Posts Tagged With: doctor who video

The Smallerpictures video dump (2019, part one)

Crumbs, it’s February. What happened? You know, apart from the obvious, clock-ticking, calendar-ripping passing of time? How did we get to the point where I’ve uploaded eight new videos to YouTube and have yet to scribble a single word about a single one for the BoM faithful, or at least for the sake of maintaining a decent archive?

Well, we can’t have that. There’s a lot to get through so here’s the first, and we’ll come back to the others when the dust has settled. In a way, I kind of miss the days when I had the time (read: hours of procrastination in the office) and inclination (read: nothing else to write about) to produce lengthy posts about each individual video I mashed. But that time has gone, and I do think it works better this way. Sometimes less is more. Big Finish might do well to remember that.


1. Theresa May Dances (October 2018)

When you’ve got a Prime Minister who’s inherited a dog’s breakfast and who’s been tasked with spinning straw into gold by the end of the tax year, you sometimes have to make the best of things. I offer no apology for the mixed metaphors: there simply isn’t a new way to write about Brexit, at least not one I can think of, and unimaginative literary analogy is about the best we can manage. But I’d like you to cast your minds back to October, when Mrs May visited Africa and was videoed dancing along with some natives, in a moment that made headlines because there wasn’t much else going on that day; before we knew it the whole thing had been remixed with Toto playing in the background and everybody was having a good old giggle at a middle aged woman dancing the way your aunt dances at weddings. God, at least she wasn’t trying to floss. That would have been a sight.

The Conservative Party Conference followed not long after, and the Prime Minister took to the stage to the strains of ‘Dancing Queen’, in a moment that was both wonderfully cheery and cynically opportunistic. Was the PM graciously sending herself up? Or burying bad news? Why not both? Can’t she have just a little fun in between trying to keep the party from splintering and fending off Boris’s gaffes? But there was something off about her choice of song, so I muted ABBA and replaced it with the theme from The Pink Panther, which I think is a marked improvement.


2. Doctor Who vs Baby Shark (October 2018)

Baby Shark is one of those videos that languished in comparative obscurity until the right person shared it on social media. Sometimes that’s all it takes: a single Tweet, a nod from a heavily-subscribed Facebook page and then bang! You’re viral. I’ve had it happen to me, on a very small scale, but the Baby Shark craze was a phenomenon you are probably quite sick of and one you don’t need me to recount for you now. Suffice it to say it was everywhere last year, from the toy shops to the clubs to that appalling James Corden version (I’m not linking. Look it up if you must, but don’t say I didn’t warn you). I encountered it for the first time at a Shropshire children’s holiday club where a mutual friend played it for the kids one afternoon, and…well, let’s just say it’s been an earworm, and not necessarily in a good way.

To assemble this, I took footage from ‘A Christmas Carol’ (of course) and ‘Gridlock’ (sharks, crabs, basically the same thing) and then – once we hit the halfway point – all hell breaks loose. That’s largely because you eventually run out of sharks, and it rather forced me into a corner, but that sort of problem has created some of the finest episodes of Doctor Who, and a similar creative principle applies here, to a far lesser extent. Still, it’s a shame the Doctor hasn’t yet encountered the Selachians, at least on screen, because that would have given me far more to work with. Anyone got Chibnall’s phone number?


3. The John Lewis Christmas Ad – Doctor Who Edition (November 2018)

Christmas seems ages ago now, but some things can be watched any time of the year. The John Lewis Christmas Ad is arguably not one of them, but it does rather depend on the content: the sight of a small child waiting anxiously for December 25th so he can hand over the gifts he got for his parents doesn’t work; nor for that matter does a snowman struggling through the frozen wilderness to buy a scarf and gloves to the strains of Frankie Goes To Hollywood, but that one was a load of shite anyway, so it’s horses for courses. Nevertheless there was something timeless about this year’s offering – in which Elton John retraces his past to that very first piano – although whether it would have been quite so effective in the middle of June, instead of the warmly nostalgic glow offered by a cold autumn, is something we could arguably debate. Myself, I watched it with cynical eyes (they’ve never topped that moon one, and they’re becoming increasingly formulaic) until the very end, when the piano was unwrapped and I instantly thought of my five-year-old son, who tinkles with the house piano daily and who incidentally had ‘Your Song’ playing on his bedroom CD player almost nightly for about three months, and my eyes instantly brimmed with tears. Damn you, John Lewis. You did it to me again.

It’s a story about time travel, of a sort, and so it fits perfectly. And what better way to tell the Doctor’s story than by examining the history of his most constant companion? And so we start with Whittaker and move backwards through to Hartnell, with stories that (by and large) showcase the TARDIS. And, of course, I got into trouble with the purists because there’s no Troughton (although he’s there, lingering just out of shot) and because there’s barely any Pertwee and because the Hartnell is from ‘The Name of the Doctor’ because THAT WAS THE BEST BLOODY FIT AND I DON’T CARE THAT YOU WOULD RATHER I’D USED ‘AN UNEARTHLY CHILD’. Honestly. Still, if nothing else it served as a timely reminder as to why I unsubbed from most of the group feeds last year. Doctor Who fans. What a bunch of dickheads.


4. The Stalking of Dan (November 2018)

I loved ‘Kerblam’. ‘Kerblam’ was marvellous. The only complaint is that there really wasn’t enough of Lee Mack, who has one good scene with Yas before getting abruptly killed off so we can think the narrative is moving in one direction when in fact it’s dropping a colossal red herring (an episode of Doctor Who that surprised me; who’d have thought it still possible?). And there’s poor old Dan, lying dead in a warehouse like an Amazon headline waiting to happen. But you’ll remember, just before we discover his lifeless corpse, that Yas is walking through the darkness calling out his name, which immediately gave me flashbacks to the autumn of 2002. I did, in the process of putting this together, try and fuse Alan’s shouts with those of Yas, but it didn’t really work, so to the cutting room floor it went.

