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Living Loz
The Scorpion's Sting... 
28th-Dec-2010 06:06 pm
Life on Mars (Sam/Annie are Just Friends
This post is all about The Scorpion's Sting, a three part Life on Mars story 'specially commissioned' by The Daily Mail.

I'm going to talk about why I thought it was a bad idea and what I found objectionable about it, so, if you're looking for a post of uncritical joy, this is not the post for you.

My first objection to The Scorpion's Sting is a purely technical one --- it clearly hasn't been edited or presented very well. There are spelling errors, grammatical errors in the narration, misused words (as far as I am aware, Nelson the barkeep is not and never should be referred to as 'redoubtable' --- which errs more on the side of a figure to be feared than one merely respected), random capitalisation, clumsy usage of 'writing the dialect' by dropping letters, and a fair few formatting problems. The illustrations accompanying the text hold very little resemblance to the people they represent. It doesn't look professional.

My second objection to The Scorpion's Sting is the basic plotline and characterisation, which somehow manage to make less sense in context than a Carry On film. The entire story is one long cliché abounding in unquestioned stereotypes. A beauty pageant! A vengeful contestant! Sam Tyler trapped and in peril of death by fire, oh no! Except that Ashes to Ashes has told the audience that Sam is dead already and that the world he exists in is coppers' limbo. I won't even mention the cringe-inducing scene with the mole on Joey Lester's nose, I can't.

In terms of characterisation; unlike in the shows, there are no nuances, and what there is doesn't fit with what the television programs Life on Mars or Ashes to Ashes give us. There is a line from Gene Hunt that says, 'this here’s DI Tyler and a bird from the office, Annie something-or-other, however, in Life on Mars Gene referred to Annie as Cartwright, rarely using her first name. Instead of bringing Ray Carling up on his sexism as she does in episode 2.01 of Life on Mars --- in which she pats him on the arse after he does so to her and refers to his posterior as "suet in a bag" --- Annie takes his barbs, 'because she's used to them.'

The Gene Hunt of Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes may occasionally act like a thug, he may unquestioningly spew forth politically incorrect diatribes that have the ability to offend all major and minor groups, he fits suspects up and begins Life on Mars corrupt. But he is also the man who accepts Sam Tyler and Alex Drake precisely because they challenge him. He is a man who speaks of the pressures of police work; 'it's a thankless task', LoM 1.06. Who is willing to put aside his bigotry to save the day, to change in order to police better; 'D'you know, what really sticks in my gullet is that I put a stop to it [taking backhanders, gaining ringside seats], all of it, months ago', LoM 2.07. He has a brain, and he has a heart, and he isn't merely self-serving and crass.

My third and most vehement objection to The Scorpion's Sting is its sexism. It is one thing for characters such as Gene Hunt and Ray Carling to make sexist remarks that may or may not go unchecked. It is quite another for notes appended to the story itself to refer to women as 'pneumatic alluring competitors in the pageant', or for female characters to 'flutter delicately' into male characters' arms, while those male characters bravely storm through fire to rescue them. Or for women to scream, howl and shriek at fire, seemingly without the wherewithal to use a skerrick of logic to escape. Or for the single female officer of CID, who has already been much maligned by the aforementioned Gene Hunt and Ray Carling (who have both referred to her in a derogatory fashion, such as 'jugs' and 'WPC Bristols' --- not to mention that she's supposed to be a WDC at this stage), to be draped in a beauty pageant sash as she is being rescued by a male character, and for this to be reinforced in text (and by the progressive reconstructed Sam Tyler, who you would think would know better.)

I need to question --- who would willingly put money towards a product of this calibre? Life on Mars the television program had high production values, attention to detail, clever plots and likeable yet flawed characters. It shone a light on issues such as 1970s sexism with an ironic wink. It featured likeable yet flawed female characters who had agency and power.

