Cross About Crossovers

That’s enough of a break from blogging, don’t you think?

Later this season, the forensic-science-based crime procedural Bones will do a crossover with Sleepy Hollow, the show in which time-displaced Ichabod Crane works with the police to battle the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse and other magic-based menaces. It’s like Murder She Wrote crossing over with The X-Files. It makes no sense. But the network clearly liked the idea, so now that is a real thing that is going to happen.

And yet Supergirl is still forbidden from crossing over with fellow DC shows Flash and Arrow. Thanks, television. Way to make sense.

So with that in mind, here are some other TV crossovers that would make at least as much sense as, and I would rather see than, the impending Bones/Sleepy Hollow team-up. Hopefully they’re all as entertaining as this one (forgive the Quiznos product integration):

Resisting the urge to just slap Doctor Who into each of them.

Arrow of Interest


Arrow is about Oliver Queen’s evolution from brutal vigilante the Hood to Justice Leaguer Green Arrow as he fights to protect his city with the help of his team. Over on Person of Interest, reclusive billionaire Eric Finch (not his real name) teams with presumed-dead ex-special forces operative John Reese (probably also not his real name) to stop murders before they happen with the help of Finch’s slightly-alive supercomputer, which can predict violent crimes and feed Finch the social security number of either the victim or the perpetrator.

Yes, they’re on separate networks, but the street-level superheroics of Arrow would mesh surprisingly well with the cyber-paranoia of Person of Interest. Both combine the brutal combat skills of one (or several) team members (Oliver, Reese) with the improbable hacking skills of another (Felicity Smoak, Finch). Both have an ally they can never really trust, but not until their third seasons, so I won’t name them. So here’s how I see it going down…

On Person of Interest, Finch receives a new number: that of computer expert Felicity Smoak, visiting New York from Star City. Reese initially assumes from her awkward and dorky manner that she must be the victim, but Finch is less certain when he uncovers her connection to hacker group Brother Eye, also recently arrived in New York. Reese begins to agree when his attempts to tail Felicity lead him not only to Brother Eye’s founder, her ex-boyfriend, but also into a confrontation with Star City’s vigilante, the Arrow. However, by the end of the first hour, it becomes clear that the Arrow and Reese have a mutual enemy in Brother Eye, who are attempting to expose and revive a super-soldier program called OMAC. Over on Arrow, Felicity and Finch attack Brother Eye electronically while Oliver and Reese must deal with the awakened OMAC soldier, a combination of digitally-inserted fighting skills and chemically enhanced strength and speed, alarmingly similar to that of Oliver’s frenemy Slade Wilson. In the end, they part as… well, not friends per se, but not enemies.

If the network thing is an issue, swap out Arrow for Supergirl.



Supernatural is about the ongoing struggles of Sam and Dean Winchester to defend the world from whatever supernatural menaces they can find. On iZombie, recently deceased surgeon Liv Moore takes a job in the city morgue in order to a) get access to the brains she needs to stay mostly human, and b) solve murders by accessing the memories and personalities of the victims through eating their brains. There’s a fair amount of brain eating, is what I’m saying.

They seem an obvious match-up, but there’s one twist… despite having an undead lead character, there’s not much supernatural about iZombie. The zombie outbreak facing Seattle (and beyond?) is believed to be caused by either a tainted batch of ecstasy-style drug Utopium, or by energy drink Max Rager. But the addition of Supernatural elements might be a neat twist, and wouldn’t be totally out of place, which is not something Bones can say.

Liv’s SPD colleague, Detective Babineaux, has a tricky case on his hands: a victim who died in inexplicable circumstances. When Liv eats his brain, she receives a vision of something horrible: a humanoid figure that is clearly not human. Liv has discovered the existence of monsters. Her partner and confidant Ravi assures her there’s no such thing as monsters (while finding an awkward yet witty way of addressing the fact that he is technically talking to a monster), but when she looks into it further, she discovers that the victim was a Hunter, a person who hunts demons, ghosts, and monsters. Like zombies. When two men claiming to be FBI agents named after classic rock band members arrive to investigate the murder, she realizes they, too, are Hunters: the Winchester brothers.

Liv uses her brain-transferred memories and personality traits to impersonate a hunter in order to help the Winchesters must find the monster. She is also torn: if she can tell the Winchesters about zombies, maybe they can help curb their growing numbers. But they might also realize that she’s one of them, and decide she has to go too. She also tries to hide the truth of the crime from Ravi, lest discovering the existence of magic deter him from his efforts to cure her condition through science. Liv has discovered a larger world she can’t tell anyone about, whereas Sam figures out the truth, but worries that Dean will see Liv as simply a monster rather than an ally.

Writes itself, people.

Modern Muppet Family

modern muppets

No, too easy. Frankly, I’d be amazed if this didn’t happen in some way or another by next year’s Emmys. Nope, moving on.

Elementary 99

Elementary 99


Elementary is a modern-day retelling of Sherlock Holmes set in New York. Brooklyn 99 is a workplace comedy about police detectives in Brooklyn’s 99th district.

One’s a drama, one’s a single-camera sitcom. But both have, as their central character, a spectacular egotist who defines himself by his ability to solve crimes. So this shouldn’t be hard.

Detective Jake Peralta is not having a good day. A consultant from Manhattan, Sherlock Holmes, has been called in to help with a rash of homicides. Jake refuses to acknowledge that anyone in New York can out-solve him, while Sherlock refuses to acknowledge Jake’s presence in anything but condescending tones. Captain Holt doesn’t much care for Holmes’ presence either, being largely against outside consultants, but nonetheless orders Jake to work with him, having been encouraged to do so by Manhattan’s Captain Gregson. But when the case proves tough to crack, and… Wunch? No… the Vulture? No, he doesn’t steal tough cases… the federal agents who Jake made enemies of in Windbreaker City threaten to steal the case, Jake and Sherlock must join forces to solve the crime. Also Boyle has a crush on Watson. Seems like something he’d do.