I might as well let you know that this is a dry run for something quite special I’m planning for a few weeks’ time, when I eventually get round to finishing it. But in order to actually do that I’m going to have to watch an awful lot of I’m Alan Partridge. Which is no bad thing.

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A friend of mine, a porcupine

This week’s journey into the video vaults is a montage I prepared to Porcupine Tree’s epic, overblown ballad ‘Even Less’.

‘Even Less’ is a song with a history: Emily first introduced me to it some eight and a half years ago when we were staying with her parents for a week at the tail end of August. She had a few CDs in the car but the only one she ever got round to bringing in while we were staying there was Stupid Dream, Porcupine Tree’s fifth album, released just before the turn of the millennium. We listened to it every night that week, holed up int he back bedroom of an old house in rural Shropshire, surrounded by cows and sheep and a babbling brook. This repeated listening granting me a sense of familiarity that I’d not had for any album for some time, seeing as it was a period in my life when I would buy cheap CDs by the bucketload and then never have time to actually play any of them.

But something about Steven Wilson’s tour de force through his own head – and in particular the opening track, a song we heard more than any other as we never fell asleep while it was playing – resonated deeply. The lyrics are wonderful, but it was the sound with which I really connected: great clashing power chords, swooping synths and a substantial amount of moody, atmospheric piano. The harmonies alone – although less prominent on this track – are astounding. It’s reminiscent of Pink Floyd in a way that some of their other stuff is not (although don’t let Steven hear you say that; he finds the Floyd / Tree comparison particularly grating), and perhaps that’s why I liked it.

It wasn’t until early last year that I realised that this particular track – a song which seems to defy textual explanation or analysis – would work beautifully as a montage. I should explain how this comes about. I listen to most of my music in the car, at full volume when I’m unaccompanied. My journeys to and from the office are brief, but it’s the only uninterrupted thinking time I get during the day, and it’s good for decompression. Gary Numan suggested that “Here in my car, I’m the safest of all / I can lock all my doors” (that’ll come back to haunt us in a few weeks, actually, but not yet) and I feel a sense of control behind the wheel – irrespective of what’s going on outside – that doesn’t permeate the other areas of my life. Driving time is thus important. I will time journeys so I can hear a particular song or two songs that I want to play that day. And when I am in the middle of a song I particularly admire, I’ll have images floating through my head. Sometimes they’re abstract, and sometimes they’re quite specific.

On this particular morning, as the tuning orchestra that begins ‘Even Less’ permeated through my second-rate Vauxhall-supplied speakers (I’m not really an audiophile, and you can tell the true strength and worth of a song, I’ve always found, by how it sounds on bad radio), the images that came to mind were from Doctor Who, and specifically anything to do with Tennant’s run. Tennant is the master of the brooding stare. Just watch the thing. No, wait. Finish reading this first, and then watch it. You’ll see what I mean. There are lots of world-weary looks, blank and vacant, with eyes fixed somewhere in the distance at something just behind you. Here was a Doctor who had the weight of the universe resting squarely on his raincoat-clad shoulders and wanted everyone to know it. Oh, he could laugh with the rest of them; of course he could. But he spent much of the second half of his stint in the TARDIS seeming old, rather than young (there is a danger that Smith is now, prematurely, going the same way, and I fear that it may be to the show’s detriment if he makes the full transition). No, the Tenth Doctor was brooding, and melancholy, and seemed to fit the mournful elegiac tones of Wilson’s epic balladry.

This sense of the grandiose extended to the orchestration, which is bold and powerful, so I found the actual montage easy to construct: big, bold effects-laden action sequences (chiefly epic explosions) for the instrumental choruses, and then quieter, more introspective moments for the verses. And then a rogue’s gallery and a collection of some of Doctor X’s finer (and sillier) moments to finish off – my rule is it has to fit, irrespective of how much I actually like it (so many of my favourite moments are missing, and there’s a fair bit from ‘The Waters of Mars’, which I can’t stand). But despite the wealth of Tenth Doctor content, sifting down to a stylistically consistent mix was comparatively easy. The song’s minimal lyrical content helps (for reference, if you’re doing a montage of any sort it is to your advantage to pick a song that doesn’t have much singing in it, or at least contains a decent solo). There’s quite a lot of matching words with images – some work, and some are tenuous, but I am quite pleased in particular with the little dig I made at Davies’ pre-occupation with religion at 3:50.

I started this last February and did it in bits, finally finishing it on a cold afternoon in March while I recovered from a sickness bug. And then YouTube screwed up the encoding. I see now what I did: the volume levels were too high and the result is a lot of clipping on the bottom end. Even if you mute the sound, the version on YouTube is far from perfect – there are a couple of split-second (practically subliminal) images that I’d failed to remove when I was putting the thing together, with the result that it feels rather rough around the edges. I’d really rather not showcase that, but if you desperately want to compare you can see it here.

I fixed it, but I’m a great believer in scholarly integrity (a decade in academic publishing will do that to you), and the YouTube upload already had a fair number of hits and some positive comments, so I decided to leave it as is rather than remove it. An improved version – a Vimeo embed – is presented below. I’ve done better, more consistent montages, but this remains, some ten months later, one of my favourite pieces of work, largely because cutting it together was so much fun. I still wish I understood the song, though.

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