Gender and the Quest in British Science Fiction Television by Tom Powers


165a1e01e49202d-261x361.jpg Author Tom Powers
Isbn 1476665524
File size 2MB
Year 2016
Pages 284
Language English
File format PDF
Category cinema


 

Gender and the Quest in British Science Fiction Television CRITICAL EXPLORATIONS IN S CIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY (a series edited by Donald E. Palumbo and C.W. Sullivan III) 1 Worlds Apart? Dualism and Transgression in Contemporary Female Dystopias (Dunja M. Mohr, 2005) 2 Tolkien and Shakespeare: Essays on Shared Themes and Language (ed. Janet Brennan Croft, 2007) 3 Culture, Identities and Technology in the Star Wars Films: Essays on the Two Trilogies (ed. Carl Silvio, Tony M. Vinci, 2007) 4 The Influence of Star Trek on Television, Film and Culture (ed. Lincoln Geraghty, 2008) 5 Hugo Gernsback and the Century of Science Fiction (Gary Westfahl, 2007) 6 One Earth, One People: The Mythopoeic Fantasy Series of Ursula K. Le Guin, Lloyd Alexander, Madeleine L’Engle and Orson Scott Card (Marek Oziewicz, 2008) 7 The Evolution of Tolkien’s Mythology: A Study of the History of Middle-earth (Elizabeth A. Whittingham, 2008) 8 H. Beam Piper: A Biography (John F. Carr, 2008) 9 Dreams and Nightmares: Science and Technology in Myth and Fiction (Mordecai Roshwald, 2008) 10 Lilith in a New Light: Essays on the George MacDonald Fantasy Novel (ed. Lucas H. Harriman, 2008) 11 Feminist Narrative and the Supernatural: The Function of Fantastic Devices in Seven Recent Novels (Katherine J. Weese, 2008) 12 The Science of Fiction and the Fiction of Science: Collected Essays on SF Storytelling and the Gnostic Imagination (Frank McConnell, ed. Gary Westfahl, 2009) 13 Kim Stanley Robinson Maps the Unimaginable: Critical Essays (ed. William J. Burling, 2009) 14 The Inter-Galactic Playground: A Critical Study of Children’s and Teens’ Science Fiction (Farah Mendlesohn, 2009) 15 Science Fiction from Québec: A Postcolonial Study (Amy J. Ransom, 2009) 16 Science Fiction and the Two Cultures: Essays on Bridging the Gap Between the Sciences and the Humanities (ed. Gary Westfahl, George Slusser, 2009) 17 Stephen R. Donaldson and the Modern Epic Vision: A Critical Study of the “Chronicles of Thomas Covenant” Novels (Christine Barkley, 2009) 18 Ursula K. Le Guin’s Journey to Post-Feminism (Amy M. Clarke, 2010) 19 Portals of Power: Magical Agency and Transformation in Literary Fantasy (Lori M. Campbell, 2010) 20 The Animal Fable in Science Fiction and Fantasy (Bruce Shaw, 2010) 21 Illuminating Torchwood: Essays on Narrative, Character and Sexuality in the BBC Series (ed. Andrew Ireland, 2010) 22 Comics as a Nexus of Cultures: Essays on the Interplay of Media, Disciplines and International Perspectives (ed. Mark Berninger, Jochen Ecke, Gideon Haberkorn, 2010) 23 The Anatomy of Utopia: Narration, Estrangement and Ambiguity in More, Wells, Huxley and Clarke (Károly Pintér, 2010) 24 The Anticipation Novelists of 1950s French Science Fiction: Stepchildren of Voltaire (Bradford Lyau, 2010) 25 The Twilight Mystique: Critical Essays on the Novels and Films (ed. Amy M. Clarke, Marijane Osborn, 2010) 26 The Mythic Fantasy of Robert Holdstock: Critical Essays on the Fiction (ed. Donald E. Morse, Kálmán Matolcsy, 2011) 27 Science Fiction and the Prediction of the Future: Essays on Foresight and Fallacy (ed. Gary Westfahl, Wong Kin Yuen, Amy Kit-sze Chan, 2011) 28 Apocalypse in Australian Fiction and Film: A Critical Study (Roslyn Weaver, 2011) 29 British Science Fiction Film and Television: Critical Essays (ed. Tobias Hochscherf, James Leggott, 2011) 30 Cult Telefantasy Series: A Critical Analysis of The Prisoner, Twin Peaks, The X-Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Lost, Heroes, Doctor Who and Star Trek (Sue Short, 2011) 31 The Postnational Fantasy: Essays on Postcolonialism, Cosmopolitics and Science Fiction (ed. Masood Ashraf Raja, Jason W. Ellis and Swaralipi Nandi, 2011) 32 Heinlein’s Juvenile Novels: A Cultural Dictionary (C.W. Sullivan III, 2011) 33 Welsh Mythology and Folklore in Popular Culture: Essays on Adaptations in Literature, Film, Television and Digital Media (ed. Audrey L. Becker and Kristin Noone, 2011) 34 I See You: The Shifting Paradigms of James Cameron’s