Doctor Who – The Moonbase (1967)

cybermenmoonThe TARDIS lands, or more like crashes, on the moon instead of Mars.  While Jamie is stunned at being on the moon “way up in the sky”, Ben and Polly convince the Doctor to let them wear spacesuits out and go sightseeing.  Polly keeps thinking she’s seeing a blur out over the lunar surface, but she becomes quickly convinced that it’s nothing, and Jamie gets a head injury while playing around in the moon’s low gravity.  The Doctor and the others stumble across the titular moonbase, where one of the crew has been found unconscious from a mysterious infection, and bring Jamie in for treatment, claiming that they just arrived on the moon via a routine spacecraft.  The Doctor surmises that they’re on a station that uses a device called the Gravitron to control the Earth’s weather (explaining why the TARDIS crashed) and that it’s 2050, although the station’s manager, Hobson, corrects him by pointing out it’s actually 2070.  When the Doctor introduces himself, Hobson drafts him to investigate the cause of the mystery illness that’s been striking down members of the crew, since the base’s sole doctor has been one of the victims.

While overseeing the patients, the Doctor notes that the symptoms of the illness don’t match up with any human disease he knows of.  The base’s doctor dies, his delirious last words about a “silver hand”, while one of the crewmembers suddenly disappears.  Jamie and Polly see a Cyberman, its body sleeker and more metallic than when the First Doctor encountered them, but it vanishes with one of the patients.  Hobson refuses to believe it, saying that the Cybermen had been wiped out many years ago, and instead accuses the Doctor and his crew of being behind things.  Still, the Doctor convinces Hobson to give him 24 hours to cure the mystery illness.  Meanwhile the base’s crew try frantically to stop a hurricane from getting out of control.  When another crew person becomes sick after drinking coffee, the Doctor realizes that the base’s supply of sugar had been infected with a virus that attacks the nervous system deliberately introduced by the Cybermen, a theory that finally convinces Hobson.

When Hobson and the TARDIS crew try to find where the Cybermen are hiding, they reveal themselves, and claim that they have been “converting” the sickened men.  It turns out that since the destruction of Mondas the surviving Cybermen have deemed Earth as a “danger” and plan to use the base’s weather manipulating capabilities to wipe out all life on Earth.  Holding the base’s crew captive, the Cybermen have the base’s equipment operated by the crewmen they had captured, infected, and brainwashed. Elsewhere Polly, inspired by Jamie’s comment that in his day they sprinkled holy water on witches, decides to try using a cocktail of solvents on the plastic unit the Cybermen have in place of their hearts and lungs.  Back in the control room, the Doctor manages to figure out that using the equipment in the control room to create audio feedback interfered with the Cybermen’s control over the men and puts his discovery into practice, just before Ben, Polly, and Jamie kill the Cybermen with the solvent cocktail.  The infected men are freed from the Cybermen’s control (or so it seems) and put in the medical room.  All seems clear, but from a telescope the Doctor looks on horrified as the rest of the Cybermen march toward the base across the surface of the moon.

The Cybermen jam the base’s communications with Earth and manage to get the infected men back under their control. Worse, an infected crewmember uses the Gravitron to deflect a relief rocket sent from Earth toward the sun and the Cybermen use a laser weapon to breach the oxygen shields of the base, although they’re able to seal the breach with a coffee tray.  The sudden lack of oxygen does knock out the infected crewman, letting the crew get control of the Gravitron again.  Under the Doctor’s directions, the crew uses the Gravitron to hurl the Cybermen and their ships toward the sun.  After leaving the base’s crew to try to fix the damage to Earth’s weather patterns caused by the Cybermen, the Doctor decides to use a “time scanner” (which he admits is not very reliable) to get a preview of their next destination, and all he sees is a giant crab claw…

Sign of the Times

Again, Polly makes coffee for all the men…twice.  

Ben refuses to let Polly try to use the solvent cocktail on the Cybermen, saying, “This is men’s work!”, although Polly does refuse to obey.

Our Future History

By at least 2050, humanity will have discovered how to control gravity and how to use that control to technologically regulate the weather.  Plus space travel to the moon will have become so commonplace that even the crew of a moonbase will be unfazed by having unexpected visitors.

