Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Time is Relative - Season 8, part three.

Felicitations! It's your favourite time of the week - the time when you get to read my vague and mostly misremembered accounts of what it's like to watch old Doctor Who.

But! There are photographs. So at least you can enjoy the haircuts.

In previous blogs I have detailed Doctor Who's struggle against guys made of plastic, a machine that made 'Evil' happen and an unsettling orange space penis.

Now it's time for the last story of season 8. It's a good one.

The Daemons

This week, The Master is pretending to be a Vicar. He thinks it's going to be a lot of fun, but he's wrong - it's tedious, and he's already regretting it. This mad woman is wittering on at him about demons.

If he was just being The Master, he could shoot her with his space gun. But because he's pretending to be a Vicar, he's meant to listen and look like he cares.

He is not really doing this either, granted.

This is the bit he really wants to do. Dressing up in a mad red frock and hanging about in the cellar, under the church, where there are stone monsters to play with. He's looking at the stone monster, thinking, "I might play with it right now. I can do what I want."

The stone monster comes to life, and his eyes go all red! This is excellent fun. Say what you like about The Master, he knows how to choose cool and interesting friends.

Soon, Doctor Who turns up to ruin everything, shouting and acting like he's the boss. Stone monster looks unsure what to do about this. Most people just run away, shouting, "Oh no! The stone monster is moving and it's eyes have gone all red!" Doctor Who just tells the stone monster to get lost, and waves some metal at it. The stone monster is wondering if it's too late to just pretend to be stone again, and has gone all still.

It is too late. He moved and everything.

Doctor Who goes to the pub and tells everyone that there's some evil happening, and they should probably do everything he tells them. Many of these things will be irrelevant and nothing to do with evil, but they will make Doctor Who happy.

You can tell by the looks on everyone else's faces that they want to keep him happy, as they know what a massive pain he will be if he becomes sad.

I like how everyone in this shot has a different colour jacket on. It's a bit like Star Trek.

Surprise! Stone monster has gone outside, and now he's terrorising everyone in town. Mainly by popping up and startling them. Though I think he does make someone explode at one point.

The Brigadier, meanwhile, has got stuck outside the village, and is having to rely on this science guy to sort things out. He is pulling a face that suggests he is in a sitcom called, "Well, Crikey!"

The stone monster is telling The Master about Doctor Who being mean to him. The Master is trying to be sympathetic, and not just say, "Well, wait until it's happened about a million times, like it has to me, and then tell me about it."

It is unusual for The Master to hold a monster's hand to make it feel better. I suppose the stone monster does look extra sad.

Doctor Who and Jo go to try find the Brigadier. It's good when they go driving about outside. I think this is the bit where they get attacked by a helicopter. Jo looks vaguely bothered, while Doctor Who just looks irritated.

Come on Doctor Who! You're having an excellent adventure, with a stone monster and a helicopter in it! Smell the flowers.

The Master, meanwhile, is back under the church, doing some Spells. Except he's pretending it's Science, because Spells aren't meant to exist in Doctor Who. But they totally do. He even says Spell words.

Doctor Who finds The Brigadier. It turns out there's a big invisible barrier that means The Brigadier can't join in the adventure. If you try to walk into the barrier, you catch on fire straight away and go completely dead. This is because of the Spells that The Master was doing, you see.

I mean the Science.

Delighted by his barrier, The Master does this. Which I think is meant to be spell-stuff, but does look rather like he has got into Iron Maiden too late in life, and is overcompensating.

Jo and Mike Yates have found The Master, and are excited to observe his new obsession with Spells/Science/Iron Maiden. This is a nicely composed shot, I think.

This is my favourite character in the story. I can't remember who he is or what he does, but just look at his face! He's like the distillation of '1970s British bit part actor'. He's cross, I think, but also sneering, and disbelieving, and superior, and possibly also hungry.

I'm not sure I could make my face do that, no matter how angry/sceptical/peckish I was.

Sneery face guy gangs up on Doctor Who along with this man, who is dressed in torn up newspaper. No-one comments on any of this, so we can assume that this kind of thing happened all the time in the 1970s. They tie Doctor Who up and point guns at him. Doctor Who is furious, though knowing him, it might be that he's just not had a drink in a while.

