(From Red Dwarf) If you have a funny image that would make a great edition of The Monday Meme, feel free to send it to my Tumblr, Facebook, or email it to me! Links for these options are located in the links at the top of the page! Don’t be surprised to see it on here someday!
It’s been a few weeks since Planet Comicon, so this week Stephen discusses the rich convention schedule that has been popping up in Kansas City, MO in recent years. A big emphasis is placed on the fact that KC is turning into a place to meet a lot of the Doctors from Doctor Who!
“In an urban society everything connects, each person’s needs are feed by the skills for many others, our lives are woven together in a fabric, but the connections that make society strong also make it vulnerable”
Last episode, Stephen started a series on the 1980’s fascination with our own impending doom by discussing a much earlier film called The War Game. This week Stephen discusses the 1984 post-apocalyptic disaster film Threads – perhaps one of the bleakest films ever made.
It’s another Tuesday, so you know what that means! I have gathered a handful of some of the most noteworthy stories of the week all in one easily digestible nugget of newsiness. Check back later in the week for my coverage of the recent comic / science fiction convention that I attended last week, and perhaps a podcast episode about it. So without further ado, here’s the news!
Red Dwarf Star Goes Back to the Future With Bosch in Vegas
“Every year thousands of exhibitors, visitors, journalists and industry experts de-camp to the International Consumer Electronic Show (CES) in Las Vegas to see, experience and discuss the hottest new technologies set to make a big impact around the globe.
Luckily for us, Robert Llewelyn, star of cult classic TV show Red Dwarf, ignores the saying ‘what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas’ by ‘spilling the beans’ in a series of short films on the next generation of Bosch consumer technology products and innovations on show at CES.”
Doctor Who series 9: “scary” Mark Gatiss episode confirmed
“We’re not bringing him back exactly the same as we left him, at all. I think that was already evident at Christmas,” he explained. “He’s left some of the burden of being the superhero of the universe behind.”
10 years of new Doctor Who: what 2005 reviews made of Rose
“It was either a legend majestically born or an annoying Ritalin romp pitched at Doctor Who’s youngest ever audience; an inspired return to form, or anathema to Who fans of old with nothing in common with the previous incarnation.”
30 YEARS LATE: A BUS FOR JOHN NATHAN-TURNER!
“Authorities in Brighton are asking the public to choose local figures worthy of recognition by having their name on one of a new fleet of 24 Coaster buses. Brighton and Hove Buses have selected 15 names from over 100 nominations but for the remaining nine slots a public voting process will determine the names to be chosen.”
Must-read fan fiction from ‘Doctor Who,’ ‘Star Trek,’ ‘Farscape’
“What do you think? Fan fiction, science-fiction and television? Do they share a special bond? In this month’s HEA post, I’m going with a big yes and a huge side of outer space, the final frontier …”
RADIO TIMES: TOP TEN EPISODES IN TEN YEARS
“The poll by RadioTimes.com, which received 280,859 votes, asked fans for their favourite episode of Doctor Who since it was relaunched by Russell T Davies on 26 March 2005, 16 years since the last full series. Blink topped the poll beating 2010’s Vincent and The Doctor to second place and The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End (2008) in third position.”
‘Doctor Who’s Day Roundup: Doctor When?
“Before we get started looking at the past week in Doctor Who, let’s go on a journey to the distant past. No, not prehistoric times, I’m talking about a time before there was an actual Doctor Who to watch. What did people do to entertain themselves without tales of Time Lords and TARDISes? And, actually, what would Doctor Who have been like if it was made in the earliest eras of filmed entertainment?”
This week we are continuing our read-through of Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus (originally 1818, 1831) as Written by Mary Shelley. I missed posting this last Saturday due to being tired after rocking Planet Comicon for three amazing days! If you want to follow along, I am using the 1831 edition of the text. The book is in the public domain as far as I know, so if you don’t have a tangible copy handy, there are many sites that host the work for free. Feel free to add to comments, ask questions, or suggest future books for this series!
During the last edition of “Sci-Fi Book Club” a great topic was brought up in the discussion section. A reader named benmc47 posted:
“One thing I am curious about – is lightning really involved in bringing the Creature to life? I thought I recalled that the novel didn’t give a description of the actual method that Frankenstein used, and that the lightning was a film invention. It’s been years though, so maybe I’m imagining that?”
