, they had to end a season with this.

    It strikes me a little odd that Time's Arrow is nobody's favorite season ender/opener. I admit it's trying to do a hell of a lot. Not just near Whovian time-travel dynamics, Guinan's bootstrap paradox, Data's mortality (which is ultimately more of a Hitchhiker's Guide scenario), and so on and so on. But this season had to end this way, and there had to be a season ender that focused on Guinan.

    One of the first elements I like is the reintroduction of out-of-phase technology, an organic element from "The Next Phase" that we actually see Data and Geordi being a bit savvy with now. But more importantly there it brings that same level of "ghosts" and magic into the narrative.

    Strange aliens, we hear them called, but we know that the Devidians are malicious ghosts or spirits or demons, feeding on the souls of dying humans. Dying humans from San Francisco – the heart of the eventual Federation.

    And we know that Guinan, a space witch (seriously when Picard comes to see her she's literally crafting a potion and using potionmaking as a metaphor to describe cosmic bootstrap paradoxes – or rather synchronicity, chance, luck, equating ritual with a change in the course of events. Chaos magic.

    What is Guinan's interest in the human species? And is it really all that different to the Devidian ghosts? She's a listener. A story-siphoner. Alternately a shaman, dispensing advice alongside tonics to the Enterprise travelers … and a puckish figure pulling on the strings of their destinies.

    This is assuredly another dip into the realms of space magic and faerie-legend before you layer the Who-esque element. But Mark Twain is a wholly appropriate figure to factor in, not just because probably the writer's room are all total Twain fanboys, but because when you're dealing with space devils that eat human souls, well, "who prays for Satan?"

    And in the case of Samuel Clemens, one of the early adopters of modern time travel storytelling, one of the ultimate writers of contextually modern parable, well, he's one of Star Trek's forefathers, living in Star Trek's heartland, and so these soul-vampire space ghosts are attacking him, too, in a way.

    Mark Twain on witches:
    During many ages there were witches. The Bible said so. The Bible commanded that they should not be allowed to live. Therefore the Church, after eight hundred years, gathered up its halters, thumb-screws, and firebrands, and set about its holy work in earnest. She worked hard at it night and day during nine centuries and imprisoned, tortured, hanged, and burned whole hordes and armies of witches, and washed the Christian world clean with their foul blood.
    Then it was discovered that there was no such thing as witches, and never had been. One does not know whether to laugh or to cry…..There are no witches. The witch text remains; only the practice has changed. Hell fire is gone, but the text remains. Infant damnation is gone, but the text remains. More than two hundred death penalties are gone from the law books, but the texts that authorized them remain.

    Mark Twain on travel:
    Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.

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  2. K. Jones
    August 14, 2015 @ 7:27 am

    The mere mention of a witch was almost enough to frighten us out of our wits. This was natural enough, because of late years there were more kinds of witches than there used to be; in old times it had been only old women, but of late years they were of all ages—even children of eight and nine; it was getting so that anybody might turn out to be a familiar of the Devil—age and sex hadn't anything to do with it. In our little region we had tried to extirpate the witches, but the more of them we burned the more of the breed rose up in their places.

    Lovely as he was, Satan could be cruelly offensive when he chose; and he always chose when the human race was brought to his attention. He always turned up his nose at it, and never had a kind word for it.

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  3. Froborr
    August 14, 2015 @ 6:15 pm

    I dunno, I never felt like the Devidians worked here. I think the time travel shenanigans get in the way of the haunting.

    The moment at which I realized that STO was actually pretty good, albeit complicatedly problematic (in the original sense of "presenting problems which must be worked through" rather than the more recent sense of "I don't want to call you a bigot, but you're a bigot") was when the Devidians showed up a few hours in, and were UTTERLY TERRIFYING.

    Man, after K. Jones' epic comment of amazingness I'm almost embarrassed to post this.

    Reply

  4. Josh Marsfelder
    August 14, 2015 @ 8:49 pm

    Don't worry, K makes all of us feel inadequate. Myself included 🙂

    Reply

  5. Daru
    August 31, 2015 @ 10:03 pm

    Me too 🙂

    Reply

  6. Daru
    August 31, 2015 @ 10:05 pm

    I really deeply enjoyed your scene Josh. I feel you just nailed the voices and wanted to continue reading more – well done!

    Reply

  7. Josh Marsfelder
    September 1, 2015 @ 2:32 pm

    That means a lot to hear, thank you!

    Perhaps someday I'll write more…

    Reply

  8. Daru
    September 7, 2015 @ 9:20 pm

    I genuinely hope that you do write more Josh as I feel you are able to touch the core of these characters.

    Reply

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