The struggle in terms of the strange

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Elizabeth Sandifer

Elizabeth Sandifer created Eruditorum Press. She’s not really sure why she did that, and she apologizes for the inconvenience. She currently writes Last War in Albion, a history of the magical war between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. She used to write TARDIS Eruditorum, a history of Britain told through the lens of a ropey sci-fi series. She also wrote Neoreaction a Basilisk, writes comics these days, and has ADHD so will probably just randomly write some other shit sooner or later. Support Elizabeth on Patreon.


  1. Froborr
    September 28, 2013 @ 12:19 am

    A "clean" version of the post on the front page and a link to an explicit one? NSFW images done as links instead of embedded in the text?

    Either of these would be preferable. I'd like to be able to read it, and I usually read your posts at work. And viewing massive tableaus of violent demon sex on the computers at my workplace is not only a fireable offense, it's a federal crime.

    Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. What did we all think?

    I think I should probably watch it soon.


  2. dm
    September 28, 2013 @ 2:14 am

    I've never really been a TMBG fan, of that vague era/genre I've always been more into Ween, Pavement and Sebadoh. But I've had Flood sitting on my iTunes for a while, willing me to listen to it (I flick it on for a second, get bored, flick it off). Would your book put me in the right frame of mind to see it through? (I've used 33 1/3 books for this before, the best one being the David Bowie Low one- I was already invested in Low, but it took me through Iggy Pop's The Idiot track-by-track as a bonus)


  3. brownstudy
    September 28, 2013 @ 3:44 am

    Agree with this; I also like to read at work, which is on government property.


  4. Cyndy Cooper
    September 28, 2013 @ 6:03 am

    NSFW images as links. Definitely.


  5. jane
    September 28, 2013 @ 6:10 am

    Not the most impressive pilot episode — but then, I think most shows take a good five or six episodes to find their legs and really start becoming what they're going to be. Obviously Whedonesque dialogue, and a Whedonesque philosophy. Being that I'm getting older, having the only old-ish character being a white man was very disappointing; just the lack of older women on television in general is disappointing.

    I can't help but think of the characters in terms of other Whedon characters. Or maybe I'm just terrible with names. There's the Zoe bus-driving woman, the smart-alecky Dushku clone, the British pair who are Topher split in two, the older white man (Paulson?) and the younger white man (a Jayne? a Paul? but lacking in any charm or charisma, which is hard to do compared to those characters) and the other commanding woman — Maria Hill — who had some good lines but, I dunno, for someone wielding so much authority she's awfully young, cast more for her looks than her presence. Why isn't there the equivalent of Olivia Williams here? At least we got some Ron Glass. Ron Glass makes everything better.

    Anyways, I thought it was only okay, it didn't get me excited in the way Firefly did, or Dollhouse for that matter, and that story in particular got off to a very slow and rocky start. So for now I'm wary, even hopeful, but not particularly optimistic.


  6. jane
    September 28, 2013 @ 6:12 am

    Links would be good, but I think a separate page (a second version) would be better — I think seeing the images directly in context with the commentary is an important aspect to consider.


  7. David Anderson
    September 28, 2013 @ 7:05 am

    I enjoyed it. But it took until half way through the episode for any real plot to start happening. And even then the bit where we're wondering whether Skye is a bad guy or a good guy got resolved fast. For a while there's nothing terribly obvious at stake.
    There's just a little bit of 'these people have all sorts of surveillance and extra-judicial powers but because they're nice people they won't misuse them'. I suppose it's inherent in the genre. Ditto, the resolution – if you see it as a political allegory it's well-meaning. A bit Dicks-Letts if you remember the characterisation on these boards as the conservative's liberal.
    On the other hand, I'm more optimistic. Firefly started slowly too I think.


  8. David Ainsworth
    September 28, 2013 @ 8:00 am

    Being that I'm getting older, having the only old-ish character being a white man was very disappointing; just the lack of older women on television in general is disappointing.

    FYI, Ming-Na Weng (Agent Melinda May) is 49. And there are hints that she may be more active in future episodes.


  9. Eric Gimlin
    September 28, 2013 @ 8:53 am

    I would suggest links to the unsafe images. Then again, I've read the zero-image version already.

