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A Study in Subtext: BBC Sherlock’s Stag Night in The Sign of Three

Get ready, this post is fully loaded.

There is much subtext, particularly between John and Sherlock, that one could study in the whole of BBC Sherlock. Since entering the fandom of the show, I have been eager enough about it, but it isn’t until recently that I’ve truly sunk so deep into the mire of all its coded messages and the most subtle indications of character. One might argue I was making it all up, I’ve gotten so deep into the particulars. But such a person would not appreciate the genius of Sherlock Holmes, who understood overlooking even the smallest insignificant details can, all things told, be the most significant of all.

Like Sherlock Holmes, I want to take this as objectively as I can. However, I also understand that, just as disguise is a self-portrait, so I believe is everything else, including our inferences. Also, the subject matter to which I plan to pay attention is more of a literary, not a scientific nature, which is rather where we differ. But I like to think he would at least appreciate the close examination, even if he would dismiss the romantic.

I have gotten some of my ideas for this through TJLC Explained, which I have recently become obsessed enough with to inspire this. However, I have also recently been reading the original canon of Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, which I may also draw on here. I largely plan to reveal character through lighting, colour, and body language in this post.

Most of my readings for colour came from TJLC Explained. However, I have my own interpretations of purple and yellow, and have further devised more readings from the original canon story, The Hound of the Baskervilles. In this, brown came to represent obscurity for me, which was something that ran through the story constantly. However, white became something more of a mystery to me, as it was repeated in different contexts, as so had different meanings. In the end, I united these different readings with one to unify them: exposure. The light in the darkness, the revelations of character that pale faces brought, and the white obscuring fog all seemed to communicate something either to do with obscurity or revelation. In this way, I’ve decided that white simply represents the risk of exposure one way or another, and as these are common issues in BBC Sherlock, I’ve decided to apply these ideas to the show.

I also have seen the above and plan to use it more broadly in analysing BBC Sherlock. For example,

Mycroft carries his umbrella, and John carried his cane (in Study In Pink) on their right; the psychosomatic limp indicating the truth of John’s condition as that of heartbreak, not PTSD. This similar behaviour indicates emotionally vulnerability, and both men need these items to support them.

For now let’s focus slowly on the events of the pair’s stag night in The Sign of Three, which is one of my favourite sequences from the series, and probably the most overt example so far for John and Sherlock’s relationship being more intimate than is explicitly shown.

It is interesting first to contemplate how this story is told by Sherlock in his best man’s speech at the wedding, considering its public forum. He did announce his intention to embarrass John through his “funny stories”, but how far would he be willing to go? I think a true revelation would result in far more than embarrassment on John’s part, especially at his own wedding, to hear his best man tell a room full of people that John flirted with and felt up Sherlock in Baker Street. And, after all, all this had a further purpose beyond embarrassing John, and that was to set up the tale of the Mayfly Man. So I think it’s more likely he told a condensed version of the story, only inasfar as it mattered to the story that it led to.

During his speech, I also want to talk briefly about the way colour is used.

First, look at John and Mary’s reactions to this quote. There is a juxtoposition here in what Sherlock says and the reality of this pair together. Sherlock is “uncomprehending” in the face of what he takes to be a happy couple but what is really a sad one. John is facing Sherlock, but not looking at him, indicating that what he’s sad about relates to Sherlock, and his downward glance seems to suggest he’s sadly resigned about the two of them. Mary, who seems to take up this shot more (so as to bring less attention to John’s reverie), seems in the middle of an unhappy realisation, and like John, seems to be facing Sherlock with her eyes downcast, still processing. Perhaps she is just now realising the depth of John and Sherlock’s relationship, and perhaps she is devastated at this new rival for John’s love.

Second, clothes: both Sherlock and John are wearing black over white, which in this case bears the symbolism of something obscure (black) covering their exposed selves (white). Under this meaning, we can also interpret Mary here as exposed, which is to say that she is his wife and they’re in a relationship, which is clear for all to see. Yet John and Sherlock, even here, are not so completely open about their relationship. Also note the colours on Sherlock’s flower, revealing exposure, intimacy and jealousy through white, purple and green; also, the yellow wall behind Sherlock as he speaks provides another reading, that of an emotional warmth behind his words. This emotional affect is offset by the controlled white, but the dominance of yellow in this close shot overpowers Sherlock’s intended control.

He didn’t intend the level of exposure and warmth upon the audience that affected, didn’t expect them to see so thoroughly through his barely-veiled words to the heart underneath, and for an instant he panics, relying on John to see him through it.

John reassures him, and after a pause, he allows himself to move onto his “funny stories”.

I have plenty enough to say about events before and after the private scene at Baker Street, however I found a tumblr post regarding that scene that I want to clear up first, so I shall start there.

So, as the night has progressed to this point, Sherlock gets drunk, and seems to let go. But his behaviour, as open as he seems to become, is later pulled back in the big scene alone with John in Baker Street. The intimacy is still there, but Sherlock seems more on his guard again, as he’s no longer using flamboyant gestures. Yet he seems relaxed at the beginning of the scene, consistent with the intimacy that has been revealed with the lowering of their inhibitions leading up to this scene.

In the scene alone together, and the later scene where the client takes them to the crime scene, we see both the colours of green and red. These colours in this former scene can also be associated with John’s chair, as well the shadowed red walls and the lamps that shine upon green parts of the room. John and Sherlock also appear to be lit up with green in this scene. We can also see equal amounts of green and red reflected in the ridges at the bottom of the mirror.

This post, I felt, was a rather subjective view on events that differs somewhat to my own reading. For me, there is both a desire to see these two together, but also an appreciation for what their desires signify. There are parts I agree with about the below interpretations, but on the whole I think the creator of the below gifs has more of an coloured view reflective of John, whereas my view is more reflective of Sherlock.

An example of what they got right about John:

Also notice that he punctuates ‘this’ by raising his eyebrows, indicating a tension (even as he behaves non-chalantly, resting his head on his fist as though about to sleep) that Sherlock might see through his game.

Don’t believe me? Here’s a separate example of the same action:

This example with Mrs. Hudson reveals an anxiety that even as he says it, he remains on the precipice of being discovered for what his true feelings are. Although “not gay” is a weak argument, it’s one of the only honest deflections he has.

However, below are corrections I would make.

The above is a rather gushy account of what Sherlock could be thinking in this moment, and is perhaps not entirely to the point. For example, the repetition of “put your hand on my leg again” (it will come up again) is clearly subjective as no evidence in this scene seems to indicate it.

Also note Sherlock appears first to look at John’s lips, revealing a desire he later avoids by shifting his gaze to John’s eyes.

So, rather than the above, I would interpret it as, “I really want to kiss you right now, but I can’t afford to let myself be honest with you, John. I need to stay in control and deflect the question.”

I see no reason, or in fact evidence, that Mary is on his mind at all. There is always the possibility, of course, but I’m not sure he would be this forward if she was on his mind. My interpretation, building upon his last dialogue, would simply be, “Please be attracted to me… Enough of the fancy talk, just tell me how you really feel. God, I want to kiss you right now.” This last part is revealed by his pressing his lips together, which draws down his face slightly so that his eyes, which are making an appeal to Sherlock, look slightly bigger and more appealing.

Sherlock squints his eyes to make out the words on John’s forehead, because he needs a distraction rather than to look at the appeal on John’s face. But he can’t make out the words, and in his frustration over being unable to divert his attention, backs out of a confession by still focusing on the note he can’t read.

My interpretation, “I am afraid to tell you the truth of how I really feel, but I can’t focus on anything else.”

John is frustrated from Sherlock’s avoidance of the question and lashes out. He feels hurt that Sherlock won’t say he’s attractive, and takes it out on him. This is evident from his irritated voice in the scene, and the sway that indicates he’s frustrated with getting Sherlock to be honest.

My interpretation, “You are bloody irritating, Sherlock. Why can’t you just be open with me?”

John falls back in his chair, one hand up in a gesture of “I’m done”, as Sherlock leans forward in a frustrated realisation that he’s upset John, who’s now frustratingly further away from him. It should also be noted here that he leaned further forward as this game progressed, as it required more concentration regarding how to interact with John, and also how to protect himself from his feelings being known.

My interpretation from John’s perspective, “You’re not getting it. You don’t understand what I’m asking you, do you, Sherlock? I can’t do this anymore.”

