...a blog by Richard Flowers

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Day 3194 (again): THE PRISONER 42nd ANNIVERSARY: Arrival


Imagine being trapped in a World of total surveillance, where anyone you meet could be another enemy, the internal democracy is a fix and the newspaper turns out to be only gossip and propaganda.

They all want you to admit to what you did in the past and everyone is obsessed about your resignation.

Are you dizzyingly alone in an oppressive world where everyone is against you, or are you having a nervous breakdown and broadcasting it in weekly instalments on the telly box?

Still, it's your own fault, Mr Frown. You WANTED to be the new Number Two! And WHAT a total Number Two you are!

Meanwhile, My Daddies have been watching some television again…
29th September 1967 saw the first screening of the acknowledged Acme of Sixties television, Patrick McGoohan's seminal: "The Prisoner".

This year, ITV and American cable channel AMC have produced a new appropriately-enough six-part series based on McGoohan's original, with the slightly-disappointing news that Jim Caviezel would be playing the title character and the much-more-enticing announcement that Sir Ian McKellen would be taking the role of Number 2 for all six episodes.

And this week, just in time for the anniversary, Network DVD have released a newly-restored Blu-Ray edition of the complete series, freshly transferred from the original 35mm film elements, so it look gorgeous. (The episodes are presented in their original 4:3 ratio, with a choice of original mono or remixed 5.1 audio – we chose the mono because without external sound-system our telly sometimes doesn't handle the 5.1 balance nicely. Also, the disc menu was rather lovely. The oversized presentation box may be a bit de trop, but it comes with Andrew Pixley's excellent book on the series background and viewing notes.)

On top of that, The Prisoner remains intensely topical: Sixties paranoid spy-dramas' perennial occupations of surveillance, interrogation, and identity (and i.d. cards) are hardly ever out of the news; the freedom of the individual or the good of the state are at the heart of Today's politics as much as, if not more than, they were in during the Cold War.

So, all in all, it seems a proper time to watch the series again.

Given all that has been written about The Prisoner over the years (and in addition to the Pixley book, can I also very much recommend Fiona Moore and Alan Stevens' "Fall Out"), I'm really not expecting to break new ground or produce stunning insight. But it is a series that is worth watching and thinking about and discussing.

So here we go…


You've probably seen this:

An unnamed man in a sports car drives out of nowhere; he passes through London, past the Houses of Parliament, before turning into an underground car park. We see him stalk along a neon-lit corridor before bursting in on a man sat a desk; angrily he remonstrates with the man before slamming a letter "most urgent, by hand" on the desk and leaving. He returns home, past Buckingham Palace to his apartment in Buckingham Place, followed, it appears, by a sinister-seaming hearse. He enters his home and starts to pack, but then gas starts to pour in through the keyhole; his vision of the view through his window – concrete high-rise flats – starts to swim and he falls unconscious… only to recover, apparently still in his home. He goes to the window and looks out… at a completely different place.

This is the opening of every episode of The Prisoner (correction, hat tip Mr Mark Reckons: almost every episode), but in Arrival it is surprisingly, disconcertingly even, in rather longer form and the music slightly different because this is telling the events not as précis but as the actual episode.

Meanwhile, it is a measure of the confidence McGoohan had in his audience that he expects them to understand from just a few seconds view from the window just how numbingly bizarre it must be to wake in your own home and find the World has changed around it.

what's your number, please

Only three stories can definitively be placed in the Prisoner timeline – in fact, I've seen arguments put that even those three take place in the middle and not the ends – and there is endless debate about how the other fourteen should be arranged, which obviously I intend to add to. Nevertheless, "Arrival" works uniquely well as the series first episode and that is where Alex and I place it.

It shows things at their most simplistic: it is, essentially, testing the waters on both sides, and introducing us along with the Prisoner to the Village, its geography and hierarchy, its methods and its monster.

The Prisoner knows nothing about the Village and the Village uses only naïve methods to extract information, two simple variants of the "damsel in distress"/"sympathetic cell-mate" flavour.

McGoohan's natural aversion to the casual sex and casual killing to be found in a typical thriller are used to add to the alienation of the Prisoner here because he robs himself of human comfort by being such an old-fashioned gentleman. But it's also a worthwhile sacrifice because he cannot easily be seduced by the use (witting or otherwise) of women to get inside his defences.

And alienation is the order of the day as the episode continues and the Prisoner explores his surroundings, the colourful frontage of Portmeirion being both surreal and, in its emptiness of people, frightening.

Given how crowded we will soon be seeing the Village to be, bustling townsfolk and marching bands everywhere, this is an astonishing demonstration of control, equal to the later moment when Number Two freezes the Villagers to the spot at the first appearance of Rover.

Ah, Rover. So much better than any robot, it's the perfect unknown, unknowable, seemingly with the power to do pretty much any damn thing it wants, it could be a monster from the under-id, or even a pet god. And of course, as has been remarked before, in form it is the Number Zero.

But I get ahead of myself, after some time searching and finding no one, the Prisoner suddenly runs into ordinary seeming people, a waitress at the café, a taxi driver who speaks to him in French, a shopkeeper at the shop conversing in Italian who suddenly switches to English as he enters. This casual use of different languages is soon dropped, which is a shame although understandable because it would interrupt those episodes that have an actual plot, whereas here it is all a part of the discombobulation effect of the Village.

No one is seen to be actively opposing the Prisoner, but all of the helpful-seeming answers are in fact useless, local service only, no number no call, most charming of all is the "larger map, only in colour, much more expensive".

Frustrated at every turn, he is driven back to his home, or at least the building where he woke up, and there he takes a call – and this is his very first concession.

"Is your number six?"


"Call for you."

the new number two

The call is an invitation to Number Two, the Green Dome, and here Number Two, played with lugubrious English charm by Guy Doleman, presents himself as the person in charge of the Village.

Confronted by a Number Two it is quite natural that we, like the Prisoner, assume that this implies the existence of a Number One, and further that Number One is above Two in the hierarchy, even though this is in no way a given – the Prisoner can hardly believe that he at Number Six outranks for example Number Nine, the watcher he encounters later, or indeed anyone in the Village.

Thinking of 2 as a number, we naturally think of duality, dualism, doublethink; the name of the episode itself has a double meaning: "arrival" or "a rival". Number Two is the Prisoner's double in this episode, and see how they mirror each other, verbally fencing, each trying to out-charm the other as Number Two takes the Prisoner on a guided tour, showing off the Village, casually making reference to the Town Hall where they "…have their own council, put on debates, amateur dramatics" (it's not clear whether it's the Council or the debates that are amateur dramatics); and putting the Prisoner through his paces at the Labour Exchange (heavy on the symbolism as the "aptitude test" has the Prisoner putting a round peg in a square hole only to have the hole become round to fit the peg; draw your own conclusions).

It is on the tour that we get the Prisoner's concession number two: confronted with Rover for the first time, he is shocked into accepting a part of the Village on its own terms:

"What's that?" he asks.

Not "who does it work for?" nor "how do you control it?", just "what is it?".

He seems numbed afterwards too, meekly following the orders that Number Two barks through a megaphone at him. Subsequently in the episode, he seems alarmed at the sight of lava lamps, resembling Rover's semi-fluid form, and we see at least one patient in the hospital driven perhaps hysterical by a miniature re-enactment of Rover's fountain appearance.

And then, halfway through "Arrival", entirely unexpectedly and with no explanation, Number Two is replaced.

Hospitalised after his first escape attempt, the Prisoner meets someone he knows, someone he believes to be a friend, Cobb, whom he is then told has jumped from a window and died. Released from the hospital, the Prisoner storms into the Green Dome to confront Number Two, only to be met by not Guy Doleman but George Baker saying that he is now the man in charge.

In part, of course, this is merely setting up the form of the Series with a "guest star" Number Two each week (there are two Number Twos who return – Colin Gordon in "The General" and "A, B & C" and Leo McKern in "The Chime of Big Ben", "Once Upon a Time" and "Fall Out" – and one other episode – "It's Your Funeral" – with two Number Twos), and here George Baker is guest star for a mini episode revolving around Cobb, his "watcher" Number Nine and a second, more plausible, escape attempt.

But replacing Number Two in "Arrival" is more significant, because of the already established themes of dualism and transience. In this place, your home is not necessarily your home and even the person in charge can be changed on a whim.

follow the signs

In a way we've lost the innocence of McGoohan's era.

Decades ahead of "The X-Files", The Prisoner hangs on the ambiguity of "who's side are you on"? Despite the quintessential Englishness of an Italianate village in Wales, the Village is, superficially, at least as likely to be an enemy interrogation camp as it is a British involuntary retirement home. When Cobb speaks of "my new masters" that leans towards a defection even when it can just be read as a transfer to a different secret department.

Nowadays it seems transparently obvious that of course it's "our own" side that is doing this but remember that it was a different, in some ways more Liberal time.

Cameras everywhere were then portrayed as sinister, inherently evil, the automatic hallmark of a totalitarian mindset rather than an underfunded council resorting to CCTV to try and appear as though they are doing something to stop the kids hanging about on street corners.

But if you are looking for answers in The Prisoner then "sides" is a rather trivial question that the series isn't going to bother with answering. Indeed, it treats the whole idea of "sides" as rather childish, perhaps reflected in the use throughout of nursery tunes – "pop goes the weasel", "what shall we do with a drunken sailor" etc – and childish language, indeed a child-like logic.

This is about the freedom of choice, boiled down to one ultimate freedom – simply to leave, to resign or to escape, it's all the same.

The Village is by nature conservative, statist, centralising; it's actions are "for your own good", it's leaders know best.

