Famed science-fiction author Arthur C. Clarke’s once proposed “three laws of prediction”:
- When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
- The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
- Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
For the Arthurian cycle, this last law is the most pertinent.
The first literary references to Arthur are from the Historia Brittonum, or The History of the Britons written in the Ninth Century, some 300 years after the events described. This work depicts Arthur as a Romano-British dux bellorum, or war leader, who fought beside the “Kings of Briton” against invading Germanic tribes. The Historia also brings up some of the first fantastical tales about Arthur. For example, Arthur, his men, and his dog, Cabal, hunted a giant boar named Troynt, or Twrch. Besides being supernaturally large and strong, the beast also dripped poison from its bristles. Arthur and his company finally killed the monster by driving it into the sea.
As the stories about Arthur grew, eventually turning into the cycle of tales and legends known as the Matter of Britain, many more fantastic elements were added. Elements such as a shape-shifting Merlin, Arthur being taking to Avalon to sleep until called on to again save England; the super-powerful weapon, Excalibur, being drawn from the stone, and so on.
We can apply Clarke’s Third Law to these various supernatural elements of the stories. For example, the giant boar, Troynt, instead of being of magical origin could be seen as the result of genetic engineering. Excalibur, as a product of advanced metallurgy and weapons’ design, not enchantment. Arthur’s sleep in Avalon as suspended animation, etc.
Many science-fiction writers have laid an advanced science template over the fantastic elements of the legend in their retellings of the Arthur story. The graphic novel Camelot 3000 and Steve White’s books, Legacy and Debt of Ages, are just two examples of this kind of re-exploration of the Arthur mythos. In Camelot 3000 King Arthur awakens from his long sleep and with the help of his reincarnated Knights of the Round Table battle an alien invasion of Britain. In Legacy and Debt of Ages, humans from the far-future use time travel to rescue a wounded Arthur, this time in his guise as a dux bellorum, and transport him into the far-future where he becomes a time-travelling military troubleshooter for this advanced civilization.
In the Uffda Press anthology King of Ages, a collection of short stories re-examine the Arthur legend in a variety of context, including straight-up science fiction stories, such as “Unto His Final Breath” by Mike Morgan: a story about the end of the Universe. “The Siege of Battle-Station Camelot” by Patrick S. Baker where Arthur is a commander of an orbiting battle-station fights interstellar slavers with Merlin as his advising AI. “Arturia” by David W. Landrum is another sci-fi story, that has Arthur as a woman in a love triangle with a male Guinevere and a female Lancelot is a woman.
The Arthur mythos template can be used to express any number of themes, ideas and concepts from love, to war, to politics and in any number of genres from romance, to young adult and, of course, science-fiction.
I love Reign, I hate Reign. I’m so confused! But I know one thing; I can’t stop watching it.
There is plenty to irk the medievalist in Reign, from the wildly historically inaccurate costumes, like in the first episode, the women all take of their shoes, and they are wearing stilettos. Just no. No.
Limpy sicky Dauphin replaced with Hot Existential Dauphin:
This guy, whose sole purpose seems to be to kid the viewing public into thinking “Bash” rather than “Seb” is the acceptable shortened form of “Sebastian”:
WHO EVEN ARE YOU.
Beardy Nostradamus, inexplicably chilling at the French court, who is supposed to be like 60, but appears to be about 35, and more interested in breaking up a teenage romance than, y’know, the burgeoning rise of secular humanism in the great European capitals of thought:
Lookin’ sharp there, Nostradamus.
In this version, Mary is a largely charmless bossyboots (I know I’m not supposed to say ‘bossy’ about a woman, but I don’t care, she is bossy, and so are tons of men, and I think we should all chill out about the word “bossy”) who wears a lot of headpieces that look like they are from Claire’s Accessories (nothin’ wrong with that, just not very C16th) who’ll make out with anyone, so long as she’s drunk. Adelaide Kane makes a very beautiful Mary, and I can’t make up my mind if she’s not quite right, or if she’s doing her best with a very clunky script, aimed entirely at presenting Mary as some kind of Scots Angel of Love, descending upon the riven French court to cure it with her pouty lips and no-nonsense Scottish (“Scottish” – they all have neutral-ish RP British accents) attitude to politics, life and love. She’s a bit nothing.
