Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Doctor Who: The Talons of Weng-Chiang, Episode 6

To be frank, I found this episode a fairly standard resolution of the problem posed, at least to start off with - bargaining is not reserved for ordinary mortals, then. Perhaps it's also just me or a result of repeatedly watching episodes (although I've tried to get them suitably separated in time to achieve the correct seventies TV impression) but I also found the opening confusing, since it seemed very similar to the openings of other episodes.
The Doctor is at his most infuriating - I love the random selection of stuff from his pockets - & I love his teasing with tales of his activities in the future tense.
I've just realised what I don't like about this adventure. Plot-wise this episode is a fairly straightforward one in many ways, with elements of negotiation, bargaining, plotting, deception, & so on. However, planted on top of that is the fantastic story of Magnus Greel, & his little problem with his time cabinet. This is otherwise a completely nineteenth-century-milieu story. One of these things has to go - either make the plot more bizarre, get rid of the bizarre characters, or move it out of its setting.
Perhaps it's me. I notice that I'll tend to have a 'thing' for a series & watch (& therefore write about here) a lot of that series for a bit. I had a Doctor Who fad a few years ago & suspect I'm not ready for another fad. On the other hand I seem to have watched quite a lot of Doctor Who, as witnessed by this blog, but was probably most impressed by the terminally unpopular films. The jury's out on that one.
As far as Weng-Chiang goes, I've made up my mind that there's something terminally unsatisfying about it, or perhaps a combination of the aspects I've decided I dislike. It's a pity - from everyone other than me it gets rave reviews, & its gaslight milieu held out such promise.
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Saturday, 26 July 2014

My flickr

Some time ago I - entirely through my own fault - managed to lose all the pictures from this blog. In case I do this again I've started a flickr photostream & plan to put future pictures on there. At the moment it mostly consists of pictures from The Avengers, & can be viewed at
https://m.flickr.com/#/photos/126445623@N02/
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Thursday, 24 July 2014

Allegory in The Prisoner: The Schizoid Man

An episode brim-full of allegory, this one, & perhaps one of the ones with the most intimate, personal themes, by which I mean identity & personhood, as well as issues of power. My one criticism of this episode is that it can become incredibly confusing, but then that has been the age-old intent of any visual medium with two characters who look the same!
It starts in Number 6's cottage, which as a reproduction of his own home can be seen as an allegory for his own space & identity, or else somewhat allegorical for his life before The Village. I want to try to make an allegory of the zener cards. I feel the individual cards could be allegorical (the cube for imprisonment, the wavy lines for changeability, the cross for contradiction, etc) but I feel that would be over-elaborate. Perhaps the cards could be understood as an allegory for humanity, taking the time to play a 'game' of the trendy folk-psychology of the time, in the midst of the barbarism of The Village.
Of course cards - at least in the offices of the time - also referred to keeping records. The zener cards could also be allegorical of the way Number 6/we shuffles reality round to suit ourselves, or if you want to be countercultural, could refer to the way the Powers that Be shuffle people's lives around to suit themselves.
In a show where the protagonist is insistent that he will not be numbered, filed, etc, this is an ironic allegory, made more so by the fact that Number 6 becomes Number 12. In a world where it's a case of 'six of one, half a dozen of another,' it could almost be that the transformation on Number 6 into Number 12 makes him into a round dozen, symbolising a whole man, for the first time. Whether or not the Village is Number 6's own creation or dream refuge, the episode is allegorical for him resisting his own human growth, mediated by his own creation. Number 6 really is in the ultimate position of self-contradiction.
In fact the 'six of one, half a dozen of another,' motif is reflected in the colours of Numbers 6 & 12's blazers - they are plainly never intended actually to be exactly the same. This is perhaps the most obvious allegory in this episode - the black & white theme is also seen in the penny farthing badges. This subject has been discussed at length already in all sorts of fora - I'm forced to conclude that at least as far as the badges are concerned, inconsistency in colouring & placement has prevented anyone coming up with an incontrovertible meaning for them.
As for the blazers - I'm afraid that contrary to most views they represent the most obviously Christian allegory in the whole show. I must also confess to another heresy underlying this opinion, & this one's a real heresy - I believe Christianity to be a dualist religion in denial of its dualism, for example -
'Since the beginning the Christian faith has been challenged by responses to the question of origins that differ from its own. Ancient religions and cultures produced many myths concerning origins. Some philosophers have said that everything is God, that the world is God, or that the development of the world is the development of God (Pantheism). Others have said that the world is a necessary emanation arising from God and returning to him. Still others have affirmed the existence of two eternal principles, Good and Evil, Light and Darkness, locked, in permanent conflict (Dualism, Manichaeism). According to some of these conceptions, the world (at least the physical world) is evil, the product of a fall, and is thus to be rejected or left behind (Gnosticism). Some admit that the world was made by God, but as by a watch-maker who, once he has made a watch, abandons it to itself (Deism). Finally, others reject any transcendent origin for the world, but see it as merely the interplay of matter that has always existed (Materialism). All these attempts bear witness to the permanence and universality of the question of origins. This inquiry is distinctively human.' (Paragraph 285, http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p1s2c1p4.htm)
And yet I personally can't see how another quotation from the Catechism of the Catholic Church can be interpreted as meaning anything other than dualism:
' "Man, enticed by the Evil One, abused his freedom at the very beginning of history." He succumbed to temptation and did what was evil. He still desires the good, but his nature bears the wound of original sin. He is now inclined to evil and subject to error:
'Man is divided in himself. As a result, the whole life of men, both individual and social, shows itself to be a struggle, and a dramatic one, between good and evil, between light and darkness.
'By his Passion, Christ delivered us from Satan and from sin. He merited for us the new life in the Holy Spirit. His grace restores what sin had damaged in us.' (Paragraphs 1707-8, http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s1c1a1.htm)
This dualism is perhaps best seen in the Easter liturgy. This is the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster letting the dualistic meaning of the Easter liturgy slip, without meaning to:
'This Easter Vigil is a celebration of light and life: the triumph of light over darkness and life over death. Nothing could be more stark or more important. As we celebrate these truths, every moment of our life on earth is transformed. We live either in the fear of encroaching darkness and death or we live in the firm hope of the victorious light and resurrection of Christ our Lord.' (http://rcdow.org.uk/cardinal/homilies/easter-vigil-1/)
It is exactly this dualistic either/or view that is the subject of this episode. When Number 6 becomes Number 12, he is clothed in a black blazer, indicative of his 'darkness', until he admits he is Number 6, when he will be clothed in white, indicative of his enlightenment. The whole thing is purely a psychological trick to make him say 'I'm Number 6'.
Perhaps the episode is open to a more orthodox Christian interpretation: in fact it almost warns against falling into dualism, since Number 2 makes the mistake of thinking that the man must be either Number 6 or Number 12, & apart from a factual error, the man who gets into the helicopter is, on an allegorical level, both Numbers 6 & 12 at the same time.
I notice when I wrote about this episode before I focused more on the institutionalisation approach - going to such trouble merely to get Number 6 to insist on being Number 6, which is supposedly not what the Village authorities want from him anyway. I think this episode may be better understood in those terms than in allegorical terms, despite the very obvious allegory involved. As an episode of The Prisoner, I'd have to say it's not one of the stronger ones: the plot is chock-full of holes, which become more obvious with repeated viewings, but it's carried through by the excellent visuals. The plot failures would include the pointlessness of the exercise, the easiness of Rover getting one of the clones as a resolution.
Ultimately Rover's little mistake gives Number 6 something to capitalise on. He makes a point of pretending to be Curtis, seeing this as an exit strategy. So perhaps it is ultimately an allegory of the man who insists of being himself against all the odds, & who triumphs as a result.
I just have one question - what is Steed's library doing amongst the other books in Number 12's cottage? - the distinctive spines with a black & a red band together are very apparent. Apart from that, of course, the more conservative furnishings of Number 12's cottage may represent the establishment figure that the Village authorities want Number 6 to become.
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Tuesday, 22 July 2014