That's not to say that the Village may not have a point, or that the Prisoner's refusal to in any way compromise is necessarily correct. Society makes demands on us, limits our freedom sometimes necessarily.

Start from the premise that people with large amounts of highly confidential intelligence in their heads cannot be allowed to just wander off because if they defect or are captured and interrogated a lot of other people could suffer or die as a result, then a comfortable retirement in a Village ensures the most happiness and the most security for the most people. A lot of people might agree with that.

On that level, the Prisoner has to beat the Village just to prove that you can allow him to go free.

who is number one?

This just is McGoohan's show. For the first act, a good quarter of an hour of screen time, he carries it without dialogue, almost without any sound at all, conveying confusion, intrigue and mounting fear and fury. When finally confronted with an enemy he delivers the series unforgettable manifesto:

"I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered! My life is my own."

Bonkers, brave, brilliant. The Prisoner is a very British hero, rejecting the Village because it has no authority to take away his rights, and yet he doesn't succeed. While remaining unbowed, when the episode ends, with yet another iconic image: the bars slamming on McGoohan's face, he has not escaped.

next time…

That would be telling.

Be seeing you.


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Day 3194: Flash Gordon, I love you, but you've only got 14 hours to save the world… again!


Mr Frown the Prime Monster has addressed the Hard Labour conference, brought to you from the DEATH STAR…

Ladies, gentlemen, Lord Emperor Mandletine, we're here to short change the world all over again. WE broke it! YOU bought it! I'm here to tell you we can break it one more time.

As Mrs Bucket told the Newsnight Show only last night, it's always at least ten years before any changes you can make start to have an effect on the economy so only now are we reaping the rewards of my masterful handling of… hang on, who wrote this?

No, look: since 1997 my Government (not Tony's) has achieve many things: two wars (er, lost), Magna Carta (er, abolished), promises on tuition fees and electoral reform (er, broken), the economy, oh god, the economy…!

No, no, look: no one could have foreseen that the economic cycle of growth and recession that has persisted for four-hundred years wouldn't have come to a completely unprecedented end just because I said so.

And no, Vince Cable doesn't count because he's a Liberal Democrat and they DO NOT EXIST! They do NOT! They're not like the FAIRIES that are going to give Chancellor Sooty the PIXIE GOLD he needs to make his budget balance. They're NOT REAL! There's no such thing as Macra Liberal Democrats!

No, no, no, look: when I said "no more boom and bust" I was misquoted; what I actually meant "no, MORE boom and bust" and I've delivered on that! You've had the biggest boom and the deepest bust since the Age of Steam!

This country faces not only two Parties… er, I mean it DOES only face TWO Parties, there isn't a THIRD Party, just that it it's not ONLY facing them…er, not only two Parties but two directions!

That's why you need Hard Labour! We have TWO FACES!

No, no, no, NO, look: You need a Party that will take ACTION!

One party wanted to "do nothing" – the Conservatory Party of Britain. They are consistently wrong all the time: on the economic call of the century they called it wrong… we know… because they AGREED WITH US!

Light touch regulation! Being extremely relaxed about people getting stinking rich! THOSE are the policies of the Conservatory Party! They were OUR policies TOO!

Remember how people queued for their money while we DITHERED over Northern Rock! Remember how much was wiped off the stock market while we DELAYED over saving the banks! Remember how we are STILL PUTTING OFF acting on bankers' bonuses!

Only Hard Labour takes action like this!

The next election will be the biggest chance for CHANGE in a generation! Just THINK how things could be different if only we had a LABOUR government instead of the current shower!

Under Hard Labour, there will be no I.D.iot cards!

Under Hard Labour there will be a referendum on electoral reform!

Under Hard Labour there would be investment to SAVE our Post Office not close them!

And if you think about "antisocial behaviour" just imagine what Hard Labour might have done about it! Criminalising all young people for just "having nothing to do"; police checking all parents for "wanting to look after kids"; keeping DNA databases on anyone who the police "happen to think looks at them funny"; locking people up at random without trial or even telling them what they've done is… THIS is the antisocial behaviour of a Hard Labour Government! Literally ANTI-SOCIAL: used to tear apart the social fabric of our county, to grind down our people's trust in each other and to bulldoze our traditional rights and liberties!

And with a Hard Labour Government I WOULD HAVE THAT POWER!!!!!!

Forget the broken promises of the past! I offer you NEW promises that we will break in the FUTURE!

This election will be about YOUR future not MY future… because I haven't GOT a future!

Comrades, as the poet said: dream no small dreams… for I have insomnia and I have to move house!

Morituri te salutamus, and good bye!

[Cue music: M People's "Throwing On Up"; crowd reluctantly rises to feet to begin applause accompanied by choking gestures from Emperor Mandletine and gasping and wheezing from doubting Tomas in cabinet]

[Frown pauses and abruptly returns to microphone]

Oh, and in answer to the cheeky beggar who wanted to put the question to the First Lord Sideous, er, I mean Emperor Mandletine…

…it may LOOK like it's full of holes and only half hanging together but I tell you this is a FULLY ARMED and OPERATIONAL Labour Party! Prescott, you may fire when ready!

[sound of comedy engine stalling and dying; former Minister for Magical Accidents appears looking embarrassed; Emperor Mandletine facepalms]

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Day 3188: Song for Conference


If your mansion house needs taxing just call… Rent-a-quote!
We've got Clegg and Huhne and Vince and Jools… at Rent-a-Quote!
The Meeja will never see ya; we have Party invisibility…
Remember policy is not a mystery it's… Rent-a-quote!

In the Party be a Smarty and hire… Rent-a-quote!
If your Fresh Starty's looking far…faulty you need… Rent-a-quote!
Mr Danny has uncanny… manifesto ministry…
To get tuition fees past the FPC… ring Rent-a-quote!

If you say the most horrific simple quotes not quite specific then the Guardian will "Savage" you away.

Heavy hinting is a tactic but the outcome's most erratic and you may just have to eat those words today (yay!)

We are extraordinary fellers here at… Rent-a-quote!
To be another Sarah Teather just hire… some proper jokes!
If you want to be Prime Monster; you know you'll have to pay our fee…
Remember what you see's not Liberal Democracy but… Rent-a-quote!

Remember what you see's not Liberal Democracy but… RENT…A…QUOTE!

(cackles to fadeout)

Captain Clegg has made his speech and Conference is done.

Thank you Bournemouth and BYE BYE!

Libby on the Beach
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(With thanks to Mat and Auntie Jennie's sandcastle building competition, and apologies to Mr Claypole!)


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Day 3186: There IS a God… Delusion!


The Greatest Show at Conference is clearly Mr Professor Richard Dawkins.

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Yesterday he was introducing a VERY important amendment to our Civil Liberties paper, saying we very urgently need to reform the LIBEL laws so that Scientists can DISAGREE and more importantly WRITE about disagreeing based on EVIDENCE and not fear the SLAPP of a gagging order.

Today he was reading from his new book, an exploration of all the wonderful evidence for the Fact of Evolution. I particularly enjoyed the [warning: facetious] March of the Penguins from Mount Ararat to the South Pole.

In other conference news, the hall was packed out for the speech by Mr Dr Vince "the power" Cable, raising Wealth Taxes on million-pound mansions to help raise thresholds to put up to £700 back into the pockets of low to middle earners.

But I was there from the start of business – did you KNOW that Conference opens with a crash zoom onto Bournemouth from SPACE… just like the start of Doctor Who? – so not only did I hear the excellent debates on Parliamentary Expenses and an Inquiry into British Complicity in Torture, but ALSO caught the less attended but also rather good speech by Mr Tim Far'n'away (performed Balloon-style without reading from his notes) AND Mr Brian's very excellent panel on crime and prison policy, with some really interesting guests.

Terrifying facts learned this week so far (from the Civil Liberties debate): the DNA database already holds samples for a quarter of all black men… and because of the way your DNA holds SIMILARITIES with that of your family, this means that the ENTIRE black population of Great Britain can now be profiled though the database. Just THINK about that for a minute.


Monday, September 21, 2009

Day 3185: You Know The Drill… It Should Have Been MEEEEEEEEE!


…and it WAS!

Just kidding!
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No, the cloaked figure of Wicked Uncle Costigan has just dropped by to collect our congratulations and his embossed glass ashtray before slipping away into the night, leaving only a set of treasury projections and a guide to British Bee Keeping to show he was ever even here.

Yes, we have been at the Liberal Democrat Blogger of the Year awards, sponsored by the Local Government Association for not-enough-money-to-pay-the-bar-tab, presented by Mr Former Lord Deputy Mayor Stephen, in the presence of Dale Winton, for "Come As Someone You're Not, Night!"

Mr Will was NOT Mr Brian Robson, winner of best Lib-Dem-with-a-Job Blog

Mr Stephen of the Glenn was (mostly) NOT Mr Slugger O'Toole, winner of best not-a-Lib-Dem Blog

Mr Jumbo Graham was NOT Mr Mark Reckons who everyone EXPECTED to be winner of Best Post of the Year

And Daddy Alex was very definitely NOT Blogger of the Year, Wicked Uncle Costigan …probably(!)

To the best of my knowledge, Ms Jo Winsome WAS Ms Jo Winsome.

Well Done everybody!


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Day 3184: A Personal Commitment but no Apologies from the Leader – Nick Clegg meets Millennium Elephant… and some other people


It's GREAT being back on the Blogger of the Year shortlist! I get to talk to Captain Clegg and no one says it's a FIX because Daddy does the muffins!

