The Librarians and the Sword in the Stone

IMDB : aired December 7, 2014 : previous episode 
John Rogers (executive producer) discusses episodes 1 and 2.
And then answers questions for episodes 1-3
index and explanation of these posts

Plot:

Second half of the pilot episode. As we begin this episode, the Serpent Brotherhood are set on returning magic to the world, have artifacts in hand to help them do that, and the Librarian and the others need to stop that. Somehow.

Commentary:

Freedom of information : The question of knowledge being free or contained is such a large and complicated one. As a librarian, I believe deeply in people having access to information (I often describe my ‘what do you want to do with your life’ as ‘I want to connect people with information that makes their life better’)

But at the same time, I also recognise that there are some kinds of information that do have dangers (especially information out of context.) The story of David Hahn, who built a nuclear breeder reactor in his back shed as a teenager is informative (wikipedia : article : book about it) – some choices don’t just affect that person, but many others.

As a librarian, my goal is to help people get access to information. But at the same time, there are likely limits to that. And there’s also the question of ‘If there is only one of this particular artifact, how do we share that suitably with the world’?

Libraries share information, but we also have special collections and archives that protect unique or rare pieces and sources, and if you view The Library in that light (and given that the artifacts do cause problems when they’re out in the world), the question just gets more thorny, really. Which is to say I don’t have the answers here, but it’s a question I wrestle with a lot on a daily basis, about how we balance access to resources with maintaining those resources.

In terms of mythos, just noting the ‘First Librarian’ dropped in there.

I love that Jones has a solution for being trapped in the past. (This is more or less the method used in the 1632 series by Eric Flint and others, among a great many others.)

I love the introduction of Jenkins. And rewatching this, there’s some fascinating little bits that hint at things later in this series. It does sort of beg the question of where Jenkins was working before this. (Because the entrance clearly hasn’t been used for a good while.)

Dear Jenkins. Do not tear the card out of the card catalogue. I am a librarian of a generation that did not actually have to type those things, but I know what a pain they were to do properly. (The shelving system is clearly arcane.)

This is the first time we see much of Dulaque. We’ll see more.

The thematic things (see the Rogers posts) about how Flynn became what he is now, fascinate me here, when Eve and Flynn are sitting upstairs and talking. (I admit, ‘complex mentoring relationships’ are one of my own personal narrative happy things.)

I’m not quite sure what I think of this “The Librarians are the science, the Serpent Brotherhood are the magic” dualism here. (I mean, hour long TV show, I don’t expect major ethical and worldbuilding nuances in the second hour of the series ever – and I’ll say here, it *is* more nuanced, later.) But my librarianship is about the knowledge, and that’s art and science, intuition and craft.

Along with typing card catalogue cards, clippings books are a thing I’m very glad I don’t have to do. (Ditto flat files or vertical files) The latter two are basically ways of storing information on a given topic in a format that is at least vaguely accessible later. Libraries might commonly have them for local history (say stories about particular landmark buildings or businesses). Flat files are often used for things like maps, where vertical files might be a file cabinet with folders for each topic.

They were, as you can imagine, sort of a pain to keep up to date (especially in an era where ‘copy and paste’ involved actual paste), but like physical collections on shelves, you could often end up fascinated by something near the thing you were actually looking for in awesome ways.

(The analog version of falling down a link hole in Wikipedia, except instead of starting by topic, you were prone to the vagaries of the alphabet.)

Footnotes:

It’s hard to place the items in the opening scene. That’s a Celtic cross of some kind (perhaps related to Saints Patrick or Declan?) I presume the cat is something related to Bastet.  Judas Chalice (See the third movie). Crystal skull of Atlantis. King Solomon’s battle staffs. (Second movie reference) Holy Grail (which is in a totally different location in the library than the first movie and also I think looks different.)

Crimson blood and calcium. I wasn’t able to track down a useful reference on this one.

This time, Flynn does the rough calculation measurement by hand thing I wish he’d done in the first movie. Yay!

Duct tape for chest wounds.

Isaac Newton’s Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica. (Atlantis, already referenced) Interestingly enough, John Maynard Keynes apparently said “Newton was not the first of the age of reason, he was the last of the magicians” (see over here for more.)

Higher Dimensional Quantum Translocation Theory by Albert Einstein. (I always sort of forget, until I look it up, just how *many* things Einstein did.)

As noted in the commentary, there is a deliberate decision to make it clear Excalibur and the Sword in the Stone are the same (as established in the first movie, too – see the section with ‘Excalibur’ in bold). And, okay, I really can’t argue with the analysis of Thomas Malory there.

London: Star of Marrakesh (not apparently a real stone: see more about the Crown Jewels, but one notable fact is that most of the Crown Jewels were sold after the English Civil War, and almost everything now in that collection dates to Charles II or later). More here (with pictures) and here.

John Dee. Elizabeth the First. (Dee was in fact a magician, and his role in Elizabeth’s court is the kind of thing there are lots of books and novels about) This site both lists some of his surviving artifacts and more fictional appearances. Speaking of suspension of disbelief, the Crown Jewels, usually not that uncrowded.

Omni arcanum directio. (Roughly, per Google translate, ‘Every secret direction’.) Using a pendulum as a method of locating a particular object is a long-standing thing, I first came across it, I think, in Katherine Kurtz’s Adept books.

Dulaque monologues: 

The Tyburn did in fact used to flow above ground. Here’s a fascinating article about the lost rivers of London. This blog post has some additional links. Anyway, it started being diverted in 1236 and went properly underground sometime after that which means that Dulaque is decidedly old. (It does flow more or less right under Buckingham Palace.

I’m not sure if Dulaque really meant ground penetrating radar, here, rather than sonar, which is mostly used in underwater settings, not underground.

Buckingham Palace was built in 1703, on land that had been in private hands for a century and a half before that. (As a note, it’s about 3 miles from the Tower to Buckingham Palace.)

Buckingham: 

Robert Bevan. I think Richard Wilson (not Robert)?  J.M.W. Turner (see also here, which has many more photos of his work.) John Ruskin (leading art critic of the Victorian era).

High Enochian – Enochian is a name used for an angelic language described by John Dee and Edward Kelly

John Sheffield, first Duke of Buckingham and Normanby (no, not a typo), lived 1648 to 1721, did the original design for Buckingham Palace (acquired by King George as a private residance for Queen Charlotte in 1761 and later enlarged). Though, um, dungeons, very unlikely.

Chateau d’Yquem  is a highly notable vineyard. The 1811 vintage, per Wikipedia, is a comet vintage (often considered to be particularly good) that received a top rating in 1996. Incidentally, if you’re interested in the history of wine *and* want to read the seed behind episodes of both Leverage and White Collar (or so I’m pretty certain…), you might find The Billionaire’s Vinegar: The Mystery of the World’s Most Expensive Bottle of Wine, by Benjamin Wallace, of interest.

Electromagnets. (Short video from Bill Nye. Slightly longer one from Engineering Explained.)

Secret moon colony is a relatively standard conspiracy theory.

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2 comments to The Librarians and the Sword in the Stone

Hi, I’m Jen

Librarian, infovore, and general geek, likely to write comments about books, link collections, and other thoughts related to how we find, use, and take joy in information.

I'm the Research Librarian at the Perkins School for the Blind

More about my job and a day in the life

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