Posts Tagged ‘Dr. Who’

Bernard Cribbin’s Epic Song ‘Right Said Fred’

August 5, 2022

The great comic actor Bernard Cribbins passed away last weekend. A veteran of many films and TV shows, he appeared in Dr Who a few years ago when David Tennant held the keys to the TARDIS. But he had also appeared in it a couple of decades and more before then, when he was a policeman, who found himself with the Doctor, played by Peter Cushing, and the Timelord’s granddaughter saving Earth from the metal monsters from Skaro in the second Dr Who Film Dr Who: Dalek Invasion of Earth 2150. Cribbins also appeared many times as a storyteller on the Beeb’s children’s programme, Jackanory, and was the narrator for the Wombles, another classic children’s programme.

But he also recorded two songs, ‘Right Said Fred’, about removal men trying to shift a piece of furniture getting nowhere fast with it, and so resorting to frequent cups of tea, and ‘Hole in the Ground’. This was about a man digging a hole, who is interrupted by a ‘bloke in a bowler’ who complains and gives him unwanted advice. Which leads to the block in the bowler himself filling the hole, leaving his hat on the surface. Here’s a video I found on PJ Maybe’s channel on YouTube of ‘Right Said Fred’.

And here’s the video for ‘Hole in the Ground’ from MrRossdg’s YouTube channel.

And here’s the trailer for the Dalek film from FilmwaysVTC channel, also on YouTube.

RIP, you legend of children’s broadcasting!

90s Space War SF Programme’s Christmas Message of Peace

January 1, 2022

One of the things I’ve been doing over the Christmas season is watching videos of the old Science Fiction series Space: Above and Beyond on Guy With Beer’s channel on YouTube. Created by X-Files’ writers Glenn Morgan and James Wong, the show followed the adventures of a flight of American space marines fighting a future war between humanity and race of aliens known as the Chigs. Humanity was moving out into the Galaxy and was unaware of intelligent alien life, until the Chigs launched an unprovoked attack on two human colonies. The series heroes were the Wild Cards, whose members included an Asian-American, Paul Wang, a Black female engineer, Damphousse, whose father was the chief engineer in a nuclear power plant; Nathan West, an aspiring colonist for one of the attacked planets. West had been due to go there as a member of a colonising party with his girlfriend, but had lost his place due to an affirmative action programme that gave it instead to a group of in-vitros. These were artificially gestated humans developed to serve as slave labour and an unfree police force. Although now free, they were subject to massive prejudice and widespread discrimination. One of the other members of the Wild Cards, Cooper Hawkes, was one. He had escaped from the In Vitro facility after being told he was due to be killed because his natural born officers regarded him as a failure. He had been arrested by the cops simply for depending himself after a group of natural born humans tried to lynch him simply for getting a job on their building site. The judge at his trial sentenced him to join the marines. Leading the squadron was another woman, ‘Queen’ Vansen. The squadron was based on the space naval vessel, the Saratoga, commanded by Commodore Ross, a Black man, while their immediate commander, Colonel McQueen, was another in vitro. This followed the general pattern of Science Fiction of the time. Like Star Trek, it looked forward to men and women of different races working together in harmony and equality, where they were simply accepted without comment. The issues of racism, prejudice and discrimination was dealt with through the In-Vitros. Behind the scenes was the Aerotech Corporation, the space conglomerate leading the colonisation missions, which may have known far more about the Chigs than they let on. As does a blind American politico aspiring to be chief of the UN. She’s leading a peace initiative to the Chigs and their allies, the AIs, androids created as a police force, who rebelled after someone typed a virus into the computer system governing them with the message, ‘Take a chance’. When she is about to award West with a medal for protecting her against an assassination attempt, he asks if her if the rumours are true and that they knew the Chigs were out there. She says nothing more, but drops the medal on the floor and turns away from him.

The Chigs, a nickname because in their space armour they resemble Chiggers, burrowing tropical flees, remain a mystery until the very end of the series. They remain constantly hidden in their armour. Any attempt to remove it results in them dissolving into a green goo. There are hints of what they look like – the odd clawed, three fingered hand and arm is seen, but their faces are not revealed until the last two programmes when their envoy finally comes aboard the Saratoga to discuss peace terms and finally removes his mask to reveal his true alien features. They’re methane breathers, who come to a moon of their world to incubate their eggs in a special brood chamber. Allied to them are the AIs, who found sanctuary with them after escaping Earth following their defeat by the humans. These run the prisoner of war and forced labour camps, torturing their prisoners and attacking and stealing fuel and vital minerals from mining worldlets in the Oort Cloud. Both the Chigs and the AIs are utterly ruthless, killing without mercy, including the wounded.

The series only lasted for one season of 23 episodes, which seemed to be the lot of the vast majority of SF shows that weren’t Star Trek, although Farscape managed to go for four, plus the three part miniseries, The Peacekeeper Wars, and Babylon Five lasted five seasons. At the time I wondered if it was inspired by the success of the film Starship Troopers directed by Paul Verhoeven. Based on the book by Robert Heinlein, this was about a future war between a militarised humanity and the Bugs, a race of intelligent alien insects. In this future society, only those who had done their military service had the right to vote and enter politics, a view which Heinlein himself held. Verhoeven subverted this by satirically portraying them as Nazis, based on his experience of growing up in the occupied Netherlands. Heinlein also really did believe that war was ennobling experience. But I also wonder if it was partly inspired by Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War, about a thousand-year war between humanity and another alien race, the Taureans, which sees one of the recruits, who hasn’t aged thanks to relativistic time dilation, returning to a vastly changed society in which he has no place. It was SF’s treatment of the alienation and maltreatment by the armed forces many squaddies experienced in Vietnam. Space: Above and Beyond, by contrast had no explicit message about war either pro or contra. Rather it was about about a people doing their best to defend their country and planet against a ruthless, genocidal enemy. During this they see their friends die. Paul Wang, initially very religious, loses his faith due to what he has seen and done. There is the constant danger of hospitalisation and permanent trauma from PTSD. And Wang is tortured into making a propaganda video by the AIs, a tactic used by America’s enemies.

