Wednesday 12 October 2016

A World Without Disability?

Recently, a documentary on Down's Syndrome and disability was shown on Channel 4 in the UK. It provoked a great deal of debate into the possibility of a world without disability. I have to confess, I didn't see it myself, nor was I engaged in any of the subsequent debate which occurred on Twitter. I caught up with the discussion a little later, and it was both fascinating and thought-provoking. My dear friend Karen had been much more involved in the debate, and approached me with a beautifully written piece, on the possibilities of a world without disability. It's a difficult subject, and one which she tackles bravely. All thoughts and opinions are hers; some I agree with, some not. And that's ok. Pieces like this need discussion. They need debate and polite discourse. Please enjoy, and feel free to post your thoughts in the comments section, or to chat with either myself or Karen on Twitter. 

Some thoughts prompted by 'A World Without Down's Syndrome?'

Last week there was a documentary screened called 'A World Without Down's Syndrome?' I didn't see it, but it provoked intense debate on my timeline with people expressing many different opinions. It is an emotional debate and there are lots of things about it that I'm not sure how I feel. I wouldn't abort a pregnancy because it was Down's, but I strongly believe in the right to choose. It is difficult to police a system based on choice.

Also I think it is worth making the point that Down's isn't just about developmental issues, there are often associated heart defects. I knew someone who lost her six year old brother to a heart problem associated with his Down's. On the other side is the fact that although Down's is a spectrum, like life, most people with the condition are not very 'disabled' by it. By that I mean that not only do they walk, talk, see, hear etc, but they work, have relationships, drive cars, learn foreign languages and so on. There may not be any neurosurgeons with Down's, but how many 'regular' people are neurosurgeons? If we ever got to the point of pregnancy screening that could accurately predict academic achievement, would people abort any pregnancy that couldn't result in a neurosurgeon? That wouldn't leave very many!

The programme made me think about the wider issues of disability in society. I stated that surely a world without disabilities would be good. I still believe that. Some people don't want to see a world without disabilities, obviously they are absolutely entitled to their opinion, but I disagree. Please note that I am NOT advocating terminating pregnancies that will result in disabled children. I am talking about a possible future world where we could intervene to surgically prevent a disability from ever having occurred. Now I know this gets into a very murky area and the shadow of NAZI eugenicists. I am NOT saying that someone with a disability is worth less than anyone else. They are absolutely as important and they contribute to society and should be totally respected. What I am saying is that if I had a choice to be born blind or sighted, I would choose sighted. Wouldn't you? If you were pregnant at some future date and you knew they could safely operate on the foetus to prevent it being born blind, wouldn't you do that too? This is a controversial area I know and I am very sorry if I am upsetting anyone, that isn't my intention.

This does call to mind the episode of Star Trek The Next Generation where the Enterprise is saved because of the technology in Geordie's visor and he says if he hadn't been born, that tech would never have been developed. But it also reminds me of the ep where Riker becomes a member of the Q and grants Geordie what he knows is his greatest wish - the ability to see. Two sides of the coin neatly illustrated there by Star Trek. But I digress....

It is also true to say that much disability develops later in life and isn't present from birth. We work hard to try to prevent such disabilities though and I personally think that is right. For instance we treat glaucoma to try to prevent blindness. If we think we should just let nature take its course, why do we treat illnesses? There is also a fine line between illnesses and disabilities sometimes, like with Cystic Fibrosis.

When cochlear implants were introduced, some people in the deaf community reacted angrily and accused those having them of being traitors. I never understood this. If their condition was treatable with an implant and they don't choose to use it, that is absolutely their choice and should be respected. It is not compulsory. But for people who do choose it, why on earth shouldn't they? I do understand that a strong sense of community developed as a result of feeling excluded from mainstream society to a certain extent. It is sad that people have been excluded and more should be done to make things inclusive, like signing and subtitling on more television programmes/films/theatre performances, more awareness of the issues etc. But I don't think having a strong sense of the deaf community should ever result in criticism of people who wish to and are able to take advantage of a new technology that can help them to hear. Why is it 'better' to be deaf?

It was pointed out to me (very nicely, truly) that if my mental issues had been seen before birth, I could have been terminated. I wish I had been. It isn't as though I would ever have existed, nothing would have been lost. Someone else would have been born in my place, someone for whom life wouldn't be so miserable. My life has no value to me or anyone else. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying my mum, for example, doesn't love me. She does. She would have loved another person born in my place just as much, she would have lost nothing. Me, this specific entity of me has no value. Perhaps future screening should focus on the happiness potential? If such a thing were ever to be possible, that might be the greatest application of screening. Whether or not someone will be happy is ultimately much more important than whether or not they can walk.

Screening in the future is likely to become much more accurate. We need to think about these issues now. I don't want to see 'designer babies.' I don't want pregnancies to be ended because of the gender or sexuality of the foetus. In China, according to the BBC, for every 100 girls born there are 119 boys, as a result of sex-specific abortion. This is incredibly worrying, but again under a system of choice, it is hard to police.