Back in the Game
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So, straight down to business: TUITION FEES – the Liberal Democrats are COMMITTED to abolishing student fees; Captain Clegg is PERSONALLY COMMITTED to abolishing student fees. But, it would be illogical, maybe even dishonest, to say we need a FRESH START for Britain and everything must be reconsidered, and then NOT reconsider the HOW and WHEN of being able to abolish 'em.

So TIMING is what is up for debate, and we will do it according to our PRINCIPLES, and the ones laid out in Fresh Start are:
  • A sustainable green economy to build jobs for the future
  • Support for young people so the life chances of a generation are not blighted
  • And, and this one's not about the money, a reinvention of politics
Because of Hard Labour's financial catastrophe EVERYTHING has changed, so no apologies for making a DRAMA out of the CRISIS, no apologies for using headline-making phrases like "Savage Cuts": Mr Frown has got us into a MESS where only DRAMATIC action will save us.

Wicked Uncle Costigan asked whether we need to be QUITE so dramatic: hasn't the country managed quite prosperously with quite high levels of debt in the past?

There were two reasons why we can't carry on like that any more, explained Captain Clegg: firstly, it's the KIND of deficit we are running, and secondly, it's the kind of financial WORLD we are now living in.

The Hard Labour Government are running a STRUCTURAL deficit. That means that they are not just borrowing to get them over a STICKY PATCH, debt that will be repaid later, but they are ROUTINELY borrowing, running up debts in the good years let alone the bad ones. We've not seen an imbalance of this order since the country was paying for World War Part Two! That is just not sustainable, and sooner or later the World's financial institutions, the loan sharks that the Chancellor Sooty is now in hock to, will just pull the rug from under us: pulling cash out of the country, causing spiralling interest rates and making the pound crash which in turn means more expensive imports and energy driving up inflation.

And this is where we come to the second thing, because in a World where the seats of high finance are highly interconnected by swift electronic connections, it takes just a push of a button to pass judgement on the UK economy and LITERALLY just a push of a button to remove huge wodges of capital from the UK. In the aftermath of the Credit Crunch Crash, the World financial markets are a much more UNFORGIVING place, and we – implicitly, though Captain Clegg didn't need to mention it – outside the Eurozone do not have the protections of being a "reserve currency" any more.

We are at the EARLIEST and therefore most UNCOMFORTABLE stage of the debate over cuts, and it's the time when we – all politicians, all the rest of us – have to make decisions that are bold, savage if you must, as to where and how we will put things back on an even keel.

The Liberal Democrats are CONFRONTING these choices; the other two parties are ducking them

Captain Clegg also suggested the sorts of choices he would be looking at: capital projects, investing in new jobs now and new infrastructure for the future, these, Captain Clegg suggests, are the very LAST things that should be cut – obviously the BACKWARDS Labour Party has them FIRST on its list. Equally important is investment in young people to make sure that they HAVE a future.

As it happened, we were joined by two young people, guests from the vinspired volunteering project, Ms Asha Khan and Mr Nuno Rodrigues, here to get to experience the CRAZY WHIRL™ of Party Conference. They wanted to know why volunteering isn't more considered by interviewers for job or university. They were concerned that there is almost a STIGMA associated with volunteering, like "you couldn't get a proper job?"

Captain Clegg was interested to hear that they thought that way. He thought that there was much, much MORE volunteering going on, and expressed a worry that it was almost becoming almost a necessary "box to tick" in order to embellish a CV rather than in order to get the benefit of experiences and give something back.

It seemed to me that what we need is some way to RECOGNISE the achievements and experiences that you gain from volunteering in order to show employers or universities the added value you have gotten for yourself, and Ms Linda said that for our youth policy we are looking at some form of accreditation.

Something to watch for the future, then.

Mr Stephen of the Glenn tells us about the Linlithgow project to make the town CARBON NEUTRAL, supported by money from the Scottish Parliament. How can we keep getting across the message that, even with cuts, we can make the environment IMPORTANT, he wants to know.

For Captian Clegg it's about the NATURE of the recovery. Like the Old Chinese Proverb (he says) this IS an opportunity. All the chips have been tossed in the air by the financial collapse; we have the chance to set them in a new pattern before they resettle.

What about, interjects Ms Ali G, WEALTH TAXES? Could they be a part of our package for redistribution and rebalancing of the economy? Captain Clegg is tempted to go off piste for a moment, and there is a sharp intake of breath from his party minder, Special Agent Hanney. But then, the Captain thinks better of it. Maybe because he once spent three months on crutches having come a cropper while working as a ski instructor. Something to watch out for next week, though. Wink!

Instead, he talks about how the economy was UNBALANCED before: a small financial ELITE captured control of policy and the Hard Labour Government capitulated to their desires. It meant lending and borrowing were let run out of control, spiralling to a ridiculous bubble and INEVITABLY a monster crash.

To avoid that happening again, we need to find a Balance to the Force. Er, economy. It means reconfiguring it to grow SUSTAINABLY, and to DISPERSE ownership and control, the very ESSENCE of Liberal thinking. Take POWER generation, for example: Captain Clegg wants us to think more about the Denmark model where micro-generation and distributed power make everyone part of the solution rather than a few big, phallic symbols"prestige projects".

Meanwhile, on the subject of distributing powers, Mr Dr Pax, aka Count Packula, Prince of Markness, joining us for the first time (and about time too) asked about internet piracy, downloading, file-sharing – legal and illegal – and Lord Mandelbrot's plan to sever any file-sharers from the Wibbly Wobbly Web.

Well, how's he going to do that? asks Captain Clegg. Is he planning on personally going round snipping the wires?

Every attempt to control the uncontrollable has failed, he points out. And he says that he admires the technology, finds it beautiful BECAUSE it defies control.

But it's an important point, and many people live and breathe these things. It seems like no one is going to mention the Pirate Party, but that is clearly the underlying point here, and we should be making it clear that the Liberal Democrats ought to be the NATURAL HOME of the very people likely to vote Pirate. Arrr!

It's a key question of corporate power versus freedom of individual access.

You do have to strike a balance, because people have to earn a living – and it's all very well for bands that have already made it to put out material for free when they are already made: it's easy to be the great libertarian when you have loads of money in the bank, he suggests.

But Auntie Jennie talks about bands nowadays that use the net to BYPASS the record companies, and get their material "out there" for free, making a living from their live performances, and Captain Clegg nods approvingly.

I'm reminded of the question that has been asked before: how many OTHER jobs are there where you expect to get paid for the work you did twenty years ago, even if you don't turn up for work TODAY?

Of course, that OVERSIMPLIFIES matters: one of our vinspired guests , Mr Nuno, had already told us he was interested in film and he and Jennie agreed it's DIFFICULT to put on a live movie. Movies cost millions of dollars to make but it is worth it so long as they take tens of millions of dollars. (SOME movies cost TENS of millions of dollars to make and take HUNDREDS of millions of dollars… and SOME movies cost HUNDREDS of millions of dollars to make and take £4.35 and a LOT of egg on the producer's face, but that's not important right now.)

Dr Pax then pointed out that sometimes there are NO legal routes to view something, if video or movies are not commercially available anywhere. For example, entirely HYPOTHETICALLY, if you've missed a stage of the Tour de France (that is FRENCH for "Tour de France") or want to watch it again, you can ONLY go for illegal downloads. Or possibly illegal UPloads (it depends on who's going to catch the blame for sticking it on Hoot Tube).

Auntie Jennie asked if we were not, perhaps, a little slow in having a response to the MPs expenses scandal, but Captain Clegg wonders if this is true. He recalls having a conversation with the other Party leaders, Mr Frown and Mr Balloon, even before the main scandal in the Tell-lie-graph broke, where he said basically the biggest problem is the profiteering from the second house allowance and the only way to deal with it is to get MPs out of the housing game altogether. Of course, they weren't interested; if they HAD been, the scandal might have unfolded in a completely different way, with Parliament visibly cleaning itself up AHEAD of the revelations.

But, I suggest, perhaps the problem here is that we were ALREADY on board with the urgent need to reform politics. Mr Balloon gets to make headlines because he is a "man bites dog" – a CONSERVATORY saying we should cut back MPs perks is news; a Liberal Democrat saying it is so much business as usual.

It's no use wringing our fluffy feet about the MEEJA, though, as Captain Clegg muses when Ms Ali asks how we are to win the "air war". We've just got to get bigger, too big for them to ignore.

It's worth, he says, at the start of conference, reiterating a few FACTS:
  • At the last election, one in four people voted for Liberal Democrats
  • We now control ALL of the big cities outside of London
  • We have a better GEOGRAPHICAL spread than EITHER the Conservatories OR Hard Labour
  • And we are, and have been for a while now, leading in the "battle of ideas": we were right about borrowing being out of control; we were right about the need to mend our broken politics; we were right about the environment; and we were right about Iraq.
He laughs: DO the other parties have "control" over the meeja agenda? He doubts very much that Mr Frown wakes up every morning feeling like he is "in control".

At the moment, a lot of the meeja expect the Conservatories to win the next election. Goodness, by now even Hard Labour expect the Conservatories to win the next election. And so there's a lot of "sucking up" to Mr Balloon going on, giving him FAR too easy a ride. This week Captain Clegg, and Mr Vince and Mr Huhney-Monster, are all planning on turning up the heat on Mr Balloon, really making a start on EXPOSING him and the Conservatories as FAKES.

This is the new stage for his leadership: he's spent the first year, year-and-a-half making it completely crystal clear that we are on the side of CHANGE. There will be no more deals with Hard Labour, they are finished and everyone knows it. Hard Labour are so exhausted, their ideological bearings have gone, their political compass is busted, they are no longer in tune with the times and history is passing them by.

