Featured Post


This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


In Part 1 I mentioned the example of Flash Gordon. As most fans will know, he's an Earthman with no special physical powers, but he sometimes makes lists of "superheroes" because he becomes so thoroughly a "man of Mongo." Gordon makes intermittent use of Mongo's marvelous high-tech, but he's not as tied to his ray-gun as is, say, his predecessor Buck Rogers. Indeed, the earliest FLASH GORDON strips emphasize Gordon as a monster-slaying he-man, probably in emulation of the popular TARZAN comic strip by Hal Foster. Thus the most consistent indicator of his metaphenomenality is his otherworldly costume-- usually some variation on the image above, though Gordon probably changes his clothes more than most of his SF-competitors.

But Gordon is only partially a man in a science-fiction universe. From the aspect of the NUM theory, how should one regard the attire of characters fully born within such marvelous environments?

The denizens of the STAR TREK universe aren't wearing attire that would seem in any way strange to the sentients of their cosmos, while any aliens who meet them for the first time certainly wouldn't have any expectations about what sort of clothes they ought to be wearing. Unlike many latter-day science-fiction teleserials, TREK is consistent in showing that  everyone in its future is wearing some outre-looking fashion. Clearly the costume department was instructed to make even simple jumpsuits seem subtly "alien," and not by referencing European Renaissance garb, as FLASH GORDON often did.

But in most regards, the NUM theory is based not in the reactions of characters within their fictive universes, but on the response of the reader. The simple, vaguely-naval velour shirts of Classic Trek don't participate in the opulence of FLASH GORDON's fashions, or even of many of the other characters in their own universe.

Nevertheless, the uniforms of both the original TREK and its serial descendants successfully convey the aura of the uncanny: they convey "strangeness" on their own terms even apart from their association with high-tech marvelous items, like the "phasers" that duplicate the function of Flash's "ray-gun."

Here's a contrasting example, from the short-lived 1990s teleseries SPACE RANGERS:

SPACE RANGERS is less in TREK's mode of intellectualized space opera and more in that of FLASH GORDON's unapologetic science-fantasy adventure, but like TREK it takes place in a distant future wherein multiple alien worlds have been colonized by the descendants of contemporary humans, as is made clear by character names like "John" and "Daniel."

Yet, even though RANGERS takes place within a marvelous setting, the producers did not make an attempt to give their heroes' attire any strangeness. All of them wear suits that resemble a bulky form of military fatigues. To me they resemble contemporary outfits, though I can't place just where I've seen such outfits utilized. Regardless, the costuming department clearly patterned the costumes on modern dress, and so gives them all a functional "naturalistic" aura, despite the otherworldly settings of the stories.

In Part 3 I'll be dealing in more detail with the ways in which the naturalistic inevitably underlies the other two phenomenalites, albeit without defining them.

ADDENDA: Changed my mind and decided to explore the above matters in an essay with a different title, and so not confined to one particular trope.

No comments: