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  • Paul Spragg 1975-2014

    The saddest news I've ever had to share. My oldest and most loyal friend, Paul Spragg died suddenly yesterday, after having a seizure. He had been unwell for a few weeks, but none of us could possibly have expected this. His heart stopped beating, and the ambulance crew tried to resuscitate him for more than two hours, but tragically, he didn't make it.

    Paul and I met at Bristol Cathedral School when were both 11 years old in 1987. We were lucky in being able to sit next to each other in many lessons, because our surnames were consecutive on the register. Together we spent so many hours chatting about our shared interests: Doctor Who, Star Trek, the Top 40 charts, The Wonder Stuff... and anything else that entertained or amused us. We went to the same youth drama group, WT24Y in Backwell, where we played Snatchem and Grabbem – a 'comedy' double act in the annual pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk. We wrote our own 'Franglais' sketch for the school's 'International Evening' after being bullied into it by our French teacher. All the funny parts of the sketch were written by Paul.

    After we left school in 1994, we went to separate universities, but we always stayed in touch, writing each other letters every week – after all, we had to keep up the tradition of trying to predict the following week's Top 40! At least on that score, I was usually able to beat him. Yes, we were geeks, but we didn't care. Once we started nattering on about sci-fi or pop music or whatever, we'd happily carry on all night.

    In 1998, Paul got a job at Visual Imagination, working on Cult Times magazine. He phoned me up to tell me – he was so excited! It was like he'd won the lottery or something! He loved all the sci-fi mags that VI published (TV Zone, Starburst, Cult Times), and the chance to work on them was a dream come true for him. He was instrumental in convincing me to apply for a job there – and the following year, we both ended up under the same roof once more. Times weren't always easy at Visual Imagination – the pay wasn't high, and the hours were long – but Paul was rarely one to complain about things. As long as he got his weekly supply of sci-fi videos from the States, he didn't mind having hardly any money.

    In early 2000, Paul got married to Melanie, who he'd met while at university. As he'd always promised I would be, I was his Best Man – a role I was proud to take. Sadly, Paul's marriage to Melanie didn't last, and they separated two years later.

    I moved away from Paul in 2003 when I joined Doctor Who Magazine, but Paul stayed at Visual Imagination for several more years. He loved it there, and he loved the work. He adored being the editor of Cult Times, and the freedom it brought him to mix his hobby with his profession. I often asked him why he didn't try to get a job which would pay him more money, but he always laughed this off – he was perfectly happy where he was! Why would he leave?

    However, he was pretty much forced to leave just before the company was dissolved in late 2008, but he landed on his feet, finding a job with Big Finish. Well, of course, he did – Paul would always land on his feet. Paul wasn't a 'glass half full' person, he was a 'glass 100% full' person (and it would usually be full of Archers and lemonade – the only alcoholic drink he'd touch).

    If anything, Paul loved the Big Finish job even more. He had struck up a great friendship (and professional relationship) with David Richardson while at VI, and they renewed this at Big Finish. Both David and Nick Briggs valued Paul so highly. He was worth his weight in gold to Big Finish.

    Over the last few years, Paul had also found new happiness with his girlfriend Natalie. Well, let's face it, Paul was ALWAYS happy. Everyone who thinks of Paul, remembers him with that huge smile on his face. But Natalie made Paul happier still. They were the perfect match. I know she is devastated by Paul's death – as are we all.

    Paul was my friend. And I loved him dearly.

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  • "I'm not following you any more!!!"

    Haven't posted here for ages, so I thought I'd share this (hopefully) amusing Twitter exchange.

    I'm kind of fascinated by Twitter etiquette – and to be honest on this occasion, I thought I'd have a bit of fun by deliberately staying terribly polite. It started with these two tweets from me:

    Good luck @LouiseMensch as she steps down as an MP. I rarely agreed with her policies, but always found her courteous and sincere in debate.

