Monthly Archives: September 2016

Have I got Whos for you: bumper TV edition

We’ve got a meme backlog here at Brian of Morbius, so let’s take a look at what’s new in the wonderful world of the moving image.

First, I was looking at Jenna Coleman’s role in Victoria, and thought about the bit in ‘The Name of the Doctor’ where Clara got splintered all across time, and – well, one thing sort of led to another…

I’m not a costume drama fan, in general. I’ve never seen a single episode of Downton Abbey, although I rather enjoyed Dickensian. I have been enjoying Preacher tremendously: a show to which we’ll return, although I have given it a decent write up over at The Doctor Who Companion. If you’ve seen it, you’ll understand this. If you haven’t, it’d take too long to explain, but rest assured that it’s a programme worthy of your investment. It’s so…quirky!

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Too much TV is bad for you, of course, as this recent image from the Island of Sodor demonstrates.

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(Oh, I was bored.)

This week’s big news is The Great British Bake Off, a show that started from comparative obscurity and – thanks to a succession of great producers, some wonderful presenters and not a little scandal – became one of the BBC’s stalwart exports. At least it was, until Love Productions, who make the show, decided to move it to Channel 4, who were prepared to pay the £75 million that the BBC couldn’t find when it came to contract renewals.

Things you may not know: Love Productions allegedly had a number of out-of-court settlements with the Beeb over similar shows they later did (Hair, The Great Painting Challenge); programmes that (according to the obligatory ‘insider’) were stunningly similar in tone and format. Also: since 2014, Sky has had a 70% stake in the company. Go figure. Meanwhile, current hosts Mel and Sue have decided not to migrate with the show, and Mary Berry followed suit not long after. This leaves Channel 4 without three of the people who arguably made Bake Off the massive success it was, and while reinventions have worked in the past, alarm bells must surely be ringing in the Westminster boardrooms.

In any event, I think I have solved the problem: I therefore propose The Great British Baker Off.

baker-off

With the news that Channel 4 have effectively paid 25 million for a tent, some flour and Paul Hollywood (not my joke, but I’m stealing it), and the overwhelming probability that this will sink faster than the new series of Top Gear, speculation mounts as to who’s going to be at the helm when it goes down. I suspect that Davina McCall is already checking her diary. I can’t think of any show that’s completely replaced its core cast and managed to keep going. Can you?

eccleston_regen

Well, stranger things have happened.

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I am the remaster, and you will obey me (part two)

Last week we were talking about old videos that I’d been re-doing. If you haven’t read part one, you can do so here.

Today, set a course for deep space, three million years in the future…

2. The Tenth Doctor Meets Holly

This was the only one of my videos to ever feature in The Daily Mirror. I am still grateful to Danny Walker for picking it up; the effect on traffic was pretty substantial. It’s the one that tends to get the lion’s share of the comments coming in, although they’re not all good. I had a delicious argument with a troll a while back who argued that there was no good British sci-fi. Americans, he contested, had Star Wars and Star Trek and Philip K. Dick. “You guys do fantasy great,” he conceded, but that was it.

“You don’t have Star Wars,” I told him. “It was written and produced by an American and some of the leads are American, but a significant chunk of the cast are British (the ones who can act, anyway) and an awful lot of it was filmed here with British crews.” I then gave him a list of seminal English sci-fi writers and casually insulted him: this was the point at which the troll realised he was being trolled back, whereupon he promptly vanished.

Well, honestly. You have to keep an eye on things. I have a self-imposed ‘never apologise, never explain’ rule to my Metro and Doctor Who Companion work, but when it comes to YouTube, I’m there like a rocket when the abuse comes in. Nine times out of ten you’re more intelligent than the person insulting you, and it can be fun running rings around them, as I did with Mr “Fuck you, I hate you more than my slow phone” last month. I know it’s juvenile. And I know you’re not supposed to feed the troll hater. But there’s a time and a place. If you were running a stand at a convention and someone came up and started being rude to you, you wouldn’t ignore them, you’d tell them to sling their hook. This is a bit like that.

But this video…eesh. The negative comments on this bugged me, because they were right. In its original form, it was far too long. In my quest to include more or less every usable clip I shoehorned in a lot of stuff that didn’t need to be there. For example, there’s a bit where the Doctor and Rose and Mickey are discussing the concept of parallel universes, so I included some speculation from Holly about Ringo Starr (from a series 2 episode called, astonishingly, ‘Parallel Universe’). It wasn’t funny. But in it went. There was an exchange with Harriet Jones that didn’t work. In it went. The ending didn’t work. The opening scene with Tennant works at its beginning and then doesn’t.

“Some of these,” said one user, “I felt were misjudged and kind of fell flat but the ones that were good, were really good.” Others were less kind: “A very nice idea,” somone said, “but very poorly executed”. The most scathing criticism came from Red Whovian, who (despite having a silly name) pointed out that “You’ve got to do more than just insert Holly in between Dr Who clips; a good editor can make the dialogue seem like it’s properly interacting.”

