Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Britannia, Season 1, Episode 2

Series created by Jez Butterworth, Tom Butterworth and James Richardson; directed by Sue Tully; screenplay by Tom Butterworth (Sky/Vertigo Films/Neal Street Productions).

Episode 2 of Britannia fills out more about the motivations of the characters. We discover why King Pellenor hates his daughter (her great-grandfather on her mother's side was a Roman). We see more of Zoë Wanamaker's Queen Antedia, who gets a nice joint scenery-chewing moment with David Morrissey's Aulus Plautius. We see more of her tribe, the Regni, and find that they make liberal use of woad and have lots of women warriors, so that's those two obligatory elements ticked off. We also find that she hates the Cantii because Pellenor's daughter castrated her son on their wedding night (which she demonstrates by having her son drop trou in front of Aulus. 

Morrissey as Aulus continues to chew the scenery wherever it is to be found. In this episode he orders crucifixions of prisoners, to show what a nasty man he is (but he doesn't have them nailed into position, so he can't be all that bad), and then traumatises a small child. Ian McDiarmid as Pellenor is starting to chew the scenery a bit himself, though internal political and family machinations at Crugdunon remain not terribly interesting.

Meanwhile, NotArya and NotTheHound have an Expository Walk. He then manages to get rid of her, and she ends up being chased by wolves. (Well, actually, she is chased by huskies,which is exactly the same except when they catch you they lick you to death.)

But some strange things are happening. In this episode Vespasian gets killed. I had assumed that this was the Vespasian, who was, after all, there in historical reality, but survived and nearly forty years later became emperor. So either this isn't the historical figure, but just someone of the same name (which seems odd, as it's a strange name to pick - Antonius, Brutus, I can see, but Vespasian?), or the Butterworths are going full Quentin Tarantino Inglorious Basterds alternate history on us, in which case, all bets are very definitely off. 

And right at the end of the episode, Aulus visits the DruidCave (it's not actually a cave, but it might as well be), and takes a trip (in many senses) to the Underworld. This show may be rather more intriguing and less predictable than I thought.

Link to all reviews of Britannia.

Friday, November 01, 2019

Britannia, Season 1, Episode 1

Series created by Jez Butterworth, Tom Butterworth and James Richardson; directed by Metin Hüseyin; screenplay by Jez Butterworth, Tom Butterworth (Sky/Amazon Prime Video/Vertigo Films/Neal Street Productions).

Okay, I should have caught up with this ages ago. But with the new season due next week, and my planning on really getting stuck into the 'Screening Britannia' project in November, it's time I did actually watch all this.

The first thing a viewer sees when watching Britannia is a caption that says:




And the next caption says:


Those of us of a certain age and disposition are probably expecting that the next caption will be 'NO-ONE KNOWS WHO THEY WERE OR WHAT THEY WERE DOING', and the dulcid tones of Spinal Tap's 'Stonehenge' will then be heard. But, of course Britannia isn't that sort of show at all - it's a serious drama. And then the titles play out to Donovan's 'Hurdy Gurdy Man', and you realise that maybe it is that sort of show after all.

When it was broadcast in early 2018, Brtiannia was accompanied by a lot of high expectations. After all, this was award-winning playwright Jez Buttorworth, author of Jerusalem, wasn't it? Well, yes - but it's also Jez and Tom Butterworth, screenwriters for odd cod-Arthuriana The Last Legion, a movie deeply uncertain about its own identity.

Britannia does one very interesting thing. As Juliette Harrisson and I shall discuss in the book we're writing together, most cinematic and television versions of the Roman invasion of Britain are interested in Julius Caesar's invasion, not that of the emperor Claudius nearly ninety years later. And they are almost without exception, comedies (e.g. Carry on Cleo or Asterix in Britain). Britannia is very definitely about the Claudian invasion - the only other screen example of this I've been able to find is 'Pritain', the first episode of the 1974-1975 BBC series Churchill's People. And Britannia is certainly not sold as a comedy.

There's also something a bit odd going on in terms of diversity. The Romans are clearly the bad guys here - this is not to say that the Britons are necessarily the good guys, as they are too caught up in internecine murder, kidnapping and warfare for that, but the Romans are the imperialist invaders who massacre an entire village that was doing nothing more offensive than getting stoned at a massive Solstice party, so they are definitely bad. Yet it is among the Romans that one finds ethnic diversity, with black and Asian soldiers, and it is from these soldiers that the only significant working class voices emerge. Now, that is quite possibly true to the actual ethnic and class make-up of a Roman army, but one wonders what purpose it serves dramatically. Is the intention to elicit some sympathy for the Roman point of view?

The Britons, on the other hand, whilst beating the Romans in terms of gender diversity - there is a complete absence of female voices on the Roman side - are remarkably white and middle-class, occasional Irish person aside, such that one imagines that when not trying to bump each other off they sit round the hillforts doing Guardian crosswords and forbidding their children to watch ITV. This is epitomised by a somewhat careworn Julian Rhind-Tutt, who is just a bit ... well, a bit too Julian Rhind-Tutt to convince as an Iron Age Man of Kent.

These points of interest aside, Britannia is mostly cliché. There's a neat trick where the character set up to be one of the audience's points-of-view fails to make it out of the first episode, but even that's not all that original. Aside from that, the Romans are all gruff legionaries, the British villagers simple farmers with a close resemblance to the peasants of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the local Druids are like Native American Shamen, and purveyors of New Age Woo, whilst at a higher level they're rather more sinister, led by Mackenzie Crook's Veran, made up to look like a Batman villain.

Britannia's biggest weakness, of course, is what got it made in the first place - its potential to be the next Game of Thrones, and therefore its tendency to lean in the direction of HBO's series. So there is much swearing, though in a remarkable act of restraint, no female nudity until fifty-five minutes in (compare Troy: Fall of a City, which had boobies after only five minutes). The Cantii's 'citadel' (rather than hillfort) of Crugdunon clearly went through several drafts where the designers were asked to make it more Game of Thrones-y, until the result doesn't look exactly like Winterfell, but would feel oddly familiar to any Starks visiting. And Nikolaj Lie Kaas' Outcast Druid and Eleanor Worthington-Cox's Cait, the pubescent girl he rescues from a massacre and is then contemptuous of, are so painfully NotArya and NotTheHound that it's slightly surprising legal action wasn't taken.

The problem that Britannia has which Game of Thrones didn't, of course, is that the audience knows the outcome. Whatever the various Britons may do, the Romans are here to stay, at least for the next four hundred years. The bad guys are going to win. (This may shed light on why the invasion is often treated as a comedy.)

The salvation of Britannia is that every ten or twenty minutes or so, David Morrissey as Roman commander Aulus Plautius turns up and chews every bit of scenery in sight, in a way that you have never seen him do before. This is not the nuanced Morrissey of Sense and Sensibility or The City and the City - this is full-on Alan-Rickman-as-the-Sheriff-of-Nottingham scenery chewing, as he flings his dead-mink decorated coat around his shoulders, advises legionaries to take a dump on the landscape, or say things like 'let's get on that fucking boat'. I have high hopes that he will be matched by Zoë Wanamaker's Queen Antedia, arriving as she does is a smoke cloud apparently of her own generation and sporting a wig that deserves its own star billing, but we haven't really seen enough of her yet. And Ian McDiarmid, as the improbably-named king Pellenor, seems to be keeping his scenery chewing in reserve for The Rise of Skywalker.

Still, this is only episode 1 - let's see what the next eight deliver.

My collaborator on 'Screening Britannia', Juliette Harrisson, has also reviewed the first episode.

Link to all reviews of Britannia.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Abbey Road, 50 years on

Today (26 September) marks the fiftieth anniversary of the release of The Beatles' Abbey Road, the last album they recorded as a group. It doesn't seem that long, but I think that's a product of first becoming aware of the LP when it was less than a decade old.

In January 1969, the band had tried to make an album that they planned on calling Get Back, attempting to record it as they had done at the beginning of their career, with no overdubs, and no edits. It had been a horrible experience for everyone concerned, and the tapes got buried (for a while, anyway). The problem was that, trapped by the public's expectations of them, The Beatles were finding it very difficult to work together. Paul McCartney remained committed to the band, hoping it could last a lot longer. But he mishandled his leadership role, and came across as hectoring and nagging.