Avatar (Ellen Grabiner, 2012) 35 Of Bread, Blood and The Hunger Games: Critical Essays on the Suzanne Collins Trilogy (ed. Mary F. Pharr and Leisa A. Clark, 2012) 36 The Sex Is Out of This World: Essays on the Carnal Side of Science Fiction (ed. Sherry Ginn and Michael G. Cornelius, 2012) 37 Lois McMaster Bujold: Essays on a Modern Master of Science Fiction and Fantasy (ed. Janet Brennan Croft, 2013) 38 Girls Transforming: Invisibility and Age-Shifting in Children’s Fantasy Fiction Since the 1970s (Sanna Lehtonen, 2013) 39 Doctor Who in Time and Space: Essays on Themes, Characters, History and Fandom, 1963–2012 (ed. Gillian I. Leitch, 2013) 40 The Worlds of Farscape: Essays on the Groundbreaking Television Series (ed. Sherry Ginn, 2013) 41 Orbiting Ray Bradbury’s Mars: Biographical, Anthropological, Literary, Scientific and Other Perspectives (ed. Gloria McMillan, 2013) 42 The Heritage of Heinlein: A Critical Reading of the Fiction Television Series (Thomas D. Clareson and Joe Sanders, 2014) 43 The Past That Might Have Been, the Future That May Come: Women Writing Fantastic Fiction, 1960s to the Present (Lauren J. Lacey, 2014) 44 Environments in Science Fiction: Essays on Alternative Spaces (ed. Susan M. Bernardo, 2014) 45 Discworld and the Disciplines: Critical Approaches to the Terry Pratchett Works (ed. Anne Hiebert Alton and William C. Spruiell, 2014) 46 Nature and the Numinous in Mythopoeic Fantasy Literature (Christopher Straw Brawley, 2014) 47 J.R.R. Tolkien, Robert E. Howard and the Birth of Modern Fantasy (Deke Parsons, 2014) 48 The Monomyth in American Science Fiction Films: 28 Visions of the Hero’s Journey (Donald E. Palumbo, 2014) 49 The Fantastic in Holocaust Literature and Film: Critical Perspectives (ed. Judith B. Kerman and John Edgar Browning, 2014) 50 Star Wars in the Public Square: The Clone Wars as Political Dialogue (Derek R. Sweet, 2016) 51 An Asimov Companion: Characters, Places and Terms in the Robot/Empire/Foundation Metaseries (Donald E. Palumbo, 2016) 52 Michael Moorcock: Fiction, Fantasy and the World’s Pain (Mark Scroggins, 2016) 53 The Last Midnight: Essays on Apocalyptic Narratives in Millennial Media (ed. Leisa A. Clark, Amanda Firestone and Mary F. Pharr, 2016) 54 The Science Fiction Mythmakers: Religion, Science and Philosophy in Wells, Clarke, Dick and Herbert (Jennifer Simkins, 2016) 55 Gender and the Quest in British Science Fiction Television: An Analysis of Doctor Who, Blake’s 7, Red Dwarf and Torchwood (Tom Powers, 2016) This page intentionally left blank Gender and the Quest in British Science Fiction Television An Analysis of Doctor Who, Blake’s 7, Red Dwarf and Torchwood Tom Powers Foreword by Matt Hills CRITICAL EXPLORATIONS IN S CIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY, 55 Series Editors Donald E. Palumbo and C.W. Sullivan III McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers Jefferson, North Carolina ISBN (print) 978-1-4766-6552-8 ISBN (ebook) 978-1-4766-2693-2 LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGUING DATA ARE AVAILABLE BRITISH LIBRARY CATALOGUING DATA ARE AVAILABLE © 2016 Tom Powers. All rights reserved No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying or recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. Printed in the United States of America McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers Box 611, Jefferson, North Carolina 28640 www.mcfarlandpub.com For my wife Amanda Acknowledgments I would like to thank Thomas J. Slater, whose synergistic advising on my dissertation led to the creation of this book, as well as my dissertation committee members, John Branscum and Christopher Orchard, who gave me valuable advice and encouragement. Moreover, I appreciate Alexis Lothian, for introducing me to queer theory; Hugh Ormsby-Lennon, for supporting my early musings on Red Dwarf; Marc Schuster, for his insightful feedback on my manuscript; and Don Z. Block, for his kind words. I am also grateful to Donald E. Palumbo, who helped me to refine this work for publication, and Matt Hills, for providing such a thoughtful foreword. viii Table of Contents viii Acknowledgments Foreword: The Challenges of Regeneration (by Matt Hills) 1 Introduction: Doctor Who, Blake’s 7, Red Dwarf and