Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Voyage of the Unicorn

I first saw Voyage of the Unicorn in about 2010. I came home from work and my daughter, aged fifteen at the time, rushed up to me and yelled: "Dad, you've got to watch this!" She presented me with a DVD in a plain cardboard sleeve; it was a free gift that had been enclosed in a newspaper, the kind of thing the papers did a lot in those days. The cover was of a stout looking man holding a cutlass and surrounding him were a circuit of strange beings. "Let's watch it, Dad!" enthused my daughter. "Please?" I settled down in front of the TV and prepared myself to be bored for a couple of hours in the course of my paternal duty in keeping her company. About three quarters of the way through the film she told me she'd had enough of it and wanted to turn it off. "No!" I retorted "I want to see all of it!"
Voyage of the Unicorn can be purchased on Amazon, see: http://www.amazon.com/Voyage-Unicorn-Beau-Bridges/dp/B0009ETCXS/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1399149334&sr=1-1&keywords=voyage+of+the+unicorn. (Beware, because there is a 132 minute feature cut of this floating about; I advise buying only the full three-hour miniseries.)
However, at the time of writing the series is currently a freebie on YouTube, but please support the film makers and buy the DVD if you can:
Highlight- Miranda's dance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7DXJcB0Y4L4.

People often ask me why I ever watch television, seeing as I criticize it so much. This is true and there have been some TV programmes recently that have been utter pieces of turdcraft which I have given a well-deserved and merciless pasting, for example see: http://hpanwo-voice.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/gypsies-on-benefits-and-proud.html and: http://hpanwo-tv.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/confessions-of-alien-abductee-aftermath.html. However when it comes to my studies of the media, I cannot agree with those who say it's completely controlled by a monolithic power-structure which dictates every single thing that comes out of it. This can't be the case otherwise the media would in fact be a very different entity to what we have. A completely controlled media would have a counter-propositional side to it in order not to make the manipulation too obvious, but it would be very attenuated and insipid; for any seasoned eye this duplicity would be very transparent. The kinds of productions I talk about in this article, see: http://hpanwo.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/some-of-them-are-on-our-side.html, would never appear. I know people who tell me Avatar, Blakes 7 and V for Vendetta are pure psy-ops; in that case I'd like to ask them by what criteria could anything ever be considered genuine by them?

