When I went out for lunch with Will recently, he asked me about a film I’d reviewed for Creative Non-Fiction a little while ago – the critically-acclaimed Whiplash. As we discussed our shared enjoyment of it, it occurred to me that I have never published a film or TV review – or at least a post of appreciation – here before. What I wrote for that film may yet be uploaded, but for this post I’ve decided to focus on Speechless, an American sitcom that has only just arrived on British screens. There’s so much comedy on offer to us nowadays that the good examples must really shine in order to stand out, and Speechless had me intrigued from the very first episode I saw. It’s being broadcast on E4, but I knew straight away that I had to dig deeper to make the most of it, so I found the rest of its three seasons on YouTube.

In case you haven’t seen it, Speechless follows the exploits of the weird and wonderful DiMeo family, consisting of mum Maya (Minnie Driver), dad Jimmy (John Ross Bowie), and their three children, Ray (Mason Cook), Dylan (Kyla Kennedy), and JJ (Micah Fowler). The latter is the one around whom all their lives revolve. Like me, JJ has cerebral palsy, albeit in a more severe form than me or the actor who plays him. He is given a great deal of physical assistance from both his family and his aide Kenneth (Cedric Yarbrough), with whom he forms something of a double act. The show’s title alludes to the fact that he does not speak – instead, he uses a laser pointer and word board to communicate, and Fowler had to learn to use both of these prior to taking his role. The result of this is a wide array of reactions and expressions, all of which allow the viewer to connect and laugh with him, without ever needing to hear a word. Of course, it is immensely satisfying to see that despite his differences to others, JJ is accepted and engaged with like any other teenager by his peers. So far, I’ve seen him join his school choir (using Kenneth as his “singing voice”), get drunk at a house party and find love, and I can’t wait to see him get up to more mischief – he isn’t made a total saint…

What’s even more pleasing to see, though, is cerebral palsy itself being highlighted so prominently on TV, and so brilliantly by Fowler. Whilst I have seen disabled characters and actors before (albeit not often enough), I can scarcely remember another occasion when I have seen someone with my condition. I’ve never met anyone whose cerebral palsy affects them in the same way mine does, such are the differences between cases, but to see it at all means a great deal. It’s therefore such a shame that Speechless has literally just been cancelled – I can’t help but feel that this important, entertaining and very much cherished show has been cruelly snatched away from me just as I’m getting hooked on it. Nevertheless, there are plenty more episodes for me to devour just yet!



A Message For The Masses

On Friday night, just after I had published the first part of Christopher’s story here for you to read, I opened Facebook to find a message from a friend with a brief but very important request. As you will see, I explicitly referred to Christopher as being male in his narrative, but they wondered if I would consider using gender-neutral pronouns (“they” and/or “them”) there or in future Third Time Enabled posts. This is a brilliant idea – a no-brainer, in fact – and I expressed such an opinion in response to the request, as well as an apology for not having thought of it sooner.

As I had been writing and showing them a piece of fiction, my friend suggested that I should perhaps only use said pronouns if I deemed it suitable for any given character, but I am yet to decide how and when they will manifest themselves. All I know is that they will appear as often as possible, and I am writing this post so that it can serve as a commitment to this fact, as well as to equality. I assured my friend that I was beyond keen to accept and act on their suggestion, since it is important for representation that these things happen in as many places as possible. Consider this my word, then – sooner or later, things are going to change around here!


Every Great Decision Creates Ripples

I know I’m a bit late to the party here, but as a dedicated Whovian I want to talk about Doctor Who – specifically, of course, the newly-cast Thirteenth Doctor, Jodie Whittaker. Before I start, let me draw your attention to some words uttered by the good Time Lord in one of his earlier incarnations, almost exactly three decades ago:

“Every great decision creates ripples, like a huge boulder dropped in a lake. The ripples merge, rebound off the banks in unforeseeable ways. The heavier the decision, the larger the waves, the more uncertain the consequences.” – the Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy), Remembrance of the Daleks, 1988.

