Monday, October 24, 2022

Does Andrew In Fact Hate All Television Programmes on General Principles?

Disney +

Everyone agrees that the first Season of the Mandalorian is marvellous, but thereafter the Star Wars Television Universe seems to generate surprising amounts of controversy. Some people are cross because it references the various animated Star Wars shows; other people are cross because the de-aged Mark Hamill isn't 100% convincing. Some people are cross because it treats the sequels and prequels as canon. Some people are cross because it is made by Disney. Other people are cross because they don't like Star Wars in the first place. (And, of course, the Usual Suspects are cross because it is Insufficiently Racist.)

I can see how you might find the sheer volume of Star Wars material a little intimidating. I can see how you might think "I can't possibly watch the Mandalorian because it continues the story of Asoka, which I am not familiar with" and :I can't possibly become familiar with the story of Asoka because I don't have time to watch seven seasons of Clone Wars and five seasons of Rebels." (I believe some people also have sectarian objections to watching animation.) But holistic concerns apart, the TV Universe seems to have a consistent look and feel and outlook; as well as clearly working towards a vast multi-season meta-plot. If you like Star Wars, these are very much the sequels and prequels and offshoots and sidelong glimpses into the far away long ago galaxy that you have always wanted.

Opinion is understandably divided about how good or bad the prequels and sequels were and there is pretty universal agreement that Solo was a bit of a wasted opportunity, but virtually everyone thinks that Rogue One was awesome. It somehow managed to be a nostalgia fest, plunging us back into the pre-1977 universe of A New Hope, and to repaint that universe in more realistic and dark colours. But it didn't seem to be deconstructing or undercutting the concept of Star Wars, as the Last Jedi arguably did. 

That said, when I heard that the next TV show was going to be about Andor, I was slightly inclined to say "Who the hell is Andor".

Not being able to quite remember which one Andor was is not a particular handicap, because the show is, necessarily, a prequel to the prequel. Andor in episode one is just some guy, hanging out on some planet, getting into trouble with some bad guys. He stupidly kills a pair of corporate goons who come after him because he asked the wrong sorts of questions in a night club. He gets recruited by a Mysterious Figure who, unsurprisingly, is part of the Rebel Alliance; sent on a heist mission to rob an Imperial payroll, and, the last we saw, was being sent to an Imperial Prison. I believe the plan is for there to be a two season of ten episodes each, which will presumably show how Nobody Very Much became an established Rebel operative in time to meet Jyn in the stand alone movie.

It's definitely slower paced, more dark and even realistic, than any Star Wars product we've seen before; a spy/heist/war story that happens to be set against a familiar backdrop. We are told that it is going down particularly well with people who have never seen Star Wars, if such a beast can be imagined. The Rebel who recruits Andor has secret meetings with someone called Mon Motha on a planet called Coruscant; and she is seen making speeches about someone called Palpatine in front of something called the Senate; but nothing in the storyline particularly depends on your being able to identify these characters.

It takes a little while, particularly in episode one, to come up with a reason to care about what is happening. And the thought that a guy talking to high class prostitutes in a cocktail bar was not quite in keeping with the U-certificate comic-strip vibe did cross my mind. Where Boba Fett and Obi Wan pointedly show us familiar hardware and aliens, Andor pointedly doesn't, so we have to take it a bit on trust that we're even in the Star Wars universe. But things very much come together when Andor is embedded in a Rebel unit. The heist itself, which naturally doesn't going precisely according to plan, is genuinely exciting. The group includes sinister and unreliable cynics as well as full on revolutionary idealists who write Marxist manifestos in their spare time. It feels like a terrorist cell: well meaning and idealistic and quite reluctant to kill people, but still made up of scary paramilitaries. 

We also get a behind the scenes look at the Empire: not as comic book villains, but as a genuinely nasty fascist bureaucracy run by relatively plausible human beings, all watching their own backs while looking for the opportunity to stab someone else in theirs. Col. Yularen's sarcastic chairmanship of internal imperial briefings is a joy to behold.

A mild reimagining of Star Wars and the Empire Strikes Back: it doesn't so much undercut them as open the curtain, shine in some light, and let us see the Empire and the Rebellion from the other side. But it stands alone as a science fictional thriller. 

