Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Shadow Self: Within and Without

I have been taking a break from this blog and re-evaluating a lot of the remaining objectives of what needs to be said. Let me begin from the psychological maestro himself.

There’s a lot of rage that I see, a lot of frustration, a lot of inability to process what is going on in the news media, a healthy mistrust that has dovetailed into someone aimless. Anger without direction serves no purpose, and one must be wary of any self-appointed expert, or self-appointed guru, that merely drives one to lose their bearings, and their way. Jung had written extensively about the shadow self, that aspect of our personalizes that drives us to self destruction without our knowledge, but I find the shadow self also applies to us collectively as a society.

Much of what I am seeing, I saw coming about two years ago, certain articles I haven’t followed up with, due to a lot of external conflicts which I won’t go into, I will attempt to tackle shortly, as the evidence is mounting, dear reader, that we are at a crucial juncture in America and the world. Some conspiracies are not conspiracies when they are right in one’s face. For all the preoccupation with “False Flags”, crypto-conspiracies, and obfuscation. One always needs to base conclusions on the facts, and making sound connections to base a theory.

Often when one make decisions in anger, you make poor choices, that also applies to disseminating the flood of information that exists, one must keep their bearings in this world. There are those, whom through their own anger, or baggage, or hubris, are more invested in issuing their point of view at the expense of a dialog, that they are more than happy to appeal to your shadow self, and publically offer up anger as a kind of branding, image, or stick.

Dear reader, be mindful of keeping your bearings at this time. Do your own research, don’t just trust one figurehead, become your own leader, you have the answers within yourself, for each of us that guru might just be within. Keep guard of those from without. A lot more thoughts are coming on some vital issues.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Documentation Entry 2014

One of our staffers, the editor who works tirelessly to edit all material for the main site, The X-Files Lexicon, and this blog, XScribe, shared with me the following two accounts. While I am redirecting my energies elsewhere, as well as focusing on material for the main site, I thought I’d share these two accounts on the sightings of ghosts. Aside from accounts of ghost videos seen on You Tube, and which are to me always debatable, most real ghost sightings are never documented, as they act as fleeting moments that validate a sphere of reality, or consciousness, that can’t be explained in a linear sense for many. Therefore, it not is always advisable to just dismiss someone’s experience as an act of imagination, or misconception, especially in cases of multiple sightings from witnesses that have no connection to one another, whereby it becomes difficult to argue these cases as personalized – their experience is always valid to them, regardless of what the facts might be -- one should be prudent to recognize that aspect. I hope others will enjoy this. - Matt

I was going home, driving westbound on historical Route 66, just a block north from my house. It was late afternoon, but visibility was still good.

It had been a perfectly clear day. That section of Route 66 is heavily traveled, with a lot of businesses along the way. It's now a six-lane highway, with three lanes on each side. Around that same time I'd noticed that more and more pedestrians had taken to ignoring the crosswalks, and tried running right through traffic, instead. Which is crazy, considering how busy it is and that the speed limit is 45 - 50 mph.

On that particular day, I saw a young guy wearing a long-sleeved, striped shirt and dark pants, walking on the left side of the road. Suddenly, he ran right out into the middle lane almost in front of me as I neared him, startling me. Because of the heavy traffic, I couldn't immediately check my review mirror to see if he'd made it to the other side of the road. I was relieved not to hear any screech of brakes or tires or worse; still, when it was safe, I glanced back over my shoulder, expecting to see him racing to the right curb. No one was there.

Soon after that, I heard that someone had been killed in the same vicinity, on Route 66. Then I never saw any more pedestrians trying to cross that road outside of the crosswalks. Recently, I read something online that really got my interest. Apparently, there have been many other sightings of a young guy fitting the exact same description, on exactly the same stretch of road, who would appear and then vanish.

* * *

Right on the outskirts of the small town we used to live in when I was a kid, was an old road. It was called Agua Mansa, because it was on the edge of the Santa Ana River. The name means "gentle water." It used to be a small community in its own right, colonized in 1842, but was swept away in a huge flood in 1862. Not so gentle. Though the little community was completely wiped out, the dilapidated street remained, and thus was called Agua Mansa Road.

My dad used to drive down it as a short cut to any place west of our house nearby. Being kids, we loved when he drove that way because it was so creepy. It’s a completely rural road--no street lights and only one or two buildings or houses along its stretch. It has a lot of blind curves and broken asphalt that hadn’t been repaired in ages, yet people usually drove fast along it, despite the risk. Somewhere around the half-way point was a duck farm that provided a very feeble source of light at night on the south side and on the north side, was a steep, steep embankment down which thick rows of large, creepy, old, gnarled grape vines grew. No one tended those grape vines, so they were a mess. At the summit of the steep embankment, stood the gates to an old cemetery. It's the oldest cemetery in the county, I've since discovered and there's a lot of history to it, I also learned much later. People vandalized the cemetery and left headstones broken and overturned and dug up coffins, leaving bones unearthed.

To make it even creepier, our older cousin used to tell us frightening tales of homeless vagrants who would hang out at the cemetery. He said they’d hide in the grapevines and jump out and snatch children who misbehaved or just happened to be unlucky enough to be out there at night. I know he was just trying to scare us, but obviously vandals and vagrants actually had hung out there.

Many, many times while we were driving down that road, even after we moved away, I'd see a man walking down the road with his dog. I used to imagine stories as to where he was going. Perhaps he worked at the duck farm or the cemetery and was allowed to take his dog with him. Perhaps he lived at the one very old house that still stands at the corner of Agua Mansa and Rancho and just liked taking walks with his dog. I never knew. He was perhaps middle-aged and wore a dark jacket--perhaps flannel or wool--with an indistinct plaid design, and very beat up, faded dungarees--maybe a pair of overalls. He also wore a beat up, light, khaki brown hat with a brim. I could never see his face that well because his head was always down, but in back where I could see his hair, it was whiting, so I guessed at his age. The dog was medium-sized with fairly short fur, of a light color. Maybe light brown or dirty white. As I said, I saw him so often, I thought nothing of him. I even saw him later on when I worked in a town east of Agua Mansa Road and had to pass by that corner where the house stands. I was with my dad and I thought to myself, that guy must be old now, but he's still walking pretty well for his age. He had a dog with him--one I thought was just similar-looking to the one he used to have.

A couple of days ago, I read on the internet that this man had been sighted since way before I ever saw him. One guy reported that he used to drive down that road in the 1950s as a teenager and saw the man and his dog. Most of the other sightings reported that the man would step out in front of their cars, then just as they hit the brakes, he would disappear.

It turns out that my sisters saw him, too--we just never discussed it until I read that article. When asked, I described him and his dog. They were shocked, because they said that was exactly what they'd seen. One of my sisters said she remembered seeing him twice and both times he seemed to disappear. Once, in what she thought was a cloud of dust that must have been raised by a truck driving off-road through the dirt, and the second time on a foggy day. She said she thought the fog had closed in around him.

