Life finds a way.
Who said that?
A quick Google search reveals it to be Jeff Goldblum, of Stuart Little fame.
What was I going to say? Oh yes!
No matter where Doctor Who finds itself in the public’s perception, it always cultivates a rabid fan base. Among a generation of Whovians who are, on the whole, embittered by the recent attempts made by the production team in Cardiff to cobble together a decent programme, a new paradigm has sprung up. In the early days, conventions and fanzines were the sounding boards for the primitive Who community. Now we take to the internet and have arguments there, safely snuggled up behind our keyboards.
What I’m trying to communicate here (with little success) is that the fans have always needed to find a place to sound off, and many of the OG Whovians are now working on the show, in some capacity. From the barely legal productions of Audio Visual to cold warehouses, wrapped in blankets, yelling at a bundle of papers, Nick Briggs is living the dream. So is Chris Chibnall; from his greasy and blunt appearance on 1986’s Open Air to being handed the keys to the castle. So what about the new generation of wannabe showrunners?
I’ve been making content on YouTube for around about 9 years (the earliest of my work can still be found and vomited over somewhere in the deep and deprived catacombs of Google’s servers). My videos now tend to lean towards the extremities of criticism; plenty of swearwords and a healthy dose of having one’s tongue lodged firmly in one’s cheek. I initially gained exposure recording back and forth reviews with Matthew Toffolo (alias, “batmanmarch”), which quickly gained momentum and popularity. I’m immeasurably pleased to say that while filming those early discussions with Matt has indeed helped my channel grow, it has also gifted me with a close friend for life, which is the best thing about this YouTube lark. I’ve met and spoken to so many wonderful people. In fact, as a student of Television, I have networked with more people in the TV industry through my online content in the past 12 months than I have in the last 3 years of university.
But with that comes a nagging feeling and something I’ve been pondering on lately.
My flavor of criticism errs more on the obtuse side. I say naughty words and have an assumed reputation for “saying it how it is”, which gives me an uncomfortable nausea. I want to remain true to my opinions and, in turn, to myself, but I also understand that my penchant for dubious language and aggressive righteousness might frame me out of opportunities in the future. I don’t want to brown nose my way through my career, yet I also know that what I’ve said and have yet to say may scupper my chances of achieving my ultimate goal. I have it on good authority that myself and Matt would have been asked to appear on a certain YouTube show if it wasn’t for our opinions of the show and uses of words like “^%%£^” and “%^&@!”; the former of which being the worst of all, of course. This isn’t to say that those currently in positions of power either in or around Doctor Who are “yes” men/women, who have praised every single one of Moffat’s sneezes for being “heartbreaking” or “genuinely fantastic”. But from the outside looking in (which is a favourite phrase of mine; it basically washes your hands of anything – try it kids, seriously) there aren’t many other ways of looking at how that ship is being run.
There’s also plenty of infighting to be aware of. Recently, I uploaded a video which was half p*$$take, half genuine deconstruction of the recent Classmates strand on the Doctor Who YouTube channel (which involved the cast of Doctor Who spin-off, Class talking about the show’s fans). I’ll spare you the messy details because I’ve covered it enough elsewhere, but it led to a lot of explaining, some apologising, and a suspected bot attack against my channel. I still stand by every word I said, but it made me realise exactly how many people watch me. I finally woke up to the responsibility content creators have towards their audience. People come to my videos because they want to hear MY opinion on things. Now, although it may not come across this way, I am a very modest person (I’m so modest in fact that saying how modest I am makes me feel like I’m bragging). I cannot imagine anyone listening to a word I say and taking it seriously. But, either through some subliminal charisma that I exude or through some mass brain injuries affecting my entire subscriber base, people actually come to my channel to hear what I have to say. My brand of comedy might cross people’s wires now and again and that’s something I need to be aware of; many people took my Classmates rip-off seriously, and some of the Classmates themselves took it as a personal attack, which was far from my intention.
I’m painting quite a forlorn picture here. My world doesn’t revolve around my escapades on YouTube/Twitter. It has become a bigger part of it as I realise the potential of what I could achieve on this platform, but I can always escape it when I want to. If I feel too absorbed with view counts and subscriber numbers, I can always switch off my phone and do something else, which is a blessing, really. Many people in the TV or media industry don’t have that luxury; they’re on call 24/7 with someone constantly breathing down their necks for better interaction ratings on social media or higher viewing figures or that bleedin’ coffee I asked for forty-five minutes ago. I should relish the flexibility that platforms like YouTube allow. But I’m still wondering what video to do next, which is exciting. I have a few on my mind. A Power of the Daleks recon review. Or a scathing put down of this really awful supernatural American show I found which you wouldn’t believe is only 15 years old.
I also recently dived into some old fan films of mine in my Still Better Than Moffat series. These crappy flicks mean an awful lot to me. They’re links to the past, to loved ones who are no longer alive. To a younger me with a passion for film-making and a pair of cousins who would much rather play with their new Lego sets or on the Wii than dress up in Poundland overalls and run around pretending to be Autons. I mean, of course they would, so would I – oi, gimme that remote! And I got to share those moments with complete strangers who became invested in my family and the stories we tried to tell. That is something very special, and I can’t thank those who watch my videos enough for letting me share moments like that with you.
And while some doors are closed for now, or are indefinitely ajar, new ones have sprung open. I’m part of a wrestling promotion (Riot House Promotions, check us out!), which is one of my wildest dreams come true! I have been invited on podcasts for interviews and the like. It’s quite astonishing, really and I’m hugely grateful. The online world is a marvel and a minefield. I have an audience. A group of people who have bought t-shirts I put up on my store, which is nuts! They await each new video and connect with me via my Twitter. I’ve had fan art made of me and associated things on my channel. I have the capacity to exercise my creative muscles and massage my ego, to a degree. But with the ability for the internet and YouTube in particular to turn a nobody into a nobody with a handful of people who actually listen to them, comes with pitfalls. Exciting opportunities and experiences pulled away because you said Hell Bent made you lose your faith in a programme you have loved since you were 4. Future ventures and doors slammed shut because you criticised a cog in the machine of a greater corporation for artificially cultivating a fan base, with disastrous consequences.
YouTube is a portal into a world of infinite possibilities and impossibilities. It has taught me a lot about myself and what I am capable of. And it has also taught me that if I want to live out my dream, I need to stop saying “f**k”.