If I despise Rings of Power for not being recognisably Middle-terrestrial, I honour Andor, and pretty much Disney's entire outlook) for continuing to point a camera into what is quite clearly still #myStar Wars.

The Expanse
Amazon Prime

The Expanse reminds me a lot of the the 2004 version of Battlestar Galactica. It's dark, it's dense; it has multiple plotlines going on at once; it's interested in politics. The spaceships feel like big military or industrial vessels: there is no attempt to give us the Red Baron in space. Space feels big and empty and frightening; there are chunks when we could almost believe that we were watching documentary footage from the future. The characters are multi-layered and human. I am quite interested to know how it all comes out in the end. But like Battlestar Galactica, starting a new episode always feels like a bit too much effort. It's compelling without being fun. I have to concentrate slightly harder than I'm sometimes ready for. It's just a bit, how can I put this, mumble, mumble, dull? Big spaceships are only cool to the extent that oil-rigs are cool. Politics involving Mars and the Belt isn't automatically more rivetting than politics involving, say, Egypt and Suez.

Still, it's a convincingly assembled world; and there have been passages of genuine tension. The bigness and the smallness of the plot impressively coexist: the action shifting between Politicians having important congresses; a small team of spacers having a bad time; and a Blade Runnerish private eye in over his head. Doubtless, in the way of Game of Thrones, the whole thing will fit together by the end. I will certainly remain on board until the end of Season One, but there are something like 50 episodes to get through....

Ms Marvel
Disney +

A realistic young person in a realistic setting is transformed into a superhero and has to deal realistically with the consequences. For whatever values of "realistic" are appropriate in a universe where people can be turned into superheroes, obviously. 

Ms Marvel really isn't "A Muslim Superhero" any more than Daredevil is "a Catholic Superhero". She was in 2013 very much what Ultimate Spider-Man had been in 2001, and come to that, what Spider-Man had been in 1962. A fresh, sassy, street-wise engagement with the whole idea of superheroes. A fantasy about the hero who could be you, or at any rate, your mate. A teenager with the attitudes and world-view of a teenager; who happens to be of Pakistani Muslim heritage. (The original Spider-Man was very probably Jewish.) Ultimate Spider-Man was originally shunted off into a parallel universe, but Ms Marvel takes place in mainstream Marvel Continuity. "Realistic" comics and "comic booky" comics no longer have to be kept apart: social realism, of a kind, is the new normal. 

So far as I can tell "Ms" is pronounced Miss rather than Muzz. When the first Muzz Marvel comic book appeared in, good lord, 1977, "Ms" was felt to be rather a feminist statement: I think it is now a pretty standard female honorific.

The Disney+ / MCU series is quite a freeform take on the comic book. The characters are all in place: the over protective Ammi, the rather embarrassing Abbu; the super-religious but also incredibly cool elder brother; and of course, Bruno the almost-too-nice on/off white boyfriend. Kamala herself is a head-in-clouds superhero geek, specifically a fan of Carol Danvers: the first episode involves her and Bruno sneaking out of the house to attend AvengersCon, which her parents don't approve of ("You want to go to a party?" says her mother in disbelief.) I like very much the way that superheroes are treated as celebrities in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and that superhero fans are like comic book nerds. (The Captain America Musical was one of the high-points of last year's Hawkeye series.)

Her origin is quite a bit different from the comic book. It no longer involves the Inhumans and the Terrigen mist: instead, she is connected to a group of extra-dimensionals called the Clandestine, her powers activated through a magic bangle, that once belonged to her grandmother. Given that the Inhumans, give or take a cameo, don't yet exist in the MCU, this was probably inevitable. Comic book Kamala is interacting with the denizens of Marvel New York within a couple of issues; but TV Kamala's encounter with her heroes is left to the last possible moment.

The comic book Ms Marvel's powers were arguably the least interesting thing about her: she can change size and stretch her body not entirely unlike Reed Richards; but on TV she achieves similar results by creating and manipulating a sort of crystal webbing. (I am slightly disappointed that this means she has lost her catch-phrase "embiggen".) As is par-for-the-course, we only see her fully operating as a superhero in the final episode, when she also acquires her costume and nom de guerre. "Kamala" could be understood as "marvel" in Urdu, allegedly.