The Avengers: My Take on the Springbok Radio Shows and Other Steed Actors

Image credit: http://aor.theavengers.tv/background_bulletin_orig.htm
I was reading a blog post the other day (http://suddenlyashotrangout.wordpress.com/2014/07/13/the-avengers-lost-episodes/) by someone who also didn't like Big Finish's releases of the lost Avengers episodes, for some of the same reasons as me, & interestingly because it takes the show out of its native 1960s milieu, but predominantly because of the lack of Patrick Macnee & Ian Hendry. She seemed to feel that the only person who could play Steed is Patrick McNee, a view I have heard often stated. In fact I must be the odd one out because I don't feel Macnee is the only possible Steed. I'm *way* too young to have seen the short-lived stage play, but I have come across three other depictions of Steed, in fact I usually have at least some of the radio shows on my mp3 player.
The radio show ran on Springbok Radio in South Africa on weekday evenings in a fifteen-minute slot from 1971 to 1973. It appeared that they had vanished completely, despite also being broadcast in New Zealand, Australia, & the USA - another victim of the anti-archival mentality of the times (http://aor.theavengers.tv/series_in_detail_06.htm). The existing serials that survive today were recorded on reel-to-reel tapes by a radio fan called John Wright: apart from some copies of his tapes, they are the only sources for the remaining known serials. I downloaded the episodes from the Avengers Declassified, & am sorry to see that 'These serials are not currently available from The Avengers Declassified, but if you drop us a line and ask nicely, we'll see what can be done!' (http://declassified.theavengers.tv/radio_archive.htm)
The remaining series are many of them Tara King shows rewritten for Mrs Peel. I like them a lot. I certainly don't object to Donald Monat as Steed. They also have an advantage over Big Finish's releases, in that they have a narrator, so at least *work* without visuals.
Other than the radio series there are two depictions of Steed I have seen, & I object to neither of them. Simon Williams played Steed in a spoof of The Avengers by Lily Savage (http://www.new-gallery-of-art.com/goodies_serendipity.htm). I think he actually does a very good job of over-doing Steed somewhat; I certainly don't find his depiction objectionable. I even don't object to Ralph Fiennes's depiction in the much-maligned Avengers film, which I like a lot. I saw it five times when it came out: three in Oxford & two in Birmingham. Oddly the two places seemed to produce a different crowd - the Oxford crowd thought it a jolly jape & laughed uproariously. The Birmingham crowd, though, were obviously die-hard Avengers fans like me, who took the revival of their favourite series with the correct degree of seriousness. One of these days I'm going to post on the film, including all the references to the original series I can identify.
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Thursday, 17 July 2014

Allegory in The Prisoner: Free for All

This is the point at which I have to stop being creative & have to fall in line with the conventional allegorical reading of The Prisoner, because it's just too obvious to be ignored. In this episode The Village is very clearly allegorical of our world, & comments on various institutions (government, the press) are clearly being made. There's simply no escaping that.
What is frankly shocking, though, is how countercultural the commentary really is. We all know that those who go into politics choose to do so generously, & for the good of the community, don't we? In addition to the frequent criticism that politicians are self-serving time-wasters (& if my local councillor should read this, I still didn't vote for you, even after you finally sorted that problem with the rubbish), this Prisoner depicts those in power much more cynically, as forced into position, & then really being completely powerless. Either way, the allegory is very simple & very powerful: 'democracy' is a sham, a trick, a subterfuge, which covers up what is really happening in the world. The real powers know what is going to happen already - for which the fact that Number 6's election materials were all ready is the allegory.
I am beginning to realise how allegorical the phone & TV in Number 6's cottage are, for the power of intrusion that the Village authorities have over his life. Number 58 is initially allegorical for a further intrusion, that of intruding a person into Number 6's life.
As the episode progresses, her full allegorical standing becomes clear. For a start she talks gibberish; this may be intended to represent Polish but clealy really represents gibberish. This gibberish is understood only by Number 2: a clear allegory for the rubbish that our leaders regularly spout. It is only after Number 6's conversion to the cause of the election, & he begins spouting Village propaganda, that he can suddenly say 'be seeing you' in her language, indicative of an apparent change of allegiance. Of course ultimately she is another allegory for nonsensical, sadistic, self-serving, vacuous leadership: she is the *real* new Number 2.
Number 6's change of allegiance is only apparent, of course, & he tried to escape again. This may represent that his real allegiance haven't changed - certainly he allows himself to be fooled into a completely false bid for illusory power. Yet when Rover catches him he is spouting Village propaganda.
Which brings me nicely to two criticisms I have of the use of allegory in this episode. The main one is that the allegory falls flat on its face - impute whatever motives you like to him, but Number 6 plainly would not have fallen for the trick that is played on him. There is therefore a fault at the heart of the allegory here. My other criticism would be that in terms of allegory this episode is almost too rich - it's a proper episode to be chewed over at length by the fans, since so many things can be interpreted in so many ways. I therefore want to focus on the allegorical use of certain features of the episode.
One is the relatively heavy use of Rover. I commented before that I was having difficulty with Rover as an allegory, but here it is more clearly a power to be reckoned with, even able to summon other Rovers when necessary. The scene where Rover hovers menacingly is particularly effective, while it is often interpreted as a guardian of The Village, I feel it would not be unreasonable to interpret him as an allegory of the presence of Number 1.
The Village council - puppet legislative bodies who are just dummies, & the newspapermen - agents of the authorities who manipulate what becomes published - are both very obvious allegories. The psychiatrist character (not sure if that is actually what he is) is more subtle.
I'm also having difficulty allegorising the heavy use of silhouette in this episode. The outline in the truth test plainly represents a misuse of technology to get into Number 6's head. I suspect that the latest multimedia techniques of the 1960s would have revolved around Letraset & projection & probably to most people, seeing images normally achieved by projection on a TV screen would have represented an impossible-for-the-time technology. Of course the most obvious allegorical interpretation - one often applied to the black & white badges - would be an either/or milieu: you have to be with The Village or against it.
The pub without beer is an obvious allegory for the pretence of everything in The Village. When he has to be taken away by his minder it is like what we would now see as a celebrity being set up to fall by certain glossy magazines. The scene where he sees Number 2, apparently drunk, is a continuing allegory of pretence & deceit.
Having said that I wanted to interpret this one in the more conventional allegorical way, I feel it is possible to interpret it in the light of my hobby horse, where The Village represents Number 6's dream escape from his life. Often the end of an allegory is the key to its interpretation, & in this case the show must be interpreted as Number 6 seeking himself, since he is Number 1. Seen in the light of that the show becomes an allegory for Number 6's repeated attempts to seek his own power or actualisation, despite competition from society. In this case society even tells him it wants him to self-actualise. Where it gets really twisted is the fact that he himself therefore is the person who appoints The Village, including Number 2. He is therefore the main obstacle to what he is seeking, & the actual cause of all the problems he experiences. That said, I still want to do a series of posts reading the butler as Number 1!
In summary, a richly-detailed, if at times overly complicated from an allegorical point of view episode, if marred somewhat by a plot with a basically flawed premise.
My favourite lines:
Number 2: 'Are you going to run?'
Number 6: 'Like blazes, the first chance I get.'
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Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Doctor Who: The Talons of Weng-Chiang, Episode 5

