"Man does not weave this web of life. He is merely a strand of it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself."
They've started tearing up the countryside near where I work. It's ostensibly to provide a new access road for Stanmer Park and the University of Sussex, but in the long run is preparing the area for the new Falmer football stadium and forthcoming Saturday invasions of the area by the associated hordes.

No, I've no idea why all must give way to the Great God Soccer either, but that's apparently the way it has to be, despite the South Downs having recently been made a National Park. I don't know who was involved or when but am suspicious of what might have gone on behind the scenes for this expensive yet frivolous building project to have become a reality. But then again as an odd boy (who doesn't like sport) I would say that, wouldn't I?

There's something very unsettling about the landscape being changed to this extent; a feeling that's at its most intense down at ground level. It just feels wrong that people are altering the shape of the scenery willy-nilly for no real benefit. Actually it would feel wrong even if there was a tangible benefit. This is probably to do with the way the human mind builds up an internal model of the world around it.

If the physical world around us doesn't change for a while, this model gets deeply embedded in our heads. This virtual model is reinforced on a daily basis by repeated data about the landscape entering the brain again and again. Our personality and individuality is shaped by, some would even say is, the data in our heads. In a way our minds are the models of reality we keep in our brains; as Carl Sagan said "We are a way for the universe to know itself".

No wonder it feels so disturbing when there's a sudden mismatch between this internal model and the "real" world. Our selves feel out of kilter. We expect small objects and living beings to move about but not the landscape which is the foundation of our world and psyche (seasonal changes notwithstanding).

You can get a taste of how the brain-world interface works by visiting somewhere new, somewhere you've never been before. As you step off the train and exit the station you're faced with a gigantic unknown quantity of raw place. No matter how many maps you've printed out and studied, nothing can prepare you for the first time you undertake a journey. It's slightly alarming, and you can't help but wonder if the maps have got it wrong or whether you'll be misled by a Trap Street.

It also seems to take far longer than it should.

If the brain was a hard disk you'd probably hear it whirring and clicking madly during your first journey. It's not just performing the myriad second-to-second operations it normally does, it's recording the layout, dimensions and appearance of a new venue and adding it to the brainscape. The next time you visit all the information will already be there and the journey won't seem to take nearly as long.

There are additional complexities, perhaps due to the multi-dimensional way in which memories may be stored. Have you ever noticed how the journey there and the journey back often feel like completely distinct and separate entities? It may well be because they're stored that way in the memory, which is why one can seem to take longer than the other.

And occasionally, two locations that are distant from each other both in time and space can feel as if they're somehow both aspects of the same ur-place, superficial similarities reinforced by the method and the address space in which they're stored. To me, Vogue Gyratory in Brighton and Archway in London feel the same even though visually there's only a very superficial resemblance (if any).

It makes the Native American respect for the land obvious really. They don't indulge in building works or landscaping. Barring earthquakes, the land they live in is constant and eternal and the mental models they have of it in their heads reflect this.

Until people turn up and start building on it.

I have come in search of evil. This place looks the part. No-one notices me step from the crowd and mingle with the journalists and photographers outside the courthouse, their anticipation my aperitif for the feast to come. They're waiting for the appearance of a monster and so am I.

We malevores have probably existed since the first time a human being picked up a weapon to use against his own kind. For millennia we gorged, harvesting the baleful mental produce that was abundant wherever mankind went about his business. On the battlefield, in the torture chamber and pouring from the mouths of priests and prophets like manna from hell.

Things have changed in recent years. There's a famine on. It's not enough for us that people think bad thoughts - they have to express them and act on them. These days they're loath to do so for fear of what others might think.

In these desperate times we have had to take up emotional husbandry. Given enough encouragement and a nudge in the right direction, there is plenty of room in this society for evil.

Inside the courthouse is a man the papers had already described as "Evil Incarnate" even before his trial had begun. Now that he's been found guilty of multiple infanticide they're going to have to come up with some new superlatives.