    I'm quite optimistic about S.H.I.E.L.D., although it was clearly a pilot episode with the problems that suggests. But as others have said, it's got lots of stuff for both Whedon fans and comic book fans. Which means I enjoyed the heck out of it but am possibly not the best person to ask how it will do overall; it's targeted fairly directly at me in that regard.

    One thing that surprised and gratified me was the Special Thanks credit for Jim Steranko in the end credits. While Steranko is quite obviously why we care about SHIELD 45 years later, he didn't actually create all that many of the concepts. It's much more what he did with them; I didn't see any of his original ideas borrowed for the pilot. (Millar and Hitch, in contrast, obviously created the "Ultimate" version of SHIELD that the movies and show used.) So that was nice to see. Although… I'm calling Centurius as the big bad for the first arc, based largely on that credit. He would actually not fit too badly based on what little we've seen, now that I think about it.


  10. liminal fruitbat
    September 28, 2013 @ 9:57 am

    Agents of SHIELD was… on TV.

    I mean, it wasn't terrible, and there were some good bits, but compared with the Buffy or Firefly pilots, who the hell are these people and why should we care? He's Phil Coulson, who we all love from the films! She's badass but doesn't want to be! They're quirky and do science! She does computers! He's an asshole! And what David Anderson said above about "oh, but they're a nice spy agency", which was pretty much inevitable, but felt like it could have been handled better.

    Still, that was just the pilot. Elementary's wasn't brilliant either.


  11. David Anderson
    September 28, 2013 @ 10:10 am

    Thinking about it, it was aiming quite high. It's set in a superhero universe, everyone belongs to an espionage agency; it's all about stopping bad guys. So the pilot is trying to not do that. It's saying this series is not entirely about stopping bad guys. The challenge it was setting itself is that if your plot is stopping bad guys the viewer can immediately see there's a conflict with something at stake. If that's not what you're doing, that's an additional challenge to meet: you have to introduce all the characters and also explain things to the viewer.


  12. Assad K
    September 28, 2013 @ 12:16 pm

    It was quite entertaining. I've been a fan of Gregg Clark since I saw him on New Christine – indeed, of the whole ensemble on that show, which is odd, seeing as I didn't put it on my DVR list – so it's nice to see him back on TV as a regular. And I enjoyed his lurking in the shadows. Maybe it'll be less killdeath than Dollhouse became later on.

    Let me say, I can appreciate SHIELD being a 'nice' spy agency more than I can the various shows where the CIA is a 'nice' spy agency – Alias, I'm looking at you (after all the only dickish agent in the building turned out to be an enemy mole). I am a little confused by SHIELDs governance, though.. the Iron Man movies suggested it was an American organization (after all, the H is for Homeland) but the SHIELD council seen in Avengers looked – or sounded – international. I'm hoping they opted against it being purely US (I say that as a fan of UNIT!).


  13. Nick Smale
    September 28, 2013 @ 12:32 pm

    I'm hoping they opted against it being purely US.

    There's an English woman and a Scotsman on the team, which suggests to me that SHIELD is an international organisation…


  14. EclecticDave
    September 28, 2013 @ 3:11 pm

    While I agree that "we're an all powerful organisation, but it's OK because we're the good guys" is endemic to the genre – it does sit slightly uncomfortably at the moment given the NSA revelations. I'd be nice to see at least an attempt to address that somehow, though I'm not sure how far you can go with that within the narrative.

    Apart from that almost unavoidably unfortunate overtone, I did like the pilot a lot – coulson has to turn out to be some sort of clone or something doesn't he?


  15. Iain Coleman
    September 28, 2013 @ 3:42 pm

    Yes, but only to a limited extent. There is, at the very least, substantial intelligence cooperation among the "five eyes": US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand. The presence of an agent from outwith that grouping would really suggest that SHIELD is significantly more internationalist than actually existing intelligence agencies.


  16. Iain Coleman
    September 28, 2013 @ 3:55 pm

    I ended up watching Agents of SHIELD immediately after the first episode of the BBC's Atlantis, which perhaps served to emphasise the virtues of the former show. There was some very nice writing – as you'd expect from Whedon, but still, give the man his due – good characters and performances, and as first episodes go it shows considerable promise. More than the first double-episode of Firefly, to be honest.

