If you didn’t enjoy Emily St. John Mandel’s post-apocalyptic book Station Eleven, you’re not alone—Lyta didn’t like it either. However, the HBO Max mini-series, starring Mackenzie Rio Davis and Himesh Patel, brings a powerful, unique, and deeply human quality to St. John Mandel’s story of a devastating global flu pandemic and societal collapse. In the latest installment of Art for the End Times, Lyta talks with writer and podcaster Aaaron Thorpe about why Station Eleven, an underrated and brilliant TV show in its own right, is one of the few contemporary examples of anticapitalist utopian storytelling.
Aaron Thorpe is a writer and podcaster based in Atlanta, Georgia. You can find his writing at Space and Light and his podcasting on The Trillbilly Workers Party, Everybody Loves Communism, and Struggle Session.
Pre-Production/Studio: Cameron Granadino
Post-Production: Jules Taylor
Lyta Gold: Hello and welcome to Art for the End Times. I’m your host, Lyta Gold, as always. And today we are going to talk about a TV show, the HBO Show, Station Eleven. But before we get there, I have to make a confession. And my confession is that this TV Show, Station Eleven, it’s based on a novel. The same name, Station Eleven, came out in 2014. It’s by Emily St. John Mandel. A lot of people really loved it. It was nominated for a bunch of awards, it won the Arthur C. Clarke Award, which is this big science fiction award. I did not really like it that much at all. Sorry. There’s a couple reasons I didn’t like it. I think I probably wouldn’t have liked it anyway. But I went in a little miffed because in her press tour, Emily St. John Mandel did something that I really fucking hate.
She did this thing a lot of crossover literary writers who are writing sci-fi fantasy, that thing, but they’re kind of in between genres. They often do this thing where they explain, it’s not really sci-fi, it’s not really fantasy. They do this, and Ursula Le Guin actually has a really really fucking hilarious take down of Kazuo Ishiguro’s book, The Buried Giant, because he did this too when he was on a press tour and she was not fucking having it. Emily St. John Mandel, her book, it is in between what we would call literary and what we would call sci-fi. And I do have sympathy. But just because it is, doesn’t mean that you have to throw sci-fi under the bus, and usually what happens is people throw genre fiction under the bus.
Aaron Thorpe: Exactly.
Lyta Gold: Right. It’s a seminar.
Aaron Thorpe: Exactly. I wanted to say something of…
Lyta Gold: Oh, yeah.
Aaron Thorpe: There was Margaret Atwood. I was trying to think of her name.
Lyta Gold: Yes, she had Ursula beef too.
Aaron Thorpe: Yeah, she did that too, I think with Oryx and Crake I think was her book, and she said… Or just generally just what she writes. She said, yeah, I don’t do science fiction. And it’s like, why are you throwing that genre under the bus as if science fiction is only supposed to be about these pulp fiction space operas that aren’t really about anything substantial? It’s insane.
Lyta Gold: Right.
Aaron Thorpe: It’s unfair.
Lyta Gold: It’s unfair, it’s insane. She defended it. Margaret Atwood defended it as, she called it speculative fiction, which she’s like, I know my books are speculative fiction. I love Oryx and Crake. I think it’s a great sci-fi novel actually, but it’s a sci-fi novel. Sorry, Miss Missy.
Aaron Thorpe: Let’s not get it twisted. It’s a sci-fi novel.
Lyta Gold: Yeah. It’s what it is. And it’s fine, it’s great. I love sci-fi. And my big objection to Station Eleven, the book, is that I went in, and she could have benefited from reading more sci-fi novels, because the plotting is weird. A lot of it doesn’t really work. And also when you win the Arthur C. Clarke Award, the sci-fi award, that’s sci-fi, Missy. It is.
Aaron Thorpe: Yeah. I mean, Arthur C. Clarke, I don’t know how else to break it to you, but an award named after one of the most prolific science fiction writers of the 20th century, and you’re going to snub the genre just because you don’t want to be lumped in with that.
I’m a writer, so as an artist, as a creative individual, I think there’s been this trend where writers and artists, whether they make music or they write, it’s this need to define what they do. And I’m not saying that no one should be able to define their craft and whatever expectations they have of themselves in society. But it’s very meta in a way where you get to define this despite, or against, I guess, the general public’s response to it. Which is weird because as an artist, you’re creating this to just put it out there in the world.
Lyta Gold: Right.
Aaron Thorpe: It may be for you or it may be for other people, but when it’s out there, it’s out there, you don’t have any control over it. So for you to get upset because people are mischaracterizing what genre is, I don’t know. It feels a little bit unfair and dishonest to your readers or your audience. You know what I mean?
Lyta Gold: Yeah.
Aaron Thorpe: I don’t know.
Lyta Gold: I completely agree. And so when this TV show came out, this TV adaptation of Station Eleven came out, I said, fuck this. I am not watching this. This is going to be crap. And then you were tweeting about it. And it’s time to introduce you, Mr. Aaron Thorpe.
Aaron Thorpe: Yes. Hello, Lyta. We were talking before, but it’s so nice to finally get to talk to you and see you because we were talking about DS9 and writing and yes, Station Eleven which, if anyone follows me on Twitter or followed any of my numerous accounts, when the show came out I was tweeting about it nonstop because it’s a beautiful show and it made me cry and it made me think a lot and I don’t know. We’ll get into it. But it’s one of the most optimistic renditions of the apocalypse or the postapocalyptic world that I’ve ever seen.
Lyta Gold: One of the things that is really interesting and maybe worth going back to looking at the book for is that they’re extremely different, the book and the show. It’s a lot of the same elements. Real quick, it’s a show about, there’s a flu pandemic. It’s much more devastating than COVID. It kills 99.9% of the population. It attacks very suddenly. The epidemiology doesn’t make sense, but let’s just roll with it.
Aaron Thorpe: That’s one thing where we’re just like, okay. If Contagion, for example, where they use real, the epidemiologists on set, that made sense. This one is just, you just let it go for the plot at least.
Lyta Gold: There’s a couple moments. I didn’t like the show a lot, but there are a couple moments you’re just like, okay, fine. We’re having a good time.
Aaron Thorpe: Okay. Fine. My suspension disbelief is raised enough. This is fine.
Lyta Gold: Again, another reason why I think it fell under the radar, a lot of people didn’t watch it, is because who wants to watch a pandemic show right now? And that was, I very much did not think I wanted to watch a pandemic show right now. That was another reason I avoided it. But you were such an evangelist for this show.
Aaron Thorpe: Yes. I mean… Go ahead, go ahead. Sorry.
Lyta Gold: If you were to evangelize. If you were to get somebody into it who doesn’t know anything about it, maybe who read the book and didn’t like it, what would you say? What’s your pitch for why they should watch this?
Aaron Thorpe: One thing I said to people besides what I just told you is that it’s the most optimistic rendition of a postapocalyptic world that I’ve ever seen.
Lyta Gold: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Aaron Thorpe: It’s also just a really feel good show. For me, it was intriguing because of the pandemic. Because maybe I’m weird, which I am, but when the pandemic started, I watched Contagion with my ex-girlfriend at the time. Whatever dystopian or postapocalyptic movie that I hadn’t watched, I sought the stuff out and watched it during the pandemic. But this show, not only during the pandemic, where obviously in the show things were much worse, but it’s themes of art and community and what actually brings people together. And I cry during everything. I’m watching DS9 now and I cry every other episode.
Lyta Gold: Because it’s the best show ever made by human beings.
Aaron Thorpe: Yes. It is the best show ever made, ever made. And this show is also one of my favorites because of the level of acting and emotional quality and this all amidst a world that’s pretty much barren because 99.9% of people are gone. It’s just a beautiful show. My one pitch is just a beautiful show. Acting, the story, and especially visually, it’s a beautiful show. And it’s 10 episodes to get you hooked and make you feel good. It’s worth it.
Lyta Gold: Yeah.
Aaron Thorpe: If you haven’t seen it already, pause this and watch it and come back and listen to the rest. Because you’ll understand why we’re both so excited about the show.
Lyta Gold: Because we are about to spoil the hell out of it, too.
Aaron Thorpe: Yes. We are about to spoil it. Just spoiler alerts. Yeah. Everyone dies.
Lyta Gold: It’s so funny for it to be an optimistic show where pretty much everyone dies. And one of the things that I think helps a lot is they don’t show the piles of bodies, which would’ve been, I think, really tough, especially at the time. The showrunner, he had this lovely quote, he prefaced it by saying he was overstating this on purpose, but he called it a postapocalyptic show about joy.
Aaron Thorpe: Yes.
Lyta Gold: Which, very much the feeling we get. And so it’s this terrible, terrible thing has happened, and you get the before and the after, the terrible, terrible thing that’s happened, but it’s more about how people react and navigate and what they build afterwards. It’s really, really very beautiful and interesting.
Aaron Thorpe: Yeah. Because one thing the show does, too, is that it weaves in the stories of all these characters and their lives pre-pandemic and post-pandemic. The post pandemic, it’s 20 years after the initial pandemic. There are people born in this world who have no idea what the past is like. We’ll get into it, but there’s this one scene where it’s about these traveling troupe of actors. I have to get that out of the way before I explain it, but she’s supposed to be using a phone as a prop because the scene takes place pre-pandemic. And because she’s 18 or something, she doesn’t understand how the phone works. She’s like, Google Maps? What do you mean? You mean, it tells you where you are in the world and then you can send this to other people?
And I don’t know, all those little things like… And maybe I’m rambling, but one thing I do want to get out of the way is that there’s this quote I love, “It’s easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism.” I think it’s Žižek and Frederick Jameson quote. And in this show, there is no capitalism. There is no capitalism. And that was very heartwarming for a show about the apocalypse.
Lyta Gold: Yes. Well, normally what we get in these apocalyptic shows is that its state of nature, life is nasty, brutish, and short. People are very violent. Think of Walking Dead. And there’s a time in place for, I think, those kinds of shows, constant violence, people struggling for survival. And there is some violence in this.
Aaron Thorpe: For sure.
Lyta Gold: People do have to protect themselves. And they have guns and knives and whatever. And then there is a weird creepy woods militia, The Red Bandanas, who are really freaky and you got to watch out for them. But most of our characters in postapocalypse are, they’re called The Traveling Symphony, they’re musicians and actors, and they put on Shakespeare. They go around, they put on Shakespeare plays on The Great Lakes.
Aaron Thorpe: Oh.
Lyta Gold: I have to say – Wait, go ahead.
Aaron Thorpe: I did remember what I wanted to say. Yes, they primarily do Shakespeare, but there’s this amazing scene where – And I think when you saw that scene, you DM’d me about it. You were like, wow, this is amazing. There’s an amazing scene where, again, because this is 20 years after a modern society has collapsed or civilization has collapsed, this guy who wants to join this Traveling Symphony, he does a… What’s the word I’m looking for? He auditions. And he does a monologue, the president’s monologue from Independence Day, which is amazing. Basically this traveling troop, they keep culture alive, whether it’s Shakespeare or whether it’s a fabled blockbuster which at that time, I guess, Independence Day.