In which things started to fall into place. Actually that would probably be my one criticism of this Doctor Who adventure: for four out of the six episodes it's been something of a mass of conflicting plot threads & divergent possibilities. In fact, in common with many of these multi-part series, I would think it could be a four-parter as a maximum. I'm aware that I also tend to say this about Sapphire & Steel, so it's possible that it's me reacting to the pace of 1970s TV by wanting it to speed up a bit.
Of course, this being Doctor Who, the answer to what's going on is weird. Of course the Peking Homoncurus has to be a 'dashed queer story': I like the way Litefoot easily falls into the Watson role. The other caricatures - steam laundries & what have you - come thick & fast. Jago envisages the situation as a business opportunity; while I love the way his showmanship comes to the forefront when he meets Litefoot. I haven't heard any of Big Finish's adventures of these pair - & am frankly wary of Big Finish on account of The Avengers - but can see that they would be a perfect amateur sleuthing partnership.
Despite a somewhat standard detective story plot - stooges get caught by the baddies, our hero has no idea where they are but we know he'll rescue them in the final episode - there is a genuine sense of suspense when Jago & Litefoot are imprisoned.
Isn't it fortunate for the Doctor when he chances to find the trionic lattice, the necessary key to the cabinet, absentmindedly left lying around? Lucky break, that.
My favourite line:
'"Eureka"'s Greek for "This bath is too hot".'
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Saturday, 12 July 2014

Allegory in The Prisoner: A. B. And C.