And from Sherlock’s, “What do you want from me, John? I can’t just tell you how I feel, so why are you doing this? You can’t just play this game with me, you’re getting married. You clearly don’t want me.”

It should be noted, too, the way they’re both sitting in this scene as a whole. John is sitting with legs often wide apart, creating the implication of an open invitation, especially a physical one. I also think John’s forward position for much of this scene is particularly indicative of a desire to be closer to Sherlock.

Sherlock on the other hand, who most often in other scenes has his legs crossed in an attempt to indicate his resistance to openness, has them open a lot in this scene. So he is also inviting John into his space, and in fact wants him there.

How do we know?

Because he doesn’t resist when John touches his knee, or when John’s other hand (a closed fist, which indicates a still repressed action in it) gets into his space just between his legs, and Sherlock makes little outward reaction indicating that he finds it an intrusion. In fact, he seems quite pleased, as his head bobs towards it in realisation of what is happening, and further replies, “Anytime,” after John says he doesn’t mind.

It should also be stated, though, that Sherlock closes his legs a number of times, too, showing a certain amount of reserve with John. Perhaps he is still unsure whether reaching out to John is wise, and perhaps he’s afraid that doing so isn’t safe for his heart.

This bottom gif I think is particularly telling. This is the very end of the scene alone together, when they’re interrupted by the client. Notice that Sherlock’s legs are crossed again as a way of hiding, and John has been caught halfway off his chair in an attempts to get closer to Sherlock, and can be seen adjusting himself just a little, self-conscious.

A few other notes in the form of John’s body language in this scene up to this point: First of all, in the top gif of the two above, you can just see in the corner John lifting his legs up so that his feet rest on the empty space of Sherlock’s chair. In context, this was further indicative of John’s desire to be more physically close to Sherlock, although when he crosses his legs in this position, it reveals he’s still too reserved to be completely open about his desires. John was also touching his face and neck a lot in this scene, such as when he had his fist against his lips and cheek, and when his thumb and forefinger pinched his neck. This reveals desires to kiss and touch being suppressed.

Oh, and by the way, this is Sherlock guessing who he is:

The first is an ego complex. The other is just love.

Before this big scene, we see in the lead-up that Sherlock starts off the night carefully planning their alcohol intake so that neither one overdoes it. This shows caution and a careful control of his behaviour. This very first part of the drunk sequence has neutral colours with no special indications regarding John and Sherlock, but this will change.

At the beginning, they seem reserved enough. We can see this in the masked expressions above, and by the colour coding of their clothes, which can show a subconscious representation of the characters’ mindsets.

John’s clothes include murky brown jacket and pants, indicating something hidden, and the jacket covers two layers of blue. This can either represent male attraction or, more likely, sadness. The latter is more likely because it’s a deeper psychological aspect than just wanting to send a subtle message of availability to Sherlock, especially as he’s still sober and more aware of the context of this night out. If so, then the message is more likely to be, “sadly, a friendly pub crawl is all this can be, because I’m getting married.” But the former will become relevant later, so I don’t want to rule it out now. John is also very buttoned up here, further revealing his inhibitions.

Sherlock’s outer layer is even darker than John’s, indicating that he has more to hide. In fact, it’s black, indicating a need to hide his heart which is only backed up by the layers he’s wrapped up in, so that his entire attire appears to shadow his entire body thereby hiding it, and his neck, a vulnerable spot on the body, is covered by his scarf the entire night out, further protecting himself from being exposed. The scarf, a trademark of his, is also blue, indicating a sadness that could imply that he is in the grip of that emotion often.

In the next stage of this sequence, we see John and Sherlock at this bar during Happy Hour. We can see that the mood has progressed by the blue light aura highlighting them. There is intimacy starting to form here, even with tension behind it.

Here’s where we can study the lighting, the colour and the direction where it hits in more detail. John’s right (his emotional side) is half shaded, Sherlock’s left (his pain side) is lit up yellow, and both men are bathed in an outline of blue. Blue also lights up on John’s left, and Sherlock’s right. This outline also takes up Sherlock’s right, and a column of shadow meets in the middle of his face.

The blue can on the surface level be assumed to be the show their same sex attraction to each other, however that alone doesn’t yet show intimacy.

On another level, the blue can be interpreted as sadness. When John stops Sherlock talking about scientific stuff, it may be seen as an indication that, together with this subtext of sadness, he feels isolated by Sherlock’s experiment, and wants to shut him up in an attempt to dull this feeling. Meanwhile Sherlock seeks to distract himself and not give in to the sadness of not being with John as intimately as he would like, and is silenced, and so further shut down by him. But then John touches Sherlock’s wrist, offering to leave; this first intimate contact bridges the two slightly closer together, and they are able to move onto the next stage of their night.

Further into this montage, John’s ulterior motives are revealed: he wants Sherlock to open up to him, or at least he wants the courage to talk to Sherlock about their relationship, and the only way he can think to do that is by getting drunk.

This gif represents the light and the darkness of John’s psychology. On the left side of his face, we see darkness represented by the mournful blue, and as this side represents pain, we can infer that John has a known but unspoken hurt. This is further evidenced by his drinking. In this sequence, this pain drives a fear which drives him to drink. This fear is probably related to facing his sexuality, as the colours of the club, representing the bisexual flag, backs up. It may also have to do with confronting his feelings for Sherlock.

On the other hand, the right side is lit up in yellow, indicating an emotional affection that is perhaps  driving these desires to be closer with Sherlock. His openness with emotion is something that John often expresses in the show, and is a major part of his character, so it isn’t a surprise to see it here too. But what this sequence really seems to show is his desire to get some emotion out of Sherlock too.

In the process, he also gets Sherlock drunk, revealing a whole new side to him.


The same colours that shaded John’s face in the previous sequence is also visible in the above sequence in this scene with Sherlock. The surrounding area seems to be lit up yellow, indicating a friendly atmosphere where it seems the alcohol has loosened Sherlock up enough to start a fight. But we can clearly see the left side of his face is coloured by a blue light. The majority of this sequence, and indeed Sherlock’s face, is yellow, so Sherlock appears open enough to lash out: the very fact of this fight may indicate that that blue light represents a deeper sadness, perhaps one of not being recognised, loved or appreciated. It could further be concluded that maybe these feelings are secretly directed at John, whose jacket in this scene appears to be lit up red, the colour of passion and desire.

In the end, this fight does succeed in getting John’s attention, over whom this dispute might be over, and he is seen being dragged out by John as Sherlock shows a grumpy expression and a flamboyant gesture, further revealing this inner conflict.

The clear point of this sequence is the phallic symbolism of the beakers, and specifically John’s realisation of that.

To study their faces in this sequence, we see the left side (pain) of both faces lit up, and as Sherlock moves his head, his shadows shift in the middle of his face between that left edge and his right (emotional) side, whereas the shadows on John’s right remains a mystery.

In the top gif, we see light hit the left side of Sherlock’s face, indicating psychological awareness of pain, a shadow in the middle, indicating an unacknowledged compartmentalisation, and yellow light on the right, indicating a measure of emotional warmth in this moment. However, the shadow and the yellow dance about on Sherlock’s right side, indicating an inner conflict against warmth and wilful ignorance.

Further, John’s beaker is tinged with blue on its edges. On the surface, the colours of the backdrop as well as his proximity to John seem to indicate a kind of intimacy between the two men. However, the use of light and colour many indicate an unspoken tension: the blue might have a dual meaning of mourning and male attraction, the purple a dual meaning of intimacy and mixed attraction (attraction both males and females) on John’s part, and this placement of blue under purple may indicate repressed feelings, especially Sherlock’s for John, and the blue in John’s beaker may also be a reflection of this emotion in John towards Sherlock.

Sherlock’s delicate straight-backed posture may indicate a somewhat successful suppression of emotion (with some gayness coming through in its delicacy) but the pain from lack of full intimacy with John is evident by the light on his left side. This may be the same reason John’s left is lit up as he watches the beaker, the blue reflection revealing underlying attraction in him. As the sequence progresses, he also notices the sexual tension inherent in them through the beaker and likely also through Sherlock’s effeminate gestures, especially the way he wipes his mouth, bringing the suggestion of the beaker as phallic symbol and that Sherlock is gay.

All this culminates in John’s realisation, blue representing attraction and sadness drifting to the top in the reflection of his beaker as he looks down at it, and shadow is cast half over his left side of his face, indicating a darkness replacing some of his joy at the realisation of this unfulfilled desire between them.