Lyta Gold: This is a huge improvement on the book. Because in the book, there’s really only two pieces of culture. There’s Shakespeare, and music grounded. And then there’s this comic book titled Station Eleven that features in the story that’s very important.
Aaron Thorpe: Yes.
Lyta Gold: And those are the two pieces of culture. And one of the beefs I have with the book is that she doesn’t really bother to really explain why Shakespeare is important or show why it’s important. It’s taken as a given. She does bother to explain why Station Eleven the comic book is important, because it’s not readily apparent. And then that’s actually one of the best parts of the book. But there’s hip hop, there’s fun stuff. They break into A Tribe Called Quest song, I think, at one point.
Aaron Thorpe: Yes.
Lyta Gold: Yes. And there’s an attempt to preserve as much culture as they can. And Shakespeare is a part of that, and a big part of that, but not by any means the only thing.
Aaron Thorpe: Why do you think, though, that… I mean, probably obvious reasons, I guess, but what do you think that Shakespeare was something that was… Why they performed Shakespeare? Why do you think that’s the thing that they decide to share with people?
Lyta Gold: It’s a good question. And it’s funny because I think the show never explains it in any way directly, but because we do take Shakespeare as being this iconic art that everybody can appreciate. Although, it’s funny because Shakespeare’s very tricky because it was pop art at the time, but language has changed. There is a bit of an entry barrier. But it can be done in a way that’s really electrifying and still really gettable, even if the language is a little bit of a challenge. And one of the things that they did so well in the show is the costumes were fucking amazing. Oh my God.
Aaron Thorpe: They really were, because they have to scavenge. Not just for tools that they need to survive, but their costumes even. There’s this scene before the pandemic where some of the main characters are trapped in an apartment where they’re waiting out the 90 days. Not even 90 days, they’re there for a very long time and they’re waiting it out.
And I think her name is Kirsten. She’s one of the main characters. And she’s a little girl in this flashback, and she wants to put on a play because she is a Shakespearean actor. She was actually there the night when one of the first people died, her co-actor died from the pandemic and she’s there. And she wants to put on a show because they’ve been trapped in this apartment for God knows how long. Because it’s named after… She does it after Station Eleven, the graphic novel, which is very important. And just the costume that they put together. When I was a little kid, you know what I mean? The few times that my mom would let me go ham and just make some really weird shit. I don’t know. The costume design is really, really fucking good.
Lyta Gold: And there’s these circles of cardboard to make a space helmet. It was so cool.
Aaron Thorpe: Yes.
Lyta Gold: And then there’s this real approach with the Shakespearean costumes. There’s these coats that are layered on top of each other, these weird arms and sleeves, because you have this idea – It’s a great real world building detail – You have this idea that it’s a post scarcity society because 99% of people died, and there’s tons of stuff, and there’s just North Face parkas or whatever. But it’s a little raggedy and so they have to tie it up, they have to cut it up and make it into costumes. And so the characters are walking around in these elaborate, strange, put together from all this accumulated stuff. And it’s this accumulated weight that’s on them as they’re moving around the stage and you can feel it. And again, even if the audience isn’t necessarily totally getting every little piece of it, they can feel who the characters are, you can feel why this is so important and so heavy. Very fun stuff.
Aaron Thorpe: They’re very much weighted by… Because one of the themes, too, of the show is a new world and beginning. It’s this confrontational conflict between forgetting the old world and building something new versus people that want to hold onto the past. And I think that just the fact that there’s so much, it’s a post scarcity society and there’s so much stuff, they’re literally weighted down by this past society, in a Marxist sense. It’s weighing on them heavily, like the former dead world, you know what I mean? And it’s something that characters in the show either have to reconcile with or they have to find a way out. They have to find a way, I guess, back to who they were through a sense of community. Because this show is also heavily about loss. There’s so much loss. The fact that 99.9% of people die, even after this pandemic, 20 years on, there’s still so much loss.
Lyta Gold: Some of the older characters are dying, then some people are murdered because there’s tension between different groups. I wanted to ask you about this weight of culture because you wrote a really wonderful Substack piece a couple months ago about nostalgia. Because you have different groups of people who are interested in preserving culture in different ways. You got The Traveling Symphony that’s preserving Shakespeare, but then you’ve also got this place called The Museum of Civilization where it’s like this sad little room which has iPods and stuff, technology, and none of it works anymore, but it’s in a room.
As you wrote in your piece, we live in this really nostalgic time. This time is very interested in remaking the past. And this is an adaptation of a novel, not an old novel and not a very popular novel by any means, but it’s a funny time where all we do is these remakes and these adaptations over and over again. And then you have this story about people trying their hardest to hold onto some aspects of culture. How do you think that fits in with the nostalgia issue?
Aaron Thorpe: That’s a really good point because I didn’t fault the show. In the piece that I wrote, one of the things that I say is nostalgia is just a very useful tool for the elites, for the ruling class. And it’s used to whitewash the more sticky icky parts of history and to lull people into a false sense of security during times of economic or social insecurity. I can’t fault the show for these characters. This is all they have. They have to hold onto these vestiges of the old world. But I think that the way the show addresses it is the way that I like to think about nostalgia in a positive sense. It really is for me, the reason why I guess I love retro wear Jordans, or I love The Simpsons. Well, ’90s Simpsons, we’re talking about the golden era.
Lyta Gold: Seasons two through 10?
Aaron Thorpe: Exactly. Well, two through nine. Yeah, 10. We can leave 10 in there.
Lyta Gold: A little 10.
Aaron Thorpe: Yeah. But it really is about the sense of comfort and security. I was hoping that the show would deal with that a little bit more instead of saying, oh, these are things that keep people nice and warm and comfortable. Because there’s this museum called The Museum of Civilization where all of these artifacts, which they’re essentially artifacts now, these video game systems and cell phones and computers, and there’s even a gun in there. All of these things are there to remind people of what was lost. But I was hoping for a new beginning. And not to say there isn’t a new beginning. There isn’t a beginning in the show, in the show the characters who have been alienated from each other for years, come back together. And it’s really beautiful, but like a path forward.
So I’m not rambling, I’m going on. In the piece that I wrote, the conclusion that I led to is in order for us to not get stuck in the past, especially as leftists, because we can have a tendency to sing praises about revolutions of yesteryear without really focusing on a future. And what I think we need to do, and I don’t know if I’m doing this by podcasting, but what we need to do outside of strategically what we should be doing, which I can’t even tell you. One thing I think is important is culture.
I really do think it’s important to break out of this mode of repetition with reboots and remakes and where it feels like trends and time becomes closer and closer together. I don’t know if that makes any sense. It feels like now we’re redoing the 2000s. And that was 20 years ago. And the ’80s is always persistent. And I’d like to see culturally something out of that. In Station Eleven, I’m sure people are still writing music and making music and writing things, but I guess it seems bleak and grim because then who else is going to read this entirely brand new thing that I wrote?
Lyta Gold: Yeah.
Aaron Thorpe: Is there…
Lyta Gold: That’s a very good point. And I didn’t think about it in those terms, but the conductor composes new music to go with it, but it’s good music to go with Shakespeare. And she talks about how difficult it is to score Hamlet. But it’s true. You’ve got a very good point that there isn’t a sense of new stories being told. There’s not even a new story around the campfire kind of thing.
Aaron Thorpe: Exactly.
Lyta Gold: Yeah.
Aaron Thorpe: And that’s fair, again, because these people are literally just trying to survive and part of that surviving and maintaining sanity is remembering what existed and what they had because now they’re living in this hell world. But that’s the trap when you’re writing something that’s postapocalyptic. It’s like, how can you even envision a way out of this? The best thing that you could do is tie up loose ends. Or maybe not, maybe everyone does die at the end. But thankfully in this one, not everyone dies at the end of this one. Everyone dies at first, but people live at the end of this one.
Lyta Gold: The characters are really interwoven in this interesting way. It relies maybe a lot on coincidence, maybe too much. I think it’s charming.
Aaron Thorpe: Yes.
Lyta Gold: But we’ve talked about Kirsten, she’s this child actress, and then she’s one of the people who survived, she’s picked up, she accidentally falls in with this guy named Jeevan who is down on his luck. He went to go see the play that she was in, and then the actor playing King Lear suddenly dies on stage, and then the play is over. And anyway, nobody’s around to take this little girl home, so Jeevan ends up trying to take her home, but then the apocalypse is happening. He, really against his own will, because he does not want to do this, he ends up taking her home to his brother, actually, who lives in this very nice apartment. That’s a really nice apartment.
Aaron Thorpe: Really nice apartment. And I want to add, too, that Jeevan, as well, in the book he’s a doctor. In the book he’s a doctor, so…
Lyta Gold: He’s a paramedic something.
Aaron Thorpe: He’s a paramedic rather, sorry, he’s a paramedic. His sister’s a doctor. You’re right. And in the book, he, when Arthur, which is the guy who collapses on stage, in the book, he runs up on stage because he’s like, I’m a paramedic. In the show, he’s not a paramedic. He’s not a doctor. He’s not a healer yet. But yes, Jeevan is the guy who ends up taking Kirsten to his brother’s place because her parents, who we never end up seeing at all, are nowhere to be found. They’re stuck together for the foreseeable future.
Lyta Gold: And it’s such an interesting bond because there’s a lot of found family going on. There’s a lot of really reluctant found family, reluctant parenthood. Jeevan does not want to be responsible for this random little girl. And he’s even physically standing away from her when he first meets her. He’s trying to get her home on the train. It’s set in Chicago.
Aaron Thorpe: While having a panic attack, by the way, because he finds out from his sister who’s a doctor that this pandemic is going to wipe everybody out, which is convenient storytelling, but fine. But he’s doing all this while having a panic attack.
Lyta Gold: Yeah.
Aaron Thorpe: Commendable.
Lyta Gold: And that’s part of what I love about the show so much is that it really shows that a lot of characters are very kind and they’re loving and they’re nice people, but it also shows that love is really hard. And there’s some important relationships that don’t work out. Arthur Leander is the actor who played King Lear who died on stage. And then there’s a lot of flashbacks to his first wife, sort of his wife sort of his girlfriend, they’re never quite clear on that. Her name’s Miranda and she’s the one who created the comic book Station Eleven, of which there are five copies because she just self-published it. And their relationship completely falls apart because it’s very difficult to… They meet really cute and they really have this connection, but it’s actually very difficult to stay in love with somebody, especially when people are artists trying to do different art and live together at the same time. It’s very, very difficult.
