It’s only science fiction, but…

Whereas in 1990 a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, “The High Ground”, boldly posited Irish unification by 2024, in 2010 the second episode of the new series of the BBC’s Doctor Who, “The Beast Below”, has featured the “Starship United Kingdom” – “Britain and Northern Ireland” as the Doctor says – in the 29th Century. Apparently Scotland wanted, and got, their own spaceship… ANYhoo… At The Guardian Dan Martin has been blogging the appearances of the latest Doctor, Matt Smith. I think he’s shaping up to be a very interesting incarnation.

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  • Can anyone remind me of a fantasy I dimly recall? It’s not proper SF, though it may owe something to James Blish’s They Shall Have Stars (1955). Amazon are still listing that one as the Cities in Flight tetralogy.

    The conceit was all the mines and subterranean excavations being joined up, so the good ship GB could float off to enjoy warmer climes. The notion continued with the Irish finally being left alone, with enhanced status as northern Europe’s prime off-shore island. The Isle of Wight, though, became aggravated because it was trailed behind with the baggage.

  • Pete Baker

    No idea, Malcolm.

    But an interesting earlier[?] addition to the timeline of changing attitudes to Irish unification in science fiction/fantasy.

  • FitzjamesHorse

    Ive always believed that Sci Fi was more interesting than Sci Fi. I suppose the surest sign of getting old is that policemen and Dr Whos get younger.
    Hartnells portrayal was of a rather nasty grandfather…well he was a rather nasty actor. but under Troughton the theme of a rather eccentric uncle was established.
    this new lad….Smith….is actually more a “big brother” and for me that doesnt work….unless of course the audience is no longer children and big kids and comic book guys.
    Meanwhile all hail to the BORG who are combatting the evil Gene roddenburys notion of the universe being assimilated into one power group and marginalising national and planetry culture for the greater good. A bit like the so called “European Community” or whatever it calls itself these days.

  • FitzjamesHorse

    oops more interesting than Science Fact

  • FitzjamesHorse

    should also be pointed out that “The Little People” an episode of the Adventures of Robin Hood (Richard Greene the best Robin Hood)was set in Ireland……where two elderly people left food out for the fairies. Turned out that Robin and Marian discovered they were children and orphaned by war……and Marian (played in the series by two Irish actresses) wonders if there will ever be peace in Ireland.
    Of course the series was written by blacklisted American writers.

    Pat Magee gets a PhD for this kinda thing.

  • Pete Baker

    Another earlier reference from Fitzy.

    But what of the changing attitudes to Irish unification in fiction?

  • George

    But what of the changing attitudes to Irish unification in fiction?

    This idea reminds me a lot of the timeline of the representation of the fictional representation of potential German unification.

    It started with John Heartfield’s snake (BRD) and the frog (DDR), passed by Juergen Sparwasser und das Tor, via Silke Gladisch, Marlies Gohr and Marita Koch, before ending up with Egon Krenz, whose unification career began on the dole in Marzahn and ended up in Spandau.

    Attitudes are powerless against reality.

  • Alias

    German reunification occurred between one nation, not between two separate nations both of whom come with a set of national rights that will serve to cancel out each other’s respective rights to self-determination when two nations try to ‘share’ one state. Unity then is about converting the Irish nation into a non-sovereign nation, dismantling its nation-state, and giving up its right to national self-determination.

    In that regard, unity may well have happened before the 29th century but only lasted a few decades.

  • FitzjamesHorse

    Baker might also have pointed out “Scotch on the Rocks” as an “earlier” attempt to split up the “United Kingdom”. Ironically written by Douglas Hurd, it speculated in the 1970s that the Scots Nats would be the majority party in Scotland leading to a constitutional crisis. It even had paramilitaries.
    The BBC refuses to show it now as it is “too political”.

  • Cynic2


    As I remember the opening credits had a body on a slab with, in close up, the foot with a brown paper label tied to the big toe. It made an impression.

  • Cynic2

    Well spotted in Dr WHo….its all part of the softening up policy by the UK Government to let Nationalists down slowly from the mistruths SF have spread about reunification ‘in my lifetime’, by 2016, etc, etc

    Indeed, there was a subliminal message,. The Republic appeared to have perished in the fiery holocaust on earth leaving only the UK (less Scotland) to survive.