I always get the impression that this one isn't a favourite with the fans - presumably because of the inserted non-Village scenes that can make it feel less 'Prisonery'. I gather that there were several different titles mooted for this episode, but of course the final titles is apposite given Number 6's preoccupation with not being a number. He's a number, his associates are letters - personally I can't see a great deal of difference. The irony is, of course, that it isn't A, B, or C whom Number 2 is looking for but ironically himself: if there was any episode that was ever a morality play, this is the one.
I am reminded of McGoohan's reference to Number 6 as an 'Everyman', & this episode reminds me strongly of the eponymous mediaeval play:
'The premise is that the good and evil deeds of one's life will be tallied by God after death, as in a ledger book. The play is the allegorical accounting of the life of Everyman, who represents all mankind. In the course of the action, Everyman tries to convince other characters to accompany him in the hope of improving his account. All the characters are also allegorical, each personifying an abstract idea such as Fellowship, (material) Goods, and Knowledge. The conflict between good and evil is dramatised by the interactions between characters. Everyman is being singled out because it is difficult for him to find characters to accompany him on his pilgrimage. Everyman eventually realizes through this pilgrimage that he is essentially alone, despite all the personified characters that were supposed necessities and friends to him. Everyman learns that when you are brought to death and placed before God all you are left with is your own good deeds.' (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Everyman_(play))
The theme is inverted here, of course, because while Number 6 is apparently the subject, actually Number 2 is the real object he (Number 2 himself) is seeking. The moral therefore is really that the 'virtuous man' will triumph, & the man who has something to hide - from The Village, himself possibly, & certainly his boss, in Number 2's case - will fall. Now you may object that this is not actually what happens, since the plot really hinges on an apparent trick - but remember the whole point of allegory is that one thing stands for another. What if Number 6's 'trick' is to keep silent about knowing that Number 2 is a double agent? In that case there is a clear allegory about keeping silent.
Actually I'm quite happy to admit that I've probably stretched this episode as far as it will go in allegorical terms, alhough the three 'films' do make convincing scenes in an allegorical 'journey'.
In fact the allegory comes out better when the story is told from Number 2's perspective rather than Number 6's. I'm perfectly happy to see Number 6 as an incidental figure here. The allegory sounds something like this. Number 2 has been appointed to his role & tasked with finding out about a particular person. His dread at the phone ringing is palpable, & it is a task that gives him no pleasure. Under pressure he enlists the help of Medicine (in the form of number 14), who despite her better judgement agrees to help. Number 2 is prepared to risk, well, pretty much everything to find out the required information, & the experimental procedure begins immediately. The night-time setting & heavy rain are allegorical of Number 2's blindness, fumbling about in the dark, in a storm. The first images of Number 6's thoughts already suggest they are not going to find out what they want - he is thinking obsessively about the act of his resignation rather than the reason for it or the people he has been in contact with Number 2 ignores this suggestion that he is going to be on a fruitless errand. Number 2 wants to find out the nature of his relationship with A, B, or C, & footage of these people is fed into his thoughts.
A is allegorical for changeability, defection (literally), the expectation that anything can be purchased. Number 2 in this sequence is allegorical for solidity & reliability. I love the Citroen DS that he is abducted in, by the way: it is an allegory for sexy French motor cars. Number 2 does not notice the playful way in which Number 6 ends the sequence with 'Be seeing you,' indicating his independence of mind & preparedness to mock The Village, even under the influence of drugs.
Number 2 values life poorly, & regretfully accedes to Number 14's insistence that 24 hours must pass before Number 6 has the next dose of the dangerous drug. Number 2 is sufficiently naïve to try a softly-softly approach with Number 6 when he goes to confront him: Number 6 brings up the subject of having things to hide, but Number 2 ignores that. With greater dread he answers the phone & tells his boss he'll have the answers in two days.
The next night's suspect, B, is allegorical for seduction, all that is wily. While being 'a good spy, from a long line of spies', she represents the seductive arts, as opposed to the commercial or aggressive arts, which A represented. Unfortunately her wiles don't work, & when Number 2 manipulates the dream (here B is allegorical for Pity) Number 6 is of course not taken in.
Number 2 fails to keep an eye on the room in which the experiments are carried on, thus missing Number 6 diluting the drug, which will allow him to manipulate the procedure. This omission is allegorical for Number 2's belief that he is invulnerable. In fact Number 2 is becoming more vulnerable to being wound up by Number 6's civil disobedience.
C represents the unknown, & also represents Number 2's desperation. C is representative of the unknown elements of the known: the moral here is clearly not to think you've got everything sussed. Ultimately, of course, it back-fires, & 'D' turns out to be Number 2 himself! Surely the moral is about as obvious as it can get here?
I find it interesting the contrast between action in The Village, & outside of it in Number 6's 'dreams'. This reinforces the idea I've been mooting of The Village as representative of Number 6's dream escape, compared with the reality of the life he had been wanting to escape. Perhaps the truth should be sought in The Village, rather than the outside. I absolutely love the bit where he dreams about talking to Number 2 in The Village!
Having gone through this episode thinking about the allegory & rephrasing it from Number 2's point of view, I'm unfortunately forced to the conclusion that I may have pushed it further than it can go. It could certainly bear an allegorical interpretation, but the trouble is that the interpretation has to be forced onto an episode which essentially fails, in my opinion. It fails because it is a straightforward spy-fi interrogation story, already over-complicated by the frankly incredible means of interrogation. It would have been better if A, B, & C were merely referred to by people in the Village, perhaps even Mdme Angadine (remember she's not known to be C) could have been introduced to The Village, as Number 14 suggests.
However, the figure of Number 2 remains, as an allegory for the pressurised man in the middle, who resorts to endangering other people to get what he needs. Perhaps the final allegory here is cruelty & over-complication, leaving the good man free to walk The Village at the end.
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Friday, 11 July 2014

Doctor Who: The Talons of Weng Chiang, Episode 4

Since my last blog post I've been continuing to watch The Prisoner & thinking about allegory. I've also been watching Minder. I'm not minded to blog about it. I think this may be because it is *so* seventies - the trousers are stay-prest, the shirts are nylon, the interiors are revolting, the chest hair is luxuriant, & I glimpsed a medallion or two - all of this is painful because I remember the seventies & think those years can only be looked back on favourably by those who don't remember them. Now the seventies looking back at the sixties are a different matter. Another different matter is Doctor Who, & even though this one was broadcast in the seventies, it always had the good sense to be not-too-seventies, even when contemporary.
Of course the whole point of Doctor Who is the unusual approach to time. In this case I find I keep thinking of the Series 6 Avengers episode, Fog, which is set in a very sixties reconstruction of the London of Jack the Ripper. Here the inspiration is obviously Sherlock Holmes, but while this is a more accurate Victorian reconstruction, it also messes with time in a much more radical way. That happens at the moment Tom Baker starts talking about the molecular structure of the Chinese box, to my mind.
So the approach to time in this Who adventure is an interesting one: the other really strange thing from a completely personal point of view is that is also extremely seventies, but not in a Minder sort of way. I don't mean that Who is walking round in flares, but I found previously that it made me think of Sapphire & Steel, for me one of the archetypally seventies shows. The music hall scenes make me think of a seventies show that my mother used to sit my grandmother in front of, which was a reconstruction of Victorian music hall acts - I'm afraid I've forgotten its name. So while this show is a not-bad Victorian scene, it is also firmly seventies (to me), with the Doctor wandering in to send the time all anyhow. This is not a complaint, it is a statement of the inspirations I personally detect here.
A further inspiration is clearly the classic music hall tradition - the vanishing cabinet scene gives a real sense of how terrifying it could be. Perhaps it is because it is the villain in a Doctor Who with the swords. Visually you can't really go wrong with that act. It is rightly against a black background so that the colours of the Doctor's & Chang's clothes appear stark against the background. In fact the whole episode is visually superb, it is exactly right to give the feeling of brooding doom. In fact I had been thinking that I may not continue blogging about this series, but it was this episode that made me wake up & pay attention. 'Theatre' in all its aspects is the real subject of it - about pretence, appearances, escape from reality, & deceit.
Of course it was a mistake to show the rat, how could it be anything else? It looks like a teddy bear eating Chang. And of course I would just repeat my previous objections about the images of Chinese people & that creepy dolls can only really be done by Agatha Christie. But on the whole an excellent Who that really made me pay attention when I was losing interest.
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Sunday, 6 July 2014

