Sunday, 30 June 2013

Doctor Who and Transhumanism



Transhumanism is a movement that advocates advancing human evolution via artificial means, such as genetic engineering, cloning and other emerging technologies. Proponents see certain aspects of the human condition such as old age and sickness as unnecessary and therefore undesirable. By merging with technology Transhumanists believe humans will be able to evolve into a new race of Transhumans free from these weaknesses.


While it might sound like pure fantasy, since 1997 when a team of British scientists announced the cloning of Dolly the sheep, science fact has quickly been catching up to science fiction. On 9 March (2013), it was reported that the first genetically engineered humans have been born, sparking debate about the morality of science being used to guide human evolution: a subject first explored in Doctor Who in 1966 with the creation of the Cybermen.




After Terry Nation withdrew his Daleks from Doctor Who, it was decided to introduce new star monsters to series. But who or what could come close to replacing the Daleks? That was the difficult conundrum then script editor Gerry Davis posed to the unofficial scientific advisor to the series Kit Pedler as Doctor Who approached its fourth season.


Reflecting on his own fears as a medical Doctor of "dehumanising medicine" Pedler delivered in spades. Pedler imagined a race of human beings who had been forced by circumstances beyond their control to slowly replace most - if not all - of their vital organs and limbs with steel and plastic replacements. Ultimately even replacing large parts of their brains with computers and neurochemically programming out their emotions altogether. In effect, surgically erasing all traces of their humanity and transplanting it with cold technology and uncompromising logic. Pedler and Davis called these new nightmarish life forms Cybermen.




In the 1974 Target Book adaptation of the first Cyber-story ,The Tenth Planet, Gerry Davis described the fictional origins of the Cybermen:





Centuries ago by our Earth time, a race of men on the far distant planet Telos sought immortality. They perfected the art of cybernetics, the reproduction of machine functions in human beings. As bodies became old and diseased, they were replaced limb by limb, with plastic and steel. Finally, even the human circulation and nervous system were recreated, and brains replaced by computers. The first Cybermen were born.




Somewhat ironically, though, despite this apparent evolutionary leap forward Pedler reasoned that such beings would be driven solely by the most primitive of biological instincts … the will to survive whatever the cost. A frightening contradiction that made itself felt much more prevalently later on when Pedler and Davis decided to revisit the initial concept behind the Cybermen for the BBC series Doomwatch in the Seventies, oddly enough in an episode starring second Doctor, Patrick Troughton. Far from battling the Cybermen, though, on this occasion Troughton does everything he can to become one of them! In the words of Troughton’s character: "I keep trying to tell them machines can't catch diseases!"









In the season two episode In The Dark a terminally ill man Alan McArthur (Patrick Troughton) desperately tries to prolong his life artificially by replacing his dying body piece by piece with experimental life support systems. Although the experiment is successful it has a terrible price. McArthur begins to think of himself as well as other human beings as nothing more than biological machines. Ultimately McArthur plans on cheating death forever by becoming a living brain attached to a dead machine.


It is difficult to appreciate today but the spare-part surgery envisioned by Pedler was a rapidly emerging technology at the time. In 1960, Belding Scribner invented the Scribner shunt, a breakthrough kidney dialysis machine, and in December 1967 the first successful human heart transplant took place at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa. While, in hindsight, Pedler's concerns about these developments might seem premature back in the Sixties and Seventies, are they still so in 2013?


In July last year (2012) the mainstream media reported that a Russian entrepreneur had contacted a list of billionaires offering them eternal life in return for funding a hi-tech research project called "Avatar". The goal of which was "transferring one's individual consciousness to an artificial carrier and achieving cybernetic immortality" by the year 2045.


Perhaps it is more likely, however, that instead of reinventing ourselves limb by limb as Pedler envisioned, the real danger is doing it gene by gene. Like heart transplants and dialyses machines such technology will no doubt save the lives of countless people but we must be cautious that in saving lives we do not begin to think of humans as mere biological machines. As Professor Quist points out in In The Dark human beings are separated from animals by two factors: knowledge of our own mortality and human emotion.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Will the Illuminati use cloning to resurrect the dead? Examples in sci-fi

Alex Jones was ridiculed for the ending of his film Endgame, where it is claimed that the Illuminati have promised their minions immortality in return for their compliance in building a New World Order. Since 2007 when this film first hit YouTube, however, more and more researchers in the conspiracy field have suggested that the global elite will use a combination of cloning, genetic engineering, cybernetics and other Transhumanist technologies to keep this promise.



Since 1997, when a team of British scientists announced that they had successfully cloned Dolly the sheep, there have been many rumours that humans have also been cloned. Perhaps the most bizarre of these claims is that President Obama could be a clone, and not just any clone, but the resurrected ancient Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten who the President does bear a striking resemblance to.


The father of the Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamun, Akhenaten had a far greater impact on world history than his more famous son. Mainstream historians credit Akhenaten as being the inventor of monotheism, or, the belief in the existence of one god or oneness of God.


Akhenaten abandoned the traditional Egyptian gods in favour of worshipping a single deity, Aten, who was associated with the Sun. By doing this Akhenaten founded the religion which was the precursor to three of world's six major religions: Christianity, Islam and Judaism. All of which believe in one God.


Conspiracy researcher Freeman Fly has even speculated that the sun god religion created by this renegade Pharaoh is the secret religion of the Illuminati themselves. Which, if true, would perhaps explain why the Illuminati would want to clone Akhenaten instead of one of the more famous Pharaohs such as Cleopatra or Ramesses.



Like all ancient Egyptians, of course, Akhenaten himself would of had no doubt about living again after his death: something which is made theoretically possible by the mummification process which preserved this ancient Egyptian Pharaoh's DNA for cloning. For more information on this topic visit Freeman Fly’s Obama clone of an Egyptian Pharaoh page on Freemantv.com.



Whatever the truth, however, there is no doubting that Obama at least has a double, as this Fox News story from 2009 documents.



While it is easy to scoff at the conspiracy theories about Transhumanism, it can not be denied that this alleged Illuminati pact is echoed in many popular sci-fi television programmes and films. Sceptics will say, "So what? This is just fiction." Conspiracists would argue, however, that television programming is just that, programming, designed to precondition viewers to accept new realities and ideas. Researchers such as Texe Marrs, author of Codex Magica: Secret Signs, Mysterious Symbols, and Hidden Codes of the Illuminati, would allege that the Illuminati are deeply involved in black magic or the Occult, and believe that they get power from hiding their symbols and agenda in plane sight. With this in mind I will now examine some of the best examples of cloning being used as a means of bringing the dead back to life in science fiction.