Halt and Catch Doctor

Halt Doctor

So I folded.

If you read this blog, you know what Doctor Who is. Halt and Catch Fire is a cable drama about five people in the early to mid-80s trying to stake their claim in the growing computer market: manipulative would-be visionary Joe MacMillan, married hardware engineers Gordon and Donna Clark, punk programmer protege Cameron Howe, and John Bosworth, a lifelong salesman whose life is upended by exposure to Joe but redeemed by friendship with Cameron.

One’s a high-energy science-fantasy show about a brilliant, undying space wizard and his human companion; one is about broken people hurting each other while trying to create something worthwhile, be it an IBM clone, a video game company, or an early version of the internet. These two shows have no business even touching each other. But therein lies the game.

Your average episode of Halt and Catch Fire involves the team facing as many crises to their current project as can fit inside of an hour, while finding ways to hate each other. So we’ll give them a big ol’ doomsday crisis. While trying to design a new interface for her company, Mutiny, Cameron encounters a weird rash of setbacks. Viruses, hardware failures, sudden power outages, all of which are leaving the whole staff scrambling, especially Cameron, Donna, and Clara, their new hire from England. Cameron suspects interference by Joe MacMillan (because every goddamn thing that happens to you must be Joe’s fault, right, Cameron?) or a screw-up by Gordon (historically plausible), but despite both of them having meetings with the same Scottish venture capitalist, there’s no proof they’re involved. Cameron turns on Donna, Donna turns on Gordon, Cameron and Donna both turn on Joe who delivers a great if condescending speech about their need to blame him for every problem they have, but by the time Bosworth pieces together that Clara and that venture capitalist who kept calling himself “The Doctor” were responsible, they’ve both vanished, and Cameron has to ditch the entire program in order to keep the lights on at Mutiny. Everyone scrapes by, but learns new ways to be angry at each other, because that’s Halt and Catch Fire for you. It’s better than I’m describing it.

Meanwhile, on Doctor Who, the exact same story happens, but this time it’s a screwball comedy about The Doctor and Clara trying to prevent five kinda jerky people from developing a piece of code that will eventually become part of an unstoppable Cyberman OS. It’s all fun and games until Clara realizes they’re actively crushing Cameron’s dreams of reinventing computers and how we interact with them, leading to a powerful but heartbreaking rant from The Doctor about how one woman’s dream has to be measured against countless lives, and that in the end he can’t ever really prevent the Cybermen. The Cybermen are inevitable. All he can do is try to delay them, to reduce the damage they’ll do when they finally arrive. If forcing Cameron to compromise on her vision (something reality makes her do once a year, minimum) saves even one planet from the Cybermen… don’t they have to at least try? This is the burden of the Time Lords… to know the outcomes, and the price for achieving them.

Shit. I’d watch the hell out of that one.

Next time… a weird trend in the new TV season.


So I finally, after an uncharacteristically long period, have caught up on the eight series of Doctor Who. Which got me thinking thoughts about the Doctor, his companions, their various relationships, and why I’m drawn to some more than others. And what that says.

The early days

In the beginning (of the new series, I have not the time, inclination, or frankly knowledge to go through all of the first eight Doctors’ companions), there was Nine and Rose. The Doctor had just left the endless horrors of the Time War, had just regenerated after wiping out both his own people and the Daleks (he thinks) to end the war while some of time and space was still standing. After years of being alone, a soldier in the war, not even the Doctor as far as he was concerned, something in his new head (possibly a subconscious recollection of the events of Day of the Doctor) told him it was okay to be the Doctor again. Okay to try and connect with people once more. Okay to travel with a companion again. Rose turns to the Doctor for adventure, for a life that a a simple shopgirl could never have, and the Doctor… the Doctor heals. His rage passes. His compassion regrows. And when he’s put in a familiar position at the end of the first series… wipe out the Daleks at the expense of the population of Earth… he refuses. And not long after that, he becomes a literally new man: a warmer, kinder, faster to smile man.

It’s a good story, a solid beginning, but a hard relationship to connect with. After all, how many of us have freshly returned from a war in which we were forced to commit genocide? I haven’t. I feel most of you haven’t either. I suspect it would have made the news. Well, some of the news.

Rose and Ten? Now that’s a different story. Ten was always less cold than Nine, faster to embrace people, even in his lowest moments. And not too hard on the eyes, either. How could Rose not fall in love with the dashing superhero her companion had become? And the Doctor was starting to fall for her as well, but refusing to acknowledge it since a relationship between a 20-year-old human and a 900-year-old Time Lord is… problematic.

Again, not something I really relate to. Even if I do occasionally have feelings for someone younger (not 900 years younger, but when you’re not an ageless god a decade-and-change age gap can feel just as difficult), those feelings are rarely, if ever, returned, so the age thing doesn’t really come into play.

Rose left, breaking not just the Doctor’s heart(s), but hearts all throughout the fandom.

Quickest way to break a Ten/Rose shipper
Quickest way to break a Ten/Rose shipper

And in came Martha Jones to replace her. Now, the Doctor thought he was just doing what he always does when he meets someone interesting, clever, and capable (cute and female also seems to be a plus): offer to show her all of time and space, to save him from running alone.

But what he was actually doing, even if he didn’t realize it, was trying to fill the void left by Rose. Martha, despite being more clever, more useful, and never once tearing a hole in time with her daddy issues, was never more than a replacement Rose to the Doctor, and as she fell in love with him, she was forced to admit that was no way to live, and that she had to move on.