The series’ Christmas show had a rather more positive storyline in keeping with the season. It was clearly inspired by the Christmas truce between Brits and Germans at the start of the First World War, as it showed in contemporary footage in a historical flashback. The Wild Cards are sent out on sortie in one of the space Armoured Personnel Carriers. They are discovered and attacked by a Chig squadron, which abandons them for dead. Their ship is disabled and left drifting in space. The radio is damaged so that they can hear the Saratoga looking for them, but not respond. And to cap it all there’s a comet headed right at them.

They are saved when messages in garbled English started coming in for them in Morse code. These messages tell them how to repair their spacecraft enough so that they can put themselves in orbit around the comet instead of getting smashed by it. They’ve been drifting further into Chig territory, but the comet will take them away from it and back to the human lines. It looks like the person sending these messages was not human, Which means he was a Chig.

The programme ended with a written message from the cast and crew of Space: Above and Beyond wishing everyone peace during the holiday season. I thought the series had a lot of potential and was disappointed when it ended. At the time it had the same figures the X-Files had when it started, and there were rumours that it was cancelled so the X-Files could get Morgan and Wong back, but this was denied. My favourite episode was ‘Who Monitors the Birds?’, telling the story of how Hawkes escaped from the in-vitro facility. He had been marked as a failure because he observed birds flying, and had asked the commanding officer training them to be killers, ‘Who monitors the birds?’ When the officer replies, ‘I( do’, he asks, ‘But who monitors you?’ Hawkes is sent on a highly secret mission to assassinate a senior chig general. This goes wrong and his partner is killed. he therefore has to roam the planet fighting to get to the extraction point. During his journey he runs into a Chig trooper, and is about to shoot him when he sees him watching a flying, bird or bat-like creature. Hawkes pauses long enough for the Chig squaddie to move on. He later runs into the same alien again running away from a Chig patrol. They’re about to shoot each other, but put down their guns momentarily to swap dog tags and go their separate ways. Hawkes nevertheless has to shoot him during their next encounter, which naturally upsets him. Punctuating his adventures is a strange woman, appearing as a corpse with grey skin and the marks of decay. She has designs on his body and tries to thrust her attentions on him. At other times she grabs his head to show him the Chig patrols coming for him. And after he pushes her away, she vanishes into thin air. She’s silent or inaudible throughout, except at her final appearance when she says ‘Till next time then’. She is never explained, and you’re left wondering if she’s an hallucination, another alien or what. At the end of the story, Hawkes rips up the contract he was offered, in which he would gain his freedom on killing the alien general. I think it works as a stand-alone story, and is in its way a classic of SF TV, like many episodes of Dr. Who and Star Trek.

Although it was made well over 20 years ago, the series’ seasonal message still remains relevant at this Christmas season. We need peace now as much as ever, with Iran and Israel seemingly gearing up to attack each others’ nuclear facilities, tensions rising with China and with Russia over Ukraine.

May we look forward to peace this year and an easing of tensions, as programmes like Space: Above and Beyond have wished at this season.

History Debunked on Diversity Working for Black Representation Against Asians

December 17, 2021

I’ve put up a number of videos from Simon Webb’s History Debunked channel on YouTube. Webb’s an author of a string of history books and a Torygraph-reading right-winger. He specialises in tackling the gross historical distortions and myths that are now being promoted as trustworthy Black history. He’s also, you won’t be surprised to read, an opponent of immigration and affirmative action. I think his videos criticising Black history are largely accurate, though as with anything else on the net you should also check it, and your well advised to take some of his other views with more than a little scepticism. But in the video below he seems to make a good point regarding the over-emphasis on promoting Black film and talent at the expense of other ethnic minorities. It’s shown in the forthcoming Beeb adaptation of Around the World in 80 Days.

Webb argues that Blacks are actually overrepresented in the media compared to their numbers as a percentage of the British population. The total BAME population of Britain is 15 per cent, with Blacks accounting for 3 per cent. But if you look on television or film, you find a much larger proportion of Black actors, performers and presenters and relatively fewer Asian faces. It seems that when it comes to ‘diversity’ and the promotion of non-White talent, in practice this means Blacks. This is shown in the way the Beeb has swapped the races of the leading characters in their version of Jules Verne’s classic yarn. Phileas Fogg remains White, but his servant, Passepartout has been made Black. The love interest is a White woman. But in the book she’s Indian, as apparently having two non-White lead characters would be too much.

It’s a very long time since I read the book, and I can’t remember very much about it, though I’ve got the film version on DVD. Assuming that what he says is right, and the leading lady in the book is Indian, I would have thought that made the story diverse enough without messing around with the other characters. Not so, apparently. Webb speculates that this emphasis on Black talent possibly comes from the TV companies’ need to sell to America, where Blacks constitute a much higher proportion of the population at 13 per cent. I think he has a point. A few months ago a Black actor or director appeared in the I calling for more parts for Black actors otherwise they would leave Britain and go to America. And it certainly seems to me that there are more opportunities for Black actors over the pond. It might also come from Blacks being rather more integrated into the western entertainment business. In America, people were listening to Black music, like Scott Joplin’s Rags since before the Jazz age. Over here, I think the pioneers were the Fisk Jubilee Singers, Americans who made a tour of Britain before the Second World War. And White Brits also listened to Caribbean calypsos before the emergence of Rock and Roll and such great performers as Little Richard, James Brown, Motown and so on. Despite the claims of racism in the music industry, which led to the establishment of the MOBOs as a set of separate music awards for Black artists, it really isn’t at all remarkable to see Black singers and musicians in the charts. In fact, I’d say it would be more remarkable if there weren’t any.