The best and most obvious example of human cloning being used in this way in science fiction is in The Boys from Brazil, in which Adolf Hitler is brought back to life as a teenager living in the 1970s. In this story it is Joseph Mengele, the infamous Nazi Doctor notorious for his experiments on twins during WWII, who clones the Nazi Fuhrer in the sick hope of reviving the Third Reich.

The obvious problem with the idea of using cloning to bring the dead back to life is also explored in the film. A copy, no matter how perfect is still just a copy. The boys Mengele creates may have the same DNA as Hitler but without the life experiences of the Fuhrer they are still completely different individuals. One answer to this problem would be to download a person's consciousness into a computer until a new body is ready.

This concept is used in the Canadian-German series Lexx where one of the chief antagonists is a being called Mantrid: a mad scientist who has transferred his “essence” or soul into a computer in order to escape death. The process, however, goes wrong fusing his essence with that of an alien "insect" that instinctively desires to kill all humans. The full episode "Mantrid" is available to watch in parts on YouTube.


Consciousness downloading is not just restricted to the realms of sci-fi, however. In July 2012 the mainstream media reported that a Russian entrepreneur had contacted a list of billionaires offering them eternal life in return for funding a hi-tech research project called "Avatar". The goal of which was "transferring one's individual consciousness to an artificial carrier and achieving cybernetic immortality" by the year 2045. Read more about this story here.

Gene Rodenbery's Star Trek is riddled with supposed Illuminati symbolism and programming. In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine we are introduced to the Dominion, an interstellar empire that controls the entire Gamma Quadrant. This anti-Federation of planets, as the writers of the show described it, was a collection of civilisations ruled by the mysterious "Changelings". In the series we are told that after generations of persecution by other species, which they call “solids”, these shape shifting aliens used their skills in genetic design to create two slave species to conquer and administer a vast interstellar empire on their behalf, the Dominion. The motivation behind this empire building being, "what you can control can't hurt you."



Paralleling fiction the British Empire used the term "Dominion" up to the 1950s to describe colonies that had achieved "independence" but retained the British Monarch as head of state. For example, the official name of Canada is still arguably, The Dominion of Canada.



Next in seniority in rank to the Changelings in the Dominion are the Vorta, who act as the field commanders, administrators, scientists and diplomats for their shape shifting creators. This is how the Vorta are described on the website Memory Alpha, the Star Trek Wiki:

The Vorta believe, perhaps apocryphally, that they previously existed as small, timid, ape-like forest dwellers living in hollowed-out trees to avoid the many predators on their homeworld. Legend has it that one day, a family of Vorta hid a Changeling from an angry mob of “solids” that were pursuing it. In return, the Changeling promised that one day they would be transformed into powerful beings and placed at the head of a vast interstellar empire that would stretch across the galaxy. The Founders fulfilled this promise by genetically changing the Vorta into humanoids and employing them at the highest level of the Dominion as their tools of conquest.

The price of this metamorphosis is a high one, however, the Vorta are left without any sense of aesthetics, leaving them with no ability to create or even enjoy art or music of any kind.



This is nothing compared to what the Changelings do to the second slave species they engineer, the reptilian Jem'Hadar, who are the foot soldiers in the Dominion. Like the Vorta these super soldiers are genetically programmed to believe their shape shifting masters, who they call "The Founders", are really Gods. To further insure their loyalty, however, the Jem'Hadar are also addicted from hatching to a drug called "Ketracel White", without which they can’t survive, first going insane with rage then dying in agony.



The Vorta in contrast are promised eternal life by their masters in return for their continued loyalty. Whenever a Vorta dies, he or she is instantly resurrected via cloning. In Deep Space Nine we watch one Vorta called Weyoun die several times in the series only to be brought back, sometimes in the same episode. There are other examples of cloning being used in the same way in other series too.

In the reimagined series of Battlestar Galactica for instance, a race of biological robots identical to humans called Cylons use "resurrection ships" to download into a new body aboard one of these space vessels upon death. And Doctor Who fans will be familiar with the Sontarans, another cloned species who just like the Jem'Hadar of Deep Space Nine no longer have a female gender.


It is in Alien Resurrection where the most disturbing example can be found, though. In this fourth instalment of the Alien franchise the heroine Ellen Ripley played by actress Sigourney Weaver, who died at the conclusion of Alien 3, is resurrected not as the woman we remember from the previous films but as an alien-human hybrid with acid blood, super strength and an affinity for the alien beings she has spent the last three films trying to wipe out.


Jim Marrs has recently considered the unearthly origins of the global elite in his new book Our Occulted History and human-alien hybridisation is another common theme in sci-fi TV shows and films: is it possible that hybridisation with alien DNA could be the price tag of the near immortality offered by the Illuminati masters?

While it is possible that all the above examples of cloning in sci-fi could just the product of fertile imaginations and don't really mean anything, with the announcement on 9 March (2013) that the first genetically engineered humans have already been born, it is clear science fact is already rapidly catching up to science fiction.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Reflections on Ancient Astronauts in Prometheus



Ridley Scott's highly anticipated Alien prequel Prometheus promised to answer the questions Alien fans had been asking about the origins of the famous Xenomorphs since the release of Alien in 1979. Unfortunately, cinema goers will have to wait for the sequel as the film asks more questions than it answers. Audiences might have gotten some tentative answers about the evolution of the Alien, but they were left wondering about mankind's own origin. We can, however, look to other films that have explored the ancient astronaut theory to find some possible answers.
 
In a viral video released to promote Scott's return to the universe of space jockeys and chest-bursters, a young Peter Wayland, the founder and CEO of Weyland Corp, gives a presentation at the TED conference in the year 2023. During his talk the corporate chief lists mankind's greatest discoveries and inventions, culminating with the creation of "cybernetic individuals" who we're told in just a few short years will be indistinguishable from us. "We are the Gods now", Weyland boasts at the end.
 
The TED 2023 video sets up audiences for the events of Prometheus, in which in 2090 a human crew are sent to LV-223 to investigate the theory that humans were created by an unknown extraterrestrial species thousands of years ago.
 