Allegory in The Prisoner: The Chimes of Big Ben

I always think the reference to Big Ben in the title of this episode is interesting. Number 6 never actually gets as far as Big Ben, in fact it is not what he is looking for in this episode.
Instead I think this episode is actually an allegory for our aspirations, our weaknesses, & how our aspirations become weaknesses if we let them. Looked at this way Big Ben is a symbol of what Number 6 wants - supposedly his freedom - but even that becomes such a preoccupation to him that it becomes a way in for the Village authorities to find a weakness. The imagery of course is a symbol of London, hence representative of apparent safety from The Village, but I feel can actually represent much more, since of course when we think of Big Ben we don't picture the actual bell but we picture the tower that contains it. The tower is actually the point here, always symbolic of aspirations, divorce from reality, protection, escape. Apart from the Tower of Babel & academics' towers of ivory it is also accessibly found in the Tower card of the tarot:
'Early printed decks that preserve all their cards do feature The Tower. In these decks the card bears a number of different names and designs. In the Minchiate deck, the image usually shown is of two nude or scantily clad people fleeing the open door of what appears to be a burning building. In some Belgian tarots and the 17th century tarot of Jacques Viéville, the card is called La Foudre or La Fouldre, ("The Lightning") and depicts a tree being struck by lightning. In the Tarot of Paris (17th century), the image shown is of the Devil beating his drums, before what appears to be the mouth of Hell; the card still is called La Fouldre. The Tarot of Marseilles merges these two concepts, and depicts a burning tower being struck by lightning or fire from the sky, its top section dislodged and crumbling. Two men are depicted in mid-fall, against a field of multicolored balls. A. E. Waite's version is based on the Marseilles image, with small tongues of fire in the shape of Hebrew yod letters replacing the balls.
'A variety of explanations for the images on the card have been attempted. For example, it may be a reference to the biblical story of the Tower of Babel, where God destroys a tower built by mankind to reach Heaven. Alternatively, the Harrowing of Hell was a frequent subject in late medieval liturgical drama, and Hell could be depicted as a great gate knocked asunder by Jesus Christ, with accompanying pyrotechnics. The Minchiate version of the deck may represent Adam and Eve's expulsion from the Garden of Eden.' (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tower_(Tarot_card))
This is Ouspensky's interpretation of that the Tower card (& hence, for the purpose of my argument here, the symbolism of towers as such in Europe - I'm not implying that the fiercely Catholic McGoohan had an interest in the occult):
'I saw a lofty tower extending from earth to heaven; its golden crowned summit reached beyond the clouds. All round it black night reigned and thunder rumbled.
'Suddenly the heavens opened, a thunder-clap shook the whole earth, and lightning struck the summit of the tower and felled the golden crown. A tongue of fire shot from heaven and the whole tower became filled with fire and smoke. Then I beheld the builders of the tower fall headlong to the ground.
'And the voice said:--
'"The building of the tower was begun by the disciples of the great Master in order to have a constant reminder of the Master's teaching that the true tower must be built in one's own soul, that in the tower built by hands there can be no mysteries, that no one can ascend to Heaven by treading stone steps.
'"The tower should warn the people not to believe in it. It should serve as a reminder of the inner Temple and as a protection against the outer; it should be as a lighthouse, in a dangerous place where men have often been wrecked and where ships should not go.
'"But by and by the disciples forgot the true covenant of the Master and what the tower symbolized, and began to believe in the tower of stone, they had built, and to teach others to so believe. They began to say that in this tower there is power, mystery and the spirit of the Master, that the tower itself is holy and that it is built for the coming Master according to His covenant and His will. And so they waited in the tower for the Master. Others did not believe this, or interpreted it differently. Then began disputes about the rights of the summit. Quarrels started, 'Our Master, your Master,' was said; 'our tower, your tower.' And the disciples ceased to understand each other. Their tongues had become confused.
'"You understand the meaning here? They had begun to think that this is the tower of the Master, that He builds it through them, and that it must and, indeed, can be built right up to Heaven.
'"And you see how Heaven responded?"' (http://www.sacred-texts.com/tarot/sot/sot15.htm)
These are exactly the sort of things that this episode is really about. In fact I'm impressed that I've managed to get so far into a blog post without once mentioning anything that actually appears in the episode under discussion! But the very title of Big Ben indicates that this episode is about looking for things we don't get. Number 6 is not looking for the right thing - or rather his desire to escape from the Village has exposed his vulnerability to deceit.
The vulnerability theme is continued in the fact that Number 6 actually winds up with a female partner in this episode. In fact she seems to fall for him & calls him (after correcting herself) Big Ben: Number 6 himself becomes the image of the unattainable aspiration & escape.
I posited in my post about Arrival that The Village could represent Number 6's desired escape from his existing life - an escape which turns sour. If he them tried to escape from his escape, he actually becomes a serial escaper, & the entire series becomes an allegory for not trying to escape from a situation you yourself have created, to a dream which will not be what you want it to be.
In fact all parts of the episode become an allegory for seeking the 'right' thing, rather than the relentless pursuit of the unattainable. I don't personally buy a Christian interpretation of the boat & mast, myself, but this episode could definitely be interpreted as being about seeking first the kingdom of God, then everything else will follow.
The craft competition is an allegory of a person crafting something he values. The General is an allegory for the man who has sensibly decided to stop fruitlessly seeking. Nadia is an allegory for a pawn who unfortunately falls for the subject she has been assigned to, losing the all-important focus that the show is about.
Numbers 2 & 6 do a roundabout dance in this allegory. When Number 6 takes sugar in his tea he is an allegory for the flexibility necessary to adapt to changing circumstances in ones pursuit of the desired goal. It looks as if Nadia is going to be his weakness at one point, but it is apparent that this is a trick. Number 2 tricks him, Number 6 seems not to fall for it, only to fall for the 'mirage' of escape to London. The chimes of Big Ben are an allegory of our 'idol' - a desire for the 'wrong' thing, & become an allegory for the elusiveness of the mirage. Incidentally, Nadia, as the only character - the only one apparently resident in the Village that is - in this one with a name, represents the real world. The characters from outside have names. The fact that Fotheringay asks Number 2 what his next assignment is indicates that The Village (whether or not it is Number 6's desired escape) & the 'real' world are not actually different. The fact that The Village is run apparently by multiple countries indicates that there is *no* escape. No escape & no point trying to craft an escape. Similarly Rover is round because the world is round, Rover is everywhere. In the alternate version of this episode, right at the end of the closing titles the wheels of the penny farthing become two worlds & fuse into one. It's just plain naff when it goes 'pop' & the word appears on the screen like 'pow' in a Batman episode, but the message is plain. The penny farthing (on people's number badges) indicates the supremacy of The Village, the wheels are round indicating the world. The Village is the world, Rover is the world. The Village & Rover are all in all.
Incidentally I had forgotten about the way the doors in The Village open themselves as you approach - not that remarkable in these days of a proliferation of automatic doors. Here they could indicate the level of surveillance under which The Village has its inhabitants - the machine has truly triumphed & we are part of it.
Number 6 is seen at his most human in Chimes of Big Ben, in my opinion, at least so far as Nadia is concerned. After Number 2 'gives' (& that idea should strike fear into the heart of all men & women) Nadia to Number 6, the domestic scene which follows feels almost as if he is in a sexual relationship with her. He is plainly not, but she falls for him. This is the nearest to intimacy that I think we see Number 6 or John Drake: I know nothing 'happens' but it feels as if they are a couple.
Finally, this episode is an allegory for how our aspiration, desires, even addictions, play tricks on us. When Number 6 is explaining the significance of his boat, & offering to buy Number 38's tapestry of Number 2 for his own home, he is plainly taking the piss. He actually tells the judges that his boat is an escape vessel (all but, I mean), strokes the ego of Number 38, who has not been on his radar before, then uses his prize to creep to Number 2. This should be an alarm bell in the paranoid Village, & is allowed to pass presumably, to allow his foiled escape attempt, which functions as an interrogation for the authorities. Deceit, trickery, duplicity, across the board. The main message remains not to be distracted from the important thing. It is not said what it is, but clearly for Number 6 it should have been keeping his mouth shut, because he *almost* let's the reason for his resignation slip.
The final trick in this episode is on the viewer: right from the start we are not let into the secret that the whole escape attempt is engineered by The Village, in fact the impression it is a real attempt is reinforced when we see Fotheringay on the phone saying he has received the message. Deceit within deceit within deceit. *We* could be excused for falling for it if we are seeing this as the second episode, & haven't yet grown a healthy suspicion of The Village. This makes it all the more shocking when Number 6 walks back out into The Village.
I thought it would be different. It is different, isn't it?
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Friday, 4 July 2014

