Friday 24 April 2015


Words written c26000
Stories completed 2
Rejections 35
Acceptances 1

Watched the Star Trek episode Miri last night.  It's the one in which the Enterprise stumbles across a doppelganger of Earth (with no explanation or investigation as to why apart from a throwaway "But there you are" - genius) on which children age slowly but die shortly after reaching puberty.  What would Freud say?

Amongst the jaw-dropping events that would have Matt intoning 'Different times!' were James Tiberius:
  1. repeatedly punching a man who promptly died, and absolutely no suggestion of any kind of investigation or review or even causal link is suggested; and
  2. going doe-eyed over a child and adopting behaviour best described as grooming.  That he had the decency to do it to her face, and it was a girl were small saving graces.  Oh, and the bloke who died wasn't black, which would have given him some crassly weird full house. 
But, most alien of all, the plot relied on all members of the landing party leaving their communicators behind to be taken by the gang of artful dodgers.  Putting aside that they're quasi-military and would probably have protocols covering such an eventuality, the very idea in 2015 that an entire project team could just walk away from their phones is baffling.

But, to the makers of Star Trek the communicator was just another tool.  When I'm doing DIY I'm constantly wondering where I left that hammer, spanner, screwdriver...  That's all they saw the communicator being.

I was taken by the idea on the radio documentary about 2001 referred to in my last post that Kubrick was well aware of the coming miniaturisation of technology but felt that a room full of HAL9000 would be more dramatic.  So, maybe the Star Trek writers knew it would never happen, but needed it to to move the plot on.

More likely, they never even contemplated our addiction to information.  Because that's exactly what it is.  When I grew up post fell through our front door six mornings a week.  The phone rang occasionally.  And you spoke to people you met.

But now, I check my phone many times a day, it plans my day, sends me work, educates, informs and entertains.  And, yes, I do sometimes forget where I've put it, but take it away for any length of time and I'll show all the symptoms of a crack addict without his fix.  It's an addiction.  And one that's crept up on us where the addicted barely acknowledge that's the case.

But, maybe, if Spock and Bones had been playing Angry Birds they wouldn't have found the antidote and saved everybody.  Like I say, sometimes you just need something unbelievable to move the plot on.

Tuesday 7 April 2015

2001: A Vintage Year?

Words written 24568
Stories completed 1
Rejections 27
Acceptances 1

Watched Kubrick's 2001 yesterday, mainly for the kids' benefit, to show them what a film that is as much art experience as popcorn movie looks like.  As a precursor, I played them a podcast of a BBC Radio 4 Film Programme special on 2001, telling them that, in the case of 2001, it didn't matter that much if there were any plot spoilers.

The nine-year old didn't last an hour; the eleven year old declared it the worst movie he'd ever seen, worse even than the original David Niven Casino Royale.  A bit harsh.

It was somehow both shorter and longer than I remembered.  Having been to a previous cinematic revival my recollection was that the intermission was very much required and I would have guessed that it was at least 3 hours rather than 140-odd minutes.  I seem to remember ageing visibly during the ape section in particular.

What struck me was how little story there was.  Okay, the Dawn of Man section is necessarily mood music, but the nine-year old turned to me after the space travelogue section that immediately follows it and said (direct quote) 'What did that tell us?'  The Moon section works for me far more than the voyage to Jupiter that is the core of the film - the slow build up to the screeching radio transmission - but even this is just the 'quiet, quiet, quiet, loud' school of horror in arthouse clothes.

Which brings me to my starter for ten: a radio signal aimed at Jupiter.  Is that possible?  Isn't radio, by definition, broadcast?

And (consider these all your bonuses in one) what, exactly, are Poole and Bowman doing to jeopardise the mission?  They're all going to Jupiter; it's not as if anybody is pulling in a different direction.  Nobody suggests aborting or changing the goal.  What happens approaching Jupiter would have happened anyway, even if HAL hadn't tried to change things.  Isn't that what he wants?  Is HAL part of the monolithic culture, or has he been corrupted by them?  When?  How?  Why is better for the mission for Bowman to be on his own, rather than part of a team? 

Putting aside the fact the story is nonsense, I have a bigger issue with how it's told.  I'm a great believer in the rule of three.  One error by HAL is curious, two is a coincidence, three means something and that is when your characters act.  But Poole and Bowman panic (yes, panic, although they're very languid about it) after the first incident, concluding its better to be without a sentient computer at all, reducing HAL's functionality to the automatic and vital, than carrying on.

It's not as though Kubrick was trying to squeeze events in to a ten-minute short; and, even then, you allude to the previous two occurrences and start your drama with the third.  Never has there been so little story or drama spread so thin.

Ah, no, you say.  Story comes from character; it doesn't follow some prescribed 'rule of three' framework.  But Poole and Bowman are meant to be unflappable; the actors & Kubrick developed backstories for the two double-doctorates, part of their psychology being that they would merely raise a bored eyebrow in situations which would have us mere mortals screaming.  So, even stranger that they decide to take such radical action after one glitch.  It's like abandoning your car on the side of the M5 because of a slight rattle.  

Curious, also, that proto-humans clubbing each other to death rates a U-certificate, whereas Paddington shutting himself in a fridge garners a PG.

The DVD will be going back to the charity shop from whence it came.