Aaron Thorpe: And Miranda, too, and this is again the illustrator and the writer of Station Eleven, she’s heavily, heavily depressed. It’s very meta because the show is named Station Eleven about a comic named Station Eleven and the comic is very important to the show Station Eleven. It’s very metatextual. And you also see the main character of Station Eleven the comic who is an astronaut who’s in a lonely space station above Earth. And it’s a metaphor for Miranda’s depression. And I think that as someone who has depression, forging community and relationships with people is extremely, extremely difficult. And that’s what she struggles with. And I think that’s what the comic, the show, yes. But her comic is especially about women, which makes her relationship with Arthur so difficult because he’s an actor. He’s all about attention. He’s all about making sure he’s seen, whereas she’s not. As you said, loving people is hard, it doesn’t really work out.
Lyta Gold: Yeah. Yeah. And art is hard too, which is another major theme. And Arthur seems like he’s just a very natural actor. Seems like he’s in some stupid sci-fi B-movies, but he’s a good actor. He’s charming, people like him. And he has this friend, Clark, who ends up running The Museum of Civilization, but somebody who tried to be an actor and they played Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in one play when they were young. But Clark, it hasn’t worked for him, and so he became a corporate consultant guy. So he is… It’s because he just didn’t quite have what it took to be loved, the instinctive thing. And it’s funny, in the face of the apocalypse for that to be a terrible tragedy, but it is a terrible tragedy, but he could never get it to work.
Aaron Thorpe: Yeah. And then Arthur ends up dying, and they don’t even get to reconcile their friendship.
Lyta Gold: Yeah, because they had a big fight. [crosstalk]
Aaron Thorpe: And that’s especially tragic.
Lyta Gold: Yeah, yeah.
Aaron Thorpe: Yeah. They had a big fight over Miranda because, again, Arthur’s kind of a dick. He’s kind of a fucking dick. He definitely is. And I mean… Sorry. I lost my train of thought. But yeah. It’s definitely hard, especially when two people are artists, to forge anything out of that. And Miranda ends up burning down his fucking beach house or something like that because she’s so upset.
Lyta Gold: That was so cool.
Aaron Thorpe: That was a cool shot. That was a cool shot. I’m not going to lie.
Lyta Gold: It was at his pool house, I think. Yeah, because –
Aaron Thorpe: Yeah, his pool house.
Lyta Gold: The pool house where she had been secretly… She had a corporate job, and then she would secret herself away in there and work on her comic book. And she didn’t want to show it to anybody and she had it up on the wall there. And then he broke her trust by showing it to his co-star who was going to be his next wife. And then she prefers to burn down her art rather than share it with anyone, which… Oh, it’s awesome.
Aaron Thorpe: Yeah, man. And we’ll get into it, but her character, I was worried that her character would disappear and I would never see her again. Because she was gone for a couple episodes. Because the show also – we should mention that the show really does some cool storytelling techniques where it jumps back and forth between pre-pandemic and post-pandemic 20 years later. So we don’t get to see her story until the show comes to a resolution at the very end of it. But in a show full of amazing shots, her burning down his fucking pool house, and that shot is just amazing. She’s one of my favorite characters, especially as a writer and as a creative individual where I can be very possessive about the work that I do. And I’m like, yeah, man. I’d rather burn that shit down than make you force me to let anybody see it or read it.
Lyta Gold: Yeah. Yeah. She printed five copies of this book when she finally finished it. And it becomes incredibly important to everybody who reads it. It even starts the basis of a cult by accident in the postapocalypse, which is fun. Because these children read it and, led by an overgrown child called The Prophet – Very different character in the book, by the way. And he dies at the [inaudible]. Anyway, I don’t [crosstalk]
Aaron Thorpe: Dies at the end of the –
Lyta Gold: He’s a complete villain. This is actually something that really threw me. So this character is The Prophet, big spoiler, is Tyler, who’s Arthur Leander’s son by his second wife, who happens to get a copy of Station Eleven and it changes his life. And in the book, he’s just a flat bad guy. He’s a cult leader. He’s a really bad dude. And he gets murdered, and that’s how the story resolves. It’s really stupid.
Aaron Thorpe: I’m much happier in the show because –
Lyta Gold: Oh, it’s much better.
Aaron Thorpe: Yeah, his character in the show too. People should watch it, but his character in the show, you can tell as well along with Miranda’s character, he’s definitely got some deep seated shit going on. He has a copy of Station Eleven, so does Kirsten. And he ends up tricking his mother and the other survivors who were trapped in the airport at the time, ends up tricking them into thinking that he’s dead. And you hate him for that, but the show fleshes him out in such a way where he’s not a villain. He’s not just an outright villain. Even though he’s also commandeering this troop of children who have no idea. It’s complicated, which is good. Which is good.
Lyta Gold: Yeah, he’s sort of a lost boy himself. So everybody is mentally ill and struggling and traumatized and a lot of it comes out in very very bad ways, but no one is really a villain, again, a huge improvement over the book. Sad Clark in his Museum of Civilization and his bitterness over not being an actor and not being able to say goodbye to Arthur in the right way. He’s not a villain either. People are just trying, in their various ways.
Aaron Thorpe: Yeah. I’m thinking of, I don’t know, Book of Eli popped into my head as a postapocalyptic movie. And none of, like you’re saying, the characters are just surviving. So even the Red Bandanas. Some people are just going to go bat shit insane and become murderous during this, but not everyone in the show is like that. People are actually just trying to survive. They’re just trying to make do with what they have. And Kirsten has to have… Go ahead. Sorry. Sorry.
Lyta Gold: No, no, go ahead. Go ahead.
Aaron Thorpe: No, I was going to say, because we were going through the plot. Kirsten, after she stays with Jeevan and his brother, what’s her brother’s name? I forget.
Lyta Gold: Frank.
Aaron Thorpe: Oh, what’s his brother’s name?
Lyta Gold: Frank.
Aaron Thorpe: Frank. Yeah, right. They stay together and they end up getting separated. And Kirsten herself for I don’t know how long, how many years herself as a child has lived this Mad Max style life. I’m very happy they didn’t show that either. Like you were saying before, there’s violence in the show, but a lot of it is off camera, and it’s unneeded. You don’t really need to see it. And I was happy for that. It’s not gratuitous at all.
Lyta Gold: And it’s part because we’ve seen Mad Max too. We’ve seen so many of these postapocalypses with terrible violence. So we see that Kirsten as an adult knows how to kill somebody with a knife. And we see as a child that she’s, when still with Jeevan, she’s practicing with a knife and he’s completely weirded out by practicing with a knife. So yeah, we don’t need random violence. We don’t need this on the road going around and killing people sorts of things. What we know about this genre fills it in, and because the show isn’t interested in telling a story about cynicism. It isn’t interested in telling that same story again. I was thinking the show made me think of an article that my friend Adrian Rennix wrote back in the day called “The Regrettable Decline of Space Utopias.”
And it’s mostly about Star Trek, but it’s also about how many gritty postapocalyptic shows that we have. And it’s because there’s this idea that selfishness is real and cynicism is real. And so you show 99% of your characters as selfish and cynical and always backstabbing. And that’s realism, and innocent characters get killed. What’s so great about this is Kirsten is a fully developed, complicated person. She can defend herself with a knife, but she also can play Hamlet and she’s looking for Jeevan and feels sad. She’s got lots going on.
Aaron Thorpe: Yeah. You’re right. That’s a really good point, that the show doesn’t really need to show you this postapocalyptic horror, or I guess even before on the road to postapocalyptic, because we’ve seen that all before.
Lyta Gold: We know it.
Aaron Thorpe: We know it. There is a scene where she… Because again, the way the show is cut interstitially, it goes back and forth between what is the present post-pandemic and before. And there’s a scene where it’s much after she gets separated from Jeevan and she wakes up against the wall of a gas station. And you can see there are bloody handprints on the wall and her hair is all grown out, and she looks kind of dirty. And she looks like a feral child, to be honest with you. And it’s like that [inaudible] that broke my heart. One thing is I didn’t want to see any of the characters suffer. I didn’t want to see any of the characters suffer, especially Frank, which we should probably talk about that whole thing, because Jeevan and Kirsten end up getting separated from one another.
And it is one of the most heartbreaking things. Because the first episode ends with them finally leaving the apartment, and they’re in Chicago. So there’s snow on the ground, there are no snow plows, none of the social services are working in the city. So it truly is postapocalyptic. And they’re leaving the apartment and just the two of them and heading out to cross Lake Michigan, I think.
They’re going to cross the lake because they figure that they’ll have better luck. And that’s how the show opens up. That last scene where… I forget what Bob Dylan song they’re playing, but it’s panning out at the very end to show you, as they’re walking through the snow in the streets of Chicago, to show you how destitute the city is. There are cars, but no one’s in these cars. Or if they’re in the cars, they’re frozen, they’re dead. They’ve died of the pandemic. And this is how the show opened. So you think that, oh, they’re going to ride together for the rest of the show, and they don’t. And that broke my heart. They don’t. They don’t.
Lyta Gold: Yeah. There are all these separations. And they get separated, Jeevan and Kirsten when they get separated it’s for complicated reasons. But they’re fighting before that because he’s struggling with being a parent to this kid that he’d never completely… Accidentally picked her up in the first place. You figure out how difficult it is, it’s just so difficult for them to do this. I have to say also, because I’m from Michigan. Michigan is an underrated spot for an apocalyptic show. It is [crosstalk]
Aaron Thorpe: It’s usually New York, it’s either New York or L.A. Or London too. But why did you say Michigan’s underrated?
Lyta Gold: Well, because you see it in the show. They exaggerated how much snow Chicago gets, unless it’s a climate change thing, which I assume [inaudible]
Aaron Thorpe: Oh yeah. They made it seem like the apartment they were snowed in from the lobby. It was a bit ridiculous. Yeah.
Lyta Gold: Yeah. Yeah. It’s not that bad, okay. But yeah, it’s temperate enough in summer and stuff, but it is pretty apocalyptic in winter there, it can be. Because climate change has changed everything. But yeah, if you’re going to… [inaudible] something goes wrong with what they call The Wheel, which seems to be around, I think around Lake Michigan. And yeah. There’s some country-ass country out there. That is exactly right.
Aaron Thorpe: Yeah. Well, there’s this scene where, before they get separated, they’re still together, where they’re just in a cabin in the woods just hunting deer. They’re just hunting and it’s like, okay, if I could imagine some postapocalyptic scenario – And I hope to God I’m not alive for it – It’s like, yeah man, just put me in a cabin in the woods and I’ll be fine. Except they end up getting separated because there are wolves.
Lyta Gold: Yes, because there’s wolves.
Aaron Thorpe: Jeevan gets attacked by a wolf. Because I also want to mention too, I hope this isn’t giving people too much, because this rounds it out. The reason why they’re arguing is over the comic, Station Eleven. And I want to point that out, you mentioned a good point, I just want to revisit that. The show is really about these families and these people that are brought together begrudgingly because they don’t really want to be brought together, and how realistic it is that Jeevan and Kirsten would eventually end up butting heads. Because he has to be a father figure for her, and he doesn’t even know how to take care of himself. Meanwhile, she’s engrossed in this book Station Eleven, this comic, because there’s no TV. She can’t go on her phone and watch something, but this is also a way to keep her tethered to her former life. Whether it’s her family, and especially her life as a child actress.