Meanwhile his former creative partner, John Lennon, had moved on, being besotted with his new lover Yoko Ono, and wanting to invest all his creative energies with her. Under her influence, he was moving towards writing more personal and confessional material, such that could not easily be accomodated on a Beatles album. George Harrison, after a patchy couple of years, was right back at the peak of his creative form, but was frustrated by only being allowed two tracks per album, and by being still, at 26, treated as the baby of the band. He also seems to have wanted to become more of a rock guitar hero, along the lines of his friend Eric Clapton. Both Harrison and Lennon were completely fed up being told by McCartney what to do. Ringo Starr wasn't happy either with the tensions around the band.

So how did they manage to produce what, in the words of one of the earliest pieces of Beatles journalism I read, is a remarkably together album for a band that was falling apart? A lot of it was surface gloss. The Abbey Road engineers had got their heads around the new eight-track tape machines, and were making records sound like they had never sounded before. Some of it was that, returning to an overdubs and edits approach, they could stay out of each other's way a lot of the time, though there were tensions, between Lennon and McCartney, Harrison and McCartney, Harrison and Ono, and Lennon and Linda Eastman, McCartney's new girlfriend.

But a big part of it was probably the knowledge that they were coming to the end of the band's history. Producer George Martin very much had this feeling, being surprised that they were going back into the studio at all after Get Back. Though Starr doesn't recall this being the notion, both Harrison and McCartney seem to have acknowledged it in song - Harrison in 'Here Comes The Sun', which looks forward to better days ahead, and McCartney with 'The End', a track that explicitly gives the four members an opportunity to shine as musicians. This would explain why Lennon and Harrison seem to have upped their game (though Lennon drew for some of his contributions on songs over a year old, and absented himself from recordings on various occasions). They were evidently more willing to let McCartney have his way, even allowing him to put on the album 'Maxwell's Silver Hammer', his silly and lyrically nasty attempt to imitate the style of his brother Michael's band, The Scaffold. (Though they vetoed his attempt to put it out as a single, knowing that novelty singles was the last thing The Beatles should be doing.)

As a result, this is very much McCartney's album, and it often seems like a blueprint for his subsequent solo career. It was McCartney who, along with Martin, assembled the 'Long Medley' that takes up much of Side Two and is one of the album's more memorable moments. Such is the shadow cast by McCartney on this record that early critics thought three of Lennon's songs, 'Because', 'Sun King', and 'Mean Mr Mustard', were composed by his songwriting partner.

And yet, unquestionably the best songs on the album are those of George Harrison, 'Here Comes The Sun' and 'Something' - his best compositions to that point, and pretty much the best Beatles tracks of 1969. Indeed, when Allen Klein was choosing numbers from Abbey Road for the compilation album 1967-1970, none of McCartney's contributions made the cut - Klein selected Harrison's two tracks, Lennon's 'Come Together' (which had been issued with 'Something' as a single), and Starr's 'Octopus's Garden'.

Abbey Road is a strange album - it almost seems to capture the transition from the 1960s to the 1970s, and anticipates that The Beatles, either as a group or as individuals, will no longer be as central to pop music as they had been. Harrison looks to the future with his new Moog synthesizer, which he uses on 'Here Comes the Sun' and lent to Lennon for 'I Want You (She's So Heavy)'. Both he and Lennon had obviously been listening to Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac, as shown by Lennon's 'Sun King' and Harrison's guitar solo on 'I Want You'. The result, in some aspects, doesn't sound that much like The Beatles.

For me, Abbey Road is more evocative of summer than any other record The Beatles ever made. It might not always be my absolute favourite Beatles album all the time - I also have a lot of time for Rubber Soul, Revolver and Pepper. But it may well be the one I have listened to more than any other.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

You be my Hercules, I'll be your Athena.

So, Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has told British Prime Minister Boris Johnson that he wants to help Johnson with the Herculean task of getting a Brexit deal, to be Athena to Johnson's Hercules. A number of commentators have taken this as a subtle jibe against Johnson, intended as a reference to Athena's intervention after Hercules went mad and killed his wife and children (or, according to the BBC, when she prevented him killing his family).

I love this image - Athena is so casual. 'Here I am, nothing to see here, just holding up the sky ...'
I actually don't think Varadkar's reference to being Athena to Johnson's Hercules is quite the dig some people are making it out to be, or at least not in the way they're taking it. 'Herculean tasks' refers to the Twelve Labours of Hercules, and there's a strong tradition in which Hercules was aided in his Labours by Athena (it's all over metopes of the Temple of Zeus at Olympia, for instance - see the image above). That's surely what Varadkar means, rather than any reference to the less pleasant sides of Hercules' personality (e.g. his tendency to drunkenness, gluttony, public urination, and yes, going mad and killing his children).

But there is a dig is in the power dynamic implied. Ireland Athena to Britain's Hercules? Vardakar Athena to Johnson's Hercules? Ireland's goddess to the UK's demi-god? To judge from how Brexiters and government ministers have recently spoken about Ireland, they would conceive of it as being the other way round; they see Ireland as the weak neighbour, to be helped, patronised and pushed around by the UK. And that is Varadkar's subtle jibe at the UK, a reminder that, with the rest of the EU27 behind them, Ireland is in the best position its been in a thousand years to tell the other island to go fuck itself, and yes, they're going to have some fun with that.

Also, as Liz Gloyn says, if anyone ever offers to be your Athena, seriously consider running.

Monday, September 02, 2019

Terrance Dicks, 1935-2019

I grew up with Terrance Dicks' version of Doctor Who. Though I have a couple of fleeting memories of the Troughton era, it was in Jon Pertwee's tenure that I grew to love the show, and that remains my favourite era, for all its flaws. And Terrance is amongst the first writers of science fiction that I read, in the many novelizations of Doctor Who stories that I read. Though he became a bit formulaic when there was basically only him doing them and he was expected to churn them out month in, month out, the early ones, and to be fair, the later ones where he was concentrating on the era he'd script-edited, are excellent, and sometimes rather better than the original episodes. Doctor Who and the Day of the Daleks in particular is transformative.

I find it hard to mourn overmuch for a life lived long and well. But I did know Terrance Dicks a bit - we corresponded over an invitation to be a guest at a British Science Fiction Association London meeting, where he was charming, informative and very funny. I got him to sign my battered, well-read copy of Day of The Daleks. When his friend and collaborator Barrie Letts died, I sent Terrance a note of condolence, which he was gracious enough to reply to. Now he's died, and I don't know who to write to. So I'm writing to you all.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

T for Tiberius revisited

[This post is an annotated reposting of an entry from 2006. That entry is probably the most influential thing I’ve ever posted on Memorabilia Antonina, an early attempt to theorize how we look at reception of classics in science fiction. A few years ago I revisited this for the Once and Future Antiquity conference at the University of Puget Sound, Tacoma, in 2015, giving a paper about how I felt the models stood up, and what I thought were the challenges facing scholars in this field. For the publication arising from that conference, I planned to revise that paper, and include the original post. Unfortunately, due to space restrictions in the volume, it wasn’t possible to include the original post. However, I had done a lot of new commentary on that post, and with the encouragement of the editors, Brett Rogers and Ben Stevens, I present the annotated version of the post. For the broader reflection, I’m afraid you’ll have to wait until the publication of Once and Future Antiquities in Science Fiction, due in December. It’ll be worth the wait – I think it’s one of the best things I’ve ever written. And there’s a lot of other great stuff in there.

I have removed images and a lengthy quotation from Stephen Baxter’s Coalescent (2003), which was included in the original post as an appendix; but otherwise I have tried to present this as it was in 2006, only correcting typos, adding references and standardizing formatting. Where greater clarification or correction is needed, I have added [2018] notes. Other notes were in the original text. Several note references have been moved to the ends of their sentences.]

[Original preface: The following is a paper I delivered at the 2006 Classical Association Conference in Newcastle. I had to edit it down to fit a twenty-minute slot, and what follows is the full-length version, with some changes as a result of points made in the subsequent discussion. … Comments and corrections are warmly invited.]

This paper forms the introduction to a planned larger work looking at a number of different aspects of the way in which SF uses the Greek and Roman classics. I shall start with two parallel, interrelating introductions.

