Tag Archives: star-trek

Credit where it’s due


The Evening Standard and Liberal Vision have been patting Guido Fawkes on the back for observing the uncanny similarity between David Cameron’s latest airbrushed photo and Lt Cmdr Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Only one slight problem with this: Guido actually got the idea from me as I tweeted this observation over a week ago.

Back in the day, Guido used to run a regular feature on diarists who regularly ripped off bloggers. These days of course, Guido is feted by the mainstream media. Fascinating how times have changed.

It is also worth observing that the substance of Angela Harbutt’s blog post is that Jo Swinson is a hypocrite for criticising adverts with airbrushed images of women whilst not criticising Cameron for this blatant act of fakery. Wrong again, I’m afraid, as any twitter search will tell you.

UPDATE: Guido has issued a carefully worded non-denial denial and accused me of “bloggers narcisim” – possibly the most self unaware statement ever uttered on the internet. Just for the record, I don’t expect or demand an acknowledgement – I’m just putting the facts out there. People can draw their own conclusions.

Patrick McGoohan & Ricardo Montalban RIP

Losing Patrick McGoohan today was bad enough, but then it was announced that Ricardo Montalban has died as well. This is indeed a sad day.

For politicos, McGoohan is probably the greater loss because of his highly political (and radical – not just of its time but of all time) subversion of the secret agent genre The Prisoner. It emerges that this is now being remade into a film (courtesy of the makers of the new film, you can watch the original series online gratis) – something which rivals the Watchmen film in terms of making me feel ambivalent. McGoohan’s aim of The Prisoner was to be entirely subversive – essentially an act of trashing his own brand (which after Danger Man was very valuable indeed). How subversive can a remake be? The Wicker Man anyone?

Compared to The Prisoner, Fantasy Island (which is also currently being remade by – ack! – Eddie Murphy!) seems very tame indeed. I’ve never seen it, nor do I particularly intend to catch up for lost time.

For me, Montalban is to be lauded for one role only: the eponymous chracter is Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan – arguably the greatest Trek film. Montalban’s performance was brilliant – as hammy as Shatner, to be sure – but both sinister and sympathetic at the same time. The film is remembered for two main scenes: Spock dies at the end (you didn’t know? Sorry!) and Khan and Kirk’s chat-off in the middle. Known in particular for Shatner’s completely over the top screaming, Montalban’s performance is a pitch perfect counterpoint and utterly chilling.

Growing up in the early 1980s, both McGoohan and Montalban were thus major punctuation points in my growing up. ITV reshowed The Prisoner in the early eighties to great fanfare while Star Trek was omnipresent. I doff my cap to you both, gentlemen.


Related to my previous post, I was a little disappointed by this article, which promised so much yet failed to deliver.

The last time the Democrats controlled the White House and both houses of Congress, Gillian Anderson wore pants. There were two Star Trek series at once, which promoted women and minorities and looked at the dark side of the Federation. Cyberpunk reigned supreme. The future was a shiny place — but with dread lurking just beneath its polish. Now that the Democrats have finally scored another grand slam, are we going to see the return of sunny-but-questioning science fiction?

The main thing it lacks is a contrast between sci-fi under Bush with sci-fi under Clinton.

First of all, let’s be clear that Star Trek: The Next Generation was a product of the Reagan/Bush Snr years: there were only one-and-a-half seasons under Clinton; its optimism was entirely driven by the ending of the Cold War. DS9 and Voyager are authentically Clintonian and they took the franchise down a much darker path than their predeccessor. TNG’s two greatest contribution to Star Trek were the rich development of Klingon culture and, of course, the Borg. The former was a rather more optimistic look at Middle Eastern culture than would ever have emerged post-9/11 while the Borg is of course influenced by communism (although these days, anxieties about assimilation of the individual would no doubt be presumed to be anxieties about Islam).

DS9 and Voyager by contrast gave us ideas about living in a divided society. Both Bajoran and Human societies have their culture wars. The Bajorans are also “good” arabs (Bajor = Kuwait/Saudi Arabia) while the Cardassians are the mean old Syrian/Iranians. Meanwhile, with the humans, Trek was able to explore what was increasingly becoming a divided USA, the Maquis being all but cheerleaders for Ruby Ridge and Waco. You could easily imagine B’Elanna Torres blowing up the Oklahoma Federal Building.