The doors open and here he comes, sandwiched between two null-faced officers. Around me the flashbulbs begin detonating; ignoring them I look straight into his eyes. The desperation and neediness is still there. It's what drew me to him in the first place. I spent months whispering in his ear, encouraging and nurturing those unhealthy urges until he had no choice but to act.

There is confusion and insanity in his expression as well, but it's far too late for him now. I've irrevocably twisted his thought patterns into something to suit my purpose, something that will provide me with the nourishment I need.

Time to feed.

I turn to the crowd. Over fifty faces contorted in fury. A wave of hatred flows past me in step with the cacophony of wrath pouring from their mouths. Not one of them, not a single person, is thinking about the victims, of the terror they must have endured before death, how much worse going through such an ordeal must be when you're still at an age when you believe in monsters.

The only thing the crowd care about is that they've been given a target they're allowed to hate. Given the opportunity they'd tear him to pieces with their bare hands, not out of any sense of moral outrage but simply because they feel that it would be permitted, that they could get away with it.

Now that's real evil. Delicious.

This 500 word story was my entry for The Campaign for Real Fear. Whilst it didn't make the final selection, I didn't want to let it go to waste, so have posted it here as a piece of (very) short fiction.

"Anyone who is not shocked by quantum theory has not understood it"
So, smelling is quantum. No really.

As mentioned in an earlier blog entry, it turns out that the underlying biological mechanism that allows us to smell relies on quantum tunnelling to get the job done. It seems to me that if one neurological mechanism - and quite an old one at that - uses the very structure of reality itself to function, then it's likely they all do. But what would the implications be if we discover that our very thoughts are subject to the new physics?

As is so often the case I have to put in a disclaimer; I Am Not A Scientist. I am someone interested in science; someone who, upon reading about the latest bleeding edges of physics in the quest for ultimate truth, starts performing thought experiments based on his very dim understanding of what he's just read.

So bear in mind that I may very well be talking rubbish.

Don't slouch, Albert
I am not shocked by quantum theory. This is very probably because, as Niels Bohr said in the quote at the beginning of this entry, I don't understand it. No surprises there, I don't expect to understand it. It's a complex branch of physics that some of the finest minds in existence have dedicated their lives to studying; I can hardly expect to breeze in, read a couple of popular science books about cats in boxes and suddenly get it.

Mind you, it must be odd working in a quantum research laboratory. In order to hold down a job there one would assume that employees understand what they're doing. So if Bohr is right, and he won a Nobel Prize and used to wind Einstein up so he probably is, this means that they're all shocked. All the time. It's a wonder they get any work done; they must spend half the day sitting down and having a cup of hot sweet tea.

However, whilst I don't understand it, I get what some of it is trying to say, and it all seems a bit bonkers to me. It's my suspicion that when things don't make sense, when current theories are forced to jump though ridiculous hoops in order for us to keep believing in them (for example epicycles; see earlier blog entry about the detail in the devil) or when equations unexpectedly throw up infinities we're probably missing something and missing something big.

To me some of the absurdities proposed by quantum theory sound more like an artefact of not seeing something fundamental (a whole new field of physics?) rather than simply a case of "Ooh ain't it spooky down there on the quantum level!"

For example, poor old Schrödingers cat, in a quantum state of being both alive and dead until observed. I realise it's only a thought experiment, but is the cat really in both states until we look at it whereupon its wave function "collapses" into one of the states? I'm not so sure. The whole concept of the act of observing having an effect on the outcome seems a bit odd to me.

I don't object to the idea of measurement having an effect on something; that makes sense as often the tools used to measure something can affect it. But mere observation?

Suppose the cat box is glass topped and the scientist lies on the floor. At a predetermined time he stands up and peeps into the box. How can such peeping collapse the wave function? Nothing has changed except that some of the information flowing outwards from the cat is now being intercepted and interpreted. This seems to be implying that somehow parts of the universe "know" when a conscious mind is looking at them.