I mean, look at this. Sherlock’s lips are blatantly pouting into the glass, whereas John’s are a repressed purse away from the glass. Clearly, then, John is less indulging in public than Sherlock is. Further to that is the purple light of intimacy from the right (emotional) side, as well as the light shining on the left side (pain) and casting the right into shadow. So the emotions between them are intimate but unacknowledged.

The grip of each man to their beaker is also telling: Sherlock’s is delicate, and John’s is a hard grasp, revealing a difference of approach towards the phallic symbol of the beakers, and thus sexuality; John’s hard grasp may suggest he has a harder time coming to terms with it.

All this leading up to here.

This sequence is lit in bars of light and shadow, the light source coming from the right. So this reveals an emotional subtext in which something still lays in shadow. At this point in the night, they’re drowsy, vague, and not paying attention, so that emotional revelations slip through. When Sherlock first speaks, John opens his eyes for a moment to look at him, and show that he’s paying attention to him. However, in the next moment, Sherlock moves and casts a shadow over John, casting mystery into John’s emotions as Sherlock asks, “Do you have an international reputation?” This question also carries with it an association from an older piece of Sherlock Holmes canon, that of John’s ‘Three Continents’ Watson reputation in the film, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (“I have girls on three continents,”) as well as in canon story, The Sign of Four (“In an experience of women that spanned many nations and three separate continents”). So this snippet of conversation, coupled with the green walls surrounding them, indicates jealousy that each man has something more important than the other. In this question, Sherlock seems to subtextually accuse John over whether he has anyone else. Sherlock’s right side is illuminated, revealing emotion behind the question, but his right eye his shaded, indicating the emotion doesn’t go too deep. In the same snapshot, John’s nose tip alone is illuminated, which may indicate some small amount of arousal; ‘nose’ is an old euphemism for a man’s private parts.

Light returns in the next snapshot to John’s left and Sherlock’s right, indicating heartbreak for the former and raw honesty for the latter (as emotions come from a more honest place than pain). However, despite the pain, John still admits that there isn’t anyone else when he says, “No, I don’t have an international reputation.” And then Sherlock admits that his reputation (the work) matters now so little to him that he can’t even remember it; John has become more important to him now. So both of these barriers to their intimacy, both Sherlock’s work and John’s relations with women, are revealed to be less important to them than each other. The camera tilts down, and we see them on an equal level to each other.

Proceeding this was their scene in Baker Street together. So let’s now move ahead.

In this gif, we can see both men are lit with yellow (warmth), with a slight shadow on their right side. They are further open with the exposure of their necks. So with the client, they are unusually warm (due to the lowered inhibitions that comes with drunkenness).

But at the client’s arrival, they sat down on the couch to listen to her, rather then in their usual seats, where they sat when she arrived. This may be because she disrupted them by intruding on their time alone together. Perhaps their fear of being caught out together and their raw emotional state under the influence led them to flee into some new position, but going by Sherlock’s arm around John, it seems more likely that they fled they in an attempts to be quietly closer. This may have followed on from the previous scene, as well as the disorientation caused by the client. And yet Sherlock’s above action shows they’re somewhat guarded in how they feel in front of her, as he seems to wake up at her words and pull away from John.

The client’s story seems to reflect John and Sherlock’s story too, and they are visibly affected by it. This is probably because her story reflects their own story:

I don’t … a lot … I mean, I don’t … date all that much … and … he seemed … nice, you know? We seemed to automatically connect. We had one night – dinner, such interesting conversation. It was … lovely. To be honest, I’d love to have gone further … but I thought, ‘No, this is special. Let’s take it slowly … exchange numbers. He said he’d get in touch and then … Maybe he wasn’t quite as keen as I was … but I – I just thought … at least he’d call to say that we were finished.


As she was telling this story, the two seemed to lazily listen to her conversation. Yet there were small reactions: John smiling as she said he seemed nice, and again at Sherlock when she mentioned “such interesting conversation”, as if reminded by her words of that first time they were together at Angelo’s. At the point of the conversation in the above gif, Sherlock also withdrew his arm, and by John’s most recent smile, we might conclude he draped his arm around John at that point. Then Sherlock leaned forward, pressing his mouth with his hands when she talked about taking it slowly, from which we might infer that he was thinking about John, about his grown up desire about John since that night. The leaning forward might either be interest in her story, or a need to further distance himself from John because of his need to be on guard.

John’s vague shrug at “maybe he wasn’t as keen as I was”, likely denotes sympathy, connected to the idea that he feels the same way towards Sherlock (“he doesn’t feel things that way,” he once said to Mycroft). But when she says, “I just thought … at least he’d call to say that we were finished,” we get the distinct impression of devastation from Sherlock, and it could be assumed here that his sympathies at this line refers to the fear running through this episode that John will leave him; as people keep telling him, it’s the end of an era, marriage changes people, and so on.

So then we get here. At the end of the story, the client draws their attention back to her, and Sherlock apologises in part for his open affection towards John, avoiding labelling John, more likely because he simply doesn’t know what their relationship really is than to hide, as this scene seems to show him in a confused state of mind. This may be evidenced by his facial expressions in this and the previous scene, when he studies John or when he tries to visibly pull away.

Note the self-awareness in Sherlock’s lighting: the warm yellow light fills both sides of his face here, showing that despite his confusion as stated above, he’s still aware of John, both in his affection and his heartbreak. John, however, is still shadowed on his right, showing his affection for Sherlock in this moment is more obscure.


In the scene where the client takes them to the crime scene, we again see these colours in much the same configurations as we saw in John and Sherlock’s scene together in Baker Street. The room the client takes them to also flashes purple, the colour of John and Sherlock’s intimacy. But the primary colours are green and red.

Red is associated with sex, and Sherlock’s sexualised movements around the room back up this reading. It may also stand for passion, considering the bond between John and Sherlock backed up by them finishing each others sentences as seen above, as well as John protecting and backing up Sherlock against a man trying to kick them out.

Green, which Sherlock is lit up with and which is seen in the background when the camera is on John, may stand for jealousy. What is there to be jealous of? Well, he’s again wrapped up in layers, so hiding his feelings for John, yet his drunken state is still exposing his feelings, and the feelings he’s displaying through his body language here is to do with sex. So he’s feeling horny for John, yet too guarded to act on it. The man intruding, trying to get the two to leave, also causes Sherlock and John to be defensive against him, and especially John to be defensive over Sherlock. The lighting on Sherlock may indicate that he’s feeling possessive/defensive against this guy, and the conversation about the investigation could just be a cover for him about these jealous feelings he has toward John who his intruders are keeping him from. The case is a distraction from this, one he fails to keep up because of his drunken state, and this inner feeling is literally vomited up. The meaning of this is further revealed by the next transition, from Sherlock dabbing his lips to a close up of John’s the next morning.


When they wake up, they’re in the drunk tank, and the bed is taken up by Sherlock, with John sleeping against the wall in a sore position. They are soon rescued by Lestrade, who acts annoyed towards them, but soon lets them out.

This hangover scene is coloured mostly in blue and white, revealed John and Sherlock’s exposure and sadness. This blue likely represents regret of the night before, but it may also represent a regression into the sadness of the start of the night before, once again separating them from each other. Sherlock distracts himself with the case they were presented with the previous night, now that he’s more capable of following it up.

John, who we can tell by his expression is already feeling trashed both from the hangover and the sore position he slept in, is left behind in Sherlock’s wake, the shot of him alone further indicating an isolation from Sherlock.



Mrs Hudson offers John a big breakfast when he gets back to Baker Street. Instead of eating it, he talks about Sherlock, and asks Mrs Hudson’s perspective in the form of asking about her husband. Mrs Hudson’s story here can be seen as a parallel for John’s relationships, as what Mrs Hudson describes is what’s later revealed to be a parallel to John and Mary’s relationship. It wasn’t love, Mrs Hudson tells him, “it was just a whirlwind thing for us.” John’s demeanour here with Mrs Hudson is relaxed, as again his top button is undone, and his clothes appear in the same state they had been in when John and Sherlock had been alone in 221b the previous night, yet John’s refusal to eat suggests a lack of intimacy.