Some programmes in the mainstream media are in fact good, and some a truly magnificent. A few months ago I did a review of my favourite, Gone to Seed, see: http://hpanwo.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/gone-to-seed.html, and the one now under discussion is without a doubt a close runner up. Voyage of the Unicorn is a "TV movie". This, as its name suggests, is a film produced specifically to be broadcast on television and is not intended to be released in cinemas. This inevitably makes TV movies stylistically distinct from films targeted at the big screen; they tend to have smaller casts, a less ambitious scope and less sophisticated plots. They very often have lower budgets and even if they sign up a star to play the lead role, the supporting acts tend to be from the B-movie pool. They're often formatted like the episodes of a TV drama series and have minor suspense scenes added periodically, together with pauses worked into the score, for the inevitable commercial breaks. They're sometimes regarded with snobbish condescension by movie connoisseurs; there is even a film called Based on an Untrue Story which is a parody of TV movies, see: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0106362/?ref_=ttpl_pl_tt. If there is any point I could ever agree with less, when I watch Voyage of the Unicorn I truly doubt it. This particular "TV movie" comes from Canada and was broadcast on the TV1000 channel in 2001. It was directed by Philip Spink and written by Dan Levine.
Credendo Vides
Synopsis
The film is centred on a man called Prof. Alan Aisling, played by Beau Bridges, the best known actor in the film. He's a university lecturer who has two daughters, Miranda, who is aged about sixteen and Cassandra, who is three or four years younger. Aisling leads quite a lonely life since his wife died some months before the start of the story. His life consists mostly of looking after his daughters, who are taking their mother's death very badly. When he is at work he teaches a course in comparative mythology, only he does it in a very unorthodox way. He writes on the classroom blackboard the words credendo vides, this is Latin for "by believing one sees"; this becomes the motto for the entire film. One student shows him a brass doorknob and says it reminds her of the sun; and Prof. Aisling, instead of telling her not to be silly and to put it away, congratulates her on her imaginative and creative thoughts. He's a very non-conformist teacher, the kind I wish I'd had when I was at school. Unfortunately Aisling's maverick teaching methods result in him falling out of favour with the university authorities, in a storyline similar to the wonderful film Dead Poets Society. The officious and highly conventional dean of the college reprimands him for leading his students astray from "what they really need" which is practical and scientific matters alone and not "airy fairly" nonsense. Aisling retorts emphatically: "Science begins with imagination!" Voyage of the Unicorn is based on Voyage of the Basset, an illustrated book by James C Christiansen, in which we see a picture of the dean trying to measure his own imagination with a scale! However, from the very start of the film the viewer is told that something odd is afoot. Gusts of wind keep blowing across the scenes filled with a sparkle that hints of magic. But at the same time dark and sinister shadows lurk in corners and perch on rooftops. Miranda and Cassandra are two very different girls who express their grief in different ways. Miranda is pessimistic and cynical, battening down her feelings with a facade of resilience and pragmatism. Cassandra has gone the opposite way. Their mother used to illustrate fantasy books and Cassie has become obsessed with her late mother's artwork. She has begun to have visualizations about the scenes in her mum's portfolio, seeing them as real. Sometimes in her dreams, her mother appears to her in the photo she has on her bedside table. The viewer is never told for certain whether these apparitions are just Cassie's imagination, or whether the spirit of their mother really is still watching over them. At first, like her mythological namesake, nobody listens to Cassandra. But then something happens.
Beau Bridges as Aisling, with Miranda and Cassie
For a hitherto unexplored reason, our world comes into contact with another. The dark shapes that have been haunting the characters are actually ghastly monsters from another world; they're called "trolls", but they are very similar to Tolkienian Orcs. Their leader is called Skotos, brilliantly played by MacKenzie Grey and he has come into our world to hunt down Prof. Aisling. Fortunately the same merging of dimensions has also permitted a pair of friendly helpers from that same otherworld. They are Malachi and Sebastian, captain and first mate of a ship called the Unicorn and together they and the family escape through into the Faerie Kingdom. The ship is beautiful; it has a pure white sail with the words credendo vides embossed on its sail. Below decks the magic of the world really takes hold because, like Doctor Who's TARDIS, the ship is bigger on the inside; it contains a huge library and luxury quarters. Interestingly in Cassie's cabin there is a wardrobe full of the most magnificent dresses, yet in Miranda's there's just a drab homespun gown. Yet when she puts it on it transforms Cinderella-style into multiple divine fashions. This is quite revealing about Miranda's nature and it hints at what is to come later in the story.
The good ship Unicorn
 Sebastian, who is an elf, is the only member of the ship's company apart from his captain Malachi. His parents were killed by the trolls when he was a child. He is clearly quite smitten by Miranda. He is a sweet soul and his flirtations with her are extremely benign and appealing. This is very politically incorrect in today's world dominated as it is by feminism; Voyage is at its basis a radically traditionalist tale. Captain Malachi is a dwarf who is good-natured and knowledgeable; he serves as the family's guide in their new surroundings. Their first port of call is Faerie Isle, the centre of the Kingdom. This is a Rivendell-like Idyll of enchanted groves, dryads, butterflies, waterfalls and sacred springs, all benevolently ruled over by King Oberon and Queen Titania; of course these are characters from William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. One of the most recognizable features of Voyage is the way its plot blends several different existing mythologies and literary allusions together, and it does so very cleverly and stylishly. Oberon and Titania then reveal to the family how they came to be brought to the Faerie Kingdom; it turns out that their heavenly land is under threat from the trolls and that there is a prophesy that they will be saved. In a very dramatic and moving scene, an ancient turtle-like creature called "the Senechal", who is a keeper of mystical knowledge, recites the prophesy: "There shall come unto us a man of wisdom and two maidens gentle of spirit. From beyond the seas, by there hand heroes enslaved be freed. Old wounds cleansed and the mightiest among us reborn. Know them by these signs, a ship, a sword and a banner thus; credendo vides- by believing one sees. Trust in their quest! Aid them, even to your peril. For they mark a new beginning and an end to darkness." Titania gives them each a special gift and private counsel intended only for themselves. However King Oberon is far more sceptical. He says: "mortals don't believe in magick." And most interestingly: "We can see into your world, but apparently you have turned your back on ours." That's a fascinating theme which I will come back to later. The balance of power in the Faerie world is kept by a great dragon, but he has vanished. The family's quest is to find the dragon and restore him... before the trolls do. The trolls are based on Troll Island, a place wreathed in darkness that resembles the land of Mordor in JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. It is barren and lifeless with volcanic cracks and streams all over it. Skotos returns to his fellow trolls announcing that the humans have succeeded into entering their world and they must now be hunted down and killed before the prophesy is fulfilled. The trolls' ship is as characteristic as their homeland, dark, crude, ugly and dirty. They immediately set sail in pursuit of Aisling and the girls.
MacKenzie Grey as Skotos
 The first place the family look for the dragon is a ruined stone temple on a dry desert island. Cassie wanders into an underground chamber and gets lost in a maze of corridors. Here she encounters a huge being which is half man-half bull. This segment is explicitly drawn from the ancient Greek legend of Theseus, the labyrinth and the Minotaur. Unlike the original story, in Voyage the Minotaur is good; in fact he's a very strong, brave and loyal companion who joins the family on their quest. While on the island they also encounter a huge reptilian skeleton. Could this be the remains of the dragon? They take the skull back to the ship. The next island they explore has a huge temple on it too, and one far better preserved. The family go inside and come across Medusa, a gorgon. Once again the film delves into the classical world for its storyline. The gorgons are creatures that resemble a human female except they have snakes on their heads instead of hair. Their magic power means that anybody who looks into their face will be instantly turned to stone. In the Legend of Perseus, the hero beheads Medusa and then uses her head as a weapon to turn his enemies to stone. In Voyage, Aisling uses an eye-shield of amber, a gift given to him by Titania, to protect himself from Medusa's gaze. In doing so he sees that she is not really a gorgon, but a lovely woman who has been cursed. She is lonely and lost living in the temple, but dares not go outside because she keeps turning everybody she meets into stone. Aisling takes her back to the ship and turns the amber plate into a pair of goggles for her to wear so she can interact with other people in mutual safety. But first the family can't leave the temple until they've solved the Riddle of the Sphinx: "What is it that walks on four legs in the morning, on two at noon and on three in the evening?" The answer is: a man. As a baby, in the morning of life, he crawls on all fours; in the middle of life he walks normally on two; and in the evening of life he needs a walking stick, three legs. The Sphinx then lets them go free. In Greek mythology the Sphinx is not connected to the story of Medusa and instead guards the entrance to the city of Thebes. Also in Voyage, and I find this enormously interesting, the Sphinx is not an animal, but a winged humanoid. These kinds of creatures turn up all the time in myths and legends; angels and demons are usually both depicted as winged humanoids. What is less well-known is that the archetype also appears in paranormal reports, like the entity in The Mothman Prophesies and the Cornish Owlman. Why is that? Do the film makers know something they're not letting on? The family invite the Sphinx to join them on their journey, but she declines and flies off; although she returns to the story later.
The Sphinx- played by Kim Hawthorne, portrayed as a typical winged humanoid
 Once out at sea again the trolls' ship catches up with the Unicorn and they attack, boarding the ship. A swordfight ensues between the heroes and the trolls. It ends in disaster when Skotos captures the dragon skull; with the power of the skull he now has the authority to unify the troll clans and conquer the entire world... and even beyond. When Medusa tries to help by removing her goggles to petrify the trolls, she accidentally petrifies Malachi instead. Also the device by which the ship travels between dimensions, called the "Wunterlab", is damaged beyond immediate repair leaving Aisling, Miranda and Cassie trapped in the Faerie Kingdom. When Oberon and Titania hear of this news Oberon is devastated. He was sceptical of the prophesy from the start, but the news of the trolls' victory strips him of all hope. In an act of desperation, he defects to the trolls and offers them a deal; he'll help Skotos hunt down the humans in return for his homeland being left alone by the trolls. Everything looks hopeless, but they refuse to give up. Cassie maintains her faith through thoughts of her mother and Miranda plays the piano. Medusa is mortified by what she unintentionally did to Malachi and keeps to herself, although the others bear her no resentment for it. Aisling searches the Unicorn's dimensionally transcendental library for a solution and comes up with an amazing book of ancient magickal wisdom. In one of the best comic relief elements to the film, we see that it is a pop-up book in which the characters are all animated and intelligent. They explain that the only way to change Malachi back is with a silver apple and unicorn's tears. Fortunately these can both be found on a nearby island. When they arrive they find the unicorn galloping around an enchanted forest which is very similar to Faerie Isle. Oddly enough it has an image of the famous 1991 Barbary Castle crop circle printed on its hindquarters. In the sequence which follows, Miranda hands the silver apple to the unicorn, a picture that was captured in her mother's illustrations; here the viewer understands that Miranda is really very deeply magickal herself, but she has kept it hidden beneath her pain. This scene is very powerful and is the spiritual denouement of the film. It's prevented from becoming overwhelming by the antics of Olaf, the lovable ogre who owns the island. The unicorn sheds a tear at the sight of Malachi's statue and the ship's captain is joyously restored to life. They return to Faerie Isle with the unicorn on board to seek advice from Oberon and Titania to find that the trolls have sacked it. Titania is left alone, not knowing about Oberon's treachery. The family beg for counsel and the Senechal simply repeats the words of the prophesy and then dies in front of them among the ruins of Faerie Isle. Oberon himself is taken prisoner by the trolls. He promised to deliver Aisling and his family to the trolls and Skotos promised he would not destroy his kingdom, and Oberon realizes that he was foolish to believ him. Using Oberon's information the trolls cast a spell on the ocean so that a monstrous sea serpent attacks the Unicorn. Then, in one of the best known scenes from the film, Miranda saves them with her own supernatural abilities; see the highlights scene above, Miranda's Dance. It's extremely surreal with its animated sequences and seems incongruous within the movie, but I find it very effective. Aisling originally plans to sail the ship as far as he can from the trolls to keep his daughters safe, but the others persuade him that you can't run from them, they're everywhere. The only way to deal with a troll is to stand and fight. He tells Malachi to set a course for their headquarters on Troll Island.
Cassie, Miranda and Aisling with the Minotaur and Medusa
 The Minotaur, Medusa, Malachi, Sebastian and the unicorn all join the family as they sneak ashore on Troll Island at night. Here they find slaves from the occupied lands forging weapons for the trolls. They all steal some troll clothing as a disguise and infiltrate the trolls' main settlement. Skotos is making a speech to his rabble, leaving the dragon skull unattended in his throne room. Cassie distracts the guards outside and the others rush in to redeem it. Cassie is captured. Aisling tells Miranda to take the skull to safety while he and the Minotaur attempt to rescue Cassie. Skotos is about to drop Cassie into a volcanic pit to cook her for dinner when Aisling and the Minotaur burst in to try and save her. They're totally outnumbered by the trolls and it looks as if Cassie is doomed, but then out of the blue the Sphinx swoops down and snatches her away to safety. By now it is daylight and Miranda is running as fast as she can with the heavy skull, but the perusing trolls are catching her up. Eventually she rushes free of them and meets up with her father. Malachi, Sebastian, Medusa and the Minotaur have all been captured and Sebastian and Malachi are sent to the quarry to join the other slaves. Medusa is put to work as a servant in the trolls' house where she meets a shamefaced Oberon who is doing the same. Skotos tortures the Minotaur to try and force him to reveal the location of the dragon skull. Skotos even cuts off one of his horns, but the Minotaur staunchly resists. Miranda is watching from a cliff top and can bear it no longer. She jumps up, brandishing the skull and yells to alert the trolls. Aisling and Miranda flee by climbing up a waterwheel but Miranda falls back down, dropping the skull. Cassie and the unicorn appear at the top of the cliff while the trolls shinny up in pursuit. Skotos and Aisling fight to reach the skull while Miranda has to fight her way out from the mob at the bottom of the waterwheel; she's helped by the Minotaur who has now broken free. The skull falls into a log flume and washes down it. Skotos seizes it, but Cassie gallops up on the unicorn and snatches it back. Skotos corners them all together and tells Cassie to give him the skull, promising to let them all live if she does. Meanwhile Medusa has found the keys to the slaves' shackles and is releasing them. Skotos says to Cassie: "Do you really think that you, a mere human, have the power to unleash the dragon?" Aisling orders his daughter to hand Skotos the skull. But Cassie lifts the skull above her head and cries: "Credendo vides!" The skull levitates into the air, flesh and bone appear around it and an entire dragon materializes. The dragon dives down, breathing fire, burning up the trolls' buildings, while the slaves all rush forward free of their chains. The trolls flee in panic. Miranda embraces Sebastian and gives him a passionate kiss. The smoke clears and all the free people head home to their own islands. In the next scene the family are back in our world, each one thinks they had a dream until they all realize their dreams were the same. They then check and see and it turns out that they still have all the presents Titania gave them. Their experience makes the family happier. Aisling goes back to work and finds out that the original dean has suddenly retired, and so Prof. Aisling becomes Dean Aisling in his place, and naturally makes sure that his mythology course is approved for future terms. He also meets a woman who looks very similar to Medusa, and is played by the same actress, Kira Clavell. Miranda becomes a top musician and performs her songs in front of live audiences. Cassie tries her own hand at illustration and continues to be a dedicated and unapologetic dreamer and seer of great visions. Sometimes she dreams she sees the ship the Unicorn, and also her mother standing on deck waving.
End of synopsis