The same with drama. There are a number of Black Shakespearian thesps – Josette Simon, who played Dayna in the classic SF series Blake’s 7, had that theatrical background. I think a year or so ago Lenny Henry, who is very active promoted Black talent, appeared on stage as Hamlet. And this is apart from other plays from the classical repertoire, including those from Ancient Greece. There have also been a number of contemporary plays examining the position of Blacks in western society. I also wonder if part of the relative underrepresentation of Asians – and I am very well aware that there are Asian actors and presenters, like Anita Rani, Meera Syal, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Adil Ray – may come from that community’s general preference to choose careers other than the entertainment industry. Or at least, not the western canon. I am aware of the casting of an Asian actor, whose name I’ve forgotten, as the Master in last season’s Dr. Who, and others in Armando Iannucci’s film version of one of Dicken’s classics. But I wonder if the Asian community generally prefers to look to its own cultural traditions, like Bollywood movies and traditional Indian arts and theatre, rather than mainstream film, TV and music. There have been Asian artists and bands in the charts – Apache Indian, Corner Shop and Kula Shaker, and I remember Jaz Mann’s brief hit with Babylon Zoo in the ’90s. But there seems to be far fewer of them than Black performers.

Clearly in a White majority society, there are limited roles for Black and Asian performers, hence the demand for ‘colour blind’ casting, as actors from ethnic minorities are given the roles of White characters. I also wonder if some of the casting of Black performers for reasons of diversity isn’t part of an attempt to create work for them. I heard from academics years ago that there’s actually only work for a 1/4 of the drama students who graduate everywhere. I think if this was not tackled, it would be particularly acute for Black performers. And so to avoid another furore about racism and for the other reasons discussed, the entertainment industry is deliberately casting Black performers in greater proportion than they are as part of the general British population.

This forced diversity is unpopular with White right-wingers like Webb and Belfield, but it is a problem when it serves to discriminate against Asians. And that needs to be tackled, like any other form of racism.

Private Eye on the Massive Failure of the Pepper Commercial Robot in Japan

December 1, 2021

I found this highly amusing little snippet in Private Eye’s ‘Funny Old World’ column in their edition for the 6-18 August 2021. It’s report from the Japan Times about a Japanese company suspending manufacture and recalling thousands of their robots due to malfunctions and poor performance. The article runs

“We have suspended production of our Pepper robot,” a spokeswoman for Softbank Group Corp told reporters in Minato (Tokyo), “the AI robot, home companion and store assistant that we first marketed in 2014. We are in discussions with our French robotics unit about potential job reductions.”

Over the past seven years, 27,000 Pepper robots have been produced, and marketed as the world’s first AI robots, but many were sacked by the companies that bought them for inappropriate behaviour. “We bought one for our flagship Edinburgh store,” said a spokesman for Margiotta grocery chain, “but fired it because it kept telling customers ‘to look in the alcohol section’ when they asked it where things were.” Funeral director Osamu Funaki bought a Pepper robot to recite sutras during ceremonies, but sacked it after repeated malfunctions, lamenting “what if it refuses to operate in the middle of a ceremony? It would be such a disaster.” A Japanese nursing home purchased three Pepper androids to lead community singalongs, but dismissed them for repeatedly breaking down.

“Pepper did a lot of harm to genuine robotics research by giving an often false impression of a bright cognitive being that could hold conversations,” Professor Noel Sharkey observed. “But it was mostly remote-controlled with a human conversing through its speakers. I’m happy to see an end to it.”

This is less the ruthlessly efficient killing machines of The Terminator franchise or the similarly murderous androids of the early Tom Baker Dr. Who story, ‘The Robots of Death’ or any number of other stories in which the machines rise up to exterminate their human masters. It isn’t like Judge Dredd’s Megacity One, where automation and the use of robots has created a 95 per cent unemployment rate. No, it’s the Sirius Cybernetics Company from the Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, whose products are so uniformly terrible that the complaints division now covers the major land masses of three whole planets, as this clip from the Beeb TV series on Michael Snow’s channel on YouTube explains:

As for the robots being sacked, for comics readers of a certain age this sounds like they suffered the same fate as those poor machines that were sent down to be ripped apart by the frightening, but also frighteningly stupid demolition robot Mekquake in the ‘Robusters’ and ‘ABC Warriors’ strips in 2000 AD. Mekquake was always being frustrated at not being able to destroy the strips’ two heroes, Rojaws, a foul-mouthed sewer droid, and Hammerstein, an old war robot, who continually outwitted him. But if robots keep being manufactured with the same spectacular flaws as the Pepper robot, it probably won’t be long before someone invents a Mekquake-style machine to take care of them. Oh, by crikey, yes, as the thuggish old machine used to say!

Rojaws and Hammerstein prepare to meet Mekquake for the last time. From ABC Warriors – Return to Robusters, by Pat Mills and Clint Langley, (Rebellion: 2015, 2016).

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Video on the Use of Toys as Models in the Gerry Anderson Shows

November 23, 2021

Here’s a bit of fun for a Tuesday morning. I found this short video on the Gerry Anderson channel in YouTube, in which the hosts talk about the times the show used toys while filming the various cult series Anderson created. Sometimes it was simply a case where a commercial toy was cannibalised for its parts, which were then used in the creation of one of the shows’ models. This happened to a model tank, which was taken apart and its pieces used for a number of models, including the armoured vehicle hunting down the aliens that made it down to Earth in UFO. At other times commercial toys of the spaceships and other vehicles seen in the show were used while filming, including one of the spacecraft from Terrahawks.