The Master does an extra big Spell, which makes a massive monster appear. He looks great, like this, doesn't he? He's loads more fun than Doctor Who. I wish he'd win.

Raar! Look at the monster! You can't tell from this, but he's very big indeed. It's a good thing he's a monster - he's have trouble getting a job as a supply teacher, for instance.

Jo freaks right out, and starts shouting at the monster. She doesn't want to be sacrificed, which I think is what is meant to be happening. Although quite soon after, she decides she does want to be sacrificed after all, just to be contrary.

Little stone monster seems very bored, now. I don't think he likes the grown up conversation as much as he liked jumping about killing people.

For some reason, Jo's freakout drives the monster mad. He gets all confused, and decides he doesn't want to be a monster any more, and explodes.

Doctor Who stares imperiously at the monster, and pretends he is responsible for its destruction, even though the monster exploded all by itself. "I have won!" he seems to be saying.

The guy next to Jo is thinking, "I'm pretty sure Doctor Who didn't win. It was the lady, surely?" But he doesn't say, because he's dressed in a hood that clearly suggests, "I have been doing mischief," and he thinks it might count against him in an argument.

The little stone monster goes outside and jumps about for a bit, looking cool. Then the Brigadier finally turns up and blows it to pieces with guns. Or maybe that happens earlier. I don't care - I just like pictures of him. He's brill.

Then they arrest The Master, and everyone goes home. It's been a great story, and everyone is very pleased with themselves.

That's the end of season 8. Hope you enjoyed it.

Season 9 starts here.

Season 8 part two is here

Saturday, 11 November 2017

A lack of grace

It is unlikely I will ever become famous.

I used to think it was my destiny, in that arrogant, dickheaded way that friends of mine know and love. Surely I would be a well known writer or performer of some kind, and share my wonderful personality with the world. People would delight in the many exciting things that came out of my astonishing brain. I would bring them pleasure and, crucially, they would give me enough money to avoid having to do anything particularly difficult with my life.

Young me, quite convinced that he should be in charge of the world.

It has not turned out that way. I remain very unfamous. Less famous, even, than loads of other Rob Reeds, as a series of narcissistic self-Googles has taught me. Even that motorcycle trainer from Tiverton gets more hits than me. And so I must live a relatively normal life, with only a handful of friends having to put up with my artistic endeavours and world changing ideas - bearing the brunt of my enthusiasms as if they were Jesus and I were the sins of the world.

And thank God, it turns out, for that lack of fame. My younger self might be disappointed that we're not a regular guest on Would I Lie To You, but my older self is extremely grateful. Being famous looks bloody awful. For lots of reasons. But the one that's on my mind recently is this: you have to live in the increasingly judgemental, knee jerk, self righteous world of public opinion.

As I write, a series of accusations are being made about famous guys who are meant to have done a whole bunch of sexually horrible things. Harvey Weinstein was the big one - accused by dozens of people of incredibly abusive behaviour, particularly towards women. Kevin Spacey followed. Now Louis CK. I'm sure that by the time I've finished writing this, there'll be more.

Louis CK: A villain

To be clear, it's not the fact of these accusations that bothers me. If these guys have been abusive - and it looks like they have - then there should be a reckoning. Obviously. There should be accusations and consequences and questions about how it happened in the first place.

What's bothering me is the public reaction to all this. These guys are famous, so the accusations are public. The apologies are public. And the commentary is public. The whole thing is taking place in the public court of the internet, and it is revealing some very unpleasant things about who we all are as people.

Take Louis CK's apology. It is, to my mind, pretty comprehensive:

"These stories are true. At the time, I said to myself that what I did was okay because I never showed a woman my dick without asking first, which is also true. But what I learned later in life, too late, is that when you have power over another person, asking them to look at your dick isn't a question. It's a predicament for them. The power I had over these women is that they admired me. And I wielded that power irresponsibly."

That looks, to me, like someone owning their actions. He doesn't pretend they didn't happen. He gives some context to his thinking at the time, but makes it clear that he considers that thinking to be wrong. He addresses the real issue - that this is as much about power as it is about sex.

The internet does not, for the most part, agree with me. It is full of criticism for this 'non-apology' and snarky comments about what he should have done, and about what this says about him as a person. They make much of his use of the word 'admire', as if it is designed to make us think he's great. They say he should have come clean about this earlier. They say he doesn't mean it and he's only apologising because he got caught.

