People sure as hell are feeling nostalgic these days.
Not that it isn’t a normal process in our cultural landscape – storytelling patterns and sociologically-charged imagery are very much cyclical, and know periods of resurgence after some years away from the spotlight. There’s a “nostalgia pendulum”, or “thirty years cycle” at work in here somewhere, to borrow terms frequently used in the film-criticy recesses of the Internet (1) (2). But there’s this ever-present song and tune about living in the age of the remake, of the homage – of nostalgia. Maybe it’s all due to the fact, that, well, times are hard, and when orange demagogues bring the delicate whiff of capitalist fascism to your inconvenienced nostrils, it’s tempting to barricade yourself beyond a prelapsarian fantasy of a time before we were all fucked. Or maybe it’s a consequence of the evolving trends of the TV market – in an age where event television, outside of Game of Thrones, is pretty much dead and buried, there’s quite a bit of room for targeted niche demographics, people that have money in their wallets and Netflix on their computers, and a desire to be pandered to.
It’s not like Who was escaping the trend either. If we take the beginning of the Capaldi era as a starting point – we saw in three series and four years the return of the Master, of Davros, of the Shadow Proclamation, of the planet Karn, of Gallifrey and Rassillon, of basically every Dalek variant ever, of River Song, of the Movellans, of the Ice Warriors, of the Mondasian Cybermen, of the First Doctor, of Ben and Polly. People are feeling nostalgic, I tell you!
But there’s nostalgia and nostalgia. All visions of the past are not equal, or equally worthwhile. Hence – Stranger Things.
[CONTENT WARNING: passing mentions of suicide and abuse]
by A.L. Belmont
With the last two companion departures, a great deal of discussion has sprung up about whether Steven Moffat is justified in apparently killing off companions and resurrecting them within a short time frame. I’ve been following the controversy and find it interesting that the general anti-resurrection argument has shifted from “Moffat should not kill companions” to “If Moffat is going to kill a companion, they need to stay dead.” As one Redditor put it:
“People don’t care that he doesn’t want to kill his characters. People care that he keeps repeatedly killing them, and then bringing them back. Either kill them, or don’t, because what he’s doing right now is cheapening death entirely. It’s difficult to take any kind of death seriously when it’s so easily undone all the time.”
The Redditor also said that Moffat apparently doesn’t really understand these criticisms, and I’m quite sad about that because that means nobody has really mounted an effective counterargument to these (excellent and very valid) points. Not that that’s a problem, necessarily. Maybe this is all just gut feelings in the end, and I have a gut feeling that dead characters do not have to stay dead, but you have a gut feeling that dead characters have to stay dead, and we should all just take a deep breath and get off the Internet. Nonetheless, I’m going to be that person who insists there’s some deep reason behind everything. So let’s get to it.
I’ve noticed a lot of assumptions implicit in the anti-resurrection argument as represented here and elsewhere, so I’d like to dissect what I think are the five main ones. Parts 1 and 2 of this series treat the death-resurrection combination in the abstract. Part 3 examines the specific cases of Clara and Bill, and part 4 looks at death and resurrection in the context of the show’s ethos. This first part asks whether death in fiction has to work like death in real life, and whether resurrection is technologically possible in the Whoniverse.
Fantasy and science-fiction are misunderstood genres. Of course, they have their tropes and clichés – any sort of written or spoken production has. But they are extensively, and sometimes exclusively, defined through the prism of these tropes and clichés. They are not a niche market and a counter-cultural phenomenon anymore – even if some underground isles might subsist here and there –, because the mainstream narrative and the cultural industries saw in them a great source of creative ideas for big releases with a large target audience (which of course is not without creating a certain amount of tension and the always more important emergence of a culture of fan entitlement); but a deep engagement with these specific forms of storytelling might still raise a few eyebrows. Everyone’s going to see the next Star Wars movie, but there will always be, for the foreseeable future, a certain idea of emotional immaturity or whatever the hell attached to its narrative and people that attempt to engage with it at a more profound level that “let’s occupy my brain for a couple of hours” – even if those ideas and feelings are turned on their head and worn like a badge of pride by moviegoers and bloggers and hardcore fans everywhere.