All these issues are difficult ones, who decides what is a 'disability' in the first place? In some circumstances I think it is pretty clear, but in others it is a very fine line. Developmental issues, for instance. Who's to say how fast someone 'should' develop? All children develop at their own speed, just because some are outside what we have considered to be 'normal' does that mean they are disabled? Intelligence varies widely among the general population, who decided where the line should be drawn that says those below it are disabled while those above it are 'normal'? Everyone is on a spectrum. Perhaps we just need to realise that and stop classifying people at one end of that spectrum as intellectually disabled? Besides which there is a lot of overlap. To go back to the programme that started me thinking about all this in the first place, there was a woman with Down's featured who spoke two languages and was hoping to marry her long term boyfriend soon. She is doing better than me on both counts. Who's disabled?


My thanks to Karen for such an erudite, thought-provoking piece. You can follow her on Twitter @KarenKTS11

Wednesday 6 July 2016

The Post-Factual World

A couple of days ago, a long time Twitter friend, and previous guest blogger, @KarenKTS11 tweeted a post, on the logic, or lack thereof, which some people seem to possess, and how facts seem to matter little nowadays. It was such a well written piece, I asked Karen if I could share it here. It doesn't really need any comment from me, as it pretty much sums up everything to a tee. And so, I'll leave you in the capable hands of Karen..


One of the biggest issues I think Brexit has revealed is that people no longer accept facts. For instance, whilst discussing the referendum with people online, a number brought up the possible admission of Turkey to the EU. I pointed out that the UK have a veto over new members, in other words even if all the other countries voted to admit Turkey, we would still have the power to reject them. They couldn't join without our consent. This is a fact that is a matter of public record and easy to check, but people simply refused to believe it. This is part of a worrying larger pattern of ignoring facts, which encompasses amongst other things creationism, climate change denial, anti-vaxxers and even genuine flat-earthers.

I think perhaps we have become too tolerant, we no longer stringently defend facts as we should. Part of this is demonstrated by broadcasters who have decided that 'balance' means always showing two sides to the story. When the story in question is politics then clearly that approach is justified. However not all statements require someone to dispute them. If something is a fact, that should be stated. If opposite opinions are shown, they should not be given equal weight, it should be made crystal clear that that opinion is only a reflection of 5% of scientists, for instance.

This post-factualism also ties in to the apparent dislike and distrust of experts. When did expert become a dirty word? As I have tweeted in the past, if I need a brain operation I want it to be conducted by a neurosurgeon, not someone with a St John's Ambulance certificate. If my car needs mending I would rather a mechanic fix it than a tailor. If there's a European football tournament, rather than choose 11 men from the local park I would rather.....oh okay, scrub that last example. ;-)

The reason we call people experts is because they know what they're talking about, they've had training and experience. Of course some experts have an agenda, no one is denying that. If someone employed by a tobacco company suddenly declares cigarettes are not bad for your health, then I doubt whether people would give that much credence. Whereas the medical profession as a body, for example, spend their time taking care of patients and have no reason to lie about the deleterious effects of smoking. Besides which we have to trust some people, some time. Not everything in the world is a conspiracy. I am not suggesting we accept things blindly, but if the vast majority of experts agree on something, then the chances are they are right. Someone said to me this week that "we don't have to take expert's advice." Well of course that is true, but if your mechanic tells you your car is dangerous and you choose to ignore them and it blows up, killing your nearest and dearest, that is hardly the experts fault.

Anti-vaxxers are a prime example of the refusal to accept facts. Now even though I fully support vaccination, I don't think it is unreasonable for people to perhaps have concerns about one vaccine or another for some reason. Some people are simply naturally very cautious or very anxious and an initial scare story continues to resonate with them, even after it is entirely and completely disproven. What is unreasonable however is to completely deny the validity of the concept of vaccination. Vaccination works. That is a fact. For example Polio and smallpox have been eradicated in the western world (and worldwide in the case of smallpox) by the use of vaccines. In the early 1950s there were approximately 35,000 cases of polio each year in the US. (In 1952 there were 58,000) In 1957 there were 2,500 and by 1965 only 61 cases. What happened between 1952 and 1957 to reduce those numbers so rapidly? In 1955 the polio vaccine was introduced. There are mountains of evidence over a period of 220 years that demonstrate that vaccination works. It is simply not reasonable to choose to disbelieve it. Some people have taken to the anti-vax lobby so strongly that it has become almost a religion. If this kind of thing goes unchecked we are going to end up back in the dark ages of superstition and rumour replacing actual scientific knowledge.

I think a large part of the reason people distrust facts nowadays is because we are so accustomed to our politicians and newspapers blatantly lying to us. We no longer know who we can trust. We have become so used to lies being presented as facts and facts being presented as lies, that we no longer have the ability to recognise a fact. More than that, we seem to doubt the very existence of facts. We don't understand that not every piece of information is up for negotiation. We fail entirely to grasp the nature of facts.

My thanks to Karen, who you can follow on Twitter @KarenKTS11 (and I recommend you do., she's positively lovely!). You can also read Karen's first guest post HERE.

Friday 1 July 2016

An Unusual Week

It's been an unusual week, to say the least..!