Over the years, there had never seemed to be anything strange to us about that man and his dog. Until I found the story of him on the internet.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Where things stand with "The After"...

The following is not a review of the Pilot, but more a contextual advocacy. To those who follow this blog and in case anyone here is unaware, just over a week ago there was rapid press build up, with teaser clips, and another teaser clip from X-Files News for Chris Carter’s Pilot, The After from Amazon studios. Within a day, the Pilot was released to be viewed at Amazon and Amazon Prime for free streaming. But, of course, there’s a catch. Five pilots were financed and the one (possibly two) with the highest ratio of positive reactions from the public and get green light with more episode ordered for a season. This is an unprecedented development with entertainment media, and Amazon is trying to compete with the original content produced by Netflix. All of which means that fan support for Chris Carter’s pilot is crucial. We are in the middle of something that could end up being historic, depending on the outcome. With numerous segments of fandom-active players in this development–and fittingly, a kind of interactivity with Philes that we haven’t exactly seen for a long spell–this outcome could be sweeping when you consider the development of another show by Chris Carter from AMC, and the status of a third X-Files movie, and the status of a (hopeful) Millennium feature film or TV movie. Undoubtedly there’s a certain act of goodwill on the fan base, which I am well aware of.

Personally, I have advocated for the past three years supporting any new projects by Chris Carter. I have taken the longview that new projects that are a hit can only enhance the value of The X-Files, and Millennium. Developments with the film that was to follow I Want To Believe –Fencewalker--seems to be in a holding pattern, which has always seemed unfair in that the public hasn’t been given the opportunity to access it on its own merit. As of this writing, it is uncertain if Fencewalker will even get a direct to DVD release.

Yet demographics continue to shift and one never really knows when a time is ripe to reach the public consciousness. It almost determines itself, but it does feel like a good moment for Chris Carter to come back into the fold of television. Back in the 90s, and the retrospective critique that has followed, there were endless comments about how The X-Files captured the Zeitgeist of the era. Many found it appealing due to the chemistry of Mulder and Scully, while others found the subjects of the paranormal and alien abductions to be fascinating. I suspect the appeal was often more sub-textual than people realized, both with The X-Files, Millennium, The Lone Gunman spinoff, and Harsh Realm. These shows reflected a real unease with modern society, not only a mistrust of the Government and all established institutions, but the Utopian ideal of technology and progress, that having a disconnect from the cosmos, from spirituality, can have real consequences. None of Chris Carter’s work offered easy answers to modern society, and mostly raised questions, but the themes of the work seemed to offer a few road maps with how to navigate in an increasingly disjointed world.

In spite of the 90s being fairly placid in the Clinton era, excluding the partisan battles of the decade, the economy grew and many seemed outwardly optimistic, but there were whole circles of younger people, college-aged students, that felt this unease, and tuned into The X-Files on a regular basis through the bulk of the decade. For example, one could compare The X-Files phenomenon to the epochal Pink Floyd album “The Dark Side of The Moon” from 1973, an album that also addressed issues with the same kind of unease with modern society. Things have fundamentally shifted globally since the 1990s; one only has to look at the evidence to see that our society is in a mess.

For decades there have been complaints about the decline of society. Many argue that always been the case with each generation, but there seems to have been a shift, a decline that most can’t ignore. We see a growing mistrust of government bureaucracy, with a highly dysfunctional congress and inertness in America. A growing disillusionment with scientific research–evidenced by more corruption and fraud and a lack of faith in profit-driven university academia–we see growing divides within intuitional religions with fundamentalism taking far too great a hold, and driving decent people to abandon places of worship. We see misplaced priorities within Wall Street over Main Street–we first saw pensions in the private sector eliminated in exchange for the promise of 401Ks, which turned out to be worthless. Now we see the gutting of pensions in the public sector being gutted by certain State Governors under the guise of austerity. The cutting of as many safety net programs as possible under the guise of austerity, and ignoring rampant unemployment. We also see a health care system corrupted by too many high costs, where the share holders of profit-driven hospitals take priority over the needs of the public. As well as the manufactured revolt by partisan sides over the passage of a flawed health care bill to control costs.

We see the byproduct of a lack of regulation on the environment, more toxic spills, or the digging of materials through fracking which is causing unexpected and unintended consequences, unexplained earthquakes for example, and a rise in extreme weather in America. As well as more extreme conditions in various parts of the world. We see more of a shift toward plutocracy than ever before in my lifetime, with a barrage of false accusations, hyper-patriotism, and other mis-directions to distract the public. Some of these distractions include the rise of the technology base: gadgets to sooth the public, such as smart phones, Ipods, Ipads, smaller laptops, hand-held games, social networking, and apps. All of which can isolate people, aside from, or opposed to the argument of bringing them together. An education system that has just about eliminated critical thinking skills, and has become more effective in stifling individuality, through standardized testing and learning by rote and conditioning. You also have a growing demographic of people in their twenties that can see through all of this, and are trying to create their own pockets of a social movement and are finding greater difficulty in doing so. In addition to rising tensions in Europe and revolts against the European Union, with several key countries that seem to be modeling themselves on China, the benchmark for oligarchy and plutocracy, notwithstanding the growing problems in Latin America and some of the real crises that the media doesn’t report on.

Ironically, most pop culture venues are in bad shape. The print publishing industry is in trouble, with many established contemporary writers finding it harder to get works published, with growing cuts to budgets, and the downsizing of publishing staffer, as well as a shift to digital publishing like Kindle. The music industry is also in trouble. While MP3 file sharing is often made the scapegoat, it is the industry’s indifference to consumers, the inflated price of merchandise, and the price of live concert performances reaching such obscene levels as to demonstrate a real disconnect with the working class, that have all triggered a revolt against the industry. With just about all of the significant acts of the 90s, the grunge and alternative explosion that The X-Files had such an affinity with, gone. Including most of the mainstays for decades, your Stings and Phil Collins put out to pasture. Rock has been replaced on the radio playlist, first by Hip Hop, and then by some of the disposable pop acts--your Justin Beibers, Lady Ga Gas, or Miley Cyruss--that only a tiny sliver of underground music exists. Most of which is less artist-driven than producer driven, and the Svengalis that people so feared have come to fruition. Leaving the average listener feeling empty, and with little to connect with. Even the film and television industry are in growing trouble. With the demise of countless small studios–and the co-opting of genre pictures into the kind of tent pole events that just over saturate the consumer–and out of control budgets that many now admit are not sustainable. Most genre fans of fantasy, science fiction, horror, and superhero comics should feel satisfied, but many fans feel the satisfaction is hollow. The decline of alternative forms of art leave many people with no means to get their barings in the world. Many of the issues with television we’ll get to in a moment.