The film begins with a prologue in which an alien "engineer" digests a black liquid reminiscent of the "black oil" in The X-Files. After swallowing this elixir the grey humanoid begins to die, its bulked up body breaking down on a cellular level before disintegrating into nothing. We can infer from film's title that this creature is supposed to be the real Prometheus, the Greek God who gave mankind fire, in the words of Mr Weyland at TED 2023: "Our first true piece of technology". We can also guess that because the race that this being belonged to has DNA that matches exactly with human DNA, that this being's sacrifice was the catalyst for mankind's evolution on Earth.




Betty Hill star map.
 
Oddly paralleling the UFO research, after the opening credits two archaeologists discover a cave painting in Scotland of a star map that resembles the one drawn in real life by Betty Hill after recalling her alien abduction experience from 1961. This might just be a coincidence, however, Marjorie Fish has interrupted the Betty Hill star map as showing the double star system of Zeta Reticuli, which is the same star system where the Prometheus crew journey to in search of mankind's creators. Although, the name of the solar system is never stated in Prometheus, it is mentioned by the character Lambert in the original Alien.
 
The biggest problem with Prometheus is that the purpose the alien "engineers" had for creating humans is never revealed, although we are told they intended to wipe out all life on Earth before they either changed their minds or were interrupted at the last minuet. The closest we get to an answer as to why the "Gods" created mankind is when Mr Weyland's android son David asks one of the crewmen why did humans create artificial humans like himself. The answer "because we could" is as disappointing as it is scary.
 
The ancient astronaut theory, of course, is nothing new, especially in science fiction. Before Eric Von Daniken's 1968 best-seller Chariots of the Gods? popularised the theory that Earth had been visited by extraterrestrials back in pre-history, science fiction writers like Arthur C. Clarke and Nigel Kneale were exploring this idea in fiction.
 
In his 1951 short story The Sentinel, which later became the basis for the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, Arthur C. Clarke was among the first to play with the idea that mankind could have been "engineered" by alien visitors in the remote past.
 

 
Monolith-like object photographed on Phobos, a moon of Mars.
 
In 2001: A Space Odyssey, the film begins with a tribe of apemen being visited by a mysterious black monolith. After touching the alien object the apeman tribe begins to develop new skills and intelligence. This is shown by the apeman leader Moon-Watcher picking up a bone and using it as a club. In a documentary about the making of 2001 to mark the film's 30th anniversary, Arthur C. Clarke explained that he and the director Stanley Kubrick had intended the strange artefact to be a kind of teaching machine:
 
"The Monolith was essentially a teaching machine. In fact our original idea was to have something with a transparent screen on which images would appear, which would teach the apes how to fight each other, how to maybe even make fire. But that was much too naive an idea. So eventually we just bypassed it with a device which we didn't explain ... but they just touched it, and things happened to their brains, and they were transformed."
 
Clarke also explains in the same documentary the meaning of the famous scene when Moon-Watcher throws the bone weapon he invents into the air and the scene shifts to a satellite orbiting Earth in the year 2001. According to the inventor of the communications satellite, the spacecraft orbiting Earth is a nuclear weapon. The message being that the same intelligence that gave humans the ability to go into space can also be used to destroy ourselves before we journey into outer space.
 
Apemen were also the target of ancient alien manipulation in Nigel Kneale's third Quatermass story, Quatermass and The Pit. Originally a six part story broadcast live on the BBC between December 1959 and January 1958, the story centres around the discovery of a mysterious "unexploded bomb" at an archaeological dig in London. Found near the remains of apemen with unusually large skulls, the object is in fact a Martian spaceship that had been sent to Earth to return several apemen to the planet after they had been augmented. Going one step beyond 2001, the reason the aliens had for altering the apemen is given in Quatermass and The Pit.With their own race doomed by an environmental cataclysm on Mars, the aliens intended the apemen to be their successors. In the words of Quatermass: "It would be a way of possessing the Earth. Only a colony by proxy, but better than leaving nothing at all behind."
 
Another interesting parallel between Clarke's 2001 and Nigel Kneale's Quatermass and The Pit is that that the increased intelligence of the apemen has potentially catastrophic results. In 2001 the very first tool Moon-Watcher creates is used as a weapon to club another apeman to death, and millions of years later mankind uses its intelligence to put nuclear weapons in orbit. Paralleling this, Quatermass and The Pit begins with Professor Quatermass condemning a government plan to put similar weapons in space. Might this have been the reason for the "engineers" in Prometheus wanting to wipe us out, were they afraid of what humans might do once they began to develop more sophisticated weapons than bone clubs? In Ufology the explosion of the first atomic bomb in 1945 is often suggested as a reason why aliens might be visiting Earth, but if Scott's "engineers" had similar concerns about the course human technology was taking towards destruction, then why then didn't they go ahead with their planned annihilation of all life on Earth?
 
Again a possible explanation might be found in Kneale's Quatemass and The Pit. In that film the reason the aliens are unable to finish their colonisation of Earth is because the Martians, obsessed with a hatred for nonconformity and anything different, wipe themselves out in a race war first.
 
Prometheus ends with the archaeologist Elizabeth Shaw and the decapitated head of the android David setting course for the home world of the "engineers". Will they find a dead planet with only hints of the civilisation that once existed there in the proposed sequel to the prequel? We will have to wait for Scott to finish his long awaited Blade Runner sequel, another film that asks questions about the nature of God, to find out.
 
Whether any of these films are some form of UFO disclosure or disinformation effort, or simply the product of imaginative minds... I'll leave that for another column, though.
 
 


 
Richard Thomas's new book “Sci-Fi Worlds - Doctor Who, Doomwatch, Battlestar Galactica And Other Cult TV Shows” is available from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. For more information about Richard Thomas's books go to www.richardthomas.eu or email sue@bretwaldabooks.com.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Nick Pope Doctor Who interview

Below you can read my interview with Nick Pope which appeared in issue one of the new Doctor Who fanzine, TOMTIT. For more information about the fanzine go to www.bandril.blogspot.com.

















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Nick Pope
Binnall of America and UFOMystic Richard Thomas interviews former MOD UFO investigator Nick Pope.
      