After I'd watched it all the way through and realized that I was now a fan of Voyage of the Unicorn I went online to see if there were any others I could compare notes with. There are but they're almost all young girls! I was worried that their parents might think I was a paedophile for trying to communicate with them; would they really believe that I was doing so simply because I love the movie too? I actually surprise myself a bit, especially when I read through the synopsis I've just written. Voyage of the Unicorn is aimed at younger viewers, there's no doubt. A lot of its plot is not terribly original for a fantasy story; its characters are what you find in existing fantasy literature, along with beings and settings from the classics; indeed it reminds me of Homer's Odyssey in many ways along with all the other classical links I've identified. This is not uncommon. However there is a far deeper dimension to Voyage, one that other related stories might lack. This is the world of metaphor and symbolism of the human condition as it relates to the spiritual universe. There's something about it that's profoundly pagan and very pantheistic; perhaps William Blake would understand, and also the German composer Richard Wagner. I can also detect the inspiration from Tolkien. There's a strong feeling that the world of Faerie Kingdom and our own world are involved in some kind of dialogue and there's a hint of the long prehistoric past in which the spiritual universe deteriorated from a higher state into what it is today. For example Oberon and Titania are rather like the subtle beings that some psychically sensitive people report encountering. When Oberon says to the family: "We can see into your world, but apparently you have turned your back on ours." it rings a bell. This is a frequent complaint that is related by witnesses to the presence of the fair folk. These beings from the other worlds see us as having lost our spiritual senses and wish we would regain them. Indeed Oberon goes on to declare his hope that "the Prophesy will reopen the door between your world and ours." As I've often said, it's not merely a case of us losing our spiritual senses; they've been stolen. The amber lens and the way Aisling looks through it to see the truth behind the illusion is the most manifest cipher of this concept; although it is not without precedent, indeed it was probably borrowed from Philip Pullman, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Amber_Spyglass. All of this is underlined by the continuous, but very ambiguous, semi-presence of Lily, Aisling's wife and the girls' mother. Some of the things said about the trolls, and to them, really get me thinking. When she is caught by the trolls, Cassie tells Skotos: "You can change. I've read all about trolls (in the Unicorn's library presumably). There was even a time when you weren't evil at all." Skotos recoils at this statement more than anything else in the film! Galdalf says something similar about the Orcs in Lord of the Rings, that they were once Elves, but then they fell from enlightenment, like Satan fell from Heaven. Malachi also says to Aisling at one point: "I've spent little enough time in your world, Professor... Trolls are everywhere; different shapes and sizes, calling themselves different names, but trolls nonetheless! They like to tear things down, make everything the same, the way they like it..." The implication is that trolls are an archetype for man fallen from grace. The last sentence is of course how conformist humans behave in the Illuminati-occupied world. Skotos also mentions his visit to our world on several occasions and explains lavishly to the other trolls how it is ripe for plunder and that he'd like to conquer it too. And Oberon warns: "This evil will spill into your world too." Could this signify the notion Matthew Delooze and others have discussed, of a predatory malevolent interdimensional intelligence that is feeding parasitically off our world, or trying to infect it and change it into a copy of itself, like a virus? I myself have researched the idea of the rise of the Illuminati and how it was either the cause or effect of some kind of malfunction or decay in the spiritual universe. Nothing embodies this concept for me more blatantly than the Roman conquest of Britain two thousand years ago and I've explored the details many times, for instance: http://hpanwo-tv.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/return-to-edge-of-world.html. For me, Faerie Isle is a representation of the pre-Illuminati world and that the trolls represent our Illuminati-controlled world. This is very like how many people have interpreted James Cameron's movie Avatar, with the humans and the blue creatures being metaphorical for the conflict between the natural spiritual state of being versus the modern materialistic circumstances we find ourselves in. The historian Michael Wood puts it very well: "The end of sacred times, the triumph of profane times." In the scene where the trolls pillage and desecrate Faerie Isle, I can't help thinking that this is what it must have been like when Anglesey fell to the Roman legions in AD 60 and the forces of that Illuminati-controlled empire destroyed the sacred groves of the Druids and slaughtered anybody left alive there.

When Prof. Aisling comes across the Minotaur's labyrinth and realizes how similar it is to the mythology he studies, he says that the Faerie Kingdom is: "a reflection of our reality, or maybe we're a reflection of it." This is very Platonic, the idea that some worlds are reflections of others. This is the surprisingly high level of intelligence that Voyage of the Unicorn is based on; not bad for a free gift in a Sunday tabloid, eh? It is really far more than just a simplistic cheap TV movie to pass time for the kids. It turns out that my daughter was well aware of this when she bought home the DVD; she later confessed that she wanted to show it to me because she had a bet with a friend that I would love it. It was really a dead cert; she knows me too well! But despite the insightful thought that went into making it, Voyage is still essentially an adventure fantasy story and you don't have to interpret it philosophically to enjoy it. It is quite light-hearted in some scenes and it has a lovely warmth to it. The ending is somewhat abrupt after a well-paced and structured climactic segment; I wonder if it was originally scripted to be slightly longer. However that is literally my only criticism of it, and as I said about Gone to Seed, a work of art doesn't require technical perfection to be great. The score of the film is enchanting too, it contains American big screen movie-style piano lines as well as very aetheric lyricless vocals and uplifting pagan flute tunes. The message of the story is that magic exists in the most unlikely places. The gusts of wind filled with sparks of light in the opening scenes illustrate this well. You, dear HPANWO-reader, might think I'm crazy, you might think I've forgotten that I'm a grown man and regressed to childhood. I understand why you think that; but you're wrong, I haven't. Whether or not you judge me this way will depend on the kind of person you are. Have you the ability to immerse yourself in something like Voyage of the Unicorn, to forget all the forces holding you back from just letting yourself fly free in a world where there really are faeries, unicorns and singing mermaids? It will mean taking a brave step if you've never done anything like that before. You might fear the ridicule of others, or of your own conscience. Please don't. CS Lewis once said that the stupidest children were the most childish, and that the stupidest adults were the most grown up.





Thursday, 6 March 2014

Megan Whewell at Oxford SiTP

The notion that the Apollo Moon Landings might have been faked first came to my attention in the late 1990's and it startled me; I quickly became involved in Internet discussion groups about it (the good old forums of the pre-Facebook age!) and read Dark Moon by Mary Bennett and David Percy, see: http://www.aulis.com/image-viewer.htm?gallery/Fgallery2-1.jpg. As always I've striven to look at both sides of the story. I've debated this issue many times and read a lot of rebuttal material, and last night was part of my research because I went to my local Skeptics in the Pub to see Megan Whewell live, see: http://oxford.skepticsinthepub.org/Event.aspx/1995/The-Apollo-Moon-Landings-How-We-Know-They-Really-Happened. Megan Whewell is an astrophysicist, currently a postgraduate student at the University College of London, but her previous job was as part of the education team at the National Space Centre in Leicester. "I love space!" she said during her lecture and she did come across as very enthusiastic about astronautics, as most of those who challenge the moon landing hoax are. To her credit, she also disagrees with The Coxxer and thinks that the subject is still worth talking about, unlike what he rants about in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1aXuQ9Dg2gE. (See here for more information on Prof. Brian Cox: http://hpanwo-voice.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/prof-brian-cox-watch-this-space.html). I've missed the previous few Oxford SiTP's; the last one I went to was the one on Steiner Schools, see here from 15.05: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=efpvWOfA17o. However I did attend the Greenwich one a few weeks ago, see: http://hpanwo-voice.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/rob-brotherton-and-psychology-of.html. The venue has happily moved back from The Wig and Pen on George Street to The St Aldates Tavern with its much more comfortable and charming function room, and the bar there is always tended. At the start of her lecture Megan asked for a show of hands for who believes the moon landings were real, who thinks they're faked and who's undecided. I kept my hand down for all those questions because I was still in disguise... kind of... for the reasons I state in my report on the Greenwich event. She looked at me and said: "I notice not everybody raised their hands; that's fine, no pressure." She introduced her subject by stating from the outset that she was not there to persuade anybody who vehemently didn't agree. Her interest in the moon landing hoax theory came from a project she did at the Space Centre where she did meet "conspiracy theorists" like me and told them why she differs. She considers these talks a wholehearted success and, despite her professed lack of objective, she reckons she's achieved on average one conversion a day.

