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Interesting Links for 20-03-2016

(Thanks to andrewducker and FeedThisToThat)


Interesting Links for 24-10-2013

(Thanks to andrewducker and FeedThisToThat)

Interesting Links for 19-08-2013

  • On Being Off: The Case of Amanda Knox
    "Preston theorizes that the act of punishment lights up a pleasure zone in our brains, because group evolution relies on cooperation and therefore must include the ability to punish those who don’t cooperate or who are seen as outsiders." I'm interested in this in-group out-group dynamic, in particular between only slightly different groups: iPhone v Android, experimental v theoretical physics, Belfast Catholic v Belfast Protestant. This is a nice article that helps me think about ways that we form judgments about people we half-know.
    (tags: )
(Thanks to andrewducker and FeedThisToThat)


Interesting Links for 30-05-2013

(Thanks to andrewducker and FeedThisToThat)


Who do you love? 34: The Macra Terror

A thing to love about The Macra Terror: Peter Jeffrey!

Who do you love? 33: The Moonbase

A thing to love about The Moonbase: The scenes at the start of episode 1 where they put on space suits and jump gently around. This is reminiscent of the spacesuit business at the start of The Web Planet, which was as much about establishing the TARDIS crew's dynamic as it was about establishing the particular setting for this week.

This points to a way the Cybermen are used as recurring villains that differs significantly from the Daleks. When the Daleks show up it's a sign that things are going to go bonkers (with the exception of Power of the Daleks, which is the best-disciplined story of any kind to date). A Cyberman story is one of two types: either a slow-paced Hartnell throwback (this, The Wheel in Space) or a boldly confident statement that this is what the show is like now that doesn't break new ground but executes on old ideas better than you've seen before (Tomb, The Invasion). Maybe it's the effect of the different shapes. The Cybermen are the first classic person-in-a-rubber-suit monsters. For all the emotionless schtick they come with, the fact is that they have very expressive bodies in long and medium shot; also, because they aren't quite human, there's a tendency to think you can get away with putting them on harnesses or using dummies more than you could with stuntmen playing actual huams. They lend themselves to being gracefully contorted in the same way that the Daleks lend themselves to squawking slapstick. So we have the climax of this story, the spacewalk in Wheel in Space, the mad Cyberman in the sewers in The Invasion, all of which would look and feel very different if they had Daleks instead. 

As such the Cybermen are the perfect monster for the increasing professionalism of the show, which is now aiming for “how did they do that?” rather than “what the fuck just happened?”. The show is never in the black and white era going to be as exceptional as it was in Season 2, but episode to episodde it's going to continue to be very pleasant to watch.

Back to the Moonbase: also to love, the pattern of black veins on the back of infected people's hands — I think the first time we've had a special effect of a body changing, a very visceral representation of possession. 

Who do you love? 32: The Underwater Menace

A thing to love about The Underwater Menace: It was clearly SO EXPENSIVE. The sets are huge. They actually flood them. There's an enormous cast. There are fish people. They didn't scrimp and save on the money for this one, that's for sure. As with The Ark you can perhaps ask if this was the right script to spend all this money on. But look at how huge the marketplace is!

Who do you love? 31: The Highlanders

A thing to love about The Highlanders: Polly's best scenes, as she merrily passes the Bechdel test and outsmarts the English in a much saucier way than we're used to. Also, “I should like a hat like that”, the best catchphrase until “Are you my mummy?”. Admittedly, the competition is “Affirmative, Master” and “Excellent”, so maybe this isn't saying much.

And it's farewell, or rather fare-THEE-well, to the historicals. Even at their worst, they tended to be good, offering writers a chance to relax a bit about the setting and really get their teeth into the characters and plot. Only one, The Reign of Terror, is actually bad; all of the others are packed with moments of delight and humanity. The Highlanders is probably the second worst. It's remarkably inconsistent in tone, not sure how to play the scene where the Doctor and Jamie's party are all one kick away from actually being hanged. However, once it settles down and decides it's a romp, it's plenty entertaining. This was perhaps the death of the historicals: as the writers got more self-conscious, the middles of the historicals continued to be easy to write, but it got harder and harder to get the Doctor and his friends into the story and to get them out — and not just in a psychic paper way, in a way that caused as little damage as possible to the known facts. Fortunately, David Whitaker has just shown that the base under siege can be used to tell great stories as well; hopefully they'll use this knowledge sparingly.

A thing to love about Power of the Daleks: The dead airman hanging from a tree.

The last historical comes up tomorrow, and in this series I've talked about how the historicals provided the writers with the chance to take the setting for granted and work not just on the characters but, crucially, on how they relate to their setting. Marco Polo is about being trapped and knowing it. The Myth Makers is about working yourself into a situation where everything you thought was a virtue just leaves you more stuck. This ability to explore theme has made the historicals, pound for pound, much richer experiences than most of the science fiction stories. Now, David Whitaker comes roaring back from his eighteen months elsewhere to show that the sf stories can be that rich too.

And he borrows something else from the historicals: the ability to be searingly nihilistic, like The Massacre and The Myth Makers and even The Gunfighters. Give people a fresh start and a green field — the planet Vulcan, though not a paradise, is from its name clearly a place where society and relationships are meant to be forged anew — and what happens? People go stir crazy, form tribes, and start killing each other. People who should be taken seriously aren't; everyone is playing for short-term advantage; it's clear that the rebellion has no material or ideological content, and if it succeeds there'll be another, and another, and the colony will gradually whittle itself down to nothing. Bragen will be killed by Valmar, Valmar will be killed by Janley, the mercury will go unmined. A bit of adult supervision might calm things down, but it never arrives. The Examiner is shot dead in the mercury swamps; the dead airman hangs from a tree. Fresh starts are doomed.

Which is maybe an odd thematic choice for the most fresh start-y story that Doctor Who has had to date.

So maybe there's more to it than that. Post-regeneration stories are about discovering who you are, and there are two ways to establish that: finding out what you love, where you feel safe; and finding out what you're not. The adventures of the first Doctor (as we now, suddenly, think of him) have been so diverse that there is nothing familiar he can define himself by, except the TARDIS (contrast UNIT, UNIT, and Adric + the Master for the next regeneration stories). All that's left is to let him define himself by what he isn't. Which is why, within the story, finding the Daleks on Vulcan is perhaps the best thing that could happen to the Doctor: by showing him what he's not, they give him a solid place to stand in the mercury swamp while the colony sinks around him.

Welcome back, David Whitaker. Stick around.

By the way, have you seen this?

Also, since the aim of this post is to be the top result when you google “ “Power of the Daleks” “Lord of the Flies” ”, I should perhaps mention “Lord of the Flies” explicitly, so there it is. (ETA: Mission Accomplished!)

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