Goth Space Nine: The Dark Side of Star Trek

ds9_headHappy Birthday to Star Trek, which turns fifty this year. The definitive sci-fi TV show, it  codified tropes that would influence all subsequent creativity in the field that followed. Of course, it also adopted familiar themes and it is Deep Space Nine, the dark horse of the ensemble, that plays so freely with Gothic themes and imagery.

galaxy_class_docked_at_ds9The titular station itself is so reminiscent of a haunted house. Built by the cruel Cardassian empire, its’ arachnid appearance – so at odds with the clean white lines of Picard’s Enterprise – inspires immediate revulsion and fear in the unconscious.
In a later episode, ‘Civil Defence’, the new Starfleet owners are exploring the older, abandoned sections of this intimidating installation, and accidentally trip a forgotten security system. They are then plagued by automated defences – booby-traps – as well as recorded messages from the original station crew, specters of the past who menace our heroes. There’s even a deliciously evil twist near the end of the episode.

Into this forbidding, dark world comes widower Benjamin Sisko, carrying the familiar trappings of a man plagued by a recent loss and carrying his grief bundled up in anger. The lead character was a flawed hero, who would discover new and unsettling things about himself as the show confronted his convictions with grim scenarios. His young son Jake ages with the show, and his ascent into adolescence and manhood is a familiar tale of the death of innocence and childhood, especially in the risk-heavy atmosphere of the Federation frontier.

mirror_siskoFrequently the show explored the darker side of humanity and personality, often literally in the regular excursions to the ‘mirror universe‘ pioneered in Kirk’s ‘Original Series’. This parallel universe was typified by heightening all the negative traits of our familiar heroes and crew, and the writers gloried in painting broad, dark strokes across the familiar, noble endeavours of Starfleet officers.

More subtly, Deep Space Nine scripts were ground-breaking in terms of creating the ‘arc’ that shows like Game of Thrones and other hits now rely on – building complex journies across several episodes and series. It was a dramatic break from the isolated-episodic nature of predecessor ‘The Next Generation’, an intentional exploration of how different DS9’s worldview was.
Picard’s Enterprise sailed under the flag of a utopian Federation, committed to freedom, equality and justice. Every episode a scenario was resolved, and the Enterprise moved on to a brand new story Meanwhile, Ben Sisko frequently found himself enmeshed in the antics of a broad range of regular guest stars, or involved in murky and ongoing galactic politics – and even found himself aiding and abetting murder to secure the survival of the Federation in a grim war. The needs of the many, it seems, outweigh the moral objections of the one.

One regular thread permeating the show were the ‘Prophets’, central figures in the religion of the station’s Bajoran hosts. It was revealed early on they were also extradimensional creatures inhabiting another plane of existence – a clear derivation of Lovecraft’s Elder Gods.
At least DS9 had them divided between somewhat compassionate – if incomprehensible – Prophets, and the more familiar, evil Pah’Wraiths, who possessed characters, killed and destroyed in order to advance plots of domination familiar to readers of Cthulhu et al.

cardassia_in_ruinsThe great War that dominated the final seasons of DS9 was also a rich source of gothic tropes. The enemies were the mysterious Founders, shapeshifting aliens with a visceral hatred of all ‘solids’, in essence any other species. Their omnicidal intentions were based within their ‘othering’ as changeling beings, and their threat originated from their often exercised ability to assume the form of anyone, even our regular heroes. Again, the show achieved dramatic tension, and gothic uncertainty, by highlighting the darkness amidst the familiar.

Throughout the war, scripts grappled with topics like brutal military dictatorship, torture, abduction, the blurring of real and unreal, and death, both personal – amongst the main cast – and abstract – the high casualty count, another grim first for Star Trek.

Such stories would have been impossible in the idealistic world of ‘The Next Generation’, or the uncompromising moral code of Janeway’s ‘Voyager’.
Such a contrast is even highlighted by Sloan, the devious spymaster of Section 31 – the covert ops organisation that is at odds with all the supposed morality of the Federation.

“The Federation needs men like you, doctor. Men of conscience. Men of principle. Men who can sleep at night…
You’re also the reason Section Thirty-One exists — someone has to protect men like you from a universe that doesn’t share your sense of right and wrong.”

sloaninquartersDeep Space Nine was the first, and only, Star Trek show to acknowledge, explore and even relish in the darker, amoral truth of human existence. It probed genocide, religious extremism, alternative sexualities, mental health and post-traumatic stress disorder, and a host of other, hitherto forbidden topics.
It shone a harsh light on the darker tendencies of humanity, and transported them to a fantastical world amidst the stars. As such, it remains one of the most original shows on television, with one foot firmly planted in the realm of the gothic

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Post-punk Punditry: The Blogging Goth a Talking Head?

venice2It’s been a busy time for The Blogging Goth. I’ve been on my travels, with a week in beautiful Venice – a desperate attempt to submerge myself in continental culture before the bigots put up the fences.

