Saturday, June 7, 2014

Doctor Who Saturday - The Adherents of the Repeated Meme

First published back in September of 2005 on the Doctor Who Ratings Guide.

Sadly, my wish for their return has gone largely unfulfilled

A Gift of Peeeece. In All Good Faith. by Mike Heinrich 9/9/05
Somewhere around all the debate about the Slitheen, I think we as a fandom lost sight of something very important.

We had already seen the first TRULY great new monster of the new series. Perhaps my favorite thing in the entire first new series (or season 27 if you prefer. Or 28 if you count the Tucker books as a 'Season' Or the McGann Audios as Season 27, or if you count both, making this season 29... or... Oh screw it. See, now THIS is why they they just scrapped it and went with series 1.)

I absolutely ADORE the Adherents of the Repeated Meme. Adore, adore adore.

And I'd like to get one thing cleared up right of the bat. It's 'Adherents', meaning a collective group of those that adhere. Not 'Adherence' which indicates the quality of adhering. Barry Letts was an adherent of Buddhism. Barry Letts' adherence to Buddhism is notable.

There's two different levels to love about the AotRM. And that's not even including the fact that you can justifiably abbreviate their name to 'ARM', which is pleasing in its own right. First off there's the way that they're just an effective villain on an aesthetic level. Their proportions are just slightly off, with big metal hands and slightly bulbous heads that subconsciously just seem 'wrong'. You spend a lot of time waiting for their hands and heads to drop off, simply because it doesn't seem like they should balance properly, positioned the way they are. (Which is a nice little sub textual foreshadow to the end in and of itself.) That slight sense of 'off' in their profile automatically marks them to us as sinister on an instinctive level. Well, that and the great big black cloaks, the patented evil stoop (copyright Richard III, I believe) and the way they constantly carry those huge signs that say 'I'm Evil! Ask me how!' Add to that the fact that ultimately we just CAN'T communicate with them because all they ever repeat is that one damn meme.

These are exactly the same things that always made the Soviet Union such a good enemy in films. They sort of look like us, but the language and cultural barriers prevent us from really 'understanding' them. Therefore we find them sinister. And they didn't even have to bother wearing enormous black cloaks and metal hands.
On a deeper level (and I'm going to try to dance very gracefully around as many spoilers as I can here) they work because metaphorically they're just so damn Right. They're so clearly the bad guys from the moment they arrive that it's patently obvious that they can't really be the 'bad guys', if you know what I mean. They're obviously DESIGNED to be perceived as the enemy (both within the story and from a production standpoint).

And as a related note - is it just me, or do they actually have the exact same voice that George Lucas took so much flack for with the clearly Japanese lizard guys in Episode One?

Which makes total sense, when you think about it. Look at fictional villains from pop culture for the last 50 years. It's a clear evolution from 'Klingons are clearly Chinese' to 'Klingons are clearly Middle Easterners' as our society's perception shifted from one perceived enemy to the other. It's a nice touch that the Adherents' 'Gift of Peace' bears more than a small echo of the Friendship Medals given to the USA by Japan immediately before the attack on Pearl Harbor.

And here's where the delicate dance of spoiler avoidance begins.

It's amazingly appropriate, in this day and age, to present someone creating a situation to their own financial benefit by creating an entirely mythical 'threat' based around the constant unending repetition of one completely unfounded lie. Take, for example, 'Iraq was involved in 9/11'. Now repeat that over and over again for a few months, and use it to justify your own agenda.

Now that's genuinely some nice subtle commentary on global events for you.

'A gift of Peeece, in all good faith. (We're clearly lying. Look how we have slightly foreign accents, we're obviously evil. We're the bad guys, we are. Look at us! Look at us! Look how much we're the bad guys!)'
I love the Adherents of the Repeated Meme. I demand their return for the second series (or season 28,29, or 30 depending on your point of view). I mean, come on... They brought back the Ogrons. And they didn't even have those cool enormous claw-hands.

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