More relatable, sure. Not necessarily to me… well, okay, sure, even I’ve been oblivious to someone else having feelings for me, so I get the Doctor’s side there…

Donna Noble just wanted a greater life than she’d come to expect she was capable of living. She wanted to wander the stars with the Doctor forever, just as friends. Strictly friends. She may well be the best of the Tennant companions, and certainly has the most heartbreaking conclusion, and, yeah, I’ve had friendships with women where we spent an odd amount of time assuring people we weren’t a couple, but where I really began to feel drawn to the Doctor/Companion relationship was…

Amy Pond

The dawn of the Moffat/Matt Smith era had my attention by making the new companion a cute Scottish redhead in a miniskirt, I’ll admit that. But here’s what Amy and Eleven is to me.

Amy Pond was the first face the Eleventh Doctor saw. The first person he met after a prolonged period of self-isolation. Sure, Ten still had his way with people, but he refused to take on companions. All the losses he’d faced, including losing Donna and Rose (again) in one day, were too much. He couldn’t take it anymore. The Doctor who loved and embraced people more than most couldn’t stand to be around them long term. But Amy came to him right as he regenerated into a new man, a man who shared Ten’s love of common people but not always his charm.

Eleven’s more awkward, as we see in his stubborn belief that bow ties and fezzes are cool. And despite being played by the youngest actor ever to take the role, more than most he carried the full weight of his nine (later twelve) centuries of life. An old soul with a young face.

The Doctor and Amy aren’t in love. Amy might be a little hot for him in the beginning, something the Doctor (rightfully) suspects has more to do with an all-too-real reaction to intense and dangerous circumstances–see, the brain releases dopamine, which is also involved in infatuation, and–anyway. Amy loves the Doctor, sure, but she’s in love with Rory. Much as the Doctor is actually falling for River Song rather than Amy. But just because they’re not in love doesn’t make what they have less special. Amy’s not the woman the Doctor loves, or at least not the woman he marries, but she’s important. For centuries, she’s the most important person in his life, the person he can never stop running to.

Why wouldn’t I fall for that relationship? This was 2010/2011. In 2010 and 2011, I was as close as I’d ever been to… well, her. Younger, like Amy. Someone I cared for dearly, like Amy. But not someone I was likely to ever be able to date. But we were close all the same. Very close, those years.

So why wouldn’t I connect to this era? To the Doctor whose charms were muted by an awkward nerdinesss, who was great with a speech but terrible with emotions, and whose best friend was girl he’d always love but never kiss? Why wouldn’t I want that relationship to make sense?

But like Amy, a day came when she disappeared forever.

And like the Doctor… I shut myself off for a while. Because the loss hurt too much to want to feel like that again.

Clara Oswald

For the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, the BBC put out a series of prints: the silhouetted profiles of the first 11 Doctors, and in their profile, key friends and foes from each Doctor’s run. For Patrick Troughton, Jamie and the Brigadier. For Tom Baker, Romana and K-9. And for Matt Smith, Amy, Rory, and River.

Not Clara.

In fairness, Clara was new. By the time the Matt Smith print came out, she’d been in one episode, went by Oswin, and died at the end.

But eventually a time came when Clara not being on the poster made sense. Because she wouldn’t belong in Matt Smith’s profile. She’d belong in Capaldi’s.

Peter Capaldi’s 12th Doctor is a harder, colder Doctor. And yet Clara has become the most important person in his life, in a way she never was before his last regeneration. Because after 900 years of defending Trenzalore from his worst foes… the Doctor is afraid of himself. Of what he might be. A Dalek sees into his soul, and finds only hatred. Ex-soldier Danny Pink immediately recognizes him not just as a fellow soldier (something the 12th Doctor despises), but even worse, as an officer (possible, we only know what the Doctor did at the very end of the Time War). Clara… Clara is his lifeline. He can believe that he’s a good man if Clara can believe it, even a little, and when she begins to doubt, it crushes him. But no matter what, he still has her back.

Even towards the end. Clara turns on him, betrays him, tries to threaten him into breaking time itself for selfish purposes… and is then shocked to find he’s still willing to do the impossible to help her. He sums it up with one question:

“Do you think I care for you so little that betraying me would make a difference?”

And man, I dig that. That says so much about several key friendships I have or have had. The people I would do anything for. And yeah, a few of them would do anything right back, but… there are definitely a few Claras out there. The people who make me believe I matter because I matter to them. And so even if they hurt me from time to time, I still find myself willing to walk through fire for them.

Because sometimes you love someone you can’t be in love with. But that’s okay. That’s good. Even when they don’t feel the same. Because while that might hurt… as Amy Pond said, it’s kind of a good hurt.

Thanks for bearing with me. If you did. Something more fun and less introspective next time, yeah?

Sad is happy for deep people: sad quotes for a grey day

A while back I thought it might be worth doing to occasionally blog about “items of joy,” things that made me happy even when happiness felt illusive. I had a harder time than I expected coming up with said items of joy, but it evolved into “My New Favourite Thing,” so that’s okay.

Anyway, the one item of joy post was about Doctor Who, which despite being one of my favourite shows and the thing I turn to when I’m feeling down (Day of the Doctor makes me happy every time), is notorious for tearing out the hearts of its fans and stomping on them. And yet I called the fact that it will break your heart three times a season a selling point, because why invest in a show if it can’t do that? I even borrowed a line from the show itself, from the classic (as in good, not as in classic series) episode Blink: “Sad is happy for deep people.”

Between some personal disappointments and the season’s first taste of snow, it’s a grey and downbeat day here in Parts Unknown HQ, so that quote suits my mood today. As such, here’s some downbeat quotes from some generally upbeat TV shows and why I think they’re brilliant moments. Many of them are going to be Doctor Who related, let’s just accept that.

Also, some videos of things that bring a smile to my face no matter what, because balance is important.

Bojack Horseman sums up the human condition

Buddhism teaches that desire is the root of all suffering. And nothing has really driven that point home for me like the cartoon horse who’s a faded sitcom star from the 90s.

I’ll avoid spoilers as best I’m able here. In the first season finale of Bojack Horseman, Bojack wonders why, after getting what he thought he most wanted, he’s still not happy. At which point, we get this exchange between him and his former ghost writer:

Denise: “That’s the problem with life, either you know what you want and you don’t get what you want, or you get what you want and then you don’t know what you want.”
Bojack: “That’s stupid.”

