Archive | July 24, 2019

Middelboe Chronicles, Part 14: Carmen

Moving on from Othello, we come to another (rather different) tale of love, jealousy, and murder with an especially visually beautiful, rotoscoped Carmen (“Operavox,” 1995).

Nietzsche, who began his philosophical career with two encomia to Wagner (The Birth of Tragedy [1872] and Richard Wagner in Bayreuth [1876]), was by the end attacking Wagner and praising Bizet’s Carmen as a healthier alternative (The Case of Wagner [1888]):

Yesterday I heard – would you believe it? – Bizet’s masterpiece, for the twentieth time. … How such a work makes one perfect! One becomes a “masterpiece” oneself. … May I say that the tone of Bizet’s orchestra is almost the only one I can still endure? That other orchestral tone which is now fashion, the Wagnerian, brutal, artificial, and “innocent” at the same time and thus it speaks all at once to the three senses of the modern soul, – how detrimental to me is this Wagnerian orchestral tone! I call it scirocco. I break out into a disagreeable sweat. My good weather is gone.

This music seems perfect to me. It approaches lightly, supplely, politely. It is pleasant, it does not sweat. “What is good is light, whatever is divine moves on tender feet”: first principle of my aesthetics. This music is evil, subtle, fatalistic …. Have more painful tragic accents ever been heard on the stage? And how they are achieved! Without grimaces! Without counterfeit! Without the lie of the great style! …

Bizet’s work also saves; Wagner is not the only “Saviour.” With it one bids farewell to the damp north and to all the fog of the Wagnerian ideal. … [W]hat it has above all else is that which belongs to sub-tropical zones – that dryness of atmosphere, that limpidezza of the air. Here in every respect the climate is altered. Here another kind of sensuality, another kind of sensitiveness and another kind of cheerfulness make their appeal. This music is gay, but not in a French or German way. Its gaiety is African; fate hangs over it, its happiness is short, sudden, without reprieve. I envy Bizet for having had the courage of this sensitiveness, which hitherto in the cultured music of Europe has found no means of expression, – of this southern, tawny, sunburnt sensitiveness. … What a joy the golden afternoon of its happiness is to us! When we look out, with this music in our minds, we wonder whether we have ever seen the sea so calm. And how soothing is this Moorish dancing! How, for once, even our insatiability gets sated by its lascivious melancholy! – And finally love, love translated back into Nature! Not the love of a “cultured girl!” … But love as fate, as a fatality, cynical, innocent, cruel ….

In Nietzschean terms, this is high praise for Bizet (“evil” and “cruel” are not pejorative terms in his vocabulary) – but somewhat undercut by the book’s introduction, where he writes:

I have granted myself some small relief. It is not merely pure malice when I praise Bizet in this essay at the expense of Wagner. Interspersed with many jokes, I bring up a matter that is no joke.

It’s as though Nietzsche is saying, “I’m only half-joking when I praise Bizet as being better than Wagner.”

In any case, unlike Nietzsche I feel no need to choose between Wagner and Bizet. I am greedier than that.

SciFi SongFest, Songs 48-49

David Bowie and Elvis Costello each confront their respective Doppelgängers:

48. David Bowie, “Width of a Circle” (1970):

49. Elvis Costello, “My Science Fiction Twin” (1994):

Time Can Be Rewritten

As many of my readers will know, the original 1963 pilot for Doctor Who, “The Unearthly Child,” exists in two versions. The original version was reshot because of several complaints by the powers-that-BBC, notably:

  • In the unaired version, the Doctor comes across as too hostile and sinister; he’s made less menacing and more whimsical in the aired version.
  • Susan, the eponymous “unearthly child” of the episode title, apparently comes across as a bit too unearthly in the unaired version.
  • Several errors in the unaired version – actors flubbing their lines, the TARDIS door malfunctioning – were corrected for the aired version.

