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Dept. of Media Skiffy

Good, Challenging, and Confusing

It's about time, and inhuman personages of great but fluctuating powers, battling against incomprehensible dangers that are, again, largely time-connected, and about the results on humans caught in the wash of the battles, even when they are sometimes the cause of the battles.

Nope. Not Doctor Who.

It's "Sapphire and Steel." Which is why I titled this post as I did. Because that's what I think anyone could reasonably call "Sapphire and Steel", the British ITV show from the 1970s to which the redoubtable [personal profile] lost_spook  introduced me a couple of years ago.

It's mysterious, incomprehensible, funny, brilliant, ridiculous (a deadly pillow! An evil round patch of light!) and unexpectedly terrifying (you'll believe a pillow is deadly! And that a round patch of light is evil!) It's got Joanna Lumley and David McCallum and, from time to time (see whut I did thar), the wonderful David Collings. It's very slow, but it's slow for a reason. And so many of its shots are beautifully composed to take advantage of the slowness ....

... ahem. Yes. I rather like it.

And you should watch it. Or at least I think you should give it try.

And why do I bring this up? Because today, at the end of an afternoon spent attempting to introduce a fannish friend who is not into televised skiffy to some various aspects of same (it's a long-term project spearheaded by another friend, and entered into willingly but bemusedly by the first person), as we were clearing up, the spear-header and I were talking about favorite series, and I happened to mention S&S. Oh, the friend says, I have that collection. It turns out she was less impressed by it than I was, and she handed the entire collection to me.

*cue pictures of [personal profile] kaffyr  dancing quietly in her head*

Having seen S&S only on YouTube, to be able to have my own actual collection? Well, the whole "dancing in her head bit" is quite true.

As for the rest of the afternoon, well it was good, challenging and confusing as well. The person to whom we were introducing skiffical television liked, as far as I could see, the first episode of the revived DW, "Rose" or at least was positively amused and curious about it. The person was, again as far as I could see, equally amused by "Once More With Feeling" from Buffy.

But, in what came as a surprise to me, the person seemed to be almost insulted by the first episode of Firefly, for reasons that I truly, deeply disagree with, and which appear to point to a them having a sincerely different way of viewing skiffy, SF/fantasy, or indeed the world, than I have. I shall have to think on that deeply, because I'd personally predicted that the person would like Firefly and be completely contemptuous of DW. And thus do humans continue to confound, confuse and challenge me.

Still, the person did not immediately declare that the crash course in introduction to TV skiffy was over and done with. More afternoons are therefore possible in future. I look forward to it.

(Still. Rearing back because Firefly has wooden kitchen tables on space ships, or because shipping containers in the far future look like ... shipping containers ... well, as I said, I must think on that deeply.) And you know I still love you, right?)

This entry was originally posted at http://kaffyr.dreamwidth.org/311174.html?mode=reply, where there are currently comment count unavailable comments. You can comment there or here; I watch both.


( 25 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 4th, 2014 03:34 am (UTC)
YAY!!! S&S collection of one's own!! Seriously need to see that sometime...

*Grins* Glad they enjoyed DW and OMWF from BtVS...but...insulted over Firefly?

Oh!! I know what it was! The realism. Everyone likes their scifi startrekky and FF definitely is...not. The ships are functional and homey and...not pretty. And the worlds are poineer worlds. I can understand her 'Bzuh?!' though I adore Firefly like burning! OMFG...

World never stops turning Badger.

That only matters to the people on the Rim.

Aug. 4th, 2014 03:42 am (UTC)
S&S may be the strangest skiffy series I've ever liked. It's strange like some of the best anime is, I guess. Heh.

World never stops turning Badger./That only matters to the people on the Rim.

Those are such great lines, aren't they?

I need to talk to the person more about what bothered them, because I could be wrong about what seemed to be bothering them, but it did seem to bend in the direction you suggest. On the other hand, the person said that their belief probably gets suspended in different ways than mine, and that makes as much sense as anything.
Aug. 4th, 2014 06:16 am (UTC)
Yay for the collection! Sounds brilliant :D

Converting people to shows you love is so much fun! :) But indeed, sometimes they don't react at all as expected. And I guess the realism could really make some people feel weird, to the point of not being able to get into the story… We all react differently, indeed…

Aug. 4th, 2014 02:42 pm (UTC)
Yay for the collection! Sounds brilliant :D

Oh, it's definitely brilliant; skewed, but brilliant. If you want to try it, start with the multi-episode story arc called "Assignment One" on YouTube. Stick with it past the slowness and the occasionally bad child actor, and I think you'll find it at least interesting.

