Culture

Virtual Reality Doctor Who

Oculus Rift Virtual reality Headset

Oculus Rift Virtual reality Headset

I’m supposed to be watching this PHP Web Development course. It is part of the exciting journey that I’m on, teaching myself computer programming and building my own private social network website. However its hard to concentrate when your 5 ¾ year old daughter and her 2 hyper-active school friends are downstairs screaming, dancing loudly to you tube videos on the Apple TV and crying every 5 minutes as they injure themselves on doors, floors, tables and each other. I thought removing all the non-foam toy swords from the lounge would help. I thought wrong. At least they won’t bend my Darth Vader toy Light Saber. It’s safely hidden in the loft.

So being surrounded by distractions, I thought I’d do what I haven’t done in a while. Take a break from coding and update my blog.

I haven’t posted much recently. This is not for want of things to say, or lack of things happening to me. On the contrary, far too much has happened in my life recently. Most of it has been unpleasant. Extremely thought provoking and insightful? Yes.  Sowing the seeds of emotional maturity and growth? Maybe. Painful and depressing? Definitely. Do I want to blog about it? It might help me, but I think not. My marital, financial and emotional wellbeing are pretty fragile at the moment. However, on the plus side, I have come across some cool things that distracted me, in a pleasant way, and I feel are worth sharing in the blogosphere.

1) On Writing:

I read this somewhere the other day. “A writer is anyone who has something to say and a burning desire to say it”. That’s me, except without the talent.

Creative writing has always been the main outlet for processing my thoughts and experiences. This is because my childhood home wasn’t somewhere where you were allowed to be open and honest about your thoughts and feelings. You were free to feel and say what you wanted, as long as it was exactly what my parents wanted you to feel and think. They were like this with each other, and fought violently all the time. It was a really tense and volatile atmosphere of fear, abuse and neglect, but the most important thing drilled into me was not to tell anyone about it. Especially not them. They are not good listeners, and are much better talkers, or lecturers to be frank. They overwhelmed me with years of constant verbal bombardments on how I should live my life (essentially for them) and why everything I seemed to think and feel was wrong.

They didn’t have blogs or even the World Web Web when I was growing up. The closest I got to the internet was the 1983 film WarGames. Watching Matthew Broderick connect to a noisy old school modem and take the world to the brink of nuclear Armageddon was surfing for my generation. I did have pencils and paper though, courtesy of my dad’s stationary cupboard at work. I poured all my frustrations and dreams of escape and freedom into stories. I found creative writing more natural than writing a dairy or thought journal. I loved making up fictional protagonists, who had the same troubles as me, but ways of overcoming them unavailable to me. If only I was a super-hero with mind reading powers and a winning lottery ticket, then I could put all my plans to overcome my difficulties into action. In many ways I am still the same. I still love to write, but have no time to do it. I barely have enough time to fix the leaking garage roof or broken gutters pouring green moss filled rain into my rotting garage door.

There I go again, going off on a tangent. My blog posts are too long. I need to keep them short. It’s not easy when you have so much to say and no–one to say it to.

2) On Dr. Who:

Patrick Troughton is the most fantastic Dr. Who I have come across so far. I have still yet to watch any Dr. Who episodes with the 3rd Doctor (Jon Pertwee), 5th Doctor (Peter Davison) or 6th Doctor (Colin Baker), and I’m a big Matt Smith fan. However, having spent the last few weeks watching classic black and white Doctor Who episodes form the late 1960’s,with Patrick Troughton as the 2nd doctor, I have to say I am entranced. He has a much wider range of character traits and facets than William Hartnell’s 1st Doctor, much as I loved him. He brings to the role an eclectic mix of tomfoolery, eccentricity, humour, wit, genius, child-like curiosity, hand wringing and funny walks, which all suddenly collapse when he gets angry and show’s how much depth, courage and feeling he truly has. I’ve even grown to like his companion Jamie, whose lack of genius highlights the doctor’s superior cerebral powers, but who is at least loyal and caring. I’m not so convinced about wearing a kilt in Ice Age Britain or on a moon base though.

It’s a real shame many of the Troughton Who episodes are missing. The Enemy of the World, a serial previously missing for decades, and recently re-discovered and re-mastered, was amazing. His Mexican accent may have left a little to be desired, but Patrick Troughton’s slimy, smooth, evil genius dictator wannabe Salamander was a great performance, especially in contrast to the raggedy man, dishevelled doctor. Thanks to the marvellous Apple TV for enabling me to sit back and watch episode after episode without buying DVD boxsets I have no space for. And thanks again to my good friends Paul and James for starting their wonderful Cricket and Doctor Who podcast show last year. I’m still not a fan of cricket (I don’t have enough time to get into that too) but they have helped me rediscover my inner geek and find something legal that stimulates my neurons in an exciting way.

