By now, you probably have heard of the passing of Ricardo Montalbán and Patrick McGoohan. I was never into Fantasy Island, which struck me as the usual lame TV schtick. But Montalbán notably helped resurrect the Star Trek franchise with The Wrath of Khan, perhaps the best of all the Star Trek movies. This was all the more remarkable because it followed the disastrous muck of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which was, well, a lame amalgamation of the lame schtick that characterized much of the original television series. (Please don’t send me any nasty notes; after the first season, which borrowed from actual science fiction stories and had some interest, everything just got a bit silly. The only thing sillier is people who dress up like the characters and invest pseudo-philosophical religious significance in the whole pointy ear thing.) Supposedly in real life, Montalbán was just as classy a guy as he seemed on the screen. Here’s hoping they line Ricardo’s coffin with fine Corinthian leather, he more than deserves it.
Now, what was decidedly not the usual lame television dross was McGoohan’s contributions as the star and creative force of The Prisoner, which I noted in my inaugural post to this blog. (Of course, it’s coincidental that McGoohan died shortly thereafter, though this isn’t the first time this sort of thing has happened to me. As a fledgling journalist during the height of the jogging craze in the late 1970s, I did a story about a man who had taken up marathon running after suffering a number of heart attacks. The day the story ran, the guy dropped dead of a massive coronary. And, yes, while running. Though I can only think of only one other better way of going.) Like the character of Number Six, McGoohan seemed to be someone who lived by his principles, regardless of what what was more popularly embraced by the masses, and there’s something we don’t seem to hear much of these days. In addition to turning down the chance to play James Bond, McGoohan also refused to depict any kind of physical relationship on screen with a woman, evidently for moral reasons, which is kind of funny in light of The Prisoner’s seeming celebration of 1960’s countercultural values. Also, according to one remembrance, McGoohan turned down the screen roles of Gandalf and Dumbledore! He would have been perfect for both.
On another note, and I hope that in light I’ve what I’ve just recounted it doesn’t make him nervous that I write about him, I was thinking about James Enge’s recent post concerning “chicks kicking ass fantasy.” My first exposure to this was Emma Peel, the Diana Riggs incarnation, the partner (I almost wrote sidekick, which would certainly undermine the point) of John Steed in the British spy spoof The Avengers and who, at least in terms of the form fitting black apparel, if nothing, else is a progentior of the Lila Black character in Justina Robson’s Quantum Gravity series. Whatever feminist qualities Mrs. Peel presented, she was also, to use the contemporary term, “hot.” Not just to my adolescent fantasies at the time, but certainly still to my middle-aged libido, as well. Now, I’m not sure how feminist orthodoxy deals with the notion that the depiction of an independent woman who is intellectually and physically equal, if not superior, to a man can also be sexually objectified as a babe.
Of course, like most people, male or otherwise, I’m not quite sure about a lot of things. I remember in a graduate school course in science fiction studies, I first read “When it Changed”, a short story by Joanna Russ in which men land on a planet populated solely by women. What happens to the social structure when men are introduced is not, as you might expect, a good thing. What irritated me about the story at the time was that the women in a “man-less” society were acting just like men. I had thought the whole point of feminism was to replace male hierarchy and aggressive behavior with something better. What I eventually came to understand was that the point was to allow women the same choices as men, even if they aren’t necessarily the best choices.