The Avengers: Castle De'Ath

This Avengers episode is one I've rather avoided blogging about for reasons which will become apparent as we go one (actually they should be fairly obvious from the pictures). This Avengers is an interesting one - despite the sheer 'Britishness' of the show (the inverted commas are for what I perceive as its caricature of Britishness, which I believe increased - presumably for the American market - as the series wore on) The Avengers frequently shows the old landed families & the great & the good of Great Britain, as going to the dogs very quickly. In this the decayed De'Aths are contrasted with Mrs Peel, racing in as the representative of Modernity, to bring their traditional privacy to an end. In this, as so often, The Avengers is poised on a knife-edge between two ages: itself a completely time-bound idea. Fifty years after this show was made, the modernity that was trumpeted as the future has fallen into almost complete disfavour.
Normally I dislike seeing actors familiar from other shows: despite the conflict with his in-character brother, it is interesting, though, to see Gordon Jackson playing a somewhat less acerbic character than he does in The Professionals! I still think it a mistake to have two others actors who have played other characters in other Avengers episodes - Robert Urquhart & Russel Waters. I don't really otherwise have anything critical to add to the horde of reviews online, to which mine is the same: excellent scenery, dire plot, saved by great atmosphere. This is definitely an Avengers you watch for the atmosphere (whatever you're looking for) rather than the plot.
One other thing just has to be said about this episode: it is incredibly sexy. A Touch of Brimstone is the episode from this series that is perhaps more overtly sexy, but this one manages to include so many things that could be fetishes, I can only imagine they were included to up the kinkiness level, while pulling the wool over the eyes of the - presumably - straight-laced censor. The list could include, although I'm sure I've missed some: man on the rack at the beginning; men in kilts (incidentally I laughed out loud once on a bus when I read in Patrick McNee's autobiography of how his mother's lesbian lover used to tie his hair in a pig-tail, dress him in a kilt, & say, 'We'll make a girl of you yet!'); the very presence of Mrs Peel (well, why not?); a cellar full of torture equipment; a man being easily beaten up by Mrs Peel; frogman outfits (I made the mistake of googling this one); Mrs Peel being locked in the cellar; the collapsing four-poster bed (I'm thinking asphyxiation rather than being crushed, but you never know); asphyxiation fantasies around breathing equipment; Steed tied up, arms akimbo; the scene of Mrs Peel on the stairs in her transparent nightie leaves little to the imagination; and the accidental glimpse of white underpants as Angus De'Ath runs up the stairs would probably be all the more interesting for being accidental, if you like that sort of thing.
Incidentally I cannot believe that this episode was uninfluenced by the Will Hay film, The Ghost of St Michael's:
'An ineffectual science teacher William Lamb (Will Hay) is hired by a school recently transferred because of World War II to the remote Dunbain Castle on the Isle of Skye, Scotland. Posing as (amongst many other things) an Old Etonian, Lamb settles down into his new surroundings and becomes acquainted with the various local Scottish traditions and legends that abound and strikes up a friendship with one of the other masters, Hilary Teasdale (Claude Hulbert).
'However, shortly after his arrival an ancient curse returns to Dunbain Castle. The sound of bagpipes signals the death of a member of staff. Two die and Lamb is initially regarded as a suspect. With his friend appointed as the new headmaster (and the next potential victim), Lamb must solve the mystery of the mysterious murders with the assistance of mischievous know-all schoolboy Percy Thorne (Charles Hawtrey). A Nazi spy ring proves to be behind the killings, and is defeated by a British agent hidden amongst the staff.
'In one of the more memorable scenes Lamb is trapped inside a secret room with the ceiling slowly descending upon him.
'At the very end of the film Hay can be heard calling the Character Teasdale "Claude" the actor's real name. This may have been intentional as Hay had just told the cinema audience that it was "all clear" and that they could all go home. Note that Charles Hawtrey was 26 years old when he portrayed Percy Thorne.' (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ghost_of_St._Michael's)
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Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Allegory in The Prisoner: Arrival