When it comes to my friend and their reaction to Firefly, I shall just have to see how they react to the next episode. Heh.

Aug. 4th, 2014 07:02 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the heads up :) I'm terribly bad at finding time to watch *anything* (and mostly sticking to classic!Who when I do manage…), but I'll remember that if I ever get the occasion :)

Indeed, you'll see with time…
Aug. 4th, 2014 01:08 pm (UTC)
Oh, how lovely! *\0/* Enjoy your new-found ownership of S&S! Just watch out for clocks doing weird things and stuff vanishing inexplicably. (This happened to me. Although actually, I blame my parents. They watched some of it with me and then found temporal problems all over my house.)

Introducing people to new shows is always fun yet nervewracking - there's no guarantees for what people might like, only educated guesses. (About the preferences - both Rose and Buffy have real world/contemporary settings adn I've often found that of the people I know who dislike sf/fantasy, it's things that are a completely imagined worlds that are often the biggest problems for them - it's not real, therefore it doesn't matter, they can't suspend their disbelief or it's just 'silly'. But if you have relatable characters on a recognisable backdrop, sometimes they're won over.) It's always interesting, though: we each bring a unique reading to a text and that can be frustrating, baffling and saddening, but it's also really exciting, too. :-)
Aug. 4th, 2014 02:45 pm (UTC)
(This happened to me. Although actually, I blame my parents. They watched some of it with me and then found temporal problems all over my house.)

Oh, dear ... *looks about her to make sure everything is in the same time period as she is*

My friend appears to be reacting in the "why would they have wooden tables on a space ship, and why would things in the far future look so much like today" problems, as well as, I think, possible issues with projectile weapons being used on said space ship. But I'll eventually find out, or at least I hope I will.
Aug. 4th, 2014 03:45 pm (UTC)

I had this clock that had stopped months before and it suddenly started working again at odd moments, so I'd come down and the time would have changed, but the clock was still stopped... :lol:

Ah, well, I've never watched Firefly, but I can see why that juxtaposition would throw someone. It sounds weird to me and I've watched a lot of odd things in my time (as anyone on my flist knows well by now.)
Aug. 5th, 2014 08:57 pm (UTC)
It's not actually too weird; the idea that, once space travel becomes extremely common, with gravity on the ships, etc., life would continue, and wouldn't necessarily be all shiny and Star Trek-y.

So, when you transport anything from place to place, a metal shipping container is pretty much going to look like a shipping container in any age. And there's no reason not to put a wooden table on a space ship, as long as it's nailed to the floor, so to speak.

On frontier worlds, where people got dropped with very little to start with, the resulting societies would work with what they had around them - that might be wood or stone, and wouldn't necessarily look like what we think of as "futuristic." Wood and stone have been used for millenia, houses and buildings have looked much the same.

Ultimately the reality is that we don't know what the future will look like, but chances are it's going to look a lot more like what we have than we think, and a lot less like extruded future plastic than we once thought. Heh.

Oh, and if you get the chance to watch Firefly (only one season long, so not much of a time burden), you might like it. It's witty, and well-acted, and can break your heart a little bit, too.
Aug. 5th, 2014 09:13 pm (UTC)
I'm afraid I watched Serenity a while ago and I didn't like it at all, so I don't really ever plan to see Firefly. You never know, though. Someone might bully me into it one day!

And I just meant the wooden table specifically sounded weird. A colony might be at any stage of development, or even have regressed; that's part of the fun of imagining them. (Ships, planes, cars, trains today all tend to have custom furniture out of similar material, though, probably space-saving, tougher, less flammable, so I'd expect similar from a space ship unless it was a really huge one.)
Aug. 5th, 2014 09:19 pm (UTC)
You never know, though. Someone might bully me into it one day!

Heh. Not me - I'm the first person to understand that some things just aren't everyone's cup of tea. I couldn't watch Merlin for a variety of reasons, and won't ever watch Breaking Bad, although folks I respect watched both and loved them. The idea of bullying someone into watching a show ... eeurgh!

