(I wrote what’s below in response to be very heartfelt post about HACF on Reddit. Obviously, I can’t repost someone else’s words. But it was lovely.)
Your post is beautiful.
I was born in ’66 so I thankfully grew up with no net, no social media on which to display my kid stupidity and have it preserved forever in packetised amber. I first went online in ’94 at Uni and then at home. My then gf (now ex-wife) and I hooked up the 14.4 modem and dialled into Compu$erve and the whole world changed. We discovered being online together and it was an amazing time of feeling freed, of strangers a continent away becoming daily friends to chat with. We left Comp and joined an ISP run by local geeks, a pretty Mutiny operation, looking back.
It was the opposite of the Hellscape of current Twitter and the walled gardens that swallowed BBSes, fora and Usenet.
Just writing this now and remembering eps of HACF and parallels to my own life then is making me tear up. This fucking programme just skewers me so much! I know some of that is nostalgia for lost love and lost dreams but it’s also anger at myself for not being a better person and for ending up in the Cursed Timeline we’re in now where the actual real world looks like a trailer clip for Villeneuve’s Blade Runner.
HACF isn’t a tv programme for me anymore. As much as Kraftwerk’s Computer World isn’t an album. They’re both too real. Maybe transreal in the sense Rudy Rucker meant it? Everything is real, the characters are people, not ciphers but there’s another level going on. A vastness beyond the surface tension of the ostensible narrative.
I’m waiting for my perfect re-watch time and perfect re-watch partner. I might be waiting forever.
Well, at least I’ll get to marvel at Lee again soon in Foundation S2…
I’ve been watching Star Trek for at least fifty years. From when there was just the one Trek, through The Animated Series, the films and then the various spin-offs. The only ones I’ve given up on were Picard and Lower Decks, not bad considering the sheer amount I’ve watched.
I’ve just watched perhaps the best Trek I’ve seen since Space Seed.
(WARNING – SPOILERS BELOW)
Strange New Worlds S2E3, Tomorrow And Tomorrow And Tomorrow (TATAT for short), starts with La’an feeling angry and frustrated and isolated. Then, a dying man appears before her and disappears after handing her a doodad. When she goes to her bridge, it’s not her bridge and instead of good old silver fox Pikey, there’s a very puzzled-looking James Tiberius Kirk. Who is she and how did she get on his bridge?
And them BAM, before you know it, the two of them are returned to the past (which is, conveniently, now) and they’re in Los Angeles. Eh, no, they’re not. Just because every other Trek has time/space travelled back to where it was being filmed doesn’t mean SNW has to. TATAT travels back to CANADA… where it’s filmed. But at least SNW makes a metajoke about it with Kirk thinking they’re in New York until La’an points out the Canuckiness that surrounds them. They should really have had a moose wander by, shitting poutine.
Look, I’m already sold. Time travel / alternate reality stories have been a tasty, spicy part of Trek since the very start. Doesn’t matter if it’s actual Mirror Universe, everyone-evil-has-a-little-beard or the consequences of the Prime Directive ignored like A Piece Of The Action, I love it.
So, it’d be easy to coast but TATAT dazzles us with its playfulness. We’re watching James motherfucking T Kirk eat hot dogs and trounce locals at “2D” chess. It’s wonderful to see Kirk’s cool bonhomie but also his razor-sharp intellect. And, yes, he’s also pretty easy on the eye, as La’an realises when she catches herself perving on him through a half-drawn cubicle curtain before turning away.
Kirk + La’an (I said plus, not slash, pervs) is a great pairing in the same way that Kirk + Spock is. One is analytical, by the book, overly serious and hasn’t had sex in seven years. The other is Kirk. The two actors, Paul Wesley as Kirk and Christina Chong as La’an, have an easy, believable chemistry so the budding romance between them flows, it is utterly sweet and grounded. This is deft writing; we know Kirk is a lover as well as a fighter, he’s probably been checking her out. But the background for La’an’s attraction to Kirk, her loneliness and fragility behind the kick-ass exterior, that was all laid in the opening scenes.
Props also to writers Dave Reed and Onitra Johnson for having a spoken line about Trek being a “socialist utopia.” That’ll hopefully annoy the fuckhead Tory Trek fans.
Getting back to the action, Kirk and La’an bond and then try to solve the mission of every time travel ep ever: restore the timeline. At first, Kirk is hesitant about this since it means the erasure of his own existence. But after hearing how Earth is a galactic player in the alternate timeline and that Sam, his brother is still alive, he is finally convinced. I love this bit because time travel eps are often portrayed as ‘WE MUST RESTORE THE TIMELINE’ as if there is only one valid timeline. Having Kirk at least question this frankly dodgy assumption is something new and definitely welcome. He is, after all, about to condemn another entire universe to non-existence. TATAT goes one step further than most Trek here.
POW! The baddie is revealed and Kirk is ripped very painfully away from La’an. Then we realise that this is not simply Trek recapitulating Trek but Trek asking the original time-travel question: what if you could go back in time and kill Baby Hitler?
Thus, we arrive at the mind-bending setup of La’an Noonien-Singh meeting her ancestor, Khan Noonien-Singh. The future leader of genemod dictators that would cause the The Eugenics Wars. It’s a truly beautiful twist because I never saw it coming, even though a Noonien-Singh was picked for the time travel mission. They’d gone back way before the Wars so what relevance could that have?
Similar to The Doctor in Genesis Of The Daleks, La’an must confront who she is and that her entire life has been shaped by the child in front of her now. She knows he will be grow to be a monster. But, now, he’s just a scared kid. If she kills him, she averts the death of millions. But she also stops the horror that finally unites humanity and makes it reach out to the stars. As the baddie tells her, she is protected by the gadget that sent her back in time, she could kill Khan and then live out her life, no problem.