He's written a pamphlet about it – the Liberal Moment. Daddy and I read it during the night; it is jolly exciting!

Wicked Uncle Costigan had read it too; he seemed a little put out at having to peruse ninety pages the day before Conference started, and asked: "why now?"

Well in part it is because he wanted to get away from the hurly-burley of Westminster politics to sit back and really THINK about the changes that are coming and are necessary.

But it's also about getting your philosophical undercarriage SOLID. If you base your principles on solid thinking then you policies will be sound too and stand the test of an election campaign.

Can you put our philosophy over to the meeja, though? asked Wicked Uncle Costigan.

Of course not, said Captain Clegg, and laughed.

Someone ELSE who has read the Liberal moment is Ms Pollyanna Toytown of the Grauniad, and she seem MOST put out at the idea that her precious Labour Party might be falling by the wayside of history.

All this talk of the meeja had, obviously, sent Daddy Richard into one, crossly protesting that this week had seen another brilliant pamphlet, this one from Mr Dr Vince, spelling out directly billions of pounds of the kind of savings that will be necessary to straighten out the economy, but had it got any coverage? No, because all that day and the day before and the day after the meeja had been on and on over whether the Prime Monster would bring himself to use the word "cut".

So, to him, even being attacked by the Graunaid, by Ms Polly was BETTER; it showed we WERE there.

Cheekily, Mr Dr Pax asked: "so, what IS your opinion of Ms Pollyanna?"

"Well, she's very nice in person," said Captain Clegg, generously. But he went on to say that she is stuck with a "rather rigid view of what it means to be a progressive", that she hasn't (yet) accepted that there is a LIBERAL, individualist, freedom-based tradition of progressive politics in Great Britain as well as a statist, centrist one. She has her convictions, which is in some ways admirable, but surely it is time to see that the statist approach she is so attached to has led to MORE inequality, not less, to the trashing of Civil Liberties and international law, to the locking up of more young people than any other country in Europe and led the economy to the brink of disaster.

Hard Labour now represent the BETRAYAL of progressive politics.

Having read his pamphlet (like I said) what I saw as the problem now was that, even with its heart shot to pieces, Hard Labour still has two strengths: support of the Trades Unions, money basically, and tribalism, the tendency of too many people to vote Labour just because they are against the Conservatories.

To the first point, Captain Clegg was philosophical: it's just a fact of life you have to accept. Of course, some of what the TUC has to say is excellent; some of what they had to say this week was even Liberal Democrat policy!

But what he WOULD flatly reject as BAD for politics is any vested interest bankrolling a political Party. It happened with the BANKS and look what happened when THEY were able to control the regulation agenda, indeed still are. It totally hollows out people's trust in politicians.

What we must do is constantly bring it up to EMBARRASS the other Parties until they properly reopen the issue of funding and tackle the corrupting influence once and for all.

But on the second point, he asked "tribalism? Is that still true?" referring to the fall from 1957 when 98% of people voted for one or other of the Red/Blue Parties to 2009 when in the local elections barely 60% of people chose to vote Red/Blue.

In fairness, I recognise this THEME from "That Liberal Moment"; talking about how in the 1920s where the old Liberal Party lost ground to the then New Labour, they didn’t regain it but surrendered it entirely, and there's some evidence that the reverse is happening now, with many areas with NO Labour representation at all any more.

Labour's time is OVER; the debate must be between the Conservatories and the Liberal Democrats.

So this is the new phase for the Liberal Democrats. We've WON the case for CHANGE; NOW, it is time to make the case for the KIND of change that we want, whether it is to be the REAL change that Great Britain needs or the PHONEY, SYNTHETIC change of Mr Balloon, who is talking about the environment and then palling up with climate change deniers in the European Parliament; who claims to be progressive and then puts forward tax cuts for millionaires as his only policy; who promises to cut the budget deficit and merely starts by increasing the price of SALAD.

What Captain Clegg REALLY objects to is the Conservatories sense of ENTITLEMENT. We all know that they think it is their go, Buggins turn in the endless see-saw of Red/Blue status quo.

Power ought to be EARNED, he says, not just INHERITED.

We could carry on talking all day, but there is a cough from Special Agent Hanney.

Is he frowning at us, asks Auntie Jennie? You can't feel threatened by someone with a beard like that, says Captain Clegg.

So we do group photos and then I produce BIRTHDAY CAKE for Mr Stephen who is having a BIRTHDAY!

Happy Birthday Mr Stephen, and have a great Conference everyone.

Here's what other people had to say:

Mr Dr Pax

Auntie Jennie

Wicked Uncle Costigan

Mr Stephen of the Glenn

and keep an eye out for Ms Ali G

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice


Friday, September 18, 2009

Day 3183: Mysteries of Doctor Who #20: How Do the Macra Evolve?


One thing that everyone knows about the Macra: the First Rule of Macra Club is that there is no such thing as Macra Club.

Dr Woo meets the Macra twice (or is it MORE than twice…?): the first time is when he is Mr Dr Pat and he and his friends Polly and Ben and Jamie visit "the Colony"; and the last time is when he is Mr Dr David and he and his friend Martha visit the New Earth.

So what exactly ARE these creepy-crawly creatures, emblematic of Sixties mind-control paranoia and Noughties nostalgia, that definitely don't exist?

We'll start at the end. Literally, the End: The End of the World.

Of all the silly things in Mr Tat and Mr Larry's "About Time", the idea that a special effect achieved in 1966 not being the same as a special effect achieved in 2005 is a GOOD reason for saying that the End of the World in "The Ark" is faked and not the same as the End of the World in "The End of the World" is… certainly one.

Let's look at the STORY: in "The Ark", the Earth gets exploded and the humans take all their stuff (and their chums the Monoids) and move to the distant planet Refusis to set up a new Earth; in "The End of the World" the Earth gets exploded and in "New Earth" the humans have taken all their stuff (and their chums the cat people) and moved to a distant planet which they call New Earth. Hmmm, could this be the SAME story?

But there's MORE. Travelling down to the planet Refusis, Mr Dr Billy finds that it is already inhabited by the disembodied voices of the Refusians. Meanwhile, in "Gridlock", travelling down into the depths of New Earth, Mr Dr David discovers that the planet is already inhabited by giant crab monsters, the hideous insect-arthropods called Macra, that he first met when he was Mr Dr Pat in "The Macra Terror" (unsurprisingly).

Almost everyone describes them as CRAB-LIKE. I mean have you SEEN them! (Answer: no, obviously not, see Rule One.)

Not that Doctor Who is SHY of playing with GIANT CREEPY-CRAWLIES, whether they are butterflies and ants ("The Web Planet"), maggots and flies ("The Green Death"), spiders ("Planet of the…well take a guess"), woodlice ("Frontios"), slugs ("The Twin Dilemma"), termites ("Valhalla") or wasps ("The Unicorn and the… oh, you got it").

So if you DID see Macra it might not be THAT surprising. (Please report yourself for mental de-processing afterwards, though.)

They tend to appear for CLIFF-HANGERS, usually putting the peril on a companion in New Zealand censor trims, though you get a better look through the car-fumes in "Gridlock". They have large crabby claws and big glowey eyes on stalks; they look like they've got tough shells too, in a single rounded section on the Macra's back, like a crab's, and not segmented like a lobster, but – when they DO move – they tend to lumber forwards and backwards, rather than sideways or crabwise. So maybe they're like some other sort of crustaceans, like a prawn maybe… hold onto that thought!

THESE Macra in "Gridlock", though, are all huge and mindless, whereas Dr David says they used to be SMART. (So presumably the Macra in "The Macra Terror" WERE smart… but we'll discuss that later!)

On the other fluffy foot, the Refusians are ALL smarts and no body. Do you see where I'm going here?

No? Well how about some more evidence: in "The Ark" the Refusian voice is portrayed by Mr Richard Beale; in "The Macra Terror" the Macra's propaganda voice is portrayed by, yes, Mr Richard Beale.

Could this plumy voice be what the Macra actually SOUND like? Perhaps their translator device comes from Hollywood and is pre-programmed with "the Evil voice".

So, if that's the case, could the voice on Refusis actually BE a Macra or, more accurately, an EVOLVED Macra that has left its big crabby body behind? And if the Macra DID evolve into Star Trek aliens with ways too mysterious to understand™, did they LITERALLY leave their big crabby bodies behind to feed on passing traffic and get enormous?

The idea that the Macra's intelligence does not ENTIRELY reside inside their lumbering carapaces might seem a bit RECHERCHÉ but it's not COMPLETELY out of keeping with their first appearance, where they exercise a Control over humans that seems entirely at odds with their monstrous forms, and entirely too delicate for their Big Claws.

Of course, it's not impossible that they're supposed to be some sort of titanic LOUSE, bloodsuckers preying on the underbelly of the Colony, which would be a different sort of "crabs" (EWWWW!!!!)

So are the Macra CRABS or INSECTS? Well, in "The Macra Terror", escaped LOONY / last sane-person in the Colony Mr Medok is the first to describe them (episode 1 scene 14):
"They move at night, in the dark. And look horrible. giant insects."
Best friend Polly gets to scream at one in episode two, but then has to try and describe it to brainwashed Ben who is ever so much in denial (episode 2, scene 8):
"I saw it! A huge face, like an insect, or a giant crab. It was horrible and it was looking at us and... and... and it had claws!"
By the conclusion, Mr the Pilot, Chief Red-Coat in the Holiday Camp-like Colony's hierarchy, also gets an eyeful of Macra when Dr Woo shows him who is in Control – and who is IN control – leading him to utter the infamous cry of:
"The Colony is in the hands of grotesque insects!"
Even though even if they ARE insects they certainly don't have HANDS!