Torchwood: Gendered Heroic Quests 11 One: The Phenomenological Meanings of BBC Cult SF Headquarters and Objects 21 Two: The Rise, Fall and Nostalgic Embers of 1980s Doctor Who 42 Three: The CNC Implications of Blake’s 7 ’s Stylized Retro-Future 79 Four: What a Smegging Quest! The Journey of Red Dwarf and Its Fandom 108 Five: Everything’s Constantly Changing: Sex and Death on Torchwood 147 Six: NüWho’s Quest to Stay Relevant with Its Fans 186 Conclusion: Encoders and Decoders Shaping the Destinies of Four Cult SF TV Sagas 221 Appendix: Televised Works 233 Chapter Notes 245 Works Cited 259 Index 265 ix This page intentionally left blank Foreword: The Challenges of Regeneration by Matt Hills In one sense, this book reverses the (theoretical) polarity of Henry Jenkins’s seminal study of cult/telefantasy TV and its fans, Textual Poachers. Where Jenkins largely dispensed with Stuart Hall’s influential encoding/decoding model—to focus instead on Michel de Certeau’s model of “poaching”—Tom Powers intriguingly inverts that decision. In the pages that follow, then, we get a return to Hall’s approach, albeit one that is revised in order to better capture the temporality of long-running media franchises—or, at least, of TV shows that their fans refuse to let fade away via “post-object fandom” (Williams, Post-Object). As Powers thoughtfully muses in his conclusion: “One constant has been present [across these case studies]—time…. Time is … ever present in an always-evolving decoding sense as the four fan cultures … continue to build upon their DIY cultural productions that celebrate, criticize and recreate their televised objects of affection.” Putting media fans’ and brands’ temporalities back into the encoding/ decoding model in this way means admitting that a synchronic, singular focus on moments of determinate decoding is far too limited a way of thinking. As Jonathan Gray has pointed out in his own reworking of Hall’s approach: “I propose, therefore, that we talk not of encoding/decoding, but of encoding/redecoding, and of reading through. Both reading and the text are a continual journey through, a continuance of motion, and while there might be determinate moments, there are always potentially more determinate moments to come” (34). And both this and Powers’s highly productive return to fans-as-decoders work to address the very reasons why Jenkins had initially rejected Hall’s well-established theory: 1 2 Foreword (by Matt Hills) de Certeau’s notion of “poaching” differs in important ways from Stuart Hall’s … formulation (1980). First, as it has been applied, Hall’s model of dominant, negotiated, and oppositional readings tends to imply that each reader has a stable position from which to make sense of a text rather than having access to multiple sets of discursive competencies by virtue of [a] more complex and contradictory place within the social formation. Hall’s model … suggests that popular meanings are fixed and classifiable, while de Certeau’s “poaching” model emphasizes the process of making meaning and the fluidity of popular interpretation [Jenkins 33–34]. In his analyses of the British cult telefantasies Doctor Who, Blake’s 7, Red Dwarf and Torchwood, Powers effectively takes forward Jonathan Gray’s call for a focus on “redecoding,” and thus counters the notion that popular meanings are somehow “fixed and classifiable” rather than marked by (contested) fluidity over time. Indeed, Powers argues not just for a focus on fans’ (re)decodings over the years—happening between media texts’ proposed or actual reimaginings—but also for a consideration of how fannish (re)decodings can relate to new encodings of, say, official Doctor Who or Red Dwarf. Gray has noted how his own rebooting of Hall’s work leads to a series of research questions: “After all, a lot revolves around the potential of texts to be kept alive, and this model requires work on issues as disparate as … which texts or types of texts are particularly long lasting and why; which texts are prone to frequent decodings … and why; which people are more or less likely to redecode” (35). There are some new explorations of these issues on display in this volume: clearly, cult TV offers one type of textuality that is prone to frequent (re)decoding across weeks, months and years, as fans revisit eras or series, rewatching their favored objects. And within the fan world (akin to the “art world” theorized by Howard Becker, where what it means to be a fan, and who gets to be a true fan, replaces analogous questions addressed towards the identity of “the artist”) texts’ “potential” to be kept alive is surely maximized—part of being a long-term, dedicated fan means precisely redecoding, campaigning, and evangelizing for the return of a reinvigorated version of the beloved fan object (see, e.g., Jones on international X Files fandom). In this book, Tom Powers seeks, crucially, to reconnect the specificity of fans’ decoding and producers’ subsequent (rather than prior) encodings, positing a feedback loop of sorts; a relationship that can sometimes be mutually reinforcing and sometimes problematic for both parties. As the author points out in chapter one: “I will be discussing … iterations of what I … call encoding/decoding/encoding—or EDE.” Encoders and decoders may be institutionally separated at any given moment of textual production and consumption, but they remain in a constrained and enabled dialogue. Foreword (by Matt Hills) 3 By way of illustrating how fans’ voices and decodings can constrain producers’ subsequent encodings, Powers, in his introduction, focuses on “the reciprocal pull oscillating between … encoders and decoders in any of these four unique media situations,” terming this “the Continuum of Nostalgic Continuity (CNC)” (see also Harvey 97). Such a thing sounds almost science-fictional in its own right, as if it could be a part of the hyperdiegetic worlds of Doctor Who, Blake’s 7, Red Dwarf and Torchwood. But more importantly, the CNC points to how these different fandoms negotiate the challenge of brand regeneration (Lury 8), as their shows are reinvented or enter the realms of production development and speculation (Gwynne). The CNC amounts to a cluster of fan (re)decodings which work, communally and collectively, to demarcate what the fan object should be. This is an authenticating and possibly even essentializing fan view (Hills, Triumph 5), laying out what Doctor Who must contain, without which it forfeits its own identity and textual authenticity, or stipulating what Torchwood should be. As Powers observes in the latter case at the end of chapter five: While Torchwood’s future as a continuing television narrative is undetermined at present, a strong feeling exists amongst online fandom that … the series should return to its fundamental Cardiff roots and earlier emphasis on character-based and pansexual storytelling…. [T]his mindset may seem creatively and economically suicidal, but, after all, Torchwood … will most likely find the future means for success via its … fans. Fans’ desire to recreate “true” Torchwood or “true” Red Dwarf can result in an encoding CNC template for producers which either restricts the regendering of these shows’ heroic quests, or leads to conflict between producers and (sections of ) fandom. Another of Powers’s exemplars, Doctor Who, has become embroiled in production, media and fan debates around the gendering of its title character. At the same time, it is not inevitable that fans’ construction of a CNC will result in a backward-looking, regressive or reactionary model of the “true” text being reproduced—despite a vocal minority attacking Battlestar Galactica for its noughties’ regendering of Starbuck as a female character, the franchise was ultimately strengthened and modernized by this move, being successfully repositioned as “quality TV.” There are evidently key encoding/decoding/encoding moments where any given TV show has the chance to undergo dramatic and radical reimagining—points at which it is rebranded, and where new production communities take over from prior creative teams. The EDE circuit that Powers examines across his case studies (or even EDEDE; the circuit extends ever onwards in actuality) is not necessarily one where the same encoders are involved at successive determinate moments. As Mark Wolf 4 Foreword (by Matt Hills) has rightly observed in his study of imaginary worlds: “Fans who are serious about contributing canonical material to a world can become