I had hastily mentioned “lightning” being the catalyst for the monster’s creation at one point in my ramblings, and realized that my mind had definitely made a few leaps of logic that I didn’t explain. The truth is that within the book itself, we are left to use our imagination as to the actual method of the monster’s creation. There are no scenes of a frantic Victor Frankenstein hoisting his patchwork corpse onto the roof adorned with lightning rods – that is purely movie license. But lightning, more specifically – electricity, is not completely absent from the work. Today we will look at Victor’s scientific upbringing, and how that probably leads him down the path of creating the monster in a way that isn’t too far from the method depicted in the films. It could even be said that the film depiction was simply a “modernized” version of what was in the book.
Most of the somewhat brief chapter two concentrates on Victor’s young life and how two thunderstorms made him the very man that he would later become. At a very young age, Victor was not what most would call a “normal boy” rather than playing and doing other childish things, he became obsessed with metaphysics and obtuse ideas like the relationship between humans and the rest of nature. He looked on at what Elizabeth and Henry were up to and somehow saw himself as superior. He states that his family did not really echo his yearning to answer all of life’s questions, so he went on a quest for all of the knowledge that he could attain.
“My temper was sometimes violent, and my passions vehement; but by some law in my temperature they were turned not towards childish pursuits but to an eager desire to learn, and not to learn all things indiscriminately. I confess that neither the structure of languages, nor the code of governments, nor the politics of various states possessed attractions for me. It was the secrets of heaven and earth that I desired to learn; and whether it was the outward substance of things or the inner spirit of nature and the mysterious soul of man that occupied me, still my inquiries were directed to the metaphysical, or in it highest sense, the physical secrets of the world.”
While forced to stay inside during a horrible storm at age 13, Victor began reading old science textbooks in his house, to pass the time. As a result Victor became obsessed with the works of three men: Cornelius Agrippa, Paracelsus, and Albertus Magnus. Victor read these medieval scripts more-or-less secretly since he discovered that they were very much out-of-vogue in modern times (his father ridiculed his interest somewhat). All three authors were, in fact, noteworthy alchemists that were looking for a way to create eternal life. It was a wide held legend that Magnus was even able to create a fabled “philosopher’s stone” something supposedly able to transmute base metals into gold.
“When I returned home my first care was to procure the whole works of this author, and afterwards of Paracelsus and Albertus Magnus. I read and studied the wild fancies of these writers with delight; they appeared to me treasures known to few besides myself. I have described myself as always having been imbued with a fervent longing to penetrate the secrets of nature. In spite of the intense labour and wonderful discoveries of modern philosophers, I always came from my studies discontented and unsatisfied. Sir Isaac Newton is said to have avowed that he felt like a child picking up shells beside the great and unexplored ocean of truth. Those of his successors in each branch of natural philosophy with whom I was acquainted appeared even to my boy’s apprehensions as tyros engaged in the same pursuit.”
At age 15, Victor witnessed something that basically changed his life forever – the destructive nature of electricity in the form of a second lightning storm:
“As I stood at the door, on a sudden I beheld a stream of fire issue from an old and beautiful oak which stood about twenty yards from our house; and so soon as the dazzling light vanished, the oak had disappeared, and nothing remained but a blasted stump. When we visited it the next morning, we found the tree shattered in a singular manner. It was not splintered by the shock, but entirely reduced to thin ribbons of wood. I never beheld anything so utterly destroyed.”
During this thunderstorm, he learns of a new scientific theory, Galvanism. The book quickly glosses over this, assuming the reader knows every intricacy of this topic, but this inclusion is VERY important because this is most likely the sort of experiment performed later in the story. To summarize, Galvanism is named after the scientist Luigi Galvani, who investigated the effect of electricity on dissected animals in the 1780s and 1790s. His nephew Giovanni Aldini took this even further, believing that one could re-animate the dead using electricity made with chemical reactions – something called “electro-stimulation”. His most famous public demonstration of the electro-stimulation technique was when he made a recently hanged criminal twitch and writhe around, a feat so alarming that one man reportedly died of fright.
This is basically Frankenstein’s origin story – after an upbringing of reading alchemical texts and occultist medical books, Victor is obsessed with learning the meaning of life and how to go past the limits of what it means to be human and enter nature. The theme of “lightning” as the embodiment of nature comes up many times in this book. It can be said that controlling nature is a pursuit of science. How often do hear about scientist trying to create weather, or alter it, to benefit humanity? perhaps as a weapon? One could surmise that control over nature would lead to omnipotence, perhaps Godhood. This was even a hot topic at the time of Shelley, as we were ever so close to being able to harness electricity.