He then ends the entire interaction when he hears Sherlock, and quiets Mrs Hudson so he can hear. Even this small trace of Sherlock is enough for John to completely disregard Mrs Hudson and go after Sherlock. What small amount of intimacy he may have for Mrs Hudson (notice the pale purple walls), Sherlock means so much more to him.

The great thing about studying subtext is that, in this context, rather than focusing on the characters’ attractiveness or your own view on same-sex attraction, it forces you to actually examine how they, not you, feel and react in certain situations, and how they feel about the relationships in their lives. It humanises them too, and gets at their hearts. And when you get that close to them, those surface issues you started with fall away and no longer matter, so long as these characters can overcome their issues and get what they need.

And that’s what I think this whole show is about, which is especially obvious when we look at the subtext, and what makes it so special. It also brings me more awareness to myself, to those around me, and to the presence of symbolism in the real world. It extends my horizons to understand more of what’s really there.

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Logic, and its problems

Feeling, and instinct, are essential evolutionary traits to any conscious lifeform. An animal never wonders whether there’s more to life. Logic has its uses, of course; logic can help us to survive by rationalising our decisions. In combination with imagination, we were able to survive in the desert long enough to evolve and spread out. We even made logic a cornerstone of civilisation, and ingrained into our education system, especially in subjects like mathematics. But we are not built to be creatures of pure logic, nor should we be.

In the Star Trek universe, Vulcans have often been interpreted as creatures of pure logic, and I have said before this is an idealisation. Yet despite what the Vulcans themselves probably like to believe, they are not creatures of pure logic. To compare them to the Romulans, both peoples share one important difference: one believes in peace, and the other in war. These are cultural values, and cultural values are never, and should be never, a purely logical concept. To reduce it to as much is to take something essential away, to reduce a people to a lost child. This is a concept tackled in Star Trek The Motion Picture through V’Ger, and it remains an important narrative.

I believe all cultures require a feeling in order to understand, more than a direct translation: there is no such thing as a direct translation in either language or culture, and to rely strictly on any set phrases is to sell yourself short. The trick is not to understand another culture through your own, but to understand another culture in its own original context. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that it takes instinct, which even the most detached beings have, to understand others. It’s only a matter of finding similarities, things that resonate, to guide you there. Especially if you find a resonant culture, this is possible. However, it also takes and keen and open eye to new perspectives to really immerse yourself in it. And in the end, it’s all worthwhile when you’re heart’s in it.

We are not empty beings. Logic can be a powerful tool, but it can also be a sanctuary from life. Life is messy, but you can only hide in it for so long before you lose yourself in it. To the lucky ones who break out of this rut, it may not seem like it, but it is a good thing. Because logic is a rut to hide in, an enabler of all the shame within a person. When Darwin released his Origin of Species and revealed humanity’s ancestry, it threw this shame into the spotlight: the most civilised humans simply couldn’t deal with the truth. They wanted to continue to hide, but that didn’t last forever. Today, we are stepping more into the light, learning to embrace our flaws more, although shrouds still remain all across our world. However, as the world continues to change, perhaps civilisation will eventually cease to define itself by clinging to logic; or perhaps it will simply find new ways to hide.

Social media might be the modern equivalent, and perhaps that’s understandable. We all need our masks; it’s when those masks become horcruxes that truly turns us to dark magic. To choose what is easy over what is right, to extend the Harry Potter reference, is what really does us damage. Let’s look at Voldemort for a second, because to create a horcrux in the first place is to literally commit an act that would tear you apart; and Voldemort has done that seven times. You wouldn’t imagine it to think of him, but each of these acts really holds so much power ove him, these kills far less than the casual way he presents himself, that you can’t but wonder at the soul that still remains in him. To bring the concept back to social media is look at the way people use it. Because, like logic, it can be defined both has a tool and as a mask. But when people live their lives through that mask, instead of living their lives as they are, in short if they start living their lives as if the mask is their real selves, then they are only then creating their own horcrux, and running from who they are. Because if any medium means so much to them, it’s only because they’re using it as a mirror to their real lives, untouched from the selves contained within.

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The Spock Narrative

I fell into the Star Trek fandom again. Inspired by this, because I felt there was a particularly absent Spock perspective on their relationship in original Spirk songs, as this is the second Spirk song I’ve heard and it was also from Kirk’s perspective. First is here.

As I’m not very musical, these are just lyrics. As there’s no music attached, you’ll just have to imagine.

You give me something I’ve never known before
And there is no logic in it
It’s hard to know what I need more
You dare me to lose you every minute

Can it be I trust you because you feel?
Maybe I’m just too addicted
Because I don’t think I could ever heal
When I see you stray, I am left strickened

If there’s shame in love, I don’t want to know
You take over my mind, you make me let go
I can’t see you
I can’t see you
I can’t see you
I can’t see you

Whenever you touch me, my nerves alight
Mind over matter, I focus on you
I make sure to keep my body packed tight
Minds joined, I understand everything you do

Whenever you smile at me, I feel seen
Though I have no need for emotional security
Yours I will be and ever have been
I’d do anything to keep you in safety

If there’s shame in love, I don’t want to know
You take over my mind, you make me let go
I can’t see you
I can’t see you
I can’t see you
I can’t see you
Oh show me words I used to know
the man I was channelling Show me

I couldn’t stand it, the feelings inside
I must close off the pain, feeling so wrong
Let my hair grow long, need Vulcan to hide
I should have it known it all along

And there you were, so open and proud
Yet I couldn’t even look back at you
You had a way of getting through this cloud
I never knew what I was about to do

If there’s shame in love, I don’t want to know
You take over my mind, you make me let go
I can’t see you
I can’t see you
I can’t see you
I can’t see you
Until this moment

This is my interpretation of their relationship, but there’s another perspective I need to explore. I recently saw The Spock Resonance from the most recent season of the Big Bang Theory, and I keep thinking about it. It isn’t as though I didn’t know Sheldon thought differently of Spock than I do, but given that his history with Spock and Star Trek runs far deeper than mine, it surprised me that the way he sees Spock would be so ignorant.

So the way Sheldon sees it, Spock lives in a world of pure logic, and perhaps this was an idealisation of Spock, whose logic he’s always admired. But he has also admitted in the past that he ships Kirk and Spock, so I wonder how he ships them. There is certainly enough evidence in the original series for both physical connection and, dare I say, emotional connection. There is certainly loyalty, and friendship; protectiveness and relief. Spock sticks as closely to Kirk as Kirk does to him, and he even smiles when he learns he didn’t kill Kirk on Vulcan in Amok Time from the second season. Perhaps Sheldon, understanding arguably less about narratives than I do, simply took this at face value, not recognising the contradiction between this emotional connection and Spock’s so-called pure logic. Perhaps he shipped it out of some need in him to share a connection with someone, even while his need for detachment through logic created a wall of denial of this side of himself. Both sides are a part of him, and yet he chooses only to see the dominant feeling, through a compulsion to protect himself from the chaos of feeling.

The most obvious and important part of this evidence of duality lies in Star Trek The Motion Picture, the first of the TOS films, and my favourite area of the Kirk/Spock canon. In my opinion, this film is second only to The Search for Spock in terms of film canon. After watching The Spock Resonance in season 9 of The Big Bang Theory, more than anything I’ve been tempted to give Sheldon my blow-by-blow of this movie; but given his just-as-fictional reality, I’ll do it here.

So the first we see of Spock, he’s in Gol undergoing Kolinahr. This parallels Sheldon towards Amy in The Spock Resonance, since after their season 9 breakup, Sheldon swears off women entirely. Although this is a trope in many men post-breakup, I think with Sheldon it carries more weight as he is more physically restrained than many other men, making him a more direct parallel with Spock here. I don’t know whether you could call whatever happened to Kirk and Spock leading up to this first scene a breakup, but what does become clear is that it was Kirk who drove him here. And you have to understand this was a long time coming; it goes way back to Spock’s admission in TOS that, “Jim, when I feel friendship for you, I’m ashamed.” Although when he served with Kirk on the Enterprise, he didn’t resist the little things like touches and looks, that shame continued through their relationship — again, this parallels Sheldon in an earlier season of BBT, when he says, “What has that little vixen done to me? Amy has altered my personality.” This background in both cases has led to Spock stopping the ritual, an action with no pure logic in it, but instead an emotional reaction. Spock reached out during the ritual to stop the necklace because he knew there was still something unresolved in his heart that brought dishonesty to the ritual; much the same way as Sheldon got a song stuck in his head in season 9 that eventually reminded him how much he loved Amy, leading him back to her.