There is a growing feeling that all of this is culminating into a key crossroad, with a set of choices that many fear will reach a point of no return. In essence, to summarize, the world is in a mess.

Therefore it seems like the apt moment for Chris Carter to offer up a new statement on modern society. Since 2002, countless shows have surfaced to replace the spirit of The X-Files. Some of those shows like Lost featured X-Files alumni, I know people who watched Fringe as a way to satisfy their ‘X-Files Jones’, but for myself, it just never had much impact. You had shows like Supernatural, and Warehouse 13 (a show where I personally know one of the producers and writers as we were high school classmates), that are satisfying to a degree I guess, but still just don’t capture the elements that made The X-Files so important. Many of these shows, and new incarnations always coming up, sound the notes without playing the music. Mind you, many of these shows are well done, with an exceptional pool of talent attached to them, but they just seem like imitations. I have no idea how’s Chris’s new offering will be received, but one has always suspected that Chris Carter has always been Hollywood’s ultimate outsider. Personally, I am happy he is that outsider, we need those kind of figures and writers of substance, be it Rod Serling, Leslie Stevens, Gene Roddenbery, or Chris Carter.

A spate of interviews and features have already circulated here and here, and IMDB already conducted its own poll about which series Amazon should pick up. The X-Files Lexicon has just released its own interview with Chris Carter. Speaking for myself, and the efforts of others, gambling on Chris Carter and advocating his work, is a far better bet to place, and something I’m not regretting, whatever happens.

Special thanks for XScribe for editorial assistance.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

X-aminations: Space: 1999

Space 1999 : Pilgrims Through The Void

(My apologies for the long spell, this required a lot of research, and outside circumstances, which I won’t go into, have delayed its completion. –MA) 

The ‘what if’ scenario of science fiction and man’s reaction to cataclysm was always remained prevalent in the genre, as well as the theme of adaptability and evolution, these ideas were explored in interesting ways during the first run of Space: 1999.

Often it seemed that Chris Carter would cast certain characters based on childhood shows that must of left an impact, and while it’s not especially surprising, the selection of acting talent was frequently revealing. While the casting of Darren McGavin as Arthur Dales in “Travelers” was pretty self evident due to his involvement with Kolchak: The Night Stalker, the casting of Roy Thinnes as Jeremiah Smith, was revealing when you consider Thinnes role in the seminal mid 60s series, The Invaders, a show that had elements that would be featured on The X-Files, conspiracies, covert alien colonization, and questions about identity. Another telling casting decision was Martin Landau as Alvin Kurtzweil in the first feature Fight The Future. While the casting decision might have been motivated by Landau’s role in Mission: Impossible, as well as the high caliber of his acting work, one also has to wonder if Landau’s work on Space: 1999, playing commander John Koenig, was another factor.

In the history of Science Fiction television, there seems to be a common thread, that Science Fiction that deals with metaphysics tends to resonate more with the public than programs that deal with hard science, and lean secular. The overall excellent first season of Space: 1999 explicitly dealt with metaphysics, with scenarios that constantly forced the characters to accept the other, and to accept and embrace intangibles. This does not mean the first season didn’t have it’s flaws, but the production values, the set design and the visual effects were fairly impeccable for it’s time, but the uneven scripts undermined the season.

Gerry Anderson has an interesting history, Born in April, 1929, Bloomsbury, London. His brother Lionel served in the Royal Air Force at the start of World War II, Lionel’s experiences in America influenced Gerry. He began his career in Photography, earning a traineeship with the British Colonial Film Unit after the war. In 1947, he was conscripted for national service with the RAF. After starting his career as an editor for Gainsborough Pictures, he moved into several projects in the mid 50s, utilizing his skills with puppets and miniatures, Once Gerry became involved with Sylvia Anderson in the early 60s, he had a series of hits, Supercar, Fireball XL5, and Stingray, the first British children’s television show in color. Thunderbirds would go on to be his greatest success, he followed this with another success Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons.

The early template for Space: 1999 could be found in Gerry Anderson’s 1969 film Doppelganger, also known in American as Journey To The Far Side Of The Sun, starring American actor Roy Thinnes, played an astronaut who travels to a newly discovered planet on the opposite side of the sun, which is revealed to be an exact mirror image of Earth A thoughtful and measured film that came right at the heals of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Anderson followed this feature by developing UFO. While the premise has a few elements that reference the usual Abduction UFOlogy, - earth is visited and attacked by aliens from a dying planet and humans are covertly harvested for their organs, a military organization set up to combat the invaders, SHADO - But the show was more of a wild and wooly adventure, with a Thunderbirds flavor, than a series that seriously explored such esoteric subjects, that ran from 1970-1971.

Problems between Gerry’s wife, Sylvia, started to develop around this period, deciding to branch out on his own, Gerry Anderson’s next project was The Protectors, with Robert Vaughn and Nyree Dawn Porter. In spite of the success of The Protectors, UFO experienced a drop in ratings both in the UK and US, due to Gerry’s ideas within UFO, to expand the SHADO moonbase, he wasn’t willing to let certain ideas die. Being that Sir Lew Grade had stipulated that UFO should primarily be based on the moon, and such episodes set on the moon had been the most popular during the series run. Anderson approached Grade’s number two man in the New York division, Abe Mandell, and proposed taking the research and development done for UFO, while Mandell was open to the idea, he stipulated he didn’t want any earth-bound settings.

The first attempt for the pilot script, “Zero-G” had some similar elements that could be found on UFO, but writer George Bellak would end up establishing many of the elements to be found in “Breakway”. A deal was arranged, Group Three Productions with a partnership with the Andersons and production executive Reg Hill would produce the series, ITC Entertainment and RAI would provide the funding. Grade, while aiming for a US network sale, insisted the series have American leads, and employ American writers, and directors. Hence writer Bellak was brought on board, as well as Christopher Penfold and Johnny Byrne. Several writers credit Bellak for setting up the writers guide to help define the three lead, the facilities for the moonbase, and potential storylines.

It’s interesting to note that in 1966, several effects crew members working on Thunderbirds were convinced to defect the show and work on Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, and one could note the eventual influence. As a key figure in the development and influence of the first season, Penfold wrote 16 of the 24 episodes. Born the son of a vicar in Bristol, educated at Cambridge, Chris Penfold joined Australia’s ABC, becoming a writer and producer in radio and television. He eventually returned to England to work in industrial documentaries, before becoming story editor on the series The Pathfinder. Penfold commented in a 1997 interview:

"I was certainly interested in the idea of making popular the kind of science fiction which dealt unashamedly with metaphysical ideas, And in the first series of Space: 1999 a lot of the episodes, not all of them, but a lot of them, confronted those issues head on. I think they make very good programmes."

Penfold elaborated in a 2002 interview.

"Space fiction stories are mainly thought of as action adventure. What we were engaged in [with] Space: 1999 was of course action adventure, but it was also ideas adventure. We weren’t afraid of big ideas in series one, it was what drove us on day to day, it gave us a huge sense of excitement."