I fielded the thirty-plus temperatures like any renaissance Englishman would, with a cream linen suit that would not have looked out of place on the rosy-red steps of Petra, for example. In this instance, the homeland of Machiavelli and Lucrezia Borgia opened its welcoming arms to us.

venice1We also visited an island of the dead. Not one of your tired, hackneyed ‘zombie’ attempts, but an entire cultivated islet totally reserved as the hallowed ultimate home of the great, good, or just fabulously wealthy.
Imagine an entire landmass – albeit not a large one – permanently in a reverent hush. We even snuck past barriers to visit the graves of Ezra Pound and Joseph Brodsky, literature fans. A highlight in a beautiful trip, and I heartily recommend Isola di San Michele to all respectful fans of final resting places.

On returning to the United Kingdom, I plunged back into the mechanics behind the scenes of The Blogging Goth. For the past few years, and mainly through the offices of The Doctor (the patient and pulchritudinous other half of my life) I’ve been attending the exciting academic adventures of the Gothic Manchester Festival as arranged by Manchester Metropolitan University. You can read a Storify of last year’s Symposium over here, where I’ve tried to distill a day of far-ranging papers and discussions in creativity of the Gothic down into a single web-page.

manchester-gothicCrucially, the festival is not purely academic-focused, with all papers encouraged to be as accessible to the general public as possible, and the doors thrown open to all and sundry. In pursuit of the same, I’m pleased to announce I am joining the roster of speakers on this year’s topic, “The Gothic North”.

My paper is titled “Dark, Satanic Music: Gothic Sound, Subculture and the North of England”. I will investigate the importance of the post-industrial North asisters-storynd its influence on the burgeoning Goth subculture of the late Seventies and Eighties; placing Leeds, Manchester, Joy Division, The Sisters of Mercy and Le Phonographique in a commentary on counterculture style and sound that is often overshadowed by the capital.

All are welcome to attend this panel, on Saturday 22nd October at 70 Oxford Street, Manchester, the former Cornerhouse. You can order tickets online, and remember there are events throughout the weekend as part of the festival as well as the Symposium itself! As always, I’ll be regularly present on social media throughout the event so ensure you keep us followed!

Just how important is the North to the Goth subculture? Join us again in the beating black heart of the scene, the People’s Republic of West Yorkshire, where Goth City Festival is clawing its way from the grave.
Local megalomaniac, impresario and owner of fabulous hair Joel Heyes has organized an extravaganza of events, music, drinking, dancing, and talking in Goth Ground Zero.

goth-city-flyerThis time, I’ll be joining an entire panel of experts to dissect the hoary remains of the First City of Goth, that northern nexus that is Leeds.

“Black Planet – Leeds Goth in Perspective’ is a meeting and discussion on the origins, background and history of the goth scene in Leeds and Yorkshire, and will be a unique opportunity to hear stories, anecdotes and ideas on the development of the scene.

Speakers arranged are:
Rosie Garland (writer, performer and March Violets singer)
John Keenan (Leeds alternative music promoter)
Karl Spracklen (Professor of Leisure Studies, Leeds Beckett University)
Tim Synystyr (journalist and A Blogging Goth)
Chair: Joel Heyes (Goth City Promotions)

Held in Leeds Six – naturally – you can register your interest in this one of a kind event on Facebook, and ensure you investigate all the possibilities to wallow in Goth this festival offers you. All credit must go to the unstoppable energy of Joel, who I thank deeply for the invitation to participate, and salute his goal to give all proceeds to PAFRAS (Positive Action For Refugees and Asylum Seekers).


There are two opportunities to discover and explore our rich Gothic heritage with a host of expert guides, and myself – as well as the chance to drink and dance like it’s 1985 all over again. Stranger Things is testament that we never stopped loving the creativity of the Golden (or should that be Smouldering?) Age of Goth, so travel ‘Oop North and back in time with us!

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Punk at Forty: 1976 to Now


Journalists work like historians – we look for root causes, flash points, and key dates. History was unarguably made on June 4th 1976 in Manchester, when a couple of lads from The Buzzcocks put on the second ever gig to feature some anarchic bastards called the Sex Pistols.