The theory Megan Whewell addresses is that the Apollo Moon Landings of July 1969 to December 1972 did not take place, that NASA actually did not send any manned spacecraft to the moon at all and that the evidence that they did is fraudulent. The moon rocks are not real and the TV broadcasts were filmed in a studio on Earth etc. For somebody new to this information, it's a stunning allegation; it certainly was when I first heard it. The first person to propose it was Bill Kaysing who published a book in 1976 about it. Then, according to Megan, the whole issue became more or less dormant until 2001 when this TV documentary was aired on the Fox network, see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y5MVVtFYTSo, and it is the evidence contained therein that she bases her lecture on. One of the most well-known suspicious elements is that the flag appears to move by itself when nobody is touching it, as a flag would do on Earth when being blown by the breeze. However there is supposed to be no atmosphere on the moon and so why does the flag do this. According to Megan, it doesn't. The flag moves because the astronauts are fiddling with it, and when they leave it alone it simply flaps from the residual motion of their actions, which is more pronounced because of the lack of aerodynamic drag. This is not entirely true, there are one or two suspicious pieces of footage, for example see here at 2.36: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ymwE1sNm82Y. Actually I'd be very surprised if the film makers who made this wouldn't think of that problem anyway, especially if that technical genius Stanley Kubrick was involved, as has been suggested. They would have been very careful to avoid any disturbances of the flag and the above link shows something that slipped through the editors net. One thing that many Apollo-believers thinks proves their case are the presence of the retro reflectors; these are a set of lenses said to have been placed on the moon by the Apollo astronauts which can be detected by shining a laser at them from the Earth. However, as Gerhard Wisnewski points out in his book One Small Step?, you don't necessarily need an artificial lens to get a laser reflection off the moon, see: http://www.amazon.com/One-Small-Step-Great-Dominate/dp/1905570120 (This book is originally written in German and was titled L├╝gen im Weltraum- "Lies in Space"). And what's more human hands are not necessary for placing equipment on the moon, it can be done by unmanned craft like the Jade Rabbit rover or Opportunity and the vehicles currently exploring Mars; this relates to the subject of the secret space programme which I'll come on to in more detail later. Megan then deals with the visual evidence, including questions about why there are no stars visible in the lunar sky on any of the Apollo photographs. She explains that this is because normal camera settings cannot capture stars; this is exactly the same when trying to photograph stars on Earth. You need a special astronomy camera with extra long exposure settings; there are also no stars in any of the photos taken from low Earth orbit on the International Space Station. For me this is not much of an argument for either side and I wonder why anybody originally brought it up. Megan then talked about the strange cases of shadows in the photos being in directions which indicate the presence of a local light source, when we're told that the only light available to the astronauts was from the sun. Some of these anomalies can be explained the way she does, that it was all to do with ground contours, but not all of them can. Just because tricks of perspective and an uneven surface means shadows can sometimes fall in different directions, doesn't mean that they can fall anywhere you like. She sites the MythBusters episode on the moon landing hoax several times during this segment of her lecture, see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qz7cUP4o-ZQ. She uses their tests to explain the way the photographs do not contain silhouettes and appear correctly lit all round. As I've said elsewhere, it seems odd that the MythBusters team would attempt to debunk the idea that the moon photos were shot in a studio by recreating them... in a studio. Jay Windley made the same mistake, see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AuUPYQIL2hY. In studio conditions it's easy to control elements that shouldn't be controlled in a fair test, like the more extreme contrast of sunlight. This is a problem anybody who's taken a photograph in bright sunlight knows all too well. On the moon there is no atmosphere to shade the surface from the sun's full glare and all the wavelengths that air and cloud filter out strike the scene directly. That's a neat segueway onto the subject of radiation. The Van Allen Belts are large zones of intense radioactive particles that surround the Earth. Megan claims that there was no danger from them and as it happens these belts are not particularly dangerous so long as you fly through them quickly, as the Apollo spacecraft did. However, the two Van Allen Belts were only discovered in 1959, just two years before President Kennedy made his announcement that NASA should put a man on the moon before 1970. When the Apollo rockets were designed and built, how much was really known about the possible hazards they posed. This issue was complicated further by Operation Starfish Prime in 1962 which detonated a nuclear bomb in space and created a third belt of radiation around the Earth. As Bennett and Percy point out, estimates on the dimensions and intensity of the Van Allen Belts vacillated considerably even into the 1990's. And because the Belts emerge out of the interaction of solar wind with the Earth's magnetic field, would they change over the course of the sun's sunspot cycle? These are questions that the NASA chiefs must have been deliberating. The prospect of a mistake was just too terrible to contemplate; brave American space pioneers dying from radiation poisoning, and all live on TV! And with the Soviets looking on of course, resting on the laurels of their previous victories in the Space Race. What's more once a spacecraft has left the shelter of the Earth's magnetosphere then comes the potentially even greater peril of solar flares and cosmic rays. Megan dismisses this by saying: "They just got lucky." Well, it's easy to say that after the astronauts have all come home safely. Another charge is that the motion pictures from the moon were also doctored; Megan sees this being done as impossible and sites this researcher's video as proof, see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sGXTF6bs1IU. I'm not convinced that this couldn't be done if enough resources were involved. Megan also thinks that the moon rock brought back to Earth is another good reason to think that the Apollo moon landings were real. The idea that these rocks are actually normal rock from the Earth doesn't add up because by analyzing the crystals in them you can tell that they formed in the lower gravity of the moon. Some moon rock has found its way onto the Earth by natural means. It gets blasted off the moon by meteor impacts and then flies around in space for a while until some of it eventually falls onto the Earth. However only 46 kilograms of this rock has ever been found and it bears the telltale scars of impact with the Earth's atmosphere, a scorched and vitrified outer layer etc. I agree with her on this, the moon rock we see in museums is real moon rock, but was it picked up by the hands of Neil Armstrong et al? This again brings us into the realm of the secret space programme. Unlike some moon landing hoax theorists, I don't doubt that people have been to the moon. I'm virtually convinced that that we have; all I question is whether it was done at the time, and using the methods and personnel, that history tells us it was. If you consider the kind of free energy and antigravity technology that the governments are sitting on then it seems absurd that they wouldn't allow initiated individuals to use them to travel to the moon, see here for background: http://hpanwo-voice.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/real-hoverboards.html.
According to Megan Whewell, there has been multiple independent confirmation of the reality of the Apollo programme via subsequent space missions carried out not only by NASA but by other countries like India, the European Union, Japan and China. This is a long and complicated issue, but I wonder how independent those missions really were. As you know I think that national sovereignty has always been something of an illusion, and a conditional illusion at that. There is only one real government in this world, the Illuminati-controlled world government. This may go somewhere to answering a crucial question about the Apollo programme: If it was a hoax, why did the Russians collaborate with it? At the time, the Soviet Space Programme was the only other institution in the world capable of confirming or denying that the Apollo Moon Landings took place. If they smelt a rat they would have been all too eager to send their own craft up to the moon and see if the NASA landing sites were there or not. Also, only after the Cold War were the complete achievements of the Soviet intelligence agencies truly revealed and people gasped when they realized how successful the KGB had been in penetrating Western governments, intelligence, militaries and corporations, like with the Cambridge Spies, see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gonvvQCnbOU. NASA was not immune to this scrutiny from behind the Iron Curtain and if they tired to fake the Moon Landings the Russians would have known about it long before the first rocket was even launched. This argument is all built upon the assumption that the Space Race was the same thing at the highest levels of authority as is was presented to the public as being. We were all told that the two global superpowers were locked in a bitter rivalry over who could do what in space first. Until Apollo the Russians had a decisive lead; they'd launched the first orbital rocket, Sputnik 1, and got the first man into space, Yuri Gagarin. Apollo was a chance for the USA to strike back. When the moon landings happened, America's pride was restored and the Russians were bitterly humiliated. The Soviets also had a manned lunar landing project in the advanced planning stages, called "LOK", but this was cancelled after the rocket blew up on the launch pad. Also the victory of the Americans in reaching the moon first apparently demoralized them so much that they just couldn't go on. This doesn't strike me as a very good reason to throw in the towel; and it doesn't fit in with the attitude of those involved in manned space flight at the time. Up till then they had always persevered in the face of hardship and hadn't let the other side getting there first put them off. The Americans suffered even worse setbacks, not only the Russians beating them into space, but the Apollo 1 disaster in which three astronauts were killed, but did they quit? It doesn't quite ring true to me. I think that the Space Race was far more than it appeared to be, it was a massive propaganda hammer that both sides used to excess; it was also only one part of a far more extensive conflict that was battled out down here on Earth. For both sides it was as much about information and disinformation as it was rockets, missiles and tanks. The war was fought against the people at home as much as it was those in the enemy's country. This was never more obvious than during the Vietnam War which was raging at the time; it was portrayed, wrongly, as the a just cause because it was Cold War in proxy: "fightin' them goddamn Communists wherever they raises they heads!" It is therefore not implausible that both sides saw it as beneficial for the Americans to be allowed to catch up... or be seen to catch up. It's possible that an analogy of the story of The Tortoise and the Hare was emerging for real; if the playing field hadn't been levelled, would the populace, on either side, have lost interest? Would they have begun asking why so much money was being channelled from domestic social programmes when there was so much poverty and hardship among their citizens? There was also the thorny problem of the massive grain import that had just been arranged between the USA and the Soviet Union. This deal may have prevented famine in Russia; it was very important to the Soviet regime that it remained in place. But could there have been another motive for their silence, one involving their own space programme? As Wisnewski points out, as do Bennett and Percy, there is major quandary related to the validity of some of the Soviet achievements too, like the flight of Yuri Gagarin on Vostok 1. Some similar discrepancies can be found in the visual record of that mission, as much as with Apollo, see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3rgvSVdHr1Y; note the peculiar lighting effects inside the capsule for example. Why didn't the Americans shout that from the rooftops? Maybe it was for the same reason The Russians didn't about Apollo; both sides somehow agreed to turn a blind eye to each other's lies.
What's that you see in the photo above? A Space Shuttle? Yes, but one without windows? It is actually a Boeing X37, an unmanned spaceplane built for the US Government on the Black Budget. Its purpose is unknown and all operations related to it are highly classified, but I imagine its role is reconnaissance and intelligence gathering. It can orbit continuously for up to a year. This is just one minor part, the tip of the iceberg, of the secret space programme. The secret space programme is at least as old as the public one, and probably much older; there's evidence that Nazi Germany made some major inroads. At the deeper level it involves far more than just secret military Space Shuttles; it delves into the abyss of esoteric energy and propulsion systems that would make rockets totally obsolete. The defence journalist Nick Cook has done some good work into finding out the truth behind this dark and sinister subject with these two documentaries, see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FEdTfL1G-yw and: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kD9RA1R3pOk. But even he only scratches the surface. At the same time evidence is emerging of artificial-looking structures on the moon and planets, see: http://hpanwo-voice.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/mystery-object-spotted-on-moon.html. These could be artefacts of an extraterrestrial civilization, past or present, but what if some of them come from down here? There is testimony emerging from some very credible people who have been involved in secret research into energy and propulsion systems not recognized by mainstream science nor published for the general population to examine and use, for example see: http://globalbem.com/. Why would this happen when these discoveries could do so much good, relieve us from the need for fossil fuels, eliminate poverty, end environmental destruction etc? The reasons why this technology is suppressed and we are not all flying round our towns in antigravity aircraft is a big subject, but I tackle it in detail here: http://hpanwo-tv.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/ben-emlyn-jones-live-at-truth-juice-hull.html. It is clear that if this technology exists then it will be used by those initiated to use it; and this throws the whole concept of space exploration into an entirely new light. It is impossible to consider the validity of the Apollo Moon Landings without taking this into account. As I said, I don't doubt that people have been to the moon; I'm sure that they were going there long before the first American and Russian rockets even lifted off. There are bases on the moon, some manmade and some extraterrestrial; maybe a few of them are a combined effort. In fact why would they stop at the moon? Have the Illuminati even visited other planets without telling us? Maybe they've even gone beyond our solar system to other stars. It's even possible that the secret studio where the moon landing images were filmed really is on the moon, at one of the bases there. Or it might be on Mercury or a similar airless heavenly body. If so then don't you think we, the people, have a right to know?
More detailed background on the subject of this article. See here for a report on Marcus Allen's debate at the British Interplanetary Society: http://hpanwo-voice.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/marcus-allen-at-bis-update.html
See here for a previous article I wrote about the Moon Landings: http://hpanwo.blogspot.co.uk/2009/01/i-went-to-godamn-moon.html.

