When Good Characters Feel Bad

Last week I wrote a post in which I said I wasn’t a fan of terrible things happening to characters I love. I suppose that sounds like a bit of a silly thing. Of course I don’t like it when bad things happen to a beloved character. Duh. But what I meant specifically is I’m dismayed when it’s something truly horrific and it only happens because the script says it needs to.

Crappy things often need to happen to main characters (and also not-so-main characters sometimes). That’s part of the hero’s journey. I’m all for seeing characters overcome adversity in order to grow and create a good story. But in my mind growth means a continuation of the same basic character. The change is a natural progression, based on the external (or sometimes internal) pressures and events they experience.

What I’m less fond of is when it doesn’t feel like a natural growth. Sometimes it feels like the creators decide a character should fundamentally change in a rather drastic way. And what’s the easiest way to make a great big change in a character’s personality? Why, have them experience something awful. Something so awful it’s scarring to their very being.

This can be tempting especially when a character has been gone for a good long time. Simply bringing back the character exactly as they were before might not feel right if it’s years later and the world has moved on. I can understand the impulse to have the character move on as well. I just don’t usually like it when creators bow to that impulse. No, that’s not quite right. When creators give a little bow to that impulse, it’s fine. When they prostrate themselves on the ground before it, that’s when I have trouble.

And here’s where I dip back into spoilery territory for Romana in the Big Finish audios. So jump ship now if you don’t want to know!

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The Romana I’ve heard in Big Finish doesn’t feel to me like the Romana I loved on television. My emotional reaction is that that character is gone and has been replaced with a completely new version. If she’d regenerated, I’d be much more comfortable with this. Regeneration is itself a fairly intense trauma, but it’s built into the fabric of the life of a Time Lord. Romana 2 didn’t regenerate. Instead she was put through a terrible experience and came out the other side acting very different. That’s what makes me sad.

I understand they wanted to make her tougher, but I thought Romana was plenty tough already—when she needed to be. When she didn’t need to be tough, she was delightful—smiling, witty, friendly, funny, charming. And yet you always knew that hard edge was there below the surface. I would have liked to see her a few (hundred) years down the road, more world weary, perhaps. Certainly wiser (which would be saying a lot). But not fundamentally different. I do feel that she’s now fundamentally different.*

That said, this is what they decided to do with her, and I’ve (mostly) come to terms with it. As I said, I really enjoyed the stories I listened to, and I look forward to hearing more. I’m not going to hold this decision against Big Finish forever (probably). I’ll make my peace and move forward. Not every creative decision needs to bow to my taste. That would be kind of awful. And probably boring–if not for me then certainly for the rest of the world.

Still, somewhere in my heart, there’s a universe where Romana was given the chance to grow into whomever she was going to become without needing quite such a harrowing, scarring experience to shape her. I see her in my mind’s eye.

And she’s smiling.

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*Reminder: I’ve only heard a few stories. I’m perfectly willing to revise my opinion as I fill out my Big Finish listening, something I quite look forward to doing as soon as I find the time and money.

Happy Birthday Amber!

Amber Eowyn

We may not have travelling pants, but there are a few dresses that have changed hands more than once. That’s right. Today, on her birthday, I’m talking about my sister. Amber Ananda Ensign was born on March 25th 19somethingsomething.* I was very excited because I wanted a sister. I was less excited when my parents didn’t take my suggestion and name her “Golden Hair”. (I’m pretty sure I’m remembering that right. Apparently I listened to a lot of America when I was four.)

When we were young, Amber and I were very different—and not just because I was five years older, and when you’re a kid, five years is a near-insurmountable gulf. It was more that Amber knew her mind from moment one. Continue reading

Romanadvoratrelundarriffic!

Patron-inspired posts are back! I’ve been quiet for a while, but I hope to change that in the coming month.

RomanaMeglos

I’m a big Romana fan from way back. As I’ve said before, Romana 1 is (often*) my favorite companion of all time. But she’s not the Romana I’m here to talk about. Today, I’m talking about Romana 2, and I’m still pretty thrilled about it. When I was younger, I waffled back and forth as to which was my favorite incarnation. The reason I often wobbled back to Lalla Ward’s portrayal was she was still “Romana”—as smart and savvy as ever, but she was just so gosh darn warm. Her Romana was a more open and instantly-friendly** version, and that suited (and suits) me just fine.***

Anyway, the reason I’m talking about good old Romana II here is one of my fabulous patrons, Darren, requested it! But the excitement I feel isn’t just because I get to talk about my beloved Romana 2. Continue reading

Presta Shobogan, Elven Ranger

Presta

As promised, today I’m sharing my newest D&D character—the one I’m currently playing in Season 3 of Total Party Kill.* We’re playing “Dungeons and Dragons”, which I think is a dumb name—not the name itself, but the fact that Wizards of the Coast isn’t including an edition number. Like this is the be-all, end all of all D&D forever. We’re nerds. We like numbering things and putting them in order. Have they not read their own books? D&D is all about** minutiae like that!

Okay. Sorry. /rant

So yeah, we’re playing what everyone refers to as Continue reading

D&D-elightful!