Lyta Gold: Yeah. Very much so, because Arthur gave her the comic in the first place. It was one of the last things she got. And because it’s such a lonely book and it encapsulates her feelings of loneliness, and yeah. That’s very much the case. And we were going to talk about Frank, and we got off the subject of him.
Aaron Thorpe: Yes, yes. Frank, yeah.
Lyta Gold: But he’s fascinating because he’s another one of these really lonely, trapped-in-fishbowl people because he lives in this gorgeous, expensive high-rise in Chicago. And I want to know what his rent was because he said he worked as a ghost writer, come on.
Aaron Thorpe: Yeah, he was a ghost writer. I don’t know what happened, but I think he got in an accident.
Lyta Gold: Oh yeah. He’d been a journalist and yeah. And then, yeah. And in a war zone something had happened to him that was bad. And so he –
Aaron Thorpe: Exactly. Yeah.
Lyta Gold: Right. So there’s something wrong with his hip and he walks with a cane and yeah. He dies, spoiler. But he dies for unrelated reasons, but he really does not want to leave the apartment, which I think is so important. Because they’ve been there for 90 days or more, food’s running out. It seems like the flu has subsided and probably it’s ripped through the population it was going to rip through, and they have to leave. But a little bit because of his disability, but not really. And more because he just can’t leave. He doesn’t want to go with them. He just… He would rather die in his apartment.
Aaron Thorpe: Yeah. He doesn’t want to face the world. That’s what it is. And his character is so tragic because I think that he ends up having a better time dealing with this scenario than Jeevan, his brother, because when Jeevan is freaking out about what they’re going to do, Frank is more getting along with Kirsten. He’s used to this idea that we’re not leaving the apartment. Because in the book, when I mentioned in the book, he ends up committing suicide because he doesn’t want to be a burden for Jeevan when they leave the apartment.
But in the show he also does end up sacrificing himself, but it’s because as they’re about to leave and get ready to leave, and I think Kirsten’s putting on her play. We were talking about earlier, when I was talking about the costumes I think, she’s putting on a play right before they leave. And as they’re doing the play, this guy ends up, who also is like a survivor. He’s a survivor of the pandemic, he ends up walking into their apartment.
Lyta Gold: Yeah. And he’s got a knife [crosstalk]
Aaron Thorpe: Notices that the door’s open and he’s got a knife, and this is the minute where my heart drops because it’s like, dude, in this situation, people are at their wits end. One person is leaving, you’re not leaving this apartment. And of course, Frank, because he knows that this is the impetus for them to get out. Whatever happens, they can’t return from here. He ends up throwing himself on the guy and they end up fighting. The guy kills him. And this is how Jeevan and Kirsten eventually end up having to leave the apartment. And I just want to mention, the way this is told is that it’s not linear. So we don’t know what happened to Frank until the fifth or sixth episode I think. Much much later.
Lyta Gold: Yeah. [crosstalk] It’s a long time.
Aaron Thorpe: It’s a long time. So it hits… The anticipation. That’s what I love about the show too, the anticipation with the storytelling, the way that things are spread out. I’m like, are we going to see Frank again? What happened to Frank? I know he died, but how did he die? Did he ever leave the apartment?
Lyta Gold: Yeah. And one of the things that’s so, so successful about the show is it’s a great piece of art. It’s a show about art, but it’s itself a great piece of art. There’s some really brilliant techniques. There’s lots of intercutting, as you mentioned, there’s back and forth in time. There’s one whole episode where Kirsten, who as an adult has been injured and is unconscious, she’s going through her memory of being… These kinds of final scenes in the apartment where she was living with Jeevan and Frank. As if she’s there, the older version of her is there, and the older one and the younger one are able to see each other and talk to each other. And it’s just… It’s such a cool… It’s such a clever, sensitive, and sad way to tell the story. They did a really good job with it.
Aaron Thorpe: Yeah. And I want to mention too, something about that episode. Another thing I love about the show is that, as you’re saying, it’s beautiful. It’s a piece of art. There are scenes, like the way that the show opens up is, because it does this back and forth narrative between time, the way the show opens up is that it’s the theater where Kirsten’s performing a play, where Arthur ends up collapsing and dying on stage. And it shows you the theater post-pandemic, and it’s overgrown. It’s overgrown with foliage. We’re talking about the theater seats being overgrown with vines and whatnot. I think there are these wild boars or these pigs that are grazing in the aisle of the theater. And then it cuts to the present day. But the overgrowth, the foliage, the way that the cinematography and the way it shows you loneliness, but also that things are alive. Things are coming back.
In that episode you were just mentioning with Kirsten where she’s dying, or she’s poisoned by these Red Bandanas. And she gets to talk to, in this hallucination, death hallucination, talk to her younger self as her older self. When Jeevan even ends up dying at the end, it’s a beautiful, beautiful scene where her older self is looking at his body, which has now been overgrown with flowers, it’s been overgrown with grass. And the camera’s panning out while she’s looking at him, while the sun is setting. It’s just… I can’t really describe it. It’s just such a beautiful, beautiful show. It’s such a beautiful show.
Lyta Gold: Again, if at this point you’re not convinced that you need to go watch this show, I don’t know what will convince you. There are so few things that are like it. There are some flaws here and there, some plot logic, whatever. But if partly you overlook it, and I feel a similar way about Star Trek actually. Star Trek has plenty of flaws. But we overlook them because what’s good about it is so good and so unique that it’s worth a bad episode where Odo gets laid.
Aaron Thorpe: Yeah, exactly. It’s okay. It’s like, all right. I’ll take the trash episode because 99% of this is really good. And this is only, you would imagine people too, this is a mini series. So it’s only 10 episodes. And one of the most beautiful things about it is the way that all these characters weave, their destinies weave back into each other. So we talked about Miranda earlier and… Oh God, we have this up because this is so… So Arthur ends up… What is Clark? Sorry, Clark and Arthur’s ex-wife who their kid is… What’s his name again?
Lyta Gold: Tyler.
Aaron Thorpe: Sorry. Tyler, right?
Lyta Gold: Second wife is Elizabeth [crosstalk]
Aaron Thorpe: They end up getting Elizabeth. Yes, right. Clark, Elizabeth, and Tyler end up getting trapped in an airport, I think right outside of Chicago during the pandemic. And there is a plane on the tarmac that has just landed with people who are infected, and they can’t board. They end up staying on the plane and end up dying on the plane. But the way that the story weaves… I hope I’m not getting too far ahead. It’s complicated and complex to explain, but Miranda ends up coming back in the later episodes, because she’s the one that has saved this airport community from infection. Because she ends up calling the captain of this plane and convinces him to not let anybody off the plane. And because of her action and her sacrifice, because she also was infected, so she dies, she also calls him and speaks to him on the phone while she’s dying from the virus.
And because of her actions, this preserves the airport community, this allows Elizabeth, Tyler’s mother – Or, this allows Kirsten to come back, meet all these characters, Jeevan ends up coming back at the end. I’m not making any sense right now because the way that… I can’t even explain this. Even if you read a synopsis about the way that Miranda’s selfless act of keeping these people all out of the airport after having these people be willing to sacrifice themselves, the way that she does this and has all of the characters come back together through this action. I can’t explain. It’s beautiful the way it’s weaved. I hope that made sense to anyone. I know I rambled, but Miranda is the protagonist of this show. It’s not Kirsten, it’s Miranda, truly.
Lyta Gold: It really is. Yeah, that’s a really good point. And also because it’s ultimately Miranda’s act that made everything else possible. It’s her act of making Station Eleven the comic that makes so much of Kirsten and Tyler’s lives possible and then how they act and even the weird cult that springs up. There is a very subtle little thing that they did that I thought was so, so clever. So Miranda, who has contracted the virus and is dying, she’s in, I think she’s in Malaysia at the time because it’s a corporate job. And she works in logistics. And so this is part of how they managed to figure out who exactly the captain is of this plane, I should call him. Her business partner in Malaysia is the same guy who plays Jonah in Veep.
Aaron Thorpe: Really?
Lyta Gold: I think so. I think [inaudible] He’s this really tall, gangly, obnoxious dude. He’s very unlikable, and he’s kind of a douche in the show until he starts dying, and he and Miranda are both dying in this hotel, and they decide to be together.
Aaron Thorpe: They decide to die together.
Lyta Gold: Yeah. She says I need help. She says, effectively, I need company. And again, this very annoying corporate weasel of a dude. But even he helps her a little bit. Assists her with this project of figuring out who this captain is. Even he gets this little piece of being a hero.
Aaron Thorpe: Exactly.
Lyta Gold: It’s really sweet.
Aaron Thorpe: There are no villains, really. I mean, the Red Bandanas, I guess. But as we were saying before, people are just doing what they can to survive. Okay, one thing I did want to mention. So Jeevan, when he gets separated from Kirsten, they were sending out radio signals or radio messages to see if anyone would respond. I think Jeevan has been talking to them, and he lies and says that he’s a doctor.
He tells him he’s a doctor for some reason, because they need a doctor. It’s a woman, she needs a doctor. And they end up finding Jeevan and saving his life after he’s been attacked by wolves, after he’s been separated from Kirsten and they take him to a hospital, a maternity ward. And I wanted to point this out, in these postapocalyptic, apocalyptic movies and shows, there’s a lack of children. Children of Men is the first one that I think of. The plot of Children of Men literally is that people can no longer procreate. So it’s pretty much the end of the line of human civilization, human society, of the human species. But not even in just that. In a lot of dystopia, there are no kids. Why would there be kids?
Or if there are kids, you understand that, wow, these kids are going to grow up in a pretty fucked up world. And in this show, this episode where Jeevan gets separated, where he’s at a maternity ward, where he’s lied that he’s a doctor and now he has to actually become a doctor. Or at least he has to become at least an assistant to the doctors actually helping these women give birth. And it’s a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful scene where all of these women’s births are lined up. Because they all came to the hospital at the same time once the pandemic started. They’re all going to give birth around the same time. And it’s just a beautiful, beautiful scene where all the babies are being born and they’re crying and Jeevan’s going around and he’s helping people.
And it’s like, for a show where everyone dies in this beautiful, beautiful episode where new life, not even just one baby, we’re talking about like a dozen kids. And Jeevan is actually, I think for the first time, especially since the pandemic, in his own life I’m sure, he’s discovering his purpose. And this is what I really liked. I mentioned earlier, in the book he’s a doctor. He’s a paramedic, I’m sorry. In the show, he’s not a paramedic. But he ends up becoming a healer. So the show ends up being closer to his character in the book than when it started out, and for better reason. It makes more sense, I guess. But sorry, sorry again to ramble. I just really love that scene. I love that maternity ward scene.
Lyta Gold: You know what’s so great about that maternity ward too, is that it’s like a department store. One of the things I think is really fun about post and apocalyptic shows and I feel not enough of them play with this is the way you would use… Zombie movies will do this. The way you would use different areas in this world differently. I’m trying to remember the famous zombie movie set in a mall and it’s ridiculous that I’m not thinking of the title.