Continuity Notes

The Doctor claims to have earned a medical degree in 1888 after studying at the University of Glasgow under Joseph Lister.   Polly understandably thinks this makes the Doctor’s medical knowledge a tad outdated.

Comments

The official Discontinuity Guide labelled The Moonbase as “boring,” which I think is a bit unfair.  It doesn’t really have any memorable Doctor or companion moments (in fact, Jamie is out of action for about half the serial, since the decision to make him a companion was a last-minute one and there wasn’t much for him to do in the script as originally written) and it keeps up the “mystery” of the strange illness even after it’s obvious the Cybermen are behind everything.  However, the last episode at least is genuinely thrilling.  The fact that the basic set-up to this serial will be rehashed many times through the Second Doctor era (enough that, as Diamanda Hagan helpfully points out,  “An isolated base under siege” is to the Second Doctor what “The Doctor working with UNIT against covert alien invaders” and “Massive alien invasion of contemporary London” were to the Third and Tenth Doctors respectively) is honestly a testimony to the fact that something about this serial worked, even if at the same time its set-up is conveniently budget-friendly.

Also it’s the first time we see the Cybermen in anything resembling the incarnation most people are familiar with.  To be honest, I preferred the way they looked in The Tenth Planetsince it gave more the impression of designer cyborgs fashioned by a desperate people on the brink of extinction, but I can also see why the cold, mechanical look of the “new” Cybermen has endured in its place.  The Cybermen still aren’t my favorite Who villains, but I will admit that the scenes of them marching calmly across the barren wastes of the moon were pretty epic.  All in all, it’s not a classic, apart from what is arguably the first “familiar” appearance of the Cybermen, but it’s not the dud some commentators have made it out to be.

The Lords of Acid’s “Crablouse” is the Greatest Music Video Ever Made

Sites like YouTube spoil us with an infinite feast, making it all too easy to overlook all the unique little side dishes.  For today’s example, there’s the ultra-obscure music video for the Belgian acid house/post-industrial rock group Lords of Acid’s 1994 hit “Crablouse,” which – yes – is about the erotic potential of being a woman infected with the pubic crab parasite.

Now we know the little crablouse is a raver
You can’t get rid of it unless you use a razor
It’s unbearable, funky, and so cool
A real smartass and nobody’s fool.

The Lords of Acid are celebrated, at least by me, for their unabashedly hedonistic lyrics, which range from being about a girlfriend jealous of her boyfriend’s obsession with a blow-up doll, to a topless sunbather having an orgy with Martians only to find their interplanetary equipment is inadequate, to a heartfelt homage to a Rabbit – and not that kind of Rabbit.  It’s kind of like what you’d get if a time-traveling Marquis de Sade came to the present to be a DJ.  In North America, they’ve always skirted on the mainstream even in their ’90s heyday, with songs occasionally appearing in movie soundtracks like that of Strange Days, which did make them surprisingly prominent considering that maybe about 1% of their songs could be played on North American radio without heavy censoring of the lyrics.  Needless to say, the “Crablouse” music video apparently didn’t get play even on the more experimental and less reality-TV-star-infested MTV of the ’90s – and if it did, it was only around 3:30 am between reruns of Liquid Television and the latest epic doom metal hit video.

loacover

This is the safe-for-work version of the cover to the album featuring “Crablouse.”

The “Crablouse” video answers the fetishes of many Lords of Acid’s fans by featuring lead singer Jade 4U (Nikkie van Lierop) in a Catholic school girl uniform, being exposed to some bizarre “love tunnel” type ride that gradually corrupts her.  She’s treated to the sights of shirtless men in gimp masks and…for some reason known only to Belgians, this:

crablousemonkey

Nothing says “sexual depravity” like a random guy in a gorilla costume.

The scenes of the schoolgirl’s voyage are intercut with Jade 4U in a leather bikini and a boa performing alongside some scantily clad dancers.  Unfortunately the one copy of the video that’s been circulating around the four corners of the Internet is a little blurry, but especially luckily for you gay women and heterosexual men you can still get a sense of what’s going on.

crablouseorgy2

Yes, their live shows are pretty much like this.