But isn't consciousness just an artefact of the mechanics of the brain? So say the materialists. How can a collection of turbo-charged nervous tissue affect the reality of another bit of the universe? Suppose instead of peeping over the edge of the box, the scientist cuts off his twin brother's head (well it is a thought experiment), impales it on a pole and makes it look over the edge of the box like a ghastly glove puppet? As far as the quantum superpositioned cat is concerned this should be no different from a live head peeping over the edge of the box and yet according to quantum theory, this won't collapse the wave function.

Or suppose the scientist sets up his experiment and then flies to the Moon where he trains a very powerful telescope on the glass-topped box (which he has placed on the laboratory's roof). At a predetermined time he looks through the telescope. This collapses the cat's wave function and it's now observed to be alive or dead. But hang on. It takes light one and a half seconds to get from the Earth to the Moon, so by the time he's observing the cat's state it's already been in that state for a second and a half. So in order for his observation to have collapsed the wave function, news of it has to travel backwards in time, which everyone says isn't allowed.

I am not a scientist, but even I can tell something's missing.

Just as Relativity meant that Classical Physics had to be rethought, and subsequently Quantum Physics meant that Relativity didn't have all the answers, one can't help getting the impression that there's another discipline waiting in the wings ready to topple the Quantum King from his throne.

It may be the Many Worlds Theory, as already discussed in an earlier blog entry about traveling back in time to shoot your grandfather. In this theory there isn't just one universe, but a multitude (or perhaps one multiverse with an infinite ways of looking at it). It's probably best not to think of these universes as stacked together like pages in a book, splitting in two everytime someone somewhere decides to toss a coin, but more as a Whole Sort Of General Mish-Mash (as described by Douglas Adams) or perhaps as a a Big Ball of Wibbly-Wobbly, Timey-Wimey... Stuff.

The practical upshot of this though is that on a quantum level particles and energy are weaving in and out of what we think of as "our" universe, causing them to appear to behave like waves (sometimes) and do bizarre things like "interfering" with each other. What we're really seeing may be the blurred edges of the nearest other universes which become visible when we get down to the very very small.

And our cat? It's still both alive and dead, but these states don't have to co-exist in the same universe with all the associated problems that this may cause. They're parallels, and when the scientist observes the cat's fate he's merely finding out whether he's ended up in the universe where he's a cat murderer or not.

So what does this all mean if it's not just our noses but in fact the whole of our nervous systems that are quantum? If our thoughts and consciousness are due to the electrical activity of the brain, and this activity takes pace on a quantum level, it could be that we share what we think of as our minds with our doppelgängers in the universes next door. All doing slightly different things from us.

We're all multiple personalities, but every one of those personalities is us.

One of the problems with writing a blog that is read by anyone you know is the danger that they will take some of what is said personally and get offended. Even something as seemingly innocuous as the previous sentence.

On the whole it's safe to say that I am never referring to anyone in particular when I write (unless I specifically mention someone) and do try to stick to the rule of "hating it when people do such and such" rather than "hating people who do such and such" - big difference. I can't pretend I always stick to it, but then I'm only human. Bearing that in mind, everything I write should be taken with a pinch of "present company excepted".

The reason I bring this up is that I'm going to talk about what can happen to people when they become car owners and start driving. Some of my friends, family and acquaintances do have cars. I'm not having a go at people who own cars or even at the institution of car ownership. I'm commenting on the bizarre behavioural changes that seem to come over some human beings as soon as they find themselves behind the wheel of a large automobile.

Actually, I'm not even doing that yet. I seem to be commenting on how easily people take offense these days especially on the internet. But I digress.

As soon as some people - climate change denying Top Gear watchers on the whole - obtain ownership of a vehicle they start acting as if they've reclaimed a fundamental human right, enshrined in the (non-existent) UK Constitution, "The Right To Drive Cars Anywhere Without Let Or Hindrance". Everything else immediately becomes secondary to this.

I already mentioned in a previous entry how the mere existence of cyclists (never mind what they're actually doing) seems to drive car owners into a state of apoplexy, but it's not just cyclists that can do this. Drivers seem to be capable of flying into a towering rage by encountering absolutely anything that isn't one hundred percent in their favour.