The next time we see Spock, he has come aboard the Enterprise, probably after monitoring its activity going by his actions once aboard, as well as the timing. Here we come to another parallel within the film itself, that of the other Vulcan employed by Kirk, who I think he hired in part as a replacement for Spock. That’s why he appeared so shocked when Spock stepped onto the bridge: I don’t think Kirk ever expected to see him again. But in fact, that Vulcan officer was his excuse in, and I think Spock needed that. As Spock distracted himself from Kirk with his work, arriving without an excuse would have exposed him and whatever his true intentions were, when he likely didn’t know yet what he wanted to do beyond facing Kirk again. No matter how happy Kirk was to see Spock in either case, Spock needs duty first, before he can acknowledge anything approaching his feelings. This is similar to Sheldon too, as he briefly tried to replace Amy with a woman he would meet through craigslist, though he soon abandons her for fine details, probably at least in part indicating that he’s still too stuck on Amy to move on. But before he could go back to her, she first had to invite him in. Even when she did, like Spock, he was resistant at first, until he reached his revelation and finally returned to her.

I have read a theory that light and shadow factors into the TOS movie; the black clothing and shadows on Spock’s face when he boards the Enterprise contrasts sharply against the lack of shadows and white clothing in the hospital bed when Spock has his revelation about Kirk. There is also the parallel between Decker and Ilea, down to her vow of celibacy and last heartrending separation with Decker, which remains relevant to Kirk and Spock despite the fact we don’t know how they were separated. In fact, we don’t even know how Decker and Ilea were separated. Nostalgia is also used, with a brief shot of Spock in his familiar blue uniform between arriving and his first private conversation with Kirk, as well the line that follows in the next scene, “I need him” which was first said in Charlie X and directly contrasts Spock’s current, even mocking attitude of detachment. This is also repeated in the hospital room, and in both these occasions Kirk said this in white rooms, signalling unambiguous honesty, as well as vulnerability, using the light metaphor. This begins in the next scene, with only Spock, Kirk and McCoy present. Despite his intimate past with Kirk, and perhaps due to the post-conditions of Kolinahr, Spock stands as stiff as ever, and refuses to even sit down, as even that will make him feel vulnerable, as if his will is not his own; and Spock, especially in this moment, needs control over anything else. He is still afraid, still ashamed, of the connection they share. But Spock does sit down eventually, perhaps foreshadowing the outcome of this movie. Perhaps the closest equivalent in Sheldon’s relationship is his trip to the Aquarium with Amy, and the awkward conversation in the car, between Amy mirroring Kirk by trying to relax the situation, and Sheldon mirroring Spock by mocking the situation, by addressing the elephant in the room: Sheldon asks the questions friends don’t ask, just as Spock makes the stiff business-like bargains against Kirk’s personal of “I need you”.

As the movie continues, Spock continues to play the part of ship crewman, but even as they descend into the cloud towards V’Ger, Spock is already standing next to Kirk closer than the average crewman; observe Decker standing behind the barrier to the left, and Spock in front as Kirk’s right hand man. This may have been a brief, simple pretext to be next to the captain for a moment, as he’s soon back to his chair again. However, as Kirk moves the ship in closer to V’Ger, a pillar of lightning enters the bridge to tap into the computers. And here’s where it gets interesting, because there’s four main players in this next scene. Decker, Kirk’s parallel, tries to work on the computer. At Kirk’s commentary on the problem, Spock reacts by damaging the computer to cut off access. As a result, Spock’s parallel, Ilea, is attacked because of Decker and taken by V’Ger. So firstly, we have Kirk/Decker as instigators, then Spock/Ilea as defenders and in turn revenge victims. I have mentioned the woman from craigslist in BBT, but I haven’t mentioned Amy’s parallel, the British boyfriend. He may represent at least at least a subconscious desire to replace Sheldon, as he at least somewhat mirrors him in that he’s tall, as well as his unfortunate overt enthusiasm for Sheldon, which breaks through her desire for subtlety in his attributes. However, she is eventually able to dismiss even this in her desire to chase after Sheldon, up until the point he wins her back. These mirrors both show desire and loyalty in the main ships.

V’Ger then drew the ship even closer to itself, and Spock didn’t seem at all resistant. In fact, since first contact with V’Ger, it seems Spock has had direct mental contact with the unit, allowing Spock to see and know more about it than the rest of the vessel. He probably knew how it thought, and this has probably attracted Spock to it. Because there’s the mission, and then there’s Spock’s personal thoughts and feelings. He wants to be as logical as possible, which he equates with morality through restraint, and even with these small emotions and inclinations, his thoughts aren’t on Kirk; he wants to be closer to V’Ger in order to attain this enlightenment through pure logic. So he finally steals a spacesuit and heads out to meet V’Ger. And as all this is happening, V’Ger’s probe/Ilea is moving in the opposite direction by discovering feeling through Decker, and thus higher meaning through that feeling. Up until now, Spock has had a kind of contact with V’Ger, but until meeting on the other side he didn’t have a strong enough connection to achieve his ends. But when he attempted a mind meld, he was filled with the empty thoughts he would have ended up with had he undergone Kolinahr, and he understands now why he couldn’t go through with it. When Sheldon and Amy were apart in season 9, both also headed into opposite directions, with Amy moving towards forming new connections with other men, and Sheldon moving towards detachment. Although Sheldon didn’t deal well with this separation, he clung to this detachment even when Amy admitted she wanted to be his girlfriend again. Like Spock, he did this on principle: the fact that he needed to be her friend reflects his need to cling to detachment and run from his feelings, just as Spock has always done especially by clinging to duty and business-like statements.

Then we get to the famous hospital scene, and McCoy is speculating Spock’s condition. At the words, “The power pouring through that mind meld must’ve been staggering,” Spock laughs. Because he knows, it wasn’t immense power, but its opposite. V’Ger doesn’t have the answers Spock thought it did, but questions. It understands far less than even Spock has achieved in his life. Even Spock has feelings for Kirk, has hopes, and V’Ger has none. This is not something to aspire to, but to avoid devolving into. When Sheldon goes mad trying to figure out the song in his head, he eventually figures out it’s because of Amy, because it reminds him of her. Like Spock’s mind meld, Sheldon undergoes a mental journey which leads to the revelation that compells him back to the one he loves. This leads to a final famous scene of their reunion, and a kiss that has lost all its stiffness, the equivalent to Kirk and Spock’s handholding.

In the very next scene, he underscores this by explaining that V’Ger is a child. This parallels much of Sheldon’s character, as Sheldon is often compared to a child, yet his connection to Amy, much like Spock’s connection to Kirk, makes him better. Sometimes he still fears his vulnerability through this connection, but both Spock and Sheldon eventually come to accept this love over that fear. When V’Ger merged with Decker, that new life, that ascendence provides the perfect metaphor of this.

There are plenty of weighted phrases from Spock that reflects his own feelings as well as the the original context they were spoken in. He says “curiosity,” as both an expression of V’Ger’s spirit as well as his own attitude towards the entity, says, “It knows only that it needs, Captain. But like so many of us, it does not know what,” reflecting both V’Ger’s current conflict and his own recent one, and “Unfortunately, it will have to deal with [human emotions] as well,” regarding both the new V’Ger and himself into the future. In this way, V’Ger serves as a parallel to Spock as well. And in many ways, there is a resonance to Sheldon too, as these quotes may all apply to his life as well. Although curiosity could easily be explained in many contexts, it is personal curiosity that matters here, and perhaps what kept him near Amy at the beginning at least. Not knowing what he needed probably kept him from discovering the truth about how not only Sheldon’s relationship, but how it changed him, until it was too late to stop it. And now that he does know, the last quote comes into play, in that no matter how he might wish to return to the safety of 2003, he has simply changed too much to go back. So perhaps these comparisons didn’t all happen in the same order, but we can see that there are many similarities between these two ships to link them, making them mirrors in different worlds. And perhaps the most important link of all between them is that they will always find their way back to each other.

