austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

Busy working on a set of wheels

So now that I've completed my watching of Jabberjaw and having every thought I imagine it's possible for me to have about it, have I learned anything? Or anything I didn't know when I wrapped up the first thirteen episodes back in December?

A little, I suppose. One is that the world as presented by the cartoons is teetering endlessly on the brink of conquest by one guy with a crazy ray or gas or wish-granting helmet after another. The authorities are perpetually (although only rarely willfully) clueless about this but fortunately these schemes are pretty easily foiled by what's always presented as a just-barely-hanging-on rock band. I mean, they seem to sell out their engagements, but they keep getting passage on Aqua Tramp Steamers instead of flying coach, you know? It suggests that despite routinely saving the world they're not able to translate that fame or publicity into cash. Maybe they signed a bad deal with their record company. Or the year-2076 equivalent of the Beatles are busy saving the universe on a regular basis and merely saving Earth is a big ho-hum.

Another is that while the world-building is sloppy --- I doubt any writer checked what another wrote, or even remembered what he wrote, in other scripts --- this actually kind of works for the setting. It suggests a world with many powers, large and small, with groups like the Undersea National Organization or the Undersea States of America, conquest of either of which is taken as equivalent to conquering the world. Given the mild tendency of science fiction to posit monolithic world governments, finding one that however accidentally is messy and multifaceted is startling in its believability.

Often science fiction shows (looking at you, Berman-era Star Trek) feel a need to define everything and nail it down simple singular answers to things like ``who runs the planet?'', and it may be better particularly for a (theoretically) open-ended series to answer only partially and non-definitively. It might be seen as just avoiding continuity errors, for those who could care, by never saying anything falsifiable; but a lot of the real world is irreducibly complicated and that's not likely to change as long as people come in groups and then swiftly factionalize.

Also, really, I'm an easy audience member.

I liked the last three episodes more than the ones before it. Possibly this reflects the episodes getting a little more involved; possibly it reflects that I watched the first thirteen in very short order while I watched the last at a pace of one every two days, and so the annoying things about the show had less chance to grate on me. But they may have also been better figuring out how to build stories around the Jabberjaw-Shelly axis and let the other characters be the supporting players. It's hard to say.

And a quick check on Wikipedia reveals that Jabberjaw was just last week released on DVD. This was done through the ``Warner Archive Collection'', feature-free movies burned on demand and mailed to you. This puts Jabberjaw in the same company as Robert Altman's Countdown, Raymond Massey in Abe Lincoln In Illinois, who-lost-a-bet-to-produce-this? epic Legends of the Superheroes, and many, many, Al Jolson movies.

Trivia: In Autumn 1691 Edmond Halley explored the bottom of the English Channel in a diving suit of his own invention. Source: Compass: A Story of Exploration and Innovation, Alan Gurney. (And by the way, while I know diving companies were the Web 2.0 Startups of the late 17th century it still really freaks me out that people were doing underwater dives in the 17th century for crying out loud.)

Currently Reading: Starmasters' Gambit, Gerard Klein.

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