There is no question that the decision to cast the first female Doctor in 54 years was definitely great, in terms of both magnitude and brilliance. It was a pioneering move by a pioneering show that has never been quite like anything else on television, and I for one see it as something that heralds a bright new era for Doctor Who. Jodie is a fantastic actress, and from the moment she pulled back her hood and showed her face to the world I was immensely excited to see what she could bring to the role of the Doctor. We have new leadership in the form of incoming head writer Chris Chibnall, too, and I have no doubt that he will prove to be another mighty weapon in the show’s arsenal as its approaches its 55th year and eleventh revived series. Of course, there are those who – for reasons I simply cannot understand – are unable to accept the oft-repeated fact that Doctor Who thrives on change, and seem to be sure that a female Doctor will drive the programme to a swift end. Their ignorance and misogyny saddened me when I saw it on social media, and it proved to be a startling reminder of the darker side of the Internet, but let’s not focus on such people. They assume, without even giving Jodie a chance, that the consequential ripples from her appointment will be bad ones, whilst for me they can only be good.

The news reminded me why I fell in love with Doctor Who in the first place, and it once again encouraged me to embrace my inner geek. I don’t know what to expect in Jodie’s first series, and it’s that sense of unpredictability that I believe captivates Whovians all over the world. It’s often been said that you should never apply logic to the show, because nothing is ever truly impossible. The format is more open than that of any other programme I can think of, and so are the people around it, both in its production and its audience. An overwhelming majority of fans – 80%, to be precise – are looking forward to the Thirteenth Doctor’s debut, because they’re optimists and the show’s truest enthusiasts. They do not fear change, and certainly not the lead actor’s gender. I have always said that we have been blessed as viewers with twelve (thirteen, if you count the late Sir John Hurt) fantastic Doctors, and I am certain that Jodie will prove herself as yet another perfect choice for this iconic part. I wish her the very best of luck, and I know that throughout her tenure she will be able to count on the support of millions. As Noel Clarke said on Twitter after the news broke, I do not see a man or a woman. I only see the Doctor.


What Gives You The Right?

While waiting for the bus home after work recently, I found myself talking to an old lady who was also in the queue. We made small talk about various things – where I live, her previous career, my disability – and it passed the time quite nicely until the bus pulled up to our stand. At that point, we were discussing employment, since I will be leaving my current job in June, and specifically what my next one could be and where I could be doing it. It was then that the lady, who had seemed pleasant enough, made an admission that immediately brought her down in my estimations.

“I know this probably doesn’t sound very sympathetic,” she began, arousing my suspicions of what was to come, “but I’ve never felt very sorry for homeless people.”

I felt the smile instantly fade from my face and I had to work hard to suppress my disgust. “If you’re working in your wheelchair, why can’t they?” she added. It astounded me that someone of this lady’s age and life experience could be quite so ignorant. Granted, I’ve never been through any of the hardships that a homeless person has, but I know – and often make a habit of pointing out – that it’s very hard for anyone to get a job, no matter who you are, and the longer you wait the more disheartening it can be. In addition to this, you should never judge a book by its cover. We don’t know the reasons why people are homeless, and every case is different, so what gives anyone the right to judge them? I think many people need to do their best to remember some things that are quickly being forgotten in this day and age; namely that we are all human beings, that the differences between us should be embraced and celebrated, and that we should resist and reject anybody or anything that uses them to try dividing us.

As I may have previously written, I gave some money to a homeless man I encountered on my way to work late last year, and my ability to do that and subsequently provide him with a cup of coffee gave me a simple but significant boost. I give a smile and a “hello” to anyone I see sleeping rough, because that’s what you’d do to anyone else in the street, so why would I deny them that basic courtesy? I’m treating them with the same respect as I would anyone else, because they’re not aliens or people to be looked down upon. They’re people who might just have lost their way a bit, and if they have, we should help them to find their way back to normality – or at least show our support.

Anyone who doesn’t, like that lady I was talking to at the bus station, will simply not dignify a response from me – as Dad has recently pointed out, if I don’t agree with something but don’t feel it is necessary to start an argument, I’ll simply disengage and glaze over until the other person realises their daft attempts to get through to me have been fruitless. I have to say, it’s worked wonders so far!

Can I ask a simple favour before I go? Just give Grace’s short documentary Living Native a watch below. You won’t regret it. Thanking you muchly!