Which stories in particular do you think have influenced your sci-fi work the most?
Although my two sci-fi novels are - on the face of it - about alien invasion, I wanted to get away from a one-dimensional good versus evil conflict. I wanted to blur the lines and make people think about the moral issues. While it's difficult to nail down particular Doctor Who stories as an influence, a central theme of morality run through the show as a whole. I guess the idea of the military being in the frontline is common to my novels and to any of the stories featuring UNIT. 
      
Genesis of the Daleks is often rated the all-time classic Doctor Who story. Why do you think this is so?
A number of reasons. Tom Baker was one of the greatest Doctors and the three way dynamic between the Doctor, Sarah-Jane and Harry worked very well. The daleks have always been popular villains, so the story was bound to appeal. But Genesis was more than just another dalek story - it was the story of the creation of the daleks and the central question of whether the daleks could be instilled with a sense of morality, or destroyed, made this a 'high stakes' story. Other highlights included the introduction of Davros and the Doctor's moralizing over his right to destroy the daleks. Finally, I think people enjoyed the parallels with the Nazis: a brutal, militaristic society in a total war. Genetic experiments. Genocide. The uniforms and the salutes. All this and more was present, with Davros as Hitler and Nyder as his Himmler. 
   
Why do you think they continue to be so popular with younger audiences?
With CGI and a bigger budget, we can have more sophisticated-looking daleks and more of them. And now we have the fix to the 'they can't get up the stairs' issue. But again, I think the popularity reflects the fact that they are the ultimate Doctor Who villains: aggesive, ruthless, persistant and without any pity.
     
Whose your favourite Doctor and why?
NP: People often ask this and ask the same question about James Bond. Popular wisdom is that the answer is usually "the first one you saw". I started watching when it was Jon Pertwee, but eventually I came to prefer Tom Baker, who until recently was my favourite. But Doctor Who is now so polished that Christopher Eccleston took over the top slot ... until David Tennant joined. David, to me, is the best Doctor. I just think his acting is brilliant. He perfectly portrays the sadness, the loneliness and the detachment that are so central to the Doctor's character, but also the strength and sense of purpose. He brilliantly shows the audience the quiet "fury of the Time Lord". 
       
Personally my favourite Doctor Who adversary has always been the Cybermen. The Moonbase, Tomb of the Cybermen and The Invasion are easily some of the best black and white stories, which is loudly echoed in the new series. What do you think it is about them that still scares children so much?
I think there are parallels with the Daleks. People like the continuity of villains that return again and again. It gives the writers a chance to develop themes that couldn't really be included in a one-off story, such as the wider evolution of a race. But the idea that they were once humanoid, but transformed themselves into these cyborgs is scary. It's a case of "they're like us ... but not like us". Something green with tentacles is obviously alien, but maybe the Cybermen are a little 'too close to home'. 
 
After Genesis of the Daleks, The Daemons is often said to be the best of the classic Doctor Who adventures. The way this and other classic stories like The Pyramids of Mars tied Erich von Däniken's theories into Doctor Who makes for an interesting mix of mythologies. What do you think of this?
I think it's very clever. It was tapping into the popularity of such ancient mystery books in the Seventies, largely started by von Daniken. The Nazca lines get a mention in Death to the Daleks, as I recall. And we can't have mention of The Daemons without quoting the Brigadier's classic "Jenkins, chap with the wings there, five rounds rapid" line.
      
Doctor Who and the Silurians came out in 1970 the same year as Ivan T. Sanderson's Invisible Residents: The Reality of Underwater UFOs was first published. Do you think it might just be possible that another intelligent species like the Silurians or Sea Devils could have evolved right here on Earth? In other words what do you think of what UFO researchers call the cryptoterrestrial hypothesis?
Well, I hope these monsters are brought back at some stage! I reference the cryptoterrestrial hypothesis a fair bit in my first sci-fi novel, Operation Thunder Child. There are plenty of USO (Unidentified Submerged Object) reports and many UFO sightings where an object is seen over water, so who knows? I'm not hugely attracted to the cryptoterrestrial hypothesis, but I certainly can't rule it out. And as the saying goes, we arguably know less about the deep ocean than we do about the Moon or Mars.
       
Doctor Who and the Silurians ends tragically with the Brigadier blowing up the Silurian base. As someone who used to work for them, hypothetically how do you think the MoD would deal with a species like the Silurians or Sea Devils in the real world?
Obviously I can't discuss specific details of Rules of Engagement, but in general terms I think I can say that if attacked, we would respond with proportionate force. However, in any contact with an extraterrestrial (or cryptoterrestrial) civilisation the key strategic objective would be to open lines of communication and facilitate peaceful contact. Secondary objectives would include information exchange, with a particular emphasis on science and technology.
  
When the Silurians returned in the new series in two-parter The Hungry Earth / Cold Blood they were changed quite a lot, do you think they were still the same "Earth Reptiles" we first met in 1970?
I think they were different, but I think it worked. In a sense, this is exactly what happened with the Cybermen; the appearance had changed - as had the back-story - but while purists may have taken offence, most people were either unaware of the change (in the case of younger audiences unfamiliar with the original) or weren't bothered by it. It's OK to be nostalgic, but one shouldn't be wedded to the past. Doctor Who is often at its best when reinventing itself.
     
In The Ambassadors of Death, Great Britain not only has a manned space program but also already sent men to Mars. As someone with an interest in space how close was this to reality at the time?
This story was broadcast fairly shortly after the Apollo 11 moon landing, so there was immense public fascination in anything to do with space, coupled with a feeling that we'd all be holidaying on the moon by the end of the century. Those within government, however, would have been well aware that a manned space programme was quite beyond the UK at the time, both in terms of technical capability and, critically, finance. We still spend far too little on space, given the huge benefits to be reaped in terms of resources and knowledge. 
      
What did you think of Derek Jacobi's and John Simm's portrayals of the Master in the new series?
Both are brilliant actors and both were excellent in different but complementary roles that brought out that mixture of charisma and menace that defines the character of the Master. The scene where John Simms dances to the Scissor Sisters song "I Can't Decide" was outstanding.
   
What do you think of Steven Moffat's writing of Doctor Who? 
There's a darkness and a poignancy about his stories that I like (e.g. the "she's ghosting" scene from Silence in the Library) and another thing that appeals is that he's a writer who deals really thoughtfully with the philosophy of time travel. 
           