employees or freelancers, or in some cases, even the torchbearers assigned to continue a world (as is the case with lifelong Doctor Who fan Steven Moffat…). However … the majority of … [fans] are on the lower end of the hierarchies of authorship” (280). This highlights the fact that TV’s fan-decoders can cross over into the roles of producer-encoders, becoming what Suzanne Scott has termed “fanboy auteurs” (51), although this extradiegetic quest is very often (problematically) gendered too. It may be tempting to draw general conclusions from such movements between fannish decoder and official encoder— perhaps suggesting that hybridized producer-fans are always-already placed within both production and fan communities or discourses—but we need to remain conscious of the highly unusual status of the fanturned-“torchbearer” who assumes creative control over a franchise. Such cases tend to be strongly publicized in contemporary media culture— whether we look at BBC TV’s Doctor Who being taken over by Chris Chibnall in 2018, or Disney’s Star Wars having been reinvigorated in 2015 by J.J. Abrams—no doubt because such semiotic maneuvers can work to reassure fans not only that the CNC will be honored, but also that any changes made will remain sensitive to, and cognizant of, fans’ constructions of textual authenticity. Yet the “fanboy auteur” does not reflect the cultural and industrial positions of “ordinary fandom” (used in a variant context by Sandvoss and Kearns 93). While fans with appropriately high levels of cultural and media-industry capital can become candidates for these industrial blurrings of fan and official producer, the vast majority of fans are not, and will not ever be, in such a situation themselves. The “Showrunner Dream” is, we might say, no less ideological than the American Dream, holding out a promise of “making it” that remains restricted to a very small elite. Powers’s focus on the encoding/decoding/encoding circuit also engages with cases where the same specific producer has maintained generally cordial relations with fandom over time—e.g., Doug Naylor working on Red Dwarf—and instances where production teams have given way to successor “torchbearers” drawn from fandom themselves, as with Doctor Who. Derek Johnson has analyzed how media franchises are not simply concerned with “world-building,” i.e., creating an expansive diegetic universe that fans can learn about as well as expanding via non-canonical productivity (Jenkins, Convergence 114–15), but also with “world-sharing among creative workers and communities” (Johnson 109). Foreword (by Matt Hills) 5 What Johnson labels “multiplied production” can “be successive … or significantly after” (122), with different producers separated by long periods of time tending to characterize reboots/reimaginings. But such EDE dialectics do not only respond to fans’ “continuum of nostalgic continuity”: new producers also aim to display their creative autonomy through novel encodings. If all that producers are creating is “fan service,” or an explicit emulation of past texts, then their work risks being positioned as wholly reactive and derivative, lacking in any claim to auteur status or any articulation with industrially valued discourses of TV art and creativity. The fan continuum of nostalgic continuity therefore inevitably interacts with what might be considered an industrial continuum of nostalgic creativity, partly harking back to a more paternalistic and sequestered era of media production where fans and producers were not as significantly and symbolically proximate as they are today (thanks to social media, fandom’s cultural mainstreaming, and industry discourses of branding/engagement). As Derek Johnson indicates, [R]elations [between producers] have shaped the shared use of franchise worlds within these intra-industrial contexts—chiefly in the desire of different production communities to both take pleasure in a tradition of creativity and establish their own unique identities and … creative viewpoints. What has resulted are practices that acknowledge the use of shared worlds while also pushing for recognition of a difference that [has] allowed production communities to make meaningful claims to creative and professional