Sunday, 23 June 2013

My Life's My Own (1969) and Wednesday's Child (1970)

One of the occasional pleasures of my obsession with British television of the sixties and seventies is stumbling across a series which I'd barely heard of, and discovering it's a forgotten gem.  In the past this has included relatively well known shows like the proto-Minder Turtle's Progress, the peculiar Avengers-a-like Spyder's Web and the astonishing and bleak 1975 BBC version of The Legend of Robin Hood, but this week I started watching one of the dvds I picked up on a whim in the Network sale just before Christmas.

Public Eye will, no doubt, get a seperate blog post at some point but for now I want to mention the fourth episode of the fourth series, My Life's My Own.  I watched it this afternoon and thought it was excellent, and surprising in its willingness sympathetically to examine a lesbian relationship (even if, as tended to be the way back in the day, any deviation from the sexual norm ends up with one or other of the people involved being punished).  Stephanie Beacham as heartbroken nurse Shirley, is excellent and if hero Frank Marker both assumes a man to be behind everything and is then treated to a shock revelation, that's perhaps understandable given the 1969 air date.  This is only a year after 'The Killing of Sister George' after all (though a staggering 38 years after the brilliantly shot German movie 'Maidens in Uniform').  The actual relationship is never seen, but since the story is really that of the aftermath, as Beacham's jilted lover runs from rejection to Marker's boarding house, that's not an issue, though the brief scenes in which Marker confronts the married couple from who she's fled did make me want to see more.

Which made all the better the discovery* (courtesy of Jim Smith) that the equally excellent Armchair Theatre had shown a prequel play, Wednesday's Child, the following year, in which the growth of the relationship between Shirley and the older woman she is supposed to be nursing is laid bare.  The role of Shirley is played by Prunella Ransome in this rather than Beacham but she's equally good in a role with a different set of requirements, and the other two over-lapping roles - that of Chris Nourse (Katherine Blake in great form) and her bullying idiot of a husband Charles (Gary Watson) are played by the same actors. This consistent casting isn't the only thing which unites the two plays - most obviously, the bracelet which Beacham wears in Public Eye is given to her by Chris in Armchair Theatre but there are also subtler scripting links (the description of sick rooms requiring get well soon cards and grapes, for instance) and the growth of the burgeoning relationship is beutifully shown across the two plays, as Shirley falls for Chris, convalescing after a hysterectomy, and Chris - for all her initial claims not to feel the same - reciprocates, only not enough and not completely.  It's all subtly done, with no character snow-white and none totally repellant (though Charles comes bloody close), and the feelings of the central characters never entirely clear or definite.

Obviously, as a genuine prequel (shown in 1970), it's intended that it should be watched in the order Public Eye then Armchair Theatre, but it works just as well either way.  Both plays are available from Network - well worth a watch for anyone who appreciates well written and acted television.

* Note to self - I buy too many archive telly dvds sinceI somehow missed this fact even though it's mentioned on the back of the Armchair Theatre dvd...

Monday, 3 June 2013

Sex and Violence in SF Fandom

I was going to post my inane ramblings about Patrick Troughton today, but I just read this post by a sf author called Ann Aguirre, and it's left me actually gobsmacked and - in my autistic way - spitting feathers of rage on her behalf.

I don't know the writer or her work, but I don't need to; both the post itself and the emails she quotes from - let's not beat about the bush here - absolute fucking scumbags are enough to make me want to vomit.

Combine that with a conversation I had with a very talented writer (who will remain nameless) the other day about a certain well-known author of Dr Who books who threatened to punch her for daring to criticise his nasty, misogynstic pile of shit tie-in novel (and whose fans sent her death threats), and I'm left feeling more than a little sick to the back teeth of the plethora of wankers who infest science fiction.

Makes me even more glad that Kate's doing an all female sf book for Obverse.

Quick Update - I should have mentioned that many people other than Ms Aguirre reacted negatively to the initial SFWA Bulletin piece by messrs Malzberg and Resnick.  There's a decent round-up of just a smattering here:

And you can view the initial articles which led to Malzberg and Resnick complaining, like foolish old men, about 'lberal fscists' here:

Quick Question - How does Ms Aguirre's experience compare to that in sf in other countries?  In the UK, say, or Australia?  Anyone?