Aaron Thorpe: Oh, Dawn of the Dead.
Lyta Gold: Dawn of the Dead! Thank you. Very famous one.
Aaron Thorpe: Yeah.
Lyta Gold: Yeah, if you can’t get into a hospital, you don’t want to be in a hospital because it’s probably full of dead pandemic bodies, where do you go? You go to a department store that has bed displays. The Ikea-style bed displays. And that’s your maternity ward, because it’s got lots of beds and they’re all arranged around each other, so you’ve got lots of women to deliver at the same time. That’s what you do.
Aaron Thorpe: Yeah. Yeah. You know what? We were talking earlier about the repurposing of all of these commodities. I really like the fact that it’s like, no, this is not being used for… Well, I guess it would be its use value. If it’s going to look like a bedroom in a department store, how about we actually use it as a bedroom? As opposed to a conduit or a vector to sell you shit. You know?
reclamation, not just of nature, of man-made things like the theater I was talking about earlier, but of people reclaiming… I don’t know, because I don’t want to say civilization because I’m happy that civilization ends in this show. I’m very happy that it does. Kirsten went through some pretty fucked up shit and so did Jeevan, but as I said before, watching this show as a leftist, I’m like, hey man, you mean there’s no more capitalism? You know what I’m saying? That’s awesome. That’s awesome.
Lyta Gold: Yeah. That’s one of the things about the show that it’s very slightly evil and I felt very slightly evil when I realized this, because the fantasy is that if 99.9% of people disappear, then there is abundant everything for everybody. And climate change, it’s not mentioned really much in the show, because it’s solved once 99.9% of the people are dead. That is an evil, evil thing.
Aaron Thorpe: It’s so insidious.
Lyta Gold: Yeah. It really is.
Aaron Thorpe: It really is. And that’s the thing where it’s like, I was running a bit on Twitter for a minute as a Posadist. For anyone who doesn’t know, Posadism is basically apocalyptic communism. Basically only through nuclear war and destroying most of humanity can we even hope to cobble together some communism, and then we’ll need the help from the aliens. But besides that, especially in the end times that we’re living in, it’s very appealing to be nihilistic, to be an apocalyptician, to be an accelerationist.
But what I really love about the show is that no one is expecting this. We see this in Jeevan in the first scenes where he’s helping Kirsten get home and then to Frank’s apartment where he’s literally having a panic attack. This is not something that’s joyous. This is not something I think for, and I get it, shit really does suck, but I’ve always been obsessed with apocalyptic shit. And I’ve always been ready for the end of the world, but the older that I get, the more I’m like, wait, I need more time.
I need more time. And to relate it back to the show, it’s like these characters are making up for lost time. Miranda is unable to make up for lost time. But what she does is that she allows the other characters through, again, her selfless sacrifice, her action. I keep calling it sacrifice because that’s what it feels like.
Lyta Gold: It does, yeah.
Aaron Thorpe: It’s not really a sacrifice.
Lyta Gold: Right because she’s dying anyway.
Aaron Thorpe: But it feels like a sacrifice.
Lyta Gold: But she’s –
Aaron Thorpe: She’s going to die anyway.
Lyta Gold: Yeah. She spends her last minutes trying to save these people in this airport.
Aaron Thorpe: Exactly, exactly. And the only thing that gets these people through and together, yes, it’s art. Yes, it’s culture., But it’s this bringing back together. And when Jeevan and Kirsten finally get to see each other again, because Jeevan, he’s a healer now. He’s been a healer for years now, since his experience helping give birth. And he gets called to the airport because Tyler, who faked his death and left, has returned and come back because he wants to destroy The Museum of Civilization, which they end up doing. He wants to destroy what Arthur and Elizabeth have been building. And Jeevan ends up coming back to heal him after he’s harmed himself trying to set The Museum of Civilization on fire. He’s hurt himself. Or, I don’t remember how he’s hurt, but he comes to heal Tyler.
Lyta Gold: There’s a little bit of silly… There’s a bit too much plot at that point.
Aaron Thorpe: There’s a little bit too much plot and it’s very convenient, but Kirsten and Jeevan end up seeing each other again, because Jeevan ends up staying at the airport to watch The Traveling Symphony perform for the airport. And he decides to end up staying. And that scene where they finally see each other again –
Lyta Gold: Wept. Ugly, ugly cried.
Aaron Thorpe: Oh, I was like snot, just dribbling down. It was beautiful. And I just bring this up to say, this show, you’re making me think about it, talking about it. I think initially I was like, one of the show’s biggest themes is the way that culture binds us together. But actually no, the show is about how people are able to come back together after so much loss and tragedy.
And Elizabeth and Tyler, for example, because Tyler has faked his death. His mom, when he comes back to the airport and he brings his cult of children, she can’t believe that it’s him. And she actually would rather not believe that it’s him, even though she’s sure that it is. Because this is painful. Reunifying can be painful, but it happens anyway and she ends up leaving with him at the end. And Kirsten and Jeevan end up splitting ways too at the end. This is at the very, very end, which, the fact that people could – I’ll say this and shut up – But the fact that people could, after being apart for so long, come back together and then leave again. Oh God, man. It just breaks my heart, but it made me very happy too, to see that.
Lyta Gold: Because it’s part of growing up. Jeevan has built a separate life. He’s married. He has children. He’s living on an island. It must be an island in Lake Michigan somewhere. And just part of being family. One of the things that’s so, so neat about the show, that The Traveling Symphony is nomadic, which is something that you don’t see a lot of in postapocalypses, unless people are running away from something.
Aaron Thorpe: That’s true.
Lyta Gold: Usually. One of Ursula Le Guin’s books, one of the ones I can think of where this happens, but generally speaking, you don’t see people moving around, because moving around is dangerous. And it’s dangerous in this, there’s the Red Bandanas hiding in the woods. But that there is enough comfort with the world, enough love of the world, that they travel around from town to town performing Hamlet for them. It’s a very beautiful image.
Aaron Thorpe: Yeah. And Kirsten as she, I think Alex is one of the characters, one of her best friends that she ended up taking care of since she was a baby. And Alex wants to leave the circle. She wants to leave The Wheel, rather. And Kirsten, she really has abandonment issues, which is understandable. Not only did her parents die in this pandemic, not only did she lose Jeevan, but there’s constant loss happening all the time. And also the composer as well.
Who ends up dying as well. And she’s very attached to this, and she doesn’t want anybody, including Alex, to leave. And I really understand that. But at the same time, there’s a reason why in all these apocalyptic movies and shows people feel the need to settle down. Because after all this chaos, nobody wants to be nomadic. Nobody wants to endanger themselves. But Kirsten seems to not be able to settle down. There are things that she’s still running away from. And I think most of that in the show was Jeevan. Losing Jeevan is something that she’s constantly trying to outrun. And feeling that maybe she was guilty for it by sending him out into the woods to look for the comic. This is something that haunts her forever. And also, this show is a lot about guilt. It’s a lot about people being haunted by things.
Lyta Gold: Yeah. Yeah. That’s a very good point. And, in the end, Alex does leave. Because Alex is a slightly annoying character. She’s always, oh, I want to join the children’s cult. Now, I want to join the airport people.
Aaron Thorpe: Yeah. I want to join the children’s cult with the guy – Yeah, exactly. I’m, okay, you do that.
Lyta Gold: She’s old for joining the children’s cult. She’s like 18, Miss Missy. Come on.
Aaron Thorpe: Yeah.
Lyta Gold: But yeah, and she does leave in the end because she needed to grow up and they needed to separate. And that was the thing too, as traumatic as Kirsten and Jeevan separating was, and as much as they wouldn’t have chosen to do it the way they did it, they needed to separate. They needed to be apart from each other. Because it’s part of the nomadic thing too. Life goes on. Things keep moving, people keep growing up and they stay apart from each other. And there’s a sense that you don’t often get in a lot of postapocalypses that the world will continue. It’s not going to end with these people. It’s going to keep going.
Aaron Thorpe: Yes. And I know I did say earlier that in terms of I wish that there is a sense of a new beginning in terms of culture, creativity, X, Y, and Z. But no, there is a continuation and there is this new beginning. Because Kirsten and Jeevan, they promise that at the end that when they leave each other, that she returns to The Wheel every year. Every year they make this trip, and Jeevan will make the trip too.
Lyta Gold: Yeah.
Aaron Thorpe: So it is like life goes on, but… How can I say it? Life goes on and things continue, but they don’t have to stay the same.
Lyta Gold: Yeah. Yeah.
Aaron Thorpe: Things can change. It’s very unique for a show about the apocalypse to end on such a beautiful high note like this. Like I said before, no one died, no one really dies – Except, okay, everyone dies during the pandemic. Okay. Sure. But no one dies in these brutal scuffles over resources. You don’t see any of the suffering on screen. It’s just a beautifully optimistic show about the end of the world, which I think I needed during COVID, especially.
Lyta Gold: Yes. I regret waiting as long as I did to see it, because I think it actually did make me feel better. And some things were hard. Some things about the pandemic and when people are first getting the news about the pandemic happening. They handle it all very differently.
And I think in part because it’s so serious, that nobody takes it seriously. Because there’s a scene early on where Jeevan and Kirsten are in the grocery store trying to stock up and nobody’s there, which is very different from what I remember from early COVID. But that was partly because if the flu were that serious, if it were that deadly, would people just decide it wasn’t real, or would they not pay attention? And I can kind of see that happening. But yeah, the show is a way of processing, even though it’s not an identical situation by any means, a way of processing those terrible feelings, especially from the early pandemic.
Aaron Thorpe: Yeah. And it always feels weird whenever a piece of media contextualizes real-life events for me. I always feel a little bit weird because I’m always the one making fun of liberals for stanning Marvel or Harry Potter when we’re talking about complex geopolitical issues. But, I will say, I think the first instance of the show where – I mean, I bawled so many times – But the first instance where I bawled, was blubbering, was when, after a couple days, maybe a couple days, it’s two days Kirsten hasn’t heard from her parents.
Lyta Gold: Oh gosh.
Aaron Thorpe: And, God, man, I almost feel like I’m going to cry talking about it. But at this point, because there’s so much mass death, the morgue is just sending out text messages to the family members of the owners of the phones of the recently deceased and just sending them text messages, saying, oh, the owner of this phone is at X and Y, whatever morgue. Please don’t come.
And after Kirsten is reading Station 11 and still hoping to hear from her parents, she just gets this text message. And the way that it’s shot is that she walks out of the room, she’s locked herself in this room because everyone has cabin fever, and she walks out of the room and Jeevan looks at her and she just hands him the phone.
And she hugs him and she says, everyone is dead. Everyone is dead. And I didn’t lose anyone. Thank God, I didn’t lose anyone in the pandemic. I know a lot of people that did. But to contextualize just for a moment that there are like, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s over a million people, but at the time when I was watching it, way past almost half a million people dead. And as a human being, you can’t even conceptualize something like how many is 600,000? How many is 700,000?