We can state conclusively that punk really started there and then, with the Sex Pistols meteoric rise and their catastrophic fall. The subculture itself would follow, defiantly flaming out as the Eighties approached. Punks are still amongst us of course, and embers continued to smoulder, most notably in the hearts of the chosen few in that audience on June 4th.

I’m grateful to journalist Dave Nolan who sifted all the evidence from the thousands of people who claimed to be at a gig we know was only attended by up to forty people.

We know categorically that Morrissey was there. It wouldn’t be until 1982 that he formed The Smiths, and became the controversy courting cerebral crooner we still laud and lambast today.

Even more critically, Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook would go out the following day and buy guitars – later with Ian Curtis they would form the legendary Joy Division.
Their future manager, Tony Wilson, was also in the crowd. He would describe Joy Division as having a sound that was ‘Gothic compared to the mainstream’ and a blueprint for a brand new subculture was formed.


Tony Wilson, 1991

The seeds of Goth, inheritor of the legacy of Punk as the UK’s dominant alternative subculture, were undoubtedly sown exactly forty years ago today. I hope you’ll put some punk on, spike your hawk up, and get those studded leathers out of the cupboard. Remember where it all began, and ensure it never comes to an end!

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World Goth Day 2016: The Goths Write Back

A fantastic sight, before lunchtime on an otherwise lazy Sunday! World Goth Day is officially upon us, and social media is whipping up a storm of coverage and conversation!

wgd1The two articles I contributed to are online now – in The Independent newspaper, and on the BBC3 website respectively. Who knew there was a Goth Waterpark in Tennessee? Not I, but a holiday seems necessary!

I repeatedly state in interviews and everywhere I write that we should be proud of Goth, a rich subcultural heritage stretching back three decades and showing no signs of stopping yet.
Today feels like such a concrete realisation of that, and I can’t thank DJs Cruel Britannia and martin oldgoth for starting it.

As with all journalists, Kashmira at the Independent wasn’t able to keep more than a tenth of what I sent her, so I’ve reproduced some of her excellent questions and my rambling answers below, for my take on the subculture and World Goth Day specifically.

Keep contributing to #WorldGothDay as well, and remember you’re part of a massive, longstanding community that deserves recognition at least once a year!

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All Goths Eve: The Night before World Goth Day

wgd-bannerGood evening all, I hope you are preparing to be proud of who you are, as it is World Goth Day on May 22nd! Once again, all our thanks to DJ Cruel Britannia and DJ Martin OldGoth for giving us a day to get our Goth on!

Tomorrow, I’ll be plugged into as much social media as I can manage. Ideally, I’ll be doing this from a bar in Newcastle with at least a jukebox I can put a decent playlist on, or the friendly rock surroundings of Trillians Rock Bar in city centre. I attempted belatedly to organise an event, and had DJs… but no venue. Next year!

Photo Credit’ll also be sharing a couple of articles I contributed to – BBC3 and The Independent newspaper both reached out to me for comments, which is really heartening.
I’ve maintained that a key objective of The Blogging Goth is to be a resource for journalists, so we don’t end up with inaccurate, laughable or dangerous articles in the press – I trust both the journalists I’ve spoken to, to do a good job. These will be published tomorrow.

If you’ve spoken to the media about being Goth, please let us know! I’d love to share your stories and the way it’s presented in the press. Challenging negative presumptions about depression, devil worship and deadbeat teenagers is something we should all feel passionately about.

a9ftZ88HStay involved with #WorldGothDay on social media, and let us know what you’re up to.
A big issue with the Goth scene is its fractured, tribal nature – even from city to city, here in the tiny United Kingdom, there is a disconnect between local urban scenes. It can be easy to forget there’s a worldwide subculture out there that we’re all a part of.
That’s just one more good reason to have a day to celebrate each year.

So whatever you’re doing, keep it dark and delightful. See you out there!

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WGW April 2016: Saturday Night Live Music!

Have you read our review of the Friday Night at Whitby Goth Weekend April 2016? Click to head back, or read on to hear about the Saturday lineup at the UK’s premier Goth music event!

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WGW April 2016: Friday Night Reviews

wgw-new-bannerThe decompression time from Whitby Goth Weekend is getting worse! So chase away those blues with my belated reviews of the storming bands that filled the Spa for April 2016 WGW! As always, my thanks to the talented Mel Butler Photography for choice pick of her quality pics!

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