I start this series of posts in fear & trembling, knowing there's nothing Prisoner fans like better than tearing apart each other's opinions. I'm also in fear & trembling at the idea of trying to get my head round even some of the allegorical concepts in the show, fear of getting stuck on an idea or not being able to find as much allegory as I'd like. So let's begin with a colossal Prisoner heresy. I'm going to call out McGoohan on this & tell him the received wisdom can't possibly be right.
'P[atrick] M[cGoohan] has stated that the show was an Allegory, [Number] 6 was an Everyman, & the Village was Society at large. That these are aspects of the show is undeniable- whether that�s all they are- hmm�.[One] should never put total faith in an artist�s version of their own art.' (http://www.cosmoetica.com/B39-DES18.htm)
My Prisoner heresy is that I'm far from swallowing the basic allegorical premise outlined by McGoohan, in fact despite that idea being oft-repeated in the literature, I have disliked it from the moment I first read it. For allegory, it's too easy, too obvious. I don't want to stick to only one allegorical idea in these posts, so I'd better get my pet theory out of the way. The Village does not represent society: the job that Number 6 has resigned from represents society. For me The Village rather represents the dream that Number 6 has, predicated on resigning from his job/society. The whole point is that he has created this himself: he is, after all Number 1. I am quite prepared to be shaken in this view by the end of this series of posts.
So let's consider what actually happens in the opening sequence, since that indicates the basic premise of the show.. A man drives into an underground car park. He enters a building (through doors marked 'way out'). He walks down a long, dimly-lit corridor. He walks abruptly into a low-ceilinged office furnished with a large map & traditionally-styled furnishings. He puts a letter down on the desk, it doesn't have a destination, merely 'private, personal, by hand'. He slams his fist down on the table which upsets a cup of tea. He drives back out from the underground carpark into the light. A black, more traditional, car pulls out as he comes out. His car & the other car are seen driving along the road. A typewriter's keys are seen crossing out his picture with Xs. He is driving along followed by the other car. His picture is mechanically placed in a filing cabinet (one of many filing cabinets) drawer marked 'resigned'. The man draws up outside a house, followed by the other car. He enters the house & the other car pulls up. He is seen inside the house taking up a suitcase. He picks up his passport. A man dressed like an undertaker emerges from the car & approaches the front door of the house. The man puts pictures of foreign places in his suitcase. Smoke comes through the keyhole. Skyscrapers sway in front of the man's vision. He blacks out. He wakes up again - in what turns out to be a perfect replica of his own room in The Village.
This, the key premise of the show, to me already raises questions about McGoohan's assertion of the show's allegorical basis. The reason I have gone through the title sequence in such detail is that is allows different avenues into an allegorical understanding of the show. For example it is not necessarily so that the Village is society. The allegory is clearly about society, though:
'One thing everyone can agree on is that the show examines the growing restrictions that society places on individual freedom. What people disagree on is which particular restrictions the show depicts and how those restrictions relate to our lives today (and has that changed if at all from the shows first airing several decades ago).' (http://www.theunmutual.co.uk/articleatoza.htm)
I believe it could be seen that the job from which Drake has resigned is actually the restrictive society he despises - his idea to escape on a holiday is shown by the pictures in his suitcase. The Village I believe in this case could represent his own dream escape from his humdrum workaday life. The fact that he doesn't like it when he gets there is largely the point - he has made his bed & must lie in it, so to speak. In this view the show largely becomes a journey into his own self-sabotaging inner world, reinforced by the final episode. In fact I like this allegorical view enormously since it actually makes the often-criticised ending hang together well.
I'm probably over-analysing, but I think the opening sequence is open to multiple interpretations, deliberately so or not. The car represents his drive, literally, zooming through life. His work is plainly oppressive: he passes out of light into darkness as he enters it. Yet he enters it through a door with 'way out' on the outside. He is therefore clearly exiting something in this basic premise of the show, rather than going *to* something, The Village. The long corridor he walks down could represent a vagina, suggesting that he is 'reborn' by his resignation, rather than his subsequent death by gas & 'rebirth' in The Village. The traditional furnishings of his boss's office represent the forces of tradition & stability. That the letter is not addressed indicates that it isn't really the issue, who it is for. However the number of precautions written on it indicate its importance.  His car then becomes the means by which his drive becomes his new life. That it is a sporty model indicates quite a different personality from the dour characters driving the black car. His house - & its reproduction in The Village - indicate the persona he he has created for himself, that he retreats into. The holiday pictures indicate his wish to get away. His sanctum is 'violated' by the gas blown through the letterbox - each time his home is entered could represent an intrusion by the outside world into his own fantasy world. The swaying tower blocks represent the world he has created for himself, swaying & falling. He falls asleep, & wakes up.
The thing I most want to avoid at this point is getting hung up on a particular idea, to the exclusion of all others, & this is why I've tried to hang many different allegorical interpretations on the opening scene, so that I can pick them up & run with them. I'm finding I'm particularly out of tune with the oft-repeated idea that Number 6 has died through the gas in his house & been born again. He could equally have been the agent of his own rebirth in reisgning, although his new life isn't what he hoped it would be.
There are several key allegorical elements introduced in this episode. Number 6 is seen driving through London, tower blocks are the last things that sway before his eyes before he blacks out. This cityscape is a clear contrast with the (apparent) pastoral idyll of The Village. One could represent his past life, the other his new life. One the place his drive brought him in his career, the other the dreams he had of escape which turned sour since they were impracticable. I would think there is also a more classic allegory here of all the city represents, contrasted to all the village represents, e.g. Bustle compared to slowness, solitude compared to community, etc. This Village, though, is almost a caricature of a real village: it is incredibly controlled & contained. It can only really represent the nightmare that happens when we get what we think we want.
The fact that he remains a number is significant for me. His employers' allegorical response to his resignation -quite literally crossing him out & filing him - suggests his past life has been highly ordered & regimented. However he remains a number. Everyone in The Village is a number. Despite the fact he has created this himself  
The scene in the Labour Exchange is reinforcing of the total community Number 6's dream actually creates. I realise when I wrote about The Prisoner before I wrote at length about institutionalisation. The fact that such a pseudo-community has both a labour exchange & citizens' advice bureau could, in the conventional allegorial view, refer to the pretence that is our society. It could also refer to Number 6's own views on society if he were actually to create his dream. The gadget in the labour exchange could either represent an intrusion by the world of technology into Number 6's pastoral dream - I think this is also represented by the music in his house, & his rejection of his own dream by the rejection of the music. The gadget could also represent the 'stuff' with which we complicate our lives on every level. In a sense the simplicity of The Village - simple if you don't question - is the antidote for the complexity of modern life. The penny farthing was said to represent modern technology, & its two different-sized wheel the way modern life fails to hang together or satisfy us.
The theme of privacy & the violation of it that runs through The Prisoner is here in abundance. The Village authorities know him intimately - the eggs he likes & the clothes fit like gloves. Of course it could be the way we are stamped, filed, numbered, etc. I feel his flat refers to his own personal 'space' - in his mind, almost his own psyche. He cannot escape from the intrusions of the flawed Village, though. But there's something wrong with this. Assuming The Village is Number 6's own mental creation, what kind of man are we talking about? He clearly doesn't really know himself: his dream is disconnected from his route to it, his resignation. His own self-sabotaging behaviour has led himself to this, & despite the best will in the world, he creates his own hell. The fact that he then blames everyone else for this indicates the chilling basic allegory contained in my pet theory: we create our own hell.
There is simply so much here than can be interpeted allegorically. Some of the things I'm having difficulties with at the moment are Rover & the man Rover catches in this episode. I have a feeling the stripes & colours of the Village clothing will prove susceptible to interpretation. But I hope there will be opportunities to look at these things in successive posts.
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Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Allegory in The Prisoner: Introduction

