Tuesday, 26 June 2018

The X-Files: Never Again

The series of posts I started recently about The X-Files became dominated by treatments of religion and religious people also that was not my intention to start off with. On the surface this episode is about a man who has a tattoo unfortunately using ink made from rye grass which makes him psychotic. This would make it a rather pedestrian X-Files episode and so surely the main purpose of the episode is the underlying themes of Rebellion, authority because in The X-Files of the outsiders wisdom, a figure represented in this episode by the tattooist himself.
The tattooists Wisdom is perhaps a little trite, since it is limited to unfortunately making his own dies from ride grass and telling his customers that people get the tattoo they deserve. In my own opinion, and anyone who has looked at this block at any length will see that I have tattoos myself, deserve is not quite the word.
I can see what he means. If you walk into the tattooist and point at a picture on the wall and have that, then frankly you really will get what you deserve. Perhaps the phrase should be more that people get the tattoos they choose. In my own case my tattoos aren't perfect but I don't regret them in fact can forget I've got them: I don't really see them when I look down on myself or photos. Obviously the man in this X-Files episode is going about his tattoos in quite a different way. And therefore this episode is more of a parable about what happens when you learn from one thing to another without thinking about it.
I meant to say at the beginning of this post that even though I have been talking about religion in these posts, religion is always twinned with the other Concepts I mentioned, name the authority, individualism, identity, and so on. I meant to start out by saying that the 1990s we're a slightly strange age where all of these were concerned. Hate when large numbers of people started to get information technology for the first time, and with that went a certain liberation of how people felt they could express their religious beliefs and values. This was also the age of Charmed, the craft, and an explosion as the Millennium approached of alternative religious beliefs and practices.
To return to tattoos briefly it was also the age when tattooing began to become more mainstream it had been in the past, when tattoos for the province of sailors and prostitutes. Stop looking at me!
I suppose where I'm feeling my way towards here, is that what is encapsulated in this episode is a more mature and yet at the same time homespun and almost rebellious to see some of those which have been examined in the other episodes I have written about here.
Well this episode is rather disappointing as an x- file because it's plot and it's solution totally completely mundane it does have a very adult and very frightening message that you have to take responsibility for the consequences of your actions. It's also cleverly avoids the Trap of making the message that Scully should have done what Mulder told her to, that's cleverly making the apparently more conservative member of the team that won who rebels and asserts her own independence. Mulder tries to make out that what has happened is about a desk but the entire contents of the episodes make it clear that it runs much deeper.

Saturday, 16 June 2018

The Saint: Escape Route and The Avengers: Escape in Time

I'm just rewatching this Saint episode to check, because when I first watched it, at one point its dialogue struck me as very similar to dialogue in Escape in Time.
To be sure the two plots aren't that different if you allow that The Avengers will naturally also have time-travelling weirdness in spades.
I was hoping that the two screenplays would have been written by the same person, so that any similarities in dialogue would be explained by coming out of his own head, but I see Escape Route was written by Michael Winder and Escape in Time by Philip Levene, being broadcast in 1967 and 1968 respectively.
The similarities begin around the 20 minute mark (in The Saint) when a man called Harry is introduced who seems to be some sort of fixer for the escape. He speaks with the same sort of stutter as Thyssen in The Avengers, who fulfills the same role. The nuts and bolts of the escape are actually arranged by a woman in both episodes. I realise the connection is very tenuous but there are similarities. I wonder if Levene watched The Saint, enjoyed the episode and subconsciously reproduced some aspects of it in The Avengers. If anyone has seen both episodes I would be interested to hear whether you catch these echoes or whether you think I'm imagining it!
Incidentally I wouldn't have noticed this myself but now I come to Google Escape in Time I find it is popular with foot fetishists because Mrs Peel is in the stocks with bare feet at one point. There is also a webpage about the suits worn in the episode. And to think people with special interests had to join clubs before the internet!
Another wonder of technology has come to me this week and I must mention it. I'm writing this on my phone at home but at work now have Dragon voice recognition software and can only say I am fanatically keen. My boss is so impressed she's thinking of getting it for everyone because of how efficient and fast it is. My main fear was it wouldn't cope with my flat Midlands accent (Birmingham council once installed a phone system which didn't recognize the local accent) but it's great. I suppose the only reason we use hands to work computers is they evolved from typewriters but using the voice is vastly superior.

Monday, 11 June 2018

The X-Files: Nisei

You thought I'd got distracted from my re-watch of the X-Files, didn't you? Only temporarily because here I'm back with an episode at the heart of the series's mythology. Not only do we see proof of aliens but Scully learns she has been abducted and there is a whole support group. We also learn the international nature of the cover-up. I see that I have already written about the second part of this two-parter here.
This episode ironically references a major topic in 1990s therapy: false memory syndrome. 'You're afraid to remember,' says one of the other abductees to Scully. Outside the world of alien abduction there are all sorts of reasons a person wouldn't remember something, a common one being trauma, and of course the controversy in the 1990s was that people were 'remembering' abuse which probably never happened. The X-Files cleverly gives alien abduction a tangible proof - the scar on the back of the neck and the accompanying implant. This is more than abductees can produce in real life and strangely enough, amongst other things abductees are apparently prone to false memory syndrome ( Source ).
Another real reference is to the experimentation on humans (never tried as war crimes) on human subjects in Unit 731. The show cleverly weaves real history into its own mythology, and unethical medical experimentation is a recurring theme, building up a sense of human collusion in the sort of experiments the aliens do. Here the real history remains subordinate to the series's own mythology.
There are a few fatal flaws in this episode, in my humble opinion. Right at the beginning we see the alien autopsy being interrupted by troops. No. Just no. If the evidence for aliens were as well known to public servants(even ones at the highest levels of secrecy) as the show depicts it to be, it would have been leaked by now. The other huge mistake to my mind is that the autopsy is broadcast via satellite - something asking for the footage to be stolen, as it is in this episode.
The show highlights a difference between US and British English. The police station in Allentown is called a substation, which makes perfect sense as a smaller station dependent on the resources of a bigger one, but here the word is exclusively used for part of the electricity supply system.