This explicit metaphysics was one of the strengths of the first season, and one could argue that each episode acted as an initiation rite for the moonbase crew, as they were headed into something transformative.

Episode summations

“It’s the struggle for survival that makes monsters of us all.” – Dorzak, season two

The premise is established in the pilot, newly appointed to Moonbase Alpha at the end of the 90s, Commander John Koenig heads the team, with Paul Morrow the second in command. Doctor Helena Russell is the head of the medical section, and a long time associate of Koenig, Victor Bergman is the science advisor, Alan Carter is the third in command and heads the massive squadron of Eagles that operate on the base. Sandra Benes is the data analyst. David Kano is the computer operations officer, and doctor Bob Mathias is Doctor Russell’s deputy. The following sequence is not based on broadcast air dates, but production dates. Yet I tend to feel this sequence makes sense in revealing the progression and development of these characters as they condition and accept the situations they find themselves in.

In “Breakaway”, Commander Koenig is sent to Moonbase Alpha to insure that a deep space probe ship to readied to send to a planet that has sent an intelligent signal to earth, Meta. But an unstable nuclear disposal area explodes and blasts the moon out of earth’s orbit. In “Force of Life”, A form of alien energy enters Moonbase Alpha, and inhabits a crew member, the force needs heat to survive, and starts to kill crew members, this type of story is frequent to the first season, and I’ll explore in a moment. In “Collision Course” The Alphan’s, after destroying an asteroid that is in their path, discover a massive planet, Koenig, on an interception, meets an alien embarsary from the planet who convinces him to do nothing to stop the collision, but the alpha crew challenges him, a test of faith. In “War Games”, an episode that would be re-cut into a feature, The alphans are tested from an alien planet they cross paths into believing they are under attack, but the attacks are projections to test their fear. Koenig and Helena visit the planet, learn about the race, and have to make a choice. The next episode featured Brian Blessed, “Deaths Other Dominion”, where the Alpha team come across a frozen planet, and meet fellow Earthmen, a team living under the planet that were part of a Uranus probe mission from 1986. But there is a price on Ultma Thewley, all of the humans are immortal, impotent, and can only remain that way if they stay on the planet.

The next episode seems to be a commentary on Colonial expansionism and the unforeseen genocide of native Americans due to exposure to diseases, In “Voyage’s Return”, The Moonbase Alpha team encounter one of the Voyager probes, but the probes drive system is destructive, yet the original inventor of the drive system is on Alpha. . A fleet of ships, the Arkons, have been tracking Voyager, and threaten to destroy Alpha and eventually Earth, due to the drive technology of Voyager destroying two worlds. The next episode which featured Julian Glover, “Alpha Child”, dealt with the first male baby is born in Alpha, and who is taken over by an alien entity named Jarek, a fleet of ships arrive, as the baby rapidly grows to five years old, before growing to adulthood. Jerek’s people intend to take over the souls of the Alpha crew, until another alien ship arrives to deal with Jerek and his people who are renegades. The next episode, A modern day retelling of the fable of George and the Dragon, has been written about by John Kenneth Muir, “Dragon’s Domain”, As recounted by Helena, an alpha crew member who is a friend of John Koenig and Victor, had encountered, on a deep space probe mission to an earth like planet in 1996, a graveyard of ships and an alien space dragon that killed the crew for blood. The Alpha crew find the same graveyard, that same crew member confronts the alien beast. In the next episode, which featured Joan Collins, “Mission of the Darians”, The Alphans encounter a massive space city, a kind of Ark for the Darians, whose planet died off ages ago. The Darians were split into a distinct class system after nuclear explosions destroyed parts of the space ark, a small circle of elites survived, and the rest were mutants, nine hundred years later, The Alphans discover the truth, the elites uses mutants and primitive humans as food to survive.

In “Black Sun”, Moonbase Alpha encounters a Black Hole, and has to initially create a reverse shield to protect the base. It soon becomes apparent the odds are slim and a survival ship is loaded with a crew of six, three men, three women including Helena. Ultimately, the episode deals with mortality and faith, and the thin line between science and metaphysics. The next episode featured Catherine Sheel who would go on to play Maya in the second season, The episode, “Guardians of Piri”, has been argued by some to be a retelling of the story of the Island of the Lotus Eaters, with Koenig cast in the role of Odysseus. The Alphans encounter a strange, surreal planet, Piri, where it’s main computer created an idyllic life, which led to the extinction of it’s people through apathy. Koenig must fight to save Alpha and his people from the same fate. There’s a minor subplot with Kano, whom had electrodes implanted in his brain years before, due to an experiment on Earth, predating VR, and the premise of the film, The Matrix.

In “End of Eternity”, a fairly weak entry, the tone of which is similar to “Force of Life”, a horror tale. The Alpha team come across an asteroid they discover is hollow, blasting the inner chambers open they release an immortal alien named Balor, whom was shunned from his home world for being a sadist and psychotic, Balor’s ultimatum is to control the Alphans for his own experiments. In “Matter of Life and Death”, Helena’s presumed dead husband, Lee Russell, reappears during a reconnaissance mission to a passing planet that the alphan’s believe could be a new home. But Lee Russell is an anti-matter copy of her husband, it’s presumed, a spirit to warn the base to not colonize the planet, after the copy dies, the warning is ignored with disastrous results, and Helena is given a choice. The episode plays as a parable about humans reentering Eden, the paradise that men were expelled from. In “Earthbound”, a crew of Alien pacifists, with a ship that is programmed to be bound for Earth, crash lands on Alpha, the crew greet and support the aliens, except for Commissioner Simmons (From “Breakaway”) who sees their vessel as a means to return home. Simmons blackmails the base and get’s his just deserts, featuring the great Christopher Lee.

In “The Full Circle”, A very sub par episode, the Moon passes an earth-like planet, dense with jungles, a strange mist causes a number of reconnaissance crew members to disappear, crews lead by Bergman, discover the mist transforms Alphans to a Nethanderthal state. The episodes feels like an excuse for the production team to shoot on location, and there’s an overall feeling of slumming it, in spite of an attempt to comment on man’s primal allows Sondra to play the victim. In “Another Time, Another place”, A distortion in time produces two separate moons with two separate alphans from different eras, one female crew member seems connected to the two eras, and tries to warn of danger when Alpha discovers the ruins of Earth. A slow, and somewhat interesting philosophical episode, that takes a nod to the spirit of Rod Serling.