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Star Trek, Doctor Who, and the evolution of connection

It is a funny thing, comparing the old canon of sci-fi with the new. I have looked at it enough with Doctor Who, and I have begun recently to do the same with Star Trek. Most of popular sci-fi started on 60s television (from what I’ve seen), and so it is with both of these shows; they are, in fact, the genesis of the genre as we know it today. I have observed that they also represent two approaches: that of the personal adventure (Doctor Who) and that of the formal adventure (Star Trek). The Doctor ran away with a time machine from his civilisation on Gallifrey, yet the crew aboard the starship Enterprise conduct their adventures with the full permission and support of their own civilisations.

However, I have also recently been thinking of another aspect to both these series, that of the series’ representation of relationships. In the Star Trek original series, of course, relationships aren’t exactly top priority, and yet in the reboot (also referred to as the ‘Alternate Original Series’), one of the very creators of the first film described it as a kind of romantic comedy between Kirk and Spock. This is a relationship that’s also very much canon in the original series (especially the original series movies), but the reboot puts relationships on more of a forefront than the TV original series. It’s certain that some kind of obvious physical or romantic contact doesn’t occur in the relationship of new Kirk and Spock, like that apparent between the new Spock and Uhura, however it is undeniable nonetheless, in the ways that creator mentions:

This first movie is just a love story between Spock and Kirk. It has all the beats of a romantic comedy where they meet, they don’t get along, they totally hate each other, and then they get into a situation where they kind of need each other, and by the end Spock walks onto the bridge and he’s like, ‘Let’s fuck!’ – Star Trek producer Damon Lindelof

Although I don’t agree wholly with this statement (the idea of Spock so much as implying ‘let’s fuck’ messes with everything I know and think about who he is under most circumstances), there is definitely subtext the like of which comes to something not far from it. Although I don’t see the two of them acting in quite so sexual a manner, there is a definite connection that might lead to actions such as touching or melding, though I doubt it would happen on screen. Lindelof is certainly entitled to his opinions, though I do suspect that the intended on screen relationship is meant to be that of Spock and Uhura. I don’t see as strong a connection between those two characters as between Kirk and Spock however, but it certainly seems to be the modern trend to imply but not show deep male bonding, with the implication of romance but often not going beyond that. At the same time, showing either one of the men engaging with many meaningless physical relations (as in the case of Kirk), or one of the men engaging in a physical sometimes romantic connection with a woman but to a lesser degree than the man he should be with (as in the case of Spock).

Compare this equation to the one presented in the original series, in which romantic relationships were very much gendered — most of them occurred to the woman of either the Enterprise, or an alien planet, and in the men it wasn’t something that occurred very often as their main priority was always to their work and not their love lives, apart from when that aspect was brought up by the appearance of women. Spock here is also the epitome of this ideal, as the logical Vulcan with no interest in that aspect, but is far more focused on his work than even the ordinary men. The fact is also shown that women represent a fantasy for men, and are used as nothing more than whatever male desire is shown in that episode, with the probable exception to that rule being Uhura and perhaps a few others. However, this was usually also the medium through which female character was revealed, whatever its motivations were, showing equally as many ambitious women as compassionate ones.

However, apart from the representation of women in original series Star Trek, is that of Kirk and Spock’s relationship. That their relationship was beyond friendship and went into romance is still a widely accepted piece of canon, and it was certainly the intention of Gene Roddenbury, which he himself admitted in 1979, around the time the Star Trek movies began. It is shown in the TV series, as well as in novelisations and comics, that this connection existed to such an extent that it was essentially the same as any other relationship represented in popular culture.

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Be that as it may, the original series was always cleverly constructed as a sci-fi series first, that just happened to contain snippets of this relationship all throughout its canon. It weaved relationships like it weaved character, as an essential but not primary part of the narrative. This is something Doctor Who did as well. It presented action as the primary, as the character that compelled that action was revealed through it. In the Star Trek reboot, as mentioned before, they described the film as a ‘romantic comedy’ in space, but there was of course action in it as well. I think the difference between now and then is that the priority has switched; the ideal now seems to be that sci-fi without something for the audience to connect to is meaningless, and this is translated into the idea that sci-fi, as well as any other genre, is meaningless without relationships. This can only mean that through the decades, relationships have gained more power in the collective consciousness; that while women are still seen as sexual and romantic objects to an extent, the meaning of relationships has become primary in our culture for all of us.

Lindelof is a prime example of this, certainly by how he ended his quote about the Star Trek reboot, showing that sexuality has become arguably more important than romantic relationships in our society. After all, it is nearly impossible to come across a creator of storytelling media these days who doesn’t think about the sexuality of even the most chaste characters as primary to what makes them up, or inject more of it than strictly necessary into a character or story. Doctor Who, especially the 10th Doctor, is a prime example of the evolution of relationships, although it is in fact the 8th Doctor who first showed true signs of this development. When he first kissed Grace, his companion at the time, in the Doctor Who movie, the fandom strongly rejected the move as a betrayal of the character. However, it came to be accepted more as time passed, and future writers of the series, such as Steven Moffat, decided to develop this into the series that followed. In my opinion, Moffat is very overeager with this aspect, and perhaps has pushed it inappropriately in the series since the time of Rose. Clara, River, and a whole assortment of people the Doctor has kissed or married. Do I think he has betrayed the character? Well, not wholly. I firmly believe that it goes into the Doctor’s development as a character, of course. I love the Doctor, and if he wants to pursue something he hasn’t before since, assumingly, his life on Gallifrey, then of course I will accept him for that. And I also grant you that whenever he has kissed or married any of the female characters, there has always been a legitimate reason for it; to do otherwise, I think, would be the true betrayal. However, I also believe that, even if he has taken several hundred years — or more, judging by the most recent season — in his various bodies to develop his new emotions of attraction, I believe they have been fairly shallow compared to his love for them besides that, apart from the obvious Rose exception. As revealed since the 12th Doctor’s regeneration, his most recent regenerations have shared connections that led him until recently to veil his face in order to hide his age, his turmoil, and his distance from them (“Don’t let him see the damage” works just as well in reverse). As 12 himself has said, hugs are like hiding your face. He is as in love with the universe and exploring it as he’s ever been, but he’s also been so hurt by his history that he’s begun to fear the change that is inevitable in it. He holds the same convictions that he always has, but his hearts are also at odds with it. In the most recent season of Doctor Who, he has given an impassioned speech about the importance of peace, but when trapped inside a Gallifreyan prison of sorts at the end of that season, expressed just the opposite of that conviction. All this shows how his hearts are being torn in two, between the man who wants peace and the man who has learned to fight.

There is another aspect of Doctor Who that is interesting. Watching Classic Who, I find its representation of women much better than Star Trek’s, but conversely Star Trek’s representation of race is also much more diverse than Doctor Who’s. In both series’ representation of women, there is of course a representation of the ideals of its time. But Doctor Who’s representations of Susan, of Barbara, of later companions like Sarah Jane, are both diverse but also shows the women being more engaged in the action than on relationships, something more women of Star Trek can’t claim. I won’t claim that Star Trek women aren’t diverse in their own right, of course, but there are certain attitudes also present in Star Trek, not only towards gender but to an extent even race (as in certain indigenous societies the Enterprise comes across) that can be troubling; women in Star Trek, especially those indigenous of certain planets, are often exoticised, sexualised, romanticised, sometimes against their own agencies, as in Metamorphosis. Sometimes they are used as stereotypes, or to legitimise certain attitudes against them, as in Catspaw. And it isn’t to say that these episodes aren’t well constructed away from that, or that the characters are flat, but the fact that they aren’t flat perhaps lends more legitimacy to them. At the same time, however, in Is There No Truth In Beauty?, an aide to Medusan Ambassador Kollos is shown to have agency throughout, even amongst accusations of not being a woman, or being told by Kirk rather selfishly that she must eventually fall under her urges. Selfish, because it’s a more a reflection on him than her, and because by saying so he denies her own feeling even as he tries to draw it out.