3) On Virtual reality:

Virtual reality may finally be coming to a home near you. I grew up on 1990’s sci-fi, from Star Trek The Next Generation’s Holodeck, to the virtual reality games machines used by Lister in classic British Sci-Fi comedy Red Dwarf. The closest I ever got to VR was watching a pre-James Bond Pierce Brosnan ponce about unconvincingly in The Lawnmower Man film, when my parents finally got cable TV. I was sold on the idea of Virtual Reality (especially as I hate mowing the lawn)and I’ve been waiting ever since.

Given what I mentioned above, about my inability to experience much freedom in real life, the idea of escaping in to a fantasy world of alien planets or tropical jungles all through the power of immersive virtual reality really appeals to me.

I’m not much of a computer gamer. I lack the time, fancy consoles or attention span. Even my daughter understands Lego StarWars on the Wii better than me. However hope may be at hand. I came across an article talking about something called the Oculus Rift. It is a virtual reality headset that was showcased at this year’s CES in Las Vegas. It looks amazing. I want one. Maybe someone can develop a Dr. Who virtual reality game where me and my friends board the Tardis and are whisked away by Patrick Troughton’s 2nd doctor, to fight hissing Ice Warriors from Mars using only his recorder (he didn’t have a sonic screwdriver in the serial, although I recently got a key-ring 11th doctor one if that would help).

4) On Twitter:

Life would be much simpler if I wasn’t interested in so many things, although it would be duller. Posting my Follow Fridays on Twitter today made me realise that I follow too many people and media outlets. The problem is who to cull? My main issue is that I am interested in far too many things. From science to history, art to socialism, music to comic books, virtual reality to web development, Dr. who to psychology, economics to the local traffic updates, food intolerance diets to computer programming, Irritable Bowel syndrome to Woody Allen Movies, my life is full of noise. Well that’s what my wife keeps calling it these days. Honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. The problem is that too much noise can, and often does, overwhelm you. I can’t read everything I want to read. I’d love to explore and research all the random questions that pop up in my head, but I’m not in a financial position to do so. Anyway, the point is that the world is full of so much intellectual and cultural richness, even if I’m too poor to be able to devote my life to swimming in this pool of knowledge and ideas. If I could plug my brain directly into my twitter stream I am sure I’d never get bored or feel deflated. And I don’t even follow Justin Bieber.

Rediscovering Doctor Who

Kam with Tardis

Kam with Tardis

My head is spinning like the TARDIS when it hurtles through time and space.

I have just watched the first 4 series and the 4 2008-2010 specials from years 2005 to 2010 of the revived Doctor Who series in just 1 month. My mind is rattling with the paradoxes of time, space, time locks and the last great Time War.

I finished watching “The End of Time part 2” yesterday. This is the New Year’s Day 2010 Doctor Who special which ends with the 10th doctor, played by David Tennant, regenerating into the 11th doctor, Matt Smith, and the TARDIS blows up around him.

In a way my head feels like it might explode too. I feel like I have been on a Doctor Who marathon, which of course I have. When he starts running sometimes he never stops. I feel like that myself. I’ve started so I must keep on going. Immerse myself further and deeper into the magical and exciting world of the Doctor, and escape the brutal truth of everything I am running away from within me.

No one can run forever though. Well, maybe the Doctor can. He’s been doing it for 50 years and there’s no stopping him. He has 2 hearts, however, and I only have one. Plus I’m really unfit. All the dramatic tension of the Last of the Time Lord’s recent adventures have helped me run away from facing my own inner conflicts, just at a time when I needed a new form of escape, a new drug to immerse myself in. Yet how much drama, excitement, world saving and adrenalin flow can one take? I only have one heart, and it’s telling me to stop and take a break.

Now seems like a good time to do that. A pit stop on my Doctor Who marathon. The marvellous 10th Doctor, played with such a wide range of emotions and breadth by David Tennant, is no more. I’ll take a week off, recharge my batteries (even the TARDIS needs recharging now and again in the rift in Cardiff), and begin a new journey with the 11th incarnation of the Doctor.