Regular followers and readers have probably noticed a slight increase in my Twitter "popularity" (for want of a better word).

It started off with a response to an inane tweet, by resident Talking Satsuma with Eyes, Donald Trump, who tweeted..

As I occasionally do, I slung one of my barbed insults at the pumpkin-faced arse-cockle. Within a couple of hours I was quietly pleased that it had around 60 retweets….
What happened next was surreal, to say the least.. I don't know how it happened, whether someone famous retweeted it, or it grew organically, but over the past week, it literally exploded, with over 6000 retweets and 7500 "likes" to date. I've had something in the region of 3000 mentions on Twitter (replying to those have been fun!), it's part of a post with 100,000 Facebook likes, and it seems to have become a new moniker for the Edam-faced arse-badger.
Then, I became part of a meme of insults, whilst inexplicably changing nationality to Scottish, which I’m not, but given the state of British politics, I bloody well wish I was…
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Ok, so that in and of itself was quite weird enough. Then someone created a poster (below) in the style of the Sheppard Fairey created "Hope" poster which rose to huge popularity during the Obama campaign.
Shitgibbon FINAL
And this is where it just keeps getting stranger.. The creator of said poster was Jay Lender, who, I later learned was a writer and director for SpongeBob SquarePants.
Jay then set up a CafePress account, selling "Cheeto-Faced, Ferret Wearing Shitgibbon" merchandise, a percentage of which would be coming my way. I decided, given the hateful rhetoric of the weasel-haired talking testicle, that I would donate 50% of my earnings to the victims of the Orlando shooting, which took place earlier in June. All well and good, until CafePress promptly shut us down, for alleged "trademark violation".
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As it transpires, this worked out rather well. Many of you may have heard of  ‘The Streisand Effect’; the theory by which the more one pisses and moans about something, the more publicity it gains. And, again, here's where my week got even more bizarre. We were contacted by Mike Masnick, who offered to write an article on the takedown. You can read the full article HERE. What I didn't realise at the time is that Mike runs a hugely successful website dedicated for ludicrous takedowns, abuses of power etc. The publication of the article gave "Cheeto-Faced, Ferret Wearing Shitgibbon" the aforementioned Streisand Effect! Oh, and if you have heard of Mike Masnick, not only does he have a very successful website, he also coined the term "The Streisand Effect" in the first place! Yeah.. I told you it had been a weird week!
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Now, with over 1.5 MILLION impressions on Twitter alone, one silly tweet, directed at an even sillier little man, had gone positively stratospheric. It's been featured on USA Today, Perez Hilton (not going to be shouting that from the rooftops!),, BarStool Sports, On Sizzle, Crooks and Liars, Reverb Press, and God only knows where else. As I said.. Streisand Effect demonstrated beautifully, and ironically with the creator of said term. I’ve gained 1300 new follwers from this, 82 directly from the tweet; the rest from my profile. Hell, some even bought the domain name below (God only knows who, or why!)
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2016-07-01 (3)
I'm not arrogant enough to think this qualifies me as famous, or anything even remotely resembling so. By next week, it will "chip paper"; yesterday's news, and I'll be able to claw back some of the sanity I used to possess, albeit rather lacking in the first place.
I like words. I like playing with them, their etymology, language and trying to express myself in as colourful manner as possible. I created "Tiny Fingered, Cheeto-Faced, Ferret Wearing Shitgibbon"; something I won't forget for a long time. However, it would be disingenuous of me to claim sole credit. Anyone can play with words, and when it comes creating a portmanteau, it's a fairly safe bet that what you thought was a highly original insult had, in all probability, been used before. And it is so with the term, "shitgibbon", which I genuinely thought I'd created myself. Whilst I have no idea who first coined the expression, I have, subsequently found it dating back to around 2011, although I've no idea of it's popularity, either then, or now. It would be easy to claim I had created it, as my use of the term is currently dominating Google searches, but it wouldn't be strictly true (much as I thought it was). All I can say to the person who first used it is, strange minds think alike, and I hope you aren't offended or annoyed that I appear, at face value, to have swiped your expression.
The shop is BACK, and selling "Cheeto-Faced, Ferret Wearing, Shitgibbon" stuff.. Hell, I've even bought a mug for myself, to remember that time I was famous for a week.. And buying something from, in essence, yourself, of which you'll get a chunk of cash, is a fair summation of my entire week. Surreal as all buggery! Stuff is selling quite well, I believe, so if you fancy something, grab it now, because come November, Trumpty Dumpty will be an back to being insignificant arse-cockle on the scrotum of humanity, and you'll own something with the face of an arsehole who tried to be President. If you fancy some Shitgibbon swag, you can visit our store HERE. (Remember, 50% of my cut goes to charity, so I’m not here to make a profit.. I’d like to think that LOVE Trumps HATE)
UPDATE Along with my donation, Jay Lender, creator of the magnificent poster has advised me that he will also be donating 50% of his cash; in his case to U.S. Military Service Veterans., so get buying!
And perhaps there is the strangest thing of all.. Never, in a million years, would I have imagined buying a mug, with the face of a xenophobic, racist, deeply unpleasant, egotistical, tangerine-faced lunatic emblazoned on the side.
As I said.. It's been a funny ol' week..!
My sincere thanks to Mike Masnick (@MMasnick), Jay Lender (@JayLender1), everyone who's bought our tat, anyone who retweeted it (thanks for making my mentions bloody explode!), and to anyone who just got a giggle out of it.
And I’m still not Scottish….!
Follow Mike Masnick @MMasnick
Follow Jay Lender @JayLender1
Read the CafePress story HERE
Buy our stuff HERE
And, if you’re completely mad, and not following me aleady, I’m @MetalOllie aka Hamfisted Bun Vendor
Special Thanks to Donald Trump (@RealDonaldTrump) for being a complete and utter #Shitgibbon
No idea who you are, but you’re nuts! Thank you!!
Lastly, and completely off-topic, I’d like to dedicate this blog post to the memory of Anton Yelchin.. A warm, funny, beautiful young man, with SO much potential, taken from us, cruelly and far too soon. You will be deeply missed,  I never knew you, nor did I meet you, but I know you had a wicked sense of humour, and were a joy to be around. Rest in Peace… x
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Anton Yelchin