You can imagine at the time that this bugged me tremendously. It’s not much fun when someone takes the trouble to unceremoniously dump on this labour of love that took you hours and for which you didn’t get paid, and which cost them nothing to see. “Take their comments,” suggested a friend, “and look at them constructively. Ask yourself whether they might have a point about any of it. If they don’t, you don’t need to worry.”

When it came to look at this again, less was more. It was a lesson I’d already learned and put into practice when assembling other similar videos. I fixed the ambient sound and managed to re-crop some of the dialogue so that a couple of lines that were previously missing their very beginning (which is like, I don’t know, an MP4 circumcision) were now fully intact. But the most important thing was what was missing: lines were moved from one scene to another (Holly’s “Explain this” exchange now makes a modicum of sense), and whole exchanges were lost. The ending was re-jigged. Peter Jackson’s approach to ‘definitive cuts’ of Lord of the Rings was to add footage he had to remove from the theatrical version. When Ridley Scott went back to Blade Runner, it was all about what he wanted to remove. You can guess which I prefer.

It’s not perfect – still, it is, I hope, something of an improvement. Unless you’re watching on a slow phone, of course. But I can’t do everything.

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I am the remaster, and you will obey me (part one)

laptop

It’s always funny, when I look at the hit counts, how two of my most popular videos are the ones I don’t like.

Maybe it’s the price of exposure. When no one is watching your stuff, no one is picking out the holes. The higher the hit count the more it gets noticed and the longer the line of people queuing up to point out the weak spots and the plot holes and the rough edges. Either that or they swear at you. Did I ever tell you that my first ever comment was someone calling me a va-jay-jay? That’s the sort of thing that used to keep me awake at night; these days I hardly even notice. I’ve got plenty of people who think I’m an idiot; I don’t need to go to YouTube for that.

But sometimes it’s a relief when people are honest. When you’re told your video editing skills are ‘fantastic’ (as I was just last week), knowing full well yourself that this is really not true, you wonder whether you can actually trust the general public to be arbiters of quality. These are people who thought ‘Death In Heaven’ was a masterpiece, for crying out loud. Sycophancy is second nature. The trick is knowing when people have a point and when they’re just being mean. There are two types of people, for example, who have criticised the Twelfth Doctor Regenerates video I did back in July. They’re either pointing out the inconsistencies and jumps (all perfectly valid, but unless you’re the guy who made Wholock you have to work with limited resources when you’re trying to put two Doctors in the same room) or they’re being rude. “Fuck you,” said a teenager who genuinely seemed to think that he was about to watch something with spoilers that would give him the information he so desperately craved. “I hate you more than my slow phone.” Still giggling, over a month later.

In any event, I found myself at a bit of a loose end these last two weeks – in between frantic bouts of writing for Metro – and have managed to go back and redo a couple of things I’ve been meaning to look at for some time. I have no delusions about them matching the success of the originals – nor, in a way, would I want them to. Both were products of their time (the second one less so) and while they’ve been improved technically I had to resist the temptation to completely rewrite them: to do so would have been somehow less than honest. I was going to stick them both in the same post, but I think we’re going to break this up a bit. I’m sure you have enough to be doing, don’t you?

1. The Ninth, Tenth and Eleveth Doctors hold a video conference

In July 2013 I discovered the joy of unscored audio – in other words, dialogue-only soundtracks for Who episodes, available from Dropbox links. It’s changed the way I work. It allows you to easily rip out dialogue and move it wherever you want, to chop and change scenes and to tighten and re-sequence and juxtapose, all without the jarring effect you get when the music suddenly stops. I road-tested it by creating a version of the Doctor’s Akhaten speech with music from Ulysses 31. It didn’t quite work, because of frame rate issues (although it’s a problem I could probably now fix), but the possibilities were there.

The original version of this video pre-dated that one by a couple of months, and while it’s had its fair share of compliments (as well as a few people shouting “Oh, THIS IS SO FAKE!”, having completely missed the point) it’s also been pointed out to me more than once that the sound does jar a bit. That’s to be expected – The ‘Bad Wolf’ scene from which the Eccleston footage was grabbed is steeped in score, occurring as it does at the climax of the episode, while a quieter, slightly more understated theme (I’d say that Murray Gold was learning, but you and I both know that isn’t true) is present during the Eleventh Doctor’s ‘Dinosaurs on a Spaceship’ scenes. Only the ‘Blink’ exchange emerges unscathed, and even then you have to put up with the whine of a projector.

(Incidentally with ‘Blink’. The Doctor’s original recording is present as an Easter Egg on the series 3 box set. Having re-watched the episode this afternoon with Daniel, Em and I were in discussion about it, and surely a better course of action by the Beeb would have been to put it on seventeen completely unrelated DVDs, spread at random, without telling anyone? Something you wouldn’t expect a Who fan to buy? Something that Carey Mulligan might own? And what if they’d done this for DVDs that were all released three or four months in advance of series 3? Yes, it’s obscure and faintly ridiculous, but can you imagine the media exposure when it came out? I’d have pitched the idea to them, but I think that ship has sailed.)

