NOTE: In order for this narrative to work, you have to believe me.
This first part is a direct copy-and-paste from a Facebook post of mine:
Confession: I’ve always wanted to be a Time Lord. I was a fan of Doctor Who as a kid, and love the new series. I painted my closet with black light paint and had my dad build me a wooden TARDIS console. I used the tower from my Dark Tower board game for the time rotor. My dad and I made a wooden K9 and I used a remote control car “engine” to pitifully edge it along the basement floor.
I dreamt of being The Doctor on screen, but knew it would never work. The Doctor was not from the United States, and that was that. As I got older, and less narcissistic, I wondered if ANY guy from the US could be the doctor. Possibilities included James Urbaniak, Paul F. Tompkins, John John Hodgman, and Reggie Watts. They could be true to the spirit of the character.
Narcissism finally won out, though, and I realized that if I was ever to be The Doctor, he’d have to be American in the worst possible ways.
I SWEAR THE ABOVE IS TRUE. On with my blog.
Shortly after posting this video, I engaged in a bit of discussion on Twitter about the current no-hold-back attacks on people who willingly engage in plagiarism. Posts included:
There was a time in vaudeville when someone could steal a local act and move it to another town and no one knew about it.
A sketch comedian I knew had a story of writers from a televised sketch program seeing their show and that sketch being put on that program.
Joke/Act theft is hardly new, but it was recognized. The higher stakes are due to the rise of, “Okay, so what?” as a thing.
The “Okay, so what?” thing is a rise of defenders of plagiarists, something relatively unheard of when I was a lad. People explain that giving one’s jokes away for free on Twitter means you don’t care if they’re stolen. I disagreed. Discussions happened.
Someone asked me about spontaneous similar jokes arising.
I suggested the criteria of:
1) Frequency of the occurrence. Does this person CONSTANTLY seem to think of the same jokes as someone else? If so, they are at worst a thief or at best a hack.
2) Similarity. How many words different? Is it a direct copy-paste, or was an effort made to at least make something new.
Obviously, the next step of the universe was to turn this on myself.
Here’s where you have to believe me. I came up with “American Doctor Who” on a construction site. I was looking at a porta-john (We used Honey Buckets in the film, but on my job site we use a company called Spiffy Biffy) and I was struck at how much it looked like a TARDIS. I later discussed this with Ben as a video idea, imagining me shirtless, wearing a cowboy hat, hitting an alien with a shovel.
We posted it a week early, because Matt Smith announced his retirement from playing The Doctor. It was doing well. I wanted to see HOW well, so I searched “American Doctor Who YouTube” and I got this:
A YouTube user called NikuInMeatspace had made an American Doctor Who video almost three years previously to ours. It had a porta-john TARDIS. If I were them, and saw mine, I’d be like, “That guy took my idea!”
Except I didn’t. We had the same idea at different times, and NikuInMeatspace got there first, but I didn’t know about it until AFTER we made our version. It’s a good thing, too, because otherwise I wouldn’t have made it, and I like ours.
This isn’t anything new. My friend Jason Kovacs talked about how years ago he, my friend Stephen McCandless, and I all had the idea of telling Star Trek from the perspective of some Redshirts. I went so far as to translate Rosencranz and Guildenstern Are Dead into Star Trek:
Later, a guy named John Scalzi independently came up with the same idea and made a novel.
Perhaps you’ve heard of it.
Also, this entire article is a rip-off of an earlier article I did.
Simultaneous ideas DO happen, which is why I am careful to accuse others of plagiarism. It’s also why frequent, obvious, ADMITTED plagiarism is so frequently attacked. Because finally, you KNOW. The hazy areas are maddening.
Thanks for reading.