During the bridge of the song, there’s a scene of Jade 4U and a guy riding a roller coaster. Admittedly it’s the most tedious part of the video, in no small part because it reuses the same basic shots, but it is followed by what might be the strangest part: a shot of Jade 4U “flying” around a black void with a bunch of shirtless men moving toward her.  Honestly, at the risk of tapping too much into my English degree, I’m convinced this is a reference to Dante’s Inferno, where the souls of the lustful are flying around in a whirlwind for eternity.  Showing the lustful clawing through the whirlwind toward each other to make out is…pretty damn brilliant, really.  So if you happen to be looking for a paper topic for a literary studies class, here it is!

loawhirlwind

Best literary reference ever.

In the final shots of the video, the schoolgirl emerges out the other side of the ride, fully indoctrinated into the philosophy of the Lords of Acid and willing to make out with the first long-haired guy who walks up to her.  It all really represents why all of us who were exposed to the Lords in the ’90s finds little media-spawned scandals like Miley Cyrus twerking so dull.  All the way back to at least Madonna simulating masturbation on stage, there’s something about American musicians’ orgiastic excesses that’s so self-conscious, to the point that no matter how much they try to push the envelope there’s no risk of it falling off the table.  With the Lords, it’s like the taboos don’t even matter, an attitude the video captures even for people who haven’t been initiated.  It’s a shame that a country with a penis just never appreciated the Lords more.

loajesus

Subtlety is spelled “L O R D S O F A C I D.”

Ages of Golden Girls: Season 1, “Pilot”

I wrote way back about the backlash against the Reagan era backlash against the Norman Lear political sitcom and counted The Golden Girls as part of that movement.  Think about it:  four women who were wives and mothers, but instead of becoming saintly aids to their children’s own families or nursing home fodder they set out to establish independent lives that include new jobs, forming a new non-traditional family, and even getting sex.  It was downright revolutionary. It’s no surprise that the formula is being copied to this day, most famously with Sex in the City and Hot in Cleveland (with in at least a few ways the former being, despite not being about four women who are at least in their early 50s, the more direct copy).

goldengirlsintro

I grew up watching The Golden Girls when it first aired, before it had its well-earned reputation as a gay cult classic and a showcase for strange distortions of late ’80s/early ’90s fashions for “upper middle-aged” women.  Even if I didn’t have the Nostalgia Goggles glued to my nose, I would still feel that it belongs firmly in the canon of the great American sitcoms.  It still stands out as unique, it challenged and broke through traditional definitions of the “sitcom family,” and, above all else, it was funny.  So inspired by sites like “Full House Reviewed” I thought I’d take a retrospective on the series (although of course with a much less vitrolic look).  So take your laptop or tablet out to the lanai, relax on your wicker chair, and join me as we watch the pilot to one of the most enduring sitcoms of all time.

goldengirlscocoa

Every pilot of a long-lasting series strikes a few odd notes, like settings or secondary characters that get dropped .  The pilot of The Golden Girls has an entire main character, Coco Davis, who is the Girls’…cook?  Butler?  Whatever the case, Coco is pretty interesting even though he doesn’t influence the plot and gets about four minutes of screentime.  It’s all but spelled out that he’s gay, which wouldn’t have made him the first sitcom gay character (apparently that honor goes to Peter from the short-lived and now forgotten 1972 sitcom “The Corner Bar”) but would have still been rare for 1985.  No report even suggests he was cut out of the show for being a gay character;  instead it was because Sophia, originally meant to be just a recurring character, got a much better audience reaction so she pretty much “absorbed” his character and role.

It’s easy to see why.  Coco’s actor Charles Levin (probably best known as the neurotic mohel in that episode of “Seinfeld”) is just not given a chance to break out, but it’s probably for the best.  It’s already a little weird that a house with a grief counselor, a substitute teacher, and a person who has a non-specified job in a museum can afford to employ a full-time manservant.  It would have gotten more so with all the episodes that deal with the Girls fretting over their financial security.