With this it was a simple question of redubbing every Ninth / Eleventh Doctor line (except for the ones on the beach), adding a little ambient sound, and then tightening everything up so the whole thing flowed better. Dialogue sometimes overlaps; at other times I’m content to let the silence speak for itself. I still have no idea what the three of them are arguing about, although it’s apparent that Nine is being extremely stubborn about whatever he’s being asked to do, and I’m still not entirely sure what I mean by having the Tenth Doctor reply ‘Complicated…very complicated’ when he’s asked about Rose (although curiously this seems to be the bit that people like most, so I must have done something right). But you could now almost – almost – believe they’re having a conversation, however bizarre it might be.

It probably won’t stop people shouting “OH, THIS IS SO FAKE!”. But that’s too bad. You tell them. I have to go and cook dinner.

 

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Jinx! Jinx again!

I finally got round to seeing Frozen Fever last week. And this was what immediately sprang to mind.

frozen_adipose

(If you’ve seen it, you’ll know why. If you’ve not seen it, I’m not going to explain. But it’s worth investigating, if you like that sort of thing, and can put up with the general…cuteness of the thing, which is something I could rarely say about, say, Pixar.)

Elsewhere, the fallout from the latest how-dare-you-write-this-sexist-rubbish-aren’t-we-supposed-to-be-living-in-the-21st-century-blog-gone-viral-for-all-the-wrong-reasons continues.

romana_headphones

Incidentally, I was reading a Facebook conversation this week about annoying companions. Responses tended to be in the Rose / Martha / Clara / Mel line (you will be pleased to note that I pointed anyone who voted for Bonnie Langford in the direction of Big Finish, because she’s far less irritating in the audio stories). Curiously, one vote was for “Romana II, always peeking over the doctor, almost spell checking the doctor. It’s like the Doctor would put your and she’d be the one to comment *you’re.”

As much as I love Romana, I think this may be the best description of her I’ve ever heard. She’s certainly aloof, and that’s why we love her. “I recommend talking to her like this,” said Gareth.

phones

I’ve often wondered what was Romana’s particular choice of in-flight music during that scene. I’m guessing it was something neo-classical, or perhaps some light opera sung in the original Gallifreyan. I’d peg her as a Vivaldi fan, or perhaps something in the lute line.

Or, I don’t know…

lytton_pear

Well, everyone else was doing it.

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17 faces that will be familiar to every Doctor Who fan

The other day, an old friend of mine stuck a Buzzfeed article on her timeline. It was called ‘24 Faces That Will Be Familiar To Every Feminist‘.

Did I laugh? For sure. Did I empathise? Well, of course not. If this is the way it is for women then fine; I’m not going to argue with that. I try not to get involved in gender politics if I can help it; too often I get accused of Mansplaining (whereas the truth is I have assorted online arguments with men and women and am equally condescending and patronising to both). I bring my children up to be as accommodating and reasonably-minded as they can be; beyond that I’m not sure what else I can do.

But I can turn that list into something a little closer to home, and here it is. And as with Police Academy, another installment is always on the cards.

(The list is entirely mine, but I am indebted to Stupid Faces of Doctor Who for many of the images – not the sort of Tumblr blog I’d normally follow, but these things do come in handy.)

1. When someone insists “HE’S NOT CALLED DOCTOR WHO, HE’S CALLED THE DOCTOR!”.

Faces_01

2. When you witness an argument over whether Paul McGann is ‘Classic’ or not.

Faces_02

3. “There’s only one Doctor, and it’s David Tennant.”

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4. “The Doctor’s supposed to be young and handsome. This new one’s too old.”

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5. When someone tells you how much they love the Rose / Tenth Doctor love story.

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6. “It’s not real Doctor Who unless it’s Doctors 1-8. This new stuff is rubbish. It’s not proper Doctor Who. I only watched one episode.”

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7. When you saw the Brigadier resurrected as a Cyberman.

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8. Fan theory, generally.

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9. “And what if Barty Crouch Jr. in that Harry Potter film was ACTUALLY THE TENTH DOCTOR?”

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10. When someone paints Michael Grade as ‘the man who killed Doctor Who‘.

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11. Oh look, it’s another ‘Bow ties are cool’ meme.

Faces_11

12. “Ha ha! Look at Clara slapping the Doctor! Isn’t that funny?!?”

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13.When you meet someone who dismisses ‘Love and Monsters’ as a low point.

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14. “If you don’t like it, you don’t have to watch it.”

Faces_13

(Yes. Yes we do.)

15. “I WILL ACCEPT THIS UNSUBSTANTIATED RUMOUR AS FACT, BECAUSE IT SUITS ME.”

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16. God some of these Facebook groups have silly names.

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17. “No, but Capaldi MIGHT regenerate into Smith. It could happen.”

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