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If you want an image of the future as we desire it, imagine a boot stamping on Jonathan Jones’ face… forever

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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.

7 Comments

  1. K. Jones
    December 4, 2013 @ 9:22 am

    I really know little to nothing about the 70s, and this in spite of historical factoids, period TV sitcoms set during the decade, and 90% of my favorite movies all having come out in the latter half of the decade.

    But I've always had the nagging suspicion that it was a true transition period for the entertainment industry. There was a Mindless Ones (Doctor Who, I think) discussion a while back that touched on it, a little in the comments. And ultimately it's as simple as looking at my own DVD shelf and seeing the crown jewels of genre fiction, the Spielberg/Lucas joints, lined up in a row.

    Somehow making it big in theaters didn't automatically elevate and validate genre fiction TV shows. It had serious growing pains, TV, to fill those niches in its own way (within its own established budgetary confines, with its own failures and coups) and even today, it's only just within the last few years or so that TV has ultimately surpassed films in the realm of serious storytelling. (The irony of course that Star Trek has become mindless popcorn imagery with no substance by being reborn for movie theaters – but that, and the galling lack of working-class science fiction writers these days – is fodder for another day.)

    Shatner, and his other castmates, embody working-class actors in a way that's hard to match. The beauty of the Animated on the horizon is that it opened a few of them up for voice-acting – a massive boon, that, to realize from that just how unique and distinctive they are not just for their diversity, but for their distinctive voices as well. We're a ways away, but their voice-work becomes pretty important, all the way from Doohan's mastery to Nimoy's unforgettable turn as Gandalf right up to things like Takei doing guest-voices for Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

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  2. Josh Marsfelder
    December 4, 2013 @ 1:47 pm

    The 1970s were a strange period. I'm not even sure I can come up with any significant trends to define the decade, aside from television animation taking a serious plunge in quality and stuff like the energy panics. In many ways I see the 70s sundered in two between the Long 1960s and Long 1980s: The first half of the decade belongs to the first period and the second half belongs to the second. It's tough to name something that truly belonged to the 1970s and 1970s alone (incidentally I think a similar phenomenon happened with the 1990s, but that's a discussion for another time).

    Certainly the point you raise about being a transition period for media would fit with the larger transitory nature of the decade itself. We see that even in the weird, paradoxical existence of the James Blish novelizations we looked at last time, caught as they were between the disposable TV of the 40s, 50s and 60s and the home video boon the 1980s would introduce.

    And I of course agree completely with your comments about working-class science fiction and cinema. Those will all be major, major themes for me going forward.

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  3. Anton B
    December 5, 2013 @ 7:21 am

    'It's tough to name something that truly belonged to the 1970s and 1970s alone'

    Well, as someone who was a teenager in the seventies, let me suggest a few things. In Sci -Fi TV we have the Pertwee/Tom Baker Doctor Who, The original Battlestar Galactica, Wonder Woman, The Tomorrow People and Saphire and Steel, in movies – Star Wars, Superman, Close Encounters and their various cheapo copies. In Popular Culture generally I would define the early seventies as developing the retro take on the 1920s and 30s which, admittedly, did come out of the Sixties hippy 'Granny Takes a Trip' clothing fad but was, in the early 70s, fed by movies such as The Sting, The Great Gatsby and Murder on the Orient Express. This rapidly (and literally) wore thin and inspired by fantasy and sci-fi literate performers such as Marc Bolan, David Bowie and Roxy Music metamorphosed into the futuristic nostalgia of Glam (So influential on Doctor Who) which in turn mutated in the late 70s into the Do-It-Yourself Punk aesthetic which would have such an influence on Sci-Fi imagery through Blade Runner, Mad Max, Alien etc.and later the whole indie/grunge scene.

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  4. BerserkRL
    December 22, 2013 @ 3:22 pm

    The Devil's Rain … is usually regarded as the absolute nadir of Shatner's filmic career

    Well, the mistake on the poster is certainly embarrassing.

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  5. Daru
    January 28, 2014 @ 12:23 am

    Great article again. I certainly found reading Shatner's account of That Period fascinating. One thing he wrote a lot about was that as well as the schlock movies above, he also continued in the theatre, though not high level stuff. But I find it interesting that along with the work you highlight that he continued with his performative career somehow.

    One thing I want to pick up on is the use of the word 'dubious' in relation to the Druids. I think it may be the case that dubious may be more applicable in relation to writings about them form the period they existed that survive. Dubious in the sense that it has been argued that these may well be propaganda of a sort as they were written by Roman sources who were seeking to topple the Druids from the position they held, and later on massacre them on Anglesey.

    The thing I find particularly interesting as a professional oral storyteller, is that their teachings were completely oral – and they may tie into further themes of your blog in some way, as I really was fascinated in your comments on the computer gaming post about how oral forms of narrative felt important to you. Later Irish texts and surviving Welsh poetic epics have some fascinating links to Vaka Rangi – Annwn, the Druidic Otherworld, allusion in the myths to teachings coming from the stars also, and especially The Spoils of Annwn or Preiddeu Annwfn – where Arthur & his knights set off on a journey into the dangerous Otherworld with their ships, through many islands & castles… & only one ship (Arthur's) survives.

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  6. Josh Marsfelder
    January 28, 2014 @ 2:35 pm

    "One thing I want to pick up on is the use of the word 'dubious' in relation to the Druids. I think it may be the case that dubious may be more applicable in relation to writings about them form the period they existed that survive. Dubious in the sense that it has been argued that these may well be propaganda of a sort as they were written by Roman sources who were seeking to topple the Druids from the position they held, and later on massacre them on Anglesey."

    This is, of course, a strong point and one I was trying to get at with my use of that word, perhaps not as effectively as I should have. Yes, certainly there was a magickal tradition and caste in places like Ireland and Yorkshire and elsewhere, but I do find the majority of the historical accounts we can actually read to be things we ought to take with a substantial salt mine, which naturally makes trying to discern any erudition about this period and culture difficult.

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  7. Daru
    February 7, 2014 @ 9:33 am

    Just back from holiday – Yes fair enough. The point I was making though was with regards to evidence proving their existence, but that some of the shreds of evidence out there was coming from a skewed and biased perspective.

    The point you make above is the thing that is interesting about the Druids – their mystery. We see only hints and glimpses of possible figures in written down versions of oral epics such as the Mabinogion.

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