Introduction number one:
Studying the way that classical antiquity is received in modern works changes not only the way we look at those works, but also how we look at the source material. For instance, many of my thoughts on what Athenian dramatists were actually trying to say have been formed or amplified through observation of contemporary interpretations. Sometimes the insights are quite unexpected – it wasn’t until I read Ulysses, and saw what Joyce was trying to do, to find the exact combination of English words that conveyed the precise nuance that he desired, that I finally understood what Thucydides was trying to do with Greek. And so it is with SF.

Introduction number two:
I am aware that in looking at SF, I am in danger of being perceived to be engaged in the study of the ‘banal and quotidian’ that Charles Martindale condemned in the Reception debate at the 2005 Classical Association Conference in Reading.[1] The frivolous response to such a charge would be to say that I’m just using this as an excuse to read all the books and watch all the television and films I would read and watch anyway, and call it ‘research’; but that would be rather to denigrate my own work, and potentially that of everyone else working in reception. So instead I shall defend myself from such a charge in two rather more serious ways. First of all, SF is not intrinsically banal and quotidian. (I’m not going to argue this – it just isn’t.) Secondly, even if it was, it wouldn’t matter. Martindale’s objection, in my view, confuses aesthetic value with cultural significance. I have no objection to people making aesthetic judgements, and make plenty of my own. But any such judgement I or others might make is unrelated to whether the piece of work judged is worthy of study in terms of its reception of Classical ideas. Put simply, one can say that Gladiator is a poor film, but it doesn’t follow from such an opinion that Gladiator is not important. If most people are getting their experience of the ancient world through the banal and quotidian, then it is the banal and quotidian that must be studied.

Let us start then, as an example of how SF receives the classics, with Tiberius. Not the second Roman emperor, stepson and adopted son of Augustus, but arguably the single most iconic figure in all of SF, Star Trek’s James Tiberius Kirk.

Captain Kirk’s middle name took a long time to be established. Indeed, when he was first introduced, in the second pilot of Star Trek, ‘Where No Man Has Gone Before’, his middle initial is shown on a gravestone as ‘R’. This detail had been forgotten by the next time someone wanted to give Kirk’s middle initial, and so it became ‘T’. But what this stands for remained unknown throughout the original run of Trek.

That it is ‘Tiberius’ was finally established in 1974, in an episode of the animated series of Star Trek that followed the original: ‘Bem’, written by David Gerrold. Now, almost everything that happened in the animated episodes is considered non-canonical for subsequent Trek productions. That is, they are never referred to, and no attempt is made to avoid contradicting them. But, curiously, the detail of Kirk’s middle name does get into the Star Trek canon.[2] This suggests to me that it was series creator Gene Roddenberry’s notion, rather than writer Gerrold’s.[3]

In the novelization of Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), there is a preface made out to be by James Kirk himself. (The novelization is credited to Roddenberry, but reportedly is actually by Alan Dean Foster, so what we have here may be Foster pretending to be Roddenberry pretending to be Kirk.[4]) In that preface, Kirk shows his classical credentials by stating that he has come to be seen as a new Ulysses and that he is uncomfortable in the role. He also explains his name:

My name is James Tiberius Kirk. Kirk because my father and his male forebears followed the old custom of passing on a family identity name. I received James because it was both the name of my father’s beloved brother as well as that of my mother’s first love instructor. Tiberius, as I am forever tired of explaining, was the Roman emperor whose life for some unfathomable reason fascinated my grandfather Samuel.[5]

Anybody who has read Suetonius’s Life of Tiberius, or is familiar with I, Claudius or Tinto Brass’s 1979 film Caligula, will know that Tiberius was notorious for the quantity, variety, and invention of his sexual perversions.[6] Several questions therefore clearly arise. What exactly was it about Tiberius that so fascinated Samuel Kirk? Do Samuel Kirk’s interests, together with James being named after his mother’s ‘love instructor’ (whatever one of those is), explain the voracious heterosexual appetite of the grandson?[7] But above all, what was Roddenberry thinking?[8]

I’d now like to examine some theoretical models. Greco-Roman elements (or indeed elements from any historical culture) can be used in SF in a number of different fashions. What follows is a rough framework for discussion, and is not meant to be a rigid categorization of use of Classical elements, but a broad heuristic tool. It is a model, and like most models, breaks down when subjected to rigorous examination. And I remain firmly in the camp of those who would rather break the model than break the evidence.

Straight retellings of mythological tales don’t really interest me for the purposes of this paper or for the larger work. These stories, such as Weight (2005), Jeanette Winterson’s recent reinterpretation of the Atlas myth, belong in the genre of fantasy rather than SF (where they do not, as David Gemmell’s bestselling Troy: Lord of the Silver Bow [2005] does, belong in historical fiction). Of course, the boundaries between SF and fantasy are frequently blurred, as anyone familiar with the works of China Miéville will know.[9] But I don’t have time to go into a detailed discussion of the definitions of both genres, which would in any case only be my definitions, and would not necessarily be recognized by everyone. Let me just say that, in my view, SF assumes a rational explanation to everything, no matter how fantastic it might seem or how pseudo-scientific that explanation might be, whilst fantasy assumes the irrational.[10] So, gods that are in fact super-powerful aliens are SF, gods that are gods belong in fantasy. And to this latter category we must consign, as well as retellings, new tales featuring mythological characters, such as the various different film and television series featuring Hercules, stories featuring new characters in a mythological past, such as Xena: Warrior Princess, tales of the fantastic set in historical antiquity, such as Gene Wolfe’s Latro in the Mist novels,[11] or even tales of the gods still walking amongst us, such as the episodes of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, ‘Yes Virginia, There is a Hercules’ (1998) and ‘For Those of You Just Joining Us’ (1999), where there is no science fictional element.[12]

What are the truly science fictional uses?


First is simple allusion, brief references to ancient history or literature that are not particularly central to the story being presented. This can manifest itself in titles, without carrying any deeper message. Stanley G. Weinbaum’s 1934 story ‘A Martian Odyssey’, that later gave its name to a collection of his stories from 1949, has little in common with Homer’s epic poem beyond both being about long journeys. The same appears to be true, at least on the surface, of Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey.[13]

Such title allusion can sometimes be not to the Graeco-Roman originals, but to other receptions, such as when Eando Binder (Earl and Otto Binder) entitled their short story ‘I, Robot’ (1939), referring to Robert Graves’s classic 1934 novel I, Claudius. (The title was later stolen by Isaac Asimov’s publisher for the first collection of Asimov’s own robot stories in 1950, much to Asimov’s annoyance, as he preferred Mind and Iron.[14])

Allusions may be in the SF work in the form of names, such as James Tiberius Kirk, already mentioned; or the use of terms like ‘imperium’, as in Keith Laumer’s Worlds of the Imperium, where the Imperium is the name of the principal state in the story.[15] In the latter case, the name of that state may have inspired first-edition cover artist Ed Valigursky to put Roman-style helmets on the figures illustrated.[16]

More substantially, classical allusion may be used to comment on the situation in which the characters find themselves. One such may be found in an episode of the sequel to Star Trek, Star Trek: The Next Generation, ‘Best of Both Worlds’ (1990). Faced with the Borg, an implacable enemy that may destroy the Federation, Captain Jean-Luc Picard muses on whether this was how the emperor Honorius felt in 410 ce as the Goths descended upon Rome. The purpose of the allusion is not always so immediately clear. In Ken MacLeod’s novel The Stone Canal (1996), two drunk men sit by the Forth Estuary and talk about how this is where Rome stopped (a reference in keeping with the theme of the Newcastle conference, ‘On the Frontier’). The immediate significance of this isn’t apparent on first reading, though there does seem to be something of a meme in recent British literary SF of scenes with two blokes drinking and talking about the Roman empire – there is a similar scene from Stephen Baxter’s Coalescent (2003), though there it’s more obviously relevant, as the story begins in early fourth century ce Roman Britain.[17] This meme may go back to the American author Philip K. Dick, whose characters, as the SF critic Andrew M. Butler has shown, often muse on Rome – even before Dick’s (presumably drug-induced) visions of being himself transported back to the late first century ce.[18]

However, MacLeod is a man with interests in classical antiquity – he is well-versed in the Epicureans and Stoics, and the works of Lucretius and Marcus Aurelius – so the reference in his case is unlikely to be gratuitous.[19] As one reads The Stone Canal further, it becomes clear that the novel is very interested in the limits of empire, and that may be why MacLeod has included this scene.[20]

These allusions make important points about popular understanding of antiquity. Classicists know that Honorius was actually in his capital Ravenna at the time of the sack of Rome, but the writers of Star Trek clearly don’t.[21] Ken MacLeod probably does know that to say that Rome stopped at the Antonine Wall is an oversimplification that ignores the Flavian, Antonine, and Severan penetrations further into Scotland; but his characters, two drunk blokes talking shite, can’t necessarily be expected to have that knowledge.

