Thursday, 5 February 2015

piloting the platonic deranged, frivolous and oblivious?


I've been watching two different Sky series recently. One is about 700 people stuck in an out of the way place which has a crime free record for ages and then someone gets murdered. The other is about 600 people stuck in an out of the way place which has a crime free record for ages and then someone gets murdered.

Okay, one is set in let's say Iceland (Fortitude) and the other appears to be in outer space (Ascension). There's a whole bunch of quirky characters. In one they can carry guns into the supermarket when shopping, because it's okay in they'd only ever point the guns at a rampant bear. In the other, despite being 1960s all-American, curiously, they don't have any guns at all. Except when one gets discovered as part of the murder weapon for the unfortunate person that was strangled, drowned and shot.

The victim's name was Lorelei, which is coincidentally a great name for a spirit that might re-appear and murmur warnings from time to time. Ideally close to water, of course, like the German folklore.

Later in the same story a Rilke book is found. Rilke, whose haunting images focus on the difficulty of communion with the ineffable in an age of disbelief, solitude, and profound anxiety. Tellingly, in this story, the pages have been made blank which sets the tone for the rest of the space series.

When I watched the Sopranos, I always thought they'd written two endings. There's one at episode Final minus 3, when Tony Soprano stands triumphant on the edge of the cliff. Then the main script team return for the last two episodes to set up the final Final ending. The one where the audience don't see it coming.

The same for Breaking Bad. There's a change of tempo for the finale when Vince Gilligan is clearly back in the driving seat.

Not so for Ascension. It looks as if the moment when the Rilke was discovered becomes the point when the plug was pulled. It reminded me of that ending of the original Prisoner series (closed world with maybe 200 people in it) when the Beatles play 'It's all too much' or something similar. For Ascension they brought in some fixed-price context-free scribblers who were told to repurpose a defunct and humourless kitchen sink drama and add space bits.

For Ascension, I get the Narrenschiff idea. The ark of salvation and the ship of fools. The Catholic Church and skittishly the rest. Albrecht Durer famously illustrated the original German version of the ship. The pigs from the Durer seemed to make it to the deck of the madship in this story.

There were some half-hearted allegorical references to Eurydice and Orpheus too. People being rescued, but don't look behind you or you'll get zapped.

Fortitude is still on Episode One. Great scenery. A super cast. All High Definition arty colour palates. A metal bar that makes the Underworld at World's End in Camden seem jolly quaint. Mysterious Mammoth remains. A Science Research Block That Seems Too Big For Its Stated Purpose.

My fingers are still crossed.

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