Viewing the two episodes in tandem I’ve also noticed the following specific differences (not a complete list!):

  • In the unaired version, when Susan says she wants to walk home in the fog, Ian says “then we won’t deprive you of that romantic pleasure.” That line is missing in the aired version.
  • Once Barbara and Ian leave the room, Susan surreptitiously, and for no apparent reason, carefully makes an ink blot and then draws a hexagon (presumably a reference to the TARDIS console) around it; this, I assume, is an example of the excessive unearthliness that was the subject of complaint. In the aired version, Susan instead starts reading the book about the French Revolution and noticing errors.
  • In the unaired version, when Ian and Barbara are talking in the car, her shadow keeps falling on his face; that’s fixed in the aired version.
  • On the other hand, in the unaired version, when Susan enters the junkyard, we see her from the POV of the interior of the car, which I rather prefer to the aired version where we see her from the side. Likewise, in the unaired version she looks around to see if she’s being followed, and Ian and Barbara comment on this – which again I prefer to the aired version where this is omitted.
  • In the unaired version, when Ian drops the flashlight (which is also much smaller and less bright than in the aired version) he and Barbara also accidentally knock over a mannequin; this is fixed in the aired version.
  • In the unaired version, we hear the sound of Susan’s radio coming from the TARDIS; and the Doctor later suggests that Ian and Barbara have only imagined hearing music., although in fact they never mentioned the music. In the aired version this is fixed by dropping both the music and the Doctor’s reference to it, rather than (as I’d have preferred) adding a line by Ian and Barbara.
  • In the unaired version, when Susan flips the switch to close the TARDIS door, only the right half of the door closes, while the left half instead opens more widely; this is fixed in the aired version.
  • In the aired version, the Doctor explains how the TARDIS can be bigger on the inside by comparing it to showing a large building on a small television screen; and when Ian and Barbara don’t understand, he compares their minds to the “savage mind” of a “Red Indian” when first confronted with a locomotive. None of this had been in the unaired version.
  • Instead, in the unaired version, the Doctor says that letting 20th century humans know about the technology behind the TARDIS would be like giving the secrets of gunpowder to the ancient Romans, or that of aviation to Napoleon. This is absent from the aired version.
  • In the unaired version, the Doctor says that his people had reduced space travel to a “game for children” long before humans had invented the wheel – a line absent from the aired version (though a line comparing Ian and Barbara unfavourably with the children of the Doctor’s own civilisation is substituted for it). Likewise, in the unaired version, Susan says that she was born in the 49th century; in the aired version, she says merely that she was born in “another time.” The effect of both changes is to make the temporal relation between the Doctor’s world and ours more vague (and the relation never gets much clearer in the next 56 years).
  • Referring to his home planet, the Doctor says, in the aired but not in the unaired version, “But one day we shall get back; yes, one day, one day” – which prefigures his more famous line, at the end of “The Dalek Invasion of Earth”: “One day, I shall come back; yes, I shall come back.”
  • In the aired version, Susan says she’d rather stay in the 20th century even if the Doctor leaves, which she doesn’t say in the unaired version; that too prefigures the ending of “The Dalek Invasion of Earth.”
  • The aerial view of London when the TARDIS takes off is easier to make out in the aired version; in the unaired version it’s not even clear what it’s supposed to be.

Anyway, if you too want to watch the shows in conjunction in order to compare them (either watching one just before the other, or else cutting back and forth between the two), you can do so conveniently here, as I’ve embedded them both on the same page. (The BBC tends to get these taken down, so watch them while you can!)

The unaired version:

The aired version:

Incidentally, the Doctor’s pseudonym in this episode, “I. M. Foreman,” might seem to be a reference to his status as champion of the Earth and of humanity (“I am for man”); but that status wasn’t yet established at this point – indeed, he seems rather hostile to humans (and two episodes later would be trying to bash an injured caveman’s head in with a rock). So I think it’s probably just a coincidence.

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