Reviews

We're Inside the Preservation Station in 'Doctor Who: The Space Museum / The Chase'

William Hartnell, the original Doctor Who

Landing on desolate planet the crew discover what appears to be a museum filled with familiar exhibits, including a deactivated Dalek and, packaged like collectible action figures, themselves.


Doctor Who: The Space Museum / The Chase

Distributor: Warner
Cast: William Hartnell, Jacqueline Hill, William Russell, Maureen O'Brien
Network: BBC
Release Date: 2010-07-06
Amazon

Our culture is obsessed with preservation, especially now as it seems we’re getting farther and farther away from the origins of the things we most hold dear. There’s a sense of desperation in the hoarding and cataloging of the everyday things of art and ideas that define our world. Box sets and DVDs of television programs preserve what was once ephemeral. Shows were broadcast and, if we were lucky, eventually rerun again. Otherwise, they just disappeared.

There are 108 William Hartnell-era Doctor Who episodes gone, erased from tapes in the vaults of the BBC in the '70s because that’s just how things were done. It was believed no one would be interested in black and white television since color had become the standard. Practices like this failed to act on the preservative nature in society, but the failure of business executives was supplanted by the power of fans. Audio recordings and still photographs of many of those lost episodes survive thankfully. The shows themselves may be gone, but at least their artifacts remain.

"The Space Museum", then is something of a treat. It’s a fully intact story from the final year of Hartnell’s run as the first Doctor. However, Robert Shearman, a writer for the current Doctor Who and expert on all things Who, notes in the bonus feature “Defending the Museum” that of all the stories to survive, this isn’t likely one anyone would pick. He says it’s a “cheap relic” of Hartnell’s run, and that the villains are “rubbish”. Still, he says, it’s full of ideas, fun bits of time travel arcana and commentary on the ignoring the future only to remember the glory of the past. His point is striking because it seems to sum up what’s best about this or any other Doctor Who story. Even the rubbish seems to be about at least trying something.

When the Doctor (William Hartnell) and his companions Vicki (Maureen O’Brien), Barbara (Jacqueline Hill) and Ian (William Russell) land on a desolate planet they discover what appears to be a museum filled with thousands of artifacts and no visitors. They soon encounter some familiar exhibits, including a deactivated Dalek and, packaged like collectible action figures, themselves. As the Doctor explains it, the TARDIS has jumped a time track, and the travelers are looking into their future. They must then second guess every move they make, hoping they take the necessary steps to avoid the potentially deadly future. Along the way they ignite a revolution amongst the native Xerons against their oppressive rulers the Moraks.

The story is heavy on dialogue and spare on action, the characters standing around wondering if every step they take will lead to their deaths. There’s little in the way of costumes or sets, and the scenes of the Moraks plotting to put down the Xeron resistance are little more than clunky talking points that move us to the next scene.

Better are the Doctor and his companions. Despite its almost infinite floor space, the TARDIS feels crowded with four people inside, but there’s a real family dynamic at work among them. The Doctor is a grandfather figure for the three young time travelers, but in the face of danger he comes alive. He knows his physical limits when facing opponents, but keeps pushing himself, always looking as if he knows something no one else does.

The museum of the title is a collection of artifacts memorializing the Moraks’ triumphs, but they’re all mementos of the past. Like our own culture the Moraks struggled to hold onto the bright spots of the past, but in the process they lose hope of any kind of future. This story recognizes the mistake of always looking backward as just that. It’s a point reinforced by the story’s ending. The Daleks have located the TARDIS and are on the hunt for the Doctor, leading directly into “The Chase”.

The TARDIS next lands on the planet Aridius, a desert world that’s lost its vast ocean to the increasing power of its twin suns. There are the usual brushes with death -- Vicki and Ian face off against the Mire Beast, a tentacled monster with a bulbous body that haunts the formerly underwater tunnels of the Aridians. The Doctor and Barbara meet up with two Aridians, portrayed by actors whose faces are painted metallic and their heads are covered in ill-fitting swim caps with fins. When the Daleks arrive the Aridians are forced to turn over their new friends or face extermination.

All this plays out at a quick pace. Aridius is a planet whose desolate surface beats with a dull throbbing sound punctuated by the whine of wind passing over its vast expanses. These are moody scenes, particularly when Vicki and Ian go exploring and disappear into the distance, their voices quiet, their bodies just specks on the horizon. These early scenes are ominous and weird, made even more so by the appearance of the Aridians. They speak as if hypnotized and move with the fluid motion of creatures that belong underwater. Even the unlikely appearance of the Daleks in the desert has a jarring, menacing effect.

Of course the Doctor and his companions escape, and it’s here the story ought to end. This being “The Chase”, however, the TARDIS is pursued “through all eternity” by the Daleks. What follows is a series of vignettes of the TARDIS landing on the top of the Empire State Building in 1966, the deck of the doomed ship the Mary Celeste and an animatronic house of horrors. These scenes feel like half-formed ideas which couldn’t be integrated into their own feature-length stories and were instead thrown in to pad this one.

The Empire State Building scene is playful, particularly in its over-the-top depiction of an Alabaman tourist who wonders if he’s stumbled onto a movie set after he sees the TARDIS arrive out of thin air. The Doctor eventually decides to make a stand on the planet Mechanus where he and his companions face a Dalek-made duplicate of the Doctor.

“The Chase” is giant-sized, cramming in about as many strange aliens, period set pieces and caricatures of southern Americans as on TV show can take. In this story the thrill isn’t in the chase. Things only get going when the action is confined to one place.

This three-disc set boasts a number of special features, including Shearman’s reevaluation of “The Space Museum” and a remembrance of William Hartnell by his granddaughter. Two documentaries on the Daleks, including one on the merchandising boom surrounding the ridiculous but nonetheless nasty robots, are particularly fun as they explore the worlds of other Dalek-centric stories and show how pervasive these strange creatures are in British popular culture. All those toys and games and models remind us that even the best items in a collection should be taken down off the shelf once in a while.

6

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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