3rd March 1989 – 19th June 2016

Set Course to Eternity…

Friday 20 May 2016

A Tribute to Jon Pertwee

I was standing in the recreation room of the nursing home in which I was working at the time, on the 20th May 1996. The television was on, and the afternoon news has just started. As I passed the tea and coffee around to the residents, news broke that Jon Pertwee had, sadly, passed away at the age of 76.

(This post has since been updated, to include the thoughts of Katy Manning, who was generous enough to write a short comment for inclusion. If you’ve already read this piece, you can skip directly to Katy’s comments HERE).

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Some three years earlier, I was privileged enough to see him perform his autobiographical stage show, in which he recounted tales of his life, from his time at school, including Sherborne School, which is not too far from my home town, to his time in the Royal Navy. He talked extensively about his acting career, from his much acclaimed radio show “The Navy Lark” to television appearances, most notably Worzel Gummidge (complete with voices!) and of course his time as Doctor Who’s eponymous Time Lord, The Doctor, a role he played from 1970 to 1974.

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Jon Pertwee was born on July 7th 1919 in Chelsea, London, England, the son of the famous playwright and actor Roland Pertwee, and stage Actress Avice Scholtz. His parents separated when he was young and he was raised by his paternal grandmother. Jon’s elder brother Michael Pertwee became a film and stage writer,

Jon Pertwee was the first cousin of Bill Pertwee (who also became an actor); the actor Henry Ainley was a close friend of Jon’s father Roland and was also Jon Pertwee's godfather and Ainley's son Anthony appeared alongside Pertwee in the 1983 Doctor Who anniversary story The Five Doctors playing the role of the Master.

Jon Pertwee was married twice, he married his first wife actress Jean Marsh in 1955 (Marsh would later go on to make two guest appearances in Doctor Who), they divorced in 1960. He married his second wife Ingeborg Rhoesa, to whom he remained married until his death in 1996. The marriage produced two children together, Sean and Dariel (both of whom followed their father in to the acting profession). Aside from his most notable performances in Doctor Who and Worzel Gummidge, Pertwee also appeared in many other TV programmes including Ivanhoe, The Jon Pertwee Show, The Avengers, Beggar My Neighbour, Blue Peter, Whose Baby?, 3-2-1 and Noel's House Party, Jon Pertwee was also a storyteller on 10 episodes of Jackanory (1966-67) and presented the murder mystery game show Whodunnit? from 1974-1978.

Jon Pertwee also appeared in numerous films including Murder At The Windmill (1949), Nearly A Nasty Accident (1961), Carry On Cleo (1964), Runaway Railway (1965), Carry On Cowboy (1965), Carry On Screaming (1966), Up In The Air (1969), The House That Dripped Blood (1971), One Of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing (1975), The Boys In Blue (1983) and Carry On Columbus (1992).

Jon Pertwee auditioned for and was accepted by the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in 1936, although he was later expelled after refusing to play a Greek wind during one of the lessons, believing it to be a waste of both his time and his father's hard earned money.

Jon Pertwee was an officer in the Royal Navy during the Second World War as a crew member of HMS Hood and was transferred off the ship shortly before it was sunk by the Bismarck, among various postings Pertwee worked briefly in Naval Intelligence at Westminster alongside future Prime Minister Jim Callaghan, it was during his time in the Navy that Jon woke up one morning after a drunken night out while in port to find a tattoo on his right arm, which was occasionally seen during his time in Doctor Who.

Jon Pertwee acted on Radio for many years, from 1959 to 1977. He had a long running role as the conniving Chief Petty Officer Pertwee in The Navy Lark, with his wartime experiences serving him well when he joined BBC armed forces Radio Comedy Mediterranean Merry-Go-Round in December 1945, Navy spin-off Waterlogged Spa followed in 1948 - among the many characters Pertwee played was the Postman, who earned his own Radio series Puffney Post Office in 1950, The Navy Lark was arguably Pertwee's greatest Radio success,

In the 1990's Pertwee reprised the role of the Doctor with two Doctor Who audio productions for BBC Radio; The Paradise of Death (1993) and The Ghosts of N-Space (1996).