A step up from allusion is appropriation, the depiction of a society or individual which has in some method consciously modelled itself upon Greco-Roman (or other historical) precedents. For examples of this I turn once again (but for the last time) to Star Trek. A non-classical instance is the episode ‘A Piece of the Action’ (1968), in which a planetary culture is encountered that imitates Chicago mobsters of the 1930s. ‘Plato’s Stepchildren’ (1968) provides a classical example. This episode was controversial in the United States because it reportedly featured the first depiction of an interracial kiss on network television, and was banned in the UK, probably because of a sado-masochistic whipping scene that suggests Jim Kirk may know more about his grandfather’s fascination with Tiberius than he’s letting on. But my interest in it is because it features a society that has allegedly modelled itself upon Plato’s ideal state. However, I doubt Plato ever envisaged his philosopher kings as being in addition super-powerful psychokinetics, and I also doubt that the episode’s writer, Meyer Dolinsky, had read much Platonic philosophy – certainly there’s little sign of it in the episode.[22]

Allusion aside, appropriation is far and away the most plausible form of reception of the classics in SF, as it is simply imagined societies and individuals doing what real historical cultures, such as Napoleonic France or Fascist Italy, did. However, it is also one of the least common. Nazis seem to be much more popular for this sort of story (q.v. Star Trek, ‘Patterns of Force’, 1968).

More frequent is what I call, perhaps somewhat misleadingly (and not necessarily in honour of the 2005 Worldcon), interaction. This covers stories actually featuring the cultures or individuals (real or imagined) of the classical past, or some continuation of the same. The locus classicus for this sort of tale, of course, is the long-running BBC television series Doctor Who, a show based around the concept of travel in time and space. And indeed, the Doctor has on his travels visited Rome at the time of Nero, the Trojan War, and the pre-Hellenic Aegean in the age of Atlantis, and encountered displaced Roman soldiers and creatures of classical myth; and more such stories are to be found in spin-off novels and audio dramatizations.[23] But interaction can be seen elsewhere. There are two consecutive 1974 stories from ITV’s 1970s rival to Doctor Who, The Tomorrow People.[24] In the second, A Rift In Time, the Tomorrow People travel back to the Roman period (and inadvertently interfere in human history by bringing about the Industrial Revolution a thousand years too early, forcing them to go back and put it right). In the first, The Blue and the Green, more unusually, they find themselves up against entities which promoted the rivalry between factions in the Roman circus. For a literary example, Stephen Baxter’s Coalescent, already mentioned, concerns a secret society whose origins lie in fifth-century CE Rome. Or one might encounter a Princess who comes from among the Amazons, who have kept themselves sealed off from Man’s World for millennia (the origin of William Moulton Marston’s superheroine Wonder Woman).[25]

It is in these sorts of stories that I think one can start to see what SF can do that other forms of reception perhaps can’t as easily.

As an example, I take Helen of Troy. Casting Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world, is very difficult for a naturalistic stage, film or television production, since beauty is such a subjective concept. My favourite exemplar of this is Michael Cacoyannis’s film of Euripides’s Trojan Women (1970). Cacoyannis cast Irene Papas in the role, who was his wife, and therefore his idea of perfection in female beauty.[26] But she’s not mine, especially not when the same film features Vanessa Redgrave at her most radiant in the role of Andromache. When Doctor Who tackled the Trojan War, in a 1965 story called ‘The Myth Makers’, writer Donald Cotton solved this problem simply by never bringing Helen on screen, and thus her appearance always remains in the viewers’ imaginations. Now, it might well be said that any writer of historical fiction could pull the same trick, but I’m not sure that a non-SF treatment would think to exclude Helen in this way. More likely they would take the approach of Eric Shanower’s series of graphic novels Age of Bronze (1998 onwards), where Helen’s supreme beauty is a rumour spread by Odysseus to motivate the Greek army. This is a realistic approach, but for me lacks the elegance of Cotton’s trick. However, the trick is not unique to SF, as Hector Berlioz in the nineteenth century omitted Helen from the onstage cast of Les Troyens (1890), and it may well have been this which gave Cotton the idea.[27]

If the example of Helen is something that genres other than SF can do, then a convincing portrayal of the Greek gods is much more SF’s province. Nick Lowe has observed that almost all recent treatments of the Trojan War have excluded the direct involvement of the gods, either through eliminating them entirely or through segregating them from the principal human characters.[28] This is true not just of Wolfgang Petersen’s film Troy (2004), which was much criticised for this aspect (as well as others), but also of Shanower’s Age of Bronze and Gemmell’s Troy, and (as far as I am aware) of Lindsay Clarke’s The War at Troy (2004) and Valerio Massimo Manfredi’s The Talisman of Troy (2004).[29] According to Lowe, the only recent treatment of the Trojan War to successfully integrate the gods is Dan Simmons’s SF novel Ilium (2003; the sequel, Olympos appeared in 2005). There advanced technology takes the place of the divine power that seems to embarrass other writers interested in writing historical adventures; the gods’ Mount Olympos becomes Olympus Mons on Mars.[30]

Into this category I would also put stories dealing with alternate histories (or ‘counterfactuals’ for authors worried that they might otherwise be accused of writing SF), e.g. ones where Rome never fell.[31] The two characters in Baxter’s Coalescent are discussing what might have happened had the western Roman empire survived, and such a notion is at the heart of Robert Silverberg’s Roma Eterna (2003),[32] and of Sophia McDougall’s recent Romanitas (2005). In Silverberg’s collection of stories, the combined factors of the Jewish Exodus from Egypt ending in disaster, and a different emperor succeeding Septimius Severus, lead to the survival of the Roman empire past the twentieth century.

Alternate history, to my mind, makes us ask new questions of the ancient world. Classicists often look at, for instance, how the Roman empire worked, but less often, I feel, at questions of whether the Roman empire was a good thing or not. Would we want it to survive? Would we want to live in a state which, though it brought order and peace, was a slave-owning military dictatorship where freedom to criticize the government was severely limited? Looking at alternate histories prompt us to ask such questions, even if they were not always in the original authors’ minds.

Sometimes the connection between alternate history and scholarship can be even closer, and alternate history can take on the form of academic discourse, as in Neville Morley’s brilliant paper to the 1999 Classical Association Conference: ‘Trajan’s Engines’, a scholarly examination of technological feats the Romans never actually achieved.[33] So well done is this that some were fooled, and it still crops up in some online bibliographies of writing on Trajan.

My fourth category, borrowing, is much like appropriation, in that elements of classical antiquity are used to build an imagined society. The difference is that in this case only the author and audience are aware of the origins of features of the imagined culture    the members of the culture themselves are not, and cannot be, for there is no connection between them and Earth’s antiquity.

Sometimes this borrowing can be as minor as simply the use of nomenclature. Greek and Latin can be a reliable source of names that are sufficiently unfamiliar to a readership to be credibly alien, yet retain the ring of something that might actually be spoken, rather than something that an author has made up off the top of their head. This is especially the case where a name does not conjure a particular individual in the popular imagination.[34] M. John Harrison takes the Roman name of Wroxeter, Viriconium, for a fictional city at the centre of a sequence of what are strictly speaking fantasy stories, but ones with a strong SF undercurrent.[35] In the paper that formed the other part of the panel in which the current paper was presented, Amanda Potter commented on the use of names like Apollo, Athena, and Cassiopeia in Battlestar Galactica;[36] I would also note the use in that series of the Zodiac to denote the Twelve Human Colonies.