Stories like Spearhead from Space, Ark in Space and The Lazarus Experiment seem to have been heavily influenced by Nigel Kneale's Quatermass serials. David Tennant also appeared in the remake of The Quatermass Experiment before he became the new Doctor. Why do you think Nigel Kneale's fiction continues to inspire writers even today? 
I agree that some of the Doctor Who stories have been influenced by Quatermass, probably because some of the Doctor Who writers watched Quatermass when they were younger. Quatermass and his British Rocket Group even get namechecked in a couple of Doctor Who stories. There are clear parallels between the two shows and in particular the idea of a clever, moral but quirky character facing down all manner of alien threats, despite the odds being stacked against him. Sci-fi is arguably dominated by big budget Hollywood movies, so Kneale's work (like Doctor Who) appeals to us because there's something very British about it. 
      
Do you foresee any new esoteric mysteries becoming a part of the sci-fi canon, much like abductions and Face on Mars have?
Well, the disappearing bees got a mention in Doctor Who recently and all sci-fi writers will keep an eye out for real life mysteries. I think the big one to watch is 2012 and the associated mysteries and theories that surround the Mayan calendar. The sci-fi movie 2012 will be released next year and I'm sure the whole 2012 issue will crop up in other sci-fi books, movies and TV series. 
      
Would you like to write more sci-fi yourself?
I'd love to write more sci-fi and at some stage, a third novel to follow the previous two. But I'm too busy with TV and promotional work at present to write another book. Operation Thunder Child was previously optioned by Carnival Films and a screenplay was written, but the project stalled. Operation Thunder Child and Operation Lightning Strike are currently being looked at by a major Hollywood studio, with a view to making them into a blockbuster sci-fi movie.
  
What do you think of Steven Moffat era so far and how do you think it compares with the RTD era?
Steven Moffat is building on RTD's excellent work, while not being afraid to take some big decisions of his own (e.g. resting the Daleks) and move the show forward in his own vision. The key to this has been the development of River Song - a character he created - who is fast becoming one of the best-loved characters in the history of Doctor Who.
 
What have you thought about Matt Smith’s portrayal of the Doctor? Where do you think he ranks with the other Doctors?
David Tennant was always going to be an extremely hard act to follow, but I think Matt Smith is excellent. His Doctor is among the best portrayals yet. He captures the essence of the Doctor very well: part eccentric, part misfit, part warrior, part adventurer - someone with companions, who is always alone; someone moral, but responsible for so many deaths. Someone with secrets, some of which will probably never be revealed. The only difficulty with a good portrayal of such an iconic character is that the actor will be snapped up for even bigger roles, and/or won't want to stay long, to avoid being typecast.
 
Perhaps the most controversial redesign has to be that of the Daleks. Do you think that after nearly 50 years it was about time for a change or do you think they should be changed back?
I'm not resistant to change, and in many cases it's a good thing, but in this instance, I don't think it works. The new multi-coloured Daleks just don't look as threatening as when they're grey or black. To my mind, these "Habitat Daleks" lack menace and perhaps it's no coincidence that Steven Moffat has decided to rest the Daleks for a while. The official reason is that he thinks they've been over-used and that people won't be scared of them if they see them defeated time after time. Maybe so (though the answer to that is to give them some victories), but one wonders whether the reaction to the redesign was a factor as well.
     
If you were ever approached by either the BBC or Big Finish to write a Doctor Who story what do you think you would suggest?
Having had two sci-fi novels published and being currently involved in creating and developing a series for the BBC, I'd jump at the chance to write a Doctor Who story, or to have some creative input in the show. I don't want to be too specific in my answer here, as it's something I've thought about seriously, so I'm not going to give much away. Suffice to say, I'd push a few boundaries, break a few taboos, push the darker themes and up the fear factor as much as I could, pre-watershed.
   
About Nick Pope

Author, journalist and TV personality Nick Pope used to run the British Government's UFO project at the Ministry of Defence. Initially sceptical, his research and investigation into the UFO phenomenon and access to classified government files on the subject soon convinced him that the phenomenon raised important defence and national security issues, especially when the witnesses were military pilots, or where UFOs were tracked on radar.

While working on the MoD's UFO project Nick Pope also looked into alien abductions, crop circles, animal mutilations, remote viewing and ghosts. He is now recognised as a leading authority on UFOs, the unexplained and conspiracy theories. He does extensive media work, lectures all around the world and has acted as presenter, consultant or contributor on numerous TV and radio shows.
You can find Nick Pope’s website at www.nickpope.net.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

In the new Planet of the Apes film, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, scientists searching for a cure for Alzheimer’s disease create a new breed of super-intelligent ape with the power of human-like memory and the ability to communicate.

While talking chimpanzees are still confined to Pierre Boulle’s original novel, The Monkey Planet, and Fox’s lucrative sci-fi franchise, this might not be the case for much longer. In two articles in the Daily Mail newspaper last July, scientists have warned that controversial experiments involving human-animal hybrids could lead to a nightmarish  Planet of Apes scenario in which apes acquire human-like intelligence and even speech.

In the first article “Beware ‘Planet of the Apes’ experiments, warn scientist”, David Derbyshire, Environment Editor for the popular British tabloid wrote: “It sounds like something from a Hollywood science fiction film: a race that is half human, half ape. But leading scientists are today demanding tough new rules to prevent the nightmare scenario becoming a reality.”

This article, and others like it dotting the newspapers on July 22, was a response to a new hard hitting report by The Academy of Medical Sciences. The review was set up to look at the potential dangers of Frankenstein-like experiments involving scientists adding human genes or tissue to animals.

Professor Martin Bobrow, a medical geneticist at Cambridge University and co-author of the report, said: “The fear is that if you start putting very large numbers of human brain cells into the brains of primates suddenly you might transform the primate into something that has some of the capacities that we regard as distinctively human – speech, or other ways of being able to manipulate or relate to us.”

The main headline on the front cover of the Daily Mail the next day (July 23,2011) read “150 Human Animal Hybrids Grown in UK Labs”, and continued the apes story: “Scientists have created more than 150 human-animal hybrid embryos in British labourites. The hybrids have been produced secretively over the past three years by researchers looking into possible cures for a wide range of diseases. The revelation comes just a day after a committee of scientists warned of a nightmare ‘Planet of the Apes’ scenario in which work on human-animal creatures goes too far.”

What if this has already happened?