The table makes sense in-world, because the folks who bought the ship essentially bought a hulk and had to retrofit it. Their living quarters are patched together with things they could beg, borrow or steal, and the kitchen area is the one area that they specifically made as homey as possible, probably because the rest of the ship is pretty bare and grim. As a psychological move to keep one's sanity in deep space, it makes sense. And if the rickety old ship goes to pieces, one wooden table wouldn't make a difference one way or another.

Edited at 2014-08-05 09:20 pm (UTC)
Aug. 6th, 2014 07:01 am (UTC)
I know! Indeed. I didn't mean nasty bullying, just the nice sort. Like, if someone lent it to me, I'd probably give in because of curiosity, but I'm not going to go out and buy it any time soon. Funnily enough, those are two shows I didn't watch and in the latter case definitely won't be watching, or at least not in the near future. And I'm quite sure most people I know wouldn't really want to watch many of my old TV shows I've suddenly fallen inexplicably in love with, either. :-)

I'm really not getting at anything; I remember their ship being a complete hodge-podge & that was fine with me. It just literally sounded like an odd juxtaposition in a solitary sentence, that's all. /o\

I think it might even have been watching it so soon after I saw Blake's 7 first, because it really does cover a lot of the same themes, and I was newly and utterly in love with a cracky, tacky, awesome thing of snark and crappy SFX and a villain with the most amazing taste in fashion, and it couldn't compare. No Michelin Men walked on set at the most inappropriate moment - how's a girl supposed to deal with proper effects and things? ;-D
Aug. 4th, 2014 04:50 pm (UTC)
I certainly have every hope of continuing the remedial media class, but you seem very substantially less science/tech oriented than me. Firefly is science fantasy, a la Star Wars, not science fiction. There are too many things which are physically nonsensical.
ymmv, ianal, park and lock it, LS/MFT
Aug. 4th, 2014 11:58 pm (UTC)
I think we're dealing with semantics, though; in my head, it's impossible to completely compartmentalize science fiction and fantasy, or space opera, or spec fic-based media, etc. etc. in the same way I once thought it could be compartmentalized. As I've grown older, I've decided that "skiffy", far from being a mansion with different rooms into which you can separate sub-sub-genres, is more like a humongous evening salon held in one great ballroom; where there are comfortable couches and chairs scattered around; people tend to congregate in one area to talk about one thing, but the conversations spill over and mix into conversations in other areas.

It's a discussion I've had often with BB.

The best thing to do with live media is to call it "skiffy" and focus on the story, the plot, the characterization, the direction, and the imagery.

ETA: LS/MFT? LMAO! *goes in search of Jack Benny*

Edited at 2014-08-05 04:03 am (UTC)
Aug. 5th, 2014 12:49 am (UTC)
I saw a bit of it and didn't understand a word... one of these days I'll get to see more :)
Aug. 5th, 2014 04:01 am (UTC)
You saw a bit of S&S? Depending on what assignment you got dropped into, I can understand lack of understanding, as it were. But in my very, very humble opinion, it's worth trying. Heh.
Aug. 6th, 2014 06:45 am (UTC)
I saw a bit of it and didn't understand a word..

You know what its entry in The Guiness Book of Classic British TV says? "There are many methods of holding a television audience: interesting characters, intriguing plots, sparkling dialogue, stunning direction. Total lack of explanation is not generally regarded to be one of those methods..." :-D

Never expect to understand it. Whether you'll like it if you see it, I don't know but some of the unusual films you describe sound an awful lot like S&S to me, and the reasons I like it.

Offers you smirking Element gifs, because I know you don't mind pretty anyway & I don't think Kaffyr could object. ♥

*scarpers out of other people's threads and journals*

Edited at 2014-08-06 06:48 am (UTC)
Aug. 6th, 2014 02:54 pm (UTC)
OOOOOOOoooo! Pretty GIFs! May I gank them, with credit?

And I understood the show, I really did!

mostly ....
Aug. 6th, 2014 04:00 pm (UTC)
Well, I just stole them from somebody else. I had to go and look them up again, and it was viro_blizzard on Tumblr. They are very pretty, aren't they?