distinction [123]. That is, new producers want to make their authorial mark on rebranded franchises, at the same time as acknowledging fan discourses (this was just as true for Doctor Who’s producer in the 1980s, John Nathan-Turner, as it was for showrunner Russell T Davies in 2005). Even when a producer is a “fanboy auteur,” then, they will still aim to integrate CNC fan service with an artistic autonomy or authorial distinctiveness likely to challenge at least some fannish received wisdoms (see Hills, “Expertise”). But if fan-decoders can become producer-encoders, what of the situation where official encoders become aligned with fan-decoders? Powers analyzes The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot, a low-budget production which featured on the BBC’s Red Button as part of Doctor Who’s fiftieth anniversary celebrations, as well as being available online and then as part of a Collector’s Edition Blu-ray set. This mockumentary about former Who actors Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy attempting to appear in the anniversary special “The Day of the Doctor” was directed by none other than Davison himself, who had previously appeared in the show as the Fifth Doctor (1981–84). Davison had also directed videos for the major U.S. fan convention, Gallifrey One, including one apologizing 6 Foreword (by Matt Hills) for his absence from the event. On this note, Powers writes in chapter two, This video [for Gallifrey One 2010] … represents an interesting hybrid production in which an encoder-actor is collaborating with decoders to produce a quality fanproduced work, whose satiric tone would be echoed in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot…. Can one, however, consider Davison … Baker, McCoy, and [Paul] McGann, as fans of Doctor Who?… [C]an four actors … be fans of themselves? More paradoxically, does Davison’s … [work here] serve as the ultimate act of narcissism, or is he articulating the inherent power wielded by contemporary participatory culture in being able to lower and blur the traditional barriers standing between … encoders and decoders? There are many questions here, to be sure, though it seems persuasive that the line between encoding and decoding is eroded through such fantargeted paratexts (Hills, Doctor Who 48–50). Is Davison’s convention skit best considered as a “fan-produced work,” though? It may be necessary to distinguish between different meanings of fandom in such examples (Ross 260). Professional actors can certainly perform fan identities by aligning themselves with paying convention-goers (Geraghty 110), as well as experiencing the emotional attachments of fandom—both to communities and texts. But still, the Doctor Who fandom of Peter Davison can again be distinguished from that of “ordinary” fans—Davison combines his fandom with industry “insider” status and media capital. Such hybridity cannot disqualify or invalidate his “fan” alignment, to be sure, but it undoubtedly colors and modifies it. As such, the questions raised by Powers compel us to consider how fandom cannot be considered as one cultural entity (if it ever could!), but instead needs to be analyzed in relation to its intersectionality with other (professional/media world) performances of self. Observing how the former Doctors appearing in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot wear a “mix of proper and commercial costumes [i.e., merchandised T-shirts]” that “signifies their newfound roles as fan-actors,” Powers also draws our attention to the temporal trajectories of professional actors, for whom these TV series can sometimes correspond to jobs from many, many years ago. Davison, Baker and McCoy thus occupy a liminal position—their regular convention attendance may contribute to the allegiance they feel towards long-term Doctor Who fans, yet, despite their industry “insider” positioning, they simultaneously remain at a distance from the current production of Doctor Who, forming part of previous production teams. The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot is thus more than merely fan-pleasing satire, since it also captures the phenomenological position of being a former Doctor, both privileged in industry/fan terms and yet