Another example came be drawn from the Planet of the Apes franchise. There the characters played by Roddy McDowall are called ‘Cornelius’ in Planet of the Apes (1968), Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970) – though there the character was played by David Watson – and Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971), ‘Caesar’ in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972) and Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973), and ‘Galen’ in the Planet of the Apes television series (1974). This is, it must be admitted, a slightly problematic case. Caesar appears in two films that take place in what was then the near future, when there would still presumably be access to Roman history. Though in the others knowledge of human history has been lost by the apes, it remains possible that some names might survive. However, this example does illustrate the way genuine Latin names can then be supplemented by ones with a pseudo-Latin feel, such as the orang-utan Dr Zaius in Planet… and Beneath…[37]

For an example where Classical sources have been used to help imagine an entire culture that can have no connection with those sources, we can go a long, long time ago to a galaxy far, far away. I am, of course, talking about Mike Butterworth and Don Lawrence’s classic comic, The Trigan Empire, which has been described by Neil Gaiman as ‘the story of something a lot like an SF Roman Empire on a distant planet’.[38] It is in fact a great deal more, and Butterworth and Lawrence used popular views of the Greeks, Mongols, and Saharan nomads to populate the planet of Elekton. But it is the SF Augustus, Trigo himself, and the Roman trappings of his empire, that are always remembered.

It is also the case that George Lucas’s Star Wars films (commencing in 1977 with Star Wars) take much of their political terminology (Republic, Empire, Senate, etc.) from Rome, and even the broad outline of the galaxy’s political history (the change from Republic to Empire). Some of this has come via the influential Foundation novels of Isaac Asimov, which helped establish the popular space opera trope of the Galactic Empire, and themselves draw upon two classically-related sources, Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776-1788) and Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War.[39] But not all of the Roman elements in Lucas’s work have come from Asimov. Lucas may not have consulted any classical sources or works on Roman history himself, but he is clearly familiar with cinematic interpretations of Rome’s past.[40]

This is shown if we move from the sublime to the ridiculous, which in this case means moving from Episodes IV-VI of the Star Wars series to the more recently made Episodes I-III.[41] In The Phantom Menace (1999), not only does the capital of the planet of Naboo draw its appearance partly from many reconstructions of ancient Rome, as well as being reminiscent of the modern city (and other cities such as Istanbul), but a triumphal sequence at the end is stolen shot-for-shot from Commodus’ arrival in Rome from Anthony Mann’s Fall of the Roman Empire (1964).[42]

This sort of reception in SF through a previous reception can also be seen in the Doctor Who story The Robots of Death (1976). The robot faces in that story derive ultimately from a Greek comic mask (itself presumably influenced by the archaic kouros).[43] But the production designer for Doctor Who has gone not to Greek originals, but to the appropriation of Greek objects by the Art Deco movement.

My next category is one step up from borrowingstealing. Here not just elements of the background or foreground have been taken from an ancient culture, but the story itself derives from a classical original. This approach is, of course, not unique to SF. Two non-SF examples are James Joyce’s Ulysses (1922), and the Coen brothers’ movie O Brother Where Art Thou? (2000), both of which take Homer’s Odyssey as their source text (though both depart from it considerably).[44]

In SF there is Brian Stableford’s Dies Irae trilogy (all 1971), which draws heavily upon the Iliad in its first volume and upon the Odyssey in its second. The Odyssey is again used in R.A. Lafferty’s novel Space Chantey (1968).[45] Robert Silverberg’s The Man in the Maze (1969) is a retelling of Sophocles’ play Philoctetes, even retaining Lemnos as the name of the planet to which his Philoctetes-equivalent has been exiled.

The use of the term ‘stealing’ is not necessarily meant to pass any judgement on the merit of works that take this approach. Some, such as Joyce’s novel, are high art. However, sometimes stealing (or indeed borrowing) seems to encourage a laziness in writing, a sense that all the work has already been done for the writer, so they needn’t bother. There are two Doctor Who stories from the late 1970s that exemplify this. One, ‘Underworld’ (1978), is a reworking of the Jason and the Argonauts myth; the other, ‘The Horns of Nimon’ (1979-1980), retells Theseus’s adventure in the Cretan Labyrinth. Neither is very good, and through the use of anagrams for names (for instance, Herick and Tala for Heracles and Atalanta in the first, and Aneth and Skonnos for Athens and Knossos in the second) come close to insulting the intelligence.[46] (I said earlier that reception studies allows one to revisit favourite works of art and media, but sometimes you have to watch ‘The Horns of Nimon’ again.)

At Nick Lowe’s suggestion, I have added a final category, ghosting. This covers stories where no direct influence of classical originals can be established, but where nevertheless there are strong hints of themes derived from antiquity. Once could in this category talk of the possible influence of the Jason myth upon 2001 – both are stories in which an adventurer goes beyond the limits of the known universe in order to recover wondrous artefacts. However, this category is inherently nebulous, and such connections can be difficult to establish. Moreover, one can start to see them everywhere, especially since, as most recently demonstrated by Simon Goldhill, western civilization is deeply rooted in the classics.[47]

That concludes my tentative framework. It oversimplifies, breaks down when applied to examples that cross the boundaries, and may be of little use to anyone else – but I find it useful for myself and for my work.

Given western civilization’s roots in the classics, it is inevitable that classical references will be found throughout SF, and no study can hope to cover them all. But I believe that looking at how the two areas interact can be valuable for both. For classics and SF are both areas that can be used to put a comforting distance between subject and audience.[48] It can be easier to comment on modern imperialism if you take as your background the Peloponnesian War or the far future.

It’s worth noting the differences, though. Edith Hall has pointed out to me that Joyce in particular (and others) uses the classics as a peg of familiarity in order to allow himself to write a more avant-garde literary work. Derek Walcott does something similar when he uses the Odyssey for his ambitious poem Omeros (1990). SF, on the other hand, tends not to do this, as the genre can often be conservative in terms of literary form, and is already attempting to get its readership to buy into novel ideas, and cannot always afford to load novel structure upon that.