Frankenstein is forced to pursue what sees as more mundane pursuits such as mathematics and natural sciences, but he never gives up on what he learned the night nature utterly destroyed a tree right in front of him. Perhaps if nature can remove life, it can bring it back? So the question still stands – “Did Frankenstein use electricity in his experiment?” – I believe so. The book goes to such great lengths showing all of the lightning symbolism at every turn, I think it would be foolish to assume that he did anything other than a mixture of alchemy and galvanism. Perhaps we’ll revisit chapter two when we make it to the actual creation of the creature, just to see if my theory still holds up.
Join me again next week for the third Chapter Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus
AKA season 1, episode 12
Episode 11 of The Tripods was an action-heavy chapter that dealt with the boys resorting to theft to get food while traveling to the White Mountains. The aftermath of said choice was basically the resulting punishment they received. Not only did they have to escape a tribe of murderous “Vagrants” living outside the town, but were apprehended by some Blackguards and put on trial for theft.
They apparently have a semblance of a fair trial, but it seems that the trial itself is more of a ritual than an actual legal proceeding. It seems like it’s a foregone conclusion that they will get capped once a Tripod arrives, and that is even if they are somehow found innocent. Boys of their age simply do not walk around uncapped, it’s uncivilized and terrifying! Our buddy Danielle, the French Blackguard that has been stalking the boys ever since they left the vineyard, shows up and punches holes in their defense. Danielle basically ruins everyone’s day by stating that he knows they are up to no good. he’s no Duc Du Sarlat on the scale of jerkitude, but he’s got to be pretty close.
They are caged, and Danielle volunteers to take him back to his precinct for processing. Suddenly the boys are in a moral dilemma – Henry feels bad that they have to hurt Danielle in order to escape seeing that he is part of the family that took care of them. It comes down to the fact that “it’s either him or us” and the boys attack.
Danielle isn’t killed or anything, but bound, gagged, and stranded in the middle of nowhere locked inside of the cage he trapped the boys in. I liked this scene a lot because Henry had to come to terms with the fact that he probably wasn’t going back to that vineyard, and that Danielle was not their friend and family member.
The rest of this episode is full of some very important information including our very first glimpse at what the true nature of The Tripods is. This kicks off when the boys are traversing an eerie ruined city and stumble onto a Tripod that is guarding it. Somehow they have gone completely undetected, or as beanpole puts it “just like how a fat man cannot see his own feet”.
Pretty soon a plan is concocted to attempt to destroy this Tripod. Henry climbs up a rock face and places a hammer under the foot of the hulking enormity of the machine’s foot. Beanpole then hoists one of the grenades that were plucked from the shopping mall way back in the beginning of the show, and pulls the pin with a rope. The resulting explosion knocks the beast over and a hatch opens on the front face of the Tripod.
Until this very moment we were not exactly sure if the Tripods themselves were sentient robots or if somebody was inside of it piloting. With the hatch opening, the boys get a glimpse of an off-screen face that proves the latter is most likely the case. This is, of course, right before another grenade is hurled into the cockpit rendering the occupant inside nothing more than a thick green slime oozing out of the door.We are not only one step closer to knowing the true nature of the villainous Tripods, but we now know that they can also be killed.
As the episode closes, we see The White Mountains off in the distance, signaling that the first part of the boys’ quest is nearly complete. They aren’t sure what to expect other than the fact that there are probably more like-minded individuals there, and none of them should be capped. Here’s hoping that crazy old coot Ozymandias was right and this whole ordeal wasn’t a wild goose chase.
Last week I discussed how much I loved the location shooting in this show, and this is yet another episode full of great shots. The ruins that the boys walk through were especially eerie, seemingly plucked from a medieval village that was destroyed. I did a bit of research, and it appears that this was actually an old Welsh slate quarry called Diffwys Quarry, that had been abandoned since the 1950’s. I’m not sure how something so recent fell into such disrepair so quickly, but it definitely gave this episode the terrifying post-apocalyptic vibe that it had lost a bit of in all of the pastoral episodes.
Also of note, were the awesome model shots and practical effects especially in the Tripod battle at the end. I’ve seen far more recent films have less realistic scenes of large creatures or machines walking around, and it really goes to show that sometimes models and puppets work better than computer generated effects for some things. My hat goes off to the director, Christopher Barry, and his entire crew.
That’s it for this week, join me again in seven days as discuss the final chapter of season one – Episode 13, The White Mountains! Remember, if you missed any entries for this series and want to read more, go to the front page and click the “Tripods” button.
AKA season 1, episode 11
It’s another week here at An American View of British Science Fiction, and that means another episode of BBC’s 1984 sci-fi fantasy epic The Tripods is going to be talked about! The series was originally a series of young adult novels written by John Christopher, beginning in 1967. The first two were the basis of this science fiction TV series, produced in the United Kingdom in the 1980s.
