Hard News by Russell Brown


Flu diversions

Is there a doctor in the house? Or, rather, someone who can verify the widely-held belief that if you're busy, your body will hold off getting sick until you ease up?

On Friday evening, having knocked off the second Media7 show in a week, I was looking forward to a week to come when I would not have to get tarted up for the cameras. I could relax. On Saturday evening, having had people around me dropping like flies for weeks, I started to come down with the flu. Swollen throat, coughing, chills, hot flushes, the full bouquet.

Still, can't moan. I sat down with Jimmy yesterday afternoon to watch The Day the Earth Stood Still, which he had hired in order to prepare for the impending 2008 remake, starring Keanu Reeves as Klaatu and John Cleese Professor Barnhardt.

It was nice to be reminded why it is regularly named amongst the greatest science fiction films, and the black and white transfer to DVD was a pleasure to watch. And if it's hard not to feel some trepidation about the "reimagination", it's still fascinating to weigh the differences between the 1951 and 2008 films.

The former emerges from, and is a critique of, 1950s anti-communist paranoia in America -- and also has a Jesus figure in Klaatu. In 2008, Keane's Klaatu is a greenie: his beef with humanity is not its aggression but its careless use of a planet with the "rare ability to sustain complex life". The director says Klaatu, his robot buddy Gort and the ship they flew in were conceived as a Trinity.

In the evening, we watched the 90-minute premiere of the BBC's remake (contains spoilers) of the 1975 series Survivors, which screened in Britain on Sunday night.

The original Survivors, the creation of Terry Nation (who also conceived the Daleks) stands proud in the post-apocalyptic tradition of British sci-fi, even if it did tail away markedly when Nation left after the first series, along with Carolyn Seymour (who lately has quite a career as a voice actor in your kids' video games).

It's intriguing to see how it has been reinvented. Middle-class wife Abby Grant still meets the resourceful Greg Preston, but Preston is black now. Indeed, the whole cast is multi-hued (Freema Agyeman!), and it's clear that a reconciliation with Islam will be part of one character's development.

The mystery "flu" virus (yes, it's a slightly unnerving watch when you actually have the flu) is no longer spilled during the programme titles by a clumsy, nameless Chinese scientist: it sweeps the world as "the European flu", while the British government lies to its people until there can be no more lying.

But there's a pretty clear steer at the end of the premiere that this is no mere mutation, but a human folly -- which I personally found a bit depressing. The point of the series is that everything is done and must be rebuilt by the few hands that remain. If there are to be malign scientists who still have the electricity on, then that rather changes the vibe.

But anyway, even without the English rose allure of Lucy Fleming, it's worth seeing. Perhaps you could ask your Friends in England to send it to you. It hardly seems likely to screen here in anything resembling a timely fashion.


New on Poneke: Harvard physicist speculates that forces from the future may have stopped the world’s biggest scientific experiment.

And, as part of an undertaking to myself to post more often at Humans, some thoughts on Finn Higgins and other things.

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