What You Can Get Away With » Doctor Who

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Time for a break from writing about politics today as reading Andrew Hickey’s series of posts on hypertime, canon and all other sorts of marvels reminded me of a long post I’d written on a Doctor Who forum a few months ago.

So, if you’re not interested in some extremely fanwanky thoughts about the deeper metaphysical structure of the Doctor Who universe, look away now…

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Last night I was going to write about my two cents in the latest spat between Charlotte Gore and James Graham but managed to get distracted from doing that when I noticed a rather inflammatory-titled post on Liberal Vision.

Of course, what you see there now isn’t quite the same – or quite as inflammatory – as I saw last night. Yes, the doughty defenders of freedom and free speech have no problems with censoring themselves, refusing to admit they’ve done anything wrong and calling anyone who points this out a bully. It’s an interesting debating tactic, but not one that really helps to push the debate forward – but then, when your attempt to weigh in on the great Twitter NHS storm has embarrassingly stalled, I guess you try another tactic.

But, this does help to highlight some of the issues of online discussion, debate and freedom of speech that have been highlighted by Charlotte and James’ exchange – and no, I’m not just talking about Godwin’s Law.

During my time away from regular blogging, one way I filled my time online was posting on the Doctor Who forum now known as Gallifrey Base. (Yes, this will be relevant, bear with me) Now, for those of you who aren’t Liberal Democrats don’t know the intricacies of Doctor Who fandom, it contains a small yet exceedingly vocal minority who despise head writer/executive producer Russell T Davies who like to continually remind people of their disdain for him and his work. The pattern of discussion was predictable after a while – an initial post disparaging Davies, usually containing some combination of the terms ‘gay agenda’, ‘soap opera’ and ‘deus ex machina’, a large number of replies to that original post pointing out ways in which it was wrong, and then either the original poster or one of the other objectors chiming in with ‘obviously, you’re not allowed to dislike Davies here’ before going off in a huff.

In the words of the late Anthony Wilson: ‘You’re entitled to an opinion, but your opinion is shit.’ You can say whatever you want, but you have to accept that freedom extends to everyone else, and they can say whatever they want about what you’ve said. Pointing out that someone’s talking rubbish isn’t bullying them, silencing them or restricting them in any way – criticism is a consequence of free speech. Yes, maybe it would be good if all debates could be polite and respectful, living up to the senatorial archetype, but sometimes saying ‘now that’s just silly’ is all that’s required.

As James points out, many of the debating tactics of the right – especially a certain fringe within the Liberal Democrats – forget this in the same way as the anti-Davies fringe in Doctor Who fandom do. (Though to be fair, it’s not solely limited to the right) Debate involves people disagreeing with each other, and sometimes that disagreement might not be as eloquent, detailed or constructive as you might wish – but when you feel it’s OK to refer to your opponents as ‘evil’, ‘deluded’ or ‘Nazis’, don’t be surprised when they do something similar back to you. If you want something better, lead by example.

However, that doesn’t mean I don’t agree with the main thrust of Charlotte’s post:

We say, hey! Politicians! Stop being puppets and say what you really think! Then, if we find a politician stupid enough to listen we lynch them for it.

(Disclaimer: I say that as a politician who knows that one day a bored journalist with space to fill is going to find this blog and take all sort of out of context quotes from it)

However, I don’t think it’s some purely British situation – look at how Obama, Clinton, McCain et al spent most of last year talking in the blandest platitudes possible to avoid giving fresh meat to those who’d tear a mistaken word apart. What may be particularly British is the way parties are conceived of here – the moment a politician says something that diverts slightly from the party orthodoxy, the media are instantly calling it a split or a feud and demanding that the party leadership clarify their position and wondering what they’ll do about the supposed ‘maverick’. Then they wonder why no one wants to join political parties anymore…

In conclusion, then: I’m right, you’re wrong, and I hate you all.

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…as the new Doctor is announced on a special Doctor Who Confidential.

…as weeping fangirls and fanboys mourn the departure of David Tennant from Doctor Who. Meanwhile, tabloid journalists rejoice as they can fill pages with speculation over who’ll replace him, having been denied that opportunity when Eccleston left because the BBC announced Tennant was getting the job almost immediately.

James is quick off the mark to champion Simon Russell Beale, who would be an interesting choice for the role, as would current bookies’ favourite Paterson Joseph, though that has been the sort of market where a £50 bet would likely make someone odds-on favourite. Of course, rampant press speculation is rarely correct in picking the next Doctor, as Bill Nighy and Brian Blessed can attest to, so we should have some interesting months of speculation before Steven Moffat gets to start his tenure as Official Who Head Cheese by announcing his pick. As yet, there’s no confirmation to the rumours I’ve just made up that the decision will be heralded by a plume of white smoke rising from Upper Boat.

Eccleston and Tennant have made the role one that high-profile talented actors will be interested in, so it should be interesting to see how many of them use interviews in the coming months to confirm or deny interest in the job. If it was up to me, as well as Joseph and Beale, my shortlist would include Rory Kinnear, Adrian Lester, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rupert Penry-Jones and Damian Lewis, but that’s likely put the kiss of death on all of them…

Someone at the Herts and Essex Observer appears to have a sense of humour. (This may or may not be obvious after Saturday, should you be reading this then)

(And yes, I appear to have been memed by Mr Graham – answers soonish, hopefully)

Seems like everyone’s got a Facebook profile these days… (via Mat B)

‘Son of the manse’ is one of those stock phrases that crops up in profiles of Gordon Brown, the assumption being that his ‘dour nature’ (another profile-writers cliche) and all sorts of things about him can be explained by the fact that his father was a minister in the Church of Scotland.

While that description has been used for years, the problem is that Britain now has another high-profile son of the manse to compare him to – David Tennant, who perhaps should exemplify that attributes of a SOTM even more than Brown, given that his father (Alexander McDonald – Tennant is just a stage name, if you didn’t know) rose to the heights of being Moderator of the Church of Scotland. Yet, beyond the fact that both are Scottish and supporters of the Labour Party, it’s hard to find many similarities between them.

I was tempted to try and find some other parallels between Doctors and Prime Ministers but they’re thin on the ground unless you take the regeneration from a domineering figure who rarely takes advice to a more vulnerable cricket-lover to be the Who team of 1980 accurately predicting the future replacement of Margaret Thatcher by John Major.

It seems the good Doctor can triumph over even the hardest Murdochian hearts, as the Sunday Times give us Paul Cornell’s ‘Deep and Dreamless Sleep’.

And if that’s far too uncynical for your tastes, try HL Mencken’s ‘A Bum’s Christmas’ (via Jamie).

And though it’s true, like all the other guests at the convention, I’ll be selling the pictures I’m signing, I liken fans to pilgrims, and pilgrims have a tradition of being ripped off. Getting robbed on the way to Mecca or Canterbury, then sold terrible statues and other religious souvenirs when they get there, is an integral part of the pilgrim experience. And when I meet people who are nearly fainting because they’ve walked from Birmingham to meet me and pay tribute, I realise that for some of them, that experience borders on the religious.

Tom Baker blogs for Blockbuster.