The sad fact is, that really does sum it up. Being content with what we have doesn’t drive us out of the cave to slay a mammoth and perpetuate the species, so instead we’re driven by always wanting the next thing, the next challenge, the next prize. We know what we want, but we can’t have it, and that makes us miserable, or we have everything we want and still aren’t satisfied, and don’t understand why.

And Bojack himself puts it best… that’s stupid. But if you can’t shake off the cycle that, again, is written into your brain from the day you’re born, and learn to be happy, that’s life. Which brings me to my next quote… after this musical interlude from the New Pornographers, because MAN do I love Brill Bruisers.

Achewood reminds us we’re stuck like this

Achewood is a bit of an acquired taste, but if you can get past the unusual tone, often simplistic art, and bouts of experimental storytelling, it’s hilarious, moving, and addictive like few other comics out there. It seems to have drifted to a halt, which is sad, but its archives are still filled with gems, such as the MoviePhone Defense, the saga of the Great Outdoor Fight, or the most gentlemanly death threat ever.

And then there was the day Michael Jackson died.

Two of the cast are talking Michael Jackson, and how his death is affecting them, and they’re a little confused as to why, since they weren’t even big fans. Until Cornelius Bear, the cast’s elder statesman, explains: losing Michael Jackson was losing their “Elvis,” and with it, “the private lie that someday you will be young once again, and feel at capricious intervals the weightlessness of a joy that is unchecked by the injuries of experience and failure. In other words, you two died a bit today.”

And then he finishes off with the line that drives home the real tragedy…

“Welcome to the only game in town.”

Getting old isn’t pretty. Knowing that the things of your youth are farther and farther away stings if you let it. The missed opportunities, the things you never did, they weigh on you more and more if you let yourself dwell on them. But life doesn’t really present another option. Tomorrow becomes yesterday whether you like it or not, and that’s all there is.

Jesus. I thought I’d be able to find something uplifting here. Not so much. This calls for puppets singing Space Oddity with astronaut Chris Hadfield.

Doctor Who quotes and plenty of ’em

Exchange the first. Backstory: in the Time War, the Doctor was forced to wipe out his own people, the Time Lords, in order to end the war between them and the Daleks that was burning all of time and space. In The Doctor’s Wife, the Doctor thinks that on a rock outside of space as we know it, there may be surviving Time Lords. He explains to his companions, Amy and Rory, that if there are, maybe he can explain to them why he had to do it.

“You want to be forgiven,” says Amy. The Doctor freezes mid-stride, looks back, and with just a hint of sorrow in his voice betraying the deeper sorrow in his heart(s), replies…

“Don’t we all?”

I always liked that line. I didn’t understand how powerful a moment it was until a dream showed me that I, too, on some deep level, wanted to be forgiven for a stupid thing I did a long time ago. And that desire to be forgiven becomes a deeper wound when forgiveness is impossible, be it because there’s no one left to offer it, or the person you wronged hasn’t been a part of your life since 1994, and probably hasn’t thought about you in years.

At which point, there’s really no choice left but to forgive yourself, and maybe beat yourself up less.

Exchange the second. At the end of his first episode, the 12th Doctor re-establishes his relationship with his companion, Clara, who’s been having a hard time accepting his change from the youthful, energetic Eleven to the older, dour, Twelve.

“I’m not your boyfriend,” he says.

“I never said you were,” she replies.

“I never said it was your mistake.”

With (literally) new eyes, the Doctor sees his relationship with Clara, now more than ever the most important person to him (Eleven may have been twitterpated with her, but he never truly recovered from the loss of Amy Pond), and understands it was never what he thought it was. Take it from me, that can sting like a mother. Even two years and change later, learning that one of your most valued relationships was never what you thought, could never be what you hoped… it hurts. But it’s important. Because not seeing the truth, embracing what is ultimately a delusion, and then running into the painted wall you thought was a tunnel hurts far worse than just accepting your reality.

That last paragraph got away from me a little. But I’m not going to elaborate.

Exchange the third. Let’s wrap this up with something ultimately a little more hopeful: the signature quote from Vincent and the Doctor. In this episode, the Doctor and Amy share an adventure with Vincent Van Gogh. As a special thanks, the Doctor takes him to the present, to a Van Gogh exhibit, to show Vincent that he wasn’t the failure his own time claimed him to be. He would be remembered, treasured, for generations to come. In the end, Amy hopes that this will help Vincent overcome the depression that plagued him throughout his life, prevent his suicide and cause more Van Gogh masterpieces to be painted.

She’s wrong.

But as she realizes that depression is a harder monster to fight than the literal monsters they’d faced together, the Doctor says this…

“The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa the bad things don’t always spoil the good things and make them unimportant.”

In this case, the tragedy of Vincent’s end doesn’t necessarily detract from the joys they shared with him.

Now, from here, I should make it clear that I am NOT discussing clinical depression or any sort of mental illness. I am not an expert on depression and cannot pretend to be one. I’m talking about sadness, and however deep sadness becomes, it is vital to understand that feeling sad and suffering from depression are not the same thing.

That said.

When you’re sad, it’s hard to imagine being happy again. Every reassurance, pep talk, reminder of better things feels hollow and empty. The thing that’s made you sad, the thing that’s broken your heart, that is all there is or ever will be.

But it’s an illusion.

It’s like when I’m sick, properly sick, and my world is consumed with nausea and suffering. The very thought of eating food turns my stomach. Not just in that moment: the thought that I may ever eat food, or ride in a car, or anything of the sort seems like the fever dream of a madman (my own fever dreams are just aggressively boring). But the next day, the nausea fades. Sleep comes easier. Car rides are no problem. And pretty soon I’m not just hungry, I’m ravenous.

