Meet Mister Inquisitor
Well now, hello once more and welcome to another bout of Public Service Interrogation.
This week the trauma of being forced back into Mr Inquisitor's pointy headgear was leavened
considerably by the news that my subject would be none other than Co-Saviour of h2g2 (TM) and
proper film industry mover and/or shaker Robbie Stamp. Readers, I was so excited I spent the night
polishing the oubliette.
However, I had reckoned without the rock-n-roll lifestyle enjoyed by people of Mr Stamp's
stature and when I turned up for the interrogation found only a gold-plated fax machine with a
scrambler attached waiting on the inquisitorial couch. Sometimes in this life you have to settle for
what you can get...
When was the last time you were interviewed that you didn't have to talk about Douglas
This really made me scratch my head. My immediate thought was "I can't remember a time..."
but there must have been one, though to be honest I feel proud and very lucky to be somebody that
people want to talk to about Douglas. I can't believe that it is now more than ten years since he died
and I miss him still. I miss his insatiable curiosity and I very, very much miss our lovely long lunches.
Indeed the last time I saw him was a lunch which went well past tea time at the Ivy in London, which
incidentally is the last time I was at the Ivy!
The minions have been giving your CV a thorough going-over and their results indicate you
were the executive producer on the Guide movie. Have you ever executed anyone? If not, is
there anyone you'd like to? What would be your preferred method?
There has been the odd wasp I will admit but otherwise I am on balance anti-executing people.
So a jam jar with just a little jam left at the bottom, a lid, a final sugar feast, a gradual loss of oxygen,
sleepiness and a gentle end – maybe without all that angry buzzing.
Our research also suggests you were involved with Titanic. Whose idea was that
bloody Celine Dion song?
You might want to have a word with your fact checker. I was involved with Starship Titanic, the beautiful computer game with the ground breaking text parsing engine and astonishing
graphics. Having said that I own every recording ever made by Celine Dion on Vinyl, CD and my iPod
has its own special Celine folder, full of interviews and videos. I could send you some if you'd like.
Send all you want; I'll make the fact checkers listen to them.
How much would you say that the h2g2 you're taking over differs from the one the original
I think that the short answer would be much smaller! But it is still a fabulous place and the
passion and commitment of those who are still involved is phenomenal. There are some great
articles and I have always felt that there was a touch of the Mars Bar about h2g2 – a great place to
work, rest and play. That is a unique combination I think, and is to be cherished. From contributing
to the Guide, via Smiley's, the Nighthoover of things to the MMI and beyond, there is nowhere else
quite like it. The next job is to build on that and not to want to be like anybody else. We are h2g2
and proud! We need to be ready to welcome a whole new generation of researchers, welcome
back some we lost, and maintain the levels of intelligence and creativity on the site. I think its DNA
is pretty strong now but there will be challenges ahead. We need to strengthen, deepen and be as
creative as we can be to build the next version of the Guide – the technical ecosystem we inhabit is
now much closer to the one Douglas pined for. But I hope that there will be play and rest for always
Onto your other areas of expertise. Trojan from Gladiators, Duke Reid's Trojan Sound
System, the Trojan minefield clearance AFV, and the Trojan brand of condoms. Which do you think
adheres most closely to the spirit of the original Trojan horse?
Now maybe with this question I can see that I did your fact checker a disservice as I take this
to be a very clever and subtle reference to the book I co-authored called ‘Trojan Horses'. However
given the strength of research evident in the other questions, I can't be sure! My book was on
Deception planning during the Second World War, leading up to the big one, Operation Fortitude,
which was the deception plan for the D Day Landings. It was very close to the spirit of the original
Trojan Horse, which was why we chose the title. However on the off-chance that this particular
question was entirely an accident I'd choose the condoms for some instinctive reason that I am not
sure I want to examine any more closely.
The fact checker has been forced to listen to Incognito Tournee on a loop for some
time now and is in no condition to talk to anyone, but if he recovers I'll pass on your appreciation.
When was the last time you washed a car (your own or someone else's)?
Hmmm, assuming that taking my car to a car wash does not count, the honest answer would be
a long time ago. However as a child of the seventies I did once have a little car washing business for
neighbours in my road in London, along with a business that rented out Commando Comics from a
cardboard box in the cupboard at the back of my classroom, until the headmaster put a stop to it,
very publicly, in assembly one morning.
Would you say your personality was more like that of Robbie the Robot or Terence Stamp?
Are there any other prominent Robbies and/or Stamps you feel a kinship with?
Robbie the Robot, I'd say. I have never met Terence Stamp, though somebody in a book shop
in Cambridge did once say that I had his eyes. Robbie the Robot however is part of the Asimov
world, and apart from his appearance in others, that's good enough for me. No particular affinities
elsewhere I fear, unless its Robbie the Reindeer in ‘Hooves of Fire'.
(I was thinking of the Forbidden Planet Robbie. Hmm!) If you had to participate in
a fight with an animal in its natural habitat, would you prefer to take on a penguin, a hyena or a
panda? Please give reasons for your choice.
It would have to be the penguin I'm afraid, which may bring hordes of penguin lovers down on
my head, "what, the new/old chairman of h2g2 is somebody who would want to hit a penguin?
(I'm afraid that will be going in a press release.)
But would hitting a panda be any better? I certainly wouldn't fancy my chances against a hyena
in its natural habitat. I wonder if this an incredibly subtle reference to the fact that when
we launched the first "The Digital Village" website we featured Penguins very largely along with
the team that actually worked there? If so, then my respect for your research has grown steadily
through the interview. Again however, given your Celine Dion question I cannot be entirely sure that
this, along with the Trojan Horse question, is not just a fluke...
>ahem< Moving swiftly on...
What's the most important thing you've learned from your involvement with h2g2?
That time is an illusion, lunchtime doubly so. I still cannot quite believe that after eleven years I
have a chance to be involved with h2g2 again, but I am rather pleased that I am.
And finally – and I'm also the Post film critic so, you know, bear with me – the Guide
movie. Mos Def?!? Putting the Earth back at the end?!?!? Doing it as a rom-com?!?!?!?!?
And with that the fax machine melted. (It turned out just to be a normal one painted gold, which
put paid to my chances of turning a profit on this gig.)
Oh well, readers, as I said at the start, you can't win 'em all, and given the beneficence of Mr
Stamp and his chums I suppose I shouldn't grumble too much.
So, I was all set to shut up the oubliette and withdraw to my private cinema once more, but then
a large parcel arrived by express delivery. Inside was a cage and inside the cage was a flock of carrier
pigeons marked 'Property of Alyson and Brian Larholm'. I fear there may still be one more Meet
Mr Inquisitor yet to come...