Besides the content, one incentive for clicking on the link above is that you’ll finally get to see who I am. I’ve hidden behind the reverend61 name for many years now, and will continue to use it as an online presence (there’s a considerable data trail, and I don’t know, it just feels part of me). But while there have been occasional lapses, I’ve been very careful to keep real names hidden. Part of it is security, and part of it is value judgements – the more people know about you, the easier it is for them to assess you based on who you are, rather than how you write. I’ve always liked keeping that part as obscured as possible. On the internet, no one knows you’re a dog. (Of course, everyone knows if you’re an arsehole.)
A lot of the stuff I worried about making public – child-related, mostly – has now gone private, and so I don’t feel the need to be so private anymore. To a certain extent I need to come out of the shadows a little, because it’s harder to get any recognition in the press if people don’t know who you are. So consider this an unimportant public unveiling.
I’m not deluded about this, of course. A single blog post in a free London-based newspaper does not a career in freelance writing make. But it’s a start. I believe in starts. So did the BBC, fifty-one years ago, and that’s kind of how we got here.
Hot on the heels of yesterday’s observation about England’s defeat at the hands of Uruguay, and particularly that canny Liverpool striker Luis Suarez, here’s an early publicity shot for the original cast of ‘State of Decay’.
Sorry for the absence these last few days. This is partly why.
When I was a kid I always wanted one of those Masters of the Universe Man-E-Faces dolls with the rotating head. Never mind the fact that it’s a Smiler (arguably the dullest monsters in series 5), years before its time. It was chunky, and substantial, and generally brilliant. I remember going to the sixth birthday party of a boy from church in a house whose ceilings were not, I daresay, as high as I remember them, and while everyone else was eating or doing flap-the-fish games, I just wanted to play with the toys. You can still get them on Ebay, but I really can’t justify filling the house with more junk and spending money we can’t really afford to waste purely in the name of nostalgia, so a home-made Minecraft multi-faced cardboard head – produced for Joshua’s birthday party tomorrow – may be the closest I ever get.
Anyway, this has nothing to do with Doctor Who, and this is (I remind myself regularly) a Doctor Who themed blog, so here – in case you needed any further explanation – is the real reason England got knocked out of the World Cup last week.
The words stared at me from the desktop monitor. They were real, tangible, irreversible. The cat out of the bag. I’d been flamed before, of course, and it wouldn’t be the last time. But this came out of nowhere and had no real explanation. No real context was given for the source of the sender’s contempt, beyond the link he’d referred to, and even then no explanation was given.
There’s something rather disconcerting about receiving a negative comment like this for the first time you try out a new hobby. Let me give some context of my own. It was early 2011 and I’d just uploaded a video – my first public upload, in fact. The mashup was crude and technically juddery, but reasonably coherent in what it was trying to do – and, if I say so myself, even reasonably funny in places. It had taken me hours. And the first public reaction I got was one of complete contempt. I wouldn’t mind so much but I didn’t even understand it fully, although I got the gist. I’m so out of touch I even had to look up the word ‘vajayjay’ in the urban dictionary.
Welcome to YouTube, folks. I cried because I had no shoes. Then I looked at a YouTube comments thread and it completely destroyed my faith in humanity. There’s no point discussing it in detail. If you’ve ever looked at anything that’s reasonably popular you’ll see that the occasional nuggets of goodness in the post-video ramblings are eclipsed by spambots, viral messages about angels and good luck, irrelevant political discourse and flat out racist / sexist / homophobic abuse. I don’t think I need to give you examples. The Guardian got there first. One Direction videos are the funniest, of course, its fans and haters alike descending in spirals of ever-increasing profanity and vitriol, to the extent that Dead Parrot produced a rather amusing reconstruction using professional actors. Stop reading this for a moment and go and watch it. It’s brilliant.