There were a few questions during the question and answer session after Megan Whewell had finished her speech. These mostly related to the psychology of "conspiracy theorists" which Megan did not respond to, saying that it was not her field of study; really she and Rob Brotherton should make a double-act. She doesn't think that the achievements of China or other nations in space will either reinforce or diffuse disbelief over the moon landings. At the end Megan put up links on her display screen to various anti-hoax websites like Clavius, see: http://www.clavius.org/. This website includes a discussion forum, but I would advise HPANWO-readers not to join it; I did myself once and I regret it. I was not allowed the chance to engage in a civil debate and was subjected to extreme rudeness and hostility. I'm glad I went along to this Skeptics in the Pub and thanks to Megan and all the organizers for setting it up. However, her repertoire didn't contain many points that I haven't heard before; I feel that she has fashioned her delivery for somebody new to the subject. As I've said elsewhere before, the Skeptic Movement itself is an ideology and is not directly related to science and reason, see: http://hpanwo-radio.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/programme-5-podcast-skeptics.html. I wonder, despite their constant appeal for "evidence!", whether they are being objective about themselves.



Monday, 27 January 2014

Gone to Seed

For somebody who despises the media and television so much, you might wonder why I appear so obsessed with it. I've written long polemic reviews of all the various productions I hate, for example see: http://hpanwo-voice.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/on-benefits-and-proud.html and: http://hpanwo-tv.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/confessions-of-alien-abductee-aftermath.html and: http://hpanwo-voice.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/bbc-77-conspiracy-road-trip.html. It's true that television is a vile medium whose primary purpose is to confuse, mislead, distort and dumb down. It's one of the most terrible weapons ever unleashed on the human mind. However, as I've said before, the manipulators who use TV do not control everything that appears on our screens; they influence it, but they do not have a clean sweep. The same goes for the rest of the media, see: http://hpanwo.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/some-of-them-are-on-our-side.html. And occasionally, an artistic work appears that is unmistakably progressive. And every once in a while you get a real gem, a work of genius. Gone to Seed is an odd title. "To go to seed" is one of the many idioms in English; it means to decline in appearance, status or utility due to lack of care. It's also a term gardeners use for giving a garden a fallow period where no work is done and the growth just rises naturally. The serial itself was first broadcast in 1992 on ITV and was made by Central Films. It was directed by Nick Laughland and Sandy Johnson. The writer was Tony Grounds. Gone to Seed is a comedy drama series broadcast in six fifty-minute episodes. It must have been made with a sizeable budget; the props are well-designed and the cast is very much A-list. It includes the great comedian Peter Cook in his penultimate part before his death in 1995. It also stars veteran screen actress Hilda Fenemore in a wonderful supporting role as Miss Pringle. There's also a bit of movie history made in Gone to Seed because it's the first ever credited role for Fred Wood, who is probably the ultimate unsung hero of cinema and television. He was born in 1922 in east London, where the story is set, and started acting in 1946. His IMDB filmography is huge, see: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0939705/?ref_=tt_cl_t15. It includes roles in Star Wars, the James Bond movies and Superman III, but these are always in uncredited cameo roles; I've also seen him in several TV adverts. Gone to Seed is the last entry on his page and, for the first and only time ever in his fifty-one year acting career, he has his name next to a character's. He plays "Toothy", a supporting character who doesn't influence the plot, but is nevertheless a brilliant piece comic relief. He's a rather dotty old man who is The Nashville Noise's biggest groupie. He watches all their performances, often dancing along, and says at the end: "Bloody good that, bloody good!" I don't know where he is now, or if he's even still alive; he'd be ninety-one if so. Gone to Seed was on so long ago that I can't remember if I managed to watch it all on TV, but I scoured the shelves avidly, waiting for its VHS release. I liked it a lot while watching it on TV, but it was only when I saw the serial in full that I fell in love with it.

At the time of writing, the entire series of Gone to Seed is available as a freebie on YouTube, see:


But I ask HPANWO-readers, if you can afford it, please help out the film-makers because it's now finally available on DVD: http://www.amazon.com/Gone-Seed-Jim-Broadbent/dp/B001D7WFAW.