In 2005 a story, which first appeared in The Scotchman, was widely circulated on the web that Soviet dictator Josef Stalin planned on creating an army of half-human, half-chimpanzee soldiers in the decades leading up to World War Two.

The Georgian born Soviet dictator was alleged to have said to scientists: “I want a new invincible human being, insensitive to pain, resistant and indifferent about the quality of food they eat.”

The story that Stalin planned on creating an ape army was debunked in an episode of the History Channel series Monster Quest. According to the program, the story was embellished by Russian newspapers and picked up by the western press. But there have been other stories of human-chimpanzee hybrids, or humanzees. In 2004 the UK Channel Five broadcast a documentary about Oliver, a weird human looking chimpanzee that walked upright like a man. Some experts speculated that Oliver might be a humanzee. DNA tests proved this wasn’t the case, however, in the documentary scientists did speculate that in theory humans and chimpanzees could reproduce together.

The idea of one race breeding with an other to produce a hybrid will be familiar to UFO abduction researchers and science fiction fans. In the BBC serial later turned into a Hammer film, Quatermass and the Pit, Martian visitors to prehistoric Earth find a primitive race of erect apes and alter their genes to create a new hybrid race: modern humans. While such a scenario might sound fantastic according to the late Zecharia Sitchin, an expert on ancient languages, some of the oldest records ever discovered, clay tablets found in Iraq, describe how aliens came to Earth and created the human race. According to Sitchin, who passed away in 2010, the Sumarian Tablets explain how humans were created as a slave race to mine gold.

Sources:
Beware 'Planet of the Apes' experiments that could create sci-fi nightmare | Mail Online
Embryos involving the genes of animals mixed with humans have been produced secretively for the past three years | Mail Online
Stalin's half-man, half-ape super-warriors - International - Scotsman.com

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Secret society symbolism in Ridley Scott's Blade Runner and other sci-fi films

One of only two science-fiction films made by Hollywood visionary Ridley Scott, the other being Alien, Blade Runner is about far more than Harrison Ford hunting down and "retiring" rebel replicants. The first Philip K. Dick big screen adaptation the film is an undisputed cult classic and stands today as arguably the best sci-fi movie ever. Its dark, post-apocalyptic and even post-organic urban setting providing one of the few really believable sci-fi backdrops in all of cinema history.

Combined with larger questions about the nature of reality and what it really means to be human it's this convincing and well thought out sci-fi world Scott creates that invites five cuts and frequent re-watching. Almost more like a novel than a film, noticing something new with each visit.

Ridley Scott's vision of a future Los Angeles couldn't be much more different to the city we know today, though, it's a lot closer now than it was in 1982 when Blade Runner was released. With its colossal skyscrapers, heavy pollution and torrential downpours Scott’s future Los Angeles looking more like a darker New York even DC Comics' Gotham City. Like Alien before it, the film presents a “used future” only this time it's nature itself that's falling apart not just a spaceship. Climatic change apparently wiping out most animal life to the point where artificial copies are far more common and affordable and humans (those who can afford it) are forced to retreat to the "off-world colonies."

Perhaps the strangest thing about Scott's future LA, though, is that it is riddled with Illuminati imagery and symbolism. Perhaps the most obvious example of this parapolitical iconography has to be the "all seeing eye."

Blade Runner opens with an extreme close-up of Harrison Ford's character Rick Deckard's eye and there are numerous other eye shots throughout the film. Eyes being important to the plot because they're the only way to tell the difference between replicants (artificial humans) and real humans. Replicant eyes involuntary glowing in certain scenes. However, is this really the all seeing eye of the Illuminati?

In his DVD commentary for The Final Cut Scott did admit that the eye imagery was meant to be reminiscent of George Orwell's dystopian Nineteen Eighty-Four and that it was meant to imply that the world of Blade Runner isn't that far removed from the totalitarian regime depicted in that classic novel. Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, of course, being a favourite tool of conspiracy theorists for explaining the kind of New World Order that they believe the Illuminati are covertly constructing around us. Some researchers even speculating that Orwell, a former officer in the Indian Imperial Police, might have even based his novel largely on insider knowledge rather than being simply writing fiction.

Again echoing Orwell, in his DVD commentary Scott explains that he and the writers envisioned Blade Runner as a future completely economically, technologically and politically dominated by three or less mega-corporations. In effect, it is a world caught in the iron grip of total corporatism: a situation disturbingly close to today but still a somewhat novel idea back in 1982.

The largest and most powerful of these new inter-planetary superpowers is the Tyrell Corporation. Named after its founder and almost God-like creator of the Nexus-6 series replicants: Dr. Eldon Tyrell. A mega-genius with like Dr. Frankenstein and the Illuminati little or no qualms about the morality of his experiments: creating artificial men and women with at least equal intelligence to their genetic designers ... only to live a mere four years max as nothing more than off-world slaves before their "retirement."

Tyrell's company motto "more human than human" can't help but ring some alarm bells for anyone who has ever seen Alex Jones' internet blockbuster Endgame. In the documentary film, Jones chronicles the secret elites plans to wipe out a staggering 80% of mankind and replace the human species with what they believe is the next stage in human evolution: the post or transhuman. This great evolutionary leap would be the perfect blending of man with machine, with cybernetics and genetic engineering at their zenith point, in other words, the partly organic "more human than human" replicants of Blade Runner.

However, it's the Tyrell Corporation's taste in architecture and wild life that really sounds the Illuminati alarm. The Tyrell Headquarters are a gigantic seven hundred stories tall pyramided shaped skyscraper. Perhaps resembling an Aztec or Ancient Egyptian pyramid.

A classic symbol associated with the Illuminati, the pyramid has always been an icon of authoritarianism and higher power. A meeting place between Heaven and Earth where great Kings and High Priests became gods in their peoples' eyes. Ridley Scott and/or screenwriter David Peoples couldn't have picked a more appropriate design for the headquarters of the powerful Tyrell Corporation that dominates the Earth and "off world colonies" in the year 2019.

In a documentary, Dangerous Days: The Making of Blade Runner, accompanying the DVD release of The Final Cut it's explained that a pyramid was chosen because in an older script Tyrell was exposed to be a replicant copy. The real Tyrell having died and been cryogenically preserved in a giant glass sarcophagus at the centre of the pyramided complex. Tyrell HQ, in effect, then was originally envisioned as being a kind of tomb like the pyramids of the Pharaohs. Be that as it may, perhaps there is a better reason for the strange choice of 2019 architecture.