Iman Vellani is quite ludicrously good in the role; heroic and down to earth, childish (she travels with a cuddly sloth as a nap pillow) without ever being cute, funny without being flippant. We will imagine the comic book character as her from now on, in the way that Tony Stark is become Robert Downey Jr and Samuel L Jackson is forever Nick Fury. 

I wasn't completely onboard with the middle episodes where the action shifts to Kararchi, and Kamala briefly time-slips back to 1947. (There's a lot of it about.) This seemed to foreground the characters ethnicity just a little too much. Ms Marvel is kind of the first Muslim superhero (unless you count The Arabian Knight created by uber-hack Bill Mantlo as far back as 1981) -- but her religious heritage isn't the most interesting thing about her. It also means that we got to see less of her New York supporting cast: I thought the series really came into its own in the final episode when Kamala and her friends are besieged in their school by a nasty anti-superhero quasi-police organisation called Damage Control. Kids and the local community pulling together to defend themselves with science projects, softballs, fire extinguishers and mostly the power of friendship seems much more what Ms Marvel is about than Indian Partition. (I did enjoy the "British Occupied India" caption.) That said, the cultural stuff is really well handled: I loved the brief scene at an Eid celebration where on-screen captions identified the different groups in the Jersey City Muslim community (the trendy young Mosque Bros; the mostly white Converts). Kamala goes to Mosque, takes it for granted that there is a separate women's section, but complains that it isn't as well maintained as the men's. The imam is cool and likeable.

The series only runs to six parts, and our next meeting with Kamala is in a forthcoming film called The Marvels where she (presumably) gets to hang out with her namesake heroes. While the whole point of the wider Marvel Universe is that the characters become part of it, I hope that Ms Marvel's meeting up with the actual Avengers doesn't deprive Kamala of the relatable ordinariness which is kind of the whole point of her. Peter Parker didn't get to be Peter Parker for long enough before he was hanging out with Tony Stark and helping to defeat Thanos.

Captain Marvel was created in 1939 by Fawcett comics, but ceased publication in 1954 after a lawsuit from DC Comics. DC themselves acquired the rights to the character in 1972; but in the intervening years Timely comics had become known as Marvel, so Captain Marvel became simply known as Shazam! 

Captain Marvel is completely unrelated to Captain Marvel, an alien superhero created by Stan Lee in 1967, specifically to establish Marvel Comic's right to use the name. The pretext was that his real name was Mar-Vell, which is now such an established part of the lore that fans can't see how silly it sounds. In one Apocryphal story he merged with Eternity and became the Mar-Vell Universe. 

Captain Mar-Vell had a human girlfriend called Carol Danvers who became known as Ms Marvel when she acquired superpowers. When Mar-Vell dies of cancer, Carol Danvers becomes Captain Marvel in her own right. Although Kamala admires Carol Danvers this Ms Marvel has no connection with Ms Marvel apart from the name. 
Captain Marvel, Captain Marvel and Captain Marvel have nothing to do with Captain Marvel a black female police officer with the ability to transform herself into a beam of light, who first appeared in 1982. (Her real name is Monica Rambeau, and a character of this name has appeared in the MCU Captain Marvel movie and the Wandavision TV series.) 

When Captain Marvel ceased publication in the 1950s, British publisher L Miller created a similar character called Marvelman. Where Captain Marvel's powers depended on the magic word Shazam, Marvelman's depended on the word Kimota. (Shazam is, of course, Mazahs spelt backwards.) When Marvelman was revived by Alan Moore in the 1980s, Marvel Comics insisted that his name be changed to Miracleman.

Captain Marvel shared his magic word with a number of other heroes, creating a Marvel family which included Captain Marvel Junior, Mary Marvel, and Hoppy the Marvel Bunny. If Baz Luhrmann is to be believed, Captain Marvel Junior was one of the main causes of Elvis Presley. The magic word was also used by an Egyptian wizard; who became a super-villain but was then partially rehabilitated. He took the name Black Adam but is so obscure that no-one would ever consider putting him in a movie. 