Well, maybe. Maybe it is a cynical, calculated attempt to dodge blame, and I'm just falling for it because I like his comedy. I can't deny that as a possibility. However careful I think I'm being to apply critical thinking to the situation, the fact remains that I want to like Louis CK, so I'm probably predisposed to find his words favourable.

But, maybe he's being sincere. I think that's possible. I think we don't know who he is, or what's in his mind, or how he feels. We can parse his words all we like, but when it comes down to it, none of us are free from our subjective position in the wider narrative of this week's events. We all carry the influence of our experiences and attitudes, and bring them to bear on situations like this, where we have incomplete knowledge. It might do us some credit to remember the limitations of our objectivity, when we are flinging accusations around.

We all think our world is the right way up, depending on where we are.

None of this excuses or absolves Louis CK. What it does do is ask that we take responsibility for our response to him, and not make that response an exercise in black and white thoughtlessness - a response designed to make us feel better about ourselves by attacking someone else.

I think it's quite likely that yes, CK is only admitting this because it's been made public. Because that's what I would do. Actually, never mind would do. It's what I do. Don't worry - I don't recall ever doing any of the horrible things Weinstein, Spacey or CK are accused of. But I've done plenty of other things that have upset plenty of people over the years. And you can bet I don't relish the idea of discussing them with the world.

I've behaved selfishly and stupidly and in ways that have abused the trust of those who loved me. Sometimes it was deliberate, sometimes it was weakness. Sometimes I made myself think I wasn't doing anything wrong, and pushed down any internal voices that told me otherwise.

How could this vain prick have ever possibly been considered selfish?

If I was famous, these behaviours would likely come back to haunt me. And I bet that's true of most of us. Who here could stand the glare of public scrutiny without worrying that some past misdemeanour was about to bubble up? And who would gladly embrace the exposure of those behaviours - those stories about which we are rightly ashamed?

You might say, well, these accusations against CK and the like are much worse. There's no comparison to the things we've done. To which I can only think... would that matter? We're already in a world where mere allegations can end careers. Where people are suggesting half-jokingly that we should sack men the second an allegation is made, just to be on the safe side. Where the public court of opinion has no time for nuance, thoughtfulness or giving the benefit of the doubt.

I'd be terrified to be famous now. I'd worry constantly about the horrible pressures I put on poor Sarah Fenchurch when I was 17, to go just that little bit further than kissing and cuddling. Bad behaviour for sure. Imagine that, under the magnifying lens of public opinion. Of a Twitter mob who feel they know every situation inside out. Who feel that their rage gives them licence to act as judge, jury and executioner. Of a media industry built on a broad brushstroke idea of morality, that has no time for subtlety or forgiveness.

I've seen a lot of that this last week. "Louis CK joked about the 9/11 terror attacks," said as if it has any relevance whatsoever. There was that Tory MP who might have looked at porn, finding himself spuriously lumped in with the abusers. As if there's just a big pit of 'bad things' that we can throw everything into. It's an idea of morality that's easy to practice, because it requires no actual thought, while allowing us an unearned, self righteous rush of pleasure.

What I'd like to see is just a little grace. Some sense that the rights and wrongs of a situation are not instantly obvious. That even if someone has done something wrong, that doesn't necessarily give us licence to crow loudly about how superior we are to them, and demand their head on a spike.

Because yes, people like Louis CK might be trying to fool the world with a false apology. But on the other hand, they might just be flawed, rubbish human beings like the rest of us. They might have made mistakes which they'd like to correct. They might have been struggling for years to deal with their demons, and kept failing, and been ashamed of that failure.

The selfishness and stupidity of famous people does not give us the excuse to forget our responsibilities. We should be careful how we judge. Ready to listen. Prepared for people who've got it wrong to want to change.

If we don't, we're just making the world worse. Telling people with weaknesses that there's no place for them to admit their failures. Making it imperative that everyone keeps their demons locked up tight, where they'll always be a danger. Reducing everything to an child's idea of 'good and bad'.

Making a world where, one day, we might find ourselves wishing for a little grace, and wishing we hadn't shouted it out of existence.