As well as power and authority, the pyramid is also the perfect physical representation of compartmentalisation: the Illuminati system of control. The pyramid has been interpreted by conspiracy researchers as a symbol for a dumbed-down humanity at the base with a tiny enlightened capstone elite ruling on top, and reflects exactly the kind of Orwellian society seen in Blade Runner.

Finally, if all this Illuminati imagery and symbolism wasn't enough, when Deckard (Harrison Ford) first visits Tyrell’s office he is greeted by a replicant owl. Yet another, be it much less well known, Illuminati symbol. The owl according to Ridley Scott is Tyrell's official mascot and emblem.

In the film that really put him on the map, Dark Secrets Inside Bohemian Grove, Alex Jones exposed how the global elite meet in secret each year to take part in a strange and bizarre ceremony called the "Cremation of Care." An event at which, as outlandish as it sounds, involves the worship and even mock human sacrifice of an infant to a deity they call the “Great Owl of Bohemia”: a giant 45 foot stone owl god, reminiscent of the ancient Canaanite horned ideal Moloch, who, according to the Bible at least, really did have children sacrificed to it.
 
There are more examples of secret society symbolism in Scott’s other science fiction films. In Alien another company, this time called Wyland-Yutani, dominates human inhabited space in the 22nd century. Most casual fans of the Alien franchise are familiar with the company's second logo designed by James Cameron for the second film in the series, Aliens, with the interlocked W/Y, but the original logo designed for Scott's film was an Egyptian winged-sun emblem.

According to David Icke and other well known researchers in the fields of parapolitics and alternative history, "The Illuminati", which Icke defines as a network of interlocking secret and quasi secret groups, are the "continuation of the Mystery Religions of Babylon and Egypt" in ancient times that practiced "sun worship." With this in mind maybe the title of Ridley Scott's new Alien prequel Prometheus shouldn't be that surprising then when you take into account the abundance of potential Illuminati symbolism in Blade Runner and Alien. Prometheus was the Titan in Greek mythology who stole fire from Zeus and gave it to mankind.

But Scott's science fiction films aren't the only examples of Illuminati architecture in Hollywood films. A pyramid on the planet Mars is featured in Total Recall (another Philip K. Dick film adaptation) starring Arnold Shwatchenegger, who according to Alex Jones' 2000 documentary film, Dark Secrets Inside Bohemian Grove, has been an attendee at the mysterious summer camp event in northern California, at which the bizarre "Cremation of Care" ceremony takes place.

In July 2010 it was even reported that the California "Governorator" had given a speech at the super secret rich man's retreat where political, business and Hollywood elites from the Bush's to the voice of The Simpsons' Mr. Burns, Harry Shearer, have admittedly attended.

Anti-New World Order filmmakers and secret society researchers suggest that, for the Illuminati conspirators the pyramid represents the compartmentalisation of secret knowledge from mankind. But even if the conspiracy theorists are correct about this why would any secret society, whether you believe them to be the Bilderburg Group, the Skull and Bones Society at Yale University, the Freemasons, or any others, put their secret symbols in big Hollywood films for everyone to see?

"I have heard that the popular culture is used as a tool by whatever elite, business, govt, Illuminati, etc., to both gauge and control the populace. That is, the conspiracy is the conspiracy theory itself, making its way into the mainstream culture, thereby usurping the power of the populace to alter it, because one can diminish some researcher or whistleblower as someone who 'just watches too much X-Files,'" Dean Haglund, better known as Langly in the popular 1990s TV series The X-Files told me.

In a correspondence on Facebook a filmmaker and Bilderburg researcher told me, "there are several facets to it - including sacred geometry." Other researchers such as Texe Marrs, author of Codex Magica, have suggested that the secret rulers of the world believe that they get paranormal powers from putting their secret signs and symbols on display, or hidden in plain sight. Hence the pyramid and all-seeing-eye on the back of the one dollar bill.

This was Christopher Knowles response when I asked the author of Our Gods Wear Spandex and The Secret Sun blog about secret society symbolism in Blade Runner: "Well, we know that Dick was all over anything weird or mystical, but I don't think he had much involvement in the movie itself. Blade Runner kind of presents us with this kind of technocratic dystopia that some of these elite cult types would see as the paradise of their apotheosis. The cognitive elite in their penthouses and the poor, teeming masses huddled in the streets and the middle class a distant memory. The constant rain is kind of like the piss of the new gods in that regard. Maybe Scott incorporated some of those symbols as part of the overall social critique of this world that runs throughout the film. Maybe it was the screenwriter David Peoples, who also did similar films like Twelve Monkeys and Soldier."

Knowles has speculated on his blog that sci-fi authors like Philip K. Dick might have used remote viewing or other psycic means to write their stories. Whatever the truth, the Illuminati imagery adds an extra layer to Scott's dystopian future that most people will miss but still somehow know they're missing somehow ... pulling them back again and again.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Nigel Kneale

Who was Nigel Kneale? This is the question some readers are probably asking themselves right now, which is a real shame, because without the work of this great television pioneer, there probably would have never been a Doctor Who or X-Files and science fiction, on television at least, would in all likelihood still only be Saturday morning nonsense for little children.

Born on the Isle of Man, Nigel Kneale was a writer active in television, film, radio drama and prose fiction. He wrote professionally for over fifty years and was, in many ways, the father of serious science fiction drama on television. Kneale’s most famous creation being the legendary Professor Bernard Quatermass, a heroic rocket scientist who saved humanity from a range of very different alien menaces in a trilogy of stories written by the Manx writer in the 1950s.

The trilogy began with The Quatermass Experiment, in which the first-ever manned space rocket returns to Earth with two of the three astronauts on board missing and the third possessed by some kind of hostile alien organism. In time, this organism consumes and changes the last astronaut into something horrific: a creature that threatens to possess and consume all other life on Earth. However, Quatermass confronts the monster and, with a moving speech, reaches what is left of his friends humanity, persuading him to sacrifice himself to save the rest of mankind.