Between Star Trek and Doctor Who, I also find the characters of the Doctor and Mr Spock most intriguing, particularly going by what each aliens physiology has to say about them. For example, Vulcan biology belies heightened mental awareness and sensitivity to their own kind, and the biological event of their blood boiling during Pon Farr indicates and an underlying passion to the race. However, the fact that Vulcan hearts also don’t beat also belies dispassionate suppression, and they are also a very logical race, whether because of social construction or evolution, which has caused the race to reject body over mind, as well as become a collective and exclusive race. They also contain green blood, as they have more copper than iron in it, and pointed ears, a possible inherited trait from their assumed feline ancestors, which indicates a certain inhumanity about them. On the other hand, the Doctor has a physiology closer to humans, with the only true exception in their bodies being an extra heart which, much like the Vulcan’s burning blood of Pon Farr and high tolerance for heat, indicates a high level of passion. However, in addition to this, some Gallifreyans including the Doctor also have something extra, given to them as with all Time Lords when sent to look into the untempored schism. It may be concluded that those Gallifreyans chosen are the ones proven to be sensitive to a mental transformation as a result, that would allow them to become Time Lords and thus in tune to the universe. All citizens with this ability are then trained, it could be argued conscripted, into the Academy. Given this history, that already shows two layers of sensitivity in Time Lords, as opposed to the Vulcans’ one, so there is a clear difference between the Vulcan and Gallifreyan races. And Spock and the Doctor are both clear representations of their races, and yet both are also divided between their home planets and Earth. It seems self-centred of us, then, that even the most famous of our humanoid alien characters in science fiction should be tied to Earth like this. But perhaps it is an important connection to understanding them.

Now let’s take a moment away from the analytics to focus on how I feel about and interpret these characters. First, we’ll start with Spock.

Spock, like the rest of his race, is a touch-telepath who, despite this deep connection, strives largely for a life of disconnect from his emotions. Being a telepath, and even being a Vulcan, this flies in the face of what is natural, as his emotions, mind, and body, are highly attuned and sensitive, more than most on the outside. Being logical, despite these things, makes sense, when you consider how difficult such heightened senses are. Think of a person with Aspberger’s Disorder or something similar. Their senses are overwhelming; too loud, too close, too sharp. Sound, sight, and touch. Aspberger’s Disorder people are also highly logical. It’s the only way to make sense of the world, bring order to it out of the unbearable chaos. Vulcans, and by extension Spock, are the Aspbergers of the universe.

Time Lords, on the other hand, are the Watchers of the universe. Think of the Watcher from 4’s regeneration. The Doctor is somewhat apart from his race, but not entirely. He interacts with the world, in the face of his race, yet he also watches it up close. You have only to look at 10 and his exclamations of “Oh, you’re beautiful!” and “brilliant, you are,” to see that, although it doesn’t stop and start with just him. Alike with Star Trek, the Doctor just loves to explore. Unlike Spock, however, the Doctor swells with love and doesn’t shy away from it. He allows himself to feel so fully that he needs an extra heart to fit it all in. He loves more fully than humans can understand, because he doesn’t just love one but many. He loves all his companions, even occasionally his enemies, and sure he has favourites, but over the years that love only grows, and becomes more complex, to the point where, in the modern series, he kisses, and falls in love, and becomes more heartbroken. It’s true that even in Classic, he began seeing his companions as he died, but this is a tradition only continued in Modern with 11’s death, seeing Amy one last time.

In this way, both Spock and the Doctor love ‘the many’ as opposed to the human ‘few, or the one’. (Spock senses the deaths of an entire Vulcan crew, and tells McCoy, “You speak of the objective hardness of the Vulcan heart, yet how little room there seems to be in yours.”) Further, these characters are explorations on the human capacity for love and connection through progression of their races, although this could also be true of Starfleet itself, and the openness towards the human races, at least, within that organisation. The grandest idea among all being, that we are our best when we love, deeply, that and those which surrounds us.

[P.S. Due to the collectivism of his culture, I think there are also aspects of Eastern-style culture in his race.]

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Despicable Me and Megamind: a look at the Good vs Evil dynamic

I have only seen the first Despicable Me movie, and this was a fair time after its initial popularity. Certainly it’s not the first time I have been late to the whole popular kids movie bandwagon, as it’s happened before with Madagascar and Frozen. I had seen the trailer, focusing on the villian protagonist and his rivalry against another villain who was beating him out, and that coloured most of my impression of the film, even when later Minions became such a thing. However, like I always do, I eventually bowed to pressure and watched it, just to see what all the fuss was about.

A part of me had hoped it really would be as simple as a villain rivalry, without it becoming a villain redemption story, but being a kids movie, I always knew deep down that hope was doomed to fail from the start. Yet still I clung to the thought, cheered at his villainy behaviours and quietly tensed at his moments of redemption. It isn’t that I didn’t care for him as a character, or the kids who he let into his life and changed him. I guess I was just tired of the cliche.

It was no Megamind. Sure, Megamind follows the same formula of villain redemption (I never said I hated that formula; I love it), but there is something about Megamind’s character that appealed to me stronger than the protagonist of Despicable Me, there was something more in it not only of his journey, but his rival’s. It was the dichotomy they were both pushed into, that they each had to play out, and that they both grew tired of and ill-fitted for. They were both living a lie forced on them by society, and they both eventually managed to break out of those roles, and I really loved it.

There was another thing I loved about Megamind, though. That was the fact that, unlike most stories, Megamind actually got his play of the city. As a villain, he actually won. And we got to see what that actually looked like, because that never happens. The typical superhero movie is all about the fight, not the ends. But like it or not, there’s an actual socio-economic consequence to all that fighting, and it was allowed to happen in Megamind’s city. Megamind came to own everything in that city, yet it was hollow, because he wasn’t ever fighting for anything. What did he really want the city for, what would he do with it? The truth is, he only wanted it to prove that he could, to prove he was worth something and that he wasn’t just some loser villain. But that brought him nothing.

And then, of course, his journey brought him to hero status led not just by the love of a girl, but by the playing out of his good vs evil fantasy. Once again, he was able to prove himself, this time as a hero, he got the girl, and was presumably able to live a more fulfilling life.

When it comes to Despicable Me, I suppose there are also certain things to like about it. The children the protagonist adopted were meant to used as tools, and that is how he used them. But at the same time, they were not tools, they were children, and he needed to do right by them. They weren’t things he could control, to a point, and at one point I remember that he was forced to play by their rules in order to put them to sleep. That was an important moment, but it was the start of him changing, of him letting down his guard and letting someone else dictate his actions. It was prioritising something besides him and his plans. And then when he sent the kids to infiltrate his rival’s lair, I got excited, thinking they were about to become partners in crime, that he would raise them to be like him.

But that’s not what happened. It went the other way, and they influenced him to be like them. And I’m not saying that if this story was real life, I’d necessarily be rooting for them to follow in his footsteps. But there’s something to be said for fiction, and the wide range of experiences it can represent. If it had gone the other way, though, what message might it have sent to the audience? Who might become its audience? Who would watch a story like that?

Certainly I would. Perhaps it would garner an audience of outcasts. Perhaps it would raise a controversy from parents if nothing else were changed. Who knows? Films today are growing into a more nuanced view of good and evil, so perhaps this is all just part of the transformation into a newer, more complicated view of the world and how it works. What might the next two films of Despicable Me have become, if the first film had been about the dark path? What would the endings look like to make the films acceptable? If they didn’t end in a celebration, or a scene of bonding, what would they be?

The answer’s up to your imagination.

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Role Models

So lately, I’ve watching a lot of Youtube, especially Shane Dawson’s channel(s). Even though he’s more sexual than my usual Youtuber (take Ashley Mardell, for example), I really like him. I think part of it has to do with his sense of humour; I think we probably have a similar or the same sense of humour. But I think there’s also more to it than that, under the surface of that humour. He has an average figure, like to eat, as expressive eyes and hilarious expressions, and a bad childhood. He’s not afraid to show himself, yet there’s plenty of self-deprecation in his videos; he even has body dismorphia issues. He has 6 million subscribers, a ship with Joey Graceffa, and well-produced videos. I hate to say this, but the dude’s an inspiration. An inspiration to ordinary people like me, to teach us that we matter, and that it’s okay to take chances sometimes.

One of my favourite Shane Dawson videos.

But this also got me thinking about role models. And I’ve had my fair share of favourite actors, like Johnny Depp and Alan Rickman, but the thing about this is I think there was this assumption that favourite actor = crush, which equalled awkwardness with dad when I was looking at all Rickman’s movies. But it wasn’t like that at all.


Even Benedict Cumberbatch thinks he looks odd, but we all accept him, because we know he’s beautiful.


But here’s the thing: why are our role models always men? Why don’t we ever get inspiration from women celebrities. Mainstream media would have us model the Kardashians, Nicki Minaj, Miley Cyrus, etc., which just makes me think female celebrities are wrecked. But even Kristen Stewart gets the short end of the stick. For one thing, people think she’s an emotionless bitch. But the truth, when she played Bella from Twilight, she was only being true to the character. Bella was the emotionless bitch.