The story revolves around three boys trying to escape the clutches of a group of huge walking machines referred to as “Tripods” that are keen to mind control every able-bodied person on Earth. Cousins, Will and Henry, are not keen to submit to this and along with a traveling companion called “Beanpole” they are on their way to the mythical “White Mountains” is is said to be free of Tripod control.
It’s been somewhere around one month since Will, Henry, and Beanpole left the safety of a French vineyard for the final push towards their destination – The White Mountains. Starving, and tired from their travels they decide to “hitch a ride” with a merchant to a small French town that appears to be having a festival.
Once there they make a huge mistake by stealing some of the food mostly bread and fruit and dashing for the town’s exit. Unfortunately for them, this place seems to be crawling with Blackguards, the human secret police employed by the Tripods. I’m not sure of our buddy Danielle, who we see has been stalking the boys, led them to our adventurers or if there just happens to be tons of them in the town itself, but one thing is clear – they chose the wrong town to steal from.
The boys make it out of the town and run into the woods, a place that is overrun with Vagrants. These aren’t the sort of people that have been to as “vagrants” that we’ve seen in the show so far. Characters like Ozymandias and Lady Vichot still were what one would call “sane”, they were just overwhelmed with ideas that the rest of the mind-controlled populace were not so keen on.
Then we have these “Forest Vagrants” which seem to be similar to the weak-minded tribes seen in The Mad Max movies. They appear to have been driven completely insane by the “capping” process and live in the woods under the watch of a crudely constructed Tripod made of wood. They seem to revere this “statue” as their god and perform a crude version of a “capping” process to any newcomer that comes into the village.
We never exactly find out where these people came from, but it can be assumed that they are former villagers that have resorted to cannibalism or at least mass murder due to their rejection of the capping. They are smeared in paint, carry crude weapons and talk in a completely indecipherable pidgin language made up of animal noises and grunts.
After a while of playing along with these people, the boys know it’s time to escape and gather their belongings, a fact that upsets many of the high-ranking tribesman. Keep in mind, these do not seem to be peaceful people, seeing that they have human skulls strewn about their campsite, and the boys don’t seem to want to take any chances. Upon leaving the woods, it seems like it’s a case of “out of the pan, and into the fire” as an entire regiment of Blackguards is waiting for them outside the forest. They are to be put on trial and capped as soon as possible.
After the relative slow pace of the last few episodes, this was definitely a more action-packed segment. There really wasn’t much standing around, and as a result I was left really wanting more at the end. I was amazed at the beautiful location shooting for most of the outdoor scenes, especially a scene with the boys walking across a tall stone bridge and many of the scenes near rivers and waterfalls.
Looking online, it doesn’t seem at there was one exotic location they filmed the show at, but a handful of carefully chosen areas in and around the UK. The “bridge” I mentioned (shown above) is Pensford Viaduct, for example. If for any reason, you want to see this location list, it can be found on the Tripods Wikipedia Page.
With another sticky situation to escape from, The next episode should be equally exciting as we get closer and closer to the end of series one of The Tripods. Seeing as there are two seasons of this show, I can almost guarantee the boys don’t get capped in this village, so it’s safe to say they somehow escape!
Join me again, next week, for my episode synopsis and review of episode 12.
Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Sophie Aldred (Ace), David Tennant (Feldwebel Kurtz), Toby Longworth (Hauptmann Julius Schäfer), Nicholas Young (Flying Officer Bill Gower), Peter Rae (Timothy Wilkins), Tracey Childs (Klein).
Colditz takes place during World War II, and as one can probably easily piece together from the title, it has to do with the infamous prison camp Colditz Castle. While Americans are not as familiar with this legendary facility, The UK has had decades of documentaries, Television shows, and even board games based on the many escape attempts of it’s prisoners. The camp was basically set up to house officers and other high ranking people who tried to escape from other camps, so it was almost seen as the Alcatraz of it’s time. Over here, we have tons of versions of the Steve McQueen movie The Great Escape which is based on an escape from a polish POW camp, so you get the idea.
The bad guys in this are Nazis, and if there was any “Tardis team” that has a good chance of being able to deal with Nazis, it’s definitely Ace and the seventh Doctor. We have seen their influence in Curse of Fenric, The Silver Nemesis, and one could argue that The villains of The Fearmonger were essentially some type of right-wing Neo-Nazi types. Because of this, I actually chuckled when Ace mentioned “not Nazis again, I hate Nazis!”. I’m not a huge fan of science fiction having Nazi bad-guys because it usually ends up being the lazy Star Trek “Space Nazis!” trope, but thankfully this isn’t the case here. These are regular Nazis in their correct time line.