The Elgin Marvels are sculptures in the British Museum, but many people think they should be returned to Greece

Paper Girls 
(Amazon Prime)

Sat down to watch Ms Marvel; found my Disney+ link had temporarily gone away; picked Paper Girls off Prime more or less at random. Instantly hooked.

I'd seen adverts for the comic book at least seventy six times, and never been particularly intrigued by them. It's written by Brian K Vaughan who wrote the remarkable and still ongoing Saga saga, which has been described as "Kinda like Star Wars meets Game of Thrones". Saga isn't actually very much like either of those two franchises; but it's hard to sum up a hundred and fifty issue graphic novel in ten words. Paper Girls is equally unlike Back to the Future meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

In 1988, four twelve-year-old girls (Erin, Karina, Tiffany and Mac) are out delivering newspapers on their bicycles, which was a thing which kids did in the Olden Days. They time-slip into the future, which is to say, the present, which is to say, 2019. The first four episodes of the series are about them figuring out what is going on, coming to terms with how the world has changed, and attempting to go home.

There is the thinnest possible science-fiction backstory. Some baddie time travellers from the far future are trying to change the time-line to their advantage, and some goodie time travellers are trying to stop them. But the interest in the show, so far at least, depends on the basic time-travel situation, which skilfully avoids going in any of the most obvious directions. Naturally, the girls are sometimes bemused by modern technology. When one of them inadvertently sets off a voice-activated Alexa smartphone, they assume that there are "really robots" in 2018. But relatively little space is given to the dropping of jaws or "gosh, isn't the future amazing" moments. They are much more worried about the realisation that their parents (and pets) are mostly long dead, and that familiar buildings have been pulled down and built on. The bulk of the drama comes from character situations. Erin encounters her fifty-year old self, who has entirely failed to fulfil any of her childhood ambitions. Mac tracks down her now-middle-aged elder brother who has unexpectedly turned into a successful middle aged doctor. He somewhat reverts to childish attitudes around his younger sister, who is distinctly unimpressed when he acts like a responsible dad around his own kids. ("So, it started with me and Dr. dіldо, over here, shooting off illegal fireworks, then he took me on a shopping spree, but then the clock struck 3:00, and he suddenly turned back into a total prick".) 

I've just got to the part when the guy from the Rebel Alliance reveals that he has a giant robot in the barn, and everyone flies off through a wormhole, presumably ending up in an entirely different time-zone. If it's anything like Saga, plot threads are going to multiply as things proceed: but so far it is both clever and compelling and I really want things to turn out well for the main characters.

Erin is Chinese-American, Karina is Jewish, Tiffany is black and Mac is white. Mac is sometimes quite prejudiced and Karina pulls her up for it. I assume that some people in the writers' room consume large     quantities of tofu.


I'm Andrew.

I am trying very hard to be a semi-professional writer and have taken the leap of faith of down-sizing my day job.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Oh F*ck, Not Another Elf



I'm Andrew.

For the last month my lovely Patreon subscribers have been getting early access to my essays on the Rings of Power and matters arising. 

I've now collected the whole thing into a lovely little PDF booklet, running to a shade under 100 pages. 

It is currently available on Ko-Fi as a pay-what you like down-load. 

My Patreons have mostly pledged $1 for each essay, meaning they've paid around $10 or £8 for my thoughts: do please pay whatever you think my writing is worth. (That's your actual moral pressure, that is.) 

What I would like best is for you to join the select crew of Rilstone Fans who pay me a quid or so each time I publish something substantial: all my Patreons have already got access to the virtual book. 

I can't actually stop you subscribing to Patron, reading the essays, and then unsubscribing without paying anything, but I will know who you are and I will judge you. 

I shall now rejoin the human race for a few days and then start writing about something else. The Rings of Power essays were rather "shooting from the hip"; the next set may be a little more through. 

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Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Rings of Power Episode Eight, wherein these reviews come to an end


I'm Andrew.

I am trying very hard to be a semi-professional writer and have taken the leap of faith of down-sizing my day job.

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Monday, October 17, 2022

Rings of Power, Episodes 8, part 1


I'm Andrew.

