The beat goes on...or does it?
And so to Moore’s alternative pulp literature London the league drift, transported by Nemo’s daughter Janni aboard the Nautilus; however as much as stepping off the submarine Mina, Allan and Orlando are also stepping away from the series’ past and the kernel of Moore’s conceit. We’ve already had one out-of-sequence story in The Black Dossier (itself a format-challenging collection of multimedia in-jokes – a 45 rpm record, a Tijuana Bible, Orlando’s randy and bloodthirsty story told as a series of Look and Learn picture stories), now it seems the added conceit (admittedly Moore’s strongest suit in this series) – recreating the world of the past through fictional analogues, has beaten Century’s plotline to near impotence itself. It’s very clever, of course, and Kevin O’Neill’s witty artwork does wonders to mollify the loss of intrigue, but I came away from Century 1969 feeling like I’d read less and merely traipsed along with Mina, Allan and Orlando through a literary Where’s Wally? Which was much of the fun of the original series of course, but by 1969 popular culture is everywhere, more recognisable (I can – only just – say it’s outside my own lifetime) and with its familiarity less exotic. Where in the past there was an intrigue to the inclusion and rubbing of shoulders between Conan Doyle’s Moriarty, Fu Man Chu, Verne’s Nemo and Wells’ Professor Cavor, there’s less surprise and novelty in seeing Thunderbirds’ Parker filling up on a motorway lay-by while Michael Caine’s Jack Carter provides voiceover. Even more, the cameo of Patrick Troughton’s Second Doctor passed me by, and I can’t decide whether it’s because he’s already too familiar a face to me as a Doctor Who fan, or because on reflection the brief appearance of a Sixties time traveler in a story about literal time travelers is just not that interesting.
That said, 1969 does at least push the major story line forward in a way, teasing out the series finale by way of another thinly-veiled franchise-bothering character (“My first name’s Tom, my middle name’s a marvel and my last name’s a conundrum.”) Once you’ve reached that point you’ve perused appearances from all James Bonds (a lovely scene, really), Nicholas Roeg’s Performance (every Rutles needs a Stones analogue, naturally), and crucially, a denouement borrowing heavily from the Hyde Park memorial concert for Brian Jones, deftly tying three plot strands together, but stranding the hapless League all the more. It’s a downbeat ending to an important chapter, but I cared less this time around. Where to from here?