To boldly go….

 This is my entry into Shafali’s Story telling carnival;

To boldly go…..


The director’s voice carried sharply over the clatter of the set and the cast seemed to slump at the word.

OK, everyone, take five. It’s looking good!”

Most of the cast shuffled off in search of doughnuts, coffee and in at least one case, a double vodka, but Jemima stayed put, happily ensconced in the captain’s chair. Unwilling to leave a place it had taken her so long to reach, even for a much needed break, she shifted her posture and let her body relax. Her role required that she sit with ramrod straightness but the rigid plastic moulding of the chair meant her tail-bone would be rubbed raw if she didn’t shift a little. She considered asking for a cushion but it wasn’t something her character would use, so perhaps it would be refused.

It had taken so long to get here, in so many ways. So many miles, so many bitter disappointments and let-downs too. She would have graduated top of her class at stage school were it not for the prejudice of the tutors.

To put it bluntly my dear,” said the principal. “For a woman, actual acting ability makes no odds at this age. It’s all about looks. And yours, well, what can I say?”

She had hidden her tears and soldiered onwards, taking on role after role that typecast her as ugly and evil. Often the only work she could find was as an extra in horror movies. Landing her first speaking part (and in “Lord of the Rings”, too) was a triumph; but it was tempered by the bitterness of knowing she’d so wanted to play an Elf, or a Hobbit at the least. The make-up girl had carelessly remarked she liked “doing” Jemima as she didn’t need quite so much make up or prosthetics to fit her for her role as Orc as many of the others did.

Of course it was only a matter of time before she moved into sci-fi. The beautiful bimbos who couldn’t act their way out of a paper bag would have brief and scantily clad roles and then vanished once their looks lost their freshness. But character actors like herself flourished as they just improved with age and experience. In this film, her character had sufficient screen time and lines to count as a major character and for the first time her name would be up their in the credits as Co-star. Hmmm….Co-staring Jemima Riddick. It sounded great to be up there with the big names and not lost in the small print at the tail end of the credits.

The make-up was itching and her prosthetic ears were burning her real ones; the glue was sometimes a serious irritant to sensitive skins like hers. But that was a small price to pay. Other roles had required that she shave her head and she’d been glad to be able to have her own hair and not even a wig for this one.

To tell the truth, she was amused at once again playing an evil villain. It was hysterically funny that human beings still equated beauty with goodness and ugliness with evil, or it might have been had not this misconception led to tragedy on grand scales. The witch hunts for example had claimed vast numbers of females whose only crime was to be old and unattractive. She was so glad she had not been here then; there had been progress of sorts in the intervening centuries.

In her last report she’d said so too, but had also added that it was still so far from the kind of world her people would ever wish to work with.

Perhaps another five or so hundred years,” she’d written at the end.

In the meantime, she’d grown rather fond of this barbarous little planet and had elected to stay a little longer and see it progress. Her acting career was really starting to blossom and unlike her colleagues who’d worked here during the witch-hunt era she faced nothing worse that ridicule and obscurity if she failed completely.

One day these naked apes would grow up enough to understand that what was inside a person was what mattered, not the exterior, and in the meantime she intended to enjoy the many innocent pleasures this little planet offered. That included the art of film-making and she intended to make her mark on this world and show the folks back home what a gal from the wrong end of the nebula could do with a bit of time and patience, not to mention hard work and persistence.

Of course, she could have chosen a more pleasing exterior to start with; there had been plenty in the catalogue. It had been done many times in the past and humans had dubbed them angels or gods, worshipped them briefly and then more or less disregarded them. This way was longer and harder, for sure, but she and her people were in no real hurry. Unlike Penelope Cruz, she had all the time in the world; back home she was barely considered adult yet. It was very much the thing, doing a gap year working with the under-privileged and disadvantaged.

The cast were mooching back onto set and Jemima snapped her spine back to it’s correct stance and waited for the director’s orders.


Inwardly, Jemima smiled and twisted her face into its trademark scowl and started barking out orders to her crew. If only they knew how a starship was really run….!

Dorian Gray

I went to see the new movie “Dorian Gray” on Tuesday and it took me out of my grumpy mood for a couple of hours. It didn’t annoy me by differing wildly from Oscar Wilde’s masterpiece but knowing the story already I very rapidly found myself hoping that they would change the ending. It’s actually quite heartbreaking, but I won’t spoil it for you.

There are a number of concepts though that I found haunting. One of them is that pleasure is not the same as happiness. The eponymous hero seeks endless pleasure but it does not bring him happiness, just weariness. The second concept is the fact that our lives write themselves on our faces, that we get the face we deserve from how we have lived our lives. It’s said that you have the face you deserve by age of fifty. I’m not sure it’s entirely true but there is some truth in this idea.

The final idea I found haunting comes from a scene at the start of the film where Dorian sees for the first time the portrait his friend Basil has painted of him. Dorian is a very beautiful young man but this is the first time he has seen himself as others see him; the painting is pretty much Basil’s absolute masterpiece and when it is viewed by society, it is hailed as being an exact likeness of Dorian. The shock and amazement Dorian shows is what haunted me most. He’d never imagined how others saw him, just his physical exterior, and it’s interesting that people comment on how it has captured his essence; at this stage, his essence is pure and innocent and rather naive and charming. Unconsciously, I put a similar scene in a novel of my own, but at the end, and with different results, and it rather startled me to be reminded of it.

Are we what others see? Are we the sum of our experiences and do those experiences truly get written on our exteriors?

Things to think about.

X-Men, Wolverine and super powers…

I managed to get to see the new X-men movie last night, and enjoyed it very much. I’m not really into the classic action movie, with loads of explosions and fight scenes, but I do rather relish the sci-fi element of the X-men franchise, not to mention the rather entertaining Hugh Jackman as Wolverine.

One of the questions I sometimes ask my students (who are from all over the world) is what super power would they have if they could choose one. It usually brings up the inevitable; students of both genders often elect for invisibility to be able to spy on the opposite gender while unclothed. But sometimes they surprise me and come up with original things.

So, what super power would you choose and why? Me, I’d like to be able to fly. I thought about healing powers but that brings up too many ethical dilemmas and in the end after long thought, flying seemed the best for me.

Over to you…