In “The Infernal Machine”, An all-powerful spaceship visits the Alphans, it’s inhabitant Delmer Plebus Powells Gwent is an old man, and the ship is an extension of his genius and ego. After luring Koenig, Russell, and Bergman onto the ship, a militarized cat and mouse game ensues with the ship demanding supplies and companions. Leo Mckern delivers a sympathetic performance as the old genius who had placed his worst traits into the machine. The episode touches on another on going theme using reason and compassion as opposed to using military offense when dealing with the unknown. The episode thematically is similar to the V’Ger plot of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, a sentient machine that has the development of a child. Similar plot points are also found in the next episode, “Ring Around The Moon”, where a crew member is possessed by an orange glow, which ultimately kills him, it transpires it comes from a giant energy probe originally sent from the planet Triton, the probe which captures the Alphans and insists that Helena should become the eyes of Triton. To rescue her, Koenig must convince the probe that it’s home has long been destroyed and it’s mission to collect data serves no purpose.

In “Missing Link”, While on a recon mission to an alien world, Koenig and crewmates are on an Eagle that is destabilized, the Eagle crashes back on the moon and Koenig appears to be dying, his spirit is captured and scrutinized by an resident alien and his daughter on Zenno, due to the fact that humans appear to be the Zenno’s missing link. Pensive and psychological, although a little uneven in the characterization, it features Peter Cushing. In “The Last Sunset”, While Eagle’s do another recon mission to an oxygen rich planet they are heading into orbit, a probe attaches itself to the lead eagle. Back on Moonbase Alpha, while studying, the probe unleashes a gas, followed by a fleet of probes that gives the moon an atmosphere, and a weather cycle, but the develop causes a new set or problems for the crew, and it’s more than bargained for.

In “Space Brain”, The moon crosses paths with a massive space brain, a recon ship is destroyed, reduced to a rock as the brain emits anti-bodies. The brain tries to communicate with the alpha’s with massive amounts of data the crew can’t understand, on a second recon mission, a crew member is used as a conduit between the brain and the bases computer. A solution must be found or both the moon and the brain could be destroyed. “The Troubled Spirit”, A botanical scientist in the middle of an experiment has triggered and unexplained event. A psychic entity appears and kills a couple of crew members close to the scientist, but the entity might or might not be the future spirit of the scientists demise. The crew has to make a choice. This is in essence a ghost tale with an O’Henry twist.

By the next episode, the alpha crew seems to have learned the lessons from “War Games”; In “The Last Enemy”, The moon crosses paths with a sun with two worlds on opposing sides of the sun, both worlds and it’s alien races are involved in a age old war, and moon base alpha are caught in the middle as the moon is the perfect tactical location for both sides, the base has to stay neutral or face destruction from either planet. In the season closer, “The Testament of Arkadia”, The Moon is mysteriously locked into orbit around a dead, alien planet, and the power reserves of Moonbase Alpha mysteriously start to drain away, the crew must visit the planet Arkadia to discover the mystery, where they find the mummified remains of humans, and after finding Sanskrit writing learn of an alien holocaust and that earth are the decedents of this planet. A choice must be made, to create a new Adam and Eve, or face death with a dying moonbase.

Missed Opportunities

Leading into the second season, several shake-ups would change the nature of the series original intent. The break up of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, factored into some of the changes, when ratings for the first season dropped in the United States in the Autumn months, Lew Grade canceled production for further work on season two, Gerry Anderson and Fred Freiberger were able to rallied the situation and do a re-pitch with the alien Maya. arguing that the dynamic would shake up the interaction of the characters, and re-spark viewer interest in the states. But it also in essence helped to dumb down the series. Setting aside the criticism of the scientific implausibility of the pilot episode, regarding how the moon blasted out of Earth’s orbit, a point that Isaac Asimov was highly critical of, there is also the missed opportunity of having a more compelling, biblical story arc. If the event of the breakaway had had to do with a massive commit or meteor has struck the earth, with something to the effect of shattering the planet in two, and causing a blast wave that broke the Moon from it’s fixed orbit, then you eliminate any hope of ever getting back to earth, and the Moon and Moonbase Alpha becomes a kind of Noah’s ark, with the survivors searching and waiting to find a new home. Certainly, the scale of the moonbase, suggests a city and miniature society. If the bio-chambers, envisioned as bio-domes, featured a range of animal life, this would reinforce the Noah’s ark meme.

When considering the civilian aspect of this society, unless one assumes this base was strictly a military industrial operation, then the lack of a civilian vs. military hierarchy, then the lack of development with Commissioner Simmons, who only appears in “Breakaway” and “Earthbound”, is another missed opportunity as far as a recurring character. A dynamic between Commander Koenig and the Commissioner could have been set-up; a tension between civilian and military needs. Such dynamics were put to great effect with Ron Moore’s Battlestar: Galactica, between Adama and President.Roslin

Writer Christopher Penfold was able cast some light on the inconsistent quality within the first season, in an interview from 1997:

"As the series developed, the increasing concerns of ITC for a kind of science fiction which I felt very alien to me began to have the effect of undermining the scripts which were being written. We had very good scripts which had to go back to the drawing board to meet a requirement which had come from Abe Mandell, who didn’t appear to have any understanding that if you take one strand out of a script, it effects everything else in the script. So a lot of rewriting, needless rewriting, went on and this had the effect of bringing the scripts further and further behind schedule. The difficulties came to a head and Gerry asked me to leave the series. I don’t remember having any severe falling out with him, but I realized the way the wind was blowing as far as story content was concerned and I was, at that point, utterly exhausted anyway."

Most people, when they reference their memory of the series will recall Catherine Sheel’s Maya from the second season, but I have found myself always underwhelmed by season two, and often found it inferior. Some of the reasons for the poor quality have everything to do with significant cast changes that changed the tone of the series. Barry Morse apparently had grown dissatisfied with the treatment of his character, Victor Bergman, and opted to not return. Undermining the trifecta of Koenig, Russell, and Bergman - a set of character arcs that shared similarities to Kirk, Spock, McCoy from Star Trek, or Harry, Ron, and Hermione from the Potter series. If the writers had allowed Bergman’s character to be more developed in season two, and progressed his arc to something more satisfying, and allowed for his demise at the end in the second season – he was an older man with an artificial heart – it could have resonated. The inclusion for Maya for a third season would have made sense other than the abrupt change at the start of the second season.

The other baffling change was the absence of the second in command Paul Morrow, and the appearance of Tony Verdeschi as the second in command, as well as the eventual love interest for Maya in the second season. Being that Tony never appears in the first season, it is a complete break from continuity, we are left to assume he was deep in the bowels of the moonbase, and moves up in rank with no explanation. It would be revealed that Fred Freiberger held a certain dismissive attitude about certain characters in later years, but many of the inconsistencies in the second season would merely help to diminish the reputation of the show. Fred Freiberger became notorious for cutting corners with the production, the look of the sets and costume design. Martin landau has commented:

"They changed it because a bunch of American minds got into the act and they decided to do many things they felt were commercial. Fred Freiberger helped in some respects, but, overall, I don't think he helped the show, I think he brought a much more ordinary, mundane approach to the series."

Critics of the first season often comment on the scientific implausibility of many episodes, yet they fail to recognize the season one series might not be realistic, it works in terms of it’s dream imagery – touching on some very primal psyche issues – the show, and each episode seems to act as an initiation rite, compelling the characters to accept, adapt, and transform from their accepted understanding of the universe, consciously or not, the series works within the purpose of alchemy. But another aspect that is referenced in the episode “Dragon’s Domain” when Helena Russell observes about the crew ‘inventing their own mythology’ in the closing moments, touches on the idea of mythologies reinventing themselves anew as our complicated understanding of our existence evolves.

All of this makes the first season worth more of an reexamination then some might have assumed. Some of these retellings like in “Guardians of Piri”, are interesting in context. In Odyssey IX, Odysseus describes the tale of the Lotus-eaters thusly:

"I was driven thence by foul winds for a space of 9 days upon the sea, but on the tenth day we reached the land of the Lotus-eaters, who live on a food that comes from a kind of flower. Here we landed to take in fresh water, and our crews got their mid-day meal on the shore near the ships. When they had eaten and drunk I sent two of my company to see what manner of men the people of the place might be, and they had a third man under them. They started at once, and went about among the Lotus-eaters, who did them no hurt, but gave them to eat of the lotus, which was so delicious that those who ate of it left off caring about home, and did not even want to go back and say what had happened to them, but were for staying and munching lotus with the Lotus-eaters without thinking further of their return; nevertheless, though they wept bitterly I forced them back to the ships and made them fast under the benches. Then I told the rest to go on board at once, lest any of them should taste of the lotus and leave off wanting to get home, so they took their places and smote the grey sea with their oars."

The theme of the tale can be seen as a comment on man’s nature to be easily distracted away from our true purpose. Certain conclusions can be drawn by the origin of the “Dragon’s Domain” episode – George and the Dragon. Of course the way that the tale is retold is interesting when you take into account the known variations of St. George. In the earliest account, the Golden legend, the king is forced to sacrifice his daughter from a lottery to appease the dragon, when livestock offerings fail. St. George passed by the lake per chance where the Dragon dwelled, after wounding the beast, the princess helps George subdue the beast, George persuaded the city folk of Silene to convert to Christianity with the promise the slay the beast, which he did. In later accounts based in Libya, a poor hermit tells George of the beast that has ravaged the country, and this leads to his quest, not by chance, but by choice. Another alternative version from Essex tells of St. George losing the battle with the dragon early on in the encounter. St. George retreats, and wanders down the river, prays over his challenges, removes his armor to melt it down and forges it into a metal box. He places his fears, doubts and lack of faith into the box, faces the dragon again with no armor and then slays the beast. This leaves a curious comment about the meaning of “Dragon’s Domain”, is Tony Cellini’s demise due to a lack of faith or an inability to overcome his personal demons from the first encounter? Regardless, like St. George, Cellini manages to convert them into the idea of believing in ‘belief.’

Christopher Penford wrote both “Guardians of Piri” and “Dragon’s Domain”, and he certainly pointed a way to reexamine classic mythologies and religious allegories and present them in a contemporary setting, which the why the abandonment of these memes all the more baffling. It has been rumored that a new series is being developed, Space: 2099. If this version comes to pass, and if the producers take pages from Ron Moore’s approach, perhaps some of the promise and potential of the idea can be fulfilled. Nevertheless, the first season is worth examining as it represented a time when the Science Fiction genre on television was allowed to intelligently explore the subject of metaphysics. We might not see the allowance of such subjects, or it’s like, for a long spell.

Special thanks to John Kenneth Muir, and Harry Craft for their insights.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The trouble with 'celebrity webmasters'...

(The following article was written as far back as January 2012, but held back due to certain concerns. While seeking the advice from a small circle of colleagues, some felt it could read as antagonistic, while other’s saw no issue. The following piece is not directed at any X-Files fan site, or fellow Philes, but a series of general observations.)

I’ve been mulling over this subject for a very long time, and it is based on my own personal observations over time, and a few direct experiences. For some fans of either this blog or the overall work of The X-Files Lexicon, some of the following points might seem like I am biting the very hand that feeds me, and I hope they won’t be misconstrued as a lack of appreciation on my part, I have always been very aware over how fortunate we have been. Yet, the longer you run a fan site that keeps growing and developing, the more pitfalls you risk encountering, and that’s really the way it is, the dilemma becomes – how to continue, and retain your integrity?

Personally, I have been at this game of being involved with a small circle of fan sites from as far back as 2000. I was a moderator and minor contributor to a site I won’t mention, from 2000 to late 2001. Then I became a moderator and minor contributor to The Harry Potter Lexicon from 2002 to 2005, and this is not withstanding the years of observing the rise and fall of countless other fan sites, as well as noting the price that is exacted for highly successful fan sites.

Yet over years of my observations, I learned and tried to apply what I learned with the establishment of The X-Files Lexicon in 2005, and tried to uphold my ‘statement of principles’ at the time of my launch. Yet it is a juggling act to try and avoid various pitfalls and maintain a level of objective honesty, and avoid conflicts of interest even while being offered the occasional perk, I am always reminded of the Rush lyric: “Glittering prizes, and endless compromises, shatter the illusion of integrity.”

Perhaps upholding pure integrity is an impossible ideal, but then again, one might be able to sleep better if they hold themselves to a higher standard, and treat people how they wish to be treated.

I remember seeing some of these dilemma’s early on as I visited some hugely successful movie news fan sites with whom won’t be mentioned by name, where the webmaster’s would be wildly inconsistent with their argument's, or would allow their opinions to be co-opted by studios that would curry their favor with press access, or elaborate press junkets, or free product, while the outside public would hold some illusion that such fan sites were different, more honest, or better than the mainstream press, either media or print, when in truth I didn’t see any distinctions.

The avarice of successful sites can be their un-doing, if one isn’t diligent. There’s a number of traps that I can list to help explain how sites can lose their credibility.

Too much praise.

On a universal level everyone likes to get recognition for their efforts, and it’s natural to enjoy, on some level, compliments, which I do, but I also compartmentalize, and contextualize such compliments. It never changes the fact that at the end of the day you have more work to do, and more to prove, I take it with some modesty, but what I have noticed in some cases, with certain webmasters, they cultivate a climate that encourages sycophants, a kind of unhealthy adulation that seems disproportionate in the scheme of things. In many respects, I don’t trust sycophantic praise, and thankfully I have never encountered that problem with the Lexicon. In truth, while agreement is nice, I don’t expect anyone to agree with me on various points, and that dialogue, that disagreement is healthy.

Some consider me an “expert” with all things X-Files, and while such labels are flattering, as I have stated before, I really consider myself more a facilitator who had a good idea back at the beginning of the site in 2005. I am well aware that some webmasters will be invited, or will petition to make public speaking appearances at conventions, and so on. While I wish them the best of luck, I have never seeked out making such visible appearances, it’s just not my thing, and while I can be assertive when needed, I just don’t have that inclination.

