Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Jersey Devil/Santa Claus Connection

Posted by on Sat, Nov 10, 2012 at 10:46 AM

I was in the bathroom adjoining the bedroom one morning (sorry if I’m giving you a little too much information here) when what we still fondly like to refer to as the “History Channel” began a program on the infamous Jersey Devil.

I’ll be honest right now, and tell you that pretty much everything I know about the Jersey Devil comes from watching an episode of The X Files, but that’s enough for me. Have the Winchester brothers ever encountered one?

So I’m just sort of hanging out in the bathroom, when one of the Jersey Devil “investigators” came out with an explanation of why the critter was so hard to find:

He knows what your intentions are, sort of like Jersey ESP.

Ripped from my poor lungs, almost as if I were possessed, I began singing:

“He knows when you’ve been good or bad,
so be good for good for goodness sake!”

What? Is the Jersey Devil, almost like Lucifer, a fallen reindeer, banished from the North Pole, its form twisted over the centuries by the wicked deeds it has performed?

Wow - I like that idea, actually.

Whatever, dude. A telepathic Jersey Devil?

Well, I have seen worse “science” on TV. A few years ago some enterprising Bigfoot hunters put a box of powdered doughnuts on top of their vehicle, with powered sugar all around the box, so that they could get the culprit’s “fingerprints.” Didn't work - maybe he likes cake doughnuts, instead?

That’s probably why Bigfoot hasn’t been caught, either- them super mind powers.

Then again, how hard would it have to be, to pull one over on folks who come up with nonsense like this?

******

No, really, sometimes ghosts just think you’re an idiot

Are ghosts honor bound to talk to any simpleton who insists that they talk to them? Or any buffoon who wants to talk tough to them?

I wouldn’t think so.

If real-live people ignore you in a Single’s Bar (like it hasn’t happened to you) what makes you think that these ghosts are gonna just open up to any stranger who wants an encounter session with them? Hell, they are probably even smart enough to slip into another room while the folks with matching T-shirts are scurrying around with their Radio Shack equipment.

After all, the ghost hunters (ghost hunters by night, shoe salesmen by day) will be gone the next day - the ghosts will still be there.

Har-dee-har-har.

“Oh, sorry,” the ghost hunters will tell the folks who have been plagued by paranormal activity. “Ain’t nothin’ goin’ on. Thanks for the doughnuts."

*****

“The Daleks will kill you, even if they need you.”

As a kid whose father was stationed in England in the mid-1960s, I was pretty much ignorant of the science fiction series Doctor Who until several of my fourth-grade class mates got on the bus one Monday morning, their hands held out stiffly at their sides, all chanting:

“Exterminate! Exterminate!”

Thus came about my introduction to the Daleks, Terry Nation’s greatest gift to the world of science fiction. Nation, who also created the cult SF series Blake’s 7, will forever be linked with the malevolent, pepper-pot shaped robot-like Daleks from the planet Skaro. And, of course, they will also be known as the greatest enemy of the Doctor, the time/space traveler from Doctor Who.

By 2012, quite a bit of mythology has been built up around the program, and its Time Lord protagonist, but in 1963, when the series made its premiere, little more was known than that he and his granddaughter, Susan, were on the run from their own people, and that he had stolen a time machine in order to explore the universe.

Oh, and that it in the first episode, he pretty much kidnapped two of Susan’s school teachers who had followed her home from school one night, for a variety of reasons - not the least of which she was just a strange teenager, even by 1963 standards.

The role of the Doctor was played to crotchety perfection by William Hartnell. The program became so popular that in 1965 Milton Subotsky decided to bring Doctor Who to the big screen” - only with some major changes, in Dr. Who and the Daleks.

The movie, based on Terry Nation’s script for the show which introduced the Daleks, was rewritten slightly, making the show more accessible for an audience unfamiliar with the series.

No longer called the Doctor, the character was now called Dr. Who, a kindly eccentric genius (is there any other kind?) who sort of invents the TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimension in Space) - in the shape of a police box - in his back garden. The film version features his two granddaughters, and their friend Ian (one of the school teachers from the show). Barbara, the other teacher from the show, is now one of Dr. Who’s granddaughters.

