Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Who Remembered Hills (2)


The second group treats Doctor Who as a kind of private religion: a Proustian umbilical connection to a collective past. You remember that story where the Daleks had to form a temporary alliance with Captain Kirk to prevent Cyborg and Muton blowing up the dining room table? No? But it's just as much a part of the history of Doctor Who and the Daleks as the Chase, which I missed, due to not having been born. (I have seen the DVD, though. It's not very good.) I have a much stronger memory of Doctor Who driving the Whomobile into Gerry Cottle's circus than I do of him driving it around dinosaur infested London. In fact, I rather suspect that the TV set was broken during Invasion of the Dinosaurs.(I have the DVD of that too. It's dreadful.)

The second approach holds that those kinds of memories are all equally part of a big messy wobbly thing called "Doctor Who". Not that it's limited to childhood, necessarily: sitting in a smoky bar watching a snowy VHS tape of the Gunfighters (and naturally singing along with the Ballad of the Last Chance Saloon) is just as much a part of Doctor Who as having a break between the twiglets and the jelly at Robert's birthday party in order to watch Genesis of the Daleks, (the DVD of which is bloody brilliant). 

A very wise man once said: "The Gunfighters isn't a TV drama: it's the fossilized remains of a Saturday tea time nearly fifty years ago." 

The astute reader (I know where he lives) will recognize that this is the approach that Lawrence Miles has been taking in his (I hope ongoing) series of essays, which are almost certainly the best things which have ever been written about Doctor Who. His remark about Doctor Who being something like a personal mythology has changed the rules of the game in a way they haven't been changed since, oh, the last five minutes of Curse of Fatal Death. And yes, he can indeed be rather annoying and sarcastic at times. Lots of us can be rather annoying and sarcastic at times, Nick, but not all of invented the Faction Paradox. [*]

The second approach is very close to my heart. It's the kind of thing I tried to do to Watchmen in Who Sent The Sentinels; and it's what I may yet get around to doing to Spider-Man. It's very much the kind of thing which the aforementioned Francis Spufford did in his wonderful Child That Books Built. 

It's also what Proper Literary Critics sometimes invites us to do with Shakespeare. Hamlet isn't just, or even, a text: it's the intersection between every actor who has ever played Hamlet; every academic who has ever lectured on Hamlet, and ever drunk old codger who has ever said "Ah, Yorick, but there are more things on heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy" in the pub.

It has an obvious strength compared with the first approach. It allows you to carry on talking about Doctor Who without needing to pretend that it was ever really very good. If you were terrified by the giant maggots when you were ten, then you were terrified by the giant maggots when you were ten. That's a fact about the giant maggots and there is no need to carry on pretending that the giant maggots (inflated condoms, weren't they?) were actually particularly terrifying.

But it also has an obvious drawback. It's subjective. Carnival of Monsters was the first story I ever saw, but it wasn't the first story you ever saw, so it is naturally special to me in a way that it can never be to you. I first saw Unearthly Child at Panopticon 2, but you didn't. If we aren't careful, we will find out that we aren't talking about the same thing; that we don't know what we are talking about; that we aren't really talking about anything at all. [**]

Oh: and it's almost completely meaningless if you're under thirty five. 



[*] Alan Moore

[**] At the end of his long and difficult book about literary theory, Terry Eagleton comes to the conclusion that there probably isn't any such thing as literature to be having theories about.



continues....

1 comment:

  1. "At the end of his long and difficult book about literary theory, Terry Eagleton comes to the conclusion that there probably isn't any such thing as literature to be having theories about."

    ... which is an ironically Dawkins-like conclusion to reach.

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