So it is with sadness (again, NOT depression). Soon you smile again, soon you laugh again, and eventually the things you couldn’t be around because they re-opened the wound fade. Threeish years ago I couldn’t deal with season three of Scrubs: JD’s arc of pining after Elliot while she’s in a relationship seemed custom-built to destroy me. Now I can watch it no problem… except JD is still being a complete tool. Nothing changes that.

So the key is to take those reassurances, put them in a box, and remember them when the clouds begin to part. Because even if you’re not ready to hear them, they may well have still been worth hearing.

Because the bad things don’t make the good things unimportant.

Thanks for bearing with me, folks. Those of you that did. As your reward, allow me to share with you 32 seconds that can make anyone smile.

See you next time, with cheerier tales.

Calgary Expo wrap-up

Some people love the Superbowl. Some people live for the World Series. But me… I loves me the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo. For three days (and a sneak peek on Thursday night) the Stampede grounds here in Calgary transform from a place where we pretend to care about rodeos in order to go on rides and consume fair food that’s about as healthy as a live grenade to a shimmering paradise of geek culture. It’s gotten huge in recent years, one of the largest on the continent (albeit still nowhere near San Diego Comicon). Celebrities both faded and still popular stop by, comic and webcomic artists from across the continent set up booths, and you can get great posters from local artists. I’ve yet to fail to have an awesome time, despite being bone-weary and sore all over by day three.

Who wants some highlights? Because you’re getting some highlights.

The Parade of Wonders

Friday’s when things start to get real. The celebrities (or “media guests,” in Expo terms) arrive, with the accompanying photo op and autograph sessions, the panels get underway, and the Expo lurches into full swing. Me, I started my Friday bright and early as one of the volunteers for the Parade of Wonders, a recent addition to the Expo that lets cosplayers of all stripes strut their stuff across downtown Calgary. Dozens of people braving the chill in the air and proudly strutting their costumes marched through the streets, accompanied by special guests such as Felicia Day, Anthony “C-3PO” Daniels, two Sons of Anarchy, a handful of Lord of the Rings/Hobbit actors, Arrow’s Slade Wilson himself Manu Bennett, and the coolest Mayor in Calgary, Naheed Nenshi, sporting a bow tie and sonic screwdriver.

I’m a big fan of cosplay. And not just the “hot girls dressing as slutty superheroes/anime characters” realm of cosplay that most people lock onto. Regardless of gender, age, body type, or fandom, if you’ve devoted time, effort, and creativity to dressing up as something you love for the con, you’re okay in my books.

I mean, obviously I have somewhat more affinity for people who dress up as things I like, such as the many, many Doctors, companions, Tardises, and Daleks you see every year, and we had a pod of them at the parade. Doctors from 4 to 11, one Dalek, a Tardis, and even an Osgood from the 50th. I saw at least five Osgoods over the weekend and each time regretted not saying “You there! Are you sciencey?” I’d have loved to be able to throw on my 11th Doctor suit and join them, but as official staff, my outfit was limited to “volunteer with jacket and backpack.”

Photo ops

One of the services… no, call it what it is, one of the products available at Comic Expo is photos with the various celebrities. These vary in price depending on marquee value, and this year ran from around $40 for lower-tier individuals to over $200 for the prized Matt Smith-Karen Gillan joint photo.

The photo op process is a rapid one. Once you reach the head of the line, you go in, stand in your place, you have maybe a couple of seconds to request something specific, then they take the picture and out you go, because there’s a lot of people behind you. Then spend some time becoming okay with the fact that your celeb looks great and you like a bulging tube of goo, or perhaps that your friend didn’t warn you how little time you’d have with the lovely Katie Cassidy of Arrow before the camera was going off.

I'm the bloated husk on the left, my young ward Patrick is the deer in headlights on the right, and between us is, gods willing, the future Black Canary.
I’m the bloated husk on the left, my young ward Patrick is the deer in headlights on the right, and between us is, gods willing, the future Black Canary.


Some people complain that this is way too brief an experience,feel that given how short this process is, maybe it’s overpriced. Some complain that for what a brief encounter it is, it’s overpriced, and then feel that the event is somehow exploiting them. And while it’s hard to say these people are wrong, per se, I can’t really see the point in getting outraged about it.

First, the photo ops have to go this fast. They have to. Hundreds, sometimes thousands of people want one, and are willing to pay for them, and moving at this pace is how everybody gets a turn without having to wait in line long enough to have a Firefly marathon. Also, it’s already a tiring process for the famous people involved. They’re doing this for around two hours at a time. On Saturday, Matt Smith had something like four, five hours of photos with thousands of fans, after doing his panel, and after hours of signing autographs, and by the end of it all he was reportedly exhausted, and I can’t exactly blame him.

Now imagine if everyone who bought a photo lingered around to ask a question or something. Putting aside how much this would cut the number of people who could get a photo op (suffice to say, a great deal), how much more tiring would that get? Would anyone be able to stay cheerful and pleasant for each and every person they had to greet and chat with? Wil Wheaton does his best, because he’s wonderful, but even he gets tired, and even he would get sick of repeat questions eventually. And there would be repeat questions. Every time Arrow’s Stephen Amell does a Q&A session through his Facebook page, somebody asks if he’ll be playing Green Arrow in the Justice League movie, a trend I only expect to increase now that said movie is officially happening. And each time, he does his best to diplomatically explain that this is not a decision he’s in charge of. But I doubt he’d be able to stay so calm and collected about it if he were being asked that, in person, fifty times an hour. Hell, I get tired of being asked the same question five times in one day.