Nevertheless, classics will continue to be received in science fiction[49] – and indeed my next reading matter is Stephen Baxter’s new novel Emperor (2006).[50]
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Films, Television, and Audio
2001: A Space Odyssey. 1968. Dir. Stanley Kubrick, scr. Stanley Kubrick & Arthur C. Clarke. Performed by Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood. USA/UK: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
Battle for the Planet of the Apes. 1973. Dir. J. Lee Thompson, scr. John Willaim Corrington & Joyce Hooper Corrington. Performed by Roddy McDowall, Claude Akins, and Natalie Trundy. USA: APJAC Productions.
Battlestar Galactica. 1978. TV. Prod. Glen A. Larson. Performed by Lorne Greene, Richard Hatch, and Dirk Benedict. USA: Glen A. Larson Productions.
Battlestar Galactica. 2003-2009. TV. Developed by Ronald D. Moore. Performed by Edward James Olmos and Mary McDonnell. USA: David Eick Productions and R&D TV.
Ben-Hur. 1959. Dir. William Wyler, scr. Karl Tunberg. Performed by Charlton Heston and Jack Hawkins. USA: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
Beneath the Planet of the Apes. 1970. Dir. Ted Post, scr. Paul Dehn. Performed by James Franciscus, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans, and Linda Harrison. USA: APJAC Productions.
Caligula. 1979. Dir. Tinto Brass, scr. Gore Vidal. Performed by Malcolm McDowell. Penthouse Films International.
Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. 1972. Dir. J. Lee Thompson, scr. Paul Dehn. Performed by Roddy McDowall, Don Murray, and Ricardo Montalban. USA: APJAC Productions.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. 2014. Dir. Matt Reeves. Performed by Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, and Andy Serkis. USA: Chernin Entertainment.
Doctor Who. 1963-1989, 2005-. TV, UK: BBC.
Doctor Who, ‘The Romans’. 1964. TV. Dir. Christopher Barry, scr. Dennis Spooner. Performed by William Hartnell. UK: BBC.
Doctor Who, ‘The Myth Makers’. 1965. TV. Dir. Michael Leeston-Smith, scr. Donald Cotton. Performed by William Hartnell. UK: BBC.
Doctor Who, ‘The Mind Robber’. 1968. TV. Dir. David Maloney, scr. Peter Ling. Performed by Patrick Troughton. UK: BBC.
Doctor Who, ‘The War Games’. 1969. TV. Dir. David Maloney, scr. Terrance Dicks & Malcolm Hulke. Performed by Patrick Troughton. UK: BBC.
Bernard, Paul (dir.). 1972. Doctor Who,The Time Monster’. 1972. TV. Dir. Paul Bernard, scr. Robert Sloman. Performed by Jon Pertwee. UK: BBC.
Doctor Who, ‘The Robots of Death’. 1976. TV. Dir Michael E. Briant, scr. Chris Boucher. Performed by Tom Baker. UK: BBC.
Doctor Who, ‘Underworld’. 1978. TV. Dir. Norman Stewart, scr. Bob Baker & Dave Martin. Performed by Tom Baker. UK: BBC.
Doctor Who, ‘The Horns of Nimon’. 1979-1980. TV. Dir. Kenny McBain, scr. Anthony Read. Performed by Tom Baker. UK: BBC.
Doctor Who,The Council of Nicaea’. 2005. Audio. Dir Gary Russell, scr. Caroline Symcox. Performed by Peter Davison. Big Finish.
Escape from the Planet of the Apes. 1971. Dir. Don Taylor, scr. Paul Dehn. Performed by Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, and Bradford Dillman. USA: APJAC Productions.
Gladiator. 2000. Dir. Ridley Scott, scr. David Franzoni and John Logan and William Nicholson. Performed by Russell Crowe. USA/UK: Scott Free Productions.
Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, ‘Yes Virginia, There is a Hercules’. 1998. TV. Dir. Christopher Graves, scr. Alex Kurtzman & Roberto Orci. Performed by Kevin Sorbo. USA/New Zealand: Renaissance Pictures.
Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, ‘For Those of You Just Joining Us’. 1999. TV. Dir. Bruce Campbell, scr. Alex Kurtzman & Roberto Orci. Performed by Kevin Sorbo. USA/New Zealand: Renaissance Pictures.
I Claudius. 1976. TV. Dir. Herbert Wise, scr. Jack Pulman. Performed by Derek Jacobi. UK: BBC.
The Last Legion. 2007. Dir. Doug Lefler, scr. Jez Butterworth & Tom Butterworth. Performed by Colin Firth, Ben Kingsley, and Aishwarya Rai. UK/Italy/France/Tunisia: Dino De Laurentiis Company.
The Lieutenant. 1963-1964. Prod. Gene Roddenberry. Performed by Gary Lockwood, Robert Vaughn, and John Milford. USA: MGM Television.
O Brother Where Art Thou? 2000. Dir. & scr. Joel Coen & Ethan Coen. Performed by George Clooney, John Tuturro, Tim Blake Nelson, and John Goodman. USA: Touchstone Pictures.
Planet of the Apes. 1968. Dir. Franklin J. Schaffner, scr. Michael Wilson and Rod Serling. Performed by Charlton Heston. USA: APJAC Productions.
Planet of the Apes. 1974. TV. Prod. Stan Hough. Performed by Roddy McDowall, Ron Harper, James Naughton, and Mark Lenard. USA: CBS.
Planet of the Apes. 2001. Dir. Tim Burton, scr. William Broyles, Jr., and Lawrence Konner & Mark Rosenthal. Performed by Mark Wahlberg. USA: The Zanuck Company.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes. 2011. Dir. Rupert Wyatt, scr. Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver. Performed by James Franco, Andy Serkis, and Freida Pinto. USA: Chernin Entertainment.
The Robe. 1953. Dir. Henry Koster, scr. Philip Dunne and Albert Maltz Performed by Richard Burton, Jean Simmons, Victor Mature, and Michael Rennie. USA: 20th Century Fox.
Salome. 1953. Dir. William Dieterle, scr. Harry Kleiner. Performed by Rita Hayworth and Stewart Granger. USA: Columbia Pictures.
Star Trek, ‘Where No Man Has Gone Before’. 1966. TV. Dir. James Goldstone, scr. Samuel A. Peeples. Performed by William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy. USA: Desilu Productions.
Star Trek, ‘Who Mourns for Adonais?’ 1967. TV. Dir. Marc Daniels, scr. Gilbert Ralston. Performed by William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and DeForrest Kelley. USA: Desilu Productions.
Star Trek, ‘A Piece of the Action’. 1968. TV. Dir. James Komack, scr. David P. Harmon and Gene L. Coon. Performed by William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and DeForrest Kelley. USA: Desilu Productions.
McEveety, Vincent. 1968. Star Trek, ‘Patterns of Force’. 1968. TV. Dir. Vincent McEveety, scr. John Meredyth Lucas. Performed by William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and DeForrest Kelley. USA: Desilu Productions.
Star Trek, ‘Plato’s Stepchildren’. 1968. TV. Dir. David Alexander, scr. Meyer Dolinsky. Performed by William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and DeForrest Kelley. USA: Desilu Productions.
Star Trek, ‘Bem’. 1974. TV. Dir. Bill Reed, scr. David Gerrold. Performed by William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and DeForrest Kelley. USA: Filmation.
Star Trek: The Motion Picture. 1979. Dir. Robert Wise, scr. Harold Livingston. Performed by William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and DeForest Kelley. USA: Paramount Pictures.
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. 1991. Dir. Nicholas Meyer, scr. Nicholas Meyer & Denny Martin Flinn. Performed by William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and DeForest Kelley. USA: Paramount Pictures.
Star Trek: The Next Generation, ‘The Best of Both Worlds, Part 1’. 1990. TV. Dir, Cliff Bole, scr. Michael Piller. Performed by Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, and Brent Spiner. USA: Paramount Domestic Television.
Star Wars. 1977. Dir. & scr. George Lucas. Performed by Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher. USA: Lucasfilm.
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. 1980. Dir. Irvin Kershner, scr. Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan. Performed by Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher. USA: Lucasfilm.
Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. 1983. Dir Richard Marquand, scr. Lawrence Kasdan and George Lucas. Performed by Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher. USA: Lucasfilm.
Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. 1999. Dir. & scr. George Lucas. Performed by Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd, and Ian McDiarmid. USA: Lucasfilm.
Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones. 2001. Dir. George Lucas, scr. George Lucas and Jonathan Hales. Performed by Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, and Hayden Christensen. USA: Lucasfilm.
Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith. 2005. Dir. & scr. George Lucas. Performed by Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, and Hayden Christensen. USA: Lucasfilm.
The Tomorrow People, ‘The Blue and the Green’. 1974. TV. Dir. & scr. Roger Price. Performed by Elizabeth Adare, Nicholas Young, and Peter Vaughan-Clarke. UK: Thames Television.
The Tomorrow People, ‘A Rift in Time’. 1974. TV. Dir Darrol Blake, scr. Roger Price. Performed by Elizabeth Adare, Nicholas Young, and Peter Vaughan-Clarke. UK: Thames Television.
The Trojan Women. 1970. Dir. & scr. Michael Cacoyannis. Performed by Katherine Hepburn and Vanessa Redgrave. UK/USA/Greece: Josef Shaftel Productions.
Troy. 2004. Dir. Wolfgang Petersen, scr. David Benioff. Performed by Brad Pitt, Eric Bana, and Orlando Bloom. USA/Malta: Helena Productions & Plan B Entertainment.
Troy: Fall of a City. 2018. TV. Created by David Farr. Performed by Louis Hunter, Christiaan Schoombie, and Jonas Armstrong. UK/USA: BBC/Netflix.
War for the Planet of the Apes. Dir. Matt Reeves, scr. Mark Bomback & Matt Reeves. Performed by Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, and Steve Zahn. USA: Chernin Entertainment and TSG Entertainment.
Xena: Warrior Princess. 1995-2001. Prod. Robert Tapert & Sam Raimi. Performed by Lucy Lawless. USA/New Zealand: Renaissance Pictures.