I should also point out, I have always been diligent and mindful with using the phrase “We” when speaking about any success within the Lexicon site, and not “I”, no one succeeds alone, and this distinction helps to keep myself in check.

Advertising and selling out.

The Lexicon does use a certain amount of website advertising, but in truth, we generate little revenue, I consider it mostly extra gravy, and it’s something I don’t depend upon, but I have observed with hugely successful sites where their web hits generate revenue, if the webmaster is dependent on that revenue generator, then they can become a slave to the success, and will go to great lengths to feed that machine. I’ve observed this a number of times where people will be driven to do things, for the sake of competition, they otherwise would never do.

Another byproduct I have become all too aware of is the trend with webmasters to write, sell and get published biographical works about their websites, their experiences with meeting fans, and to dish on their experiences with interviewing, and meeting celebrities. While my feeling is ‘to each his own’, I share no such interest on capitalizing on my experience with running a professional fan site. While this subject hasn’t been broached within the fan inquiries I receive, I should state the following:

I have no intention to publish a print edition of The X-Files Lexicon in any form, for profit. Where it could be done with relative ease, when you consider our growing percentage of interviews, original articles, or the articles within this blog, such a book could be done, but it won’t happen, the only way such a book would be published in any form as if the profits went towards some charity. The other reason why I feel no need to write any book is the fact that the Lexicon’s history is all there on-line, the site is an open book, and our interaction with people of note is well documented, there would be no need to write about any antidotal tales.

A part of my problem is that I feel that such books are driven by such hubris, and narcissism, especially when dishing gossip about the fandom experiences. The reason why I support such fan efforts by Erica Fraga and writers like Amy Donaldson, is the fact that their publications offer original content, and fresh insight into The X-Files phenomenon.

The problem of objectivity

I had previously mentioned in late 2008 about my prior involvement with The Harry Potter Lexicon, the lawsuit debacle between RDR and JKR’s legal team, and the debate over “Fair Use” copyright and the internet. At the time I diplomatically avoided citing my specific problems with the Harry Potter fan news site, The Leaky Cauldron, and their reporting of the RDR law suit, and specifically web mistress Melissa Anelli who exclusively handled the bulk of such reporting of that case, which favored a bias for JK Rowling, which I guess could be expected. But the site used their clout, which was significant at the time and abused it, to go beyond covering what was a mere dispute between publishers, and engage in a character assassination of the webmaster of The Harry Potter Lexicon, Steve Van Der Ark, where the Cauldron acted as the judge, jury, and executioner, when Steve was never listed as an official defendant in the case, but as a mere witness.

Melissa Anelli had close ties to JK Rowling, Warner Brothers, Scholastic; The Leaky Cauldron’s actions I’d argue were driven by fear, based on my speculation, over losing the relationship they enjoyed with Warner Bros, and the access of JK Rowling herself. In entertainment media, access equals power, in many cases access also generates on-line advertising revenue

At the time, Melissa had broken the code of ethics rule for on-line journalists as cited here, due to her evident conflict of interest.

This breach of ethics could have been avoided by Melissa Anelli early on, if she had recused herself from reporting on the case, and brought in a writer who was steeped in copyright law, and could have explained the murky details to Potter fans, Melissa never did that. I should add, the relationship between the Leaky Cauldron and the HP Lexicon was indeed complex, as both sites were involved with membership with The Floo Network, a small group of high profile HP fan sites. This crisis dissolved that partnership.

I remember all too well, visiting the comments section of The Cauldron, and seeing a propaganda strategy employed with Cauldron insiders, and sychcophants, early on when the mere question, or suggestion of unprofessional bias was raised by a fan, the attacks on fans who raised the question were voracious, and the tactic, of insisting the Cauldron was being objective and professional, this tactic reminded me of Nazi propagandist Josef Goebbels when he argued that if you repeat a lie, (or, in this case, a credibility exaggeration) persistently and strongly enough, it would be accepted as fact.

At the time of this issue, I created a Facebook group arguing for this unprofessional bias from The Leaky Cauldron, while it generated only a small percent of followers, it provided a platform for a circle of fans to trade information, get the word out, and hold some semblance of accountability.

The tactic’s against Steve Van Der Ark and The Harry Potter Lexicon worked. The price was steep. At the time I had departed HPL in 2005, it was a robust, active site with a large following, and still putting out new material on a regular basis. By 2008, the bulk of the entire staff had resigned, in many cases due to pressure from outside fans, voracious attacks from other fans in many cases towards contributors, and while the Lexicon site is still available, it hasn’t been active in any measure for years.

It is only in retrospect after a number of years, that certain things become clear. At the time of the RDR suit, one of the claims of JKR’s legal team was a print edition of the PHL site would be detrimental to the eventual publication of a Harry Potter Enclyopedia to be written by JKR, an argument that never washed for me as there was never any evidence to me that the writing of such an encyclopedia was impending. It baffled me that JKR’s team, at the time, would focus on such a tactic as to character assassinate Van Der Ark and the HP Lexicon, and it only became clear recently when JKR launched “Pottermore”, an official site was probably in the works at the time the RDR lawsuit developed. They probably saw a window of opportunity to use the “fair use” issue to eliminate a website competitor. JKR has been known for having a litigious inclination over other slights. In fairness to JKR, in her deposition she did comment that her decision to move forward with the suit had nothing to do with Warner Brothers, you can find a summary of the entire case here.

By 2005, while I had grown disillusioned within the fandom of Harry Potter, it was mostly a desire to move into other independent areas, by 2008, my disillusionment was complete. Personally, and sadly, I feel no connection whatsoever to that scene. I haven’t bothered to read any of JK Rowling’s books since then. Not The Tales of Beedle The Bard, not The Casual Vacancy, not The Cockoo’s Calling. I wish her luck, but I moved on.

One of the unfortunate byproducts of professional fan sites engaging in this kind of conduct is the fact that they become blunt tools of corporate interest, and I suspect that The Leaky Cauldron, Melissa Anelli, and her team were mere pawns in a greater scheme. I haven’t found this to be the case within X-Files fan circles, and to the great credit of Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz, they have always been approachable to the fans, and seemed to feel little threat over copyright issues, as long as such fan activity promotes the X-Files / Millennium phenomenon in a beneficial manner.

I cited this example to illustrate a byproduct of what happens when webmasters gain too much access – you see a level of abuse, of jockeying for power where the need becomes to stamp out competition, and ultimately there are no winners in such circumstances, based on what I’ve heard through other sources, website interest in the Leaky Cauldron has declined in numbers. I always suspected it would.

Conclusion – The problem itself.

