The bodies on the gears of the culture industry

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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.


  1. Sean Dillon
    March 23, 2016 @ 3:30 am

    Well, it was a nice run while it lasted. Shame you decided not to do the JJ Abrams stuff, but I understand the desire to not want to write about those films (a luxury I sadly cannot share due to my debts to the thing that drove me mad). Regardless, it's been a fantastic ride and I will always be grateful for the works that you introduced me to (especially Dirty Pair, because wow that series) and the fascinating analysis on a series that generally leaves me cold whenever I try to approach it. Thank you for providing me warmth.

    Good luck with the Scooby Doo blog.
    (let me know if you need any help, I need the work)


  2. Neo Tuxedo
    March 24, 2016 @ 2:11 am

    Once he had a different name. Once he was Kid Marvelman. He isn't a kid anymore. He isn't even a man…


  3. Sean Dillon
    March 24, 2016 @ 2:58 am

    We'll stop at nothing, you see. All the suffering and the death and the pain in your world is entertainment for us.
    Why does blood and torture and anguish still excite us?

    We thought that by making your world more violent, we would make it more "realistic," more "adult." God help us if that's what it means.
    Maybe, for once, we could try to be kind.


  4. Dustin
    March 24, 2016 @ 3:17 am

    Wow. Just, wow. I was not expecting this. I should have of course. But damn, Josh. orsonwellesapplause.gif

    Now that I'm older, and I no longer give a shit about nerdfights over continuity and all those stupid BBS wars over whether or not this or that bit of flimsy conjecture from Okuda's Chronology was the One True Canon, this idea of Enterprise as a secret history, previously lost to us who are viewing recordings of these adventures from some vantage point beyond the 24th Century, appeals to me in a very impish way. It's almost Doctor Who-like, a show I love because of how frequently and enthusiastically it rewrites, reinterprets or even completely ignores its past. Doctor Who doesn't care about some stupid bit of trivia laid down by some writer in the late '60s. Doctor Who will not be bound by Nerd Culture's obsession with meticulously spreadsheetifying its history (look, I made up a word).

    It explains so much, and answers all those clueless, hyper-fastidious questions like "Why have we never heard of Archer before if he's supposedly so illustrious? How come his Enterprise didn't show up among Picard's little model ships? Huh? Huh?" The answer, of course, is that they didn't know about it until we saw it, and until we made them see it. (Am I making any sense? Am I wildly misinterpreting what you were doing? Is this way too meta?)

    But there's one line here I have a massive problem with: "This is the secret occult story of history's losers and marginalized[.]" So, "Enterprise" begins with humanity as the most minor among the galactic powers, new to deep space exploration, having never traveled more than a few days at low warp beyond Sol. Their ships are under-powered and under-armed, their crews as green as they come. But we look back on it from a 24th Century in which humankind is, arguably, as supreme and unrivaled a power as the United States was at the end of the 20th. The starships of the supposedly multi-racial Federation are crewed almost exclusively by humans. These ships voyage in the name of exploration, humanitarianism and peacekeeping, yet are bristling with enough weaponry to lay waste to an entire planet's surface (General Order 24). In what sense was Archer, Starfleet and 22nd century humanity ultimately marginalized? Who is it who lost? Certainly not the descendants of the show's heroes. This is where I suspect I may actually have no idea what you were trying to say.

    But here's how I make sense of that bit. Now, my attempt ignores your invocation of "history's losers," but only because I don't see how the mission of Archer's Enterprise was in any sense thwarted or bears a resemblance to any of history's lost causes. So. "Enterprise", though it has its devotees, really seems to be the least-loved and least-influential Star Trek show. It came at the end of an 18-year period of ongoing production whose last six or seven years showed all the signs of creative exhaustion, and that exhaustion, plus very poor ratings, helped euthanize televisual Trek. This was a good thing, and it needed to go away for a while, but it felt at the time as if Trek were ending for good. Which was true. What comes next won't resemble the Berman Era in the slightest. So there's a sense in which it really is marginalized, as the briefest post-Roddenberry series, as the one with the least cultural caché, and the one that helped kill the franchise as we knew it. It makes a slight bit of sense to me. Or maybe I'm so far off the mark that my arrow landed in another state. Great work, in any case, Josh. Keep me thinking.


  5. Thor
    March 24, 2016 @ 10:33 am

    (1) This was an unexpected delight of a post, both for it popping up when it has and by having legitimately interesting things to say about an episode that had me pulling all sorts of baffled Why-Are-They-Doing-This? faces when I first saw it.

    (2) The details of this may be slightly wonky because it was ages ago, but: I remember when Archer was being particularly rough with some captive enemy (possibly a Xindi in season 3?), the reviewer in SFX speculated that perhaps Archer had been wiped from Federation/Starfleet history because he had been such a rogue. I always thought that was a fascinating idea that the show would never in a million years commit to, even though it was fanwanky enough to help them out in appeasing continuity hounds.

    Your ideas on the Federation's approved historical narratives being shunted around holodecks could neatly play into that, too. Archer's crimes and misdemeanours covered up to make way for him as a mythic figure who did little in the way of exploring (quite true, to be fair) and is instead projected as some grand architect of Federation politics.

    Anyway, now I can't help but wonder what delights Vaka Rangi will see when we get around to Voyager's “Living Witness”. Though given you've turned my negative opinion around on this, I hope you don't convince me an episode I like is actually awful…


  6. Ross
    March 29, 2016 @ 9:56 am

    I gotta tell you, I just could not make myself care about the whole "Oh yeah? Then why haven't we ever heard of him before?" thing. I mean, if you watched an hour out of my life every week for seven years, you could say the same thing about Alexander Hamilton.


  7. Daru
    April 8, 2016 @ 2:54 am

    "But gods can never be truly taken away from their people and live on through folk beliefs and stories. These things cannot be taken away so long as the stories continue to be told. Tradition and mythology are stronger than written history, because they can constantly adapt to changing times, and these are certainly times when time is changing before our very eyes.

    A written history is a dead story, extinguished and filed away for the archives. But a story that continues to be told is a voyage that never ends."

    Yes, yes and indeed yes!

    Not watched Enterprise much (yet) but loved where this post went to. I wouldn't fight for much but one thing I would fight for is inspiration and people's rights to tell their stories their own way. Rousing words, thank you.


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