    Not sure that will be one of my more popular tweets! I'm not a Tory supporter, but enjoyed debating with Louise on a number of occasions.

    I suppose I was seeing if anyone would bite, challenge me on my view of Mensch – one way or the other – but mostly they didn't. I suppose it's not really all that controversial. For the most part I loathe Louise Mensch's politics, but it is true that we had exchanged a few tweets in the past, and she had always been courteous in replying. To wish her 'good luck' was probably just too boring for most people. Anyway, I had this one tweet in reply:

    sorry, was an unfollow from me... #JustBeingHonest

    Not a particularly rude response – and fair enough if they want to unfollow me. But I always wonder why people feel they have to tell you that they're doing it. It's something that's happened to me on a small number of occasions, but since I've never known that that particular person was following me in the first place, it just seems a little bit odd. A bit like turning up at a party that you gatecrashed, and when no-one notices you're there, loudly shouting that you're leaving and you WON'T BE BACK! Or shouting through a letterbox that you don't want to talk to someone. (Although I prefer the party analogy.)

    I wonder, why do they want to tell me? What are they expecting here? Does the person want me to beg them to stay? Admit that I've got it wrong, and I can change? In this case, I was particularly curious – a quick glance at the tweeter's other recent tweets told me that they weren't a fan of Louise Mensch's politics (something we had in common, I suppose). And so I asked him about his 'Unfollow' message, and this was the conversation that followed:

    Not sure why you feel the need to tell me that.

    then I'm not sure why you felt the need to respond if you're not sure why I felt the need to tell you!

    Oh, hello. Just curious. If you'll indulge me, a) Why did you tell me? b) Why did my initial tweet make you want to unfollow?

    a) this is Twitter, are comments on the popularity of your tweets not invited or allowed? Why make an issue of my reply?

    Not at all. As I said, I'm just curious, and thought you might indulge me with a reply. If you'd rather not, that's fine too.

    b) you're entitled to your opinion and Tweets. Some I don't agree with so shy should I read about them in my timeline?

    Out of interest then – and again, if you'll indulge me – which tweet didn't you agree with?

    No, let me ask you. Why make such an issue out of it and Tweet it to your 10,500 followers when you knew it may be unpopular?

    I mostly disagree with Louise Mensch, but wanted to wish her well. That's all. What has my follower count got to do with it?

    "How lovely" "I find it a bit sad" "I find it baffling" comments like that invite trolling and harassment

    [NB: Here, the Tweeter is referring to the fact that I had briefly discussed my bemusement with two of my other followers. He is quoting accurately – I had tweeted to others that I find it peculiar that someone wants to unfollow because I wished someone 'good luck'.]

    I'm not inviting any harrassment or trolling. I only wish you well, the same as I wish Mensch, and anyone else for that matter.

    I apologise for letting you know I unfollowed you.

    Well, thank you. I'm not upset, I was genuinely a bit perplexed, but thanks for answering my questions.

    I then logged out of Twitter, as it was lunchtime. It had been a slightly peculiar exchange, but not particularly unpleasant. When I returned, a few hours later, I wondered if I'd received any further messages, but instead found that the tweeter had blocked me. Intrigued, I logged out of Twitter (in order to see if he had tweeted further on the subject – something I couldn't otherwise do given the block). And this was what I saw on this chap's timeline...

    @TomSpilsbury I unfollowed you because your Tweets are tedious, dull and inane and pandering to Louise Mensch was the last straw.

    @TomSpilsbury I blocked you because your Tweets to me were bordering on harassment.

    @TomSpilsbury Your ego has clearly taken a knock by the fact that I was impertinent enough to tell you that I'd unfollowed you but you...

    @TomSpilsbury seriously need to get over it now and stop crying out for attention to your remaining followers. It's really getting sad now.

    Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you @TomSpilsbury. Ego bashed Twitter Troll hiding behind his editorship of Doctor Who magazine... #SadMan

    man needs to get over the fact I unfollowed him an stop crying about it... Pathetic!!

    someone DM'd me and told me he was still Tweeting about me after I blocked him... Nutter!!!

    and after what was such a lovely morning

    how the hell he knew I'd blocked him? He must have been looking at my profile, probably to give me more abuse...

    And... well, you get the idea. I must admit, my curiousity had got the better of me – I'm guilty of that – but I really don't give a stuff whether this particular chap follows me or not, and certainly wasn't 'crying'. I was just intrigued, and on reflection found it all quite funny. To be fair, I had asked him a few questions in the first place – I genuinely thought "I'll try being polite to this guy, and see what happens." Well, now I know!

    I've blogged about it here purely for your entertainment and amusement. I hope you found it as funny as I did – well, you have to laugh, don't you? That's the great thing about Twitter, all of life is there. I wonder what will happen next...?!

    [NB: I deliberately haven't included this guy's Twitter username, I certainly don't want anyone sending him genuine abuse on my behalf. And given that he seems to have a funny idea what constitutes 'abuse', 'harrassment' and 'trolling', I'm not sure he'd be able to take it.]

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  • Let's Kill This Myth!

    Doctor Who's ratings are in freefall, are they? Well, they are if you believe The Sun, The Guardian, and a number of other newspapers. In fact, this myth is spreading so quickly that people might actually start BELIEVING it! But let's take a look at why this simply ISN'T TRUE.

    For the purposes of this, let's ignore all the Specials (the Christmas episodes, plus the 2009 one-offs), as they rather distort averages. So let's just look at each 13-part run, and look at viewings within the first seven days only, so everything is on as equal a playing field as possible.

    2005 SERIES (13 eps: Rose to The Parting of the Ways)

    Average BBC One final BARB rating: 7.95 million

    Average BBC Three rating for first week repeats: 0.73 million

    Average audience across all outlets (ie BBC One & BBC Three): 8.68 million

    2006 SERIES (13 eps: New Earth to Doomsday)

    Average BBC One final BARB rating: 7.71 million

    Average BBC Three rating for first week repeats: 1.01 million

    Average audience across all outlets (ie BBC One & BBC Three): 8.72 million

    2007 SERIES (13 eps: Smith and Jones to Last of the Time Lords)

    Average BBC One final BARB rating: 7.55 million

    Average BBC Three rating for first week repeats: 1.34 million

    Average audience across all outlets (ie BBC One & BBC Three): 8.89 million

    2008 SERIES (13 eps: Partners in Crime to Journey’s End)

    Average BBC One final BARB rating: 8.05 million

    Average BBC Three rating for first week repeats: 1.64 million

    Average BBC iPlayer views for first week views: 0.51 million

    Average audience across all outlets (ie BBC One, BBC Three & iPlayer): 10.20 million

    2010 SERIES (13 eps: The Eleventh Hour to The Big Bang)

    Average BBC One final BARB rating: 7.70 million

    Average BBC Three and BBC HD ratings for first week repeats: 1.01 million

    Average BBC iPlayer views for first week views: 1.14 million

    Average audience across all outlets (ie BBC One, BBC HD, BBC Three & iPlayer): 9.85 million

    2011 SERIES (first 9 episodes only, for which full figures are currently available)

    Average BBC One final BARB rating: 7.64 million

    Average BBC Three ratings for first week repeats: 0.99 million

    Average BBC iPlayer views for first week views: 1.14 million

    Average audience across all outlets (ie BBC One, BBC HD, BBC Three & iPlayer): 9.77 million

    The general trends I would note are as follows:

    * Even if you just include final BBC One figures, the lowest rated series is 2007’s (7.55 million), and the highest is 2008’s (8.05 million). For all six series to fall within these slim boundaries, is remarkable.

    * For the first few years, the slight drop in BBC One ratings was more than made up for by increasing BBC Three figures.