The same cannot be said for The Scorpion's Sting. People paid for paper copies of this story and received sub-standard fare. Why would anyone want to pay more money for a Life on Mars tie-in novel if this is the quality of the work they would receive? There is little attention to detail and slap-dash craftsmanship. There is bland, unremarkable narration, unrecognisable characters, and a paucity of wit. This is all incredibly disappointing.

28th-Dec-2010 07:54 am (UTC)

The weird thing was, except for the (ridiculously over-the-top) use of slang, this story reminded me most of an American gangster film from the thirties: full of melodrama, guns, 'pneumatic' dolls, tough-talking men, and hard-bitten dames. (Or, just possibly, a yarn from a boys' weekly.) It certainly didn't feel anything like a Life on Mars episode, and as you've noted, the characters were unrecognisable.

When MG tweeted that the author was his brother, he also mentioned "He wrote an ep for LOM series 3 which of course never materialized." Perhaps this story was a rewrite of that episode - in which case I can only thank heaven that the show did end with series 2.
28th-Dec-2010 11:26 am (UTC)
I think had it been more obviously a noir pastiche, I probably could have handled all of that, but it wasn't.
28th-Dec-2010 04:18 pm (UTC)
Oh no, it definitely wasn't a noir pastiche. But that - plus all those gottens - did make me wonder about the author's 'influences'.

Sadly the misogyny could have come from just about anywhere. *sigh*
28th-Dec-2010 11:37 am (UTC)
I'm just sorry I inflicted it on all of you. Never again will I get excited, buy and post something without reading it first. :P

*decides to lurk for the next three hundred years*
28th-Dec-2010 11:39 am (UTC)

I feel like I should pay you for having gone through the pain.
28th-Dec-2010 04:27 pm (UTC)
Oh Sky, don't apologise for your kindness in wanting to share the new 'official' fic. It had to be done - after all, we all did keenly want to know what it was like, good or bad. And seeing the tabloid original in all its horrible glory was far more revealing than simply reading the online edition would have been.

I just feel sad that the product itself wasn't worth your generosity and hard work (especially as it so easily could have been). But THIS WAS NOT YOUR FAULT. And it must have been a bit of a double whammy to read its awfulness *and* people's reactions to the awfulness.

So I hereby lift you to my shoulders, shout "huzzah", and put a laurel on your brow for services above and beyond the call of fandom ♥ ♥ ♥
28th-Dec-2010 11:48 am (UTC)
Have you considered the possibility that it may have been written for other characters and ineptly recycled for LoM? I haven't read the thing and wouldn't want to, but I have traumatic memories of 'Sweeney' and 'Professionals' stories being published in magazines at one time which wouldn't have had house-room in any self-respecting fanzine, and I personally knew someone who wrote fiction for annuals which was very often recycled from year to year, series to series, with only the names changed.

A respected figure in fandom, Rog Peyton, once said "Show fans an open drain marked 'Star Trek' and they'll pour money into it" - i.e. in their fannish fervour they lose all discrimination. It sounds to me as if someone is expecting the same lack of common-sense from LoM/A2A fans ... and that this is just a cynical money-making exercise. I can't think of a better way to alienate the more intelligent brand of fans, myself, but no doubt the rest of them are still prepared to pour their money down the drain.
28th-Dec-2010 11:57 am (UTC)
I have considered that possibility. It is, in fact, the only possibility that gives me any comfort. I likened the characterisation to that of someone who saw a parody sketch of the show once, and decided to write fiction based on the knowledge gleaned.

I rather think more fans would put their money into action figures than fiction. Fans have the fiction aspect down.
20th-Feb-2011 06:15 pm (UTC) - Rog Peyton

I don't think it is pouring money down the drain if it's for something you like & have liked for a long time -- as long as you're not going without other things you need. I wouldn't want action figures ( I'm just not sure what the point would be now I'm past the age to want to play with them) If it's not something I can use & I know it'll just gather dust, there's no point me having it.

