Commentators say that the Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door film is an extended session of the TV series. The claim is truest after watching “Brain Scratch”. It is the spiritual partner episode to the film, even serving much of the same narrative purpose so as to render the film as little else as indulgence of spectacle.
The same theme sets up the ending of the series: life/reality as a dream “if you want to dream, do it by yourself.” Vincent’s motivation is a refrain of this. The exploration of the dream vs. reality boundary as terrorist acts. Unfortunately (or fortunately), this episode doesn’t bring much by way of fistfights, gunfights, and sword(fish) fights. Hence, the film had an opportunity to take advantage of.
Personally, I find this episode far more compelling, narrative wise.
First is the very creepy Scratch cult, which is founded on a doctrine of transcending the dirty, physical body; the source of sin and suffering. This is because the body has needs, and therefore desires. As long as there are desires, there will be suffering. The members of Scratch are disciples of God sent to free our souls from our disgusting bodies to join the Infinite Sea of Electrons.
The consequence is that members attempt to achieve an electronic state of existence similar to that of the “Puppetmaster” in Ghost in the Shell – a consciousness without a physical body. The device and process required for this results in what becomes a contingent suicide by the member.
It’s doubly creepy because Scratch is really based on a real cult called Heaven’s Gate (this actually links to an existing website – though not updated since 1997), and Londes is actually based on a very real Marshall Applewhite (when Ed made a dummy account for Jet to register in Scratch, she used “Marshall Banana” LOL), who died in a mass suicide along with 38 other cult members in 1997.
Heaven’s Gate believed that the planet Earth was due for a cleansing, and the only way to survive is for their souls to escape to space, leaving their bodies behind. Applewhite is also on the List of People Who Have Claimed to be Jesus.
Heaven’s Gate pretty much died off after the mass suicide, but Scratch was undone by the efforts of our Cowboys. Another thing echoed by the film is the informal, but effective teamwork all 5 members did to crack this case (Ein saved Jet from hypnosis by biting him). It’s for the last time, which makes the next episode so powerful. Similarly, it’s Faye who takes the first crack at the case, and ends up in trouble (just as she did with Vincent).
I found Londes’ diatribe against television quite dated, as it feels more accurate to substitute the internet as his ark/scapegoat. Otherwise, it’s entertaining stuff, calling TV a religion in itself, and definitely I’ve seen the discussions, diatribes, etc. about the evils of TV in my lifetime.
The inauthenticity that underpins this whole session is that there is no Londes the same way there is a real Applewhite. Instead there is a comatose hacker named Rosny Spanngen whose consciousness applied itself on the internet and created Londes and the Scratch Cult. Can Rosny be held responsible? Is it his real malice that actively perpetrated these crimes? It’s a great moral question, I believe. Interesting too in that how does society serve penalty to such, if indeed he is found guilty. He’s a person barely alive, whose dream inflicted suffering and death to many.
I find this far superior to Vincent’s sophistry about dreams and reality. Vincent’s beef is a moral one. Rosny/Londe’s is also moral, but also existing on a more complex metaphysical plane. But hey, all these questions end up being reduced into a right/wrong binary anyway so no big deal.
Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door was mostly about Spike and his date with death. Brain Scratch on the other hand, was actually about something.