    * When iPlayer first comes in (2008 series), we are slightly altering the playing field, as the earlier series didn’t have this as an option. Understandably, this has helped the ‘total’ figures – but even if we assume that a small handful of iPlayer viewers are repeat viewers, Doctor Who is still well up on its 2005 numbers. Indeed, even if we IGNORE iPlayer altogether, and ONLY focus on BBC One and BBC Three screenings, the 2010 and 2011 series are easily on a par with the 2005, 2006 and 2007 series.

    * The 2008 series is the standout performer – but only by a small margin in front of the other five series. This can partially be put down to the final half of the series which concluded with Journey’s End, the return of Rose, the return of Davros, the fake regeneration etc etc. Journey’s End was the top rated show of the week, and amassed almost 15 million viewers across all outlets, so this really gave a boost to the series average.

    So, why do we get these tabloid reports of Doctor Who's falling ratings? Well, that's because they're reporting OVERNIGHTS – which means the number of people that watched the show 'live' on BBC One each Saturday. The BARB figures I've listed above are FINAL figures, which include those who record the programme to watch back within seven days. Hence, an episode like 'A Good Man Goes to War', shown in June, may have a reported overnight rating of 5.5 million, but its final BARB rating was 7.5 million (plus BBC Three and iPlayer views, of course, which actually take the episode's total audience well over 9 million).

    Doctor Who tends to add far more viewers via 'timeshifting' (recordings, repeats or iPlayer) than live shows – or even other dramas – and so when newspapers report overnight ratings, they are doing the series a dissevice.

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  • The Twits of Twitter

    It’s a strange old thing being on Twitter. I generally use it in a fairly light-hearted way, to make jokey comments, to make humorous observations on things, or to tweet about Doctor Who. As the editor of Doctor Who Magazine, I figure that a fair proportion of my 5000+ followers are following me for this reason, so it's a good idea to broadly stay on topic.

    I like to be enthusiastic about Doctor Who, and I like to hype the show up a bit – especially when a new series is on the way. Hence my tweets on the afternoon of Saturday 20 August 2011. The night before I’d seen the new episode written by Mark Gatiss, so I thought I’d make an enthusiastic tweet about it. It’s a great episode. You should all watch it.

    I wasn’t aware of the can of worms I was about to open. First of all I attracted the attention of someone who seemed very annoyed that I was ‘bragging’ (his words) about seeing episodes of Doctor Who he hadn’t seen yet. Well, you can’t please everyone, and so I politely pointed out that I wasn't 'bragging', I was just being enthusiastic about Doctor Who, and if he found my tweets so irritating then he wasn’t obliged to follow me.

    One or two people tweeted at me in agreement. However, one of those who offered to send me a sympathetic 'cuddle’, was to turn on me later on... but I'm getting a little ahead of myself.

    Below is an unedited timeline of tweets which is by turns, perplexing, hilarious and... perplexing. I haven’t changed the spellings or order of any tweets. I haven’t taken anything out, or added anything new. This is just what happened, pure and simple. As Hear’Say might say.

    It’s curious, though, that the more I try to be polite and keep things jokey and ‘light’, the more it seems to rile some people.

    Well, see for yourselves…

    TomSpilsbury Tom Spilsbury

    The new Doctor Who episode written by @Markgatiss – Night Terrors – is rather wonderful. Spooky and atmospheric! See it in two weeks!

    TomSpilsbury Tom Spilsbury

    And before he says, "Oi! What about Let's Kill Hitler?!" @steven_moffat's series opener is magnificent too. And it's on in just one week!

    marcwebbo3 Marc Webster

    @TomSpilsbury Is it really necessary for you and all who work at DWM to keep on reminding all that you have seen eps we have not..cruel