I was interesting in this, because I had a Super Eight cine camera when I was lad, and like many others me and a few friends went and made our of SF films with it using action men and spaceships made from plastic model kits. These were hung from strings across a painted space background and flown about by hand. We really enjoyed making them, but I always felt a bit frustrated as I would have loved to have been able to make something of more professional quality. Of course, this was far beyond my boyhood capabilities. I knew that the SF films used matte work and TV series like Dr. Who and Blake’s 7 used Colour Separation Overlay, or Chromakey, to superimpose their spaceships on a space background without strings, and wished I could do the same. You were supposed to be able to do something like it with Super Eight by exposing a section of film twice to produce ghosts etc. Or so I was assured by the manuals. In fact you couldn’t with Super Eight, as one you reached the end of the cassette holding the film, that was it. It was all over and locked. I think you could do it with Standard Eight, however.

Since then I’ve found out that many of my favourite SF shows hadn’t used such sophisticated optical techniques, but instead had models dangling from wires. If I’d known about this at the time, and particularly about the use of commercial toys as props, I would have felt better about my own efforts.

Making these short films – Super Eight lasts only 3 minutes 20 seconds – were immense fun, and like a number of other children I dreamt of being a film director like George Lucas or Spielberg. Well, that hasn’t happened. But I do think Super Eight filming did encourage creativity among the children and young adults who used it. If you can remember that far back, Screen Test with Michael Rod also used to run an annual competition for the best Super Eight film created by the show’s young viewers. Some of these were very good, others not so impressive. I think several of them were about a future in which everything was done on computer. Obviously, it was very far-fetched!

Super Eight was rapidly made obsolete by videotape and the new video cameras, which have also been superseded by DVD, Blue Ray and digital media. Editing software is available for computers so that people in their homes, using footage from their phones or digital cameras, can produce their own films for YouTube and other social media platforms of extremely high quality, far above what could be done with ordinary amateur cine film. And it’s great that the technology has moved on, so that more people are able to do this and share their creations with a wider public than just themselves, their family and friends in the privacy of their own homes.

The hosts here also talk about how they threw their model Gerry Anderson spaceships into the ground, or pulled them along in the hope that it would look like the special effects sequences on screen. Its says much about Anderson’s series that they’re still so fondly remembered after decades. They’ve even revived Thunderbirds, though it’s now computer generated rather than puppets. Which, I have to say, is a bit disappointing for fans of practical effects, but you can’t have everything. I hope Anderson will continue to inspire new generations of young SF film-makers for some time to come.

Lab Grown Goats and the Shape of Wombs to Come

November 19, 2021

I found this photo of goat fetuses growing in tanks filled with amniotic fluid in a Japanese lab in an old an old issue of Scientific American Presents – Your Bionic Future from autumn 1999. It illustrated an article by Tabitha M. Powledge, ‘The Ultimate Baby Bottle’, which had on the contents page the comment ‘Aldous Huxley was right. Artificial wombs are in our future.’ I hope, I really hope that they aren’t. At least, not in the way he portrayed it in Brave New World. In the book, the Fordists have abolished natural reproduction so that everyone is grown artificially in hatcheries. As a result, sex is only for pleasure – and as this is a hedonistic society there are plenty of orgies – and the words ‘mother’ and ‘father’ are dirty terms of abuse. This is definitely not a society anyone would want to see realised. On the other hand, milder forms of such reproduction have also been suggested. The people of humanity’s first extraterrestrial colony also reproduce in hatcheries in Brian Aldiss’ and David Wingrove’s history of the future, The Third Millennium. And in Paul McAuley’s book, In The Belly of the Whale, the two human species on Fomalhaut also reproduce through cloning in hatcheries, but are placed with surrogate parents who raise them in something like a normal family structure after their birth.

The success of the Japanese scientists in growing the goat fetus’ generated a considerable interest at the time. It was widely predicted, as the Scientific American article did, that this would lead to artificial wombs. In fact there was speculation about possible breakthroughs in such research a decade earlier in the 1980s. About 1984/5 I remember an article appearing in the Absurder which predicted that some day people would be gestated in such devices.

I’ve got very mixed feelings about this. I can admire the scientific skill behind it, and it does touch that part of me that enjoys seeing Science Fiction become reality. I can also see that it would benefit women, who for one reason or another could not carry a baby to term. But I don’t know how women would react to such machines if they became possible. I realise that pregnancy and childbirth are fraught, dangerous times for women and their children. Many women go through everything from the discomfort of bad backs and morning sickness to far worse conditions that may seriously damage their health. The other night there was a piece on the One Show, for example, about the dangers to pregnant women from a condition that causes severe nausea. And then there are the problems and dangers in childbirth itself.

But femininity throughout history has been intimately bound up with motherhood. So much so that in many traditional societies the view of women has been that of baby factories, whose primary role is the bearing and raising of children. Modern feminism challenges this in order to give women the freedom to work outside the home in previously masculine roles and professions. But I am not sure if women would welcome the complete separation of femininity from motherhood. Would women feel somehow diminished, deprived of a vital component of their womanhood, if there was a wholesale move towards artificial reproduction? Part of the psychological motivation behind gender critical feminisms opposition to transwomen being accepted as women is a powerful feeling that this is men usurping and appropriating femininity, while marginalising natural biological women. Reading through some of the comments on Kellie-Jay Kean’s videos, I came across some women talking about the joy they felt as women bearing children. One women said that men’s lives must be so empty because of their inability to do so. Now these are just a few women’s views, but I do wonder how women with a similar attitude would look upon artificial wombs.