Which begs the question: how exactly ARE the Macra in Control, anyway? They never really seem to DO anything other than gulp their special GAS and menace people with their Big Claws. Are they even intelligent?

(And as an aside, Mr Larry and Mr Tat also offer up the possibility that they are the NATIVES of the Colony planet, and that it is the humans who have driven them underground, making it even meaner that they get blown up at the end!)

However, Mr Russell sweeps these objections aside with a single line of Retcon in "Gridlock" when Mr Dr David describes them as a "scourge of this galaxy" and having an empire "built on human slaves".

So the Macra definitely ARE smart, and they definitely ARE behind the Colony's enslavement. Probably they have HYPNOTIC mind powers™ with which to take over gullible humans and control them into installing fiddly, not-very-claw-friendly things like nerve-circuits.

Mind Powers would, of course, tie in with an ability to evolve onto a new and non-corporeal plane, given two or three billion years of not-being-exploded-by-the-Doctor in which to do it.

But what sort of Holiday Camp would have a nasty infestation of insects? Certainly not this one, where all the clothes are laundered every day, and everyone gets a brainwashing every night.

Maybe they are another sort of BUG altogether. Dr Woo also describes them as like GERMS (episode 4, scene 16) and Mr the Pilot too asks if they are some form of monstrous BACTERIA (episode 4, scene 20) but then in the same line he thinks that they might be insects, again.

Isn't Dr Woo being METAPHORICAL about this, though? In a characteristically brief piece, er, pieces, Daddy Alex diagnoses the Macra condition:
"The Doctor treats them as if they are the Colony’s psychosis made manifest, and in that way they remain effective. Though they’re not able to do much except by insinuation – ironic, as they’re probably the physically largest monsters in the series to that point – that’s the whole point of the story, as they’re aided by the Colony not wanting their ideas or comfortable way of life challenged. The Macra are an idea: they’re the personification of the Colony’s problems, which is why there really are no such things as Macra."
So, the Macra are a DISEASE that is also an IDEA, but at the same time they are also great big monsters with CLAWS that breathe a special GAS.

That's completely PREPOSTEROUS… and also the premise of "The Invisible Enemy". I told you to hold onto that Prawn thought!

"The Invisible Enemy" would have been the MOST embarrassing story ever for Mr Dr Tom, if they hadn't broadcast "Underworld" three months later. It is, on the other fluffy foot, also the story that brings together the IRONIC… I mean ICONIC team of (as Daddy Alex puts it) "man in scarf, woman in leather bikini, and tin dog". But that's not important right now.

The POINT is that in "The Invisible Enemy", Dr Woo runs into a NOETIC (meaning made of ideas) virus called the Virus. First it gets into the TARDIS and then it infects Dr Woo's brain. (And at this point it is interesting to note that Macra mind-control is reinforced, while the Colony sleeps, by means of "nerve-circuits", suggesting something that is a MIX of technological and ORGANIC.)

Because Mr Dr Tom's brain is WEIRD, the Virus is able to cross the "mind-brain interface" and achieve a kind of prawny physical existence. And then, by hijacking the Doctor's Relative Dimensional Plot Hole Stabiliser, it gets itself blown up to enormous size. Before Leela* blows it up to even more enormous, but somewhat more diffuse, size thanks to an explosive combination of its preferred atmosphere mixed well with oxygen and run!

(*Actually Dr Woo does this, but it WAS Leela's idea, no matter what HE might say!)

But what if, what IF, not all of the giant-sized virus eggs get scrambled in the explosion?

And one other piece of evidence: paying a spot visit to the inside of his own head, Dr Woo ends up debating against the Virus for his very life. Like you do. He protests that it has no right to carry out its plans, not just because it is an evil invader but because it is acting against the natural order of things.

The Virus's proper place, argues the Doctor, is in the microscopic universe of bacteria, but it wants to invade the macroscopic universe too – the Macra-universe, you might say.

Is this going to get our TIMING in a knot, though? When fixing a date for "The Macra Terror", people tend to put it in the "Earth colonies" era, between the Dalek Invasion of Earth and the Earth Empire. So that's basically the Twenty-Third and Twenty-Fourth Centuries, along with stories like "The Space Pirates", "The Androids of Tara", "Vengeance on Varos" and, um, "Colony in Space" (well sort of).

But if the Macra in "The Macra Terror" are descended from the Virus, then the Colony would have to exist after the year Five Thousand, when Dr Woo definitively dates "The Invisible Enemy" to be set.

Yet surely this isn't a problem. Leela herself comes from a "lost colony" in the far future, and Dr Woo describes the year Five Thousand as "the time of your ancestors". And Mr the Pilot says that the Colony was "…settled from the Earth planet many CENTURIES ago". MANY centuries. "Many" sounds like more than a Millennium rather than less. Is eight centuries "many"? Could be; is "two"? Almost certainly not.

Dr Woo ALSO describes 5000 AD as "the year of the Great Break-out, when humanity went leapfrogging across the solar system on their way to the stars… ". A NEW wave of human colonialism is about to break across the galaxy, in spite of – or maybe BECAUSE of – the fact that there's supposed to be an Ice Age ("The Ice Warriors") and a scientific Dark Age ("The Talons of Weng Chiang") going on back home. Actually, the Kilbracken Cloning technique and the Zygma time experiments are all of a piece with an era where grotesque and ridiculous experiments trade real science for the carnival tent. Under those circumstances, the SMARTEST people on the planet will be looking to get OFF on any ship going, leaving the Earth to descend into its frozen neo-feudalism. Perhaps the Colony is founded by people leaving the Earth in the Break-out.

And, because it DOES all tie in – no REALLY! – if you were a super-evolved disease that feeds on INTELLIGENCE, you'd definitely want to be on those rocket ships with 'em.

The Doctor says that people in the year Fiver Thousand are “…waiting to spread across the galaxy like a tidal wave… or a disease.”

That's clearly an in-story reference, flagging up presence of the Virus, but it's also a more general point as well saying that humans carry their diseases WITH THEM. So you might think that some of those Colony ships that end up refuelling on Titan could pick up one or two surviving Macra and carry them out to the stars to infect new planets with them.

Therefore, is it completely unreasonable to think that "The Invisible Enemy" is an unwitting PREQUEL to "The Macra Terror"?

"The Invisible Enemy" has its own (deniable for copyright reasons) prequel as well, of course: "Fear Itself", the actually-surprisingly-good last adventure for Mr Dr Paul in the BBC Books range, actually a Past Doctor Adventure set in a gap in their own Eighth Doctor Adventures range. Obviously this was WAY past the point where the spin-off books desperately needed a new television series, though fortunately also after the point when Mr Russell was already writing one!

"Fear Itself", for the many millions of Doctor Who viewers who probably missed that one, reveals that for countless Millenniums the atmosphere of Jupiter was a battleground between two viruses, artificially engineered by aliens as weapons and nicknamed by the Doctor as "Fear" and "Loathing". Yes, it's Fear and Loathing in Los Atmosphere. Human scientists, studying Jupiter's weather, accidentally create a computer-virus version of the "Fear" virus and accelerate its evolution by millions of years to the point where it gets smart enough to join forces with its organic counterpart and try and take over. The Doctor manages to rescue everybody and leaves Fear and Loathing to take care of each other, but (like all true-hearted Macra stories) it ends with a great big explosion (don't mention "Gridlock", Daddy Alex!) and maybe, maybe some of the Fear virus gets blasted out of Jupiter's atmosphere to wind up in space on the way to what will one day be slightly off the beaten tracks of the Titan shuttle run…

…which is where the Virus gets picked up in "The Invisible Enemy".

So the Macra begin as a computer-simulation of a sentient idea based on an alien biological weapon. They evolve themselves into a virus, infect the Doctor, blow themselves up to Macro size, join the humans' Great Breakout, infest Colonies across the galaxy, crawl all over them, build an empire, lose an empire, and spend a billion years doing a little light gardening to make Rufusis all nice and tidy. And then they get an ark-ship-load of dress-wearing human refugees (and their elephants) land on top them just at the point where they've evolved BACK into ideas with superior mind-powers again.

This, as I am sure you know, is also the life cycle of a Liberal Democrat policy paper!

Welcome to Conference; Happy Seaside holidays, everybody!

Cue Dance of the Macra!


Friday, September 11, 2009

Day 3176: Are you Now or Have You Ever Been…?


This is one of those things that Hard Labour do to make themselves TOTALLY UNELECTABLE.

If you want to help out with kids, you've now got to get a police certificate to prove that you are not a kiddie fiddler.

"We're NOT presuming everybody to be GUILTY," insisted Minister for Child-minding Dilly Moron. "We merely require them to PROVE that they are INNOCENT," she very nearly added.

Yes, for a small fee (and why not a DNA swab; you KNOW they want to) every adult can now receive the comforting proof that they are not a slathering beastie. Probably.

And this will keep our precious younglings safe from the not-in-any-way MASSIVELY OVERBLOWN stranger danger of the BOOGIEMAN…

…while, in a world where we KNOW that most assaults are done by people KNOWN to the victim, there is to be a special exemption for family friends and neighbours.

This law can only be described as HYSTERICAL.

And I don't just mean that someone in the Government has a SICK sense of humour!

OBVIOUSLY it is a reaction to the terrible events in Soham, where two little girls were abducted and murdered by the local school caretaker. And then the police discovered that they had known ALL ALONG that he might be a danger.

If only, went up the cry, someone had checked.

Well, as the old, old saying goes: hard cases make bad laws.