I’m really excited to see what Matt Smith does with the character. I have heard really good things about him. It wasn’t easy avoiding watching or reading about the 50th anniversary special last month. I’m glad I did avoid watching it though. Everything in the world of Doctor Who is connected, and it makes sense to watch the episodes in order.

I loved and really got used to David Tennant’s 10th doctor. His sleek, geek chic, uber-cool, witty charm mixed with suppressed emotional turmoil, rage, ruthlessness and loneliness, all coated in a veneer of fun-loving, childlike curiosity and hyper-activity, kept me engaged with a character whose greatest selling point is you never really now him. He doesn’t believe in violence, refuses to carry a gun, yet leaves a trail of death and destruction behind him. He’s full of life and wonder, yet also has a depressive side to him. He is one of fiction’s richest characters, emotionally and psychologically.

Yet the last few episodes of series 4 and the specials pulled his character far too deep into his melancholic, bitter side. It was great to see this exposed, and see the arrogant side of him come out in “The Waters of Mars”, where he starts to feel he was not just a tragic survivor of the Time War but it’s righteous victor. However a whole series exploring this unresolved inner conflict, the conflict he seems to always be running away from, would have taken a lot of the light-hearted fun out of the show. Emotional depth in TV is always a good thing, but it needs to be balanced with jelly beanesque escapism too. In short, I’m glad a new Doctor awaits me when I begin series 5 next week.

Once I finish watching all the episodes of the new revived series, I plan to go back and watch the old ones from 1963 onwards. I already devoured the brilliant Genesis of the Daleks 6 part serial in one night, my first time watching Tom Baker as the Doctor, with his Jelly Babies, long Rainbow scarf and wide googly eyes confronting Davros, my favourite Doctor Who villain.

I’ve been jotting down reams of notes about my experience of rediscovering Doctor Who last month. How it has really impacted me and made me feel a wide range of emotions. I plan to write these up as blog posts, but they need to be split up and edited. This post is my attempt at keeping things simple and concise (never easy for me). I always have a lot to say, probably because as a child no one really listened to me, and Doctor Who makes me think about even more subjects and themes to explore.

It has been more than just a TV show for me. In many ways it has been my salvation during a really stressful period of my life. People take drugs to numb their senses, the inner pain, and I needed a drug to replace my love of food (having gone on an strict elimination diet to combat my IBS-D). Most people drug themselves, though they don’t think they’re being drugged, with religion, consumerism/ materialism, alcohol, food addiction, sex addiction, addiction to narcotic drugs, extreme sports or adrenalin junkies. There are many forms of escapism from reality, usually a mix of things, and high octane adventuring through time and space is the Doctor’s preferred way to bury painful feelings. I’m not religious, I ‘m trying to move away from consumerism, and food just seems to disagree with me. I don’t really drink, never agreed with drugs, so TV and films are my main drug of choice now. I’m too cautious and anxious to actually go on real life high octane adventures, so I live through fictional adventures that distract me from more painful feelings deep inside.

Sometimes something comes along just when you need it. Having quit many of my past vices and emotional crutches and with an increasingly stressful real life, I needed something to fill the void of escapism within me. To pull me away from facing the fire of my inner conflict, and being consumed by it. The Tardis must have heard my unconscious SOS call. It came into my life at the right time.

I really am getting addicted to the world of Doctor Who. I’ve started reading The Doctor Who magazine and collecting all my bookmarked Whovian links on a Doctor Who page on my website Razaweb.com. I even find myself walking around the house with the 4 beats of the sound of drums pounding in my head! Don’t worry though, I won’t try and use an alien medical device to make everyone else in the world look and talk like me. I’m crazy but I’m not that crazy. 

I do feel rejuvenated in finding something I’m really into that I can also help me connect with other people, especially friends who I already feel I relate to the most. I’m not into sports or cars so that alienates me from most other guys. I am a geek at heart and rediscovering Doctor Who has helped me reconnect with the geek in me. That’s a long neglected side of me that I feel more comfortable embracing. I have always loved the wonder and excitement of the science fiction. It fires me up in a way I can engage with. In fact I owe much of my getting back into Doctor Who to 2 friends of mine. They started a Cricket and Doctor Who podcast this year, and although I’m still not into Cricket, they did make me think about going back and watching Doctor Who.

Anyway I plan to write up my notes on how I came to rediscover Doctor Who and how surprised I was at the revived show being as good as it is. Other posts will also review The End Of Time episodes, which I loved, if for nothing more than having Timothy Dalton (one of my favourite Bond’s) as a great villainous Time Lord President Rassilon and watching John Simm devouring a whole roast chicken with his bare hands