I also wonder whether there would be the same strong bond between parents, and especially mothers, and their children if babies weren’t born naturally but collected from the hatchery. I realise that the parents of adopted children are in a similar position, and generally greatly love their children, as, of course, to step-parents. I’m also well aware of the dreadful neglect and abuse some parents inflict on their kids. It’s perfectly possible, therefore, that bringing your baby home from the lab for their first time would have all the emotional impact of a natural birth and that the parental bond wouldn’t be affected. But nevertheless, I wonder.

And I’m also worried that such hatcheries could lead to the further mechanisation of what would once have been considered essential human traits, to produce genuine post-human creatures like the cyborgs of the transhumanists. These could be far beyond us in their capability while at the same time lacking in what we consider to be our essential human natures, like the Cybermen and Sontarans of Dr. Who.

These are deep, ethical issues. But fortunately, they have become pressing just yet, as the promised artificial wombs have yet to appear.

Title for Big Finish Audio Adaptation of Space: 1999

November 10, 2021

More fun for Space: 1999 fans. Yesterday I put up a video from doctormab’s YouTube channel of his reworking of the Space: 1999 titles to create Space: 2099. After that, I discovered these short little video by Big Finish. Big Finish specialise in audio versions of classic British SF TV series. Most of these are Doctor Who, featuring many of the surviving cast. They’ve also done Sapphire and Steel, with David Warner playing Steel, and I think they may have also done a couple of Blake’s 7 plays. This video seems to be for their reimagining of Space:1999’s pilot episode, ‘Breakaway’. It stars Mark Bonnar, Maria Teresa Creasy, Clive Hayward, Glen McCready, Jules de Jongh, Amaka Okafor, Susan Hingley and Timothy Bentinck, and written by Nicholas Briggs. Briggs has appeared in Dr. Who several times as the voice of the Daleks as well as in a series of DVDS in which he interviews the actors in Dr Who and Blake’s 7, including those who had the job of climbing into the monster costumes. The reworked titles for the play follow the format of the original, but have obviously been reworked to include the new actors and brought up to date by CGI special effects. Now I haven’t heard the play itself, but Briggs is such an enthusiast himself for classic British SF like Dr. Who that I expect it’s probably very good. And looking at the redone titles, I wish once again that somebody was doing this for a TV series rather than an audio play on CD. Perhaps with the current trend for reviving or making sequels to previous SF and Fantasy epics someone might actually do one of Space: 1999. After all, there’s now a CGI version of on of Gerry Anderson’s other creations, the fondly remembered Thunderbirds.

Professor Kathleen Stock Forced Out of Sussex University Due to Threats and Bullying by Trans Activists

November 1, 2021

This is appalling. It’s an attack on free speech and specifically academic freedom by violent student thugs. But unfortunately, it seems to have caused little outrage except from a few individuals on the right because those responsible for the threats are members of a minority, who claimed to be simply defending themselves from persecution.

Before I go on, I wish to make it very plain that I condemn the persecution of anyone for their sexuality or sexual identity. I don’t wish to see trans people denied jobs, ostracised, beaten or worse. I have every sympathy for those struggling with their sexuality or gender. I think it was still within my lifetime that public transvestism was illegal and punishable by a jail sentence. When I was at secondary school in the 1970s-80s we studied ‘relationships’ as part of the Religious Studies course, along with other important issues like television and media bias and influence. One of the piece in the textbook we were using was about a young man, who’d been arrested and jailed for crossdressing. This poor chap wasn’t loud and proud, but tormented by his sexuality. I’ve also got a feeling one of the methods used to treat it was aversion therapy, in which the patient got an electric shock when shown women’s clothes. I think the psychologist Hans Eysenck used this method to treat a transvestite trucker. It’s horrible, and probably explains some of the hysteria amongst trans rights activists when they falsely claim that gender critical feminists somehow want to kill them. I have seen absolutely nothing to suggest that anti-trans rights feminists actually do. But it seems to me that the trans activists are afraid that if they aren’t treated exactly as women, somehow the official persecution that existed forty years ago will somehow return.

But the trans rights activists are still perpetrating violent intolerance of their own, and this needs to be fought like any other kind.

Last week Kathleen Stock, a philosophy professor at Sussex University, finally gave up the struggle and announced she was moving on. Stock had been subjected to a campaign of threats and intimidation, including, I believe, smoke bombs, simply because she believes that transwomen aren’t women and that sexual identity is based in biological sex. That’s it. A group of anonymous students issued a series a threats demanding her removal. I think the university initially gave in, but then pivoted and backed her. Unfortunately, her union, the UCU, refused to do so. Despite support from the university, Stock announced she was leaving. The University gave her a very gracious farewell praising her and her work.

The trans activists and certain sections of the gay rights movement were highly delighted. There were gloating comments about her departure by an anonymous individual, Sussex Against TERFS, the Pink Paper and an SNP MP, all of whom saw this as some kind of victory. But while it might be for them, it is an attack on genuine free speech and democracy.

Western democratic society is built on free speech, and much of the west’s intellectual progress has come from the ability to investigate, research, examine and discuss without interference or censorship. These freedoms have been hard won, and as we’re seeing from the Tories’ assault on the right to protest, they are still under threat. Now free speech is not an absolute right. There are laws against certain types of speech, such as incitement to racial hatred the promotion of paedophilia and so on. The argument trotted out by the Trans Rights Activists in their attacks on gender critical feminists and their supporters is that somehow the denial that transwomen are women is an attack on trans people’s very lives. J.K. Rowling has been accused of wanting to kill trans people, simply because she said that transwomen weren’t women. Russell T. Davies, the creator of the Channel 4 gay soap opera, Queer As Folk, who revived Doctor Who nearly a decade and a half ago, gave a bizarre speech last week attack the LGB Alliance. This was set up by gay men and women as an alternative to Stonewall, because they felt that the latter was concentrating on trans rights at the expense of defending ordinary gay people. They have no animus towards trans people. They merely regard trans identity as a separate issue which should have its own organisation. But because of this they were attacked as ‘transphobic’, ‘Nazis’ and Fascists. In his speech, Davies left the endings off various words, and then declared that ‘when you exclude the ‘T’, you kill’.