Terrible as those events were, they were an outstandingly RARE event. Indeed, they were so terribly terrible precisely because THIS NEVER HAPPENS. Children die all the time all over the planet and people hardly even seem to notice but good grief this is ENGLAND!

So, requiring every grown up in the country to get a form from the police, just to make sure that the police DO do the checking and DO make use of any information when they have it, making it the LAW, is a MASSIVE over-reaction and, entirely TYPICALLY for Hard Labour, an assault on people's general freedoms to carry on about their LAWFUL business without police or Government busy-bodies interfering.

Worse than that, it is the sort of Daily Hate Mail thinking that just makes the World a worse place by upsetting and frightening people.

In one of the BEST bits of journalistic editorialising I've heard on the The Today Programme, their Home Affairs Editor Mr Mark Eastern spelled out the problem succinctly: the Government is dividing society across an age gap, where oldies see the youngsters as dangerous hoodies and potential muggers and youngsters see oldies as untrustworthy authoritarian and potential paedophiles.

Mr Mark Reckons is on the case too, laying out the likely results of Hard Labour once again breaking the law of unintended consequences.

Because it's NOT like the Government has got a slight case of the MIXED MESSAGES at all, but this week they appear to be saying: adults who want to work with children are OBVIOUSLY monsters… by the way, please help us – we're desperately short of social workers.

Mr Humpy opened his interviews with the assertion "in a decent society, children should be protected from those who would harm them, who could argue with that?" To be FAIR he then framed the question in terms of how FAR that protection should go, and how far is TOO far.

Because the safest POSSIBLE society is one with all of us safely inside our own hermeticly sealed bubbles, fed by machines with our brains plugged into BBC MATRIX. But that is a world that will never change, never evolve, never grow up. It is a society of slaves.

Real life involves some RISK. It's OKAY to be frightened of that; lots of people are. That's why lots of people vote for NANNY STATE Parties like Hard Labour. You don't HAVE to take risks if you don’t want to: you have that choice. What is WRONG is to take away all the risks for everybody else.

Children learn by experiencing. Taking away their opportunities for new experiences is WRONG. Liberal Democrats say so. In fact, it is specifically against the CONSTITUTION of the Liberal Democrats, where we say "no one should be enslaved by ignorance". ("No one should be enslaved by conformity," PROBABLY counts here too!)

Hard Labour want to smother us in cotton wool and take away all those big scary choices that are too much for our "ordinary little brains". Because they think that with their "big" brains they know better than us what is good for us. Good grief, it is time they were GONE!

And ironically, it appears that implementation of this silly law is set for NEXT summer… when Hard Labour WILL be gone (double good grief: people are actually going to elect Mr Balloon, I hold my fluffy head in my fluffy feet).

So not only is this a mean and nasty law, it is also a BOOBY TRAP set up for the Etonian BOOBY. Will he scrap it, or keep it? "Will he," Hard Labour will say, "let the scary paedos get our kiddies or will he be a monstrous police state enforcer, er, just like us!"

Oh, the things Hard Labour do to keep themselves amused. THAT is the REAL abuse.


Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Day 3173: Duncan Dunk'd; Farrago Farragone


What IS it about the new Mr Speaker, Mr John Cashcow, that makes swivel-eyed right-wingers pop their upper head-gaskets?

First there's the news that Mr Nigel Farrago (supported by Mr Tim Montgomery of the Conservatory Continuity IDS) will be quitting as leader of the UKPnuts Party in order to spend more time abusing his expenses allowance* campaigning to get Mr Speaker Cashcow's job as MP for Buckingham.

Now we hear that Mr Balloon has replaced Shadow Loss-Leader of the House Mr Alan Duncan-Donuts with a duffer who very much campaigned to get Mr Speaker Cashcow's job as Speaker, Mr Sir George Old.

Now, I'm NOT one of those people who are saying "this shows the true face of the Conservatories" – mainly because I do not think Mr Balloon would know a TRUE face if someone punched him in it – and I don't mean to be a CONSPIRACY THEORIST, but it does look like Mr Cashcow is being surrounded on two flanks, i.e. the right and the FAR-RIGHT.

Things look quite TIGHT for him, electorally.

At the last election, the Conservatories scored 27,748 votes and UKPnuts a grand 1,432. So if it is TRUE that the Conservatory vote might split 64:25 in a Farrago:Cashcow contest, then (in the unrealistic world of no other changes) that could become 21,386 for the Europhobes and (if you add in the 9,619 Labour voters and 9,508 Liberal Democrat voters) 26,921 not.

That LOOKS like a possible narrow victory for the Mr Speaker. But while Liberal Democrat voters might be persuadable to vote for a reforming Mr Speaker, Hard Labour voters have a habit of staying at home and sitting on their fluffy feet if their man isn't up for election. Would YOU want to rely on them?

It would certainly suit Mr Balloon to get rid of a semi-detached free thinker like Mr Cashcow and replace him with a tame Conservatory – and since Hard Labour went and broke the convention of Mr Speaker being picked from the opposition, he'd have no trouble getting away with it.

In fact, it doesn't half look as though he's lining up Mr Sir George Old to slip into the role should it – entirely tragically – fall vacant due to the election of the MEP for Innsmouth. Mr Balloon has spoken in praise of his "great talent, depth and experience" or AGE as we say in English. In fact, Mr Sir George is so old that he was alive when the Conservatories were last in charge of running the country into the ground, and his "experience" amounts to being a minister for Mr Major Minor and the man who oversaw the aftermath of the Conservatories smashing the railways into tiny little pieces.

Conservatory transport being SO successful (or possibly because of a drunk driving conviction) he obviously travelled everywhere by bicycle, earning himself the nickname "the bicycling baronet", so that is something else he shares with Mr Balloon. Though there is no mention of how his SHOES travelled.

Mind you, Mr Sir George's fluffy feet are hardly CLEAN in the matter of the EXPENSES row. In fact, they are covered in black marker pen because he was the one doing all the redacting! In the last two years he claimed the maximum second home allowance of £23,000 a year on his London home which is within walking distance of the House of Commons. He also employs his daughter Ms Camilla as office manager, paid (salary undisclosed) from his taxpayer-funded expenses.

So OBVIOUSLY he's just the right sort of person to turn GAMEKEEPER for the House. You know: a POACHER.

Does anyone remember those HEADY days of summer when all these REVELATIONS were going to lead to REFORM?

Oh look, NOW Mr Balloon is going to make MPs pay more for SALAD. Give me STRENGTH!

*Of COURSE, Mr Farrago is using his communications allowance for communicating with his constituents. Or, strictly speaking, the very tiny proportion of his constituents who live in the Buckingham constituency.


Saturday, September 05, 2009

Day 3170: DOCTOR WHO: The Long Game


And now, onto a story where one or two cunningly placed words in the media can change an opinion, shift an agenda, and mutate a Great and Bountiful Empire of a million Worlds and a million species into a retarded, xenophobic monoculture ruled by a blob of evil.

Is it just me, or does this remind you of something?
Alex spotted it: the first thing that the Doctor says to Adam in this episode, just after the titles, is "open your mind". I think we can be pretty sure he didn't mean that to be taken quite so literally.

Where exactly does Adam go wrong? There are several small steps, the first being when Rose lends him her phone, a simple act of kindness that enables him to contact his parents back in, presumably, 2012. He actually means to give it back, you can see him turn to make the offer, but Rose has already rushed off to the Doctor, and so you also see Adam realise that he's suddenly got a super-phone for free and he pockets it.

The second step is choosing to deceive Rose when he says he's suffering from culture shock and needs to sit things out on the observation gallery for a bit.

To Rose that's an entirely natural reaction, and she is probably thinking of the parallel scene in "The End of the World" where she fled the reception to take some quite time in the gallery where the TARDIS landed…

…actually, it's pretty obvious that whole of the opening of "The Long Game" is designed to parallel the opening of "The End of the World": the TARDIS arrives on a space station, the Doctor announces (or allows Rose to announce) the date, they go to look out of the window and see the Earth from space. (They are, incidentally and in rather obvious numbers, on floor 139, but the zoom out at the end of the pre-title sequence puts the observation window about halfway up Satellite 5, suggesting that they should perhaps have been on floor 239.) After the titles, the previously-empty station suddenly becomes a hive of activity and soon the new companion feels overwhelmed by the culture shock.

In part, this is a simple re-selling of the series' basic weirdness for anyone who's just joined us halfway through; but it is also a way of saying that the first "phase" of the series, which was all about introducing a new generation to a quick sketch of Doctor Who – alien invasion, the future, the past, monsters, Daleks – that phase is now complete and we are, metaphorically, beginning again with the "proper" series now.

Phase two of the 2005 series, which begins here, is very much more about the consequences of meddling with Time.

Clearly, the bookending story about the (pardon my whopping great spoilers) Daleks altering human history is a big part of this, but Captain Jack's interference nearly re-writes history in "The Empty Child", and "Father's Day" makes it even more personal, and shows the direct consequences. "Boom Town" is, if anything, even less subtle, when meddling with the TARDIS rips open a rift in time and space through the middle of Cardiff and actually creates the events that we witnessed in "The Unquiet Dead" earlier in the season.

Bearing all that in mind, with hindsight it becomes clear that the Doctor's punishment of Adam for attempting to cheat Time is justified. Childish, too, in the way he goes about it, but then this Doctor is summed up by a mix of childish with the weight of the world. He can never quite bring himself actually to enjoy life – except in rare moments with Rose – so often his humour is dark, spiky, even rather unpleasant. His baiting of Rose about Adam being her "boyfriend" (with definite emphasis on the "boy"), which she takes with incredibly good humour, is of a piece with this. The Doctor may be dressed for a mid-life crisis but he's vacillating between death-wish and jealousy like a teenaged Goth.

