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 to make myself clear on this point.
I think that the Colony in ‘The Macra Terror’ is a picture of mainstream Britain in denial during the radical late 60s, of a prosperous capitalist world that runs on repression, oppression, obedience, media conditioning, hierarchy. The Colony strongly hints at being capitalist in various ways, not least the Butlins vibe that everyone talks about, the Pilot’s sitcom businessman manner, Barney’s salon and spa, etc.
Most explicitly, the story concentrates on the mining of gas… and Britain in 1967 was right in the middle of switching over to North Sea Gas. In the story, the gas (a toxic substance that humans don’t need and which actively endangers workers) is mined for the benefit of other, hidden, possibly insane reasons/persons – in this case, the Macra.
The Macra, as I noted elsewhere, are extremely hauntological (in that material/pseudo-materialist way that things are hauntological in Who) in that they actively and literally haunt the Colony while clearly representing something that the characters all know must be denied. In the January 2012 issue of Panic Moon, I hint that this repressed knowledge is the knowledge that they are exploited – specifically and explicitly as workers – by an irrational tyranny, and that this ties into the way that the radical currents in the late 60s were popularizing a critique of Western consumerist capitalism as tyrannical and alienating.
And so, whether it be cause or effect, we get Weirdish monsters.
They are giant crabs, as in some classic Weird fiction… except that, when you listen to the story (especially since you have to listen to it) they are also categorically indeterminate, big/small, crab/non-crab, insect/spider/bacteria things that people have trouble perceiving clearly, even – especially – when they see them.
Moreover, the Macra’s own mentalities are extremely contradictory, incoherent, self-denying… to the point of bordering on psychosis.…