I’m a big fan of historical episodes that do not involve some sort contrived alien involvement, and this one is almost entirely of that sort. In fact, The Doctor himself is the only real alien involvement we see here which is refreshing. The plot of this episode centers around The Nazis confiscating a CD Walkman from Ace and creating a paradox in which they reverse engineer it and win World War II. This plot is more-or-less in the background, but it’s the way they a new anti-hero character named Klein is introduced. You see, Klein’s from this alternate time line in which the Nazi powers have taken over the rest of the world. As far as she’s concerned, her world is the better one; as a child of German parents growing up in England, she welcomed the Nazi victory. I know from looking at Wikis that Klein’s story is fleshed out more, and can’t wait to fill the gaps in.
Perhaps the most notable thing about this story is that the main villain of the story, Kurtz, is played by none other than a young David Tennant in his first Doctor Who related piece of entertainment. Kurtz is an awful piece of work, the sort of character that one really hopes will come to an early death. He plots behind the backs of his superiors, tries to hold information for his own gains, and even tries to take advantage of inmates in unspeakable ways. Kurtz is definitely a Hollywood Nazi archetype, as is another character in Schafer – the sympathetic Nazi. While these character tropes aren’t bad they reek of being historically inaccurate to some degree.
My only downside to this audio seemed to be the sound mixing, which shocked me because Gary Russell directed episodes are usually very well done. There were many scenes within the interior of Colditz Castle that had weird foley work such as footsteps that sounded as if everyone was wearing concrete shoes on metal floors. I have a digital file for this audio, so perhaps I got a bad download? I’m not sure, but it sounded off in places. Perhaps somebody with the CD could chime in on the comments page. This didn’t take me out the play by any means, but there were times where it got distracting or drowned out a bit of dialog.
All-in-all this was a great story, and considering people think that I’m too harsh on 80’s Doctor Who, this is the second McCoy/Aldred story in a row that I’ve really enjoyed. I do wish that the audio mix would have been a bit better, but it’s still a hearty recommendation to every Doctor Who fan. Upon listening to this, I also have a strange feeling that I should watch Chicken Run for some reason.
Hope you enjoyed episode 2 of the new podcast! Here’s a selection of relevant links and videos that I rambled about in the episode. Feel free to comment and ask questions if you have any, maybe I’ll discuss it in the next episode!
- A recreation of the infamous “Protect and Survive” pamphlet for all of your lean-to building needs
- An article about the counter pamphlet “Protest and Survive”
- In the 1980’s this would be TV until you died during a nuclear war
- New Internationalist article from 1981
- 1981 Harvard article on accidental nuclear war
- The Able Archer Incident
- List of Nuclear Holocaust Fiction
- My review of War Game from 2012
- War Game Wikipedia page
- Able Archer 1983: The Brink of Apocalypse
- The War Game – The full film
This week, the podcast takes a look at post-apocalyptic fiction in the 1980’s – starting out with a movie that was banned in 1965 by the BBC for being “too horrific” and shown some twenty years later. The War Game is a chilling look at what could happen if The World had “a bad day”.
Last week was a rough week for science fiction fans as we lost the legendary Leonard Nimoy and ALMOST lost Harrison Ford a few days later. I don’t think I’m the only one that breathed a huge sigh of relief on that one. I don’t have much to say to start out this column that isn’t somewhat off-topic, so I’ll just go for it.
Go See Chappie!
I know the critics hated it, and want the movie to bomb (One wonders if it’s because Neil Blomkamp is going to work on an Alien Sequel and critics are using this film to “prove” he’s a failure and not worthy?), but we (my wife and I) walked out with smiles on our faces. If you were a fan of Blomkamp’s other films (District 9 or Elysium), you’ll enjoy it. The general disdain for the film seems to follow these three rules:
1) “It’s too bloody, I thought it was a kid’s movie” which is an incredibly stupid reason to give a movie a bad review. It reminds me of when Pan’s Labyrinth came out.
2) “Die Antwoord play horrible people” – that’s one of the main points of the movie – Chappie’s parents are horrible, but he overcomes their influence to become a hero.
3) “it has a political message” where did all of these people come from that forgot that sci-fi used to be all about political messages? Do they think everything is going to be Star Wars? Did they forget about things like Day the Earth Stood Still, Twilight Zone etc…I honestly think that some folks were mad because this movie is largely about transhumanism and that’s a no-no for religious types. This happened with Elysium, a movie Fox news even tried to sabotage.