Jon Pertwee was also a successful stage performer and appeared in many productions including A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and There's a Girl in My Soup, Jon Pertwee also played Worzel Gummidge and Doctor Who (in Doctor Who - The Ultimate Adventure in 1989) on stage.

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Jon Pertwee made several singles and LP's, in 1972. Whilst in the role of the Doctor, he released a vocal version of the Doctor Who theme music entitled Who is the Doctor. In 1976 he recorded a promotional flexi-disc for Heinz called The Noodle Doodle Man, and in 1980 he released the single Worzel's Song which reached No 33 in the UK charts, Jon Pertwee also made other Worzel Gummidge singles and an album entitled Worzel Gummidge Sings. A further album was also released in 1981 featuring 14 tracks which appeared in the musical stage production of Worzel Gummidge, with the songs performed in character by original cast members - Jon Pertwee, Una Stubbs and Geoffrey Bayldon, Jon Pertwee also contributed to and appeared on several other LP's.

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Whilst I grew up with Tom Baker as “my Doctor”, my earliest memory of Doctor Who was Pertwee, and I distinctly recall the much loved Sarah Jane Smith with a giant spider on her back! It is, therefore, perhaps understandable, that his era is my personal favourite. Much as I adore Tom Baker, there is something about the Pertwee era. Confining the Doctor to earth for a significant portion of his tenure was always going to be a risk, however a stellar cast made it succeed, and excel. It gave us, all too briefly, the wonderful Liz Shaw, played by Caroline John, saw the return of UNIT, and especially the irrepressible Nicholas Courtney.

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His era gave us the wonderful, slightly ditzy, and incredibly likeable companion, Jo Grant, and introduced one of the greatest arch nemesis’ the Doctor would ever face, played to absolute perfection by Roger Delgado. The combination of Pertwee, UNIT, The Master and Jo proved to be hugely popular, and has become the most viewed of my Doctor Who DVD collection.

Whilst most commonly associated with the Fourth Doctor, it is also worth remembering that The Third Doctor introduced us to the irreplaceable Sarah Jane Smith. Her pairing with Pertwee while short, was nothing short of superb.

The Pertwee era produced some exceptional stories; Ambassadors of Death is a personal favourite, closely followed by Invasion of the Dinosaurs. After all, who couldn’t love a story with Sarah, dinosaurs, a corrupt UNIT officer and a fake spaceship. Not to mention the Doctor attacking a Pterodactyl with a broom! The Green Death saw the Doctor donning numerous disguises, and afforded Pertwee the opportunity to use that wonderful, distinctive voice to great effect, both as a milkman and a maid.

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As mentioned before, I saw Mr Pertwee perform his wonderful stage show, however, the highlight was the “meet and greet” afterward, at which I was fortunate, and privileged enough to have met him and to get an autographed photograph. It hangs on my wall to this day, and is one of my most treasured possessions.

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I asked his companion and friend, Katy Manning, if she would do me the honour of sharing her thoughts on Jon. She very graciously did so, and I'm thrilled and humbled to add her thoughts to this post, with my deepest thanks to Katy, who has doubtless been overwhelmed with messages, tweets and requests. That she took the time to send her thoughts to me personally is something I shall forever treasure.

“Jon Pertwee was not only my leading man he was also my friend & mentor . He taught me so much about our shared passion of acting past & present . I shall keep those memories of our laughter friendship & adventure together forever with a big smile in my heart xxx”

Katy Manning (24-05-2016)

Jon was unique. A wonderful character actor, a superb Doctor, and an intensely likeable man. He will be remembered with fondness and affection, not only by me, but by the countless lives he touched. On this, the 20th anniversary of his death, I dedicate this post to him. For the smiles, the laughs, the adventures; I thank you. We all thank you. And above all, we love and miss you. Our Doctor. Our scarecrow. Our Jon…

John Devon Roland "Jon" Pertwee (7 July 1919 – 20 May 1996)
Ad Astra

Friday 18 March 2016

Artistic Musings

Twitter is a wonderful medium, and through it, I have had the pleasure of “meeting” so many new friends, all with varied interests. Of course, my big passion is Doctor Who, through which I've forged many friendships, on and off of social media. Over the past few months, I've got to know and respect a fellow fan, and an incredibly talented artist, whose ability and talent belies his age. At just 17, his artistic capabilities are quite extraordinary, and so it was a pleasure when he agreed to do an interview for my little corner of the blogosphere.

I'm incredibly proud to be able to showcase some of his work here. All art featured is available for purchase, in a variety of formats, and the pictures link directly to his sales page. I hope you enjoy looking at his extraordinary body of work, learning a little about his creative processes, and so, in the words of The Ninth Doctor, and the title of the first image.. Do you want to come with me?


Do You Want to Come With Me watermarked


Firstly, tell us a little about yourself.


Well, I'm Sam Richard Bentley. I'm 17 years old, and currently a student studying Graphic Design at college in Hertfordshire.