How does all this contrast with Star Trek in the Bush Jnr era? I’m not the first to observe that Enterprise was the Bush Doctrine in Space. Captain Archer even resembles Dubya. In the first series they seemed to stumble from one major diplomatic incident to the next. The Xindi were as transparent an analogue of Al Qaeda as you are ever likely to get. As for the fourth season… well, I couldn’t tell you because I had given up by that point.

The main difference between Clintonian sci-fi and Bushian sci-fi is that the latter is far more miserablist. Dare I say that doesn’t necessarily make it bad? In Buffy we had a superhero learning that life was hard, while in Angel we had a vampire discovering that superheroics is equally complicated. Both have in spades something which all too often Star Trek lacked: drama. The reboot of Battlestar Galactica may be darker than the original, but it is far superior.

And while in the post-9/11 world we may have lacked the spectacle of Independence Day, we still have hope. Children of Men is about as dark a film as you can get outside of Schindler’s List, but its ending is far more emotionally uplifting than any 90s cheesefest managed to deliver. As I wrote in my Watchmen post below, entropy is a key theme in 90s sci-fi, but there is always some measure of hope, and that leads to a pretty mighty payoff when it is made to work well. Think the ending of Sunshine or the flashes of hopefulness during the darker points in Spider-Man (1 & 2 – the less said about 3 the better, sadly).

How will this change under Obama? Well, the io9 article cited above already points to the new Star Trek film and its return to a 60s ethic. But the transition film, thinking about it, may yet end up being The Dark Knight. Characteristically Bushian in its darkness, the film is riddled appeals to hope and optimism. In a year characterised by elections, one of its key motifs (borrowed from The Long Halloween) is the election slogan “I believe in Harvey Dent” – Obama might have used that one. There surely can be no doubt that this theme about how the hopes and dreams of the people can be embodied in a single good man (even if it is a blond, white man rather than a dark-haired, mixed race man) was tapping into the same undercurrent that Obama’s campaign was also taking advantage of. It ends with not only The Joker defeated, but The Batman recognising the best thing he can do is disappear. The time of madness is at an end.

So, we can probably expect a period of greater optimism in our science fiction. Let’s hope they don’t get too carried away however and shut down their critical faculties. Bush may not have done much for world stability, but he’s been a gift for sci-fi.


I was about to go to bed, only to discover that this blog is the top Google result for the search “similarities korean klingon” and that someone actually found me that way.

I’ve also been impressed by the number of people finding this blog over the last 48 hours because of my post about Kryptonite. It’s good to see people grappling with the really important issues of the day.

Finally, I still get a significant number of visits from Konnie Huq fans. Disgracefully, I suspect this is because of the promise of seeing her “modelling the latest in tweenie fetish wear“.

Postapoo: it’s not racist to preach hatred

Sorry to keep returning to the subject of poo this week, but I thought this one needed a slight follow up.

Postapoo issued a press statement on their website yesterday for a couple of hours, but it quite quickly disappered. But their defence, which you can glean from news stories, is that a) they’ve never had any complaints and b) they use all the saints days to promote themselves.

If I recall correctly, their press statement said something about people having a sense of humour failure. This is a little rich from a company that specialises in the practical ‘joke’ of sending plastic poo in the post. It isn’t exactly Noel Coward, is it? You only have to surf down their list of ‘success stories‘ to see the sort of person who chooses to take up their service.

“Was thrilled at work to find a package had arrived for Claire (office cow). Claire proceeded to tell everyone in the office about her mystery package. She wasn’t so chirpy when she opened it though.”

See? What’s nothing untoward going on there.

This is, of course, assuming that these stories are even true. London Rob‘s tale about his ‘pain’ ex-girlfriend is remarkably similar to Newport Wez‘s ex-wife.

Ultimately, Postapoo’s defence that they are not anti-English rests in the fact that they actively encourage people to indulge in all forms of hate. In that, they may have a point, but it’s pretty tawdry.

I have a horrible feeling that someone is making a shitload of cash out of this. Literally.

Postscript: Fox News has a bizarre sub-heading to their item on this topic:

Klingons said revenge is a dish best served cold, but for Scots, it’s best served in plastic.

The Klingon reference is, from memory, a nod to a line uttered by Christopher Plummer’s character in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (UPDATE: schoolboy error – it was of course a continuity blip uttered by Khan in the far superior Star Trek II! Oh, the shame!), but its true origin appears to be les Liasons dangereuses (although wikipedia qualifies this). Could it be that Fox couldn’t bring itself to mention it’s apparently French origins?