They're very much like internet forum members in that respect.

They also exhibit signs of extreme paranoia. Everything bad that happens to them on the road is specifically aimed at them, wicked plots masterminded by the loony left pinko enviromentalists who are determined to withhold their fundamental right to drive. The kind of losers who use public transport.

Two favourite ranting topics are Nowhere To Fucking Park and I Can't Believe This Fucking Traffic. Ironically these are directly caused by everyone else also wanting to exercise their fundamental right to drive rather than any plot by their imagined oppressors. They do it to themselves.

A man in a car (and let's face it, most of the worst offenders are usually male - must be something to do with the blend of testosterone and petrol fumes, plus the fact that the car is often a penis-substitute) quite often becomes something other than a simple human being. Man and machine acting as one, a cyborg. The sense of self expands beyond the normal confines of the fleshbody to encompass the metal shell. An insult or injury to the shell is taken personally.

They're very much like Daleks in that respect. And like Daleks they hate everything that is not them. They obey no-one. They are the superior beings. Instead of a gun they're equipped with a claxon which they direct willy nilly at their perceived inferiors. They even have a battle cry, shrieked hysterically out of wound-down windows:

"Get-Out-Of-It! Get-Out-Of-It!"

They don't even possess the Daleks' only redeeming feature - loyalty to their own. They don't stick together, no way, it's every man-machine for himself out there. The one thing a Man-Car Cyborg hates above all else is another Man-Car Cyborg.

Owning a car is the single biggest contribution anyone can make to their own carbon footprint. Underneath they know this; one of the sources of their rage is suppressed guilt. They hate themselves and they hate each other.

No wonder they scream.

I would bet that if you conducted a survey of a hundred people and asked what the Western World's contemporary aspirations were, Being Green and Keeping Fit would be up there in the top five.

Call me cynical, but I believe this is why we cyclists are hated with a passion by motorists and pedestrians alike. In combining both 21st Century aspirations in one quick and easy activity, we make non-cyclists feel bad about themselves and they have no choice but to vent their collective spleens.

I have talked about cycling before, and once again freely admit that there are a number of cyclists who give the rest of us a bad name. You've probably seen them speeding the wrong way down the cyclepath before (somehow) leaping up onto the pavement and weaving in and out of bewildered shoppers before bouncing back into the traffic again and rocketing through a red light. All without a helmet or reflective gear of course, and usually talking on their mobiles whilst doing it.

But we're not all like that. I would go so far as to say the majority of us aren't like that. Nevertheless this behaviour is used as an excuse by the non-cyclists to direct their hatred at all of us; the real source of this hatred is of course their own self loathing.

Whatever the reason for the abuse, it doesn't half get on my wick.

I recently availed myself of an innovation that was being introduced in the Brighton area; the Bike Train. For someone like me who's been "involved in an accident that wasn't my fault" it sounded like a godsend. A convoy of cyclists moving as one in a lane of traffic would make me feel far safer. It would probably decrease the time of my journey as well; since the accident I found that I was cycling far slower than I had been (much to the irritation of people behind me); hopefully a buffer zone of other cyclists would give me to confidence to speed up again.

And it worked. I spent a week Bike Training and not only did I feel safer, I was getting into work earlier. However, I find myself in two minds about rejoining it when it is "officially" launched in a couple of weeks.

It's the abuse. I thought I had it bad before with motorists and pedestrians snapping and sighing at me when I was cycling solo, but that's nothing to the abuse suffered when I joined the bike train. Not only did we get outraged motorists bellowing "Get back in the farking cycle lane!" (despite the fact that it's all perfectly legal and above board) from the safety of their SUVs, but there was considerable invective from pedestrians who weren't affected in the slightest by our activity.

The first one I noticed was a beardy weirdy smelly catweazle type standing on the pavement yelling that we were "holding up the traffic!" (this despite the fact that we were whizzing past him on a mostly empty road at the time). Then the next day a sweet little silver haired old lady in a powder blue coat took time out from walking her scottie dog to inform us that "the cycle lane is over there!"