Where were we? Oh yes; John Hurt. Now, my videos rarely amass enough views to achieve anything that might be even close to viral. I’m like the microscopic edge of viral. In a way, that’s OK. I fight and fight for YouTube traffic through clever tagging and appropriate tweeting and uploading at just the right moment, but there’s a part of me that knows that any sort of fame I achieve, however slight and however fleeting, is only going to be a millstone. Having a blog that no one reads and a channel that few people (in the grand scheme of things) actually look at means that the pressure’s off. I don’t have to worry about outdoing myself. I don’t have to give my audience What They Want. I can produce the videos I want to produce and everyone’s happy – everyone except me, of course, when I’m crying into my pillow at night because I can barely amass a hundred hits on a montage that took me a week and which I’m immensely proud of while some guy in Florida films his cat PISSING ON A WATER VOLE and it’s got almost as many views as Rebecca Black, and none of the death threats.
Blogging is always about the validation, whatever anyone says, and my YouTube channel is no different. It’s nice when people respond. And it hasn’t been all bad, not by a long stretch. I was overwhelmed, for example, with the sudden (and very positive) response to Dalek Zippy, which suddenly took off when Roy Skelton died not long after it went online. People loved it. I had suggestions for alternatives or constructive improvements, all nicely phrased and decently convivial. It even made Doctor Who Magazine a few months later. The same thing happened with the Red Dwarf mashup, which got to the Daily Mirror. It’s no Double Rainbow, but you take what you can get.
Still. I have a theory about YouTube users, and why so many of them are the scum of the earth. You have to have a certain amount of coherence to be able to respond to a newspaper article, no matter how ill-conceived your arguments or how despicable your views. Conversely, it takes very little effort to type in ‘FUNNY CAT VIDEOZ’ on your smartphone interface and then leave a negative comment. The best part is there’s no accountability. No one’s going to come back to you about it. No one will knock on your door and beat the crap out of you, the fate of the internet trolls at the end of Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. (And answering honestly, is there a single person amongst us who hasn’t wanted to do this at least a little bit to someone we once encountered online?)
But if YouTube is like a big wall that’s ripe for anonymous graffiti, I sometimes want to find out the thinking (or lack thereof) behind what people are writing. I question the logic, for example, of anyone who says “I want my thirty seconds back”, because chances are it took them at least a third as long again to write down that they wanted their thirty seconds back – time which, if time were as important to them as they maintain, could have been spent devising a potential cure for cancer or the world hunger problem. Just because you can say a thing, it doesn’t always follow that you should.
There’s no real point engaging with the stupid or moronic, but not everyone who leaves negative feedback on the internet is stupid or moronic. Some of them just don’t understand. Some of them miss the point. I’m probably tempting fate by even engaging with anyone who seriously thinks that an obvious clip collection could be called ‘fake’ when the item description (and the other comments – why oh why don’t people read the other comments) makes this abundantly obvious. That’s like complaining when you find out that Spinal Tap aren’t a real band. You can click a mouse. Don’t expect us to think for you as well.
But still. Some of those comments have stuck in my memory. Some I’ve responded to; some I ignored. All are the exemption, rather than the rule. Perhaps that’s why they stick in the craw. But occasionally I’ll bite back. It may be about re-education or pointing them in a different direction. It may be about explaining something that I later realised was ambiguous when I originally posted. Or it may simply about being right. In any case, here are a few choice nuggets.
The Doctor’s Facebook Film
“No Rose? No Martha? No Donna? No Amy and Rory? No Clara? No Sarah Jane? No River?” (Various people)
Response (not sent): No, because I had a minute or so to summarise fifty years of television, which meant that some people were for the chop. In terms of episodes, New Who is a drop in the ocean. Sorry if your favourite characters are missing, but to be honest I don’t really give a shit. So are some of mine. And I think we’d all rather forget about Martha, wouldn’t we?
The Paranoid Android Invasion
“Some people have too much time on their hands.” (Facebook comment)
Response (not sent): I get really cross when people tell me I have too much free time. I don’t watch much TV. I don’t play sports. I don’t go out drinking or clubbing. The time I spend in front of a computer screen doing this is the same ‘free time’ that people spend crocheting, or painting, or slumped in front of Call of Duty, none of which I do. Free time is relative.
The Numberjacks Vs. The Prisoner
“not verry good\cool” (faisal habib, YouTube)
Response (sent): Learn to spell, kid.”