What? No-one is talking about killing trans people, except the trans activists. It’s a nasty, malign accusation.

But the accusation unfortunately believed by all too many trans people, and is motivating some to acts of violence and death threats, such as those against Prof. Stock. Her departure from Sussex University has been covered by the Lotus Eaters and Alex Belfield, who states that he doesn’t believe that real trans people are behind the threats. He says instead that it’s probably their supporters. One of the Lotus Eaters states that the threat of violence were so serious that when Stock came to talk at his old university, there were bouncers on the door checking peoples’ bags to make sure they weren’t trying to smuggle a bomb into the auditorium.

This is not defending the rights of a minority. This is terrorism and Fascism. Almost literally.

This might sound incredible, considering that trans rights is generally considered to be a left-wing issue, but sections of Italian Fascism would have supported it solely because of the violence of its supporters. The Futurists, a radical avant-garde artistic movement linked to the Fascists, idealised ‘youth, speed and violence’. They praised ‘the slap, the punch, as the decisive argument’. And while they were vehemently hypermasculine and opposed feminism, they were impressed with the Suffragettes because of their dynamism and acts of violence and terror. In the 1940s the movement’s leader, Marinetti, raved about a coming war between lesbians and homosexuals, who would then united against normal men. Well, the violence and terrorist threats issued by militant trans activists aren’t quite like that, but they’re close, especially as Stock is a lesbian.

These Fascistic threats and violence should be stopped immediately. Anti-trans activist Kellie-Jay Kean has said that the students responsible for them should be expelled. I agree. People have every right to protest, but this should not include threats of violence and real bullying.

The students making them are not defending democracy, but trying to destroy through a determination to stamp out any belief that disagrees with their own. It’s time this was halted.

Real tolerance is not only tolerating views you agree with or find acceptable. It is tolerating those you don’t. And it is time that the students responsible for these threats realised this.

Here are the video from the Lotus Eaters and Alex Belfield commenting on this. Yes, I know they’re terrible right-wingers, but this is such an important issue that I feel they should be heard. And I agree with Belfield when he states that he is horrified more people aren’t condemning Stock’s bullying. Absolutely. I wish more people were doing so too, especially from the left.

Because I don’t believe real threats and violence should be used against anyone in a democratic society, except perhaps real, violent Fascists.

GB News Interviews Graham Linehan

September 18, 2021

As I’ve said before, I’ve mixed feelings about the imminent demise of GB News. It is a right-wing news network, deliberately founded to provide an ‘objective’ alternative to the ‘wet, woke’, BBC with Andrew Neil, former editor of the Sunset Times, Economist and head of the board that runs the increasingly far-right Spectator, as its main man. Well, the channel has failed to attract viewers, advertisers have been put off by what they see as its racist bias, and its main broadcaster now is former chief of the Brexit party, Nigel Farage. Neil has jumped ship like the proverbial rats and it’s highly debatable how long the channel’s investors will put up with it before they finally pull the plug. Plus Rupert Murdoch is planning his own rival in the shape of TVTalk. This won’t have the financial problems of GB News, because it’s going to be financed through subsidies from the other parts of Murdoch’s empire of filth. Which means that Britain could be getting a version of Fox News, a channel so untrustworthy and which tells so many lies that researchers found that people who took no news at all were better informed that viewers of Fox. Salvador Dali once said that he was intent on cretinizing the public. Dali was immensely talented, but greedy, treacherous, perverted and a supporter of General Franco. He died some time in the late ’70s or ’80s. But his mission to turn the west into a region of dribbling morons is being carried on by Dirty Rupe.

On the other hand, GB News does provide a valuable service by inviting guests to speak, who have been blogged or silenced by the other channels and media for their controversial views. These include critics of postmodernism, including Critical Race Theory and the transgender ideology like Helen Pluckrose. Another critic of the transgender ideology is Graham Linehan, the writer of such comedy greats as Father Ted, the IT Crowd, Big Train and co-creator of Black Books. In this interview with Andrew Doyle on GB News’ Free Speech Nation, Linehan talks about his activism challenging the transgender movement. He’s motivated by fear and outrage at the way he feels vulnerable people, especially girls and young women, are being misled into believing themselves to be transgender and the immense harm that such needless transitioning is doing to their bodies and minds. The puberty blockers not only halt the transition to physical adolescence but there is also evidence that it stops the crucial brain development that comes with it. The people given these drugs therefore stay locked in an emotional childhood. The double mastectomies performed on transitioning women leave the patient with no sensation in their chests. The use of male sex hormones causes the womb to atrophy and adhere to other organs, so that the transmen given these hormones often have to have hysterectomies in their 20s. He argues that there is no respectable science backing up the claims of the transgender movement, and that what science there that supports some of their claims comes from very small studies, and so is scientifically highly debatable.

Linehan is also concerned about the way sexually predatory men may claim to be transwomen in order to get into a position to abuse women. One example of this is the recent Wi spa incident, where a Black woman complained about a naked man in the women’s area. Although this was dismissed by pro-transgender activists as a hoax, further witnesses have come forward. And the perpetrator himself had multiple convictions for indecent exposure as well as burglary. He also talks about the way the Girl Guides have extensive, rigorous rules protecting girls and women if men go away with them, but these rules are somehow relaxed with transwomen, as if all such people were equally safe and nice. He draws a comparison between the paedophile scandal in the Roman Catholic church in Ireland. For nearly a century, the priesthood were a protected caste. As a result, paedophiles could join the Roman Catholic clergy confident that they would be protect from prosecution. Transwomen in his view now form a similarly protected class who are somehow held to be immune from any wrongdoing.

