Posts Tagged ‘Peter Davidson’

Dr. Who Meets Rosa Parks and the Beginnings of the Civil Rights Movement

October 21, 2018

In this evening’s edition of Dr. Who, ‘Rosa’ The Timelady and her friends travel back to 1950’s America and meet Rosa Parks. Parks was the woman of colour, whose refusal to move from her seat for a White person on America’s segregated buses started the famous bus boycott and mobilized Black America. It was the spark that launched the mass Civil Rights movement.

The blurb for it in the Radio Times reads

The Doctor and her friends travel to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955. There they meet someone trying to rewrite the history of the black civil rights movements. (p. 64).

There’s another piece about it on page 62, which adds some more details about the episode.

The Doctor and her friends land in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955 hours before seamstress Rosa Parks lights a fire under the civil rights movement by refusing to give up her seat on a bus for a white person.

It is, of course, one of the great turning points in history, where the actions of just one person triggered a convulsive change for good. But someone wants to stop it, someone wants to alter time to keep things, bad things, just as they are. So the gang must paly their part to ensure events remain exactly as they should be to allow Rosa (Vinette Robinson) her defining moment.

It’s an odd episode, co-written by Majorie Blackman and Chris Chibnall, that’s preachy and teachy, giving itself the had task of explaining segregation, racism and the Montgomery bus boycott to a young audience. So it loses its way as a bit of teatime fun and becomes more of a lecture.

The reactionary Right has been out in force and in full cry against this series of Dr. Who from before it was even aired. The decision to have the Doctor regenerate as a woman resulted in Rebel Media, a far-right Canadian broadcaster, posting a video on the internight declaring that ‘Feminism Has Ruined Dr. Who’. This was by Jack Buckby, a self-declared activist for traditional British values, who used to be a member of the BNP. Hope Not Hate, the anti-racist, anti-religious extremism organization have published articles about him, including a pic of Buckby grinning with his Fuehrer, Nick Griffin. There’s absolutely no reason for any decent person to take anything he says remotely seriously.

Despite the denunciations of the racists, there isn’t anything particularly radical going on here. Star Trek explicitly tackled racism from the very beginning. The kiss between Kirk and Uhura in the episode ‘Plato’s Stephchildren’, was the first interracial smooch on American TV. It was so radical, that I think that part of the episode may even have been removed when it was broadcast in the Deep South in case it caused a massive outrage. In one episode of Deep Space Nine in the 1990s, Sisko and his family found themselves in a holographic recreation of Las Vegas. This caused him problems with his conscience, as in the period recreated – the 1960s – Blacks weren’t allowed in the casinos except as entertainers. The conflict is resolved by his wife pointing out to him that this isn’t really Vegas, but Vegas as it should have been. Back to the Classic series, there was also an episode where the crew of the Enterprise discovered a planet, where a rogue federation anthropologist had remodeled its culture on Nazi Germany. The planet was a fully-fledged Nazi dictatorship, with a bitter, racial hatred of a neighbouring world and its people. Kirk, Spock and the others then try to defeat the planet and its leader before they launch a devastating missile at the peaceful, unaggressive other world. The episode was an explicitly anti-Nazi statement, but naturally some viewers were still shocked by Kirk donning Nazi uniform as he disguises himself as one of them in his efforts to bring it down.

Dr. Who also started out partly as a programme to teach children about history, and so the Doctor travelled back in time with his companions to particular periods to meet some of the great figures of the past, in stories like ‘The Crusades’ and ‘The Aztecs’. In the Peter Davison story in the 1980s, ‘The King’s Demons’, the Doctor and his companions travelled back to the 13th century to meet King John on the eve of Magna Carta. He finds that the Master is trying to interfere in history so that the Great Charter is never passed. He describes it as minor mischief-making by the renegade Time Lord, who is trying to destabilize the galaxy’s major civilisations.

It also reminds me somewhat of Ward Moore’s SF classic, Bring the Jubilee, in which a group of modern Confederate nationalists travel back to the 19th century to try and help the South win the American Civil War.

I think, however, this will be the first time that Dr. Who has devoted an entire episode to the issue of anti-Black racism. In some ways, this is really just the series going back to do something like ‘The King’s Demons’ and the earlier historical episodes, but this time taking an episode from Black history as a natural result of Britain’s population having become far more diverse since the early 60s when the series was launched. Majorie Blackman is Black, and a prize-winning children’s author, so I’m not surprised that she was asked to write for the series. I’ve also no doubt that this episode was created because October is Black History month.