  • The thread reminded me to reconnect with Nicholas Whyte’s checklist of SF (and fantasy) set in Ireland. Since “fantasy” is one of my no-nos, I’m not too depressed by my lowest ever score off this list (especially as it comprises such gems as Darby O’Gill and the Little People).

  • FitzjamesHorse

    Cynic2…I cant actually remember the opening titles only that Bill Simpson (previously Dr Finlay of Dr Finlays Casebook) was the star and I believe the theme tune was a hit played by possibly the same Army band that did “Amazing Grace”.
    Since last night, I have been informed by email that the BBC have actually wiped “Scotch on the Rock” tapes (not that unusual) so even if they wanted to show it, they cant.
    Around the same time there was a thriller series set in Belfast (which starred Patrick Allen) but I cant remember its name.
    The BBC used to do a lot of stuff centred in Belfast. One starred Mick Ford (“Scum”) as a journalist and of course ITV did “Harrys Game”…..Marlene from “Only Fools and Horses” was an MI5 agent. Makes ya think.

  • Michaelhenry

    britain and northern ireland, maybe the brits just wanted to hold onto that title after ireland was united, it must have been a shock for the brits , has they still had that name 800 years in the future.

  • I wish I understood posts like Michaelhenry @ 09:09 PM. Or even this one’s relevance to the present thread. Perhaps I’m just having a senior moment.

    On topic (approximately) I’ve spent an odd moment or two this day, trying to locate a story which most definitely is Irish-based SF.

    It hypothecates an alternative history in which Ireland (presumably unified) develops advanced technologies and power sources. Other nations then gang up and obliterate what they see as an international threat. Unconscious intimations of Iranian mortality?

    In the process of hunting through Peter Nicholls (editor): The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (mine’s the early 1979,1981 edition, though) — I know what I seek is somewhere in those 672 pages — I was reminded that Ireland can claim by adoption one of the finest, most original, most seminal SF writers of all time: Jonathan Swift. How many have read the original, unexpurgated version? It’s filthy, absolutely filthy, I tell you — and deliciously so.

    Nor should we omit his final solution to the Irish problem: A Modest Proposal (which gets a lot more attention in schools).

    I suppose I recognise myself in the Struldbruggs:

    opinionative, peevish, covetous, morose, vain, talkative, but uncapable of Friendship and dead to all natural Affection.

    What about Flann O’Brien as an Irish SF writer? The Dalkey Archive postulates a destructive genius, the mad scientist De Selby, who invents a gas with “interesting” results, while hacking every shin in sight.

    Not Irish in any obvious way, but I cannot resist mentioning a particular favourite: Keith Roberts’ linked stories in Pavane. That provides an alternative history: the Spanish Armada triumphed, Elizabeth I was assassinated, and “Great Britain” (never fully defined) has checked technological development with Birrell’s traction engine (electricity and internal combustion, even oil as fuel, are banned by Mother Church). Others might recognise there elements of Kingsley Amis’s The Alteration. Roberts published in 1966: Amis a decade later (his Pope seems a dead ringer for Harold Wilson).

  • Pete Baker

    “I wish I understood posts like Michaelhenry @ 09:09 PM. Or even this one’s relevance to the present thread. Perhaps I’m just having a senior moment.”

    Don’t bother yourself, Malcolm, it’s not worth the effort.

    Michael’s just having another junior moment.

  • Michaelhenry

    did you even watch that dr who episode on saturday, malcolm or pete.

  • Michaelhenry @ 11:42 PM:


    It left me with two issues:

    1. SF is a broad church, and any writer is entitled to stretch the genre. As I said above, I have no great liking for “fantasy”. So, I question where Dr Who belongs. It certainly is “fictive”, but where’s the “science”? It looks as if other episodes in the present series (like the first one) mainly involve BEM screamfests (though that, of course, is an essential ingredient of the whole concept from the beginning).

    2. After Billie Piper, we have a stockinged-and-suspendered kissogram. How far can the thing go to satiate the dad-and-lad market (heh, heh!) before it has to disappear behind the 9 pm watershed?

  • Michaelhenry

    there are always questions asked with every new doctor, me i just watch and enjoy.

  • RJ

    I Havint seen it but then again im not that intrested in a Si-Fi Show showing me history, i believe that A United Ireland will come someday but not through the Backdoor of A Tv Show.