Linehan has, unsurprisingly, been accused of transphobia, which he denies. He states that there are transpeople who support him, and says he has met more transpeople through his activism than possibly his critics. He certainly does have his supporters in the trans community, several of whom have appeared on his YouTube channel, The Mess We’re In. As for the position that transwomen aren’t women, he points out that there are transwomen like Debbie Hayden and Blair White who don’t describe themselves as women. He believes that in the coming years we will see a growth in the number of detransitioners, former transpeople who have found that transitioning has not cured their problems with gender identity and expression.

Linehan also views the trans movement as acting against gay people, particularly lesbians. He has spoken about Pride rallies, where much has been said about trans people, but lesbian women aren’t mentioned. He views the trans ideology as a new kind of conversion therapy designed to stop children from being gay. In his view, homophobic parents are putting gender non-conforming children – kids who play or adopt the dress of the opposite sex – forward as transgender out of the fear that they may be gay. They can’t handle that, and it’s easier for them to accept that they are really people of the opposite sex stuck in the wrong body. He’s particularly convinced of this since he heard a joke going round the Tavistock clinic, one of the main transgender clinic, that if they continue transitioning people, soon there won’t be any lesbians left. He also talks about how many gay people are worried about the way the main gay organisations, such as Stonewall, have thrown all their weight behind the trans ideology. They are afraid that when the transgender craze finally breaks and the bankruptcy of the ideology is finally revealed, then ordinary gay people will suffer because of the strong support organisations like Stonewall gave it.

He also talks about the attempts trans rights activists make to silence their opponents. He describes the abuse gender critical feminists receive and the refusal of TRAs to engage in any kind of dialogue with them. He states that a group of gender critical peeps wrote a letter to one of the papers requesting their opponents to tone the abuse down a bit. Not only was this polite request refused, but one of the signatories, a gay man, suffered attempts to wreck his career simply for signing the letter. James Dreyfus, a gay actor, who has appeared in the comedy programmes The Thin Blue Line and Gimme, Gimme, has also suffered from this. Dreyfus has played the Master in one of the Big Finish Doctor Who audio plays. Yet his gender critical stance has resulted him being airbrushed out of a list of actors who have played the Doctor’s arch-enemy. Trans Rights Activists refuse to appear on programmes or platforms with people like Linehan, stating that they will only debate the issue with trans people. But there’s silence from them when transpeople come forward, who oppose the ideology. They don’t want to debate them either. Linehan has said that the reason one very prominent feminist academic has refused to debate the issue on television is because this woman would be unable to credibly explain how Eddie Izzard is a woman in the same way as people’s mothers.

And Linehan has also suffered for his gender critical feminist views. His own career is comparatively safe, though he mentions that there is one episode of the IT Crowd that the broadcasters tried to censor. This was about one of the characters falling in love with a transwoman. It’s held to be transphobic, but he points out that the joke is actually that the transwoman, although identifying as female, still behaves like a man. Which makes her the ideal partner for the other character, who is quite blokey. His wife, however, suffered far more from attempts to wreck her career, simply because she was married to him.

I realise that this is a very, very, emotive and controversial position, but I strongly believe critics of the transgender movement like Linehan, Kellie-Jay Minshull and others, absolutely deserve to be heard. What should matter in a debate like this is reasoned debate, backed by scientific fact. But I don’t see this coming from the Trans Rights Activists, many of whom, Linehan alleges, really aren’t transgender. Instead I just see abuse, including horrific death threats and violence. For examples of this, go to the Women Are Human site.

I am aware that there are supporters of the new transgender ideology who read this site. I appreciate their fears and their views, and really don’t want them to feel excluded or vulnerable. I repeat: I don’t want to see anyone persecuted, discriminated against or victimised because of their sexuality or sexual orientation. I appreciate that there are people for whom transitioning to the opposite sex may be the best treatment for their condition. The statistics for the number of transpeople murdered in Britain is actually very low – perhaps about three in the last decade or so. It’s far lower than the murders of other demographic groups. But I do understand transpeople’s fears of violence against them. Way back in the 1990s there was a small press magazine for transpeople, Aeon: The Magazine of Transkind. This covered issues such as anti-trans violence. I definitely do not, in any way, support such violence against anyone because of their gender presentation or identification. I am also acutely aware that transgender people are definitely not all paedophiles, rapists or sexual predators, and don’t want to see them tarred as such because of those that are.

But there are real issues surrounding women’s safety, their ability to participate in women’s sports against transwomen, who may have a physical advantage from their former male physique and development. I think there is a problem with psychologically vulnerable young people, particularly girls, being misdiagnosed and put on the track for transition when it is medically inappropriate. One of the other issues Linehan and the gender critical feminists raise is that there are all kinds of medical complications with gender reassignment. It is difficult, painful and expensive, and can lead to poor health for the rest of the life of the transman or -woman. They feel that people with gender dysphoria – the medical term for dissatisfaction with one’s gender identity – are being miss-sold gender reassignment surgery as a cure for this problem when it may not. There are problems with the TRA claim that without surgery, trans-identified people will commit surgery. However, some transpeople have committed surgery, possibly because they have found out that it is not a cure for their problems.

This has certainly happened. Years ago there was a report in the papers about the discovery of the body, police had initially believed, of a young woman. Forensic investigation, however, revealed that this individual was a transwoman. From what I remember of the case, she had drowned herself, leaving a suicide note that read that she now regretted transitioning and wished she could turn back. It’s a tragic case, and I hope whatever side of the debate you’re on, we all agree that everything should be done to stop transpeople, or anyone else, taking their life for whatever reason.