When did you first discover you had an aptitude for art?


I've always loved drawing and colours, from a very young age. You know, I was one of those kids who hated it when other kids didn't colour in the lines of the colouring books? I've always had quite a passion for being creative.


I've come to know you through a shared love of Doctor Who. How long have you been a fan, and which eras do you enjoy most? 


Night of the Doctor watermakredWell, like many teenagers I became a fan of the show when it returned in 2005 with Christopher Eccleston. I have very vivid memories of watching the first episode 'Rose', and being completely petrified of the Autons! So, my father stopped me from watching it for a while.


Ironically, it was with the episode 'The Empty Child' that my dad allowed me to start watching again - possibly one of the scariest, and most tense stories in the shows history! But, alas, by the end of part one, I was hooked.


I was only 7 when the show was picked back up, so I really have grown up with the show. However, I eventually looked into the classic stories, Hartnell through to McCoy and McGann. And I fell in love - possibly even more so than I loved the modern series.


I have a real, true, undying love for the Who of the late 80s though - the Colin and Sylvester years! That's my favourite era, hands down. But, I do love the late 60s as well, with Patrick Troughton and Frazer Hines, amongst others.


The Happiness Patrol watermarked


How do you come up with your ideas for your pieces? They are incredibly creative! 


To be honest with you, I don't really have much of an answer to give here. Essentially I just take something I love, whether it be a Doctor Who episode or theme, or maybe a film or other show I love and feel inspired by, and just play around with my thoughts until something comes up.

I do sometimes go in with an idea of a design, but more times than none the end piece is not quite what I had in my head originally, though I often find I'm much happier with it.



An Unearthly Child watermarkedYou create a variety of artwork, besides Doctor Who. Can you tell us which other subjects you work on? 


I am really inspired by film and television - in fact, it's my favourite thing. So, on my portfolio, you'll see work from... 'Back to the Future', to 'Game of Thrones', to 'The Wizard of Oz'! Sometimes, I'll watch something, and go 'Oh! Now I have an idea for that... quick let me see if I can get some images together...'


It's evident that you have a particular passion for the Seventh Doctor era; what is it about it that you enjoy so much. 


Hah! I get asked this a lot. I just love it, you know? I don't know if it's because I love the 1980s, or what - but I just adore those three years that McCoy held the top-billing for the show.


It's so colourful, so whacky and barmy . Some call it cheap - which is was. However, I would never said that was a bad thing, not at all. I think they did a fantastic job, for what they were given. If you put into context the behind-the-scenes hassles they had, given that the show was coming to an end against their wills and wants, it's some truly brilliant work.


Oh, and don't get me started on how fantastic Sylvester McCoy's Doctor and Sophie Aldred's Ace are. If I started on that, we'd be here for eternity.


McCoy Cream watermarked 1


How long does a digital piece of artwork take to create, and what software do you use? 


I use a free-to-download software called GIMP. I couldn't afford Adobe Photoshop when I started doing this - so I searched on Google and found this alternative. And, while I now do have the full Adobe program, well, I just can't turn my back on ol' GIMP - it's what I'm used to.


A piece can take up to one to two hours, excluding any breaks and thinking time. That's, possibly, why I love making digital art - it's really rather quick.


Terror of the Zygons watermarked


As well as the digital medium, you also create hand drawn, original pieces. Do you have a preference for a particular medium? 


I don't draw as much as I used to - I used to do nothing BUT draw. Hours and hours I'd spend in my bedroom, drawing. Pencils, and the occasional pens, used to be my main way of expressing myself. But, since taking up digital art, I've not really felt the need or want to draw. However, on my portfolio there are lots of my drawings and I have no plans of removing them just yet - it's still a talent I am very proud of.


Are there any artists which particularly inspire you? 


I've always loved the work of Vincent van Gogh and Andy Warhol - two big names, I know. I often say them, when asked similar questions, and people rather... nod along. 'Oh yes, yes I know, yes we all love them.'


But in recent years, I found lesser known artists that I just adore - such as Will Brooks, who has done the occasional artwork for Big Finish's Doctor Who audio range. Or Lee Binding, who does some of the best Doctor Who promotional artwork of recent years.


Series 9 - Episode 10 - Face the Raven watermarked



Dalek Time Invasion


What is the long term goal for you? A career in artistic design seems a natural next step, but is there a particular company you would like to design for? 


I'm not sure if I want to work for any particular companies, to be honest. I'm still rather figuring it all out at the moment. I mean, what I truly want to do is get the licenses to be able to print some of my designs myself (for example, I cannot sell any of my Back to the Future, Star Wars of Marvel designs on public hosting services). The goal is to be a freelance artist - get commissions, sell my designs and just do what I love!


UNIT watermakred

I've picked two favourite pieces of yours; The UNIT piece (above) appeals immensely to my passion for the Pertwee era, and the Series 9 Zygon inspired piece (below) that has an extraordinary three dimensional quality which I love! Those are my personal favourites.. Do you have a piece which you would call yours?


Series 9 - Episode 8 - The Zygon Inversion watermarked


Oh my - that's a hard one, I must say. I hate to sound ostentatious, but I am so proud of a lot of my work, that it is simply impossible to choose.