    TomSpilsbury Tom Spilsbury

    @marcwebbo3 Trying to drum up excitement. That's a big part of what the mag is for! :)

    marcwebbo3 Marc Webster

    @TomSpilsbury Bragging that you have seen this ep and that ep just makes you come across as arrogant..you are better than that

    marcwebbo3 Marc Webster

    @TomSpilsbury That has nothing to do with promoting the great mag DWM

    TomSpilsbury Tom Spilsbury

    @marcwebbo3 What?! Not bragging at all. It's my job. Is Steven bragging if he says the same? Please unfollow me if you finding it annoying!

    marcwebbo3 Marc Webster

    @TomSpilsbury Its your job to edit..you know your readers want to be in your priviledged postion..dont rub it in their faces like you do

    TomSpilsbury Tom Spilsbury

    @marcwebbo3 That's clearly not my intention. It's not a 'privileged position', I'm not 'lucky', I haven't won a competition, it's my JOB.

    marcwebbo3 Marc Webster

    @TomSpilsbury you are better than that..I dont find you annoying just frustrating..dont get me started on Mr Moffat..ruined Dr Who so far

    TomSpilsbury Tom Spilsbury

    Blimey. Must resist the urge to respond. Once again, if you don't like someone's tweets, just don't follow that person, eh?

    cobaltmale Graeme Robertson

    @TomSpilsbury some of us always want to give you a cuddle, if that helps

    marcwebbo3 Marc Webster

    @TomSpilsbury To wind up and frustrate your readers?...interesting...a new take on editorship..and I wont unfollow due to difference on vews

    marcwebbo3 Marc Webster

    @TomSpilsbury I didnt say I didnt like your tweets..normally are great which I enjoy..we differ in views..thats what Dr Who does..each 2 own

    TomSpilsbury Tom Spilsbury

    @marcwebbo3 Well, I'm sorry you didn't like that particular tweet. Odd that you seem jealous of me seeing a show that's been 'ruined'. ;-)

    marcwebbo3 Marc Webster

    @TomSpilsbury Im not jealous..far from it...just dont like the way people go on and on about they have seen it...

    TomSpilsbury Tom Spilsbury

    @marcwebbo3 There's an easy way to fix that...

    marcwebbo3 Marc Webster

    @TomSpilsbury LOL...ok...I know...Im coming across as a knob but Im not..honest...just like most folks have a view..didnt expect u 2 reply

    At this point, I thought I’d better stop replying to our friend Marc – but he had at least stepped back slightly from his original position. His comment that he ‘Didn’t expect [me] to reply’ speaks volumes. I’m not a celebrity, but it's true that I am reasonably well known in the Doctor Who fan community. When Doctor Who fans send me a tweet, they sometimes do so not expecting me to actually read it, let alone respond to it. I'm sure this is even more true when people send tweets to genuine celebrities like Steven Moffat or Lord Sugar or Lady Gaga. So, as a result, people can often be a little rude, or brusque, in a way that I’m sure they wouldn’t be in a face-to-face encounter.

    Anyway. No real harm done here on this occasion. Doctor Who author Eddie Robson tweeted me, in support and sympathy, by saying "And while you're at it, Tom, please stop talking about editing DWM, it just rubs it in my face that I'm not editor of DWM." Ha ha! Good old Eddie.

    But with my tongue firmly in cheek, I thought I’d have one last joke about the whole thing, by tweeting about how I’d be watching The X Factor later in the evening. And given that I don’t work on The X Factor, or have any connections with its production team, I’d just have to watch it at the same time as ‘everybody else’. As Catherine Tate might say, "What a f***ing liberty!"

    Surely everyone would see my little joke for what it was…? You'd think so... I only chose The X Factor, as that was something which happened to be on that night. On another day it could just as easily have been EastEnders. Or Merlin. Or Harry Hill's TV Burp. My friend who had popped up briefly in the erlier exchange above, and had initially offered his support, was to suddenly turn on me – although I didn't quite realise straight away...