Adam's third step is when he is tempted by the nurse on floor 16. By this stage he's more than half convinced himself of wickedness, but his conscience is pricking him hence his repeated finding of reasons not to go through with it. Or is he just squeamish about getting his head drilled? The nurse, it must be said, does such a delicious job of beating down his every excuse, her fixed expression of dispassionate boredom concealing her seduction beneath a breathtaking banality of evil. And the vomit-o-matic on special offer is hilarious. Given her determination not to lose a sale, she's just got to be on commission; perhaps in a hundred years she can be running the Game Station's deadly version of "The Apprentice".

Adam's claim that it's the Doctor's fault is unfair, but the fact that he is able to pay for a front door in his head is down to the Doctor giving him unlimited credit on a stick In the first place, that's terribly trusting of the Doctor, since he's basically just given Adam the ability to buy a star cruiser to go rumbling around the Great and Bountiful Empire in, or a planet or for that matter Satellite 5 if the mood takes him… come to think of it, if the Doctor has no qualms about creating unlimited credit with a wave of his screwdriver, why doesn't he buy Satellite 5, then he wouldn't need to pretend to be management and he could sack the editor without all that exploding Jagrafess business. Perhaps because then he might have to stick around and run it.

But this also begs the question of where that money actually comes from? Think about it, either the Doctor has just raided someone's account or he's told the system to create it from nothing. And the problem with creating it is that we see how sensitive to data manipulation the editor is, but he entirely overlooks this. Either way this is still theft – pointing the sonic at a hole-in-the-wall and having it spew notes across the street ("The Christmas Invasion") is only a more blatant example: someone must have paid for those notes to be loaded into the machine in the first place; similarly someone ultimately ends up paying for Adam's brain op.

(Actually, there is an alternative explanation, which is that this is the Doctor's money, that he has – like the Meddling Monk – placed a certain amount on deposit in most Humanian eras and that he's just programmed the sonic with his card details and PIN. "Unlimited" credit may be a polite exaggeration on the nurse's part.

Adam's final step is where he has no one else to blame but himself: while the Doctor and Rose are off on floor 500, where the walls are made of cold, it turns out, rather than gold, Adam is breaking into the newsroom for a quick infodump. He doesn't have temptation put in his way this time; he has to take action in order to steal the secrets of Satellite 5.

There's another interesting reflection when the Editor begins to pump information out of Adam. "He's telling him everything," wails the Doctor and I'm reminded of the Doctor's answer to Adam's "how does it work" question at the top of the episode: "Go and find out!" The Doctor believes in earning knowledge rather than just acquiring it.

(There may be some slight hypocrisy here from a man who had the Time Lords' repository of all knowledge wired into his head, though in fairness he did leave Gallifrey in the first place in order to learn by experience rather than merely received wisdom. He's also, in fact, wrong about almost everything he tells Rose at the start because he's relying on what he's learned rather than actually finding out.)

"Go and find out" is, of course, the theme of the story. It's not exactly subtle satire, though perhaps sharper than in "World War III". The dangers of all your news coming from one source have hardly gone away, and clearly the finger here is pointed at the faux news of, ahem, "Faux News" and the market penetration of News International into British newspapers which has long been argued as for the worse, though there is some irony now that with between them the recession and the Internet making it seemingly impossible for local or even national newspapers to turn a profit from reporting, there's a danger of the BBC becoming the beastie rather than "Max". (Come on, he's hardly "Max" though is he – Maxwell was dishonest to his employees not his readers; with all those little fibs turning us against the nasty foreign aliens, "Digger" would be closer to the mark, surely.)

With its great big metaphor hanging out, then, it's terribly easy to see this as "the cheap one": the million worlds of the human Empire are represented by a dozen humans in a couple of rooms. Floor 139 is not only redressed twice here, as Floor 16 and Floor 500, but destined to serve as three more floors on the Game Station too, when the CG exterior will return as well. And the million species in the Great and Bountiful Empire are – conveniently for the budget – no longer welcome in Earth space and so absent. All we get is another chance to use the large expensive Face of Boe prop and, since he's going to turn out to be the very human Captain Jack, hindsight means that he no longer counts either.

But it doesn't look cheap; it looks colourful and busy: lots of rich purple and red tones for the overheated workpit of Floor 139; plenty of clinical white for Medical Non-emergency; icy blues and darkness for the Editor's frozen lair.

There are glittering guest stars. Anna Maxwell-Martin, pre-Bleak House, giving a dual role as both flighty Suki, subtly undermining her boss Cathica at every opportunity, and committed-but-doomed freedom fighter Eva san Juliene. Tamsin Greig as the Mephistophelean nurse coming close to stealing the whole show. And, on the brink of his Hollywood career, Simon Pegg as the full-on bonkers Doctor Who villain he always dreamed of being.

And there are crowds of extras. The place looks bustling, and there's lots going on in the background, even if it is allegedly "The Leisure Hive" in one shot.
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Floor 500 is like a frozen sepulchre by comparison, and deeply creepy – like suddenly finding a graveyard on the top floor of your office. Which is exactly what it is, of course. The Editor surrounding himself with the dead, though these dead men do nothing but tell tales.

Having said that the first half of the season is a sketch of Doctor Who as a whole while second half concerns meddling with Time, I am compelled (because Alex points it out to me) to say that 2005 as a whole is full of the living dead. From Autons as plastic cadavers to Gelth wraiths to Slitheen wearing the bodies of the dead; from gas-mask zombies (and everyone lives) to Rose's father, to Daleks made from dead humans. And just wait till Captain Jack "Resurrection" Harkness turns up! It's almost as the Last of the Time Lords is condemning himself to live among the dead, isn't it.

Meanwhile, back on Floor 500, yes, it makes no sense for the top floor to be frozen if the Jagrafess is supposed to be pumping out all that heat, and the business of it needing to pump all its heat down the station (rather than, say, into the nearby near-absolute zero cold of space) is even sillier, but stylistically it is absolutely right. The workers are literally sweating to keep their fat boss cool. And at the same time they've been brainwashed into overlooking the most obvious source of their oppression: Rose notices it almost the moment she steps out of the TARDIS, and it's the first observation she makes that hasn't been prompted by the Doctor (who is wrong about almost everything, remember).

So Adam fails as a companion because he tries to be the evil genius, like his mentor Mr Van Statten, stealing secrets to make himself rich; he fails as an evil genius too because he's not really brave enough to seize the opportunity nor smart enough not to overreach when he gives in to temptation.

The Doctor takes him home and leaves him there with, as punishment, hilarious opening cranium still intact. One would hope that Adam works out how to change the "open" setting or he's in for real trouble and a very sheltered life, though of course really it's just for the final really-not-terribly-funny mum-walks-in-and-catches-you… gag (no seriously: Adam shouts "don't come in yet, Mum", but she does and finds him with his, er, brains all, er, hanging out).

And that, if it has a flaw, is the thing that is wrong with "The Long Game": it's trying to do all the satire and scary and setting-up stories and it's trying to be funny – a bit – on top of it all. Funny is always risky, because if you're not quite funny then people will remember you as the not funny one. And these jokes are only mildly funny. Simon Pegg can do funny-sinister shtick like falling off a log, but the actual gags don't add up to a hill of beans. Apart from the vomit-o-matic, of course.

In the wham-bam that follows, "The Long Game" tends to be forgotten as "the middle one" in the 2005 season, but it's actually doing a very important function in setting up the themes and tropes of the second half of the season, so it's a pause after "Dalek" to get you ready for the next twist of the big dipper.

But it's also doing something important by telling a story that Doctor Who has never told before: "the Companion who Failed". We've seen that Rose is brilliant, and brilliant for the Doctor, but we've never had this kind of comparison with what does and doesn't make a companion. Overlooking this story means missing the very uniqueness that it should be celebrated for. Adam throws Rose into sharp relief; and that's why this is brilliant.

Next Time: Make Daddy's Day – feed him to a Chronovore. Rose breaks the Blinovitch Limitation Effect as Jackie carries on up the Eighties in "Father's Day".


Thursday, September 03, 2009

Day 3168: Hyper Hyper Hooray!


If you want your fluffy mind expanding, I cannot do better than recommend a reading of Mr Andrew Hickey's HYPERDRIVE. (Jump point here.)

It is a rocket-propelled ramble though the myriad malarkeys of INFINITE UNIVERSES, as explored in "What If", "Unbound, "cross-over" and "crisis" storylines or, for a laugh, in REALITY (at least if you are a Many-Worlder in Quantum Theory): you could call it Quantum Comic Dynamics.

Not only is it interesting stuff in and of itself, but it is expressed with such a sense of joy and wonder at the possibilities for playing in the infinite garden.

What is ESPECIALLY interesting is that Daddy Richard agrees with every word while simultaneously taking the opposite view about Quantum Mechanics.

(And you have no idea just how many SMARTIES Mr Andrew earns for having an angle on Quantum Mechanics that is… well "right" is always difficult in these circumstances so we'll have to settle on "is in agreement with Daddy Richard's understanding" instead.)

Daddy Richard comes down quite firmly on the Copenhagen Interpretation side of the Quantum Mechanical fence. (That's a fence made with REALLY SMALL hammer and nails.)

This is that whole business with Schrodinger's Cat Monster. You have a Cat Monster, you lock it in a BOX. Quite right too*. Then you have some LETHAL DEATH-TRAP wired up to a detector that will go "ping" (hack, slice, squish) if it detects some quantum effect, like the decay of a radioactive atom or the passing of a photon or something.