Note these are the same folks that are hailing American Sniper as the greatest film ever made for reasons that definitely are not related to politics or anything….sigh
It wasn’t perfect, but I have to wonder if we saw the same film the critics did. Blomkamp is like the new Ridley Scott – a genius when it comes to ideas and visuals, that the critics all loathe for some reason. If you want me to rant more about people not understanding Neil Blomkamp’s films check out my defense of Elysium.
anyway, here’s your headlines for the week!
‘Doctor Who‘ class notes: Free, open lecture at Palace Theater draws 200 students
“For the first time this semester, Anthony Rotolo opened up his ‘Doctor Who’ in the Digital Age class to the public Monday night. Anyone could come out to the Palace Theater and join the class for free.
About 200 people came out and Rotolo estimated about half the crowd consisted of registered students, while the other half was new.”
Official Doctor Who Umbrellas on Sale
“Our best-selling Fourth Doctor Scarf keeps the winds at bay. Our Fifth Doctor Jumper will make sure you’re toasty. And now, our new Doctor Who umbrellas will keep you dry whether you’re on Marinus, sheltering from the siege of Trenzalore, or under the Earth’s overcast skies. All of time and space; everywhere and anywhere; every star that ever was… Where do you want to start?”
‘Doctor Who’ participating in Red Nose Day 2015
“Red Nose Day comes along every two years and combines two very British things: having a laugh and helping others. Specifically, the event looks to raise money for in need in the U.K. and in Africa. As part of Red Nose Day, a program called Comic Relief begins its marathon broadcast on BBC1 next Friday March 13, starting at 7:00 p.m. GMT. The Doctor Who team has done a sketch or made an appearance on the show since 2009.”
Jenna Coleman DID plan to leave Doctor Who, Steven Moffat confirms
“Series eight closing episode, Death In Heaven, had been due to be the 28-year-old’s last episode as companion Clara to current Doctor, Peter Capaldi, however, here’s what happened in Moffat’s words.”
Scottish sci-fi drama Outlander finally makes it to the UK
“The award-winning period fantasy series, starring Caitriona Balfe, Sam Heughan, Tobias Menzies and Simon Callow, will launch on Amazon Prime Instant Video next month”
Blade Runner: Harrison Ford to reprise replicant hunter role in sci-fi sequel
“The new story takes place several decades after the conclusion of the 1982 film, which was based on the Philip K. Dick novel Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?
British director Ridley Scott, who was behind the camera for the 1982 dystopian neo-noir movie, will serve as an executive producer on the sequel.”
As part of my new posting initiative (posting every day in March!), I hope to do more comic reviews on Sundays, so make sure to check back every weekend to see a review of the next chapter. If you have something you think I should check out for this, feel free to drop a comment. Now that introductions are out of the way, it’s time for the task at hand – It’s been a while since I took a look at this crossover to end all crossovers brought to us by IDW Comics. Fans have speculated for years as to which cybernetic villain would prevail in a hypothetical battle between Doctor Who’s cybermen or Star Trek’s Borg, and Doctor Who / Star Trek: Assimilation Squared is just what the doctor ordered. Sadly both armies of zombie androids are still on the same side as of issue three, we’ll see how long that lasts!
To recap the story so far, a Star Fleet outpost on Delta IV has been ransacked by The Borg, only they seem to have new upgrades or another race entirely helping them. This is of course The Cybermen from the Doctor Who universe, and for some reason these seemingly parallel dimensions have crossed allowing both villains to team up. It all starts when The Doctor and Amy Pond find their way into what they think is the past, only for it to be revealed as the Holo-deck on the U.S.S. Enterprise. Shenanigans ensue, and just when everyone is starting to get used to each other, The Enterprise itself gets attacked.
We finally get to see the new Cyber-controller, a vague term given to a myriad of different high-ranking Doctor Who villains that control the Cybermen. This time it is a Cyberman that has Borg implants. One only assumes that this new leader has assumed the roles of both Cyber-Controller and The Hive Queen, which is a terrifying thought! Captain Jean Luc Picard and crew scour their Star Fleet archives to see if there is any record of so called “Cyber Men” and come up with a few sparse records of contact with the NCC-1701 Enterprise commanded by none other than Captain James T. Kirk.
This scene made me chuckle a bit because it was sort of like Commander Data ran a Google Image Search for “Cybermen” and read off of a Wikipedia page or something. I guess the internet doesn’t change too much in the next few hundred years! This old-school crossover should be no surprise if you saw the awesome cover that this book is sporting. The Doctor collapses in pain as if he is just remembering something – his first encounter with the Star Trek crew!