    TomSpilsbury Tom Spilsbury

    I'm going to watch The X Factor later. At 8pm, at the same time as everyone else. Not fair!

    cobaltmale Graeme Robertson

    @TomSpilsbury now you've lost my hug - I never watch Cowell shit

    TomSpilsbury Tom Spilsbury

    @cobaltmale Haha! ;-) Well, at least he isn't in the show this year...

    cobaltmale Graeme Robertson

    @TomSpilsbury that isn't my point

    TomSpilsbury Tom Spilsbury

    @cobaltmale er, okay...

    cobaltmale Graeme Robertson

    @TomSpilsbury it;s his obnoxious set-up still. Old queen still pockets without so much effort.

    TomSpilsbury Tom Spilsbury

    @cobaltmale It's just a Saturday night entertainment TV show – not too far removed from Doctor Who really. I enjoy it! Each to their own.

    cobaltmale Graeme Robertson

    @TomSpilsbury VERY far removed. You'll be telling me I need to watch soccer next!

    TomSpilsbury Tom Spilsbury

    @cobaltmale I like football too. Doctor Who is just entertainment, same as football, same as X Factor. It's not high art, much as we love it!

    cobaltmale Graeme Robertson

    @TomSpilsbury and as it is on opposite "Doctor Who Confidential" from next Saturday I'm very surprised at you

    TomSpilsbury Tom Spilsbury

    @cobaltmale Oh dear. It's odd how Who fans don't like the idea of their show being put in the same bracket as other popular things! ;-)

    cobaltmale Graeme Robertson

    @TomSpilsbury I actually want to put bombs under soccer stadiums & X Factor venues. Nothing like Doctor Who at all. Chav stuff.

    cobaltmale Graeme Robertson

    @TomSpilsbury you what? how is that even logical. Bringing back the death penalty is 'popular'. Just because you try to justify all 3.

    TomSpilsbury Tom Spilsbury

    @cobaltmale I've no idea what you're arguing to me about! I thought you were being tongue in cheek, but you seem cross! I'll stop replying.

    cobaltmale Graeme Robertson

    @TomSpilsbury and why should I submit?- that's why I want to hurt soccer & X factor - we keep being told 'everyone' likes them - we don't

    cobaltmale Graeme Robertson

    @TomSpilsbury great, now you denigrate "Who fans". I despair. I have my DW likes & dislikes but would always put it first.

    cobaltmale Graeme Robertson

    @TomSpilsbury I am cross! why did you think I was being tongue-in-cheek? Because no-one could really hate soccer/XFactor?

    cobaltmale Graeme Robertson

    @TomSpilsbury I'm just disappointed in you. The hug offer earlier was genuine but I dunno now.

    RadioTimes Radio Times

    Only an hour to go until the new series of The X Factor, complete with three new judges! Looking forward to it? bit.ly/qQVtNW #xfactor

    cobaltmale Graeme Robertson

    @RadioTimes no, I wanna bomb the bastards

    TomSpilsbury Tom Spilsbury

    Anyone who genuinely feels the urge to "put bombs under soccer stadiums & X Factor venues" needs help. And is getting blocked by me now.

    marcwebbo3 Marc Webster

    @TomSpilsbury @cobaltmale Whew!!! Glad it aint me...I honestly think you are great Tom!

    Well. What a strange exchange. The oddest thing about it was the more I said things like "each to their own", the more Mr Cobaltmale seemed to think I was telling him that he 'needed' to watch these things, and that I was somehow oppressing him. Bringing 'bombs' and the 'death penalty' into the discussion just seemed to be going WAY too far. Mr Webster, who initially had kicked off this whole thing, suddenly seemed to be the sane one by comparison.

    But the beauty of Twitter is that you CHOOSE who you follow, and there's no point complaining if you don't like the tweets of the people you've decided to allow into your timeline. And if people really go TOO far, well, someone had some good advice for me...

    steven_moffat Steven Moffat

    @TomSpilsbury It's what the Block button is for.

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My name is Tom Spilsbury. I am the editor of Doctor Who Magazine. This is a blog where I might occasionally post things which amuse, perplex, or irritate me.

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