Now if you actually LOOK in the box, then you can SEE whether the Cat Monster is alive or deaded. This is called collapsing the wave-function. Or spoiling the surprise.

But so long as you DON'T look in the box, then the Cat Monster is BOTH alive AND deaded at the same time. This is a GOOD way of saving on Cat Monster food!

In the "Many Worlds interpretation", where Mr Andrew makes his revels, what this means is that there are an infinite number of UNIVERSES and in some universes the Cat Monster is alive, and some it is deaded. Which "flavour" of universe you are in depends on whether or not the detector has gone "ping", so you can work out the PROBABILITIES of being in one sort of universe of the other.

However, Daddy Richard thinks that there is only ONE universe and it is FAR MORE WEIRD than that!

In his world view, the Cat Monster is alive and deaded AT THE SAME TIME, it has a certain amount of "aliveness" depending on the probability of "ping" and in turn this determines how likely you are to need Cat Monster food on your shopping list.

And, here is the INSANELY wacky part: you don't actually need the BOX.

Even if you observe the Cat Monster as dead, it will STILL have some aliveness and still, very slightly, be interacting with you.

(In more prosaic terms, this is how wave-particle duality works: even if you determine the path of one photon, it still behaves as though it is affected by the other paths that it might have taken even though you know it didn't!)

It's sort of like we're all stacks of tracing paper with different alternatives drawn on. We can only SEE one sheet of paper at a time, but the INFLUENCE we have on the world around us depends on the picture that you make up from ALL of the sheets at once.

The universe then is kind of a "cloud" of events that are sort of smeared out and indeterminate, a sort of Impressionist or Pointillism universe where you can see the bigger picture but the details get away from you the closer you look.

However, the magic of it is that, as far as we can tell, that's not actually inconsistent with the Many Worlds interpretation.

Actually, "Many Worlds" rather UNDER-DESCRIBES the full scale of the theory. It is actually the "INFINITELY Many Worlds" interpretation, the "every possible outcome and every possible alternative to that outcome" theory. Every possible universe is "real": the one where Rome never fell, the one where Hitler won the war, the one where JFK didn't get shot, and the one without shrimp.

But almost all these "Many Worlds" stories are actually contained within the idea of FINITE parallel universes, all the alternatives which are LIKE ours but have some crucial difference in order to make the story INTERESTING (or at least hopefully so) in the light of the pre-existing stories that we know.

Multiple – but finite – parallel universes Daddy can cope with: they are quantum clouds similar, possibly even IDENTICAL to ours, but where you take different OBSERVATIONS and so see a different slice through the superposition states. Schrodinger's Cat Monster is alive again.

But the full implication of INFINITE parallel worlds and all possible outcomes being true can be rather CRUSHING.

In a universe, or rather multi-verse of all-possible outcomes, free will does not, cannot exist. Any choice that you think you might have made, you have – BY DEFINITION – also made the alternative. So free will is an ILLUSION. Your experience, your soul if you like, is just along for the ride along one particular string through the infinite tapestry.

However, we (Daddy and me) believe that free will DOES exist. (Though if we are wrong about that it makes no difference because all our actions, including believing we have free will, are all pre-determined anyway!)

We believe quite strongly that we ARE responsible for our actions and that we should consider their CONSEQUENCES.

Here, Daddy is very strongly influenced by a book called "Time Slip". In it, the lead character has a very narrow and highly unlikely escape from DEATH, and comes to the conclusion that this was because of Quantum Mechanics. Basically, because Quantum effects SEEM to depend on OBSERVATION, then you cannot have a point where you STOP observing: i.e. every single conscious observer is IMMORTAL… if only in their OWN private slice of the multi-verse. That is, if someone appears to have died to YOUR observation, there is an alternative universe somewhere, an "elsewhen", where that person survived, and that is where their consciousness persists. In the book, this theory catches on, indeed it becomes a RELIGION. But this has terrible consequences because everyone ceases to CARE about, well, consequences. The most blatant example is the conclusion where our central character sees a child DROWNING… and NO ONE is going to help! Why not? Because in "elsewhen" the child will be saved, so why bother. It's not often you get a children's book critiquing the heights of modern physics; it leaves Harry Potter looking a little thin, anyway (and we love Harry Potter).

Essentially, we think that consciousness MATTERS, that in some way we really ARE capable of influencing the Quantum Events, though in ways infinitely more complicated than just "observation collapses wavefunctions".

On the other fluffy foot, that should not mean that we cannot consider a version of the universe where infinite possibilities DO exist. In fact we do this all the time and it is called FICTION.

Now, in the SPECIAL CASE of stories about TIME TRAVEL (and specifically we're talking Doctor Who stories here) the impact of the Many Worlds theory is that if you travel in TIME, of necessity you always arrive in an alternative universe. Shall I do the complicated maths or just wave my fluffy feet? I think I shall wave my fluffy feet! Basically, this is to prevent "closed timelike curves" or, more bluntly, prevent Grandfather Paradoxes by the simple expedient of making it ALWAYS be somebody ELSE'S Grandfather.

What this would mean in Doctor Who (and in fact most time travel stories) is that, Dr Woo could travel back in time and save the Earth from the Sontarans ("The Time Warrior") or the Haemovores ("The Curse of Fenric") or the Carrionites ("The Shakespeare Code") then return to the present day and find that they had won after all, because he only beat them in a "parallel" universe.

This NEVER happens.

In fact, the storytelling DEPENDS on the assumption that Dr Woo always arrives in the SAME universe (except when he explicitly doesn't – i.e. "Inferno" and "Rise of the Cybermen" with a passing reference to "Battlefield").

The Doctor refers to time being re-written like a snap of the fingers in "The Unquiet Dead", but "Pyramids of Mars" seems to spell this out most explicitly: best friend Sarah-Jane CANNOT run away from Mr Sutekh and comfortably return to her own time (and many-worlds theory universe) because it WILL NOT exist.

So, from the (somewhat selfish) point of view of wanting "Doctor Who" to be "true" (at least in the sense of being a fictional universe that COULD be ours if we all wished it hard enough) then Daddy would prefer the Copenhagen Interpretation because that is the answer that appears to be "true" in his favourite TV show.

And, at least in part, his aversion to parallel universes is informed by the horrible "we can't play nicely in the same sandpit" car-crash of continuity that Doctor Who became during the Nineteen-Nineties, with New Adventures and Eighth Doctor Adventures and Big Finish Adventures and comic strips all going yah-boo-sucks to one another at various times, and Mr Lawrence Miles creating universes-inside-bottles inside universes-inside-bottles to explain (and hierarchy) everything, which at least was entertaining compared to the sheer banality of Mr Gary Russell's "it's the multiverse blah-blah-blah" approach. And then "foom". Getting rid of all continuity in such a fashion that ONLY continuity-obsessives retain any ability to follow this series about the grumpy amnesiac is enough to make ANYONE cry "enough!"

But Daddy has a bigger (and possibly even more wrong) objection in general: if you are reading a STORY then the outcome is IMPORTANT to you, but all the alternatives where the hero doesn't save the day and get her guy, they all happen too. This means that the story is less about the qualities of the hero, her skill, bravery, fortitude, intelligence, diligence or luck, and more about the choice of some omnipotent force (called "the writer") to give us this particular viewpoint universe.

To flip that over again, though, it is obviously all but IMPOSSIBLE to get away from the choices of the writer when reading or watching ANY fiction. It's one of the great POWERS of storytelling that we DO automatically accept this omnipotent force without question (usually without even NOTICING). In fiction, things like "prophecy" can really work, because the writer KNOWS when he includes the prophecy which bits will actually work out. This bleeds through to our understanding of the REAL world, making us think that things from fiction ought to work in reality too. And maybe kicking against the acceptance of an omnipotent "author" in the "real world" leads Daddy to kick against the "Many Worlds" theory too.

Consider instead that we easily accept that the "World" presented to us in stories is not exactly the same "World" as the one we actually live in – especially, though not limited to, stories with a fantastical element like a superhero or an alien invasion or real working magic wands (and Doctor Who does all of these).

So in many ways, the "Many Worlds" interpretation has a very natural "fit" with fictional universes: we are already accepting a "parallel" universe when we "buy in" to the fictional world (whether it is the one with Superman or Spider-Man or Dr Woo or Sherlock and Watters or Duke Prospero or Cathy and Heathcliff or the version of Henry Tulip who appears in "The Tudors" – not the REAL one from "Blackadder").

Then the idea of multiple parallels, worlds parallel to the parallel we are reading, nested parallels all become quite small steps away: Mr Shakespeare did the play-within-a-play thing in Piglet; Star Trek do the play-within-a-play-within-a-play thing when they perform Piglet in "The Conscience of the King". (And let's just not even get into performing Shakespeare in the original Klingon!)

Whether or not it's the way the ACTUAL universe works, there's a good case for saying that it IS the way the universe of all fiction works.

So, Daddy Richard likes to think of a universe that is "weirder and wilder" while Mr Andrew enjoys the opportunities of a "wider playground without borders or constraints". Who is RIGHT?

Well, in a WEIRD and, dare I say it, QUANTUM way, they both are.

After all, the POINT of Quantum Mechanics is that things usually AREN'T one thing or another, but BOTH. SIMULTANEOUSLY.

This diary was inspired by and is in no way a disagreement with the works of Mr Andrew Hickey, and by the letters א and Ω the number ∞.

*It should be noted that Millennium has been a bit Ailurophobic since seeing the episode of "Planet Earth" with the herd of elephants and the pride of hungry lions.