Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Assimilate this (UB40, Patrick Stewart and the Utopian Dream)

I have been listening to some reggae this week and found myself revisiting my early UB40 albums (on vinyl no less!), rememebering fondly their early lyrics
"I'm a British subject and I'm proud of it,
but I carry the burden of shame" etc...

In my opinion it is a great shame that UB40 stopped acting as a cattle prod to the social conscience of Britain. Is it I wonder because the more famous a band gets, the more removed from real life they become? I guess it's hard to write about issues that effect the people on the street, if you have no direct experience of them yourself. That's why their first few albums were so powerful, they had been those unemployed lads queueing up to sign on at Birmingham dole office. They had experienced the harsh reality of Thatcher's Britain first hand.

So There is a price that's paid with the arrival of fame. It can detatch you eventually from issues that once seemed so important to you. Some artists/bands however, do try to and marry themselves to some social cause like coldplay/Bob Geldof or U2. Most of Bob Dylans most poignant protest songs were written before he really hit the big time, but he did champion other causes later on once he was "off the street".

Just to completely change the subject, N and I were watching the film "The Canterville Ghost" (not the 1944 version, but the 1994 remake) starring Patrick Stewart. N remarked that Patrick Stewart often plays similar roles (Sir Simon De Canterville, Scrooge, Captain Ahab, Professor X, Captain Picard). N also observed that in the roles he takes he rarely falls in love, and thinking about it I have to conclude that he is right. He generally plays someone that is very noble, moral and slightly aloof, yet with a wealth of hidden warmth and humanity bubbling away just below the surface, that shows itself from time to time.

He is definitely like that in his role as Jean Luc Picard in Star Trek the Next generation. The writers could have given him myriad romances like the fickle Captain Kirk, but instead Jean Luc stays resolutely alone with a hint of deeper feelings between himself and Dr Beverly Crusher. You can almost see the sparks fly between them sometimes but (in the series anyway) there is no action. Even in the one episode where he does have a romance he ends up alone at the end.

One of the best films that I have seen Patrick in is Safe House, where he plays an ex intelligence operative who thinks someone is out to get him. Everyone thinks he is mad and just as you start to think he is too he is proved right and along come the baddies - an exciting film (helped along by a delliciously naked P S in the shower!).
I think that the episodes of Star Trek that I enjoyed most were the ones where Jean Luc does show more of his human side - I especially like the film First Contact where he loses it a bit and goes after the Borg on a vigilante revenge trip.

I have often tried to quantify what exactly it is that attracts me to those Sci Fi series (beyond mere escapism of course), and I think it is because they embody the kind of Utopian society that I long for, where morals and ethics are held in high regard, war is virtually non existent and people aren't all out for money, power and fame. It is also because they are about the complexity of human relationships and the human condition, spiriuality and they embody both physical and spiritual journeys.

Of course in Deep Space 9 the Utopian society is shakem up into an unexpected war giving the perfect example of why she should never let ourselves become too complacent and smug. Life is held in fragile balance and one little shake of the metaphoric tree can set everything all akilter.

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