In the next story, Quatermass II, the professor is asked to examine strange meteorite showers falling in rural England. His investigations lead to him discovering a vast conspiracy involving alien infiltration at the highest levels of the British Government. Somehow these aliens, who have a group consciousness similar to the Borg in Star Trek, can control the minds of people exposed to an alien parasite concealed in their meteorite like projectiles. The aliens plan to colonise the Earth, but Quatermass manages to stop them by destroying their asteroid base in orbit, very sadly losing his close friend and colleague Dr. Pugh in the process.

Finally, in the best and last story of the 1950s trilogy, Quatermass and the Pit, Quatermass becomes involved in the discovery of a strange object near some ape men remains, millions of years old, at an archaeological dig in Knightsbridge, London. The odd object is first thought to be an unexploded World War II bomb, but then more ape men remains are found mysteriously inside the back of the object and later, more disturbingly, the decaying bodies of dead insect like creatures are found inside the front. The object turns out to be a nuclear powered spaceship, five million years old, the creatures: Martians and the ape men: their creations ... us ... the human race.

In the story we learn that when Mars was dying, the ancient Martians had tried to create a colony on Earth by proxy. They altered mankind's early ancestors, giving them minds and abilities like their own, but with a body adapted to Earth. More worryingly, they also passed on to mankind their genocidal instincts to destroy anyone different from themselves. In effect, making us the Martians now. Fortunately the Martians died out before completing their plan and, as mankind bred and further evolved, most outgrew their darker Martian inheritance.

Unfortunately, somehow the spaceship reawakens the old Martian instincts, transforming more and more people into genocidal Martians on a race purge, destroying anyone unaffected by the ship's evil influence. However, Quatermass finds a way to stop the ethnic cleansing before the Martians turn the Earth into a second dead planet. He also tragically loses another friend in doing so.

In each of the three Quatermass stories Kneale managed to tap into the popular interests and, more importantly, anxieties of the time. In The Quatermass Experiment, he played on the mass interest in the early space race and the new threat of nuclear war. The UK conducted the earliest post war tests of captured Nazi V-2 rockets in Operation Backfire, less than six months after the war in Europe ended, and the development of a British launch system to carry a nuclear device started in 1950. So there was a real fear that one of these rockets could come falling out of the sky bringing with it destruction, as one does in The Quatermass Experiment. Then, in Quatermass II, before Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Kneale exploited the popular paranoia about the threat of communist infiltration and subversion of the West. Like nuclear war, this was a real fear at the time. For instance, in 1951, two members of British establishment, Burgess and Maclean, had made international headlines by very publicly defecting to the Soviet Union. And, finally, with the Notting Hill race riots of 1958 still very much fresh in peoples minds, Kneale wrote Quatermass and the Pit admittedly as a fable about race hate.

Kneale's Quatermass trilogy clearly had a huge impact that continues to be felt even today, influencing everyone from Chris Carter to Gene Roddenberry. The Quatermass Experiment (1953) was the very first science fiction production to be written especially for an adult television audience and cleared the way for the many others that followed it. Also, the three basic alien invasion storylines were first pioneered on television by Kneale in the Quatermass stories. In The Quatermass Experiment, we go to the aliens and bring them back, in Quatermass II the aliens come to us, and in Quatermass and the Pit we discover that the aliens were here all along.
 
But it would be a mistake to think that Nigel Kneale only wrote stories involving alien possession and invasion. An excellent example of this is The Abominable Snowman, a 1957 Hammer horror film based on Kneale's own BBC television play The Creature. Again tapping into popular interest at the time, the film follows the exploits of an English anthropologist with an American expedition as they search the Himalayas for the legendary Yeti, the ape man of Tibet. In the real world, speculation about the existence of an unidentified creature living in the Himalayas had been sparked off in November 1951, when Eric Shipton and Michael Ward of the Everest Reconnaissance Expedition found several large footprints as they traversed the Menlung Glacier, and, two years later, Edmund Hillary made a similar discovery during his historic conquest of Mount Everest.

In the film, Kneale turns perceptions on their head by suggesting that the so called Abominable Snowman is not so abominable at all and, perhaps, even a great deal better than mankind who turn out to be the real monsters. The central idea being that the Yeti are our collateral descendants from the apes and are patiently and peacefully waiting for mankind to destroy himself, either quickly through war or slowly through pollution, before descending from the mountains to inherit the Earth.

Another excellent example is The Stone Tape, a Christmas ghost story from 1972 and Kneale's last major original work for the BBC. Like Quatermass and the Pit before it (which suggested that poltergeist activity could be explained by the psychic abilities left to us by the Martians), The Stone Tape combined science fiction with the supernatural. The television play revolves around a group of scientists who move into a new research facility: an allegedly haunted Victorian mansion. Curious, they investigate the alleged ghost but soon determine that it is really just some kind of recording of a past event somehow stored by stone in one of the rooms (the stone tape of the title). Believing that this discovery may lead to the development of a whole new recording medium, which they were originally brought together to find in the first place, they throw all their knowledge and high tech equipment into trying to find a means of playing back the stone tape recording at will. However, their investigations only serve to unleash a far older and more malevolent force, with tragic consequences. Of course, The Stone Tape is where "the stone tape theory" familiar to many paranormal researchers today originates.
 
Kneale also wrote three excellent dystopian texts, a fourth Quatermass story The Quatermass Conclusion, a 1954 television adaptation of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty Four for the BBC, and The Year of the Sex Olympics.

It is the last of these that proved to be the most prophetic. Broadcast in 1968 The Year of the Sex Olympics seemed to accurately predicted the creation of reality TV in the 1990s.

Set “sooner than you think” in the TV play society is divided between “low-drives” that receive no education and “hi-drives” who control the government and media. The low-drives are controlled by a constant broadcast of pornography that the hi-drives believe will pacify them. But after the accidental death of a protester during the Sex Olympics gets a massive audience response, the authorities create new TV programme, The Live Life Show. In the new show a family are moved to a remote Scottish island while the low-drive audience watches.

Hopefully, this goes some way to answering the question of who Nigel Kneale was. Of all the great science fiction writers to emerge from these islands since World War II, including the likes of Arthur C. Clarke, perhaps only Nigel Kneale comes anywhere close to matching H G. Wells in terms of lasting public impact and sheer brilliance. Both successfully tapped into the mass anxieties of their time and placed them at the centre of their stories, making science fiction accessible to the general public. In short, what Wells did for science fiction in print, Kneale did on television, clearing the way for intelligent science fiction drama on the small screen.