When La’an sees Khan for what he is, an abused child indoctrinated into hatred along with his entire cadre of superhumans, she knows she cannot kill this innocent kid. She sacrifices her own clean, free happiness and protects the timeline.
When she gets home, all is right. Pikey is back in his seat, as silvery and foxy as ever. There’s some quips and cue end titles.
It would have been so easy to finish there. But as in Ship In A Bottle, we have a coda. It’s La’an, in her cabin, phoning to check on Kirk. And he’s fine but he has no idea who she is, of course. And then, we close, with La’an still alone and sobbing her heart out. It’s a very brave ending but the only one that fits with an episode this assured, this mature. It’s the final cherry on top of this perfect slice of Trek.
Watching TATAT breathe new life into Trek was a lovely moment in my life as a Trekkie. It gives me hope that sympathetic writers who don’t see the Roddenberry utopia as constrictive but as optimistic and hopeful will produce more work as brilliant as this. As caring and moral as this. I really do believe that if Roddenberry was alive, he would love TATAT because, at its core, it’s a celebration of hope over fear, of positivity over negativity, it’s everything that Star Trek stands for.
Why have I seen nothing about Deadloch on Mastodon? I’m halfway through the first ep and I’m hooked. Comedy-murder-mystery-detective shows have such a high likelihood of fucking up one of the elements horrendously. And yet, Deadloch does it all.
I’m gripped by the actual crime but also the characters but also it’s hilarious.
It’s also highly sweary in a beautiful way. Thank you, Aussies.
I did a list of my fave ever telly programmes and it took me bloody ages. There was only one thing that could be number one:
I feel that because of its ostensibly geeky focus, people sleep on HACF. I get sooo annoyed when I meet people and their fave show is Breaking Bad or The Wire or The Sopranos and they haven’t even heard of HACF.
It’s so easy for crime shows to garner viewers. But for people like me, I was a kid during the ’80s, I grew up with BASIC and learning 6502 assembler and peeking and poking hex codes just to see what I could fuck up. HACF represents a whole history that’s never normally explored on telly. I would say it’s actually positively ignored unless it’s a ‘haha look at the nerrrrds’ kind of shite.
And yet, HACF documents how we’re here, on this very forum, chatting with strangers from all over the world.
This isn’t just TV for me; this art changed my life. There’s not a week goes by that I don’t find myself thinking about some quip or argument or Joe with that bat or FUCKING RYAN RAY and omg, I can’t take it.
I’m glad there are equally obsessed people on here.
A lot has happened in this human world since 2019. I mean, hoo boy, a lot.
I’m a different person to the one who wrote that review. My health has been seemingly permanently impaired. Also my heart.
So, I returned to the Row with not a few worries and reservations. Would my initial love be betrayed by a lack of substance compared to the first series? Could the show elaborate on the themes that first engaged me without wearing them threadbare?
My fears were baseless.
If anything, this last series has made me wish for more, for other chances to visit the world it’s set in which is, yes, often terrible but also often wondrous. I love the Fae and I would love to hear more about the different types, their lore and histories up to the steampunk setting of Carnival Row. There is so much richness here to be mined, you could easily set six or more spin-off series just within the history we’ve heard so far.
This series, Carnival Row has concentrated equally on the intra-human politics as the Fae/human. We have the conflict with the New Dawn, Carnival Row’s version of a commie uprising and the way it causes mayhem internationally but also within the previously impermeable love of Imogen and Agreus. It was fascinating to see them struggle with the racial prejudice of their homeland versus the class hatred of the New Dawn.
Personally, I’m always going to be a New Dawn supporter, if only because Agreus’ bizarre Randian monologue sounds like a thirteen-year-old Trumpian. Joanne Whalley totally inhabited Leonora (hmmm… sounds like, Leon, no?) with exactly the right balance of intellect and passion to make a passable charismatic revolutionary.
I particularly loved the ending – the writers gave a decent conclusion to the major drama points about the assassin Sparas and pogrom in the Row whilst still having a decent, solid epilogue. There’s one scene, when Imogen and Agreus kiss in public at their light show, that is perfect. The entire crowd clap but one lady looks shocked and hesitant until her husband elbows her into joining the applause. And, just like that, society has changed. What was once shocking is now the norm and what was once the norm is now impolite. It’s a wonderfully observed bit that says more in five seconds about contemporary society than decades of other dramas.
Philo’s speech to Parliament was, I believe, written specifically to make me cry. Me and every other person who’s ever had to live between two cultures, between two worlds. Anyone who’s ever been othered by the majority, who’s longed to fit in and, finally, realised that they will never fit in. You will always, always, always be an outsider. I’d like to think I’d make the same choice Philo did but I don’t know if I’m that good or that principled.
If I had one wish it’s that Sophie and Jonah had found happiness. Yes, it was still an excellent storyline and helped delineate the overall New Dawn arc but, my god, I just wanted her to succeed and for Jonah to be seduced by her obvious fire. That’s a ship I’d sail on, yep.
But then, against all the odds, we did finally get Vignette and Tourmaline. I was so sure either one or both would die in the battle or be shredded by the Sparas, I had my cushion up near my eyes during all those bits. But, woah, they made it! I admit, I did tear up at their wedding even though it was 100% Fae whimsy overdrive.
I grinned and laughed and cried at Philo’s last amble down the row. I feel like I know this place, like I know its people. I can’t believe they’re just going to put it all inside the story box and that’s it, done, goodbye forever, fuckers.
To see the Row, happy again, full of colour, open and with no nets is so joyful. It’s so full of life and possibilities and this hodgepodge of different peoples all just rubbing along, it is juicily vibrant. I wish I lived there rather than here and now.