Darth Gene (trailer)
Response (via email):
I mean, I congratulate you on your astounding dexterity and skill with words. That must have taken you all of, what, two seconds? As opposed to the video you describe as gay, which took me several weeks, on and off. What have you done today that’s constructive?
We should clear something up. Did you mean ‘gay’ in the homosexual sense? That’s one particular reading of the Star Wars trilogy – the imagery of Luke Skywalker flying down the trench and shooting his load into a small hole is not lost on some people (google Charlie Brooker Star Wars, for example), nor is the homoerotic love triangle between Luke, Leia and Han Solo (who quite clearly has a thing for Luke). And there’s an awful lot of homoeroticism in the portrayal of the unreconstructed Gene Hunt from Life on Mars, whose voice I used. So that’s a fair point.
Or perhaps – this has just occurred to me – you meant ‘gay’ in the happy, hearts-and-flowers sense, which is much better. I did intend for this particular video to be upbeat and amusing, so perhaps I’ve succeeded. If that’s the case, may I apologise profusely for my somewhat bristly opening paragraph. I hope you can forgive my negative assumptions; it’s just I’ve dealt with so many trolls, haters and idiots over the years that – like driving – it’s always best to assume the worst: that way no one gets hurt.
What’s most likely, of course, is that you meant ‘gay’ in the derogatory, generally insulting sense. In which case you’ve added nothing of any value to the internet this week, and have simply come across as an ineloquent twat. Congratulations.”
Two days later:
“gay as in happy its funny”
(I win that one.)
The Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh Doctors hold a video conference
“Fake so fake saw all of those episodes” (WhenLifeGivesYouLemons, YouTube)
Response (sent):Of course it’s bloody fake. What the fuck did you expect?!?
Even when there’s nothing on TV and precious little in the news, we still manage to find ways of saturating our lives with Doctor Who. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It just means that you get stared at in the street, at least when you’re wearing the fedora and striped scarf (in June), and conversations with more sane, less obsessed people frequently end with the word “Riiiiigghhht….”, Doctor Evil style. I burned all my bridges with normalcy and adulthood long ago. Or, to quote C.S. Lewis, “When I became a man, I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”
To start: further adventures of the Dinopaws troupe.
(This comes hot on the heels of the video I did last week, and the closing episodes of ‘Earthshock’. It seemed such an obvious joke – so obvious, of course, that the BBC got there years ago with Episode Five, but anyway.)
I completed that video to discover that Edward had regenerated.
Emily did this one evening and it damn near gave me a heart attack. It’s one of those freaky pictures you share with no one, which is presumably why I’ve stuck it on a blog that no one reads so that the whole world could theoretically see it. I would add that he is grinning underneath there. Honest guv.
Meanwhile Thomas has been reading the further adventures of Biff, Chip and Kipper, in a series for older readers with more time travel and an ongoing storyline. Oh, and this.
Never mind the fact that Mr Mortlock’s first name is Theodore, and ‘Theodore Mortlock’ is an anagram of ‘The Elk Room Doctor’. Which I don’t think can be a coincidence.
Today I went to a carer’s social event where we got to decorate mugs. I confess I was dreading it. I have become something of a hermit these past six months, having been surrounded by people all day every day for years, and I have to say that solitude suits me. Maybe it’s a sign of age, but I am beginning to find people irritating. The world is really just an extension of Facebook, replete with the same superficiality. I have decided that Looking Up gets me nowhere; I just wind up making eye contact with people I don’t want to see.
“Get out of the house,” urged Emily. “Do something.” So I did. And besides, you know, mug decorating. Not to be sniffed at. I’m rubbish at drawing, but give me a picture to copy and I’m marginally less rubbish.
Dinopaws sits on the CBeebies morning schedule like one of those towns you see in the distance on the 7:30 commute – the briefest, most tantalising of glimpses into another place. A light-hearted romp set ostensibly in Earth’s distant past but actually located (I have on good authority) on the shores of an alien world, it comes across as a curious hybrid of Q-Pootle 5 and Moschops. Three anthropomorphic lizards explore familiar and unfamiliar terrain, delighting in the strange and unusual things they discover with a caveman’s evolutionary curiosity and the wonder and enthusiasm of a child. Charming and warm without straying into kitsch, it’s accessible enough to be enjoyed by small people, and wistful and silly enough for adults to find plenty to keep them amused. I need not tell you, I suspect, that it’s a hit in our house.