I have addressed a number of points to breakdown my observations, and issues with the conduct of outside professional fan sites. To the great credit of the X-Files fandom community, I rarely if ever see these issues, most of the fandom are populated by such intelligent, and independently minded people, I see less of an inclination for sycophantic behavior, it may be there, but it seems to correct itself over time, and that’s why I love being involved with this fan base.

One remedy might be our support of the network platform known as The Syndicate, as the platform might help The X-Files / Millennium fan community to steer away from the click type situations that leave segments of fandom insulated, but I digress.

I think the reason why these behaviors come up for webmaster’s of some professional fan sites, might simply be that such webmasters allow their identity to be defined by the success of such sites, if they have nothing else to fall back on – for example, success with an independent career or occupation, or artistic success as a filmmaker, writer, musician, painter, illustrator, or a digital artist. But my observation remains that the success of running a professional fan site is a hollow success, especially being that you are focused on the creative success of someone else, yet we live in a culture where there’s a growing trend to celebrate trivial success.

In my case, I have varying degrees of success, and a career that involves my personal passions,.. filmmaking, music, writing, and media. Where I don’t feel the need to cling to the success of the Lexicon, I would be more than willing to walk away and hand ownership to someone else if the opportunity were to arise.

I have seen cases of webmasters whom have stayed too long in the game, and should have handed control to others and walked away, where they have allowed hubris to damage their credibility – pride goeth before the fall, so to speak.

While I can understand this fear, this desire to cling to what they have, life is also about change, and moving into new territories. Buddhism describes the very problem of attachments, and the need to let go.

Ultimately, the highest compliment you could pay to an artist who has influenced you is to go forth and create your own original material, and that itself, perpetuates a healthy cycle of creativity.

AddendumIn 2009, when I had access to the good people at 20th Century Fox Television, I took a risk and asked the legal team at Fox, if they saw any issues, or evidence I had breached the issue of “Fair Use” regarding The X-Files. At that time, they found no issues of concern.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

When esoteric influences are everywhere

Often images say more than words, I have driven through enough parts of California to have seen a lot of pop culture references to various weirdness, be it UFOs or Cryptozoology, for example, that you tend to take it for granted. The following ‘Bigfoot’ images can be seen on Highway 5 headed towards Eureka. Often I suspect most people don’t give these things a second thought.

When driving through Marin County around the piers, one can find the following neon light UFO motif.

There’s a lot of architecture through the US that references “Flying Saucer” iconography. One example was built in Tampa Florida, 1968.

Or this structure in Pensacola Beach, on Panferio Road.

Or this structure in Rio De Janerio, Southeast, Niterio.

Or in novelty models, machines, or displays, as demonstrated:

Even David Bowie’s 1969 album, with the Space Oddity track, was referencing UFOs and grays.

Which begs the question, when esoteric subjects have become the mainstream, where do you go from there?

Friday, May 31, 2013

Random Thoughts 2013

There are a number of substantial blog entries that are slowly being worked on, so this is just offering some footnotes on certain interests. I haven’t written about the personal impact of Ray Harryhausen as a child, but he captured the imagination of several generations of filmmakers, visual effects artists, and his work with producer Charles Schneer built up a body of iconic work. After recently reviewing my copy of First Men In The Moon, I realized that I had forgotten that Nigel Kneale, who’s work with the Quartermass series remains legend, was the co-screen writer for that film. Someone whom I had been in contact with in the past, Tim Lucas, has written the best piece as to why Harryhausen’s work was so important.

On another point: Someone had recently uploaded on You Tube the full movie of Starship Invasions (1977), a Canadian production that starred Christopher Lee and Robert Vaughn. One does get the feeling that these actors were sort of slumming it by appearing in this film. But for those interested in the UFO phenomenon, the film referenced a number of UFO iconoclasts that were prevalent in the real world culture at the time. Enjoy it while it lasts, as I suspect copyright issues will force it to be pulled down soon enough.

This month also represents another milestone: the release in late May, 1977 of George Lucas’s Star Wars. The San Francisco Chronicle wrote up several pieces about the film’s impact on Bay area audiences in 1977. I was a part of that generation that was at the right age to see that film. I fear that contemporary readers in this day and age do not understand the visceral impact, or have forgotten about the visceral impact that Star Wars had on a certain generation. I mean that impact was seismic, and drove a lot of people to want to get into film, the arts, or the sciences. John Wasserman’s review correctly sized up the film, acknowledging that “The Force” was in essence, God. The article by Peter Hartlaub accurately depicts seeing the film at the Coronet Theatre in 70 MM, in six track Dolby. I was one of those people that would gladly wear a “I was there, May, 1977” badge. When I write seismic, I would liken it to The Beatles on Ed Sullivan for our generation; it was that great of a shift in the psyche of a lot of young people. The article is also interesting with the portrait that is painted, sans the historical revisionism that has occurred with Star Wars, and now that we are entering into the post-Lucas era, I fear we will see a lot more revisionism under the Disney machine.

Lastly, this brings up some unpleasant thoughts about the new Star Trek: Into Darkness film. There isn’t any other way to put this, but I had some real problems with the second half of the film. While I had no problems with a reimaging of the “Space Seed” story arc, and really liked the 2009 film, I felt the overt quotes from The Wrath of Khan used in the film seemed lazy on the part of the writers. Many of the quotes seemed out of context in relation to the aim of the story. I was left with the impression that the writers weren’t as clever as they believed they were, and I could not tell if the writers and J.J. Abrams weren’t demonstrating a real contempt for the viewing audience, and to long-term Star Trek fans. It’s true that Nicholas Meyer did not view Star Trek as a sacred cow back when he helmed ST II: The Wrath of Khan, but having met Nic Meyer, in spite of his high intelligence, I never felt he had contempt for the fans, nor the viewing public. This is a real problem for the film, and now that word of mouth is circling, this might explain the weaker box office than expected. I appreciate that J.J. Abrams has expressed real admiration for The X-Files, but some things have to be said, and the attitude with certain sites to not criticize Abrams and view him as ‘one of us’ as a self-professed genre geek, really must stop. By many accounts, Abrams has always been a Hollywood insider, and has professed to not liking 60s Star Trek, as he sees it as being a little too talky and cerebral. I see too many fan sites that are tying themselves in knots trying to defend Abrams on this film, and it’s a great disservice for all.

While there has been a certain level of cynicism that has developed within Hollywood genre blockbusters, when filmmakers start to develop contempt for the viewers, the worm indeed turns. Harryhausen captured that sense of wonder--even an exploitation genre film like Starship Invasions had a certain naïve, but flawed charm--and Star Wars shared the same enthusiasm, reconnecting with the past, while moving forward with innovation. Something seems to be lost with some of the new generations of genre filmmakers. If Abrams sees Star Trek as too high minded, how could he not see The X-Files in the same way?

This is why I have such misgivings with Abrams being involved with any X-Files reimaging, if such rumors persist.

Special thanks to XScribe for editorial assistance.