Gone to Seed is many things in many different ways. It's a comedy-drama that centres around three adult triplets, Montgomery, Winston and Hilda Plant who are the only children of Mag Plant, a woman who runs a garden centre in the East End of London, as well as being a single mother to her children. The serial begins at Mag's sixtieth birthday where the triplets are all singing her a birthday song. The three plant children are all forty-two years old and are very different in appearance and personality. Hilda, played by Alison Steadman, is closest to her mother, a shy and isolated young woman whose life consists almost entirely of helping Mag run the garden centre. She is almost always found working there, pushing a wheelbarrow or digging up a tulip patch; with her stringy hair, large glasses and dungarees she looks completely institutionalized. She has little in terms of a social life and few friends, but is still a devoted fan of Millwall FC and expresses herself vocally in the football stand, "Saturday in Cold Blow Lane's a-calling!" as they say. She is a virgin and appears to have no interest in men; her celibacy is encouraged by her mother who at one point expresses incredulity when Hilda's nieces joke about her lover Billy, "Don't be silly, girls." Mag has always assumed that Hilda would never find a man and always live at home with her. Hilda has to act as nursemaid too when her mother is feeling unwell.
Warren Clarke plays Hilda's brother Winston who is by far the most conventional member of the family. He's married to a woman called Faith and they have twin teenage daughters. He lives in a nearby house and is professionally independent of the garden centre, working as a builder. He is also a semi-professional wrestler and fights in the ring most evenings. Mag loves the sport and always attends her son's matches to passionately cheer him on with her friends at her side. Winston only has one eye and wears a leather eyepatch; he brags that he lost his eye in a vicious brawl when in fact he slipped and fell while illicitly climbing over the fence to watch a Millwall game. He is quite pretentious and has romantic photographs of himself all over his house. His wife Faith is a pessimistic and cynical red haired woman who works at a private cosmetic surgery clinic, a role which becomes an important element of the plot. She dislikes her in-laws intensely, especially Mag and says: "You're all mad, you Plants!". She often berates her husband for any involvement he has with them.
The third triplet is my favourite character, Montgomery, or Monty, Plant, played by Jim Broadbent. He works at the garden centre alongside his sister Hilda, but also sings and plays guitar in a country and western band called The Nashville Noise. He is very close to his two fellow band members "Batman" and Robin (Robin is played by Cliff Parisi who is currently acting as Minty in TavistockEnders, see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_w09HEMgfmI). Above all, Monty is a visionary and hopeless romantic who talks in proverbs whenever possible. He longs to take over as manager of the garden centre because he has a dream to transform the place into what he calls "The Plantation", which would combine the usual facilities of a garden centre with a his band performing live music on a stage. There would also be a lemonade fountain, a children's playground and much more. Monty is completely consumed by his vision even to the point where he experiences hallucinations. Included in these hallucinatory episodes is an image of his ideal lover, a young and slender woman with long blonde hair wearing a blue cape; but in his dream he can't see her face. Hilda is sympathetic to her brother's ideas, but the other family members laugh at him, "Disney in Millwall! Don't make me laugh!" as Mag says. This doesn't discourage Monty at all because he is a dedicated idealist, in fact when Big Ron, the landlord of The Folly, the local pub where The Nashville Noise play, tells him he's replacing the band with a karaoke machine, Monty replies: "Decisions are being made by people with no vision! When are they going to cotton on that it's not about the fast buck anymore, it's about the quality, the beauty?"
The garden centre itself is a splendid sight, sitting in the yard of a tall ancient house with a rotunda and balcony. It's rather weather-beaten but still very elegant and it sits on the south bank of the Thames with Tower Bridge in the background. I went to London to look for it once, but this was many years after the film had been made and it had gone. The London docklands are constantly changing and new buildings cover old ones almost every month; and this was just a temporary film set anyway. I got chatting to some local people during my visit and they remembered the set; they told me that it had been there for several weeks while the location unit filmed all the outdoor scenes. Many of the other locations where Monty and his band go on tour are around Twickenham and Teddington in west London, as I discovered only a few days ago, see: http://hpanwo-tv.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/eel-pie-island.html.
Synopsis (includes spoilers)
The birthday party doesn't go at all well. Monty unveils a giant ornament on which are written the words: Happy Retirement, Mum; and Mag retorts: "I ain't retiring! When I'm dead you can pick through my possessions like a vulture!" The main frustration Monty has with his mother is that she is currently holding the reins of the garden centre and is not willing to hand them over to her children. She loves her business as much as he does, but she doesn't approve of the changes Monty wants to make. Then Monty has an accident that causes a fire which burns down an outdoor office. In the chaos that ensues a letter slips out of a drawer and is furtively picked up by Winston; it's an offer to buy the garden centre for £300,000 from one Wesley Willis, a ruthless international businessman and former boyfriend of Mag who lives in a penthouse apartment overlooking the garden centre. Willis only wants the garden centre so that he can knock it down and build a helicopter port for an American consortium. He is accompanied everywhere by his sidekick and stepson Billy, a handsome and sophisticated young man. Later on in the series Willis announces to the triplets that he is in fact their father, although this fact is revealed to the viewer in the opening scene. Winston secretly approaches Willis and offers to assist him in his pursuit of the garden centre in the hope that his mother will then give him a share of the money. Willis agrees and offers to pay him £5000 as a finders fee. At the same time he sends Billy to visit the garden centre incognito. At fist Billy is dubious: "They won't sell to you, Dad!" Willis replies: "Don't mention my name. Smile... they'd sell to you." Once there Billy is served by Hilda who is enchanted by him; he easily manages to feign friendship with her and wins her trust. Simultaneously Winston hatches a plan to drive an even bigger wedge between Monty and Mag by encouraging Monty to go on strike until he is allowed to take over management. Monty agrees, knowing that Mag and Hilda cannot keep the place going by themselves; however this is simply a ruse. Winston immediately offers to replace Monty in the hope that Mag will warm to him. He also attempts to sabotage the business by putting poison in the water tank used to irrigate the stock. In the meantime Billy is sneakily setting up a honey trap for Hilda; he pretends to be attracted to her and slowly she becomes besotted with him. In one scene Billy and Willis are gloating about their cruelty. Willis says: "Now that the Rotherhithe Cowboy is off his horse, all that remains is old Green-Fingered Flo, or whatever her name is. Now work your way into her soul!" They then make a bet over who lands them the garden centre first, Winston or Hilda. Due to her relationship with Billy, Hilda has become a changed woman, buying new clothes and having her hair done, and the hairdresser is none other than Sandy Johnson, one of Gone to Seed's directors. Hilda is not too loved-up to become suspicious of Winston and find out what he did to the water tank. He reveals this to Monty who then goes home to talk to his mother. He walks in and finds her lying there dead.
At Mag's funeral Billy impresses Willis by kissing Hilda in front of him, but Willis is distracted by a strange voice calling his name from the river. Winston is convinced he is on the verge of victory, but then when Mag's will is read they find out that she has left her entire estate to Hilda. Hilda angrily ejects Winston from the house, Winston feels very guilty and is later forgiven. Then she delights Monty by telling him she's going to allow him to build The Plantation. However Billy has other ideas. He spins her a yarn about how he is facing debts of £80,000 and that he must leave her to go on the run. Hilda asks how she can help and Billy manipulates her into borrowing money from a "friend of his" who is actually Wesley Willis, whom Hilda has never met and therefore does not recognize. The "friend" asks only for the deeds to the garden centre as a token security. When Winston and Monty find out they are incensed with Hilda, and she is heartbroken.
The triplets decide on several schemes to try to raise the £80,000 they owe Willis and so save the garden centre, like a clearance sale of the stock at knock-down prices, a marathon concert with Monty's band and a charity wrestling gala organized by Winston. They also sell as much of the contents of their home as they can. Hilda unites with her brothers in their campaign, but is haunted over her affair with Billy. Winston even agrees to mortgage his house, and he doesn't tell Faith; but she finds out and during the wrestling gala she invades the ring during his bout and attacks him, much to the amusement of the crowd. In the meantime Wesley Willis is not enjoying his victory; in fact he believes he's having a breakdown; he is hearing more voices and experiencing bad dreams. At the same time Billy is suffering from a guilty conscience over what he's done, something he's obviously never experienced before in his life. He even approaches Hilda and offers her the original market price for the garden centre, £300,000. She refuses angrily by telling him simply: "It's not for sale!" The wrestling spectacular begins and the master of ceremonies is played by Tony Grounds, not the only time that the writer has appeared in a minor role in his own productions. After Winston is defeated by his wife and also the real wrestler Giant Haystacks, playing himself in a guest star appearance, there is a women wrestlers' tournament and one of the fighters is called Lucy Lastic. She's a young blonde woman wearing a blue cape... yes, it is indeed Monty's dream girl. The next step in their plans is to hold a charity twenty-four hour marathon concert by The Nashville Noise in The Folly. However this is the day before the time limit on the loan is up, as Winston says: "The nest twenty-fours will make or break us!" Winston has one last desperate plan, to steal the money from Miss Pringle, an old friend of Mag's who told him she keeps her savings in a bag of cash behind her settee. He tries to get Monty on board; Monty refuses at first, but later on, as it becomes clearer they're not going to reach their target, he agrees to help. At the same time Billy pays a visit to the pub to see Hilda and it becomes clear that along with his sense of shame he has genuine feeling for her too. When Winston and Monty reach Miss Pringle's house and take the bag from the settee they find nothing inside but a worthless, moth-eaten old fur coat. Willis however is having the worst night of anybody; his nightmares and visions reach a terrifying climax and at one point he even sees a potted cactus shedding blood. In the morning it becomes clear that the Plants have lost. They leave the pub dejected. Wesley Willis heads down to the garden centre grinning with glee and hammers in a SOLD sign. But then he hears that voice from the river again and the water starts boiling; from the maelstrom emerges a horrific phantom, and the source of Willis' nightmares is finally revealed. It is the ghost of Mag Plant, come back to haunt him because of what he has done to her children... their children.
The spectre of Mag then takes him on an astral journey to see the outcome of his crimes on the triplets. The garden centre is derelict, waiting for the bulldozers to come and raise it to the ground, but Monty is staging a sit-in protest there despite harassment by thuggish bailiffs. Faith has kicked Winston out of her home and Hilda is working in a book warehouse. At the end of this the ghost drops him from a great height with the ghastly warning: "Unless you save my family, I will destroy you!" He sustains a broken back from the fall and ends up in hospital. In an attempt to redeem himself he gives the triplets back the £80,000 loan. Along with defending his home, Monty begins searching for Lucy Lastic; luckily he doesn't need to look far because she is Miss Pringle's Goddaughter. The two immediately warm to each other and Monty hopes he can woo her. Willis then summons the three to a meeting and reveals to them that he is their father; this is a total shock to them all because Mag always told her children that their father was dead. Nevertheless he still refuses to return the garden centre to them. Monty and Hilda are in shock at this news whereas the more materialistic Winston is delighted and tries to claim his "seat on the board". After a while though, Monty and Hilda think of a way to take advantage of the situation. Willis is recovering from his injury and is booked in for a fake consultation at the clinic where Faith works. While Willis is being detained at the clinic by Batman, Robin and Lucy disguised as doctors, Hilda and Monty arrange a meeting with the American businessman who wants to buy the garden centre site off Willis and pose as a member of Willis' company. They tell him that the deal is off and he walks out angrily. At the same time Willis has become suspicious of his "doctors" and hobbles out on his crutches. However he is embraced by a drunken Winston who wants his fatherly love and suffers further injury to his spine. When the triplets visit Willis in hospital they find out that in ruining his deal with the Americans they have bankrupted him, and the garden centre is now just an abandoned brownfield site. Willis, still terrified of further visitations from the ghost of Mag, allows them to use it and Monty and Hilda finally get to build The Plantation. Monty is so overjoyed that he asks Lucy for her hand in marriage, only to find out to his dismay that she has started dating Winston.
Wesley Willis is released from hospital in time for the grand opening of The Plantation and the triplets take pity on him, and find themselves bonding with their long lost father. They allow him to come and live with them at the house; he's confined to a wheelchair after his two accidents. The time that follows is a golden age for Monty and the others. The Plantation is finally a reality, people come from miles around just for the experience, the tills are ringing and it looks as though they will live happily ever after. However Monty's dream is dampened by his unrequited love for Lucy and Hilda's is also in the same way for Billy, who has disappeared from all their lives. Willis is also deeply depressed by his disability and he fears the return of the horrifying ghost of the triplets' mother. During this segment he speaks mostly in poetic lines voicing his own thoughts like: "What merciful God would incarcerate me with this Hogarth collection of lowlifes!?" However as time goes on and Mag doesn't put in any further apparitions he begins to hope that her soul is now at rest. He also regains the ability to walk again. Inspired by this new lease of life he begins to hatch further plans. As the doctor finally removes his neck brace for the last time he is telling Willis about much he admires The Plantation and Willis casually quips: "Is there a market price for happiness? Because you're right, Doc; all these people should be made to pay for such joy!" He then starts getting involved with the business more and persuades the triplets to form a board rather than it being under the sole directorship of Monty. One of the members is Winston, whom Willis is recruiting to his scheme of taking over control of The Plantation. Monty's dream of The Plantation has always been very idealistic with the objective being one of quality and beauty, often at the expense of profit; even though this has not stopped him making a healthy one. "This place is the jewel in the bobble hat of east London!" he says. Willis wants to run it as more like a conventional corporation with maximization of profit being the last word and therefore sacrificing a lot of the ethical principles that Monty believes in, like the free lemonade fountain and of having a live band instead of just playing recorded music. This seems impossible at first, because on the board Willis is non-voting chairman and Hilda and Monty always agree and so outvote Winston. However when Winston and Lucy split up Monty is overjoyed and invites her for a week's holiday in Paris leaving Hilda alone. At the same time Billy returns and announces that he and Lucy are now a couple and they're off to Hong Kong; this leaves both Monty and Hilda distraught. Monty goes off to Paris by himself. Hilda is so crushed by her situation that she allows Willis and Winston to manipulate her into making some of the changes to The Plantation that Willis wanted, like sacking the band and charging customers an entrance fee.
Monty comes home from Paris in dejection to another nightmare. At the gates of the plantation he has to pay an entrance fee to get in and then follows the sound of recorded country and western music over to the stage where he sees that ridiculous automatons of the band members have been placed there. He is so upset that he leaves again and joins the other members of the band going on tour up the River Thames in Batman's boat. "The Nashville Noise on tour! Let's leave the troubles of the world in our wake! We are the Bermondsey nomads!" At one point they're playing in a pub when a farmer walks in with a sheep on a lead; is this how Londoners see the rest of us? Winston and Willis bully poor, broken Hilda into making even more changes that "plastickify" The Plantation. However Hilda digs her heels in when they try to get her to agree to two further outlets of The Plantation, this includes one that will be run by Winston and Faith, who have made up and are back together; Winston is desperate to get Hilda to agree, thinking it is essential for saving his marriage. Then Billy returns from Hong Kong without Lucy who had split up with him and got herself signed up as the white heroine in a Chinese kick-boxing movie. Willis is overjoyed because he thinks he can use Billy again to drag Hilda back under his thumb. However Billy has changed; he is now in no doubt that he loves Hilda and wants to be with her. This turn of events is so ecstatic for Hilda that she develops a new found strength, opposing Winston and Willis on everything they do. In the meantime things have not gone well for Monty. The band's tour falls apart and the boat breaks down. Batman and Robin go home to London while Monty continues on by himself, unable to face going back. He busks on streets for a few pence, but the pain of his past hangs over him. In the end he tries to commit suicide by jumping off a bridge into the river, but he is rescued by a strange old woman who looks exactly like his mother. This is a lady who is on an archaeological quest to find a lost play by William Shakespeare; Monty decides to help her because she is a visionary like him. He feels their destinies are joined. However he soon discovers that the lady is a deluded fantasist and something in him breaks. He decides to give up on dreams altogether and "face reality!". He sets off for home. Winston and Willis' plot hangs in the balance; Billy is not playing ball and when Hilda decides she wants to look at the accounts they know their chicanery will soon be exposed; so they decide to gaslight her. They lead her to believe that Billy is cheating on her and is still being used by Willis to control her. This fails to begin with, but then they succeed in making her believe he is having a secret affair with Lucy. On the day when Winston and Faith are renewing their wedding vows in a ceremony at the garden centre Monty arrives home and, at that very moment, Hilda takes a gun and shoots Billy.
In the aftermath of the shooting, as Billy is rushed to hospital by ambulance, Willis tries to cover up the fact that Hilda shot Billy and makes out that it was an accident. Hilda by now knows that the stories about Billy were lies and is overcome with remorse; she agrees to help Willis cover up. Billy has an operation to remove the bullet and then recovers. Hilda tells Monty everything that had been happening while he was away, including Winston and Willis' deception, and Monty goes home and confronts Winston who is sick with shame. Willis then blackmails the triplets into agreeing to his plans for The Plantation by threatening to reveal the truth about Hilda's guilt. They reluctantly agree until Monty sees a way out; he confesses to the crime himself and is arrested. Lucy in the meantime decides she loves Monty because she thinks he shot somebody for her in a crime passionnel. Willis is furious about Monty's bluff, but knows he can do nothing about it. But then he's watching one of the wedding videos made before the shooting and in the background you can see into one of the house's windows; Hilda is clearly visible brandishing the gun. He has proof that Hilda did it! He snatches the video tape, puts it in a bag and jumps on his motorbike to take it to the police station, pursued by Winston in his builders' van. Willis evades Winston and arrives at the police station, but as he opens the bag he sees the face on Mag's ghost staring up at him. He screams with terror and runs back out into the street. Mag takes him on a second astral journey, this time to the future; what life would be like for him in three years time if he hands the video over to the police. Hilda is in jail and on the verge of a breakdown, Winston and Faith are plotting his murder and Monty jumps off a bridge into the river again, and this time he succeeds. Wesley is shocked by what he has been shown and, like Scrooge, on which the scene is based, changes his ways instantly. He tries to make amends by destroying the tape in front of Winston but the latter doesn't believe him, nor do Hilda and Monty. It is only when he holds Hilda hostage and in doing so makes an irrefutable fake confession to the shooting of Billy, only then does Hilda know the truth. The police surround them and order Wesley to come out and put down the gun. Wesley is about to obey when one of the police marksmen misjudges his action and shoots him. He dies and as his body lies on the ground his spirit rises out of him and Mag's ghost comes and takes him away. At the end of the story Winston and his family go off to America to become a famous family of wrestlers. Monty and Lucy have triplets and paint pictures of London's famous sites while Hilda and Billy also have triplets... fancy that! And they run the garden centre together with Miss Pringle. And watching over them all is the ghost of their mother, with Wesley Willis' ghost stranding beside her.
End of synposis
When Gone to Seed was first broadcast I was a very different person to whom I am today. I was far less confident and feared almost everything and everyone around me. My personal life was farcically complicated and unsuccessful and I had few friends. There were many people in my life who described themselves to me as "your friend, Ben", but their behaviour was nothing of the sort; on the contrary they exploited and abused me for profit, self-glorification and entertainment. I felt lonely and ostracized. I was as much an oddball back then as I am now, but my perception of myself was crucially different because I regarded my eccentricity in a negative light rather than a positive one. Back then I felt I was a crank, today I am a maverick. My heath was suffering too; I was seriously underweight because I was hardly eating. I also had allergic eczema and hayfever. I powerfully identified with the plight of the characters, particularly Monty and Hilda. I also understood that Gone to Seed was a tribute to nonconformism, although at the time I didn't have the vocabulary to put it into those words. In the mainstream media this is extremely rare indeed. I took great hope and comfort from that; it's no exaggeration to say that Gone to Seed helped get me through some of the toughest days of my life. Since that time I have studied the media and the way it is used to mould the human mind and culture to the will of our rulers, see: http://hpanwo.blogspot.co.uk/2008/07/grimlys.html. Now I identify less with the characters' situation, but in a strange way the series is more precious to me than ever. After watching it over a hundred times for twenty-two years, I find Gone to Seed all the more poignant, as we see the long term effects of that psychological warfare agenda on our lives. It's interesting to compare Gone to Seed with TavistockEnders; see: http://hpanwo-voice.blogspot.co.uk/2008/09/tavistockenders-scoops-soap-awards.html. They are so different they are virtually antitheses; in fact I'd call Gone to Seed the perfect antidote to the venom of TavistockEnders. Everything between the two is inverted. There's a welcome opposition to social Darwinism in Gone to Seed; the viewer is left in no doubt that what Willis and Billy do to Hilda is immoral even though Hilda is so easily maltreated by them; Hilda's sweetness and amiability are celebrated, not scorned. Monty's is also held in deep veneration for his romantic and idealistic nature when in almost all other TV shows he would be ridiculed and portrayed as a cipher of contempt. In Gone to Seed he is a heroic figure for his seeing of visions and his pursuit of dreams, his creative passion. Monty's dream sequences are my favourite scenes; it takes a great spirit to imagine "an island of beauty amidst a sea of grey"; I find myself sharing Monty's hope for a world of sunflowers, butterflies and ivy-clad gazeboes. There's an almost Teletubbies-like feelgood factor to Monty's dream (See: http://hpanwo-tv.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/i-like-watching-teletubbies.html). These sequences are always accompanied by the programme's beautiful score. The antagonists are portrayed as spoilsports of all that, to "plastickify" all that is noble and profound in the world; what a fantastic word that is! In the end Monty finally caves in under the pressure of life and abandons his dreams; in a conventional piece of drama this would be seen as an admirable development and there would be a golf clap all round for him. However when he returns home a changed man, ready to embrace the so-called "real world" it is just before the disastrous show-down of Billy's shooting. He speaks the line: "You all live in the real world, I've come to join you." the moment before we hear the gunshot. To me this signifies that Monty has made a terrible mistake.