Let me tell you about my Matt Smith/Karen Gillan photo experience. I have an exceptionally generous friend who always gets photo ops and always invites people to join, so I didn’t actually pay the $200 and change myself. The line moved quickly: two years ago, for our Star Trek: TNG group photo, we waited several hours. This time we were through in less than one, even including lining up in advance of the appointed start time. When our turn arrived, I calculated the walking pace necessary to ensure that I, specifically, ended up next to Ms. Gillan. I felt her arm go around me, and took this as permission to put mine around her as well, while trying above all to remain cool about it. The photo was taken, and we moved for the exit. I thanked both of them, and on the way out, thanked Matt Smith for three great seasons. He smiled, thanked me right back, and gave me a friendly slap on the shoulder…

…But the better story belongs to Ian Pond, of “Dan and Ian Wander Europe.” On the way in, one of the ladies in our photo announced that Ian’s last name is “Pond,” which got him a “Come along, Pond!” from Matt. And that’s pretty awesome.

Sure, the whole thing happened in less time than it probably took to read all of this, but it was special all the same. You can have a positive experience at these photo ops, you just have to learn to work fast.

Dan and Ian meet the Doctor!
Dan and Ian meet the Doctor!

Also, as long as so many people are willing to pay for photos and autographs, people are going to charge for them. Monetizing the audience is how every movie, TV show, and theatre out there pays the bills, and it’s been going on for centuries, so it’s a little late to start complaining now.

Other encounters

Besides, if you want more time to connect, get an autograph. It takes longer to write a message than it does to take a photo, and the cooler celebs won’t mind a little chatter.

Last year, I met the Seventh Doctor, Sylvester McCoy. He didn’t have a line at the time, so while we was signing me a Doctor photo, I mentioned that I’d seen him in Noises Off (a play I’d just been in myself) back in 2003. And while I can’t prove Matt Smith wasn’t just trying to be friendly in the above story, I do not exaggerate when I say Sylvester’s face lit up as soon as I mentioned that play. We had a nice little chat about the show, how insane it is to do live, but how much fun it is as a result.

This year I got autographs from Bruce Campbell, an actor I’ve loved for over half my life; Arrow’s Katie Cassidy, pictured above; and Adrian Paul, aka Duncan MacLeod, the Highlander, but the highlight had to be Manu Bennett, Azog the Defiler from the Hobbit movies and, more importantly to me, Slade Wilson on Arrow. He not only shook my hand twice, something most celebrities looking to escape the con without getting sick will avoid, but we had a nice chat about his performance, about some of the layers he’s given Slade recently. It was a thoroughly pleasant encounter, I like to think for both of us.

Staying Positive

Which brings me to one of my mission statements for the weekend: be kind to everyone. Wherever I was, whatever I was doing, be kind. When I was volunteering, I tried to be as friendly and helpful to the attendees as I could. When working the Scorpio booth, I greeted everyone with a smile. If someone was late arriving for an autograph session or they’d capped the line before I arrived, I was cool about it, and above all, did not take anything out on the volunteers. A volunteer working a media guest’s booth has no control over when they arrive or when they have to leave, they’re just decent people working hard for no money, and deserve some kindness and respect.

I’m kind to the media guests, and don’t try to hog more time than they have to spare or take candid photos without permission. I’m kind to the organizers, and don’t express any frustrations I might have had with volunteer policies in such a public forum (sorry, readers). It’s not hard. It ultimately feels better than being a dick about things, than throwing a tantrum at the girl telling me Manu Bennett isn’t signing any more autographs until later in the day, I’ll have to come back. And it’s just a better way to live.

Web comics

I’ve talked a lot about the celebrities, and while their panels can be great (certainly Bruce Campbell was entertaining and Matt and Karen were amazing) and I do like getting photos and autographs, I haven’t mentioned my other favourite thing about the Expo: web comic artists.

I read a lot of webcomics, several of the cool people behind them make the trek to Calgary each year. The line-up always varies, depending on people’s budget and availability, but I always try to see them and get some books, sketches, or other merch. Hell, some years I’m more excited about the web comic crowd than the celebrities.

I didn’t do as well as normal this year. I stopped by Girls With Slingshots creator Danielle Corsetto’s at some point on Friday, to fill out my collection of her books. She seemed briefly embarrassed to not remember me from previous years, which frankly seemed insane to me, and appreciated me not being a dick about it and instead explaining that I placed her under no obligation to do so given how many fans she must meet at these things. She’s a genuine delight of a human being, and it’s always a pleasure to see her, so I make sure to try and return that favour. Plus I got to watch Ryan Sohmer of Least I Could Do and the rest of the Blind Ferret empire repeatedly blast her with a confetti gun, which in his defense was pretty funny.

One of my favourites, Joel Watson of Hijinks Ensue, has been making regular appearances the last three. I always try to visit him, as he makes my favourite prints and t-shirts (and also a comic I routinely find hilarious), but this year he was with the crew from Cyanide and Happiness, as he’s been doing a lot of work with them on their YouTube shorts. And those guys were busy. There was always a line, and being constantly in a rush from place to place, I never got around to stopping by until the end of Sunday, when they were almost out of merch and no longer doing sketches (as the con was about to close and they didn’t have time), meaning I chose to forgo the line.

Randy Milholland of Something Positive was here for the first and, sadly, probably last time. Unfortunately Randy didn’t sell much over the weekend, and given how expensive it is to fly a bunch of prints and posters (and himself) from Texas to Calgary, he needed to. I made a last-minute stop to his table, buying four posters and two comics, but I doubt my $39 turned the corner and made the weekend profitable. Which is sad, because I love his comic and don’t like the idea of him losing money in my city.

He also drew an amazing Cards Against Humanity answer for a friend, but I can’t really speak of it here.

I also didn’t manage to make it to Jeph Jacques of Questionable Content (again…) but apparently he sold everything, so go him.

And it has just occurred to me that I posted links to all of those comics the one day almost all of them are doing guest or filler strips. Well, they’re all worth it, trust me.

Wow, all of that and we’ve just covered things I saw, not things I actuallydid. To be continued, I suppose.