The next few pages of flash-backs are pretty fun, and the entire tone of the comic shifts with the new setting. Gone are the painted panels by J.K. Woodward, replaced by vaguely “retro” ones depicting Kirk and Co. battling 1970’s Cybermen alongside The Doctor as portrayed by Tom Baker. I really enjoyed all of the tropes like Kirk trying to fight the Cybermen with his patented “double axe-handle” punch we’ve seen so much in the show. Also quite humorous was Mr. Spock finding out what Jelly babies are.
At the end of this issue, were still not sure what has exactly brought these two world together, but one can assume that some sort of time travel is happening considering The Doctor both remembers his time with Kirk and remembers not remembering it. Perhaps a cyberman slipped dimensions and ended up in Star trek? Who knows right now, but hopefully we’ll find out soon. Perhaps that is the most refreshing thing about Doctor Who / Star Trek: Assimilation Squared – unlike most crossover events, the tone of the book doesn’t seem to be preoccupied with a lead up to some massive battle, but a mystery of how exactly the cross-over even happened.
The next issue should be pretty awesome considering Guinan knows pretty much everything, it’ll be interesting to see if she knows about Time Lords and Cybermen.
Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus (originally 1818, 1831)
Good news everyone! I got off my lazy butt and decided that I wanted to start a new feature on the site related to those papery things that are kind of like blogs, just with less electricity. That’s right, I’m introducing a feature where I plan to go through influential works of British science fiction literature, but do more than simply throw out a quick review here and there. I want to break down what makes these books an important part of British literature as a whole, and perhaps discuss why they are important, what is inspired by them, themes, social commentary etc. Due to this, I figured that I would break this down into segments – perhaps one chapter a week, maybe more. This way I can discuss things I want without worrying about writing a monstrous article nobody will read or glossing over everything that is important.
When I was in middle school, I recall having class that I believe had to be a reading class that involved us going over various novels throughout the year and doing assignments on them. Our teacher must have been pretty awesome because our curriculum that year involved almost entirely science fiction novels like Z for Zachariah, A Wrinkle in Time, War of the Worlds and finally Frankenstein. At the time, I was ignorant of basic plot of the original Mary Shelley novel and assumed I would not enjoy the book due to my ambivalence to the Universal Horror film of the same name. I know this is blasphemy to many a film buff or horror aficionado, but I didn’t really see why it was so popular. Sure, it was probably scary when it came out, the make-up techniques were amazing, and sets were great, but I found it ultimately boring. When I cracked open the book, I was amazed at the difference. No longer was Victor the hero of the story, no longer was The Monster seemingly incapable of complex thought, and most importantly – no longer was it merely a horror story, there was social commentary, politics, and actual science involved.
Needless to say, I loved reading Frankenstein at the time and have decided to go back after twenty years or so and read it again. I recently discovered a section of inexpensive hard-bound books at our local Barnes and Noble, and fell in love with them. They are all mostly things in the public domain, so costs aren’t too bad, and they have snazzy faux-leatherbound covers. I have some of these books as ratty paperbacks, and plan to collect more to eventually replace those. The version of Frankenstein that I ultimately picked up has a beautiful cover by Jessica Hische.
I now know that the version that I read in school must have been some sort of abridged or “young readers” edition of the story, because I do not remember the beginning of the novel whatsoever. Granted, that was two decades ago, but I’m pretty sure it jumped right into the story without the fifteen or so pages of introductory letters. Perhaps the entire framing concept was removed? I’m not sure, but I’m enjoying a book that is both somewhat familiar and yet brand new in many ways!
My first choice for the “book club” is perhaps mildly controversial seeing that Frankenstein is usually a horror franchise in many minds. This is perhaps true for the films based on this book, but the book itself is very much a different beast. I’ve always seen Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus somewhere in between a gothic romance novel, a psychological horror novel, and perhaps an early science fiction novel. This is the case for much of this early “genre” fiction, in that genres were far more fluid and less pigeon-holed with the tired tropes we see today. Using another contemporary example, none could argue that H.P. Lovecraft wasn’t a horror writer, I would make the case that he also discussed aliens and monsters from other dimensions blurring the horror and science fiction genres together. This is also the case for our very own Mary Shelly here, in that she wrote mostly about the dangers of science running amok.
Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus was published March 11, 1818. The book, by 21-year-old Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, is frequently called the first science fiction novel. In the story, the scientist Victor Frankenstein collects pieces of various corpses, and stitches them together into a grotesque patchwork monster. Using chemicals and the forces of nature, perhaps lightning, Frankenstein is able to animate his experiment, this much to his own horror. The gentle, intelligent creature is rejected by its creator, and wanders across the countryside, seeking companionship. It becomes increasingly brutal when it fails to find acceptance, and eventually succumbs to emotions of bitter angst towards his creator. We have all heard the tale of the origin of this book. Mary Shelley wrote a short version of what would become Frankenstein on a rainy afternoon in 1816 in Geneva, where she was staying with her husband, the poet Percy Shelley, and their friend Lord Byron. Byron had challenged each of them to write a scary ghost story, but only Mary Shelley finished hers.