The score of Gone to Seed is composed and performed by The Gutter Brothers, see: http://www.gutterbrothers.co.uk/. It is best described as a kind of psychedelic country and western, especially what I call "The Plantation theme", which repeats throughout the serial, most often during Monty's visions, and doubles up for the closing credits song, which uses the metaphor of seeds growing into flowers. There are many different styles of music used though, for example "Wesley Willis' theme" which is very jazzy; and "Winston's march", which is just a few bars long, takes the form of a slow and dour brass solo. At the end of the last episode The Plantation theme is reworked into a ballad with a slower tempo and single Hammond organ melody. If you ever hear me humming to myself, it will probably be one of these tunes you're hearing! The camerawork is very groundbreaking and creative too as if the director thought he was in competition with Monty. There are some split-screen scenes and well-thought out visual devices. For example, during the band marathon, the passing of time is gauged by a shrinking pile of sausage rolls. There's another shot in which images in a scene are reflected off Hilda's spectacles. In fact almost every shot is well-executed and fascinating to behold. The colours are rich pastels and the costumes eye-catching, especially Monty's band jacket, Winston's wrestling leotards and Lucy Lastic's dresses. There are a few flashback scenes to the characters' childhoods in which the same actors play their younger selves. This method can sometimes be very lame and obtrusive, like in the film adaptation of Peter Shaffer's Equus, see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tsx5wNyzmRo, however in Gone to Seed the result is hilarious. Although this series has affected me so deeply and has such a powerful message, it is essentially a very light-hearted production, with no graphic sex or violence; it is perfectly suitable for all the family. The serious and blithe elements of the style are skilfully balanced. In the climactic scene where Wesley Willis dies the film-makers work hard to prevent the atmosphere from becoming too sombre, inserting comic touches. This is helped by their employment of another well-known actor who stars in the last episode only, Anthony Newly. He plays Chief Inspector Keet, the policeman who investigates the shooting of Billy. I'm not claiming that Gone to Seed is technically perfect; in fact it sports some major gaffs. In episode 3 we see Faith kicking Winston out of their house, yet later in the series they both behave as if it was Winston who initiated their separation. Also the development of Billy's character from nasty to nice is rather clumsy; coming in fits and starts and even total regression. There's an element of this contradiction when it comes to Wesley Willis' personality too. There are also a few cliches and habit words in it like "tip up" instead of "turn up", the constant repetition of "dupe" and colloquialisms like "fluffy", meaning "girlfriend"; maybe this is just how Londoners talk. But an artistic masterpiece has never been dependent on technical perfection; if Grounds had ironed out these little wrinkles I would not have loved his series one bit more. There are also some wonderfully quotable phrases and I used to drive my friends and family mad by always saying: "I'll leave it all in your capable hands... Australian". Interestingly Jed Mercurio, the writer of The Grimleys, see above link, mentions Tony Grounds in this article; I knew those two would be kindred spirits, see: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2007/mar/17/janeausten.fiction.

