Sunday, 11 November 2018

Time is Relative: Season 10 - part one.


You know how people are always asking you to recount the plots of old Doctor Who stories, briefly, and with pictures? And you know how you're never quite sure how to quickly and amusingly summarise those stories?

Well worry no more. I present to you, the Rob Reed guide to old Doctor Who. It's brief, occasionally amusing and - crucially - has pictures.

Today, we're looking at Season 10, which is from 1972, when we were considering joining the EU. Crazy times.

The Three Doctors

You know how Doctor Who is a Time Lord? Well, these guys are Time Lords too, except not as good. Doctor Who used to live with them before he ran off to have adventures and get his own TV show.

These guys did not run off to have adventures, and none of them have TV shows. They stayed in this super colourful disco room, wearing awesome capes playing with computers. You would think this would make them happy. But it does not. They are extra serious, all the time, and they don't know any girls.

They generally don't turn up in Doctor Who, because they are the ultimate buzzkill and he has asked them not to embarrass him. However, today they need his help, because a mysterious Space Hole has happened, and is sucking all their power away.

The Time Lords want Doctor Who to go in the Space Hole and find out where all their stuff has gone. However, he does not want to, because he is very lazy and also he does not like the sound of the Space Hole, and probably he would rather just start drinking now please.

So the Time Lords send another Doctor Who to help. Look - there he is, on the left. It's the guy who used to be Doctor Who, ages ago, when it was in black and white. Now there are two Doctor Whos, and  they can go into the Space Hole together.

They still do not want to, though. So they have closed their eyes. If they can not see each other, then no-one can see them, and make them go into a Space Hole.

The Time Lords go and get yet another Doctor Who to try to persuade the other Doctor Whos to get on with the story.

This Doctor Who is also from black and white times. And he is still in black and white, even though everything else is in colour. Which suggests that he was always actually, physically in black and white, and we never noticed because everything else was the same.

Or maybe the Time Lords just have black and white TV. Which seems like an odd purchase, given their decision to buy such a massive one. Maybe the licence is cheaper or something.

Back on Earth, Doctor Who finds himself threatened by these guys. They might look like shambling, jelly monsters covered in sick, but they are, in fact.... um...

Well, it's never properly established exactly what's going on with them. One thing's for sure, they're from another universe, and they want to eat Doctor Who! They get one of the Doctor Whos and steal him, and run off with him into the Space Hole.

They look a bit forlorn, to me. I think I'd be quite sad if I was one of them. They don't appear to have arms, or mouths, which presumably means they don't get to eat tasty snacks.  And they look a bit like pizza, which must make them hungry.

The Brigadier is already fed up of the story. It was bad enough having one Doctor Who, eating all his sandwiches and calling him a jerk for shooting at the aliens. Now there are two of them, and neither of them are helping fight the blob monsters.

Sergeant Benton is having a go at shooting the monsters. And taking it very seriously, too. Come on Sergeant Benton! You're shooting at monsters! If that doesn't make you smile, what will?

Eventually they all go off in the TARDIS to find the other Doctor Who. From the looks on Sergeant Benton's face, the Brigadier has just said something super racist, even for the 1970s.

Doctor Who number three has found the main bad guy. He's called Omega, and he's got an amazing face. Omega lives in the Space Hole, and stole all the power, and made the blob monsters. He's a Time Lord too. Pretty much everyone in this story is a Time Lord.

Omega is cross because he invented time travel, ages ago, and rather than say, "Thank you," all the other Time Lords let him fall into a space hole and never spoke to him again.

Now he's shouting about how great he is, and how he could kill everyone really easily, and how everyone needs to be lots nicer to him from now on.

Doctor Who isn't particularly bothered. He knows that the other Doctor Whos will show up in a bit, and they'll win for some vaguely nonsensical reason. He might also be wondering how great he'd look in Omega's shiny cloak, and coming to the conclusion, "Very great."

The Doctor Whos win, and Omega explodes, and they all go home in the TARDIS.

Doctor Who number one turns up and this point and says, "Hurray, we won!" even though he didn't do anything at all, and just sat in a magic triangle all day. This is pretty much how he behaved when he was in charge, so it is a fitting tribute.

Goodbye Doctor Who number one. You were bonkers, but we liked you anyway.

That'll do for now.

More of Season 10 soon.

Go back to Season 9 - here!

Thursday, 4 October 2018


Here's a poem I wrote. Please like it, and like me better for writing it.

I am ten years old
You do not yet exist
Except, somewhere, I suppose,
in a way, in a sense, in utero
But no girls exist, at this point, to this nerd
My hair is quite foolish
And I have no way with words

I am sixteen years old
And in love. So I think. So I hope
Not with you. You are five.
And 200 miles on the other side of the sea
I should stress that the “five years old” thing would have been a deal breaker anyway
But my love is not great at this point
I’m a fool
You’ve dodged quite the bullet
Oblivious, as you go to primary school

I am 26 years old
I’m trying to write songs
About love and desire
When it sparks, when it goes
And the bit in between that I can’t quite compose
The bit that I’m trying to find, I suppose
The words are OK, though they never quite rest
On the subject
Trying too hard to rhyme
Trying too hard to capture a moment of time
While you’re 15 and listening to Kylie Minogue

I am 34 years old
And one night you are there
In a pub, in my town,
In my life, in a chair
And you’re funny and quick
And I’m a little bit taken
By your smile and your eyes and your voice and your hair
And I know that I like you
As you instantly start taking the mick

I am 47 years old
And I’m cold, and I’m warm
And I’ve given up trying to find words for the stuff
That it means to be with you
For the love that goes on as we move, without fuss
Through this thing that no language can ever define
Though you’ll see I’m too stubborn to completely stop trying
I’m just happy I’m with you
It is great. It’s enough.
There’s only one word that we need.
And that’s “us.”

