I have a never-ending Hangouts chat on my phone that I have been reading a bit. Not too much, just a bit. It is an ongoing chat with Robin Bell.
Robin died yesterday.
Robin was a talented writer, director and producer. He wrote for Blogtor Who and Film Stories, he created Twisted Showcase, he penned a Torchwood story for Big Finish, co-produced Black River Meadow and much more.
Robin was a very talented individual, but more importantly to me, he was my friend.
I have been saying goodbye to Robin for many months now. Robin was diagnosed with Stage 4 stomach cancer shortly after he joined Blogtor as our new News Editor in December 2017. He was worried about signing on when he had such a battle ahead, but I told him we’d work it out as we went along. We did. And that happened to be one of the best decisions I have made.
We met over the internet as he emailed our website asking for our review of his latest series of Twisted Showcase. If you haven’t seen it, you should do so. As Robin included in all his bios, it deservedly was listed as the top 25 web TV show by The Guardian, the only British Independent listed alongside names such as Joss Whedon, Seth Macfarlane and David Lynch. (I’ve stolen those last few words from Robin’s bio. I don’t think he’d mind.) Series 4, in what turned out to be his last, was releasing soon and he gave us several interviews as we reviewed the episodes on our site. During those chats I let it slip that we needed to replace our departing news editor and he jumped at the chance.
— Twisted Showcase (@TwistedShowcase) April 29, 2019
He hadn’t been diagnosed yet but had said his health prevented him from working at his last job. He felt the news editor role was perfect for him and he was eager to get it. I remember interviewing him while he was sitting in the backseat of a car driving on a trip, very close to Christmas Eve. I think his wife and brother were in the front seats, but I could be mistaken; I am sure they were off to a holiday event. It wasn’t a convenient time for him or for me, but he wanted to make sure I knew he really wanted the role. He was so determined to get the job, and I remember thinking that anyone that determined had to join our site.
Blogtor runs on Hangouts. We plan and assign articles, get to know each other and tell bad jokes as a group and as individuals via the ongoing chat tool. It resolves the problems with time zones and working hours as the chat just goes on and on. You can answer whenever you have the time. So once Robin joined Blogtor he also joined the various Hangouts including one between him and me.
And so our never-ending chat began.
Robin and my chat began simply enough. We were discussing what articles needed to be written, what needed to be edited and why and who would write them. All mundane stuff. But it changed pretty quickly once he had received his diagnosis. He had a hard time with chemo, and on a number of days it knocked him back hard.
He talked to me a lot about his cancer. I don’t know if that was common for him. I do know he had the support of his strong wife and his extensive network of friends and family. But every so often he was in a lot of pain or was down, and it seemed he needed to be able to talk about it. I have no idea if the chats helped, but I just hope they did.
We talked about other things too. We talked about family, films, Doctor Who and more. He didn’t like much of the new series of Doctor Who, and I had edited away some of his harsher lines about the writing on Series 11. He wasn’t the only one at Blogtor that felt that way, but his criticisms were accurate and on point.
It was difficult for Robin to write, and I encouraged him to focus on things that he wanted to create, not the news articles he had signed up to do for Blogtor. But gradually, it became harder and harder. The chemo was getting to him, and he needed to concentrate on his passions for what energy he had left. The last article he wrote for Blogtor was in February.
Robin lived in North Wales, very near where my grandmother’s family was from, and I talked several times about meeting in person, but it never happened. When it was announced that David Tennant and Billie Piper would be at the Wales Comic Con this year in Wrexham near Robin, several of the Blogtor team decided that we would meet up at the event including Robin. He was chasing down a ticket. But that was not to be. On 5thApril, he was told he had 2 to 3 months to live, but he was going to defy the odds. Unfortunately, things went the other way, and he only had a month left.
The last time I received a text from Robin was on the 30thApril – the day we were supposed to meet in Wales. I wasn’t around to reply to him at the time, but he texted he’d moved downstairs in a hospital bed and was getting weaker. I don’t know if he saw my reply, but I do know he RT’d the post on 2nd. It seems Robin had written a Torchwood story for Big Finish and it would be out in June. A perfect opportunity to celebrate his work as a writer and I hoped something positive to keep him around until the summer.
Heidi Bell was a rock throughout Robin’s illness. She was always there for Robin. She fought alongside him. I never got to know her well, but I do know that she had a great support team. And I know that all their friends and family will give her support over the next few years. It is hard to lose someone so soon.
It was Heidi who let me know why Robin hadn’t contacted me in the last few days. He was fading in and out of lucidity this weekend. So, when she messaged me today he had died, I was expecting it as much as you ever can be.
Robin was working on a series of pieces on his love for Doctor Who for Blogtor, but sadly those never were finished. Most of Robin’s last works can be found within the Film Stories magazine or on Film Stories website. Films were Robin’s passion, and they comforted him during his last few months. Simon Brew, the editor of Film Stories, will be publishing Robin’s last articles in the next few days.
I wish I’d seen that the last piece he was writing for Blogtor, but that isn’t to be. Instead, I have a half-finished conversation on a never-ending chat on my phone and the chance to tell the world about my talented friend.
We’re going to be doing a retrospective of Robin’s work and of course, review his last story for Big Finish, but that is for just a bit later. For now, let me leave you with one of my favourite stories of Robin’s from the Tribute Podcast. Here is Bookmark, written by Robin Bell and performed by another friend, Joe Sims.