Season 3 Episode 12 - Stand
The third season finale brings us an interesting artefact in terms of its context within the show, its place in the genre, and in its origins.
In the episode, we finally discover that the understandably vengeful Sykes was confined to a wheelchair because the Regents had taken from him a bracelet made from the wires of a marionette, which was once owned by the creator of Pinocchio…
There are some interesting levels to this one, actually. The idea that the bracelet should bring out the malevolence inside a person isn’t exactly unusual – stories of all genres are filled with the notion that a desirable object brings out the worst in people, and of course that’s the whole point of perhaps the most famous fantasy story of all, Lord of the Rings. In fact it’s, really, a basic fact of human nature.
The bracelet here works very much as the One Ring does, corrupting its owner to the point where he turns to evil to get it back. The big difference here is that Gollum was corrupted over a long time in possession of the Ring (which had its own desire, whereas the bracelet doesn’t seem to), while Sykes was corrupted as much by having the bracelet taken from him.
Sykes and Gollum do, however, share the element of having a background that gives them more depth and sympathy than most gene characters. Unfortunately the bracelet has another side-effect of turning the eyes black, which was already overdone as a symbol of dodginess even when Babylon 5 did it nearly 20 years ago.
Getting back to the artifact, it’s also interesting that it’s attributed to Carlo Collodi, the inventor of Pinocchio. If you’re thinking “hang on, wasn’t that Gepetto” then you’ve seen too many Disney films – Carlo Collodi was an Italian writer. Well, almost - Carlo Lorenzini was the writer in question, and Collodi merely his nom de plume.
He was actually on the Censorship Committee for theatres, and worked in newspapers, and much of his work was satirical in intention. In fact he founded a satirical newspaper, Il Lampione, from which we get our word “lampoon”, as in National. So, he’s indirectly responsible for Animal House and the Vacation series as well.
Interestingly, he actually intended his Pinocchio stories – originally titled Adventures Of A Marionette – to be kind of a political blog, with fables related to his political opinions. This maybe explains why his most famous moral in the stories is about not lying. However the tales were then published in a specific weekly newspaper for children. He died before finding out how world famous the character of Pinocchio would be.
You might think that surely a Pinocchio-related artifact would have something to do with lying, or catching out liars. Perhaps it might explain Jinks’s ability? Where, you might wonder, would it connect with the idea of strength and mobility? Well, obviously it’s made from the wires of a marionette, and they hold the marionette up and can make him do anything, right? But a marionette still has an obvious weakness – the wires or strings can be cut. It’s also not under its own control, it lets someone else control the body, and that’s pretty far from what it gave to Sykes. So, where can we see this ability coming from?
Well, let’s look at history: It’s interesting that, as Lorenzini was writing just after the Romantic era, a lot of his work – including Pinocchio – follows on from automata and living marionettes, as it were, in that era. For example there’s one in ETA Hoffman’s Sandman, there’s Frankenstein’s monster, and so on. Oddly enough, Italy has a surprising history of such things; back in the days of the Roman circus, there were automata which were part of theatrical shows, and were basically cutouts moved by weights and reels of wire.
This may be where the bracelet gets its ability to give the wearer enhanced strength and mobility, even if it’s a totally subconscious link- Pinocchio is the descendant of the earliest robots in real history.