We invite the distinguished film critic, and Database Theorist, Hugh Bin-Haad to examine our DBA in Space videos and give his opinion as to their artistic merit.
DBA in Space Trailer
The trailer is, of course, a tribute towards the ‘giant step for a man’, with the cadenza of the small steps for the dog ‘Jar Jar’. It is a piece of post-structuralist genius, with dual themes of the sublime and mundane, of achievement against aspiration. At one moment we are in the world of the first moon-walk where the first footprint of man is left on another planet, the next, we are pitched into a mundane reality. We are in a mix, made especially evident in the colour schemes of white (emptiness, detachment, sterility) and the full colour of the space station (reality, violence). The inspiration comes from the moon photos of Stephen Light’s book ‘Full Moon’. In a subtle twist, there is a passing tribute to the film ‘The Seven Samurai, where the foot, placed in the mud outside the village, portends the threat of coming invasion. Is this the harbinger of menace that gradually increases in the sequence of videos? We are left with an affectionate reference to the 1960s conspiracy theory that the moonwalk actually took place in a darkened hangar somewhere in Midwest America, in which the floor had been sprinkled with sugar.
DBA in Space Question 1 - Identify a Country from Space
We are introduced to the Roddenberry Launch Center (Gene Roddenberry created Star Trek) This is a mythical place set in rolling landscape, somewhat like Stansted Airport. Within a gloss-white Bauhaus interior, Brad and Miss Friday walk down the stairs and introduce the competition. This presumably harkens back to Woody Allen’s 1996 masterpiece ‘Everyone Says I Love You’, and one somehow expects the smartly-dressed pair to break into a song and dance routine on the vast empty floor-space. Instead, disappointingly, they introduce themselves as Brad McGehee and Miss Friday, the ‘Chief Visitor Liaison Officer’ at Roddenberry Launch Center, Miss Friday. In a clever ironic twist, they woodenly announce the competition to send a DBA into space; Brad' handles his role with a touching postmodernist tribute to Buster Keaton. There are touches of irony as Brad says ‘Wow, what a vacation’ about the prize trip, as if reciting evensong. There is a sudden electronic sound effect and they both pretend to look scared. The plot is becoming a labyrinthine existential dilemma. Is this the real Brad pretending to be the Brad of the video, or is he already possessed of the alien spirit. Who really is Miss Friday? The mystery has suddenly become profound, unlike the question at the end.
DBA in Space Question 2 - Secret SQL Task
In a cutting-edge shift in perspective, Miss Friday reveals herself as being a top operative of the National Space Defense Department, agent Verity Blunt. In an existential allegory, suffused with the mystery of intangible conflict, she appears to be stuck in the boiler-room. Not only that, but she has, in the boiler-room, an alien space-ship which she reveals to be the one that crashed with strange electronic sounds in the ball-room episode, killing the dog ‘Jar Jar’. The pilot has escaped, and Verity feels that finding the alien will be a good career move for her. We are left struggling with the mystery of how she got the rocket into the boiler-room by herself, undetected. Is there a double mystery here? There is definite tension. She seems unable to get out of the boiler-room, presumably due to her own repressed affection for Jar Jar’s corpse, pathetically cast into a paper bag. We, the viewers are persuaded to leave. Mysteries are afoot. She can, it seems, read an alert from SQL Monitor on her mobile, but is inexplicably unable to work that simple filter to view the error log. A likely story: She wants us out of the way by distracting us with a mundane DBA task so she can be alone to grieve over Jar Jar’s corpse.