I am trying very hard to be a semi-professional writer and have taken the leap of faith of down-sizing my day job.

If you would like to read this essay, please consider backing me on Patreon (pledging £1 each time I publish an article.) 

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Monday, October 10, 2022


This week, Private Eye dusted off a hoary old joke that was first used, to my certain knowledge, in 1977.

A fictional academic, Dr Euydice Pipkin, complains that Rings of Power is insufficiently faithful to Tolkien's work. The script, she says, ignores Tolkien's stipulation that "in strictly dynastic terms the Herbs were scions of Akond the Swat" and references "Christopher Tolkien's splendid Scraps Retrieved From My Father's Waste Paper Basket, 1957-1963."

In fairness, Private Eye has been making the same jokes every fortnight since 1961. Every issue, teenage poet E.J Thribb writes an excruciating obituary in free verse ("So, farewell then, Hilary Mantell..."); nearly every week student radical Dave Spart gives an incoherent and self-contradictory op-ed on some left-wing theme. (Unfortunately, Owen Jones has rather stolen his act.) The regular book review column is generally intelligent and perceptive, and sometimes even fair. (The Eye is half satire and half actual journalism.) But it generally includes a spoof entitled What You Didn't Miss which parodies some dull, pretentious tome -- often a biography which lovingly records the lunch dates and voting record of a long-forgotten back-bench Tory MP. So Tolkien is certainly not being singled out for six column inches about "Lord Twiglet, high marshall of the Snurdlings."

The joke about Christopher Tolkien recycling texts that his father had thrown in the bin is very old and not very funny. The six thousand or so posthumous pages were not discarded scraps but documents that Tolkien himself had preserved, labelled, annotated, placed in rough sequence but never prepared for publication. But he did intend them to be published: at one point he issued an ultimatum that Unwin could only publish Lord of the Rings as a four volume work, with the fourth volume being the never-completed Silmarillion. This would, in fact, have been a much better way to proceed: The Lord of the Rings In Four Volumes With Epilogue and Backstory is one of the most interesting tomes in Morpheus's library. The rather haphazard Appendices are a poor substitute.

The Private Eye joke relies on a very familiar trope: people who don't like Rings of Power, or Peter Jackson's parody of the Hobbit, or indeed Ralph Bakshi's 1978 cartoon, are extreme pedants and purists who no work could possibly have satisfied, and their opinions can safely be ignored. Don't mention that the cognoscenti were on the whole very pleased with the 2007 Drury Lane musical and Brian Sibley's 1981 radio series.

This stuff happens around other geeky properties. No-one will ever believe me if I say that I dislike a particular episode of Doctor Who because I think it badly written or poorly acted: they assume that my real objection is that it contradicts a footnote to a reconstruction of a lost 1966 black and white William Hartnell story. Why on earth would people who like Star Trek think they have the right to an opinion on Star Trek? That's not who Star Trek is for.

Very few Marvel Comics fans complained when Thanos, a deity who has conceived a courtly romance with Death was transformed in the cinematic universe into an alien with a Malthusian theory about population control. Avengers: Endgame was basically just a very good film, regardless of how selective it was about its use of half a century's worth of superhero lore. A giant purple gorilla who wants to kill everyone in the entire universe with a magic glove is a lot of fun regardless of the fidelity of his backstory. 

Certainly, some critics can be a little on the pedantic side: but it is does not follow that all criticism is pedantic. 

Oddly enough, Sir Lenworth Henry's sweet interview in this week's Guardian also lapsed into stereotypes. He could have said that the people who objected to the dark-skinned Harfoots being played by actors with, er, dark skin were racists. He could have sent they were unperceptive critics, or that they hadn't read their Tolkien carefully enough. Instead, he pushed back against them for being bloggers:

"They’re sat in their pants, eating Hobnobs and looking at their computers, slagging off anything different."

They're not wrong; they're sad. 

I don't know exactly where the pants thing originated. Simcha Jacobovici has repeatedly described people who are skeptical about his claim to have discovered the grave of Mr and Mrs Jesus as "underwear blogger". He imagines these people -- including some very eminent New Testament scholars at prestigious universities "sitting in their underwear, eating out of pizza boxes, spending their days and nights attack me and others personally." He even provides a cartoon so we know what pizza and underwear look like.