That quote does make me laugh though. I once read about a woman who'd spent about £800 on her own obsession. It was the same as mine, but I remember being horrified & shrieking "800 pounds??!!" -- what if her tastes changed ?? Mine don't tend to now (thankfully), but I'd never spend that much (I've problems with maths so I try to be careful)

As for recycling fiction, I'm sure a lot of established authors do/have done the same at some point (esp. if they need to get a book out quickly). I'm sure bands recycle ideas too. For me, bad output doesn't affect good output. Thanks for linking me to the story; it was, erm, "interesting".
28th-Dec-2010 11:53 am (UTC)
I... kinda thought that... the Daily Mail was pretty much *characterised* by being poorly written, unedited, sexist, racist, sensationalist, ridiculous filth?

I don't read the paper, but that's always the impression I've been given about it, anyway... My mum was somewhat aghast when I brought home a copy of the Oxford Mail before she realised it was a completely different, unaffiliated paper, containing actual (if local) news, lol!

I'd refuse to accept it as canon. I suspect it was made to fit the paper's audience, rather than to fit in with anything that had happened before or after. Letting somebody only nominally connected to the scripts write it reinforces this for me - if they had done a third season, and let him write an episode, they would have rewritten it to fit in with everything else.
28th-Dec-2010 02:44 pm (UTC)
Oh, yeah, there's a good reason I refer to it as 'the Daily Fail', it is not a newspaper designed for the likes of me. This is part of the whole thing, really. Just what sort of audience are they going for, here? I don't think Daily Mail readers are necessarily people who would fork over cash for badly written fan fiction.
29th-Dec-2010 11:25 am (UTC)
I... kinda thought that... the Daily Mail was pretty much *characterised* by being poorly written, unedited, sexist, racist, sensationalist, ridiculous filth?


But they are doing one good thing for society... (The successor to)The Daily Mail Ontological Oncology Project - Kill or Cure?
30th-Dec-2010 06:53 am (UTC)
Oh dear.
30th-Dec-2010 10:22 am (UTC)
Yesterday's headline was something about Swine Flu (it's getting big over here at the moment...) and I asked C whether or not Swine Flu was likely to cause or cure cancer. We were both pretty sure it's on the cause side. But you never know!!! (But I'm sure the Daily Mail does...)
1st-Jan-2011 11:42 pm (UTC)
I think this is an insightful and oh so true review of The Scorpion's Sting.

I'm sure that I don't need to remind anyone that no one associated with the Mail actually wrote this piece of weak drivel, although they did publish it. No, it was written by a relative of MG and promoted by the man himself.

I have a great deal of respect for MG, but for someone who is quite vocal on Twitter and not afraid of stating his opinions there when the mood takes him he is not actually lambasting the Mail for their poor example to fans and readers everywhere. I'm sure that no one forced him or his bruv to prostitute their art.

Also, the Mail is not the only paper to publish conflicting ill-supported 'science' stories based on very little evidence (Sam would be proud of me). That information and lobbyist 'research' and polls they are based on are hawked to all unsundry. The Telegraph often borrows and publishes stories from the Mail that they haven't even bothered to rehash very much and visa versa.

I think I'll stick to the fan fiction and art on this forum thank you very much.
2nd-Jan-2011 02:16 am (UTC)
*sigh* *sigh* *sigh*

I'm sure that no one forced him or his bruv to prostitute their art.

No. And this is why he disappoints me all the time, because he doesn't seem to even realise he created art and keeps fucking it over time and again. It's so annoying.

The Mail are by no means the only paper that publishes rubbish, but the Mail is quite famous for its rubbishy bent.
7th-Sep-2011 04:29 pm (UTC)

I respect him too – after all he did make Gene Hunt up in the 1st place – & his eps of DW are the best I’ve seen. Lots of people don't realise when they've done something good. I don't. He probably wants to do other things & not even think about it for a good few years.
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