DBA in Space Question 3 - Sci-Fi Film Knowledge
The whole barrier between reality and fantasy has now become unstuck, in a subtle tribute to Philip K Dick. The strange detachment of Brad has now got worse. It is a tapestry in which it is impossible to distinguish dreaming from waking, as the drama seems designed to perplex our constant perception of a shared reality. Brad, and Miss Friday, or Verity as we now know her, has wandered into a computer museum, and Verity projects her ill-concealed grief at Jar Jar’s untimely demise on Brad, who has swapped his evensong delivery for that of the Muppets. Something is definitely wrong with Brad, who has become a telling poignant symbol, or allegory, of the collapse of the capitalist banking system, still bodily intact, but disintegrating spiritually. As a hint that all is no longer real, we are asked to look up on Wikipedia the name of some actor who voiced a robot in a film. These little sessions with Professor Google are surely there to distract us geeks from the true message of the drama
DBA in Space Question 4 - Computers in Space
The ‘head-scratcher’ episode increases the perplexity. It is full of paradox, signalling a deconstructionist paradigm. Brad and Verity are admiring the exhibits in the museum. They reminisce about how they can ‘guide Astronauts out into space and back home again’. An Osborne 1, from 1981, designed nearly ten years after the end of the Apollo program, is displayed mysteriously in the foreground. It is a deliberate and subtle attempt to disorientate the viewer: Geeks will be transfixed by the anachronism. Verity’s attempts to ignore the bizarreness of Brad’s behaviour are becoming more difficult, particularly in view of Brad’s sudden urge to scratch Verity’s head. Can she really believe that Brad really is reacting to the burden of guilt and grief over the sudden unexpected death of Jar Jar? Why is she failing to challenge Brad’s bizarre tics? We are asked to find out a detail of the Gemini Mission’s Computer. We are being deliberately unsettled by a logically impossible sequence but a seamless fantasy, and are left wondering if we are watching an extended dream sequence
DBA in Space Question 5 - The Interrogation
The plot moves into violence, in a tribute to Reservoir Dogs. Verity’s feelings about the death of Jar Jar have transformed through their earlier repression into terrifying violence against a DBA, as she tortures him to get him to confess to being an alien. Suddenly, an alert tells her that the real alien is actually, at that moment, trying to log into the servers in the ruined space ship. In a moment she is back in the boiler room, pulling circuit boards out of the wreck. We are once again assigned a routine task in SQL as a relief from the difficult philosophical questions, literary references, and political means and motives portrayed in the video. DBAs, on the other hand, will wonder who registered the LaunchCenter and Alien spaceship in the same server group.
DBA in Space Question 6 - Dogs in Space
Verity and Brad are now in a model robot exhibition, in a stairway curiously similar to the computer museum and the introductory ballroom. Brad is now radiating clues that he has been taken over by the alien in some way, probably by a SQL injection. Verity’s efforts not to notice are brought to breaking point by Brad’s insistence of licking out of a glass like a dog. Bizarrely, we are asked to name the first dog in space. The dog theme suggests strongly that an undercurrent is the ever-present grief at the tragic end of Jar Jar.
DBA in Space Question 7 - Animals in Space
Brad parades along a set of posters showing the first animals to be sent into space. He recites their names, getting the later ones wrong. He becomes particularly confused by the difference between man and ape, but it is surely significant that it is the walk towards the picture of the dog Laika that precipitates his mental confusion; for he mixes cat and dog, a touching reference to the departed Jar Jar. Alien Brad presents the dilemma of existence as a mutant Martian. Verity gets a message on her Mobile phone, and rushes off, pretending to have been suddenly ‘caught short’. Why has she left suddenly? What is the metonymic subtext? We are left to figure out which of a list of animals had never been into Space.
DBA in Space Question 8 - The Alien Video Conference
It appears that Verity’s National Space Defense Department has messaged her that they have intercepted an alien communication between Alien Brad and Mars. Alien Brad is evidently begging his Martian father to get him home, explaining that his space ship crashed. He is bursting to tell his father about SQL Source Control, which is further evidence, after lapping water out of a cup, of his insanity. It is a great tool, but hardly something you’d want to tell your Martian father as a substitute for pleading for his return. His father elaborately explains that SQL is a Martian language. ‘I have spoken SQL from birth’. (as many claim in job interviews) His father wants the contents of the database: Not, surprisingly, the Martian space-ship’s database, but the HumanResources database. This paradox further blurs the distinction between Martian and human, a leitmotif throughout the series, and poses disturbing questions about the precise nature of man. We are presented with a harrowing, yet ultimately affirming portrait of faith, humanity, and atonement between Martian son and father, and tend to miss the clue about uploading the DDL of the database to somewhere.