If a writer doesn't bother to get dressed in the morning, the article isn't worth reading, if the article isn's worth reading, the writer can't be properly dressed. In the olden days they used to wear dressing gowns and silk pyjamas. Maybe we should all move back to garrets.

According to the Tale of Years, Ar-Inziladun came to the throne of Numenor in or about the year 3175 of the Second Age. Ar-Inziladun is an Adunaic name; Adunaic being the ordinary language spoken by the men of the West. But he adopted the Quenya Tar-Palantir as his Regnal name, to signify a renewed friendship between Numenor and the Elves.

Tar-Palantir had one daughter, Miriel, and a nephew, Pharazon. Tolkien does not say that Miriel ever acted as Tar-Planatir's regent, but he doesn't say that she didn't: the history of the Second Age is necessarily a bit sketchy. He doesn't say that Miriel was blind, either,  but since her father's name means "the farsighted" the idea has a certain mythic irony. 

Now, Numenoreans practiced primogeniture -- the crown (or, in fact, the sceptre) passes automatically on the monarch's death to the eldest child, regardless of gender. So when Tar-Palantir dies, Miriel ought to become Queen. But in fact, Pharazon will seize the throne. (He's already appeared in Rings of Power: he's the slightly shifty chancellor who assured the guildsmen that Galadriel wasn't going to take their jobs, but I don't think he's been identified as the king's brother's son.) He is going to force Miriel to marry him, even though Numenor does not generally permit marriage between "those more nearly akin than cousins in the second degree". He'll then embark on an humongous war, which will end with the complete and utter defeat of Sauron. But instead of destroying or exiling him, he will have the bright idea of dragging him back to Numenor in chains, which is, of course, precisely what the Dark Lord wanted all along.. In Numenor, Sauron will take on the role of Bad Councillor in the mould of Wormtongue. (I imagine that Tom Hiddleston has already read for the role.) He will sows in the king's mind the idea of cheating death; and Al-Pharazon will take a war fleet to Valinor with a view to stealing immortality from the gods. This will result in the complete and utter destruction of Numenor. It will also result in the setting being transformed from a disc world to a spherical one. God evidently feels that if he is going to react, he might as well over-react. Someone called Elendil will escape from the devastation with his children Isildur and Anarion, and they will found a kingdom called Gondor and not live particularly happily ever after. Isildur's bane, and all that... This is all going to happen in the next century or so: in the lifetimes of the Isildur and Elendil and Miriel. Numenoreans live longer than ordinary humans, but not nearly as long as elves. (They are also quite a bit taller than humans, incidentally: which is why the four foot Hobbits are known as Halflings.) 

Now, according to the introduction to Lord of the Rings, Hobbits first show up in Middle-earth over a thousand years later, at the end of the first millennium of the Third Age. But Tolkien -- probably writing in the persona of Merry -- says that Hobbit legends tell of a time when they lived in the land between Mirkwood (nee Greenwood the Great) and the Misty Mountains. That's roughly where the Harfeet are plying their caravan trails in Rings of Power. (Tolkien talks about Hobbit legends recalling their "wandering days", which presumably suggested Poppy's song in Episode Five.) I don't think Tolkien intends us to think of there being proto-Hobbits in Middle-earth in the Second Age, but I don't think the text positively says that there weren't any.

What it definitely does say is that the Istari -- the five wizards -- arrived in Middle-earth, not un-coinicidentally, at the same time Hobbits were first noticed, about the year 1,000 of the Third Age. We know that they are Maiar -- lessor deities, clad in mortal flesh -- but they are specifically said to have come over the Sundering Sea in ships. That's why to start with Cirdan the shipwright was the only one who knew who they were. Valinor is a physical place accessible by ship, where embodied beings have infinitely prolonged lives. Even after the world becomes round, you still get to it in a physical boat, across a kind of magic bridge. The Istari did not drop out of the sky at the end of the Second Age. 