At it’s very essence, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus is a cautionary tale of what happens when scientists do not realize the consequences of their actions on a social and ethical scale. This is the all too common “men playing God” idea that seems to always pop up when any bit of scientific research hits the public. London was full of stories of “body-snatchers” or men that would desecrate the graves of the recently departed for medical research or other nefarious ploys. Many people must have thought about why this was happening, and Mary Shelly definitely provided an answer here.
I believe that the edition that I currently have in my hands is the 1831 edition of the book, so for the purposes of this series I will be discussing only that version as I do not plan two attempt to read two books concurrently. I barely have the time to read ONE book! I will say that the original version is somewhat different to the common “popular edition” as Shelly and her husband edited the book a few times during her life. Doing a bit of research shows that as far as I can tell, the major differences between the two versions are could be seen as important or not depending on how you look at it. On one hand, Shelley removed some text about new scientific theories and experiments going on at the time, mainly because many were thoroughly disproven at the time of the later edition. This does succeed in somewhat removing the novel from its original intellectual context, and obscures the issues that were being debated both publicly and in the Byron-Shelley circle. On the other hand, I have looked at side-by-side comparisons and most of the text is almost exactly the same. Perhaps, later editions tie the characters into the concept of “fate” a bit more than the original, but it’s basically the same.
I mentioned earlier that the version I read in school was most likely some sort of abridged version of this book, and that is truly a shame. If one were to remove the framing around the main story, I feel we are left with something half-finished. Unlike the “whale information” segments in another often chopped up book, Moby Dick, the framing in Frankenstein is very interesting. Frankenstein actually has multiple framed narratives that surround the life story of the man Victor Frankenstein. The first layer is from the point of view of a sea captain named Robert Walton who writes letters to his sister relating the story told to him by Victor Frankenstein. Walton discovers Frankenstein on the verge of death in the arctic and nurses him back to health in exchange for his story. Victor’s layer is somewhat of an autobiographical tale told to Walton of everything he did leading up to the creation of his monster and how it made him feel. Finally, we actually get the creature’s point of view as he copes with his loneliness and rage against his “father”.
I personally adore this sort of narrative structure, and a modern equivalent that many have probably read was Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, as written by Seth Grahame-Smith. That book had a layer of a man writing a book and how he came across secret dairies of Abraham Lincoln, and the content of these diaries themselves.
This week, there wasn’t much story as of yet, but we do get to learn a bit about the aforementioned seafarer Robert Walton. It seems that Walton has sailed to the Arctic as an adventurer, this was the time of the adventurers after all! Walton seems like a kind man, but also seems somewhat arrogant, as we get a sense that he feels himself to be somewhat “above” the rest of the crew of his ship. Because of this, he has fallen into a “funk” and feels that he has no companionship other than his far-away sister that we never hear a reply from.
“I have no one near me, gentle yet courageous, possessed of a cultivated as well as of a capacious mind, whose tastes are like my own, to approve or amend my plans. How would such a friend repair the faults of your poor brother! I am too ardent in execution, and too impatient of difficulties.”
He is excited to finally meet Victor Frankenstein, a man that he sees as his intellectual equal, and seemingly gets some sort of a crush on him. Not romantically, but it definitely seems as if he is infatuated by the man. This creates somewhat of an instance of the “unreliable narrator” in which Victor is shown to be the hero of this tale, a fact that gets flipped on it’s head later on!
Chapter one (of Victor’s tale) mostly explores Victor’s relationship to Elizabeth, the woman that was his best friend growing up, his adopted sister, and love interest. She is an orphan child taken in by the Frankenstein family, who was lovingly raised with Victor after her nobleman father died. Elizabeth is completely idealized by Victor, in part because she is clever but more importantly because she is pretty. He says at the beginning of Chapter 1, “Her person was the image of her mind; her hazel eyes, although as lively as a bird’s, possessed an attractive softness.” It seems to be a theme throughout Victor’s narrative that he likes beauty above all else, perhaps foreshadowing to his reaction to his “son”? Elizabeth seems to also be Victor’s anchor to reality, and once she is out of the picture Victor completely loses himself.
That’s it for chapter one, and all my introductions! Check back next week where I’ll attempt to discuss relevant themes from chapter two.