But that scene man, where she’s like, everyone is dead. I know that the author didn’t write this during the pandemic. This came out way before the pandemic. I know that maybe even filming – No, not filming, but the conception of the show went into production, pre-production, way before the pandemic. But just that scene was such a way to encapsulate this immense loss that we’ve all been feeling for the past two years, whether or not you’ve lost somebody. Just to have it be the ambient background noise. It was a very poignant scene, man. I just bawled my eyes out.
Lyta Gold: Yeah. There’s something. It was the coldness and also the don’t come. They’re obviously sending millions of these messages out. Ah! I think when people look at Harry Potter and complex geopolitical messages, as you were saying, it’s so different to look at something, and it’s this approach of art where it’s, well, this tells an important message. And if everybody just hears this message then they’ll be good people. That’s not what this show is going to do for you. It’s not what Harry Potter is going to do either.
Aaron Thorpe: Exactly.
Lyta Gold: But the last episode was about Harry Potter, it was a lot of fun. But yeah, the show, Station 11… And it may not make you feel better, but it talks about this extremely hard thing that has been very difficult to talk about. And, by giving it, it’s not an identical situation. It’s funny, actually, the production was interrupted by COVID.
Aaron Thorpe: That is so wild.
Lyta Gold: Isn’t it?
Aaron Thorpe: Imagine you’re making a show about a pandemic –
Lyta Gold: Right.
Aaron Thorpe: And then the pandemic actually happens.
Lyta Gold: I know, it’s so crazy.
Aaron Thorpe: Wait, did I do this?”
Lyta Gold: And, also –
Aaron Thorpe: Am I manifesting?
Lyta Gold: It is very eerie that the pandemic is set in 2020, because that was when the show was supposed to come out. It came out in 2021. So they were planning. They had no idea going in, adapting this 2014 book, that this was going to happen. And it’s just such a strange aligning of scenarios to get here.
Aaron Thorpe: It really is. And some of the scenes are hard to watch where you see, I think it’s Jeevan’s sister, she’s moving through the hospital and you see kids with their masks on and stuff like that. And even the airport scene where one guy ends up actually leaving the airplane that we were talking about earlier. That Miranda ends up convincing the captain to not let anybody off. One guy ends up leaving. And just the horror that everyone has, these airport survivors, don’t go near him. Don’t let him touch anybody.
All this, it’s not paranoia because it’s actually we should be social distancing. But just generally the way that people have normalized or gotten used to all this distance and space. I don’t know. Just the little things that the show does where it felt like it hit a little bit too close to home. Where I was, yeah, thank God this is not the pandemic in the show.
Lyta Gold: I know. It does. And so many people have died and it’s been so terrible that it’s hard to be, well, at least it isn’t that. But also at least it isn’t that.
Aaron Thorpe: Yeah, at least it –
Lyta Gold: It does help to know that, in the show, some examples of people behaving badly, people behaving well, the airport 20 years after the pandemic still forces people who visit to quarantine. And to know that people will handle these things differently, and some responses are not going to be amazing, and some are going to be cruel. They end up shooting the guy who leaves the plane. But it’s complicated because maybe he is still infected. They’ve got no idea. It presents these sorts of hard choices and hard things. But it never ever says, life is cruel, nasty, brutal, and short. There’s nothing grimdark about it. It’s just here’s these different people and here’s how they respond.
Aaron Thorpe: Yeah, exactly. And actually it’s like, I think, if I’m correct, I think the root of the word apocalypse in the Latin, maybe, I think it means a rebirth.
Lyta Gold: Greek, yeah, yeah. I think you’re right.
Aaron Thorpe: Yeah. Yeah. Greek, right. Like rebirth. So it’s like the show, it isn’t actually about the end, really. It’s the end of one thing, but it’s the beginning of another. And I know I keep being contradictory. There are things that I would’ve liked to see if it’s going to go with that theme of renewal, there were things that I would like to have seen. But it very much is like a reset button. And this is the insidious thing that you were talking about. It’s so appealing because it’s –
Lyta Gold: In a terrible way.
Aaron Thorpe: Especially as leftists it’s like, hey man, would I do the Thanos snap? If I had the capacity to do so. No, but at the same time, the show makes it a little bit too easy because it’s like dusting off your hands like, hey, that was easy. That was simple. Now we can just start over. But it’s, no, man. It’s not going to be – And the show actually, to be fair, I’m pretty sure the 20 years that they don’t show you, I’m pretty sure that was hell for most people on earth. It’s implied that it was a pretty dark fucking time. It’s implied in the show.
But the show makes it, yeah man, what if? And what I mean to say, what if, I mean in a less sociopathic way. I want to be clear about this because I don’t want people to listen to this being like, God, this guy’s hoping for the end of the world. It just so happens that, it’s history that calamitous things like maybe economic crisis, maybe a climate crisis, have the potential to bring people together and start anew.
Lyta Gold: Yeah. Well, it’s like the quote that you brought up. “It’s easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism.” And essentially the end of capitalism can only come after the end of the world. And so the question is, how could you tell a story, or would it be possible to tell a story with the aesthetic structures that we have and expectations that we have? Could you tell a story where you don’t have this calamitous event intervening? Could you get to this world where people regard art and property differently?
Aaron Thorpe: That’s a really good question, because I was thinking, and I was talking about Contact earlier and I just talked about that. And you know what? I will say that I think the Contact and the show are in that genre of optimistic media. Optimistic in the sense of what human beings are actually capable of.
And the reason I bring up Contact is because Jody Foster’s character is being vetted during a hearing to be chosen to possibly go to this alien planet. And they ask her, if you had one question, what would it be for them? You could only ask them one question. And she said, well, how did you do it? How did you overcome this technological change? How do you overcome social conflict without destroying yourselves to have the ability to travel across the galaxy? And that’s something that I think about a lot because it’s very hard for me to believe that… I want to be positive, but it’s hard as a dialectician, as a Marxist, it’s like man, we ain’t going to get this shit easy. This is not just going to happen. We’re not going to get the society that we imagine and envision without some sacrifice. And that sacrifice is not even our choice. We’re not the ones choosing to do this. We’re not the ones choosing for this to happen, but maybe there does need to be something calamitous that happens. But again, being dialectical and contradicting myself, maybe that’s too easy to believe in. Because then in that case, that means that a lot of the work that has to be done in the here and now is something that you can push away.
Lyta Gold: Yeah, exactly. If you’re only waiting for the apocalypse, you don’t have to do shit.
Aaron Thorpe: Yeah. You’re not. Exactly. You’re not doing shit. Exactly
Lyta Gold: Right. And, that’s a problem because we want people to be working for this. And part of it is thinking of, not just the work that you can do now, but thinking of what that better world looks like and what the structures are.
Aaron Thorpe: Yes.
Lyta Gold: Again, because a big weakness of the show, as you’ve been saying, is how their society works politically is just not really explained at all. And that’s fine. The show’s not really interested in that. But it isn’t there. And so you have to think, who is in charge? Who’s not in charge? How do you make decisions as a group? What would a better structure of doing things be like? It’d be great if people could just travel around and do art. It would be wonderful, but how are they being fed? Who decides where they go, et cetera?
Aaron Thorpe: That’s a really good point, because one of the conceits of the show too, which, any time I try to watch something, I take off the communist hat because I would never enjoy anything. I would never enjoy anything. But one thing that the show is, one of the vestiges of this really fucked up disease society we live in are these cults of personality. So whether it’s Tyler’s character, which, to be fair, Tyler is brainwashing children. So I can’t really give him much credit there. But then there’s Arthur who runs the airport almost like his own little fiefdom.
Lyta Gold: Oh, Clark?
Aaron Thorpe: Clark, sorry, Clark. Sorry. Clark runs the airport like his own little fiefdom. And then there’s also the book of Station 11 functioning, and this is somebody who, read theory, you know what I’m saying? Sleep with the communist manifesto under my pillow at night kind of thing. No, I’m kidding. But the fact that Station 11, Tyler uses this as some pseudo religion.
It’s also like a pseudo religion to Kirsten herself. It’s like, I would hope that all these hierarchical things, whether it’s the airport, whether it’s the cult of personality around Tyler, or whether it’s just a device as the book, which is like the Bible for Tyler and Kirsten and these children. I’m hoping that all of those spooks in our minds which I think are exacerbated and created by living in a capitalist system, I hope that after a pandemic that kills 99.9% of people, people are like, okay, no gods, no masters. But the show never really gets into that. Which it doesn’t need to. It doesn’t need to.
Lyta Gold: Right. Right. And, so one of the things that’s frustrating when there’s these rare shows that are utopias, is I think it’s very, very easy for people judging them to want them to be perfect because there’s only one thing that’s like that. And it’s not really fair because nothing can be perfect.
Aaron Thorpe: Yeah.
Lyta Gold: Yeah.
Aaron Thorpe: This was better. And I don’t know, man. I didn’t read the book, to be fair, but we were talking about it. I don’t want to read the book. This show was so good – That I was like, actually, I don’t even want to read the book. I’m okay.
Lyta Gold: Yeah. As I was watching it, I was thinking of Starship Troopers, because it’s not that extreme of an adaptation that is different from the source material. But the showrunner, Patrick Somerville, he definitely took a lot of her themes and her ideas and her characters, but he wove them together so differently into, I think, a much better story. Definitely saw the potential that was in her novel, and ended up telling a much better story than what was there.
Aaron Thorpe: Yeah. You’re making me think of something, Lyta. That’s really interesting. Because you know how there are some adaptations where it’s just like, okay, this could never work in a visual medium-like film. They should have just never adapted it in the first place. This is one of the ones where it’s in the reverse.
You know what I’m saying? It almost seems like the show came out first and they did an adaptation of the show. She wrote a book, you know what I mean? Which is sad to the author, because sure, she is… I don’t know. I have never read any of her work, her work led to the show, so thank you. But it’s like, yeah. This sounds like you wrote the afterthought to the show.
Lyta Gold: Yeah, but part of the problem with the book, and again, a lot of people loved this book. And you listen and you might read it and you might love it, and I just didn’t. One of the problems I have with it is because it’s trying to be literary fiction much more than science fiction, it’s written in a cold style. The language is pretty, but it’s a little bit… There is a flat affect to everything. It’s not nearly as warm and loving as the show is.
I was thinking about this when I was reading your piece on nostalgia, because we were talking about all these remixes and adaptations, and I have a very secret, guilty love of adaptations. You can do something that’s so interesting with source material. And many of Shakespeare’s plays are adaptations of previous things that already existed. Just about all of them are. Or historical events. You can do a lot with material that already exists. And if it doesn’t have this capitalist, death-drive stamp to it where it’s all churned out to be the same, you can actually make something that’s really neat. And HBO is a giant corporation, so it’s weird that this happens sometimes.
