Battle Star Galactica and the Star Trek Mirrorverse

Short post today because I stayed up far to late last night watching Battlestar Galactica. I want to do a series of posts as I watch through the whole (modern) series. I might do the same with 1980s series if I get time.

I have seen it before but since I was looking after a baby boy I only watched with a small part of my mind. I would take Alex in the morning about five so that my wife could have three hours of uninterrupted sleep. But as I became acquainted with the first few episodes I began to remember the Pegasus.

The Pegasus is another Battlestar that escaped from the Cylons but in contrast to Galactica who are generally ‘good’ the captain of the Pegasus is corrupt. I suddenly reflected of the role of the Mirrorverse in Star Trek. In the Star Trek Mirrorverse the Federation is replaced with an Empire and the characters are in general reversed. We see in both cases what might have been, what could be if the underlying motivations and standards of the characters are inverted.

As I write this I am reminded of the Star Trek Voyager episode Equinox which contrasts the moral Voyager crew with the immoral crew of Captain Ransom. Ransom is appropriately named because he is held hostage by the difficult circumstances on his ship. The two episodes hang on the question ‘if Janeways circumstances had been the same as those of Ransom would she have made the same decision?’ Clearly Janeway is a driven character capable of “actions” but I think that she would shy away from murder, possibly. The closest that Voyager comes to the Mirrorverse in my opinion is the Demon episode but I think that is worth another post.

I think I have become distracted in this post. It is one that I am very interested in and I think dystopia becomes more vivid when placed in such proximity to utopia. Good and bad have meaning where they can be compared and contrasted with each other, as Screwtape wrote to Wormwood.

Engaging with Dysopia

Yesterday I wrote about VOX. I reviewed it faviourably and fairly arguing that it is well integrated into the dystopian genre. Today I want to briefly talk about three dystopias that have engaged my imagination.

1984 is one of my faviourate books. I would go as far as to say that it is one of the best books written in this genre. As a stand alone novel it is effective but I have found my enjoyment much improved by reading other works by Orwell. Its in The Road to Wigan Pier that we see the prole quarter in 1930s Britain, its in Keep the Apserdisa Flying that we see the Prole reaction to Winston Smith ordering the wrong drinks at a bar and in The Lion and the Unicorn we see the challenge of perverted language.

When I was sixteen my mother banned me from reading Brave New World. The power of this book lies in the reaction against the Utopias of HG Wells. Wells had presented to the public a glittering vision of the future that Huxley demolishes with with biting satire. The plastic nature of the World State is shown up for the soullessness that it is through the eyes of the savage John who fits in nowhere.

My last choice is Clockwork Orange. Now one of my friends is a leading authority on this amazing novel so I don’t want to say too much. However what interests me about this novel is not so much the Alex narrative but rather the state and the society in which Alex lives.

Dystopia an engaging genre that is best when it comments on the ‘real’ world. Utopias and Dystopias age badly when they do not talk to universal issues and these novels are powerful because they speak to issues of totalitarianism, infantalisation and state control and finally to reactions to youth.

VOX

I have read VOX for the book club that I attend at The Big Comfy Bookshop in Coventry. What follows is a quick review.

VOX is a dystopian novel where women are given a word limit every day. If they exceed their limit they are suffer an electric shock from a device worn around their wrists. The novel follows the adventures of a brain damage specialist recruited by a Chauvinist, fundamentalist American government to create a cure for the Presidents brother who has suffered an accident rendering him unable to speak.

I read this book in about three hours, the chapters are short and punchy which maintains the energy and drives the story forwards. Interestingly enough the author writes that she wrote the novel in three months. I do not doubt this because there are some problems with the storytelling but clearly the ideas and the themes have been marinating in her mind for some time and this is interesting. Problems for me would include the unnecessary character of Poe and a less well sketched conclusion than the introduction. There is an attack by a monkey which seems very confused but is an effort to ‘shoehorn’ in a reference to a woman life being worth less than the cost of a laboratory animal. Orwell uses the same technique in “Killing and Elephant” to illustrate the brutality of colonial officials. A threatened attack might have been more effective than an actual assault.

In terms of dystopia the works of Orwell, Huxley, Burgess and Attwood are clearly and effectively referenced. The Government that the family live under is clearly totalitarian and is in the process of eroding civil liberties, the process not yet being complete. It feels more like the crack down in Clockwork Orange than the totalitarian control of 1984 which isn’t to say it isn’t effective. Like all dysopia it works hard to hit the balance between possible future and outlandish. By building on liberal anxieties about the Bible Belt, television evangelists, the Trump Presidency and the role of women in society the novel does achieve this balance. Amongst the sheer cleverness is the idea that the Trump wall is not to keep people out but rather to keep people in.

I think to conclude this is not the worst book I have ever read and I think it could be better. Sometimes it can be clumsy, particularly in its virtue signifying, and sometimes the prose could have had a stronger edit but there is a strong vision of right and wrong which is the foundation of a strong dystopian novel. It fits very well indeed into the genre of dystopia a powerful synthesis reworking feminist themes and tropes.

A perfect day.

I am sitting in my my chair in my faviourate bookshop drinking Earl Grey tea brewed in a tea pot and served in a mug. All across the world there are many people far less blessed than I am.

I am an Englishman living in a peaceful epoc of English history. We started as a nation of pirates who took advantage of the fall of the Roman Empire to establish ourselves in the country that now bears the name of one of the Germanic tribes who migrated here in the 4th and 5th centuries. What was once precarious is now part of the world and where else would you find the English than in England?

I love England. I drive for most days for about an hour through the country and if I can get away from the motorways and divert myself down the little lanes I will. I love the landscape that bears the scars of the last ice age, the green shadows of the trees and the lazy sun of our temperate climate.

Its these things that draw people in and I think England makes the English and not the English England. I remember a poem by CS Lewis where he writes that he comes across a moss covered meteor that once ranged amongst the stars but England made her own. This is what I think happens to all the migrants to these isles. England herself makes them her own.

England opens herself up to her lovers and in her the pirate mercenaries found a loving misteress, fully capable of lulling them away from their previous identity on the continent. As I drive through Warwickshire and the Midlands I feel her spells and I would not want to be anywhere else than here.

Jack Russell

Welcome to my blog.

It is a cliche but I think it is a good start. This is a blog about somethings that mean a lot to me. I am a big fan of CS Lewis who argued that culture has no survival value, it won’t get you food, shelter or water but it does make surviving worthwhile.

This blog is about literature, film, television and Cornwall with a sprinkling of philosophy and maybe, sometimes cats. If you are interested in any of those things then I would love to hear your reflections on my ideas.