I don't know what problems these people have (although in the case of the motorists it's probably because shaving that extra two seconds or two metres off their journey is SO IMPORTANT) but they're certainly putting me off taking part again. Not because I get so upset that I start weeping into my coffee once I arrive at work, but that this kind of abuse so enrages me that I start fantasising about pulling over and inflicting some U-Lock Justice on a windscreen or skull which is bad for my state of mind.

I don't want to arrive in work in a state of murderous road rage. If the good citizens of Brighton and Hove can't control their tempers I'm going to have to avoid using the Bike Train for the sake of my own sanity. A pity, as it's a brilliant innovation.

The apparent size and age of the universe suggest that many technologically advanced extraterrestrial civilisations ought to exist.

However, this hypothesis seems inconsistent with the lack of observational evidence to support it.
Why haven't we come across any aliens yet?

I'm talking about convincing scientific proof, not garbled "...them thar moon-critturs been done abducted me ag'in..." reports from the likes of Cletus Hickson in Bumfuck, Arkansas. It feels right that aliens should exist. Surely by now we should have come across some hard evidence?

A belief in aliens is older than our knowledge of the wider universe. Even before we had any idea that there existed worlds other than our own we had a concept of non-human intelligent beings. These concepts were quite distinct from our ideas of other humans. Even if Thugg the Caveman had taken a gap year before going to The University of Central Ugland and had trekked across Europe and down into Africa he would very probably still have recognised the tribes he came across down there as his cousins and quite distinct from the pesky woodland folk, demons or wights used back home to scare the cavekids into behaving.

Little Green Men (or increasingly The Greys) are simply the latest iteration of our irrational belief in other beings, this latest revised edition rewritten in the light of science, logic, learning and not wanting to sound quite so stupid when talking about them (K'sk Qazan from Omicron Ceti B sounds marginally less embarrassing than Tössaren the Meadow Elf from the Land of Faerie).

Unfortunately talk of UFOs and LGMs clouds the issue when trying to talk about real aliens. The ones that almost certainly do exist but just haven't come calling yet.

Some scientists of the Worst of Both Worlds (WOBW) persuasion do believe that we are alone in the universe. Strictly speaking they can't be proved wrong, yet. The only life we know exists is here on Earth, so it's possible that it's a fluke. Unlikely, but possible. I subscribe to the Mediocrity Principle myself; there's nothing special about us. Just as we're not at the centre of the universe, I firmly believe we're not at the centre of time and furthermore unlikely to be at the centre of life. I don't have any evidence for that yet, but absence of evidence isn't evidence of absence.

I would like to make it perfectly clear at this point that arguing in favour of the existence of aliens isn't the same as arguing in favour of the existence of a god or gods. Belief in aliens is merely saying that if something happened once and you have proof of it, it can happen again. Belief in God on the other hand is saying that something that for which there is no proof exists.

Evidence of the existence of aliens may be waiting to be discovered. Perhaps we simply haven't looked hard enough or in the right places. The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) is a relatively new discipline, not even fifty years old.

In 1961 a bunch of boffins and bigwigs came together in Green Bank, West Virginia to discuss how best to go about finding aliens. In preparation for the meeting Astrophysicist Frank Drake sketched out a rough formula as an aide memoire for the conference's agenda. In subsequent years it has taken on a greater significance and would perhaps be more famous if it rolled off the tongue as easily as E=mc2. As it is it's a bit of a mouthful:
N = R* × fp × ne × fl × fi × fc × L
What does it all mean? N is the magic number, the number of intelligent alien civilisations now present in the galaxy with whom communication may be possible (for the purposes of the equation we can discount life in other galaxies). N is determined by totting up all the other numbers.