It’ll be interesting to see how this episode turns out. It sounds terribly worthy and not as much fun as the other shows. Which was one of the points one of the right-wing detractors of the new series raised in one of his videos attacking it. He quoted Blackman herself as saying that the programme would be ‘educative’ as well as fun. My experience of some of the anti-racist children’s literature recommended for schools during the 1980s is that they were unrelievedly grim, and were also racist in their own way. They seemed to see Whites as being essentially racist, and teach that Blacks could only expect racism and maltreatment from them. I’m sure this episode of Dr. Who will be far different in that respect, as society has become more tolerant.

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Radical Balladry and Tunes for Toilers: The Ranters

May 27, 2014

Ballad Seller pic

Yesterday, I put up the sheet music for the Diggers’ Song, from Roy Palmer’s A Ballad History of England. As usual, I didn’t have the words, but Jess kindly supplied them, as well as the another Digger song, The Diggers’ Christmas Carol. As well as the Diggers, another radical Civil War sect were the Ranters. Jess in her comment to my post of the Diggers’ Christmas Carol, has also provided two examples of their poetry, expressing their radical, pantheist, Christian beliefs, along with another poem by Gerrard Winstanley, the Diggers’ ideologue. Jess writes

Ranter Poems

“The Saints in virtue, which did aye excel,
This hainous heresie condemn’d to hell;
The General Councils with considerate ire
Adjudg’d these crimes to be calcin’d with fire.
Yee that so boast of spirit to be brim full,
Which say yee have no sin, your selves yee gull.
Com all yee missed, erring, gross mistakers,
Vain glorious Ranters, or censorious Quakers;
Bring all your tricks, your toies and wrested sleights,
Let’s poise them by the Sanctuaries weights.
Lord, if wee sin against thee and offend,
(For who sin’s not, that here his dayes doth spend?)
Wash me, O wash nee throughly from my sin,
Blood, and pollution which I wallow’d in. ”
[Divine poems being meditations upon several sermons, ….. And put into vers by William Wood of Eckington, Gent. 1655]

Another group of dissidents from round the same period as The Diggers were those termed ‘Ranters’. They are generally believed to have evolved from the Familist sect of Elizabethan times, whose core beliefs were ‘that perfection may be attained in this life’, denial of the Sabbath as a holy day, everyday should be a sabath and repentence must precede remission of sins’ [Hill, p.184]

They were known to hold their ‘meetings’ and festivals in pubs where the use of tobacco and alcohol was intended to heighten spiritual vision’. To more straight-laced sects ranter behaviour was licentiousness. The classic text on the group is A.L. Morton’s ‘World of The Ranters’, Nigel Smith edited a collection of their pamphlets whilst Christopher Hill devotes two chapters to them in his ‘World Turned Upside Down’

The pieces here come from two sources. Hill reprints the first in his ‘World Turned’

A Christmas Carol
They prate of God; Believe it fellow creatures”
There s no such bugbear; all was made by Nature.
We know all came of nothing, and shall pass
Into the same condition once it was,
By Nature’s power and that hey grossly lie
That say there’s hope of immortality.
Let them but tell what a soul is, then
We will adhere to these mad brain-sick men.
[Hill World Turned….” from ‘The Arraignment and Tryall, with a Declaration of the Ranters” (1650)]

The second two were found in the Clarke Mss [Also the original source of the better known ‘Diggers Song’] by Anne Laurence and published by her in ‘The Review of English Studies, Vol 31, 1980’ and are dated by her to c.1650. ‘ I have kept the spelling of her transcriptions from Clarke 18

Peter Davidson ‘Poetry and Revolution’ (1998) collects a lot of verse from the period, including a couple of other Winstanley poems. I

My Flesh the plagues of God consume,
With all Relacions of the same,
The which now makes mee out of Tune,
And I shall not bee in right frame;
Untill the vialls of Gods wrath.
Uppon this Earth of mine be powr’d,
And all the Idolls of the same.
Hee quite hath turned out of doores
For Christ our Kinge shall all things chuse
Out of his Kingedome that offend,
All things therin that are impure
Hee bringeth to a totall end,
And when those thinges are fully wrought
Such libertie then wee shall see
Within the Temple of our God
For Wee his Temple then shall bee,
For wee shall then rejoice and singe
Still praysing him that is our might
And ever Triumph in our Kinge
Hee is our libertie and Light.
[From Valentine Sharpe to J. Radman Castle Mary & Margery.]