Doctor Who: showrunners, companions, and turning 50

Okay. It’s come to this. A week and change later, I find I still have some opinions regarding the 50th anniversary episode of Doctor Who and some of the discussion that’s come out of it. Now, I had thought I could limit those opinions to “Day of the Doctor is so good, I want to watch it many more times,” but certain criticisms have popped up here and there and, well, here we are. With a blog post about Day of the Doctor.

Which will be filled with spoilers. Seriously. Filled. This is not a conversation I can have without spoiling the episode, so if you haven’t seen it, come back Wednesday when I’m talking about something else.

No, really. Stop now. Spoilers coming soon. For the 50th anniversary and a handful of things that lead up to it.

Okay. Those of you who have seen Day of the Doctor… allons-y.

The Moffat question

Let me begin by saying that I understand that there are people in the world, some of whom I like and respect, who aren’t crazy about Stephen Moffat. It’s a more controversial issue than I would have expected four years ago when I heard he was taking over. There are those who think he’s better at individual episodes than season arcs.

I admit: his season arcs tend to rely on the same gimmick. Open with something big an inexplicable (the crack, the impossible astronaut, souffle girl), spend the middle of the season wondering how this could be, then end by revealing the puzzle piece that makes it all make sense, and reveals all the bread crumbs along the way. Some people don’t dig this. And to those people, all I can say is that I accept this, I just don’t agree. I mean, his predecessor, Russell T. Davies, also had basically one trick: say “bad wolf” or “Torchwood” or somesuch once per episode then explain why in the two-part finale, more often than not while drowning people in Daleks.

That’s going to be an important point later.

In the end, Stephen Moffat has written nearly all of my favourite episodes, before and after taking over the series. And now that he’s in charge that happens way more often. For me, each season since 2005 has improved on the one before it, and if you don’t agree… I’m sorry you’re not enjoying the show as much as me. There’s really nothing else I can say. Our opinions vary and I’m not going to try to bludgeon you into changing yours. What I’m doing later in this blog is, instead, addressing some of the flaws in specific arguments I’ve been seeing. But first, a bit more background.

The companion issue

Another frequent criticism that turns up about Doctor Who nowadays is how it handles women. An internet comedienne whose work I enjoy used a clever term for it when she called current companion Clara Oswald “a hottie with a body but no plottie.” She’s certainly easy to look at…

Sorry, sorry, lost myself for a second there…

…but doesn’t really have her own story. And yes, in season seven, that’s hard to argue. The nature of Clara’s introductory plotline means that, unfortunately, she doesn’t really get to participate in her own story. That’s a fair cop. Hopefully she’ll have something more extensive next year. But she does fit into a larger companion archetype I’ll be getting to in a minute.

First, though, I’d like to remind everyone of two women Stephen Moffat introduced to the Doctor Who universe: Amy Pond and River Song. Amy Pond’s story is of a woman caught between two lives, two lives that are actively poisonous to each other: a life of running from world to world, experiencing unbelievable wonders and life-threatening terrors with the Doctor; or a simple, human life, home, family, career, and Rory. Yes, fine, these two worlds can be boiled down to the two men in her life if that’s how you’re going to try to spin it, but she is not defined by her men. Rory ultimately becomes part of both worlds, and in any life, Amy is nobody’s accessory. There’s a reason she and Rory are called the Ponds and not the Williamses. And River Song… well. River Song is a key part of a star-crossed love story crossing centuries and galaxies.

The point is, I would argue that Amy and River are just as developed, just as strong, and possess just as much agency as any companion from the Russell Davies era, and probably way more than most companions from the old school.

Because, well, Doctor Who hasn’t always been rigorous about writing its women. You think Clara lacks her own story? Go back to the 80s. Colin Baker years. Check out Peri Brown.

Shown here, demonstrating literally all she contributed in her two years in the Tardis.

The role of the companion in the old times was phrased best in the episode Terror of the Autons: “someone to pass you your test tubes, and to tell you how brilliant you are.” But that’s the 60s, 70s and 80s for you. These days we’re aware that women are real human people in their own right, and more to the point potential viewers, and we’d like the companions to be more than eye candy running around asking “What’s that, Doctor?” And they are. I put it to you that since the 2005 relaunch, companions have served one important recurring purpose.

The Doctor saves the day. The companions save the Doctor.

And not just from Daleks, Sontarans, or the Silence, although they do that as well from time to time. The companions save the Doctor from himself. From what he might become when left to his own devices. Look at this bonus scene, in which Amy learns about past companions. “I can’t see it anymore,” he says. On his own, the universe is just stuff with bits in. With someone, it’s once again a place of wonder. And there are other moments, from Russell Davies onwards:

Rose Tyler, Dalek: “[The Dalek]’s not the one pointing a gun at me… And what are you turning into?”

Donna Noble, Runaway Bride: “I think sometimes you need somebody to stop you.”

Amy Pond, A Town Called Mercy: “This is what happens when you travel alone for too long!”

Rose Tyler saved the Doctor from his guilt and fury over the Time War, helped him grow from the cynical, irritable, traumatized survivor played by Christopher Eccleston to the charming, best-friend-to-all galactic hero that was David Tennant. Martha Jones helped get him past the trauma of losing Rose (Martha was just 10’s rebound girl, and you’re going to say Amy is less dynamic? Get off my lawn). Donna Noble reminded him that even if he can’t save everybody, there is still value in saving somebody. Amy kept him going when the weight of years and his many failures threatened to pull him down (and kept him from killing a star whale). And Clara… Clara pulled him out of a self-imposed exile brought on by one heartbreak too many, and then did the impossible to save him from a thousand thousand deaths at the hands of the Great Intelligence. And she still had a trick left to pull, which I’ll discuss as I finally, 1200 words later, get around to the 50th anniversary.