R* is fairly straightforward - it's the number of stars formed every year in the galaxy and is a surprisingly low 10. Still, given the size and age of the galaxy that gives us a stable stellar population of 100 billion.

fp is the proportion of stars with planets. Back in 1961 Drake estimated this at "half" and then over the next thirty years got repeatedly shrieked at by rabid WOBW scientists some of whom doubted that any stars other than the sun were orbited by planets at all. This seems daft in retrospect of the discovery of hundreds of the buggers since 1995, but at the time that's what reputable scientists took the absence of evidence to mean.

ne is the number of planets in these potential systems that could actually support life, and fl is the fraction of these that actually go on to develop life. Far more conjecture here of course, although I find it interesting that within the first fifteen years of the discovery of extrasolar planets we've already detected one that seems suitable, Gleise 581 d. We've already fired off a high powered radio message there just in case. If there's anyone there and if they're listening (and reply straight away) we should hear back from them in around 2050.

The development of life is the crux of the matter of course. However I am prepared to go out on a limb here and say that recent discoveries within our own solar system such as the seasonal release of methane into the Martian atmosphere and the existence of the vast subglacial oceans of Europa could mean that life is as common as planetary systems, which we now realise are everywhere.

The remaining terms in the equation are all to do with the development of intelligent, civilised life, and as such are even more subject to conjecture:
  • fi - the fraction of planets with life that actually go on to develop intelligent life
  • fc - the fraction of intelligent civilisations that are detectable over an interstellar range
  • L - the lifetime of such a civilisation
We just have to guess here. Does all life tend towards intelligence or are complex intelligent brains simply an evolutionary cul-de-sac like the dinosaurs' bigness? And does the development of intelligence mean a technological and therefore detectable civilisation?
"Man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much - the wheel, New York, wars and so on - whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man for precisely the same reasons."
Douglas Adams, The Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Plus we have to consider whether technological civilisations will always be detectable. Sure, we are at the moment, having been vomiting out TV and radio into space for the past century, but with the development of fibreoptics and laser beam transmission it's possible that we'll soon all go quiet; the same could apply to any extraterrestrial neighbours.

Unless of course they want to be heard. Perhaps they don't. Maybe aliens are antisocial.

L is the big one of course. How long do civilisations last? When I was a kid we were all going to "blow each other up" in a nuclear war. Now we're facing ecogeddon. In the face of all this am cautiously optimistic; I think we'll get past this current problem and hopefully enter the twenty second century in a more enlightened mental state on a healthier planet with a far lower human population. And no religion.

In 1961 Drake and friends were conservative and worked N out to be 10. Whilst this sounds low, it's still not to be sniffed at, and I'm prepared to bet that the true figure is higher. Come on, we've hardly started looking. I am confident that firm evidence of extra-terrestrial life will be discovered in my lifetime (perhaps only Martian methanogens, hopefully more), but proof of intelligent aliens would be nice as well.

How about something next year in time for the fiftieth anniversary of the formulation of the Drake Equation? We can all help.

Paul McGann Doctor Who Radio Times cover May 1996So that was it for Doctor Who, I thought. A shame in many ways but probably for the best, I thought.

I was wrong on both counts.

1991. The first sign of the Doctor's return occurred in the basement of Forbidden Planet (in its larger home in New Oxford Street). A confirmed geek, I'd been continuously visiting the store in its various locations since foundation. In those pre-internet days it was often the only way to get news about what was going on in my favourite fictional worlds without crossing the line into the scary territory of fanzines or hanging out at the Fitzroy Tavern, something which, for some reason, I was unwilling to do.

That had obviously been my undoing. This rebirth as a series of books entitled The New Adventures of Doctor Who published by Virgin was apparently masterminded by a cabal of uberfans. Flicking through these new novels they seemed to be self-consciously more adult than the former TV series and its Target novelisations, with chapter titles taken from Stone Roses songs and numerous modern cultural references.

This annoyed me for some reason. It was almost certainly sour grapes because at the time I was working on my first not-quite-published novel and as a budding writer I would have given up several teeth to have a crack at writing for Doctor Who. I'd probably have extracted them myself.

Instead, these uberfans had taken over and seemed very smug about it. I didn't know who Mark Gatiss, Russell T Davis or Paul Cornell thought they were, but as far as I was concerned they were just writing silly little spin off novels, not the actual TV series. They weren't canon.

