America's Fox TV network has an irritating habit of cancelling half-decent science fiction shows after only one or two seasons. The network seems especially to enjoy junking series made by Joss Whedon, who as a result is still most famous for creating Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Buffy ran from 1996 to 2003 but should have been cancelled sooner: the last season and a half were rubbish. The latest Whedon venture to have bitten the dust is Dollhouse, about a sinister, top-secret company that is able to erase and replace its employees' memories, effectively turning them into different people every day. It then hires these 'dolls' out to its rich and secretive clients. The show was often as daft as this bald summary makes it sound, but quite a lot of the daftness was the network's fault, demanding that it appeal to what Fox executives imagined to be the lowest common denominator. And when it was good, Dollhouse was – nearly – very very good.
Amid all this celebration of the fall of the Berlin Wall twenty years ago, I’m left wondering whether I was the only one to have jumped the other way at the time. It turned me into a Marxist. All my adult life before then I had thought that Marx had been wrong, for example in predicting that capitalism would need to get redder in tooth and claw before it was undermined by its internal contradictions. The Russian Revolution however had not occurred in the most advanced capitalist country, which is why, by my way of thinking, it could only be kept alive by tyranny – a premature baby in an incubator was the metaphor I liked to use. In the West it had been shown that enlightened capitalist societies could smooth away their own roughest edges, by taking on board social democracy, the welfare state, decolonisation and the like.