DBA in Space Question 9 - Mars meteorites
Alien Brad and Verity come to the meteorite collection, and Alien Brad is caught up in reverie, pining for his Martian home. At last Verity signals that she realises that Brad has been taken over by an alien. Brad, for the first time, looks animated and emotional, as he realises that his cover has been blown. We are asked a question about meteorites. We are asked to identify which mineral is not found in Martian meteorite. Odd, since Professor Google says that they all are. We are, we realise, being subtly drawn into a realisation of the shades of grey of scientific truth and what defines humanity.
DBA in Space Question 10 - The Mars Rover
Verity, according to Alien Brad, is struck down with Rigellian fever. One worries for her safety. Has Brad disposed of her? Alien Brad becomes ever weirder as he asks how long the Martian Lander would take to circumnavigate Mars around its equator. We realise that this is a recurring subtext of the the way that scientific truth has dissolved into mere probability. We are invited to give a precise answer, knowing full well that the answer can never be certain, as it can only travel at night, spends most of its time avoiding stones, and so far has only managed 11 miles in three years. The scene, first a ballroom and then a computer museum, followed by a robot museum has become visually spare, stark, and metaphoric. Brad’s eyes suddenly become steely. This is arguably the most abstract and nihilistic moment of the series so far, but the nightmare has hardly started…….
DBA in Space Question 11 - Miss Friday has disappeared
So now we are plunged into a dark mystery. There is miss Friday talking to us, but is she really dead? Has the genre veered into being a zombie movie, or is this just a film clip she’s left about in case she disappears? If the latter is the case, why then the dark lighting? We are surely in some film-story told as a sermon might be delivered: an allegory...each scene is at once so simple and so charged and layered that it catches us again and again. …….
DBA in Space Question 12 - Apollo 13
Here at last, it is confirmed to us that Alien Brad really is a Martian, and has not just developed a nasty skin condition through grieving about the death of Jar Jar. In a chilling scene surely a tribute to the 1931 film version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, brad changes visibly towards his alien form, a metaphor for the struggle between human and inhuman within us all
DBA in Space Question 13 - Miss Friday is trapped
We are back in the boiler room, it seems, with Miss Friday. The action veers between the foyer and the boiler room in a strange way, as if it cannot escape the two locations. We appear to be locked within some restraining world, like Philip K Dick’s Ubik. Is Jar Jar still in fact alive, while Miss Friday and Brad are in half-life, or "cold-pac"? There is something strange about this ‘Roddenbury’ space centre. Are we the spectators of a half-life dream-world within Jar Jar’s doggy brain?
DBA in Space Question 14 - The Final Space Question
In the final episode of the dark and nihilistic series, the plot is, at last revealed. The two clues are the final reference to Jar Jar, and the origami unicorn. The death of the dog is central to the whole series and the origami unicorn, a reference to the film ‘Blade Runner’ is a hint by the producer that we need to look to Philip K Dick’s writing for an explanation of the series. However, it is not to Blade-runner’s obvious theme of the difference between human and replicant, but to Ubik’s theme; the paradox of reality. Can the half-life world affect the full-life world, or are we looking at a dream-world? The Martian space crash has actually destroyed both Brad and Miss Friday. Jar Jar, the only survivor, is desperately trying to contact them while they are in half-life, preserved in ‘cold-pac’. There is an obvious allusion to this in Brad’s preservation in a strange womb-like contraption in the ubiquitous boiler-house. It explains Jar Jar’s strange pervasiveness: His presence is everywhere. It also explains the odd way that everything takes place in just two locations, the foyer and the boiler-room, presumably the only places that Jar Jar was allowed to go. Miss Friday maintains an obvious delusion that she is really an operative for the government, the top operative of the National Space Defense Department, agent Verity Blunt rather than a tour guide for the Roddenbury Space Centre. We are watching the sad decaying moments of half-life.
The fine-focus detail of this series of videos forces us to confront both the inscrutable materiality of our consciousness and reality, and its role as the communicative nerve centre of the individual subject’s investments. The viewer is confronted with a close yet also alienating proximity to the pervasive personality of the dog while we watch our diegetic companion ask of itself ‘what’ it is, as it faces a very personal void.
A dual gaze of inquiry takes place here, whereby Jar Jar’s self-conscious crisis meets the viewer’s participation. We, the viewers, feel the intermixing and breaking down of diegetic and meta-diegetic space, and intensities of looking. We are, in the end, all in Space.