Secondary scholarship
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Bondanella, Peter. 1987. The Eternal City: Roman Images in the Modern World (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press).
Butler, Andrew M. 2007. The Pocket Essential Philip K. Dick. Revised ed. (Harpenden: Pocket Essentials).
Drew, Brian, 2014. ‘Exclusive: David Gerrold Talks Star Trek’s Legacy & Humor + Relationships w/ Roddenberry & Coon + More’,,, 8 September 2014. Accessed 18 May 2018.
Gaiman, Neil. 2003. ‘Deja Late. Also Some Nudity’, Neil Gaiman: Journal, 30 December 2003. Accessed 18 May 2018.
Gaiman, Neil. 2005. ‘On Viriconium: Some Notes Toward an Introduction’, in Viriconium, by M. John Harrison (New York: Bantam Spectra), xi-xiv.
Gibbon, Edward. 1776-1788. The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (London: Strahan & Cadell).
Goldhill, Simon. 2004. Love, Sex & Tragedy: How the Ancient World Shapes Our Lives (London: John Murray).
Graves, Robert (trans.). 2007 [1957]. Suetonius: The Twelve Caesars. Revised ed. (London: Penguin Classics).
Hammond, Martin (trans.). 2009. Thucydides: The Peloponnesian War (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
Hanley, Tim. 2014. Wonder Woman Unbound: The Curious History of the World’s Most Famous Heroine (Chicago: Chicago Review Press).
Hardwick, Lorna. 2003. Reception Studies (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
Keen, Tony. 2005. ‘Troy: A Reflection’, Accessed 18 May 2018.
Keen, Tony. 2006a. ‘The ‘T’ Stands for Tiberius: Models and Methodologies of Classical Reception in Science Fiction’, Memorabilia Antonina, 10 April 2006. Accessed 18 May 2018.
Keen, Tony. 2006b. ‘Emperor by Stephen Baxter’, Vector: The Critical Journal of the British Science Fiction Association 250: 19-20.
Keen, Tony. 2006c. ‘Is 2001 an Odyssey or an Argonautica?’ ‘Concussion’, British National Science Fiction Convention, Glasgow, 16 April 2006. (Unpublished.)
Keen, Tony. 2007a. ‘Soldier of Sidon by Gene Wolfe’, Strange Horizons, 2 November 2007. Accessed 18 May 2018.
Keen, Tony. 2007b. ‘A Secret Psychohistory: Appropriating Gibbon in Asimov’s Foundation’, ‘Science Fiction and the Canon’, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, 24 March 2007. (Unpublished.)
Keen, Tony. 2010. ‘It’s about Tempus: Greece and Rome in “Classic” Doctor Who’, in Space and Time: Essays on Visions of History in Science Fiction and Fantasy Television, edited by David C. Wright, Jr., and Allan W. Austin (Jefferson, NC: McFarland), 100-115.
Keen, Tony. 2011. ‘Putting the Past into the Future: The Time’s Tapestry Sequence’, Vector: The Critical Journal of the British Science Fiction Association 265: 29-33.
Keen, Tony. 2012. ‘I, Sidious: Historical Dictators and Senator Palpatine’s Rise to Power’, in Star Wars and History, edited by Nancy R. Reagin and Janice Liedl (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley) 125-149.
Keen, Tony. 2015. ‘Mr. Lucian in Suburbia: Links between the True History and The First Men in the Moon’, in Classical Traditions in Science Fiction, edited by Brett M. Rogers and Benjamin Eldon Stevens, 105-120. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Keen, Tony, 2018. ‘Homer Beyond the Stars: 2001 as a Reception of the Odyssey?’ Classical Association Annual Conference, University of Leicester, 7 April 2018. (Unpublished.)
Lewis, David K. 1973. Counterfactuals. Oxford: Blackwell.
Lowe, Nick. 2005. ‘Little Iliads: Dramatising Homer from Rhesus to Troy’, Greenwood Theatre, London, 10 February 2005. (Unpublished.)
MacLeod, Ken. 2006. ‘Where I Get My Other Ideas From’, The Early Days of a Better Nation, 9 March 2006. 29 April 2018.
Martindale, Charles A. 2005. ‘Reception and the Classics of the Future’, CUCD Bulletin 34.
Martindale, Charles A. 2006. ‘Introduction: Thinking through Reception’, In Classics and the Uses of Reception, edited by Charles Martindale and Richard F. Thomas, 1-13. Oxford: Blackwell.
Martindale, Charles A. 2013. ‘Reception – A New Humanism? Receptivity, Pedagogy, the Transhistorical’, Classical Receptions Journal 5: 169-183.
Morley, Neville. 2000. ‘Trajan’s Engines’, Greece and Rome n.s. 47: 197-210.
Potter, Amanda. 2006. ‘Pandora and the Pythia: Classics Meets 9/11 in the Current US TV Series Battlestar Galactica’, Classical Association Annual Conference, University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, April 2006. (Unpublished.)
Potter, Amanda. 2018. ‘Greek Myth in the Whoniverse’, In Ancient Greece on British Television, edited by Fiona Hobden and Amanda Wrigley, 168-186. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
Rinzler, Jonathan W. 2007. The Making of Star Wars: The Definitive Story Behind the Original Film. London: Ebury Press.
Rogers, Brett M. 2015. ‘Hybrids and Homecomings in the Odyssey and Alien Resurrection’, In Classical Traditions in Science Fiction, edited by Brett M. Rogers and Benjamin Eldon Stevens, 217-242. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Rogers, Brett M., and Stevens, Benjamin Eldon (eds). 2018. Once and Future Antiquities in Science Fiction and Fantasy (London: Bloomsbury) (forthcoming).
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Shatner, William. 1979, Shatner: Where No Man. The Authorized Biography of William Shatner. New York: Grosset and Dunlap.
Silverman, David S. 2015. ‘Always Bring Phasers to an Animated Canon Fight: Saturday Morning’s Animated Trek Adventures’, In Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek: The Original Cast Adventures, edited by Douglas Brode and Shea T. Brode, 153-164. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow.
Stableford, Brian. 1999 [1993]. ‘Proto Science Fiction’, In The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, edited by John Clute and Peter Nichols, 965-967. Corrected edition. London: Orbit Books.
Stableford, Brian. 2016. ‘Proto SF’, The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, 22 January 2016. Accessed 28 April 2018. 2003. ‘How do the Star Trek Novels and Comic Books fit into the Star Trek Universe? What is Considered Star Trek ‘Canon’?’ 7 October 2003. Accessed 29 April 2018.
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[1]     [2018: Subsequently published in Martindale 2005 and 2006: 11, and defended in Martindale 2013: 176-177.  For critiques, see Winkler 2009: 12-13, and Bakogianni 2017: 481.]
[2]     Technically not until mentioned on-screen in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991). [2018: On canon in the Star Trek universe, see 2003, and Silverman 2015: 159.]
[3]     [2018: Gerrold has always claimed it was his idea, come up with at a Star Trek convention in 1973. However, his story has changed over the years. Originally he claimed that he took inspiration from the BBC series I Claudius (1976); but that was first broadcast two years after ‘Bem’. He later said that he had been reading a book on Roman history. An added factor is that the protagonist of an earlier Roddenberry series, The Lieutenant (1963-1964), also had the middle name ‘Tiberius’, something Gerrold claims to have been unaware of until 2014. Forty years on, whose idea the name actually was is probably irrecoverable. See Tescar n.d., Drew 2014, and Silverman 2015: 159, 163 n. 79. Silverman reports a third version of the story, where Gerrold got the name from reading Robert Graves’ novel I, Claudius (1934); this is probably a conflation of the first and second versions.]
[4]     [2018: This is probably untrue. Persistent rumour suggested that Foster, rather than Roddenberry, wrote the novelization. However, although Foster wrote the original story for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and there is a precedent for this practice – in that Foster had ghost-written the novelization of Star Wars, which was published as by George Lucas (1976) – Foster denies writing the Star Trek: TMP novelization, and David G. Hartwell, who edited the book, insists that it was written by Roddenberry; Ayers 2006: 236.]
[5]     Roddenberry 1979: 5.
[6]     [2018: Suetonius’ Life of Tiberius is available, e.g. in Graves 2007 [1954]: 104-144.]