(I could think of a really efficient way for her to multi-task this, but y’know… whatever)
BUT It is all worth watching for this woman:
That’s right, Evil Catherine de Medici. Why is she evil? Who knows. Perhaps she taps into this trend: http://jezebel.com/on-television-mothers-are-the-villains-1575313509 that puts the mother into the “angry momma bear” role, fiercely defending her children. Perhaps she’s just sick of your shit, oppressive patriarchy. And to an extent she’s a type; she’s an angry, disillusioned wife of a philandering king. But I just don’t care. I love her. Effectively, she’s Cersei Lannister lite. She fiercely defends her children, but they’re not evil, or conceived through incest. She still gets shit done, and don’t take no shit from nobody, OK? but she mostly deals in plotting murder, rather than carrying it out. I watch Reign every week hoping for my fave old Evil Catherine to turn up and do something evil. She gets all the best lines, while Mary Queen of Scots bumbles around looking wide-eyed and naive, and she gets shit done. When she’s not plotting, she’s scheming, and when she’s not scheming she’s saying the only witty lines in the whole thing. She has, too, a touch of humanity and mercy about her. She the shining point of interest, complexity and humour in this otherwise drab tweenified historical TV fluff machine.
Now I’m out of the Tudors, and it’s a week between GoT, I find I have come back to Reign, and it does have a its charms.
BUT what bothers me the most about Reign is the TV programme they didn’t make. They wanted a love-triangle, so they invented “Bash” (NOT A NAME), but Mary Queen of Scot’s real life had a steamy love triangle already built in.
Mary Queen of Scots was involved in some kind of passionate affair/ intrigue during her second marriage to Robert lord Darnley, where she was involved to some (unknown) extent with the Earl of Bothwell who was also married. In fact, there are a bunch of sonnets supposedly written by her, some of which seem to be addressed to him and go along the lines of “Roses are Red, Violets are Blue, Your Wife is Stupid and I Hate Her”. Ready made love triangle there, no need for teen angst to be inserted in the form of a man who cannot abbreviate his own name. Furthermore! Part of the reason that Mary Queen of Scots was keen to be rid of Darnley (poss by murder – hope you are paying attention to this intrigue, TV execs) was that he was a prolific bisexual, and she was sick of him ditching her to have sex with men. Now, I have learned from Game of Thrones how bisexual intrigue is to the viewing pleasure of my good self (and many others – don’t pretend you didn’t enjoy a cheeky bit of Loras Tyrell/ Renly Barratheon action, I know you did). Here it is! Ready made into the life of one of history’s most famous queens!
But beyond that, and on a serious note (sorry), in Mary’s life, and what she left behind in the poems that she herself might have authored about her relationship with her lover Bothwell, whom she later married, is something complex, and dark and little explored on the television. The history of Mary and Bothwell’s relationship reveals something like an abusive relationship. Before they were married, but while they were at least heavily emotionally involved in an affair, he kidnapped her, and raped her. One of the sonnets supposedly written by her (the ‘Casket sonnets’) appears to describe this event, and all the troubling complexity of having your desires violated by someone you usually desire, and have loved and still do love. The complexities of abusive relationships are rarely explored properly in television programs, nor the complex love lives of women over 25.
This is the essential problem with Reign; in what it leaves out, it shows how small-minded TV executives still are. A woman who had a rich, complex, troubling life as an older woman is chosen to be shown as a teenager (Oh my god, she’s like totally Queen of Scots!) and for characters to be invented to create a “love story” that isn’t there, because the TV stations still find bisexuality, older women (and by older I mean >25, which is in no way at all old, but is maybe TV old because the world is mental, and TV would say I was an ancient withered crone)’s love and sex lives distasteful. They shy away from what is interesting to make what is safe, and “pretty”.
I can’t wait until someone is brave enough to make a film or TV series about the real life and loves of Mary Queen of Scots. Because that would really be something.