D&D dice & 5e PHB

As I type this,* it’s Sunday, February 22nd, 2015. As much as I love watching a good awards show (I really do), instead of watching the Oscars tonight, I get to do something even better. I get to play D&D online with a bunch of talented and funny people. I’ve been playing D&D with The Incomparable crew since June of last year, but we’ve just recently switched campaigns (back to the Dark Sun campaign they all started well over a year ago), so I got to do something I both love and hate– Continue reading

Ode to Gally

Frazer and me Gally 2015

Dearest Gally,

How do I miss thee? Let me count the ways.
I miss thee to the depth and breadth and height (of the LAX Marriott).
My soul is bleak when cosplay’s out of sight.
For the days of meeting in ideal space (Programs A, B, C, D, E).
I miss thee to the level of each con day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and poolside-light.
I miss thee freely, as Lobbycon night.
I miss thee purely, as LA sun’s rays.
I miss thee with passion Gally sets loose
For my beloved show, my childhood fave.
I miss thee for the stress I seem to lose
With my first drinks. I miss thee with the breath,
Smiles, squees, of all my fandom; and, I muse,
I shall but miss thee more until the next.

(Apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning.)

Coming back to real life after a convention is never easy. After Gallifrey One, it’s even more difficult. It’s the one time of year when I’m surrounded by the greatest number of my closest friends. When I can make a joke about a Jameson bottle cosplaying as a Sea Devil, and the whole room gets the joke. There are no words to describe just how important this trip is to me, so I’m not going to try. What feels easier at the moment are words about trying to put myself back into the “real” world.

Unpacking all the lovely geeky t-shirts (some new!) I wore on stage? Heartbreaking.

The shock of having to wake up early, not for a panel or an interview, but for a cold, snowy trip to the office? No thanks.

The coworker who asked about my trip only to be polite so she could immediately talk at length about her own personal news? I could do without.

A day full of email triage and scrambling to document everything that got missed while I was gone? Dreadful.

Having to rush to the library at lunch to pick up a comic book for podcast homework? … Actually, that one’s pretty okay.

And with that, I’ve reminded myself there are parts of “real life” that are gosh-darned great. I encourage all my fellow travelers experiencing Gally-withdrawal to look for those bright spots and hold onto them nice and tight. That’s what I plan on doing! …Until May 1st at 11am Mountain Time,* at which point, the jonesing will start up again. It’s a vicious cycle, but one I wouldn’t trade for anything.

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*That’s when Gally 2016 tickets go on sale!

Note: That picture is of me interviewing Jamie McCrimmon himself, Frazer Hines!

Gallifrey Bound!

Gally 26

Is there anything more distracting than having only two more days of work before leaving for a much-anticipated vacation?* Because that’s what I’ll be experiencing as this post drops. As you read this, I’m probably struggling with my brain, telling it to read those emails and document those issues when all it wants to do is think of California sun and Doctor Who fans and guests and guests who are fans.

That’s right. Wednesday morning, Steven and I will be waking up bright and early** to head for the airport to take us to Los Angeles for the Gallifrey One convention.  I cannot wait. I’ve only been going for a few years, but I already think of it as my “primary” con. It’s where I get to see many of my favorite people, most of whom I only get to see once a year. Chatting on Twitter or on Skype is quite nice, but there’s something special about the energy in the room when we can get together and talk face-to-face. And hugs! I miss hugging my friends.

Panels!

In addition to prodigious amounts of hanging with my friends, I’ll also be doing my usual couple of panels (italicized descriptions are lifted right from the program materials, found here***):

Rivers and Captains and Teachers of Maths
6:30pm – Friday in Program D
From River Song to Captain Jackº and Danny Pink, from Madame Vastra’s Paternoster Gang to Mickey Smith and Wilf, Osgood and Kate Lethbridge-Stewart too… we love our recurring players in Doctor Who. Our panel will take a look at what the supporting cast has brought over the years, from the long-running to the one-shots (Astrid Peth and Santa, anyone?), and how they’ve enriched the universe of Doctor Who.

Twelfth Nights
1pm Sunday – Program C
Love him or loathe him, revel in his adventures or scratch the collective head – reactions to the adventures of Peter Capaldi’s Doctor in his inaugural year have been as varied as they are fervent. We’ll discuss the first season of adventures of the Twelfth Doctor in detail, hitting high points and low, and discuss how Doctor Who has changed over the past ten years to lead up to this moment of Capaldi’s older, more abrasive take on the role.

Interviews!

Okay, here we get to the truly exciting (and possibly terrifying) part. This year, for the first time ever, I’ll be doing some on-stage interviews. Truth-be-told, I’m thrilled about this, and I’m (mostly) expecting they’ll go great. But it’s a new thing for me, and I always have trouble with new things, so if you’ll be at Gally, and have some free time Saturday morning, I’d be mighty obliged if you showed up and pretended to be entertained. I mean, I’d rather you actually be entertained, but I’ll take fake enthusiasm too!

Anyway, here are when those are happening:

Gary Russell
10am Saturday – Program B

Frazer Hines
10:45am Saturday – Program B

I’m truly honored to be able to do these, and I hope I do them justice. I adore Gary Russell, and he’s a consummate pro when in the interviewer chair, so I’m pleased he’s up first. I’ve seen Frazer in interviews, and he’s as delightful as he is experienced at these things, so I feel like I’m in good hands in both cases. Still though, the more support I have in the audience, the better!

For those of you not heading to LA this week, I hope whatever you do is even half as thrilling as Gally will be for me. Seriously. Enjoy the heck out of yourselves. I know I will be!

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*Okay, maybe having just one more day will be even worse.

**Though less early than we had to for our last trip. 3am was just too darn early. 6am is more doable.

***If you’re curious what my fellow Verities will be up to, look no further!

ºI hope to avoid the argument about whether Captain Jack (or anyone else) is actually a companion. I don’t have a whole lot of hope though.