Anyway, the plot here doesn’t deal with how the Girls got together, but rather with…them almost getting broken up.  Blanche is excited that her boyfriend of just one week, Harry, is going to speedily marry her (this really unlikely decision is waved away with Blanche cheerfully pointing out that she’s too close to death to wait through an engagement).  Rose frets that this means they’ll lose touch and she says it was a miracle the Girls got together in the first place, to which Dorothy flatly replies that the only reason they got together was that they all answered the same newspaper ad Blanche put out.  Nonetheless, Rose is anxious enough that she starts claiming that she has bad feelings about Harry and tries to warn Blanche just when she’s leaving for the marriage, but Dorothy puts her in a literal chokehold which Blanche mistakes for a group hug, in one of the whole series’ greatest images:

goldengirlschokehold

Dorothy is my big sis, y’all.

But I forgot to mention the closest thing the pilot has to a b-plot, the glorious appearance of Sophia Petrillo.  Her character is really the only one that changes from the pilot, as in the early scripts she got lines originally meant for Coco and she becomes less of a bitter, cantankerous grandma to a quasi-bitter, quasi-hip grandma.  She shows up to the house in a taxi after her nursing home (which isn’t named just yet) burns down, a fact that the series for all its notorious problems with continuity remains pretty solidly fixed in Golden Girls history. After Rose is shocked that Sophia blurts out to Blanche, “You look like a prostitute!” (she hasn’t quite started calling her a slut all the time yet), Blanche, who takes the whole thing pretty pleasantly (well she is Southern after all), explains that Sophia had a stroke that destroyed her ability to censor her own speech. Surprisingly, if I remember right, the series actually brings this up again a few more times – which does bring a bit of a tragic element to Sophia’s later hip grandma persona.

goldengirlssophia

Anyway, Sophia immediately diagnoses Harry as a scuzzball – and of course she and Rose turn out to be right.  Harry is a serial bigamist, which yes is still a thing for both genders, which Blanche learns to her devastation from a cop.  This sends Blanche into a spiral of depression, which she only breaks out of with just the first of many Girl-power solidarity sessions.  Thus begins the seven year run of The Golden Girlsthe show that taught us the comedic possibilities of a woman in her 80s constantly calling a middle-aged woman a slut.

Aside from poor Coco, who just vanished instead of being properly written out, and arguably Sophia, the pilot is pretty consistent with what will come.  The character dynamics are there, their occupations are set up, and we get the first signs of Dorothy’s toughness and scathing wit, Rose’s “unique” thought processes, and Blanche’s sexy confidence.  And it really was for the best that Coco was replaced by Sophia, but nonetheless let’s take a moment to reflect on the all too short fictional life of Coco Davis:

Golden Quotes

“It’s wonderful dating in Miami.  All the men under 80 are cocaine smugglers.”  -Dorothy

“When I go put me in a sack and leave me next to the cans.”  -Sophia

Miami Facts

Rose had a premonition of Indira Gandhi’s assassination.

Trash Culture Plays Shin Megami Tensei I, Part 3

So this might be the last of these Let’s Plays.  My six or seven readers might be aware of the recent kerfuffle with YouTube over not just Let’s Play videos but all videos using third-party material, as a result of an automated program that’s been flagging videos for copyright violations.  The problem is, many companies view Let’s Plays and the like as free advertising at best or a nuisance that’s tolerable as long as it isn’t used for a profit at worst, and YouTube’s program has been flagging people for very minor song violations. While I do concede that Let’s Play videos at the very least push against the boundaries of fair use, the problem – the absurdity, really – is that people are being flagged for just two or three seconds of a song clip or for a song from the video game that the primary copyright owner doesn’t even care about.   My own first Let’s Play (but weirdly not the second) got flagged just for one of the songs, even though the same song appears in the second Let’s Play.

I actually don’t have strong opinions one way or the other, since I actually don’t watch Let’s Plays usually (the big exception being Paw Dugan’s Let’s Plays of the classic Quest for Glory series).  Really the main reason I started this is that I needed practice with multimedia for my own plans for Trash Culture.  It’s far from my most popular series on Trash Culture, and it does take time to do the editing alone.  Still, I have enjoyed doing the series, and I think whatever copyright issues Let’s Play videos entail it’s ridiculous that I should have problems posting my personal commentaries on a game that’s older than most college freshmen.   My main concern, though, is that this will get in the way of me using YouTube for any later mutlimedia projects.

(BTW, I know there are alternatives to YouTube, but none I’m aware of work that well for my purposes for various reasons.  But now I definitely will look into them, especially because Google’s policies for YouTube seem like it will inevitably fuel a mass exodus).