Saturday, April 10, 2010

Such silliness

Were I a better person, I might be above gloating. But I'm not, and I'm not. I'm glad that Nick Cohen has un-protected his tweets again. So this and this and this are free again. Nick very kindly links to my comment here which was in response to his tweet:

Has seen Man U fail and Oxford fail and is now going to watch the new Dr Who, doubtless he'll fail

If you don't want to follow all those links, I only asked what he thought of Dr Who. (I've seen it twice, so can only agree with his opinion of me - the 'one sad fuck' one. It's not libellous; it's accurate. Liked it (Dr Who, not Nick's tweeting) much better, even the music the second time. Decided that I rate it more like 9/10 than the 3 or 4 I had at first.) Anyway, Captain Cabernet of this blog called John Lloyd, TV critic for the FT an "ueberDecent" in the comments here (blogger permalinks aren't working for me; doubt they will for you). Here's John Lloyd's column today:

Two other renewals last week. In series 32 of Doctor Who (BBC1 Saturdays), with a new Doctor, the comely Matt Smith, and his new and equally comely assistant Amelia (Karen Gillan), the Doctor at one point undresses completely to change to a better set of clothes. Amelia watches admiringly, a half-century’s cry from the first Time Lord’s companion – his granddaughter. The Doctor has 20 minutes to save the world from incineration, and does. The series follows the growing trend to be topical/satiric: the aliens, the Atraxi, are invoked, a kind of interstellar United Nations with respect and real power, and asked, “Is this world [Earth] a threat?” No, says the Atraxi voice with an interstellar echo – and there you have a 10-second satire of the invasion of Iraq. At another point, the Doctor persuades Amelia to be his assistant by saying, “You’re a Scottish girl in an English village: I know what that’s like,” as if she were a Jew who had wandered into a 19th-century Cossack settlement. Such silliness.

Maybe both John Lloyd and I have idees fixes and see the Iraq War in everything. Or maybe I was right.[1]

Not that I'm bothered about being wrong.

But then again, I thought, it’s so old! There was no room to be free, to make mistakes, to think stupid thoughts, to rock.

Malcolm McLaren on working as a wine taster in the New York Times, 2007. It's perverse, but I like being wrong. If I'm not wrong at lot of the time, I know I'm not trying hard enough.

[1] Lloyd seems to think that the Atraxi are analogous to the UN here; I think they're not, but act as Britain and the US in Iraq. I could write a very long, and doubtless unreadably tedious post about Dr Who, interplanetary laws, position on wars etc. I'll say again that my favourite story was The War Games, which, silly story aside, pretty clearly pushes the moral, "if you find yourself in a war, shoot your officers and run away; common fighting men have more in common with their 'enemies' than with their ruling class" which I consider trivially true. And there was Carnival of Monsters where the Third Doctor invoked a galactic ban on "miniscopes." Doubtless Ben Aaronovitch could talk a fair bit about Dr Who and criticising a current government too.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Decentwatch: Roger Alton out at the Indy, Simon Kelner back in.

4/10/2010 02:04:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Oxford fail? Is he talking about the Stevenage game, the last three months or the past fourteen seasons?

4/10/2010 02:56:00 PM  
Blogger The Couscous Kid said...

Boat Race, I'm afraid, but - yes - United have bollixed up the last quarter of the season quite spectacularly.

4/10/2010 03:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Martin Wisse said...

If people do insist on seeing political parallels in sc-fi shows, let them at least get them right. The doctor didn't invoke the Atraxi, these were in fact the villains of the episode, he invoked the shadow proclamations, which is a typical largely unexplained bit of New Dr Who background that exists to keep Earth free from alien interference (worked well, so far)

That bit was purely meant to show how incredibly badass the good doctor is, any political satire only exists in Lloyd's head.

4/10/2010 08:37:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

That's not quite right either. I had to look it up, but the Shadow Proclamation is pretty obviously an analogue of the UN. The Shadow Proclamation was a galactic government concerned with upholding Galactic Law, as well as a set of rules governing it. In his ninth, tenth, and eleventh incarnations, the Doctor called miscreants to account for themselves according to its dictates.

As I said in one of my tweets (not one for Nick C): Article 57 of the Shadow Convention... they're not going to let Iraq go, are they?

I hadn't thought of Iraq and International Law being an undercurrent in Dr Who, but maybe it is.

Re John Lloyd: journalists seem very slapdash with that sort of detail. Perhaps they do it to annoy pedants and nerds. Perhaps they just don't think it matters. Although I am surprised that JL didn't work out that the Atraxi were the baddies, even if the name wasn't used until the last ten minutes or so.

4/10/2010 08:49:00 PM  
Anonymous belle le triste said...

The involvement of the UN in Dr Who storylines goews back at least as far as Jon Pertwee: Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart worked for UNIT, which denotes "United Nations Intelligence Taskforce". Given the tendency of warlords and warrior races to wish to enslave or exterminate the human race, the likelihood of inadvertent political allegory in this area is quite high (not that it necessarily all inadvertent).

Probably as a consequence of the professional deformations of my dayjob, competence and precision in pop-cultural commentary is a bit of a touchstone for me of political alertness -- people claiming to have a grasp of cultural stuff they really REALLY don't have a grasp of is a real early warning sign

(why are cohen and lloyd so keen to be considered culturally perspicacious? i think it's hitchenswannabe syndrome, and i think that's a bad warning sign too: hitchens' cultural commentary is VERY variable in quality; amis's is of course resolutely dreadful...)

4/11/2010 11:28:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Actually, the Brig goes back to Troughton, when he was merely Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart and Benton was a Corporal. He's one of the most wonderfully ambivalent characters in Dr Who (mostly via different writers' takes on the characters and expediency on the part of the scripts). Thus, he's old school military, but broad minded enough to be in UNIT, and enough to work with the Doctor. There was one episode where his UNIT lot are opposed to the British Army, for reasons I've forgotten.

As for politics, he's at his best in The Green Death where his role is (supposedly) antagonistic to Jo Grant's idealistic politics. She wants to run away from UNIT to support some Welsh hippies; the Brig gives her a lift as he's going the same way to suppress them. :-) (He's also on first name terms with the PM - 'Jeremy' which just happened to be the Liberal leader's name.)

OTOH, he also committed genocide in Dr Who and the Silurians. They never did quite decide if he was a goodie or a baddie - which is how it should be.

4/11/2010 11:45:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Also, John Lloyd is quite a good TV critic, much better than Nick, who doesn't seem interested in culture at all.

Re: The Green Death, all ends happily when Jo contacts her uncle who works for the UN and - just like that - gets apparently infinite funding from the UN for Prof Jones commune/research meaning that the mines can close and all the miners have safer, environmentally friendly jobs for life. Hurrah all round. Brought a tear to my eye. Shame it's not at all realistic. [Miners: good. Hippies: good. Oil companies: bad. Who knew? Soldiers good as long as they eat quorn.]

4/11/2010 11:57:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Iraq parallels? How about the idea that the Atraxi being prepared to incinerate the Earth - a Level 5 planet (whatever that means: probably 'Mostly Harmless')- so they could stop 'Prisoner Zero'?


4/11/2010 09:46:00 PM  

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