Jodie Foster’s article on Kristin Stewart talks more about this whole thing. But there is one more thing I should point out, which is that when Stewart had an affair with the director of that Snow White film she was in, no one blamed the married man, they all blamed the celebrity slut. Even if she chose to do that of her will, she is a victim of her own surroundings, and not nearly as culpable as the director who may well have taken advantage of her for all we know. Slut shaming and victim blaming are both wrong things to do. I’m not even a big fan of Stewart, but this article really turned me around on her.

As for celebrities I am a fan of, I’d say Olivia Wilde, Katie McGrath, and Kari Byron would be among them. I like them for their characters and convictions mainly, and yeah, I could say they’re also inspiring. But media are also more inclined to turn them into sex symbols, which is a shame, because in this case, they’re also more than that, and should be seen as such. Here’s hoping more fangirls, at least, can come to find inspiration in these kinds of role models, too.

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The Ghost Story vs The Supernatural

Today in class we focused on ghost stories and the supernatural; and during the portion of the class dedicated to ghost stories, most people in class had some story to tell about hearing voices, dogs reacting to sounds, minor mysteries and the sort. The whole time, I was repressing a story of the night I spent in a haunted house and the gate that wouldn’t open, because I mean, that’s not a ghost story. Freak accidents aren’t ghost stories, at least not to me. There are no ghosts involved in what’s happening here, and there was a rational explanation for every single one.

But then the teacher said, that in writing ghost stories, you cannot rationalise anything you are writing about. The second you do, the story loses its essence and becomes real; that is, it loses its believability.

But the thing is, none of these stories were believable, at all. So when the teacher asked if ghost stories had any place in the modern world, I shook my head and answered with an emphatic ‘no‘.

But that isn’t to say it hasn’t been successfully done. Supernatural, for example, or Ghostbusters. These are both popular fictionalisations of that kind of world, and the world is constructed well enough to be believable. So obviously it can be done. What I think I meant is, I can’t do it. I rationalise things constantly; if I didn’t, I’d think I was a moron and would probably hate myself. So I personally couldn’t write a ghost story.

But then we come to the supernatural, and here is where things change a bit. Because while I don’t believe in either the supernatural or ghost stories in real life, the supernatural is more believable on a fictional plane. Perhaps because practically speaking, the supernatural requires a lot more than just psychological moronic impressions to prove. Yes, the creation of impressions over the rational is probably still required, but not as much.

In Supernatural, although I remain a skeptic reluctant to accept  things like that salt can get rid of spirits, when it comes to the world of angels and demons, that is constructed more intricately, so I can believe it more. That’s the sort of thing I mean.

So in saying that I couldn’t write a ghost story, but I could probably write a fantasy or supernatural story, what I mean is that I could better believe in a fantasy world containing both the impressions of reality and the mechanics of it, rather than just a world of lucidity alone. That’s the kind of story I strive for.

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The Symptom of Individuality

The lobotomy was created in the 30s and later gained popularity for patients displaying things like anxiety, among other things. This was the part that hit me hard; I’ve suffered from anxiety from a young age, and imagining being giving a lobotomy for such a minor problem in comparison to its solution is horrifying. If I had gotten one before I turned 14 (I sincerely hope they didn’t give lobotomies to children), I’d have never become a writer, because it would’ve cut me off from all kinds of creativity or even identity. Lobotomised victims even lost interest in their own lives, not surprising since they were also cut off from being itself.

Lobotomies were used for depressed patients, but it’s little wonder that the treatment didn’t make that problem worse, since both depressed and lobotomised people perceive no point in functioning. It’s likely that the times the treatment was popular in reflected attitudes of behaviour; instead of embracing individuality, it seems as though people prized good behaviour and civility. Anybody who didn’t conform had to be fixed.

This is a terrible attitude to have. I personally find it horrific that people would go to such extremes to control others. It seems to glorify ignorance (seen but not heard) and punish rather than treat those who struggle to fit into society. I personally prefer the idea of shaking the world up and promoting open-mindedness.

That’s why I’m a writer. I want people to understand people, which is the exact opposite of the effect the lobotomy had.

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You’re All Different: A look at fiction and society

Recently I was thinking about a documentary I once saw. It was about Merlin, that wizard of myth originally created by Geoffrey of Monmouth. Towards the end of that documentary, it talked about JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis. It said that the two famous authors used to meet in a pub and talk about Merlin; and that characters in both their writings had a character based on him, the one Aslan, and the other Sauron.

I have since wondered whether the documentary got it wrong, and they were really talking about God. I know at least one of them was a Christian man, and by assumption, so is the other. But that thought didn’t sit well with me, so for a while, I pretended it really was Merlin.

I realise, though, that the reason Merlin sits better with me is because I know he isn’t real, and I’m also assuming other people do too. After all, I watched the documentary; I know he isn’t real. But the fact is, other people won’t have seen it. If those people suddenly started saying that Merlin really was the one who created Stonehenge — Geoffrey’s most famous tale, and one he invented to give Merlin some credibility — it would piss me off. Because I know full well (from another documentary) that Stonehenge was actually created in the late Stone Age by early man.

Another popular story about Stonehenge was that aliens helped. That one pisses me off even more; what does it say about how man sees himself? Do we think we’re capable of nothing? Stonehenge was a great human achievement, and far from the last. And we did it all by ourselves.

But I digress: what I’m really trying to say is that I don’t think people believe in Merlin, but they do still believe in God. And that worries me, because stories have power, especially stories people think are true but aren’t. I write stories myself, but I would never try to pass them off as the truth. And yet, at the very least, the writers of the bible have done just that, in order to persuade — manipulate — people to act and think a certain way. They use fear of hell at the very least to inform this.

What pisses me off about God is that it gives people an excuse not to think for themselves. Like those stories of Merlin or aliens, it gives people something to alleviate either responsibility or pressure, and makes them complacent. Perhaps they want to relax, and maybe that’s understandable, but it pushes down our potential, it takes away from us what we could do, it takes away from us self-belief and puts it into something else, so we become little more than sheep or cattle, following a grand master. And I’m not okay with that.

I’ll admit once I thought I was worthless, when I was a kid I even imagined a God and thus believed it. And then when I was a teenager, I continued to struggle. But the point is, I wasn’t worthless. And the fact that we have to make up ridiculous stories just to cope with ourselves or our lives is insulting to me.

Monty Python’s The Life of Brian put it best:

Brian: You’re all individuals!

Crowd: Yes, we are all individuals.

Brian: You’re all different!

Crowd: Yes, we are all different.

Crowd Member 1: I’m not.

Crowd Member 2: Ssh!

Brian: You’ve got to work it out for yourselves! Otherwise–

Brian’s mother ushers him from the window.

Crowd: Ooh, that wasn’t a minute.

Brian’s Mother: Oh, yes it was!

Crowd: Oh, no it wasn’t!

Brian’s Mother: Now, stop that! And go away!

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Preparing for Uni: Japanese

I have been watching the University website for updates on what to read and how to prepare for my classes. At the moment, I’ve been particularly looking at Japanese. The University has a Facebook page for students of Japan and Japanese, and sometimes people post links to cultural things.

Here’s one.

These are particularly interesting. The last one particular grabbed me, because it’s a phrase I’ve heard before on Facebook, if in a different context: Hate Speech.

In this case, it’s a buzzword that started when anti-Korean protests in a Korean section of Tokyo happened sometime last year. Either way, it’s a particularly important phrase for a number of things, and as I’ve seen on Facebook, important to know the difference between it and Free Speech.

Here’s another one.

Here’s another Facebook link I found. I already do some of these, but there is probably a wider range of music I could listen to, and making notes on things is something I didn’t think of.

There are also tips for those living in Japan. These are things I would probably have thought of anyway, as I often eavesdrop on people when I’m bored anyway, and the same goes for reading signs. In fact, once when I still lived in the Sydney suburbs, when I used to catch the train into Parramatta, there were a few Japanese people who lived even closer to the bus stop, who came out and started to talk in Japanese. They even took the same bus!

The problem was, the only word I actually caught was ”かぞく” (kazoku), which means family. But I knew it was definitely Japanese, because one of the girls had a luggage tag that said so.

Another time on the bus, I met a girl who was studying Japanese too, because she had the same textbook as me.