    It felt a lot like an American superhero show with a British, Doctor-Who-ish sensibility. Some of that was evident in a superficial way: the team based in a Hercules aircraft like Invasion-era UNIT, the many similarities to Torchwood. But more substantially, it was a telefantasy story with a lightness of touch, a sense of self-deprecating humour, and a sceptical attitude toward violence and authority that felt very Who-ish. And Coulson's flying vintage car was distilled Pertwee.

    The big difference between this and Atlantis was that the narrative in Agents of SHIELD was driven by relatable, real-world concerns: a man being laid off in a tough economy, struggling to provide for his child, feeling betrayed and lied to by the system. In contrast, Atlantis, while enjoyable enough in a CBBC sort of way, was about fuck all.

    So, as opening episodes go, not as obviously brilliant as An Unearthly Child (or indeed Rose), but at least as good as any of Whedon's previous first episodes.

    Oh, and it's not surprising that J August Richards has got better at acting since Angel, but he seems to have got better looking as well.


  17. jane
    September 28, 2013 @ 7:53 pm

    Good heavens, I though she was in her 20s. Well. Still, it'd be nice to have more women on TV who look like average women, not twentysomething hotties. The choice of this actress doesn't exactly reduce self-image pressures.


  18. encyclops
    September 28, 2013 @ 11:21 pm

    I haven't watched Agents of SHIELD and probably won't, but I did finish Gone Home today. I'd been thinking about buying it but your recommendation put it over the edge and…it's pretty beautiful. The subtlety and misdirection would have been fantastic in any medium, but to pull that off in a video game is something special. That's before we even get to the story itself, which is…lovely doesn't begin to cover it.

    While we're on the subject, and I know this is several Waffles ago, does Welcome to Night Vale change its nature as it goes on? Right now I feel as though when I've heard one I've heard them all, and if it's not building toward something or getting more sophisticated I'm not going to make it a priority. I love the concept, but I don't know about the execution.

    Next up video game-wise is the Amnesia sequel. The first one scared the pants off me so I've got high hopes, especially as we head into October and the season of the witch.


  19. elvwood
    September 29, 2013 @ 1:15 am

    They've taken an LMD and done something mind-tapey to it, is my guess.

    Regarding the "good guy spy" stuff, I can just accept that as part of the genre without it affecting my real-world opinions of such organisations. Though I am sorry SHIELD couldn't have been more international.


  20. elvwood
    September 29, 2013 @ 1:20 am

    Of course, the flying vintage car is taken straight from the (pre-Steranko) comics – actually, the very first story IIRC. At the time it wasn't a vintage car, but still it gave me a warm fuzzy moment watching the wheels fold out.

    I've recorded Atlantis, but haven't got around to watching it yet (and there's others I want to watch first, such as A Very British Murder).


  21. Kit Power
    September 29, 2013 @ 11:51 pm

    Spoiler tags for the NSFW stuff? Is that even possible?


  22. Travis Butler
    September 30, 2013 @ 5:24 am

    The NSFW stuff should definitely not be on the front page, anywhere, even a screen or two below the top; I sometimes don't catch up with the site for a few days, and scrolling past them to get to prior entries would be… problematic.

    Put the images behind links, or put an entire version of the post behind links… either one would work fine.


  23. Anton B
    October 2, 2013 @ 2:03 am

    Finally got round to watching Agents of Shield. Well, it's Whedon by numbers isn't it? There needs to be a heel face turn of some kind to make this interesting. But I suspect it's too tied to the big MARVEL franchise for anything really radical to happen. The problem with the behind-his-back-knowingly-pointed conversation about Coulson's health spa vacation is that WE know he died in Avengers Assemble so the fact that HE doesn't know fails to be that interesting. Of course there's going to be some clony woney reveal but so what? It is Whedon though so they'll probably ALL turn out to be dead or something. The show actually didn't feel quite big enough and looked a littlle cheap in places with some dodgy CGI failing to sell the hi-tech premise. The characterisation sermed a little 'by numbers' to me. I know I'm going to tire of the kooky Brit couple's witty buffyspeak banter very rapidly, but then I was never a huge fan of Topher. I love Coulson's car and the rotating wheels were a lovely shout out to the Silver Age but so far (and I know it's only the first episode, not a pilot though is it? It's already gone to series surely?) it's a bit Sliders via Torchwood with a smidge of Spooks and a soupcon of Dollhouse via Unbreakable. Potentially a Man From UNCLE for the 21st Century but dangerously close to Get Smart meets Mission Impossible.


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