The regular cast of Dinopaws totals three: assertive, confident Gwen (Amanda Abbington), solid, reliable Bob (Bob Golding), and the excitable Tony (Keith Wickham), who speaks mostly in squeaks and unusual noises and who refuses to sit still for more than thirty seconds. It’s the brainchild of writer Alan Gilbey (What’s The Big Idea?)in conjunction with Melanie Stokes and Cosgrove Hall veteran Jon Doyle, who worked on ‘Scream of the Shalka’, amongst other things. The show has been met with general acclaim, although some people have missed the point a bit, asking whether two-headed dinosaur has any historical validity (no, it doesn’t – it’s extraterrestrial) and complaining about Gwen’s tendency to make up words, ignoring the fact that she’s supposed to be a small child, and that this is the sort of thing that small children do all the time. Perhaps the most amusing comment has been from the woman who maintains that “My daughter loves Dinopaws. But for some reason it makes me feel uneasy. I feel there’s an underlying sense of doom in every episode.”
It rather reminds me of the last episode of Dinosaurs, a Henson animatronic production that ended years of slapstick and social commentary with an incredibly morbid finale, which sees the dinosaurs facing extinction after tinkering with their climate. The man-made global warming subtext couldn’t be clearer, and is the sort of thing that would incense the likes of Fox News, but even without the obvious allegory the closing images – Earl and his family sitting in their home as the darkness settles in and the snow falls thicker and thicker – are tremendously powerful. Part of the problem is that it’s difficult to do a series about the terrible lizards without acknowledging on some level or another that at some point they were all wiped out. You either pop back for short trips, as in Andy’s Dinosaur Adventures (a show that succeeds because it’s rooted very much in the present), or make it so mysterious and enigmatic that you’re too busy thinking about other things to really give the extinction level threat more than a passing glance (Moschops). Setting it on an alien world is one thing that makes Dinopaws work, but I do think it’s interesting that I’m writing this while Thomas and I are halfway through ‘Earthshock‘.
Still. That may be where I got the idea for this, at least on some levels. Or perhaps it’s the trinity of characters, and the realisation that between them they could easily double for Amy, the Doctor and Rory. At their best, these three were wonderful to watch (unless saddled with a turkey like ‘A Town Called Mercy’, but we don’t talk about that), with Amy and Rory either playing long-suffering parents to an ADHD-afflicted Eleventh Doctor, or the grounded teenagers to his exuberant youth group leader, depending on the episode. In other words, he led and they followed, either because he was taking them somewhere interesting, or because he was simply running about like a mad thing.
The trickiest part of assembling this was finding enough usable footage of Tony. For obvious reasons he had to be the Doctor – his manic body language and excitable nature lends him to no other character – but I wanted the lip sync to match properly, and there is comparatively little in the way of the long, rambling monologues that you’d associate with the Doctor. Easier to do were Gwen and Bob – matching the latter with Rory, in particular, was an absolute joy. What took the time was actually shaping the thing, although I eventually hit on the idea (partly through consistency, part laziness) of using three key episodes and shaping the loosest of narrative structures around them. I do not pretend that the resulting story makes any sense, or is even a story at all, but it still works. Just about.
For ease of reference, dialogue was ripped from (in order of appearance ):
‘The Vampires of Venice’
‘Dinosaurs on a Spaceship’
‘The Eleventh Hour’
‘The Wedding of River Song’
‘The Rebel Flesh’
‘Asylum of the Daleks’
‘The Hungry Earth’
‘The Time of Angels’
‘The Power of Three’
‘The Doctor’s Wife’
‘A Town Called Mercy’
‘The End of Time’ (part two)
‘The Impossible Astronaut’
‘A Good Man Goes To War’
‘A Christmas Carol’
Oh, and that sneeze? Believe it or not, it’s Morgan Freeman. Amazing what you can find on the internet.