May 15th, 2009


Further BC bah humbug

For some reason, almost certainly because of my recent posts on their referndum, a dozen Twitter accounts purporting to advertise jobs in British Columbia have added me. (All my lj entries get reflected to nwbrux.) Well, I hope they enjoy my thoughts on Philip K. Dick and (coming up soon) the Wizard of Oz.

May Books 13) The Tempest, by William Shakespeare

I was surprised to discover how little I knew of this play. The central character is Prospero, former Duke of Milan and now stranded magician; he manages to capture his former political enemies on his island, and compels one of them to marry his daughter while confusing the others with sorcery.

Particularly since this is the last of Shakespeare's solo plays, it's attractive to see Prospero as the playwright himself, manipulating the spirits and the visitors to the island as the playwright does the actors and the audience. I find him an unsettling, sinister character, and his brother was probably right to kick him out of office in Milan. (Another post coming on Prospero and the First Doctor.)

The Caliban narrative is also instructive: Prospero has landed on the island and dispossessed and enslaved the indigenous inhabitants, decrying them as less than fully human. Jonathan Bate has written of Aimé Césaire's production of The Tempest which explicitly referenced the Caribbean; I can think of an island closer to Shakespeare geographically where this was happening in real life.

As with the last couple of plays, we have an extended interruption of a musical nature - the pagan goddesses who appear to bless Ferdinand and Miranda, plus Ariel is using music as a weapon throughout the play. This must be quite a challenge to stage, and it is one which the Arkangel audio production doesn't quite rise to; indeed, despite a pretty stellar cast (Simon Russell Beale, Adrian Lester) it doesn't really feel confident in itself. But I have got hold of the 1980 BBC production and may see if I can get more enlightenment from it.

Henry VI, Part I | Henry VI, Part II | Henry VI, Part III | Richard III | Comedy of Errors | Titus Andronicus | Taming of the Shrew | Two Gentlemen of Verona | Love's Labour's Lost | Romeo and Juliet | Richard II | A Midsummer Night's Dream | King John | The Merchant of Venice | Henry IV, Part I | Henry IV, Part II | Henry V | Julius Caesar | Much Ado About Nothing | As You Like It | Merry Wives of Windsor | Hamlet | Twelfth Night | Troilus and Cressida | All's Well That Ends Well | Measure for Measure | Othello | King Lear | Macbeth | Antony and Cleopatra | Coriolanus | Timon of Athens | Pericles | Cymbeline | The Winter's Tale | The Tempest | Henry VIII | The Two Noble Kinsmen | Edward III | Sir Thomas More (fragment)

May Books 14) The Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum

One of those fantasy classics which I had never actually read, though of course I've seen the 1939 film numerous times. Naturally the first thing that strikes me is the number of differences between the two:
  1. Dorothy is much younger in the book - the original Denslow illustrations show her as a very little girl, Alice-size or smaller.
  2. She is also more passive than in the film (which gives the scarecrow, lion and woodman a bit more character development).
  3. Oz is a distant part of our world, not a dream (so Uncle Henry and Auntie Em have to rebuild their house after the cyclone removes it).
  4. The Kansas section at the start of the book is very short, and the section at the end even shorter (half a page).
  5. The Wizard interviews the four travellers separately, when they arrive in the Emerald City, and appears different to each of them.
  6. The Emerald City isn't all that green - residents and visitors are forced to wear green-tinted spectacles.
  7. The magic shoes are silver rather than red.
  8. Dorothy and friends encounter a country populated by living china figurines and another populated by sinister "Hammerheads".
  9. There are no songs.
It is generally pleasantly and confidently well-written, and I'll pass it on to nine-year-old F with a strong recommendation; I think he will enjoy it, and I can see why it is a classic.

The Tin Woodman and the Cybermen

One point that struck me when reading The Wizard of Oz was the resonance between the origin stories of the Tin Woodman and the Cybermen. Here is what the Tin Woodman tells us of his story:
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This is the original dialogue introducing the Cybermen from Episode 2 of The Tenth Planet:
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This is the introduction of Gerry Davis' Doctor Who and the Tenth Planet, slightly revised and improved from the earlier novel Doctor Who and the Cybermen:
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It's fascinating that both (well, all three) have the gradual replacement of original human body parts with artificial substitutes; with the side-effect of this being that emotions are lost too. The Tin Woodman sees it as a Bad Thing, and the Cybermen see it as a Good Thing, but in both cases it's the driving force of their narratives.

I'm sure I am not the first person to notice this, but it rather leapt out at me!