#ICYMI: Television Edition
If you want to know how to survive a challenge, here's the TV Guide for you!
Well, here we are, stuck in quarantine for the umpteenth day and feeling dejected about our entertainment options. Don't worry, friends! Let us take to the internet, and its bounty of streaming options!
I grew up in a household that sometimes had cable, but usually didn't, so we watched what was "on the air," (literally whatever was transmitted via antennae from the network to your home TV set). This was also pre-HD. Shows were produced and transmitted in 4:3 aspect ratio--you know, like a big box, more than a movie screen.
So, if you take my recommendations, know that you might be getting outside of the comfortable, high definition rectangle you're used to! Welcome to the old ways.
To begin with, let's get really Old School:
The Prisoner (1967-68)
The Prisoner was co-created by and stars Patrick McGoohan, the lead of the popular British series titled Danger Man/Secret Agent. The series follows an unnamed, recently-resigned "secret agent" who is drugged, kidnapped, and marooned on a strange island. He is assigned the number 6, and is guided through his time in "The Village" (the island's moniker) by a character assigned the number 2.
The series seemed to gain a cult following rather quickly. Its subject matter is focused on the nature of identity, individualism, and freedom. While having some of the trademark gadgetry and chase scenes of a typical espionage series, The Prisoner is much more philosophical and surreal in its depiction. The terrifying figure most often chasing our lead? It's a white weather balloon called "Rover." The music that plays throughout The Village during funerals? It's a brass band honking out an upbeat march. The mourners (all fellow-numbered prisoners of the island) follow in wholly 60s-looking striped shirts, cotton suits, and bright umbrellas.
Number Six is routinely encouraged to give up and reveal the secret of why he resigned, so that he can get on with the business of a relaxed Village-retirement. And in each of the seventeen original episodes, we hear his reply: "I will not be pushed, filed, indexed, stamped, briefed, debriefed, or numbered. My life is my own." The stalwart belief that a man can keep a secret is tested in so many entertaining ways.
If you ever get tired of feeling like "just a number" (hey, all you unemployment-filing folks out there, I feel you), check out The Prisoner on Amazon Prime.
Star Trek: Voyager (1995-2001)
So maybe you're thinking, "gosh, Star Trek isn't really that niche," and you're right. Yet, how often do you hear Voyager mentioned in a conversation about the iconic, genre-defining franchise? As a lifelong Trekkie, I can tell you: not that often.
Maybe it's the shape of the ship, maybe it's the internalized misogyny of having a female captain, or maybe it's just the confusion of being trapped in the Delta Quadrant, but for some reason folks don't seem to like Voyager all that much. You can probably guess which reason seems most likely to me, as a queer-female-identifying nerd. Both within the fandom and the franchise itself, Janeway gets so little love as a Captain. It's hard to say why, however, given that Kate Mulgrew's performances are beautifully balanced between prim and passionate, reserved and fiery, nurturing and terse. Janeway showed me how to be a leader who gets things done!
Moreover, Voyager was cast with an excellent ensemble. Each character is given a thorough and meaningful backstory and motivation, perhaps moreso than in any other Trek series I've seen. The trademark diversity of the franchise is probably better depicted in Voyager than any other show for its time.
Voyager is a story about a ship full of people who are trapped in a completely strange and unfamiliar situation. They find themselves exploring a new quadrant of space--not by choice, but in the hopes that their next discovery might be the one that leads them back home. In our time of pandemic isolation, it might be comforting to witness and embrace the notion of exploring where we are, rather than pitying ourselves because we aren't where we used to be.
The limitations of Voyager's circumstances lead to awesome plot arcs, which often include self-exploration. Whether it's the holographic Doctor exceeding his programming with a personality, or the Captain's attempts to reform a member of the BORG, Voyager delves into character development in a way quite unlike other Star Trek series.
You can watch every episode of Star Trek: Voyager on Netflix.
Nowhere Man (1995-96)
Contemporary to the beginning of Voyager came Nowhere Man, which aired on the same network (UPN). It has been acknowledged by creator Lawrence Hertzog to have been influenced by The Prisoner, though its plot varies in some significant ways.
Nowhere Man stars Bruce Greenwood (yup, the guy that plays Captain Pike in the Star Trek reboot films). Greenwood plays a character named Thomas Veil, a photographer who finds his own identity erased from the world around him.
Unlike The Prisoner, Thomas isn't isolated by geography, but is instead surrounded by the familiarity of a world that refuses to recognize him. His punishment seems to be connected to a specific photograph he's taken. "I have the negatives," he says ominously: "they want them."
Nowhere Man was only one season long, but delved into a lot of familiar questions: What does it mean to be free? How do you survive when no one seems to believe you exist? To what extent will you go to keep a secret?
Created in the early era of our society's total dependence on technology (for currency, employment, entertainment, and connection), Nowhere Man features a challenge: could you survive without any network at all?
Find out by watching the episodes on YouTube (with thanks to user "santa holbrook" for uploading).
My love of each of these shows originated with my mother, who instilled within me a drive to understand myself both within and outside of societal norms. While I have developed my own deep love for them, I know my early exposure to science and speculative fiction genres was all thanks to her.
I hope you'll find great enjoyment in these series as well. I welcome your feedback!
Tipping is always hugely appreciated. ❤️
About the author: Sarjé Haynes is a painter and writer living in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, on Cow Creek Umpqua ancestral lands. She has two amazing adventure cats she coparents with her partner.
About the Creator
Sarjé is a painter and writer living in Kalapuya ancestral territory. You can learn more about her at http://sarje.art.
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