Tolkien also tells us that during the Second Age, the Elves of Eregion became allies of the Dwarves of Moria. He says that it's the closest friendship the two races have ever had, as a result of which, the Elvish smiths of that time became the most skilful that there have ever been. He says that the Elves initiated contact with the Dwarves because Mithril had been discovered in the mines, and that Gil-Galad-Was-An-Elven-King sent Elrond to Eriador as an embassy. That's reflected quite closely in the TV show: the idea that the Elves need the Mithril to stop themselves from "fading" is a rather unsubtle embellishment, but the brotherly love between Elrond and Durin Jr is as good a way of personalising a fairly dry chronicle as any.

However the friendship of the Elves and the Dwarves happened in the the seventeenth century of the Second Age -- a millennium and a half before the time of Elendil and Isildur. The Rings of Power were forged even earlier, between 1500 and 1600; Celebrimbor dies in 1697, when Sauron has already been active and operating from a Dark Tower in Mordor for five hundred  years. The idea that the black land magically turns black, and Mount Doom starts spitting fire, during the reign of Tar-Palintir seems to delete about three thousand years from the Time Line. (The idea that the land is blackened on one particular afternoon as a result of a deliberate action, as opposed to being gradually ruined over centuries of neglect and exploitation seems very much against the spirit of Tolkien.)

I can't see any way of reconciling this. The Moria plot and the South Lands plot are both taking place in the same time-frame, because Galadriel and Elrond meet at Gil-Galad's palace in the first episode. Events in Tolkien's history has been squished together: the resurgence of Sauron, his defeat, the corruption of Numenor, and the forging of the Rings now take place over decades rather than centuries. There seems to be no narrative space for a fair-faced Sauron to prowl Middle-earth disguised as Santa Claus Annator Lord of Gifts. 

Adaptations are allowed a certain amount of freedom. There are scenes in Shakespeare in which messengers rush in and say "The Irish are revolting" and "The Irish have surrendered" thus condensing months of politics into thirty seconds of stage time. It's quite all right to make up words for Elrond to say to Durin, or imagine what Tharazon said to Miriel on their wedding night, just as much as it is to imagine a conversation between Thomas Cromwell and Anne Boleyn. That's the job of historical fiction. But there comes a point when the sequence of events are so scrambled that what you have has ceased to be historical fiction altogether. And that can work, I suppose. There are Westerns that care a great deal about their American History, and there are cowboy stories in which "Billy the Kid" and "Butch Cassidy" fight at the siege of the Alamo. (I distinctly remember Frank and Jesse James visiting Laura Ingalls in Minnesota. I think Bob Ford sat next to her in Miss Ingles' schoolroom). And, I mean, if you want to write a story in which Tony Blair defeats Saddam Hussien in single combat and is knighted on the deck of his own ship bt Queen Elizabeth, I can't stop you. But it's disconcerting to think you are watching one type of drama and discovering you are watching the other. 

"Men of the Middle-ages! Today is the first day of the Hundred Years War."

I am at this moment wearing the same jeans I wore yesterday and a rather natty red pullover from Primark. I may not have quite showered or shaved but I have drunk a great deal of coffee. Under no circumstances would I put biscuits or pizza near my keyboard. 


1500-1600: Forging of Rings

1695: Gil Galad sends Elrond to Eregion

1697: Death of Celebrimbor

3175: Tal Palintir becomes King

3209: Birth of Isildur

3319: Fall of Numenor

3441: Sauron defeated, Isildur and Gil-Galad die


c1000: Harfoots cross the Misty Mountains

c1000: The Five Wizards come to Middle-earth

1600: Hobbits settle in the shire

2941: Bilbo's big adventure


I'm Andrew.

I am trying very hard to be a semi-professional writer and have taken the leap of faith of down-sizing my day job.

If you have enjoyed this essay, please consider backing me on Patreon (pledging £1 each time I publish an article.) 

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Saturday, October 08, 2022

Rings of Power Episode Seven


I'm Andrew.

I am trying very hard to be a semi-professional writer and have taken the leap of faith of down-sizing my day job.

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Rings of Power Episode 6


I'm Andrew.

I am trying very hard to be a semi-professional writer and have taken the leap of faith of down-sizing my day job.

If you would like to read this essay, please consider backing me on Patreon (pledging £1 each time I publish an article.) 

 Please do not feed the troll. 

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