No doubt I'd have had a different opinion had I been writing for the range (and I did start drafting a novel at one point) , but as it was I decided I had no interest in following the imaginary fanfic adventures of this Cartmel Masterplan Seventh Doctor and entered a Doctor Who related sulk for several years.

I softened a bit when Virgin started publishing Missing Adventures featuring past Doctors, some of which I bought and read, but it took the genuine return of the Doctor to TV where he belonged to really snap me out of it.

It was 1996, seven long years since the series had gone off air. I don't remember hearing about it that much in advance, despite the fact that by then I had access to the newly founded wild west web and that Outpost Gallifrey had gone online for the first time the previous December.

Apparently it was starring Paul McGann, which felt like good casting to me. I was now living in a shared house in Walthamstow and had already started boring my flatmates with the UK Gold repeats on cable, so was confident that I'd be able to watch on broadcast without interruption or having the piss taken out of me.

There was a lot I liked about it and a lot I didn't.

I thought McGann was perfectly cast and his costume felt very Doctor-ish without being a copy of anything that had been before - certainly far better than McCoy's seedy pervert outfit, Baker 2's clown costume or Davison's sports kit. I liked the way the series carried on from where we'd left off with an older, wiser and far less irritating Seventh Doctor at the controls of the TARDIS.

I'm half human... psych!
Listen matey, it may sound like an off the cuff flippant remark to you, but believe me this is going to have fandom up in arms for the next fifteen years!
I didn't like the way the whole thing felt so damned Hollywood. I could cope with it being a co-production with the FOX Network and with it being set in the States but had a problem with the action movie cliches that seemed to have been shoehorned in left, right and centre. I disliked the way The Master had been written as a Terminator-lite villain (although given his body-snatching abilities it was only right that he be played by an American actor). The Doctor kissing the female lead and the female lead obviously fancying him also seemed way off the mark. It also seemed a bit much that a TARDIS malfunction would destroy the whole Earth

The "I'm half human" remark didn't bother me (I just thought he was joking) neither did the Eye of Harmony being in the TARDIS. To this day people shriek about how these things prove that the McGann movie isn't canon, but as far as I was concerned if it was on screen, it happened. This was a show after all with more than one explanation for both Atlantis and the Loch Ness Monster. Deal with it.

Watching the McGann TV Movie again now in the light of the New Series it's far less shocking, and I'm grateful to the current production team for cementing its place in the canon with onscreen references to McGann in both Human Nature and The Next Doctor. I only think it's a pity that Russell T Davis cut his explanation for the half-human line from The End of Time part two:
So you're not Human, right?

Nope. Well, I was, back in 1999 for a couple of days, that was like catching a 48-hour bug, I got over it.
However, I'm glad the series didn't go any further in 1996. Whilst it was interesting to see the Doctor in a new body fighting the Master in San Francisco as a one off, I'm not sure I could have coped with the plans they had for the show; apparently the Series Bible contained all sorts of annoying nonsense including stuff about the Doctor's father. So, despite healthy ratings in the UK, the fact that the US audiences were more interested in what Roseanne was up to that week saved us from this grisly fate.

It meant that my obsession was back to square one, though. The BBC took over publication of the series of novels; I read a couple by by this point I felt I'd missed too much and wouldn't know what was going on. To this day my eyes start to glaze over when fans start talking enthusiastically about Compassion, Fitz, Chris Cwej, Faction Paradox and Bernice bloody Summerfield. Without the return of the TV series I couldn't see how I could ever return to the state of enjoying the ongoing adventures of the Doctor.

Then, in the opening years of the twenty-first century I was exploring the audiobooks section of Borders in Brighton (to where I'd returned to live ) and spotted a double cassette bearing the Doctor Who logo. Closer inspection revealed it was not simply an audio book, but an original full-cast recording featuring the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa.

What? What! WHAT?
Next time...

I explain what N = R* x fp x ne x fl x fi x fc x L means for you and me.