The Time War

So aside from the general discontent some fans have with Moffat and the “women in Who” issue, the point of contention I’ve seen most often is that Day of the Doctor undoes something that’s been a central part of the series since the relaunch (do remember that phrasing, I’m coming back to it), the idea that the Doctor is the last of the Time Lords. That in order to save all of time and space from becoming collateral damage in the war between the Daleks and the Time Lords, the Doctor killed both sides, wiping out his own race. In The Day of the Doctor, 13 Doctors join forces to alter that moment, to save the Time Lords from destruction by freezing all of Gallifrey in a single moment, frozen in a 3D oil painting, waiting for the Doctor to find a way to restore it.

People then complained that this “erased” a key portion of the series. This article claims that an important element of Doctor Who is grief, and that under Stephen Moffat that has been lost.

And I’m calling bullshit on all of that. All of it.

To explain, I’ll divide the history of Doctor Who into four periods: The Old School or the original series (I’m not versed enough in its history to be able to divide it by showrunner, and that’s not important to my argument); The Wastelands, where Doctor Who was reduced to Big Finish audio dramas and one unfortunate American TV movie; the Davies Era; and the Moffat era. The article claims that Moffat doesn’t really kill as many people as Davies did, and that even when he does, the death gets undone a few episodes later at most. Amy’s parents, Rory, Strax, Jenny, Clara, none of them stay dead.

But I contest the assertion that because none of the main characters die for very long there’s no grief in the Moffat episodes. Losing Amy still rips the Doctor in half. Madame de Pompadour dies young, and dies waiting for her Doctor to return. Losing Rory hurts Amy enough that erasing him from history can’t heal the wound. Vincent Van Gogh still takes his own life. Guest stars still die by the dozen. And the Doctor spends his entire relationship with River knowing and dreading how it ends.

But beyond that is the idea that grief is central to Doctor Who. I disagree. I disagree completely and wholeheartedly. It’s been a big part of his character for the past eight years, sure, but remind me… what anniversary did we just hit? Was it eight? Or was it FIFTY.

Being the last of the Time Lords, having had to kill his own people, is a recent invention. It’s something Russell Davies added. It’s not present in the Old School. There’s no trace of it in the Wastelands. There are eight Doctors and 42 years of stories in which Gallifrey and the Time Lords not only aren’t dead, but are a huge part of the mythos. And yet people like the author of that article say that in opening the door to their return, Stephen Moffat has ruined something vital to the series, and I simply cannot agree with that. But for now, let’s look at it narratively.

What makes this such a major story point is the tragic necessity of the Doctor’s choice. The Doctor was forced to kill his own people because it was the only way to end the Time War and the horrors it unleashed, like the Horde of Travesties, the Nightmare Child, the Could-Have-Been King with his army of Meanwhiles and Never-Weres, and all of the forbidden weapons the Time Lords unleashed in a vain attempt to stop the Daleks. It had to end.

The Time War had to end. Not the Time Lords. Yes, many of the Time Lords had been twisted into something terrible by the horrors of the war, but not all of them. Not the over two billion children. And what makes it worse? At least, in that moment, he thought he was also putting an end to the Daleks. But he didn’t. He really, really didn’t.

See, people also complain about how easily they broke the “time lock” that kept anyone from travelling in or out of the final years of the war. But Moffat wasn’t exactly the first to do that, was he? The time lock has been broken over and over and over again, mostly by the Daleks. One Dalek escaped the Time War in Dalek, only to self-destruct. But the Dalek emperor also escaped the war and rebuilt an entire army of Daleks, only to be wiped out by Bad Wolf Rose. But the Cult of Skaro had also escaped, with an army of Daleks. Their army was sucked into the void between universes and most of the cult was wiped out in a slave revolt, but Dalek Caan escaped, punched through the time lock, and then escaped again with Davros and another Dalek emperor who built yet another Dalek army. Yes, the Doctor clone and Donna wiped them out as well, but one ship survived, found the last progenitor device, and rebuilt the Dalek empire for realsies. And that’s not even mentioning the Master and Rassilon in Out of Time.

So you’re telling me that the Daleks can do all of that, escape their own genocide no less than four times, but the Doctor finding a way to save his own people is ruining something?

Doctor Who is not about grief. Doctor Who is about wonder. It’s about intellect, romance, and hope, children, hope triumphing over brute force and cynicism. On the worst day of his life, the Doctor burned his own world to end a war and wipe out the Daleks, and the Daleks lived. If there was a way, any way, to end the Time War without killing his own people, why shouldn’t he take it?

And that’s what The Moment, the doomsday machine so powerful it became sentient and grew a conscience, tried to offer him. Another way. It has the power to burn a galaxy, but doesn’t want to, so instead it used its power to break the rules of time and open a hole out of the time lock, allowing three incarnations of the Doctor to come together, allowing the War Doctor to see what he would become in the wake of his horrible choice.

And allowing Clara Oswald to remind all of them of who the Doctor is. Of the promise he made in naming himself the Doctor: neither cruel nor cowardly, never give up, never give in.

Wonder, not grief, captured by
Wonder, not grief, captured by

Clara saves the Doctor, so that the Doctor can save Gallifrey, by doing what the Doctor does: something impossible. And something wonderful.

That doesn’t ruin the series. That embraces it. And nothing was changed or erased: the older incarnations forget, and the weight of the horrible decision is left in place, because, as they ask, how many worlds did he save out of that guilt? They simply give him a chance to save his own people. They undo something from the Davies era, an era I remind you represents 10% of Who history, and in the process, they open up the door for the return of a huge portion of the mythos that the Davies era cut out. Romana, his Time Lord companion from the 70s; Time Lord enemies the Master, the Rani, and Rassilon; and dare I hope? Dare I hope against all hope? He may yet fulfill that ancient promise he made to his granddaughter.

I can watch Sons of Anarchy if I want to watch a series of bad things happen to people because of their mistakes. This is Doctor Who. This is a series where anything can happen if you’re clever enough, if you dare to hope enough. Where every impossible choice has a better option if you’re willing to find it.

And if that ruins the show for you? I’m sorry, but we have not been watching the same show. And I think I prefer mine.