And :lol: I didn't! But I loved pondering the mystery.
Aug. 8th, 2014 04:10 am (UTC)
I admit, my understanding was sort of Zen. I understood all I needed to, I guess. Heh. And thanks for going to the trouble of checking to you could let me know who to credit; that's service above and beyond!
Aug. 8th, 2014 07:34 am (UTC)
Heh, Zen understanding is a very good way of putting it! I understood it that way too. :-D
Aug. 5th, 2014 01:32 am (UTC)
After being won over to Blake's 7 (I will insist on the apostrophe) by lost_spook last fall I decided to go for broke and watch the OTHER show she's been steadfasting making positive noises of the "you should really watch this" variety about for the past several years.

While I didn't fall into a lovely New Fandom like with B7 (partially because... I'm not sure that fandom exists like that for S&S?), I did very much enjoy it and was happily scared out of my wits by the Train episode. Good stuff that I plan on re-watching at some point in the future.

Your friend's dislike of the first episode of Firefly confuses me. I recall not being especially fond of the first episode myself (I haven't seen it for ages so I couldn't tell you specifically what it was I didn't like) but I did like the rest of the show just fine. And the gritty juxtaposition of ordinary, just-a-bit-battered objects making do next to flashy future space tech was one of the things that sold it to me.
Aug. 5th, 2014 04:06 am (UTC)
There's sort of a tiny S&S fandom, with at least one tiny community over on Dreamwidth (I think), and I enjoy dropping by it occasionally, but there's definitely not quite the vigorous fandom that other shows enjoy. Still, it's good to know that you enjoyed it. And yes, the story with the train (Assignment Two, I think, if it's the one in the train station) was pretty dark and terrifying, as well as a bit horrifying. That was the one where it turned from a children's show - which it was, no fooling, supposed to have been started as - into an adult fantasy.

Your friend's dislike of the first episode of Firefly confuses me.

I direct you to apostle_of_eris's comment, above, and my response. I think we're dealing with perception and semantics here. I'm much less fussed about it today than I was, but it still croggles me a little.

Edited at 2014-08-05 04:08 am (UTC)
Aug. 5th, 2014 01:52 pm (UTC)
oh, for crying out loud
I am still resisting itemizing in lengthy detail, but
Firefly's physics is completely bogus.
Firefly's engineering is completely bogus.
Firefly's biology is completely bogus.
Firefly's economics is completely bogus.
Firefly's psychology and social dynamics are completely bogus.
It's really cheesy pre-Stanley Weinbaum 1930's space opera.
I'm interested in science fiction, not stuff with a thin coat of science fiction paint.
Aug. 5th, 2014 03:08 pm (UTC)
Re: oh, for crying out loud
Is that you? :)

Heh. Well, if it is you - I'm impressed that you decided all that, on the strength of one episode, whilst deciding that Doctor Who - whose first modern episode featured living plastic turned on by a radio-ey signal bounced off a Ferris Wheel by a lump of sentient something, defeated by a humanoid alien who breaks the laws of physics to travel in time in a box that's bigger on the inside fit your definition of science fiction at least enough to enjoy.

I'm interested in science fiction, not stuff with a thin coat of science fiction paint.

I don't think there's much out there in live media that fits your rather stringent bill. And, when you think about it, the percentage of written skiffy that fits your parameters is small as well, although there may well be numerous titles.

Anything that takes us out in space with drive of any sort that gets us between stars within one human lifetime is out because the physics are iffy.

Anything that does it on a space ship with gravity is out because artificial gravity is largely impossible, without faking it via centripetal force.

Any aliens may well be out because how can we realistically predict what we don't know exists. We'll have to "make it up" and that's not scientific.

Economy? Well, for heavens sake, economy is bogus going in, and going out, so that parameter is either irrelevant from the git-go or all imagined economies have at least enough going for them to work. So let's just back away from economic claims.

Psychology and social dynamics? Again ... back away slowly. Or acknowledge that things you read and maybe loved or respected, (I'm thinking "Left Hand of Darkness" for one) were unscientific and therefore unworthy of having the designation of science fiction.

It was Damon Knight, I think - please correct me if I'm wrong on this one - that said "science fiction is what I point to when I say 'science fiction.'"

Edited at 2014-08-05 08:57 pm (UTC)
( 25 comments — Leave a comment )

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