Monday, 30 July 2018

Bretton Hall - a partial recollection

Many years ago I went to University, and I was rubbish at it. It's something I think about a lot. Not least because most people seem to look back at their college lives with wonder and moist-eyed nostalgia. They were all good at college. And so their joy makes me feel inadequate, and so I hate them.

The place I went was amazing. A place called Bretton Hall, in Yorkshire. A sculpture park, set in acres of beautiful countryside, like the set of some gothic romance. It was an environment for artists, poets and dreamers. And, in my case, idiots.

Oh, I was so stupid, back in the early 90s. You might think I'm stupid now, but that's nothing to the ramshackle idiot that presented himself to the English Lit course in September 1990. While just a few years before Bretton Hall had seen the likes of Mark Thomas and The League of Gentlemen - smart, creative people who used their studies as a springboard to works of greatness - now it was host to a man totally unequipped for the act of thinking.

For a start, I was Christian. I mean, really Christian. These days I have a faith that fluctuates and wobbles, in a kind of progressive, evolving response to all the reasons the world gives me to believe and not believe. In those days I was just a zealous dick.

And Bretton was not a place to be Christian. It was achingly right on, erudite and non-conformist. Basically full of hipsters. Everyone there was determined to be a rebel, and they all expressed that rebellion in very similar ways. Three years of non-conformity - an intellectual extension of that faux individualism that teenagers practice.

But at least they were living. And thinking. And accepting new ideas. My particular brand of naïve idealism was rooted in a kind of right wing, zealous evangelicalism. I was not long a Christian, and very caught up in an ideology which cared less about human lives and more about End-of-Days eschatology. It was a way of thinking that closed ideas down. Straightened things out. Crippled the imagination and the personality.

But at least my dress sense was great. 

Now, it wasn't absolutely, 100% awful. I wasn't Carrie's mum or anything. There were sparks of the stuff that I consider my better qualities. I was a bit weird, a bit funny, kind of pleasant company. And I had some good friends who tolerated my Hellfire rhetoric just as I tolerated their deviant lifestyle choices. But the better parts of myself - the parts that should have been unfolding and unspooling into a more mature version of the real me - they were cabined, cribbed and confined by my over-earnest beliefs.

Lots of things about this were annoying, and indeed still annoy me. Mostly, it strangled friendships at birth. Sure, some of the people there were irritating, but we were all irritating. That's kind of the point of being a student. There were some wonderful, creative, fascinating people on my course and I never really got to know them. They were, quite rightly, put off by a man who had come to arts college, yet resisted new ideas in favour of a homophobic reading of a book no-one cared about in the first place.

Secondly, and I must be frank about this, my puritanical childishness definitely closed the door to more than one potential romance. Oh, how I curse the abstinence-minded young jerk who, full of vigour and desire, chose to hammer down his natural instincts instead. It ain't healthy.

Ladies were very interested in this.

And lastly. If I'd not been so zealous, then maybe I could have made a better case for Christianity to the people I knew.

Because, although my Christianity was a thing of great idiocy and thoughtlessness, it was by no means the only dumb ideology in town. The oh-so-rebellious attitude I mentioned earlier was less harmful, but no less ill thought through. It was the kind of iconoclastic preening that dismisses anything conventional straight away, praising itself for its freedom of thought even as it creates its own shackles.

And this kind of thinking had no time for Christianity. Which I found tedious at the time and I find tedious now. Just as religious thinking can elicit total nonsense from otherwise intelligent people, so can opposition to religion. I had tutors, incredibly clever and well read people, who just stopped using reason when concepts of faith entered the discussion. Obviously it was all nonsense, because they were clever, and religious people were stupid, right?

Which, of course, forced me further into my corner. I already thought there was some kind of spiritual battle going on between faith and reason, and my church had a deep mistrust of intellectualism. These people were giving me no reason to believe that smart thinking and religious thinking could occupy the same space. So I suppose I became stupider, and more entrenched.

Some Christians, being popular.

So when I think of my time doing a degree, I have mixed feelings. There was a lot of good stuff too, of course. And if you went to college with me, you might feel rightly aggrieved that I haven't just written a big long piece about how awesome it was watching Terminator 2 with you and eating cheese on toast every night. And if you were a Christian there, you might remember how much you looked after me and tried to make me less of a dickhead. You did, fellow believers, and I'd have been a better man if I'd tried to be more like you.

And I hope that's kind of who I've become. I've spent more time with Bretton students since I left than I did when I was there. And they are among the most giving, thoughtful, gracious people I could imagine. Creative in deed and in thought, they take the ethos of the college - now long gone - and make it live. Christian or not, they have helped me have an experience of Bretton Hall that stretches beyond my three tumultuous, confusing years of study. And for that I'm very grateful.