These are vital issues, but any criticism of the trans ideology is being blocked and silenced. North of the border the Maria Miller, a gender critical feminist, is being prosecuted for hate speech because she put up stickers saying ‘Scottish women won’t wheesht’ – a Scots term meaning ‘shut up’ or ‘be silent’ – and a looped ribbon which her opponents claim is a noose. The SNP have also gone further and banned demonstrations outside the Scots parliament after the mass demonstration by Scots women and their male supporters a week or so ago. Every attempt is being made to silence gender critical people through the accusations that they are hateful and transphobic. The LGB Alliance, which believes trans is a separate issue and the gay organisations should return to fighting for gay rights, has been accused of being a hate group.

Horrendous as GB News is, I believe it is performing a vital service by allowing people like Helen Pluckrose and Graham Linehan to speak. This is a service that should be done by the BBC as the country’s public service broadcaster. But it isn’t. Linehan has pointed out that the Corporation backs the trans ideology to the extent that one of its children’s programmes presented a White, heterosexual couple as a pair of lesbians on the grounds that the male partner was trans-identified. He has become so disgusted with the Beeb that he has joined the right-wingers demanding the cancellation of the license fee. As for himself, he and Doyle have crossed swords in the past, though the discussion on here is entirely amicable. Linehan states that the debate is tribal, and that before he got involved in it he believed that everyone on the right really was evil. But after coming into contact with them, he finds that they are not. It’s just a different view of the world. Well, in the case of some Tories, that’s definitely the case. But I still believe that Therese Coffey, Esther McVey, Iain Duncan Smith and their ilk, who have been persecuting the disabled, the unemployed and the poor are genuinely evil, and don’t simply have a different opinion. Not with the number of people their policies have killed.

Controversial as they are, programmes and videos like this are an argument in favour of GB News. I’ve no time for the standard media rhetoric about how neoliberalism is absolutely correct and anyone challenging it, like Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters, are evil Trotskyites and communists. That’s all over the media, including supposedly left-wing papers like the Groan and the Mirror. But the culture war issues cut across political boundaries and are the best argument for the channel’s continuation. But it’s these issues that are alienating the younger staff and causing them to leave.

I’m no fan of GB News nor the horrendous Farage and Brillo. I don’t think it’s remotely a loss to British broadcasting that the man who has no problems with Taki writing horrendous anti-Semitic screeds and praises the neo-Nazi Greek Golden Dawn in the pages of the Spectator. But I am afraid that dissenting voices that genuinely need to be heard will be left without a platform when it goes.

And I am very much afraid of Dirty Rupe’s planned replacement.

Model-Maker Bill Pearson Talks About His Work on Blake’s 7

February 25, 2021

This is another video from the film about the work of the talented peeps behind the models and miniatures used in some of the classic SF films and TV shows, A Sense of Scale. In this short video of about 4 mins in length, the late Bill Pearson talks about his work on the Beeb’s cult SF series, Blake’s 7. He describes the series as the Magnificent 7 in space, and says that the heroes were all bad guys, but not as bad as the people they were fighting against. They were anti-heroes. It’s a fair description, as the heroes were nearly all convicted criminals – Vila was a thief, Jenna a smuggler, Avon an embezzler, Gan a murderer, while Blake was a democratic agitator, a political criminal against the totalitarian, fascistic Federation, who were the real bad guys. Cally, a freedom-fighter from the planet Auron, was the only one who hadn’t been arrested, sentenced and convicted by the Federation she was pledged to overthrow.

Pearson says he was persuaded to join the effects team as he was told it was going to be wonderful and big budget, which it never was. He was recruited to the series as he had impressed the Beeb’s head of special effects with what he had been doing at college, and started work at the Corporation with a couple of episodes of Dr. Who. He was on Blake’s 7 from the start and did most of the spaceships in the last series. He says there were very little miniatures. There were a couple of hero ships, but they’d been built by the time he joined the SFX crew. The London, the ship used in the first episode, ‘The Way Back’, to transport Blake and his future crew to the penal colony of Cygnus Alpha, had already been made by an outside company. Other model-makers on the series included Martin Bower, who also worked on Space 1999 and the film Outland, and who worked on a couple of models of the heroes’ ships, the Liberator. There, and I thought the effects were all done by Matt Irvine and Mike Kelt. He only got involved with the miniatures in the final series. Pearson says that he’s notorious on the internet for making the gun that Avon uses to kill Blake in the very last episode. This, he says, is still around and getting more appreciation. I think here he’s referring to the series, rather than the weapon, as it’s just after that he talks of Blake and his crew as being bad guys and anti-heroes.

Pearson states that model-making for the screen isn’t as glamorous people think. One of the downsides is unemployment and there are many special effects firms now going bankrupt. However, it is the closest we’re going to get to immortality at the moment. A century from now someone’s going to pick up a packet of cereal and get a free 4D recording of Alien, put it in their viewer, and see his work and his name on the credits. And that’s pretty cool. The video also includes stills of Pearson working on some of the models used in the series and on Alien along with the interview.

BLAKE´S 7 (TV) miniature effects – YouTube

Pearson gave the interview in 2012, and the state of the effects industry may have changed somewhat since then, but I don’t doubt that CGI has had a devastating effect on the use of practical effects in movies and television, although they’re still used to a certain extent.

Blake’s 7 was made over forty years ago and was low budget SF. Matt Irvine said once that the money spent on one effect in the cinema was far in excess of what they had to spend on the series. But the show had memorable characters, great actors and some excellent stories. The effects work varied in quality, but the main spaceships, the Liberator and the Scorpio, looked good, as did the three sentient computers in the show, Zen, Slave and Orac. Blake’s 7 is, along with Dr. Who, Thunderbirds and Space 1999, a classic of British SF television and still retains a cult following all these decades later.