Aaron Thorpe: Yeah, yeah. Because during the pandemic, and I talked about this in the piece. During the pandemic, you had content creators that were literally just throwing whatever at the wall to see what sticks. Because more people are at home. But this is a gamble, I think. Or maybe it wasn’t a gamble, because maybe whoever at HBO read the script and it was like, this is fucking beautiful. We obviously have to make this.
I guess I’m just a bit surprised that more people… That’s why I was talking about it on Twitter the whole time because – And maybe it’s because I’m in a little echo chamber of left Twitter that nobody’s fucking talking about the show – But I was just surprised that people weren’t raving about it because it’s like, yo, this is a unique opportunity where they took a book, made an adaptation that didn’t fucking suck, made something that was extremely relevant. Supernaturally relevant, given the pandemic. Also relevant for our end times that we’re living in. That’s the reason why I wanted to watch the show.
I wanted to watch the show because I thought I was going to fucking watch Contagion: Part 2, or some shit. I was like, oh, I’m going to see motherfuckers die and shit. I’m going to see all the twisted shit in my brain when I’m fucking high at night. I’m like, yo, we’re all fucked. I’m like, I’m going to see that shit played out in the show? Hell yeah, dude. But instead, I cried for 10 episodes about a little girl and a nice Brown man and their extended family meeting together at the end of the world and doing Shakespeare and shit. And like, it was fucking awesome. And it’s like, dude, people, watch this show. You have already seen the last season of Succession. Watch this show, please.
Lyta Gold: And I do love Succession.
Aaron Thorpe: No, seriously.
Lyta Gold: Let’s be real, but yeah. And I think –
Aaron Thorpe: Oh, that shit’s awesome.
Lyta Gold: Oh, it’s great. It’s great. And then that’s –
Aaron Thorpe: [inaudible].
Lyta Gold: And one of the things I think that it’s so tricky about talking about art right now. There is so much that’s crap and it’s annoying. And I have been watching Picard recently, because I’m stupid and I make bad decisions.
Aaron Thorpe: Oh my God. Is it bad?
Lyta Gold: It’s so bad. I’m only two episodes in, but I hate it. I don’t know. Other people might feel differently –
Aaron Thorpe: Oh, I’m sad.
Lyta Gold: …But I –
Aaron Thorpe: I’m sad.
Lyta Gold: …Fucking hate it. I’m sorry.
Aaron Thorpe: I’m sad about that.
Lyta Gold: I’m going to keep –
Aaron Thorpe: I’m genuinely sad about that.
Lyta Gold: But one of the things that I don’t like about it is that it’s kind of grimdark. They have introduced poverty into the Federation and class issues without even explaining why or how this happened. I know –
Aaron Thorpe: It’s the fucking Federation, bro.
Lyta Gold: I know. This was part of episode three, and I actually shut it off. I was like, nope. Nope.
Aaron Thorpe: Oh, wait. Well, this is all relevant because we’re talking about utopia, [inaudible] but are they? Because everyone knows on Twitter that I have been talking about Star Trek forever. But somebody mentioned that in Picard, that they’re harkening back to the Deep Space Nine episode, past tense, where Sisko goes back in time. And it talks about basically what led to the Federation, and the riots and stuff. So does Picard harken back to this darker, grimmer trajectory towards the Federation?
Lyta Gold: So that’s season two, which I haven’t gotten to yet. Season two is set in 2024, which a true Trekkie will know is the year of the Irish Unification.
Aaron Thorpe: Yes, indeed.
Lyta Gold: And it is also the year of the Bell Riots. It’s so great to get the Irish Unification. One of the things that’s fun about Star Trek, fun and sad, a little bit, is that the 21st century was this terrible, terrible, tumultuous time where everything is shit, but then it leads to the Space Utopia, so sometimes when –
Aaron Thorpe: You’ve just got to wait 300 years.
Lyta Gold: Yeah. I know, [crosstalk] but you know what? Maybe it would be worth it if the Space Utopia, even though we won’t live to see it, you and I, but maybe it would be nice if we can get there.
Aaron Thorpe: It would be nice.
Lyta Gold: It would be nice.
Aaron Thorpe: If my great-great-grandkids will be, it would be tight for them. For them. Yeah.
Lyta Gold: So again, season two might be handling this well. I have no idea. But season one, which is still set in the future, so it’s a post-DS9, post-Voyager future, but suddenly there are class issues in the Federation, within the Federation itself. And I can’t have that. I simply can’t have that.
Aaron Thorpe: I’m getting into some Trek lore now, but that’s why they have the Maquis. They make sense because basically they felt like they had been abandoned by the Federation on formally colonized planets, so they left the Federation. That makes sense. But the Federation… And this is the thing too. I’m trying to connect it with the show as well. Because I feel like there is a common thread between even DS9 and Station Eleven. Because DS9 is a wartime show essentially, especially the last two seasons. So you’re seeing people who are thrown into these terrible circumstances come together and see their way through.
And I would say the same thing about this show. But ultimately, I’m tired of grimdark. Picard doesn’t need to be grimdark. The Federation doesn’t necessarily need to be dark. If DS9 could be a show about the horrors of war but still managed to be incredibly positive, in some ways echoing The Next Generation, if this show, Station Eleven, can be incredibly positive, I think maybe it’s time for content creators to start… Well, I don’t know. If they were doing it for the love of the art, that would be different maybe or to make human connection. They’re not doing it for that. Yeah.
Lyta Gold: Right. And the [crosstalk] –
Aaron Thorpe: They’re not at all.
Lyta Gold: Yeah. And that’s what’s so frustrating, because you certainly wouldn’t want a situation where everybody is making utopias because they are what corporate creators say is going to hit, because that would be bad.
Aaron Thorpe: Exactly.
Lyta Gold: But what’s happening instead is things like Star Trek, which are supposed to be utopian, are getting turned dystopian, or somewhat dystopian, and there are lots of explosions and screaming. I had to stop watching Discovery because of all the explosions and screaming because it was just too much.
Aaron Thorpe: Yeah. That’s a really good point, because whatever media we consume is always a reflection of our societal paranoia and fears that we have at the time. And the fact that everything is becoming grimmer and darker… Man, I saw on Twitter, not only was there the Fresh Prince reboot, which is grittier and darker. I saw Casper the Friendly Ghost.
Lyta Gold: I saw that!
Aaron Thorpe: You’re going to make it? Like, dude!
Lyta Gold: No!
Aaron Thorpe: Yes. They are making a darker version of Casper the Friendly Ghost. You’re going to have to change that title then, like Casper the Belligerent Ghost? I don’t know. And again, I have to relate it back to the show. That’s why the show was such a breath of fresh air. And I was pleasantly surprised as someone who was going into it as an apocalyptician. I love seeing that shit. It’s like, no, dude. Actually, this show is a bright spot.
And during the pandemic, during where we’re having the triple crises of, yes, the pandemic, but then also climate change, and widening wealth and income inequality, the show is actually a bright spot in that. And I think there is a market for that. You don’t have to make it saccharine. You don’t have to make it too heavy-handed and ham-fisted, but people want to feel good. That’s the only thing that we have faced with the crises that we have. People want to feel good.
Lyta Gold: Yeah. And it wouldn’t be so bad to make people feel good, so yeah. I’m glad they were able to slip this one past the goalie, so to speak.
Aaron Thorpe: Yes, yes, yes.
Lyta Gold: And that’s a fun thing about TV. I think why there is so much good TV is because there is just this explosion of streaming services and there’s just so many shows and they’re trying to push out so much content. A lot of it is terrible and mediocre and rushed, but some of it is really, really good and made by people who… Patrick Somerville, as far as I can tell, he worked on some other shows. He worked on The Leftovers, but this is his first show that he has run himself, so I hope he does more because I was very, very wowed.
Aaron Thorpe: Mm-hmm (affirmative). I know we’re probably going to close out soon, but I was curious, I have been wanting to watch The Leftovers. Again, as I’m telling you, again, somebody who is an apocalyptician, I love this shit. Is it any good? Have you seen it, actually?
Lyta Gold: I haven’t seen it. Yeah. I have to say, when you say apocalyptician, I just wonder about what’s the licensing for an apocalyptician like?
Aaron Thorpe: What do you mean? Credentials? What you have to –
Lyta Gold: Yeah. Do you have to go to school? Is it a training program?
Aaron Thorpe: You have to go to school. Okay. You have to be born with not enough serotonin in the brain. That’s one, that is definitely one. No, no. We were talking about it earlier, being interested in the end times. It really is a cop-out because it means that you don’t have to, like you were saying, Lyta, you don’t have to do anything now.
And, yeah. It would be really nice if, like Station Eleven, the pandemic would happen and then there are 20 years that I don’t see or the audience doesn’t see because it’s just a blur of violence and Red Bandanas. And then we get to the part where we get the come together. Then we get to the part where we get to forge a new society, except that’s not going to be like that. It’s not going to be like that.
Lyta Gold: Yeah. But it’s such a nice thing to think about, and it’s also because it lets you test drive. And I think of Star Trek in some ways as being this, is it’s just a great show in many ways, but it’s a way of test driving what a type of future could be where humans are no longer at each other’s throats and we are no longer lacking for resources, and we are just having a good time exploring the galaxy and playing trombone with our friends.
Aaron Thorpe: Yes. Even in DS9, which, when it came out it was seen as the darker Star Trek, which I disagree with. That show isn’t dark. Yes, it has dark themes. Of course it does. So did Next Generation. That show, a third of it, is literally Sisko raising his son, and it’s fucking beautiful. It’s such an optimistic, beautiful show. Because the lore of Star Trek, as you were saying, the 20th century is awful. I think in ’90, in 19… The 1990s. The Bell Riots. This is when society is going through this paradigm shift. The birth pangs of a new society are forming. But for someone like me, who, again, is obsessed about the end of the world, I really do love Star Trek and I do love this show for that optimistic vision of the world that we have come out the other side okay.
And especially as a Black person, it’s like, yo. The current and historical conditions of being Black in America and the world is fucking awful. There has to be more to it than this. There has to be more to it than this, and that more to it lies in, for me, the future, and if I’m being optimistic, the stars. And that’s one thing about Star Trek, too. Star Trek is a little bit too insidious as well, because it’s like, motherfucker, we’re never going to get there. It’s –
Lyta Gold: It is so bad.
Aaron Thorpe: …Insidious, the show is, in a way, where in 300 years, you’re telling me about the 24th century, man? We’re going to have starships? Okay. [crosstalk] –
Lyta Gold: We just have to invent warp drive, and then that’s all good. Warp drive, then the Vulcans find us, and that’s how it goes.
Aaron Thorpe: Yes. The first contact. Exactly. Exactly. Oh, man.
Lyta Gold: Oh, man. Gosh, what is that really, really great episode? It’s season five or season six. Oh, I’m blanking on the name. It’s one of the best ones. Sisko goes back in time –
Aaron Thorpe: Oh –
Lyta Gold: And he inhabits –
Aaron Thorpe: …Fuck, fuck.
Lyta Gold: Yeah. He becomes a character. He is a lot like Sam Delaney, is who he’s based on. He is a Sci-Fi writer.