secondary to the show’s contemporary production. If Doctor Who has been subjected to a vast array of canonizing aca- Foreword (by Matt Hills) 7 demic study, while Torchwood has attracted reasonable attention by virtue of being a Doctor Who spinoff (see Ireland and Williams, Torchwood), then Blake’s 7 and Red Dwarf have perhaps been unfairly downplayed in scholarship. Each show generates much fruitful analysis here, however, with Blake’s 7 being addressed in part though the “post–Gauda Prime” genre of fan fiction where fans imagine what comes after the cataclysmic events of the show’s final episode “Blake.” Powers, in chapter three, suggests that while “[o]ccupying a nebulous space between fan fiction and a proper place in Blake’s 7 spinoff narratives, The Logic of Empire perhaps represents the finest example of encoding/decoding/encoding I can offer.” Made available as a cassette tape more than fifteen years after the end of Blake’s 7 on TV, and written by Alan Stevens and David Tulley, The Logic of Empire is not an official, canonical BBC production. Despite this, it features leading actors from the original series (Paul Darrow, Jacqueline Pearce, Gareth Thomas, Peter Tuddenham) and is effectively endorsed by Blake’s 7’s series four producer, Vere Lorrimer, who contributes to the liner notes: “I was associated with all four seasons of Blake’s Seven. I am proud to be associated with this audio play” (Lorrimer). Regardless of such “nebulous” interplay between fandom and (former) official producers and star actors, The Logic of Empire remains legally non-official. By contrast, Peter Davison’s production of The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot became legally official when BBC Wales agreed to fund it—so there are discursive regimes of branding and intellectual property which continue to distinguish very keenly and precisely between these textual states. Powers additionally analyses how Blake’s 7 “remains in a limbo state…. [T]he majority of [licensed Big Finish audio/novelized] tales are caught in a CNC vortex as they cater to fans’ sentimental feelings about the original series, so their potential influence in helping to jumpstart a reinvigoration of Blake’s 7 fandom is rather limited.” The implication here is that fandom can sometimes be its own worst enemy, essentializing an “authentic” version of the fan object which “may consequently disrupt any potential encodings of a reboot.” And yet producers can, and do, still find ways to playfully and purposefully renovate such shows, observing the industrial continuum of nostalgic creativity as well as the fannish CNC. This has very much been the case for Red Dwarf, which returned after a period of dormancy with Back to Earth, a meta-fictional story in which the show’s characters entered a version of “our” everyday world. Given Red Dwarf ’s status as SF comedy, it was able to integrate this gambit with canonical status, even suggesting that the program’s TV audiences and fans had been created as a result of 8 Foreword (by Matt Hills) the “actual” crew’s adventures. Powers suggests that Back to Earth constitutes a commentary on the brand’s ongoing viability, and it is certainly the case that cancelled TV shows moving from “post-object” to rebooted/ continued status often seem to focus self-reflexively on their own previous fan audience and prior version(s). Indeed, one conclusion of Powers’s work is that “in order for a dormant science fiction brand to achieve a successful media revival, encoders may be required to include … the original cast, a true continuation of its heroic quest, and a synergistic relationship with its decoders.” We may also need to address intervening changes in industrial context, and how shows are required to engage with such developments: for example, when Doctor Who came back in 2005, it needed to function as a coherent brand, and also to operate in relation to norms of “televisuality” established by U.S. quality-cult TV. Sometimes referred to as “NüWho,” the BBC Wales’ incarnation of the series has recently addressed criticisms of its gendered heroic quest from fans and critics alike. The character of the Master—a key antagonist for the Doctor—has thus been regendered as the female “Missy” (or “Mistress”), while Series Nine ended with the Doctor’s companion, Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman), taking on a Doctor-like role with a female companion of her own, Ashildr (Maisie Williams). Tom Powers, in chapter six, rightly notes that these characters “represent a completely feminized iteration of travelers and time machine—a progressive encoding step on [showrunner Steven] Moffat’s part, [and] one that may signal future versions of Doctor Who.” The interesting issue which this raises, however, is the extent to which Moffat’s scriptwriting decisions here can be read as encoding choices premised on fans,’ journalists,’ and academics’ critical decodings of Who’s gendered limitations. Is “Hell Bent” (Series Nine, episode 12) a producer’s response to his vocal critics? Circuits of encodingdecoding-encoding (and so on) may sometimes correspond to what Sharon Marie Ross calls an “obscured” invitation to tele-participation (4), i.e., rather than the most recent encoding being explicitly positioned as a response to prior fan decodings—which would position Moffat’s work as reactive fan service rather than autonomous TV authorship—the industrial continuum of nostalgic creativity works to obscure this relationship. The result is that showrunners such as Moffat can be discursively positioned as proactive, valued creators rather than as responsive, derivative media workers taking their cue from audience tastes and cultural politics. Perhaps, then, it isn’t only fans who have to navigate the challenges and potential inauthenticities of regenerated TV shows via the CNC, but also media producers who have to negotiate new challenges of regenerated Foreword (by Matt Hills) 9 encoding/decoding possibilities, sometimes obscuring or masking an EDE circuit in favor of strengthening professional and production discourses of creative autonomy. Tom Powers’s book proffers an invaluable guide to this terrain, bringing a revisionist encoding/decoding model back into studies of SF TV and media fandom, astutely relating this to critical readings of gender and sexuality, and arguing, in his conclusion, that fan “decoders are the ones who ultimately serve as the true stewards of these series’ fantastical narratives.” By contrast, changing “torchbearers” and multiple “production communities” might represent only temporary embodiments of the media’s encoding power, sometimes partaking of fan discourses (Booth 102), but nevertheless still remaining distinct from the fan world and its assorted communities and cultures. Works Cited Becker, Howard S. Art Worlds: Updated and Expanded 25th Anniversary Edition. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008. Print. Booth, Paul. Playing Fans. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2015. Print. Geraghty, Lincoln. Cult Collectors: Nostalgia, Fandom and Collecting Popular Culture. 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Author Tom Powers Isbn 1476665524 File size 2MB Year 2016 Pages 284 Language English File format PDF Category Cinema Book Description: FacebookTwitterGoogle+TumblrDiggMySpaceShare The subjects of this book constitute a significant cross section of BBC science fiction television. With such characters as the Doctor (an enigmatic time-traveling alien), Kerr Avon (a problematic rebel leader), Dave Lister (a slovenly last surviving human) and Captain Jack Harkness (a complex omnisexual immortal), these shows have both challenged and reinforced viewer expectations about the small-screen masculine hero. This book explores the construction of gendered heroic identity in the series from both production and fan perspectives. The paradoxical relationships between the producers, writers and fans of the four series are discussed. Fan fiction, criticism and videos are examined that both celebrate and criticize BBC science fiction heroes and villains.     Download (2MB) Inside the Tardis: The Worlds of Doctor Who The Ultimate Star Trek and Philosophy: The Search for Socrates Docufictions: Essays On The Intersection Of Documentary And Fictional Filmmaking Jack Rosenthal (The Television Series) The Ultimate Star Trek and Philosophy: The Search for Socrates Load more posts

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