The Watcher Cat

The Watcher Cat

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Both Sides Now

Read those lines for yourself:
Adelaide:But you said we die. For the future. For the human race!
The Doctor: Yes, because there are laws. There are laws of time. Once upon a time there were people in charge of those laws but they died. They all died. Do you know who that leaves? Me! It's taken me all these years to realize that the laws of time are mine and they will obey me!
That's it. The moment when the Doctor unconsciously (?) echoes the catchphrase of his long-term nemesis, the Master.

I wrote about this parallel back in June; but I think it's worthwhile to reaffirm that the best villains often have more in common with of their adversaries than meets the eye. That's certainly true in Phineas Redux, and, by extension, Phineas at Bay, in which I brought back the Rev. Joseph Emilius.

When you have a character like Emilius, who contains stereotype and rote villainy, but also--something more, what else can you do but explore the something more? In Emilius's case it's his coolness under fire, his nerve, and his surprising ability to survive adversity. There's a real grit to the man, beneath all the playacting; he never cracks, displays fear, or loses his head. And so, in Trollope's novels, he escapes conviction of murder, only to get caught up in bigamy.

He's also a rather distorted mirror image of our hero--name games on Trollope's part: Phineas, Emilius. He's an outsider, like the Irish Roman Catholic, who makes his way by charisma and charm--especially charming women. You could say that Emilius is Phineas as seen through Kennedy's or Bonteen's eyes. In the television adaptation, as I have pointed out, Anthony Ainley goes with that, works the charm and charisma of the inferior copy as much as he can, and hints at a very different man belief, whose nature we don't see--because neither Trollope nor Simon Raven in scripting the adaptation have gone so far as to provide it. But this left me with the task of trying to intuit what lay beneath.

How well did I succeed? Ah, that judgment is for you to make, not me.

By the bye, within a week, the Kindle edition of Phineas at Bay will reflect the changes currently made to the paperback; the Rare Misprint Edition will only exist in the hands of the lucky few who have purchased it, and all new copies will reflect the corrected text.

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