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For Farscape fans in Chicagoland and the Great Lakes area.

Jul 3

1812

So…why did Crichton call his “pet” DRD 1812?

The short answer is that no one really knows.

The only connotations that come to mind for Americans would be that Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture is frequently played on the Fourth of July celebrations, when it is usually accompanied by fireworks and cannon shots.

And the next question is why is a Russian piece of music, which celebrates a Russian triumph over Napoleon’s army played during that most quintessential American holiday celebrating their declaration of independence?

That’s another mystery — although there is a tenuous connection.

The Napoleonic Wars, which began in 1791, were fought world wide, and lasted until 1815, when Wellington and his allied forces of Prussians, Belgians, Dutch, and British armies handed Napoleon his lunch.  The two sides that fought were France (under Napoleon) against the allied forces of Britain, Russia, Prussia, and Austria.  These wars did not have the distinction of being the very first world war (the Seven Years War, or what Americans call The French Indian War, has that distinction) but it was certainly the longest world war ever, lasting as it did for nearly 25 years.  (There was a brief peace in 1803 which fell apart before that year ended.)

America became embroiled in this war when it declared war against Great Britain.¬† The reasons for engaging in this war were murky: something to do with British ships impressing American merchant sailors, and as is often the case with American wars, it wasn’t entirely supported by all Americans.¬† Of course, to the British, the American merchant ships were not just fodder for their navy, but their habit of freely trading with any and all nations was a genuine threat to British blockades and embargos against all of Napoleon’s forces on the European continent.

Americans refer to this war with Britain as The War Of 1812.¬† In our American-centric world view, our first thought at hearing the title of this piece is that it is about our war.¬† Most Americans have no real understanding of the magnitude of the Napoleonic Wars, nor its length or breadth.¬† Even after finding out the true purpose of this piece of music, most Americans just shrug.¬† It has a name that’s apt for our purposes, and it’s a stirring piece of music.¬† We just LOVE to hear it accompanied by cannons and fireworks.

The War of 1812 is also the war during which our national anthem was written.¬† When Francis Scott Key wrote about “the rocket’s red glare and the bombs bursting in air” he was referring to a sight he witnessed when British ships bombarded Baltimore.¬† The rockets aren’t a fictitious touch, either.¬† This was the British navy’s first experiment with using rockets as artillery.

It is interesting to note that the first use of the 1812 Overture for the Fourth of July was in 1937 at Grant Park in Chicago.  (According to Wikipedia, that is.)

As fascinating as all this history about 1812 is, none of it really explains why John Crichton decided that 1812 would be a good name for a DRD.¬† Americans love to hear this song on the Fourth, but it’s not an essential piece of music – the way Stars and Stripes is (by John Phillip Sousa).¬† Nor does it ring throughout the land as any sort of a rallying spur at other patriotic events.¬† Just exactly what may have been going through Crichton’s mind is a mystery.

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