Aaron Thorpe: I literally watched this. I literally fucking watched this the other night. Why can’t I remember? I know exactly who you’re talking about.
Lyta Gold: It’s one of the best episodes. It’s so good.
Aaron Thorpe: Dude, at the end where Sisko… People probably listening are like, yeah, of course I fucking watch Star Trek. This is why I’m listening to this fucking episode. I knew you guys were going to talk about it, but no.
Lyta Gold: You’d better. You’d better watch Star Trek if you’re listening to this show. Oh my God.
Aaron Thorpe: Listen. If you have never watched an episode to Star Trek, just watch Deep Space Nine, this episode of Deep Space Nine, where, as you said, Lyta, he ends up going back in time, or he is under the illusion that he is going back in time as a Sam Delaney, 1950s Black Sci-Fi writer who comes up with a Black space captain called Sisko, who is commandeering a station called Deep Space Nine. I was about to say Station Eleven. It’s called Deep Space Nine.
His editor will not allow his story to get published because he is Black. Which is the first time… Well, not the first time, but I haven’t watched original Trek, but I’m not really sure if they address it explicitly. At least it’s the first time in ’90s Trek where it’s explicitly about race, explicitly about race on earth, not race on another planet. But the reason why I’m retelling this is the end where he is going back and forth between these visions of what’s real and what’s not, and Sisko’s father who appears to him as a preacher says to him, you’re the dream and the dreamer.
And it’s just not only beautiful philosophical, metatextual commentary on art and the creator. But again, I think for anyone, if you’re marginalized in this country or whatever you are, I think dreaming up these different worlds and dreaming up this other alternative, I think, is very important to manifesting it. I don’t know if that makes any sense. I’m not trying to be on some hokey-hokey, good-juju thing. But just manifesting and being that. Yeah. I sound cheesy, but I don’t know. It really hits hard, man. It really does hit hard. You know?
Lyta Gold: You do have to –
Aaron Thorpe: It really does hit hard for me.
Lyta Gold: You do have to imagine it. “Far Beyond the Stars.” That’s the name of the episode.
Aaron Thorpe: Yes. “Far Beyond the Stars.” Yes, exactly. Exactly.
Lyta Gold: Oh, man. Oh, yeah.
Aaron Thorpe: Exactly.
Lyta Gold: Oh, that’s a [crosstalk].
Aaron Thorpe: You have to envision it, and that’s where this show when we talked about, we have said a couple times now, that’s where it falls flat. And I know that wasn’t the purpose of the show. The show wasn’t supposed to be political. It was a very personal show. But it doesn’t really imagine. And maybe that’s the point, maybe. Maybe the point is that we’ll reach this point of no return, as if there is a civilization, a societal collapse where we can’t put the pieces back together, and people will have to be living in these self-governing tribes basically, which I’m with it. That’s fine. I would also like a communist utopia, but at the same time, I would be okay with an anarchist utopia where we just live in tribes and try to run away from the Red Bandanas. I would be cool with that too, if that’s the least of my worries. Yeah.
Lyta Gold: Yeah. Yeah. Again, the fact that it’s an apocalypse, that you look at that, you look at the way that The Traveling Symphony lives and you’re like, I want that. Again, it’s evil, as we said. It’s evil, but it’s also like, man. If only we could get there without having to kill 99.9% of the population.
Aaron Thorpe: Exactly. Exactly, exactly. Nobody watches Mad Max and says, oh, hell yeah. That shit looks lit as hell. I want to live in that society. Maybe the cars. But you watch Station Eleven and you’re like, oh, you tell me. All I got to do is just perform Shakespeare? And you know what I mean? Grow food and shit like that, and occasionally watch out for the Red Bandanas, which means like, okay, I just won’t go into the woods after dark. Yeah. That’s preferable than living on an asteroid and mining it for Musk Industries or some shit like that. You know what I’m saying? I would much rather this future instead of that one.
Lyta Gold: So in conclusion, everybody should watch Station Eleven, and everybody should watch Star Trek, especially Deep Space Nine, immediately. I have yet to do a Deep Space Nine episode. I feel like I talk about it in every episode I have done.
Aaron Thorpe: Oh, dude. You –
Lyta Gold: Because it comes up.
Aaron Thorpe: Listen, my return, we can do a Deep Space Nine episode. If we talk about the whole series we would be talking for five hours. But yes, I am. We can pick a couple, if you’re down. We’ll talk about in DMs, but if you’re down, we can pick a couple of our favorite episodes and we can run through it and have an episode night. I would be down for that.
Lyta Gold: Oh, that’s such a good idea. Okay. Yo, so we’re doing that, folks.
Aaron Thorpe: Yeah. I’m excited for that. Hell, yeah.
Lyta Gold: Get excited.
Aaron Thorpe: Hell, yeah.
Lyta Gold: Oh, that’s going to be great.
Aaron Thorpe: I’m also sad because I’m on the last season, and I have been savoring it. You know when you have a really good meal and you just take bites by bites? So I’ve been watching half an episode and then getting stoned, unless it’s really, really good, then I watch it throughout. But I have been like, all right, man. I have been watching one a day now because I’m sad that it’s going to end.
Lyta Gold: Season seven falls off too, I got to say. There are pieces of it.
Aaron Thorpe: It does.
Lyta Gold: There is pieces that are good, but –
Aaron Thorpe: The Nog episode, the PTSD, that shit made me cry.
Lyta Gold: Yes. That’s a great episode. Oh, we’ll have to put that on our list.
Aaron Thorpe: Rest in peace to… I think his name is Aron? Aron Eisenberg, too?
Lyta Gold: Yeah, yeah. He just died a couple years ago. Yeah.
Aaron Thorpe: Yeah. He died. Rest in peace, man. But yeah. We’re going to put that one on. “Far Beyond the Stars,” and of course, “The Visitor.” I mean –
Lyta Gold: Were you okay? I was actually worried about you getting to that one. It was –
Aaron Thorpe: Oh, man. Listen, I’m in my house right now in Atlanta, where my dad died in this house, the room right down the hall. You know what I’m saying? So I’m not a spiritual person, but his presence is everywhere, and I’m house sitting right now and I’m like, why? I’m even about to cry talking about it. But yeah. I had to stop. I had to pause and watch it. It took me a whole night to watch it because it was… Guys, we’re talking about a show about fucking aliens in the future and starship captains, and I’m about to cry about it. You need to watch it. And also Station Eleven, but watch the other show about the other space station, Deep Space Nine. It’s so fucking good, man.
Lyta Gold: All right.
Aaron Thorpe: It’s so good.
Lyta Gold: It’s so good. Okay. Yeah. So we’re going to do 12 episodes about it.
Aaron Thorpe: Yeah. We have to, we have to.
Lyta Gold: All right. Well, we’ll leave it there. Thanks for joining me. This was so much fun.
Aaron Thorpe: Dude, this was so much fun, and like I said, yeah. I could say this on mic. It doesn’t matter. Pod people know this. I have said this. Podcasting is not my favorite thing, but I love doing it with people that I enjoy talking to about things that I like talking about, so I’m honored to finally get to talk to you about Station Eleven. I really am. Thank you, Lyta, so much for having me.
Lyta Gold: Oh, thanks. Thanks. Anything quick you want to promote? Everybody should listen to The Trillbillies, if they don’t already, obviously.
Aaron Thorpe: Yes. Yes. Listen to The Trillbillies. I’m on Struggle Session sometimes as a comics correspondent. That’s Leslie Lee and Jack Allison’s show, so check that out. I’ll be talking shit about… Nah, I don’t talk about Alan Moore. I praise Alan Moore on that show. And then –
Lyta Gold: You can talk shit about Alan Moore to me. It’s fine.
Aaron Thorpe: Oh, yeah. You’re not [crosstalk]. You’re not an Alan Moore fan?
Lyta Gold: I think he’s mixed. I think it’s okay to be like, there are things they did that are brilliant and there are things that don’t land so well. That’s okay. That’s an okay thing being a creative person.
Aaron Thorpe: No, no, no. Fair and balanced for sure. And his politics rock, though. I will admit. Jamie Elizabeth, if people know from The Antifada and formerly Majority Report, her and I started this podcast last summer called Everybody Loves Communism, and I had to step away and deal with some personal issues, but I’m back. And we also have another host doing the show with us, so people can check that out too. We just basically do theory. We do the reading for people that either don’t want to do the reading, or reading this shit is tough, so we’re there to help people out at that. And finally, I have a new Twitter account. This is the last one. I’m not doing this again. I’m fucking tired of this shit. People could check me out @spacethug_. That’s my Twitter handle, so that one is going to stay, hopefully.
Lyta Gold: Yeah, no. I had to place a bet on by the time this episode goes up on whether that you will still have it.
Aaron Thorpe: Yeah. I recorded an episode a couple nights ago, and somebody made the same exact [crosstalk] joke, and it was fucked up because my account was being… I don’t know, man. I had to verify my phone number and they locked my… I don’t know. I fucking hate that website, but I kind of need it for networking. We talked about this shit. I need it, but yeah. People can follow me on all that stuff. And thank you, again, Lyta, so much.
Lyta Gold: Oh, thank you.
Aaron Thorpe: Thank you so much.
Lyta Gold: Thank you.
Aaron Thorpe: I’m really happy that we got to have a two-hour long, sometimes rambling, but very poignant conversation about this show that people need to fucking watch.
Lyta Gold: Yes, and we’ll just have to do this again for every Deep Space Nine episode in the future.
Aaron Thorpe: Yeah, no. Seriously. We just do a whole new podcast.
Lyta Gold: Dude.
Aaron Thorpe: Just do a whole new podcast, a Deep Space Nine podcast.
Lyta Gold: I know you and I both have too many projects, but let’s consider.
Aaron Thorpe: Yo. I’m about to drop one of them [crosstalk]. Like, Jamie, you know what? I know I just came back – No, I’m kidding. Jamie, I love you. I’m kidding. I would never do that.
Lyta Gold: Jamie’s cool. Jamie’s cool. We’re sorry, Jamie.
Aaron Thorpe: Jamie’s cool.
Lyta Gold: I’m not stealing him –
Aaron Thorpe: Sorry, Jamie.
Lyta Gold: …I promise.
Aaron Thorpe: We’ll do an Art for the End Times Deep Space Nine [crosstalk], and then we’ll take it from there. Because it can’t just be one. It would probably have to be several at least.
Lyta Gold: Oh, and there are other guests. Because it’s the best show ever made by humans, so we do have to talk about it at great length with lots of people.
Aaron Thorpe: Seriously, no. It really is. It really is.
Lyta Gold: All right, well stay tuned. We will be doing more, obviously, more exciting episodes. If you are a subscriber to The Real News Network, you know about this show and you know about all the other wonderful shows. And if you are not a subscriber to The Real News Network, I don’t know what you’re doing with your life. You should subscribe and listen to all of our fabulous shows. Yeah, and we’ll see you next time.