Sunday, 3 June 2018

In Which I Get Confused Over The Saint

I did start a post recently about Return of the Saint. The gist was that I loved watching repeats of the black and white series of The Saint as a child, and didn’t take to Return of the Saint when I saw it at that time. I do not remember watching colour episodes of The Saint as a child but obviously this is the ever-fallible human memory here. As an adult I have watched the black and white series again and for reasons I can’t put my finger on, not enjoyed it at all. I found Templar's attitude to, well, pretty well everyone, to be arrogant and – ridiculous word I know – ungentlemanly.
So the post I started was to the effect that my views had changed. When I started it I had obtained Return of the Saint again and found that I liked it, certainly more than I did the black and white series as an adult, and definitely more than I did as a child. This new post is to record that my fickle opinion has changed again. I went to Kidderminster today where there is a stall on the market on Saturdays which sells DVDs, by which I mean quality DVDs of the sort of shows you might read about here, and they had a set of the colour episodes of The Saint starring Roger Moore. In other words the ones I don’t remember seeing before.
Of course this is a blog and so I’ve started with me but I would like to pull back at this point to get a sense of the Saint’s chronology.
1928 – 1983: Saint books by Leslie Charteris, written with collaboration towards the end of this time.
1938 – 1962: Film adaptations of the books.
1940 – 1971: Various radio adaptations and newly-written stories for radio in Ireland, the US and South Africa.
1962 – 1969: The Saint TV series starring Roger Moore.
1978 – 1979: Return of the Saint.
I have been surprised to find there have been a few other film and TV adaptations of The Saint which I'm going to ignore for the sake of my own sanity. There have also been comic strips, novellas, a stage play...you get the picture, don't you, that this is a huge franchise which has extended for most of the twentieth century.
Until I started watching Return of The Saint I would have told you that the film adaptations were The Saint for me. This loyalty then transferred to Return of The Saint and has now moved to the colour 1960s TV show. This long preamble is simply to get to the point where I can think why.
For a start, what is Simon Templar? I don’t mean 'who', I'm trying to place him in the society of the time. I feel the 1970s series basically fails by depicting him as one of the European playboys of the time. My feeling is that that crowd were usually too well-connected for one of their number to live the kind of renegade life Templar does. While he does have various associates, being a maverick tends to militate against stable family life. I am particularly interested in the parallels with Robin Hood, and in fact Templar is frequently seen as a criminal.
As to whether he's a gentleman, I would have to say probably not! To use an Avengers parallel, he reminds me much more of Steed in the early series, than respectable later Steed. I also feel that Templar has changed slightly between the black and white and colour series (this is obviously only my own feeling). I feel in the monochrome series he has much more the feeling of an adventurer. If he reminds me of anyone, it would be the sort of people who went to the dying remnants of our colonies and treated it as an adventure: these were usually people who had been unable to settle in a more normal way of life. In the Hollywood movies (I've only seen a couple, and a long time ago, I feel he comes across as too respectable for his maverick character.
Conversely the colour 1960s series feels different and Templar himself feels more business-like. If I had to compare it to anything, it would be Danger Man, and it is only now I commit that thought to writing it strikes me that perhaps John Drake was a similar, possibly dodgy character to Templar. When I wrote about him before I was always aware that his job was literally dangerous in the sense that if he ever got into trouble his employers would deny all knowledge. I do wonder whether Templar's position is better than Drake's, because while Drake may have a pension plan, we have seen that getting to that point requires unquestioning obedience.
So perhaps the Saint gets a better deal in some ways (and worse in others) than a renegade with a contract. Ironically society’s attempts to contain men like Templar are only like what I am trying to do to him in this post – pigeonhole him. Perhaps the reason the various depictions of him differ is precisely that his whole nature can’t easily be grasped. But for my money (and let it be understood that this view is open to revision at short notice) the 1960s colour series is the best. Because...well, if I'm honest, because that is the Templar I would most like to be myself, and that’s part of the magic of television.
For the record the set I have is the Network DVD colour box set. I see that its 14 discs contain all 47 episodes and various film versions and lashings of extras, running to 2550 minutes. The set seems to retail around £35 – although mine was less because I bought it at market prices and it's missing the cardboard sleeve which would go around the boxes containing the discs which are boxed in twos. While I had been assuming that the black and white episodes were series one and the colour ones series 2, now that I have visited the Network DVD site I see that the colour episodes were series 3 and 4. No wonder Roger Moore got typecast as a gentleman adventurer!