[7]     Writers of ‘slash’ fanfiction featuring the unspoken love between Kirk and Spock (of whose work Roddenberry was presumably aware) might take such a statement as evidence that they were right all along. [2018: On Kirk/Spock, see Woledge 2005. Roddenberry himself responded positively to an interview question that compared the relationship between Kirk and Spock to that between Alexander and Hephaestion; see Shatner 1979: 147-148.]
[8]     [2018: It is worth noting that there is a tradition in Hollywood movies that is far more sympathetic towards Tiberius than that in Suetonius or Robert Graves; this can be seen in The Robe (dir. Koster, 1953), Salome (dir. Dieterle, 1953), and Ben-Hur (dir. Wyler, 1959), and more recently in The Last Legion (dir. Lefler, 2007).]
[9]     [2018: E.g. Perdido Street Station (2000).]
[10]    [2018: I expand on this definition in Keen 2015a: 110.]
[11]    Soldier of the Mist (1986) and Soldier of Arete (1986), both set in the early fifth century BCE. [2018: Subsequently followed by Soldier of Sidon (2007), on which see Keen 2007a. See also Tomasso 2018.]
[12]    Where there is a science fictional element, however, such as in the Star Trek episode ‘Who Mourns for Adonais?’ (dir. Daniels, 1967), or the use of gods in superhero comics, which are inherently science fictional milieus, then, of course, I am interested. [2018: As discussed in the new chapter, I am now no longer as dismissive of fantasy as I was. And superhero comics blend the science fictional and the fantastic in an indiscriminate fashion.]
[13]    I discuss deeper Homeric themes in 2001 in Keen 2006c [2018: See now Rogers 2015: 217-222, and Keen 2018].
[14]    I agree with the publisher – I, Robot is a much better title. [2018: See the introduction to Asimov and Greenberg 1979.]
[15]    Since classical names have been given to the planets, constellations and many stars, such names abound in those sections of SF that deal with space exploration. Similarly, Greek and Latin are hardwired into the language of science, and therefore into the language of science fiction. But one cannot cover these in detail as classical receptions in their own right – that way madness lies.
[16]    It should be noted that Laumer gives a fin de siècle/Edwardian feel to his descriptions of the Imperium, and Valigursky may actually be referencing c. 1900 imitations of Roman attire. Incidentally, Damon Knight’s cover quotation on the 1962 edition, ‘A major new idea in time travel …’, is quite curious, as the novel contains no time travel whatsoever. [2018: Though it is concerned with alternate time lines. Another Laumer novel with classical resonances is Galactic Odyssey (1967).]
[17]    Coalescent: 372-373.
[18]    Butler 2007.
[19]    As revealed in MacLeod 2006, his Guest of Honour speech to the SF convention Boskone.
[20]    [2018: In conversation and personal correspondence, MacLeod has confirmed that this is indeed the case, with one of the characters, Reid, having a respect for the British empire, while the other, Wilde, is happy to see empires fall. The allusion is linked to the basic premises that underlie MacLeod’s Fall Revolution quartet, of which The Stone Canal is the second part: that the fall of capitalism and its replacement by socialism will resemble the passage from the Roman empire into the early medieval period, and that the collapse of the Soviet empire presages that of the USA. (The other novels in the quartet are The Star Fraction, 1995, The Cassini Division, 1998, and The Sky Road, 1998.) My thanks to Ken MacLeod for responding to my queries.]
[21]    [2018: Or do not care.]
[22]    Rather more knowledge of Plato is shown in the 1972 Doctor Who story ‘The Time Monster’ (dir. Bernard, 1972), where minor characters have the names of Platonic dialogues. [2018: See on this now Keen (2010: 107-108).]
[23]    The stories referred to are ‘The Romans’ (dir. Barry, 1964), ‘The Myth Makers’ (dir. Leeston-Smith, 1965), ‘The Time Monster’ (dir. Bernard, 1972), ‘The War Games’ (dir. Maloney, 1969), and ‘The Mind Robber’ (dir. Maloney, 1968). [2018: On these, see now Keen 2010: 100-106, and Potter 2018, 169-175.] For relevant spin-off stories, see, e.g. Christopher Bulis’s novel State of Change (1994), set around the time of Cleopatra, or the Big Finish audio story The Council of Nicaea (2005).
[24]    [2018: In both, the screenplay is by the show’s creator Roger Price.]
[25]    [2018: Marston and Peter 2016. The first Wonder Woman comics were published in 1942. On Wonder Woman, see Sandifer 2013 and Hanley 2014.]
[26]    [2018: It is not true that Cacoyannis was married to Papas, and I am not sure why I thought it was. That Papas represented a certain type of ideal beauty to Cacoyannis, however, I still believe.]
[27]    [2018: Helen has to be made peripheral for this device to work, not easy if telling the story from her departure with Paris onwards.]
[28]    In a paper (Lowe 2005) delivered immediately prior to a performance of the pseudo-Euripidean Rhesus.
[29]    For my own views on the relationship between Troy and Greek myth, see Keen 2005. Manfredi was first published in Italian in 1994.
[30]    [2018: Note now, however, Troy: Fall of a City (dir. Farr, 2018), which does include the gods, whilst at the same time telling the whole cycle.]
[31]    [2018: On counterfactuals, see Lewis 1973.]
[32]    Sic. I assume the corruption of the Latin is a publisher’s doing rather than Silverberg’s.
[33]    Published as Morley 2000.
[34]    I owe this observation to Dr Eleanor OKell.
[35]    The sequence began with The Pastel City (1971). The stories are collected in Viriconium (2000, reissued in 2005 with an introduction by Neil Gaiman).
[36]    Potter 2006.
[37]    The Roman references are continued in Tim Burton’s ‘re-imagining’ of Planet of the Apes (2001), where the ape city is ruled by a Senate. [2018: And also in Rise of the Planet of the Apes (dir. Wyatt, 2011), Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (dir. Reeves, 2014), and War for the Planet of the Apes (dir. Reeves, 2017), where the name ‘Caesar’ is again used.]
[38]    Gaiman 2003. [2018: The series ran from 1965 to 1982, with other artists in the later years. The Lawrence-drawn stories are collected in Butterworth and Lawrence 2004a-b, 2005a-b, 2006a-c, 2007a-b, and 2008a-c.]
[39]    Asimov’s novels: Foundation (1951), fixup of stories originally published in Astounding Science Fiction (1942-1944); Foundation and Empire (1952), stories in ASF (1945); and Second Foundation (1953), stories in ASF (1945). Gibbon is published 1776-1789. For the classical roots of the Star Wars series, see Winkler 2001. [2018: And see now Keen 2012. For Thucydides, see Hammond 2009.]
[40]    [2018: See Bondanella 1973: 233-237.]
[41]    [2018: The comment about moving from the sublime to the ridiculous is unscholarly and I would not now endorse it.]
[42]    It is known that during the making of Star Wars, before the special effects sequences had been filmed, Lucas used footage from WWII air combat films cut with what he had shot to illustrate how the final film would appear [2018: see Rinzler 2007: 25]. I suspect the same technique was used for the triumphal scene in Phantom Menace, with Lucas recutting Mann’s film to show Industrial Light and Magic what he wanted from this CGI sequence.
[43]    This observation is also owed to Eleanor OKell.
[44]    One could also mention poetic reworkings of classical authors, such as the anthology After Ovid (Hofmann and Lasdun 1995) or Maureen Almond’s transpositions of Horace into twentieth century Teesside (2004).
[45]    Stableford (1999 [1993]: 966) notes at least five SF versions of the Odyssey. [2018: See now Stableford 2016.]
[46]    Compare also Asimov’s transparent lifting of Belisarius as ‘Bel Riose’ in Foundation and Empire (1952). [2018: Bel Riose is discussed in Keen 2007B. On ‘Underworld’ and ‘Horns of Nimon’, see now Keen 2010: 108-110, and Potter 2018: 175-178.]
[47]    Goldhill 2004.
[48]    For the use of Classics in this way, see Hardwick 2003: esp. 98-113.
[49]    Not least because of those SF and fantasy writers who have Classical backgrounds - e.g. Adam Roberts has a degree in English and Classics (, accessed 18 May 2018),  Juliet McKenna one in Classics (, accessed 18 May 2018), and Harry Turtledove wrote a Ph.D. in Byzantine history (Turtledove 1977).
[50]    [2018: Baxter’s novel is reviewed and discussed in Keen 2006b and 2011a.]
[51]    My thanks to Edward James for providing pagination in old SF journals,