However, earlier this year I got a lot of high praise for a collection of designs I made. Twelve pieces, one for each Doctor, showcasing a prominent companion of that incarnation. I got some very high praise for it from the companions I used in the pieces - Frazer Hines, Katy Manning, Sophie Aldred. I must say, they are probably the pieces I am most proud of.


Companions - 2 - The Highlander watermarked

Sam, it's been a pleasure chatting with you, and I'd like to thank you for taking the time to share your work and passion with us!

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You can follow Sam on Twitter @SamRBentley and can view his portfolio HERE.

No Sir All Thirteen watermarked

Monday 14 March 2016

Blu Daleks!


A recent purchase has given me the perfect opportunity for Doctor Who review. Or rather, Dr Who review! I recently picked up the Peter Cushing Dalek films, on bluray, and housed in rather beautiful “steel book” cases.

I'm not going to focus too heavily on plots etc. Chances are, you've seen the films. You know what they are. I will, of course, venture forth my opinion on each one, but the review is primarily about the blurays themselves, rather than the films.

So, let's deal with the films first. Both are, in essence, remakes of the Hartnell stories, ‘The Daleks’ and ‘The Dalek Invasion of Earth’. It's easy to write them off as “cash ins” on the success of the prevalent Dalekmania of the 1960’s, however, there is much to enjoy with each film.

Dr Who and the Daleks


The greatest strength of the first film, and by consequence, the second, lies in the casting of Peter Cushing. His Doctor bears many similarities to Hartnell, although is a much softer, less abrasive character. Portrayed as human, and named ‘Dr Who’ (something I will never get used to!), his character is a joy to watch. Jennie Linden plays a competent Barbara, with a young Roberta Tovey as Susan. Both fair well, although Tovey, due, perhaps, to her age, has a tendency to be mildly irritating.

Perhaps the oddest casting is that of Roy Castle. Don't misunderstand me; I like Castle immensely, however his portrayal of Ian is bewildering, to say the least. Gone is the competent, resourceful, stoic character of the television series, only to be replaced by a bumbling, inept parody of the role, who spends half the movie channelling the spirit of Stan Laurel. I understand the film needed a comic element, but it does border on silly at times, and serves to add little to the proceedings.

The Daleks look rather splendid, and I would imagine seeing them, in colour, on the big screen, would have terribly exciting at the time. Sadly, they are somewhat underused, slow and lacking in menace. They are rather fond of lava lamps, which, I'm sure at the time looked futuristic and alien. Nowadays, however, as set design goes, it does look distinctly dated.

Similarly, the Thals look decidedly camp, although credible performances, particularly from Barrie Ingham, as the Thal leader, Alydon, does much to assuage this.

Condensing a seven part story into an 80 minute film is not an easy thing to do, however, the film largely succeeds, and covers all of the main aspects of its televisual counterpart. It's a fun, but ultimately, fairly disposable film, which, even given the short running time does occasionally feel rather slow and stagnant.

Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 AD.


With Cushing retaining the role as the Doctor, and Tovey as Susan, the eponymous hero is now joined by his niece, Louise, played by Jill Curzon, and the delightful Bernard Cribbins, who would, of course, go on to win the hearts of every Doctor Who fan with his sublime performance as Wilfred Mott, some 40 years later. The film benefits from an exceptionally strong supporting cast, with performances from Hammer Films’ Andrew Keir, and an early outing for Doctor Who stalwart, Philip Madoc, who appeared in four stories in the television series.

The Daleks are much more uniform, and have a sinister quality which was somewhat absent in their first big screen appearance. Special effects are, frankly, magnificent, particularly given the films budget of under £300,000. The Dalek ships look stunning, even by today's standards, and whilst the occasional wire is visible, they move smoothly and effectively.

Humour is much more refined, and whilst Cribbins’ portrayal of Tom Campbell has a moderately comedic undertone, most notably in the ‘dance of the Robomen’, it is subtle enough not to be too distracting from the storyline.

Originally, it was intended that the Dalek guns would fire flames, however, this was felt to be too frightening for young audiences, and so the effect was replaced with a gas. In hindsight, and with the later parallels to the Nazis, the effect is surprisingly chilling, echoing the use of the gas chambers from the Holocaust. The allusion was almost certainly unintended, but works remarkably well.

Set design and the shots of a desolate countryside and a decimated London city are effective and haunting.

It is a rare phenomenon that a sequel bests the original film, however, I firmly believe that ‘Invasion’ is a far superior film. It has a more refined humour, considerably better storyline, a great deal more action, superb special effects and holds up well against the ravages of time.

And so, to the blurays themselves..

Dr Who and the Daleks

Full technical specifications are listed below my comments on each bluray.

Presented in full 1080p, Dr Who and the Daleks is a considerable upgrade from the DVD edition. There have been concerns about the transfers of the two films, and not without good reason. There have been some, notably the dual pack edition, which have had decidedly mediocre transfers. Fortunately, the Studio Canal releases do not suffer the same fate.