I must once again give a mention to Mitchell at itsabouttv.com, who once again mentions this blog this week. Obviously the reason he mentions it every week is he is a man of discernment, & I do like to think, self-deprecatingly that mine is one of the *better* blogs on television. I'm mentioning him also because I'm totally certain that the series of posts I'm starting with this one will grab his attention. That said, it's funny what does attract people on this blog - the posts on Adam Adamant - surely one of the most recherche TV series of all time - are amongst the most popular. Although perhaps because they're little known they are under-commented on elsewhere. The posts on Department S & Randall & Hopkirk don't get many hits at all, which never fails to surprise me. Of the ones I've already done on The Prisoner, Hammer into Anvil gets a disproportionate number of hits in comparison to the others.
Be that as it may, for some time I've been wanting to watch through The Prisoner again - I thought when I did a series of posts trying to read the series through the perspective that Number 6 *is* John Drake, that it would lend itself to multiple series of posts, understanding it from a different perspective each time. This time I want to understand it allegorically, a way of understanding a narrative where one thing represents something different:
'allegory,�a symbolic fictional narrative that conveys a meaning not explicitly set forth in the narrative. Allegory, which encompasses such forms as fable, parable, and apologue, may have meaning on two or more levels that the reader can understand only through an interpretive process. (See also fable, parable, and allegory.)
'Literary allegories typically describe situations and events or express abstract ideas in terms of material objects, persons, and actions. Such early writers as Plato, Cicero, Apuleius, and Augustine made use of allegory, but it became especially popular in sustained narratives in the Middle Ages. Probably the most influential allegory of that period is the 13th-century French didactic poem Roman de la rose (Romance of the Rose). This poem illustrates the allegorical technique of personification, in which a fictional character�in this case, The Lover�transparently represents a concept or a type. As in most allegories, the action of the narrative �stands for� something not explicitly stated. The Lover�s eventual plucking of the crimson rose represents his conquest of his lady.' (http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/16078/allegory)
Perhaps among the best-known examples are found in the Bible, where many of Jesus's teachings can be understood in a completely different way, or is even seen in Joseph interpreting pharaoh's dream. This is the point at which I show off that I have a completely unexpected degree in theology, & the Hebrew actually talks of Joseph's coat with long sleeves: no mention of multicoloured or dreams!
I must confess I'm nervous about doing this publicly: allegory is a nightmare at the best of times, & in The Prisoner, where the waters have been muddied so often, even more so. So what I'm going to do is this: I'm going to watch the episodes and let my mind wander to where it will. I'm expecting that some seriously weird stuff will come out of my twisted mind. I'll also look on tinternet to see what other people see represented allegorically in The Prisoner. I will probably be tempted to call them sick & twisted. Hopefully they won't come round with an axe & kill me. I know discussion of The Prisoner can get heated!
I'm tempted to start with the obvious: that Number 6's life in The Village is aimed at his eventual discovery of himself, & that that is the end to which all the Prisoner allegory tends. I shall try to avoid solely reading it like that, but that idea will no doubt colour my interpretation of the allegory. Actually I'm watching Arrival as I write this, & I'm going to start with a Prisoner heresy. But that will come in my next post.
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Doctor Who: Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150 AD

The apostrophe is actually on the opening titles to the film, which I'm relieved about, because it's made what's turned out to be a really good film to have a much less cumbersome title. The apostrophe, however, is not present on the original posters for the film that I've seen on tinternet. This film is based on another William Hartnell adventure, although one I haven't seen, & I'm not even sure if it survives.
This one got a critical & popular thrashing, when it came out in 1966. Apart from one major plot weakness, I personally think it is better than the first daleks film. Its plot is rather elementary: any film that begins in a waste land is going to go one two ways, & each of these two films goes one of the two ways. In the case of the present one, all's well that ends well.
One thing is becoming more apparent for me as I watch this film several times, purely to blog about it: for me film is Doctor Who's milieu. The grander scale & even the music - which is rather groovy in this one, how I wish I'd been alive in the sixties - create a larger palette to paint the picture with. The television Doctor Who's of this period frankly creak like old gates at this length of time - not something that can be said of this film.
There is once again an interesting question of time here. I feel rightly, no attempt has been made to make the England of 2150 look 'futuristic' - which would have been guaranteed to make it look dated. On the other hand, this film is so incredibly dated it isn't true - something the previous film avoided by being set in a completely extraterrestrial context. The colour palette is once again sixties retro (not complaining there). It suffers badly on being cleaned up for DVD, which exposes the ropiness of some of the effects, including visible wires on the airship at one point. The music is a completely bizarre mixture of classics, jazz, & what I can only assume are rejected tunes for Carry On films. It's also dated in its production values - the set is very plainly a set. It can only be a set. There is no realism going on. I'm in two minds about that - I feel possibly I am coming to this with expectations formed by modern CGI. Do we recognise computer generated images for what they are? You bet we do (with perhaps a hinterland where we wouldn't be sure) - just as if we had been watching this film in the sixties we would have recognised it for what it was. I've never thought about how theatrical this is before - we recognise the scenery as the representation of something, with no real expectation that it will be more than that. In fact, I feel probably the scenery of this film is better in some ways than the approach taken in TV shows of the period, where the 'scene' is set with library footage of the place or incident under discussion, which will usually show a marked seam with the filming in a studio. At least here it is all consistently scene-based. The scenes for this one are relatively better (& no doubt more expensive) than the ones for the previous Doctor Who film. One of my favourite bits is one outdoor scene where the daleks destroy what I can only describe as a large garden shed. That is strangely appealing!
I've been avoiding my main criticism of this film. It is great for the first half hour - the scene is set & suspense built in a wonderful way. It loses some of this impetus. I've watched this film three times in quick succession & there is a point just over half an hour in each time where I find myself thinking 'What's going on?'. I'm not sure what happens to make this happen, but hope it is not just me, because I genuinely like this film. It is atmospheric, the plot is somewhat formulaic, but only as much as any epic is. And there's another conclusion I've reached as a result of watching it - in future when people ask who 'my' Doctor Who is, I won't answer Tom Baker any more. I'll say Peter Cushing. I'm not afraid to go out on a limb & express contentious opinions on this blog. So there.
My favourite bit:
The dalek incredibly - and incongruously - arising up out of the water.
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