The Living and the Dead captures Victorian anxiety about science and the supernatural

The Living and the Dead captures Victorian anxiety about science and the supernatural
27 March 2024 J.W.H

From telegraphs to televisions, latest technologies were often perceived as strange or magical in the favored mind. It is not any coincidence that the event of Nineteenth-century science and technology equivalent to the railway, the phonograph, and photography coincided with a deep cultural fascination with the paranormal. Newspapers of the time featured discussions of séances, spirit mediums, and alleged ghost photos, and science was used to prove or disprove these claims. In these hectic times, BBC One's supernatural drama unfolds The living and the dead.

In the primary episode, pioneering photographer Charlotte Appleby (played by Charlotte Spencer) wonders with amazement that “You can be dead and buried for a hundred years and people will still hear what you sound like” while listening to gramophone recordings of individuals from the Somerset village of Shepzoy. The 12 months is 1894, and he or she and her psychologist husband Nathan (played by Colin Morgan) move to the village to take over the care of the family estate.

Her enthusiasm for this latest medium quickly wanes, nonetheless, when the voice of her young son Nathan, who tragically drowned, fills the room, urging his father to affix him within the fun. Various other paranormal phenomena soon follow. The ghostly voices coming from the phonograph are played by a young woman who claims to be possessed by the spirit of a neighborhood man who died without being baptized. Exploring the railway frees the restless souls of 5 boys who died in a mine collapse. The ghosts of round-headed cavalrymen descend. There can be the interesting appearance of a lady with what viewers recognize as an iPad – perhaps too engrossed within the screen to note that she has traveled to the Nineteenth century.

Gothic horror movies

Series creator Ashley Pharoah described the series as “Ghost resistant“. In some ways, the village of Shepzoy is a brand new tackle Thomas Hardy's fictional County Wessex, which, taking its cues from the counties of southwest England, consciously captures the tensions between town and countryside at a moment of change brought on by the railways and the start of the Industrial Revolution.

Charlotte clearly recalls Bathsheba Everdene, a spirited young woman who inherits and manages her uncle's farm in Hardy's Far from the Madding Crowd (1874). The introduction of recent agricultural machinery and techniques to Shepzoy is met with similar distrust and even Satanic associations as in Tess of the D'Urbervilles (1891). But ultimately the series has more in common with Gothic tales from the identical period, equivalent to The Turn of the Screw (1898) by the American author Henry James – actually, the younger brother of William James, a number one early psychologist – or the short story In the Glass Darkly (1872) Sheridan Le Fanuwherein consciously modern people turn into powerless against dark supernatural forces.

The tense phonographic scene from “The Living and the Dead” indicates the creator's involvement in Gothic motifs. And the identical motif of strange objects – technological, mystical, or ambiguously placed in between – that allow the voices of the dead to come back to life often recurs within the fictions of the time.

For example in Japanese box (1899) in accordance with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle it seems that the mysterious woman's voice, believed to be an emanation of a ghost, was produced by a phonograph. IN Rudyard Kipling Wireless (1902), mechanical signals inadvertently channel the creative spirit and poetry of the long-dead Keats. IN Florence McLandburgh The Automaton Ear (1873), an anonymous professor invents a tool able to detecting sounds beyond the boundaries of the human ear – only to be haunted by the already audible screams of the dead.

How will the villagers react to the newest technology of the time?
Robert Viglasky/BBC

In each case, the scientific instrument in query establishes a threshold between life and death, offering each an exciting and terrifying possibility of crossing between them. Once this threshold is crossed, the human body and mind turn into particularly vulnerable, and the stories also point to the boundaries of scientific knowledge on the time and its ability to elucidate the world.

Technology or totem?

Communication technologies equivalent to penny mail, railroads, telegraph, telephone, and wireless radio shortened the distances between people in ways in which seemed inconceivable. For those that first witnessed them, they created a strong sense of separation from the fabric world, enabling experiences that appeared to transcend the realm of normal consciousness and corporeality.

At the identical time, latest technologies made it possible to preserve the past: the phonograph could capture and reproduce the voices of the dead, photography could capture a sensible image of them, and the then-developing psychology provided physicians with latest ways of considering past versions of themselves and access to the unconscious mind. These anxieties and tensions come to mind in The Living and the Dead in a way that folks of the period would recognize, connecting the past, present, and future through technology and the supernatural. As the online of connections between people in Shepzoy deepens, it becomes increasingly unclear who’s haunted and who’s a ghost.

The plot device of periods that intertwine with one another is the one which Pharaoh utilized in previous series Life on Mars AND Ashes to ashesbut perhaps here he found more suitable material on which to graft it – in spite of everything, the breakdown of the laws of space and time is more conveniently explored in a Victorian ghost story than in Sweeney. Watching the primary series, I live in hope that an apparition from the long run will appear and make sure that there might be a second one.

Image Source:

  • J.W.H

    About John:

    John Williams is a Reincarnationist paranormal Intuitive freelance writer...he is living proof of reincarnation existence, through his personal exploration, he has confirmed its authenticity through visits to the very lands where these events transpired.

    Through guided meditation/s using hemi-sync technology he has managed to recollect 3 previous lives to his own, that go back to the Mid to Late 19th century.

    JWH - "You are the GODS! - Inclusion of the Eternal Light of Love and you shall never die”.

    “Death is Just the Beginning of Life”