Picture quality is, it must be said, somewhat variable. For 80% of the film, it looks stunning, however, there are areas where colours seem a little muted and lacklustre. It is particularly prevalent in darker scenes, where the contrast seems a little off balance. Blacks are not as sharp as they could be, and the picture has an occasional softness which is inconsistent with the majority of the transfer.

DVD Comparison Screen Capture

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Bluray Screen Captures8129_6_large




The audio is presented in LPCM (linear pulse-code modulated) dual mono, and is clear, crisp and effective. Those hoping for a 5.1 or DTS audio upscale will be left wanting, however, from a personal perspective, whilst surround sound adds much to a presentation, as a purist, I prefer the original audio track. As a side note, when played on an amplifier/receiver with Dolby Pro Logic II or DTS-Neo 6, the audio is well distributed, sharp and punchy. Nevertheless, I strongly recommend listening as the director intended.

Extras are very well served, with an audio commentary by Jennie Linden and Roberta Tovey, two short interviews, the trailer and a couple of interviews. The highlight, however, is the inclusion of ‘Dalekmania’ the 1995 documentary, originally released on VHS. It is presented in Standard Definition; unsurprising, as it was originally shot on video, however with a running time of almost an hour, it is an exceptionally welcome addition to the bluray, and is both informative and entertaining.

  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24 (24Hz)
  • Audio Codec: English LPCM 2.0 Mono (48kHz/16-bit)
  • Subtitles: English SDH
  • Subtitles Color: White
  • Region: B (Region-Locked)
  • Certificate: U
  • Discs: 1 (1 x Bluray)
  • Digital Copies: N/A
  • Run Time: 79 Mins.
  • Studio: StudioCanal
  • Bluray Release Date: May 27, 2013
  • List Price: £19.99


  • Audio Commentary with Jennie Linden and Roberta Tovey
  • Dalekmania (1.33:1l SD/PAL; 00:57:30)
  • Restoring Dr. Who and the Daleks (1.78:1; 1080i/50; 00:08:26)
  • Interview with Gareth Owen (1.78:1; 1080i/50; 00:07:41)
  • Stills Gallery (1080p/24; 00:02:12)
  • Trailer (2.35:1; 1080i/50)

Daleks Invasion Earth 2150 AD.

Once again, the main presentation is in 1080p/24hz. However, it is fair to say that in terms of picture quality, ‘Invasion’ fairs considerably better than its predecessor. The images are sharp, colourful and evocative of the Sixties Technicolor era. Natural grain has been retained; something to be lauded, as digital removal often leaves the picture with an unpleasant, “waxy” effect.

Bluray Screen Captures8164_1_large




On the audio side, I refer you to my comments on ‘Dr Who and the Daleks’; the audio quality differs little, although is perhaps a little more taut, with a slightly stronger bass.

Extras are less well served, with approximately 15 minutes of interviews, a stills gallery and a trailer.

  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24 (24Hz)
  • Audio Codec: English LPCM 2.0 Mono (48kHz/16-bit)
  • Subtitles: English SDH
  • Subtitles Colour: White
  • Region: B (Region-Locked)
  • Certificate: U
  • Discs: 1 (1 x Bluray)
  • Digital Copies: N/A
  • Run Time: 81 Mins.
  • Studio: StudioCanal
  • Bluray Release Date: May 27, 2013
  • List Price: £19.99


  • Restoring Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. (1.78:1; 1080i/50; 00:07:11)
  • Interview with Bernard Cribbins (1.78:1; 1080i/50; 00:04:02)
  • Interview with Gareth Owen (1.78:1: 1080i/50; 00:04:08)
  • Still Gallery (1080p/24; 00:01:36)
  • Trailer (2.35:1; 1080i/50)

To conclude, let's give some scores on the Tardis doors..

‘Dr Who and the Daleks’

  • The Film. 6/10
  • Picture Quality. 7.5/10
  • Audio. 8.5/10
  • Extras 10/10

‘Daleks Invasion Earth 2150AD’

  • The Film. 8/10
  • Picture Quality. 9/10
  • Audio. 8.5/10
  • Extras 4/10

Lastly, I cannot finish without commenting on the packaging. Available in standard clamshell format, the artwork is stylish and effective, however for those looking for a collectable piece of memorabilia, the steel book editions are absolutely glorious! The artwork is stunning and capture the essence of the 1960’s to perfection. I highly recommend them over the standard releases. They make a fine addition to any collection.

Standard Packaging


Limited Edition Steel Books

Steel Book images are photographs of my own copies, still in cellophane, and really do not do them justice!

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I haven't watched the Dalek films in a long while. I had planned, for some considerable time, to upgrade them to Bluray, and when Zavvi had them in a “2 Steel Books for £18” offer, it was an opportunity too good to pass up, both as a Doctor Who fan and as DVD/Bluray collector. And I can say with absolute certainty, it was £18 VERY well spent. I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting these classic films, and seeing them presented in high definition was an absolute delight.

And so, if you are a collector, a fan, or simply fancy a wander through nostalgia, look no further than these. As films go, they aren't without their faults, but they are still hugely entertaining and with the Studio Canal releases, they have never looked better!