A simple search on iTunes or keeping an eye on the Doctor Who Podcast Alliance will show what a multitude of DW related podcasts exists out there. I’ll subscribe to most of the new ones I come across to give them a chance but there are nowhere near enough hours in the day to follow them all so regrettably there has to be a ruthless culling process. Here (in no particular order) are my top 5 reasons for regretfully or vindictively clicking on “unsubscribe” when it comes to DW podcasts.
1. Instant Cure for Insomnia Voices: I’ve no real objection to someone rabbiting on about a boring topic. The very fact that I’m listening to a podcast shows that I’ve nothing more interesting to do. It’s the boring voices that get me down. As a Northerner, I’m a little ashamed to admit it but most of the depressing voices on podcasts are Northern (English) ones. Plenty of lively Northern voices to be found on podcasts but the flat-vowelled monotone drone which can be found in the North can be infuriating. It’s bad enough when you’re reduced to screaming “get to the point” at your speakers. It’s even worse to find yourself howling “get to end of the bloody sentence”. Almost by definition, if you’re participating in a DW podcast, you’re talking about something which excites and entertains you. So stop doing it in a tone more suited to dictating a suicide note. (note added Feb 2014 – now that I’m doing a podcast myself, the embarrassing irony of this point hits me every other week)
2. Podcasts About Yourself and Your Mates: The personal point of view is often the core of what makes a DW podcast individualistic but a DW podcast shouldn’t be a view of your personal life. This is a particular danger in podcasts with a number of regular contributors having a conversation with each other. It’s surprising how often you can get two podcasts where the contributors are chatting to each other about exactly the same subject and almost in the same manner, yet one of them makes you feel as if you’re included in the conversation and the other makes you feel as though you’re outside a window looking in on someone else’s conversation. It’s usually hard to put your finger on what differentiates the two but you can guarantee that a podcast which starts with a line like “Oh my god, I am so wasted today, mate” or where the podcasters laugh just that little bit too long and heartily at each other’s least witticism or which drifts off into anecdotes about friends of a friend will be fa more me me than Dodo. (Doctor Whom acknowledges the copyright of Julie Andrews)
3. The Wrong Mindset: Almost the worst offence of all. I’ve no objection to a podcast loving a DW episode or actor which I hated. Or vice versa. But when a podcast consistently loves the aspects of DW which I hate and/or consistently hates the ones I love, I’m eventually forced to ask myself: who do these people think they are? The arrogance of some podcasters in presuming to hold opinions different to mine can be breath-taking.
4. Eating: Nothing worse than stuffing your face with food while recording a podcast, unless it’s frantically chewing on gum which fortunately seems to be restricted to the occasional US podcast. What makes people imagine that anyone wants to listen to the sound of someone else eating, magnified through a microphone? I’ve lost count of the Big Finish news I’ve missed because they’ve all brought food with them and spend the conversation to a background of slushing so intrusive that it makes Murray Gold seem underplayed. I wasn’t going to name names but they’re all big boys on Big Finish and professionals. The worst thing is that their podcast is such fun (even if you’re not a customer) and so free of all the other 5 taboos that I can’t bring myself to unsubscribe from it. So I have to tune in to each new podcast with my fingers crossed and cowering behind the sofa. Will they have dined already or will they be snacking? Naughty Nick Briggs. Good job he behaves himself on the DW set. Imagine what sort of Emperor Dalek we’d have got – “What are you, Doctor? Coward or…ooh Smoky Bacon flavour.” And their habit of going “mmm-mmm-mmm” while eating makes them sound like a group of old ladies clustered round the library radiator, sucking on Mintoes.
5. The Comic Store Guy from the Simpsons: The most irritating of all. The use of a dodgy approximation of this voice to ridicule the sadness of the more anal type of fan. Podcasters criticising people for being too obsessive? Hello, Mr Kettle. It’s a bit like the sledgehammer racism analogy from Classic Star Trek. “He is black on the wrong side of his face.” Only in this case it’s “they are not anal about the same things which we are anal about”. Face up to it, guys, you can either record an hour long podcast about Doctor Who every week or you can pose as someone who has sci-fi in the proper proportion in their life. You really can’t do both. It gets worse by an order of magnitude (I’ve no idea what that means but it always sounds impressive when other people say it) when one podcast gets invited onto another podcast as guests. When you’ve had 20 straight minutes of one team of podcasters going on and on and on and ON to another team of podcasters about how awful it is that some Doctor Who fans lack a sense of proportion in life, you begin to wonder if you’re failing to pick up on some ultra-subtle intentional irony. Thank god that the gene for lack of self awareness seems to be dormant in bloggers.
I realise that this is probably very unfair of me and that I may well have caught a podcast on a bad day. I do try to give second and third chances but I gave those to David Tennant at the end of S2 and S3 and it still ended in tears.
I recently heard one podcast giving a guide to newbie DW podcasters advise that there are so many already out there that it’s important to identify an unfilled niche (matron). Like covering DW merchandise or DW fan art. I think that this was barking up the wrong tree. As far as I’m concerned, you could do what most of the other podcasts are already doing (news, episode reviews, etc) and I’d tune in provided that it’s lively and engaging and not too serious. It’s the tone of the podcasters that matters far more than the subject of the podcast.
Some podcasts are so uniquely ideosyncratic that they draw me in despite breaching many of the 5 rules above. When the first line you ever hear on one podcast turns out to be “Oh my god, I shit you not, the convention was fucking awesome”, then you really can’t avoid sticking with The Happiness Patrol (motto: never knowingly labelled CLEAN on iTunes). The in-depthness of Radio Free Skaro coupled with the rarity of a viewpoint which is neither UK nor US based absolves them of breaching Rule 5 every five minutes. The enthusiasm and spectacular mispronunciations of Bigger on the Inside and the borderline homoeroticism of Radio Rassilon more than outweigh whatever faults they may have (and they don’t have any). I’m a regular fan of quite a few others too but, if I started naming them all, it might make it too obvious which ones I’ve deleted over the years.
I suppose it must be the same with DW blogs. So many out there that I didn’t start this one (or resurrect one after years of hard work got wiped out by an unhelpful host) with the intention of filling any particular niche in DW fandom. It was purely to give me scope to say whatever I liked about the show, free from the shackles of your average DW chat forums which, ironically for fans of the ultimate in British TV, tend to be irony free zones and about as liberal as Nyder on the day that he realised he’d put his red thong in the wash with all Davros’ whites.