The unkindest cut of all, however, was that none of the actors from the series were asked to play their roles in the movie - not even William Hartnell, who played the Doctor.

All right, they got Peter Cushing. If you have to be replaced, it may as well be with Peter Cushing. I would like to know of the reactions of the cast upon hearing the news that they weren’t good enough to make the grade for the movie.

Still, Peter Cushing!

The actor who would one day play the Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars had already made a name for himself in the Hammer series of horror films, and would go on to play one of the best TV versions of Sherlock Holmes (only a few episodes of which survive - thank you, BBC) seemed an inspired choice for the movie.

Though the BBC series was shot in black and white, this big screen adventure was to be in Technicolor (remember that?) and featured “improved” Daleks that had never been seen on the show before.

The first few minutes of the movie serve to introduce the characters to the audience, and also serve to deviate from the original story, and move us directly into the plot. Said plot involves Dr. Who showing his wonderful invention off to Ian, who clumsily sets it into motion. They land on a mysterious planet. From that point on, it actually follows the original script fairly closely.

For those who may not be aware, the TARDIS is dimensionally transcendental - which means that it is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. The current series (and the 1996 TV movie) have both featured lovely interior sets to show the vastness of the interior of the space/time ship.

The 1965 movie, with a larger budget than the TV show, had an interior pretty much the size of a kid’s bedroom. Go figure.

The planet they land on is the home of two races, survivors of a long ago atomic war. The Thals are a peace-loving race given to bad haircuts and silly clothes. The other race, the mutated Daleks, live inside metal casings, and see themselves as the natural rulers of the planet.

Long-time viewers of Doctor Who will recognize the planet as Skaro, though it is never identified as such in the movie.

As luck would have it, our stalwart heroes are discovered by the Daleks, and the adventure goes on from there. The Daleks live in a metal city, and intend to use the human visitors to flush out the Thals, in order to destroy them once and for all.

Naturally, Dr. Who and his companions throw in their lot with the sappy, pacifistic humans, who learn that defending that which is important to you does not put you on the same moral level as the Daleks.

To say that the movie was successful would be an understatement; it was to become one of the top 10 British box-office releases for 1965. But as an adaptation of a popular television series, it falls woefully short.

In addition to the fact that the original actors were not asked to reprise their roles, there is the fact that the film TARDIS does not match up to the television version. Perhaps the worst sin of all - for me, anyway - is the fact that the distinctive series theme music was not used in the film at all. Instead, they went with a score by Barry Gray (Space 1999).

A sequel was filmed a few years later - Daleks - Invasion Earth 2150 AD - also based on a television script. This time, audiences were not so taken with the film, though it’s a little more elaborate in terms of budget and story-line.

This is my personal favorite of the two.

Though the producers had planned to make a third film in the series, the disappointing box office receipts on the second Dalek film caused them to drop that idea. The TV series itself went chugging right along, with a gap in production from the late 1980s until the successful relaunching of the franchise several years ago.

In 1996 a pilot film for a Doctor Who series ran on the FOX network, featuring a brief glimpse of the Daleks. Over the years the Daleks have taken their place in the pop culture race, rightfully exterminating many of their competitors.

Now, as then, they have a well-deserved reputation for ruthlessness. In fact, the quote listed at the top of the review comes from an early 1980s episode, “Resurrection of the Daleks.”

So while you are checking out Doctor Who, check out this early adventure, when they where just beginning their climb to the top of the universe’s Ten Most Wanted List.

Trivia Note:
Realizing that the film was likely to be success, the BBC bought several of the movie Daleks, which were then used in the Doctor Who story “The Chase.” Ironically, since the TV story came out before the movie, Dr. Who and the Daleks is actually the second time these particular Daleks are used. It seems fitting, somehow.

****

Quote of the Day

“The most effective way to restrict democracy is to transfer decision-making from the public arena to unaccountable institutions: kings and princes, priestly castes, military juntas, party dictatorships, or modern corporations.” ~ Noam Chomsky

rsdrake@cox.net

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