A recurring theme in several of Grounds' works are the dead returning as ghosts to influence the living; this also took place in his movie Last Christmas, in which a young boy is grieving over the death of his father, and he has encounters with his father's ghost; see: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0223623/combined. The influence of Charles Dickens is very apparent in these storylines and, as a Londoner, Grounds is manifestly fond of his city's illustrious literary forebear. The ghostly goings on in Gone to Seed are straight out of A Christmas Carol with Mag Plant taking on the role of both Jacob Marley and all Scrooge's visitations. All in all, the entire overall setting of Gone to Seed is rather surreal, even leaving aside the supernatural element. I can easily imagine it being set in some closely-related but still distinct parallel universe. Blended with this is an almost hyperrealism of the everyday, references to pop culture and household celebrities like Esther Rantzen etc. I found it immensely absorbing, as if I were a part of the story. There is a slight pantomime element present too; or maybe music hall, another style pioneered in London. At the start of all the episodes after the opening one, a character addresses the viewer and gives a recap of the story so far; and at the end Mag's ghost does as well, smiling slyly and saying: "Well what did you want, a miserable ending?" Am I just imagining the spiritual journey Gone to Seed is? Did Grounds intend his serial to be so? As I said, it's a gentle family comedy-drama, but within its softy-spoken words can be heard a rebel yell. There are many films and TV programmes that are very prudential and perceptive satires. As I've said, the manipulators don't control everything, see: http://hpanwo.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/some-of-them-are-on-our-side.html, but the themes I've found in Gone to Seed are the most subversive of any. A truly free and happy world will never be achieved by merely voting for somebody different, or even demanding the head of George Soros on a plate, it's dependent on an internal transformation. We cannot create a better world with physical action and activism unless this is accompanied by a quest for inner peace and enlightenment. It means wanting to build The Plantation. Gone to Seed has inspired and strengthened me like no other film I've ever seen. I urge all HPANWO-readers to watch it too; I hope you gain as much joy and hope out of it as I have. I'll end this review with the words of Miss Pringle, the only person who truly loved Wesley Willis for who he was: "...and we shall be happy again."