“It’s a mutual admiration society.” – Gallifrey One 2017

Posted by Kim and Sage

Sage: This isn’t a normal time — not to go to a con or to eat a sandwich or anything else. But Gallifrey One 2017 still happened. Not rain, not sleet, and apparently not the speedy death of democracy can keep Doctor Who fans from gathering yearly at the LAX Marriott over President’s Day Weekend (THE IRONY) to hug, drink, and talk shop. L.I. Who happened the weekend after the election, and the general mood of the con was utter shock and numbness. But a few months passed, and the next geeky fan get together we attended was basically Resistance Central. Gally1 was political af this year without the despair and depression that can come with that. There was camaraderie and joy and and a lot of “hell no, we won’t go.” The whole weekend felt like a declaration of who we are, what we stand for, and what we absolutely will not abide. Is that a fair characterization?

Kim: I feel like I stumbled through a lot of LI Who in a state of bewilderment. That’s not to say that it wasn’t an AMAZING experience (remember when we interviewed Paul McGann on the mainstage?) because it was. I just had never experienced a con where the main feeling was almost…”Is this the right thing to do at this moment? Is this whole experience silly when you look at what’s going on in the world?”  Gally felt like a giant bottle of Gatorade to my parched soul. It was revitalizing. It was a time where we could immerse ourselves in both our fandom AND our friendships. I left Los Angeles on Monday afternoon physically exhausted but emotionally? I was raring to go.

TL;DR, yes, that’s absolutely a fair characterization. And it’s a big reason why this con is so freaking special to every person who comes and why it’s the CANNOT MISS convention on my calendar every year.

The Resistance starts here.

What blows my mind the MOST about Gally is that the attendance is right up around 3000 people, and yet it feels like a family, especially the more times you go back. I know there are a TON of people there I don’t know yet every face at the con looks familiar. You can barely walk more than a few yards on that con floor without running into someone you know and having a chat or hugging that person you flailed in line for a photo-op the previous year. How special is that?

Sage: I can only speak confidently for myself, but I’d wager that I’m not the only person at this con who went through a period of my life where I felt invisible and socially inept. (Everyone: “Yeah, dummy, it’s called high school.”) My point is that Gally brings together a lot of scrappy folks who haven’t had it easy, and this is a place where they can strut confidently down the halls in whatever it is they want to wear, live their fandom out loud, and be surrounded by people ready and willing to embrace them. It feels like I’m reaching back in time to tap the friendless 13-year-old in the Han Solo t-shirt and tell her that someday she’ll find her tribe.

And what a tribe it is.

But enough teenage sob stories. Let’s talk about the important stuff: ribbons.

The Gally ribbon game is always strong, but this year it was TOO LIT. “Black Lives Matter.” “Don’t You Think He Looks Tired? (with clip art of Tr*mp)” “Bustin’ fascists makes me feel good.” Those practical pronoun declarations!

The 2017 ribbon game is TOO LEGIT. #levelup #blacklivesmatter #RESIST #Gally1

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Swapping ribbons has always been a big part of the fun for me, because it’s like I’m getting little pieces of everybody I meet to take home with me. And though there were the requisite Doctor Who quotes and podcast promo designs, I was so delighted to see that people were using those little scraps of fabric to make a real statement. And you can tell us in the comments if it happened to you, but I personally didn’t see anyone take any shit for a political ribbon. I really hope that’s representative of the whole weekend.

Kim: One of my favorite things in the build-up to Gally is the Ribbon Exchange group on Facebook, where everyone shares the designs they are planning to bring to the con. What’s super fun about that group is that it feels like people took inspiration from each other and one politically themed ribbon would spawn at least five more. I think it was a combination of the current state of the world and the fact that we only had “Doctor Mysterio” to provide inspiration for new ribbons that REALLY spurred people to up their creativity. There were so many Star Wars ribbons! My final ribbon count was 215 and there are STILL a few ribbons that I am SUPER upset that I didn’t get. Namely the “But when all is said and done, Saxon has beliefs, Tr*mp has none.” one. I will cry over not getting that one for a long time.

Stick it to the man.

Speaking of taking inspiration from each other, I have to bring up our Punk Companions Cosplay. What started as an idea inspired by some Punk!Bucky art we saw at San Diego Comic Con became so much more than that. We debuted the Punks at LI Who as just a fun chance for our girl group to get creative and have fun together because we aren’t screen accurate cosplayers, for the most part. And it’s a cosplay that works the best within a large group because individually we may not be recognizable but when we’re together, it’s like “Of course! There’s Clara, there’s Romana, etc.” The Punks got taken to the next level for Gally when Alyssa (@WhovianFeminism) suggested that we add protest signs themed to all our companions. It was perfect because we did our cosplay on the same day as the first General Strike, so it felt like we got to have the best of both worlds – Being massively creative Doctor Who nerds while making our own political statement. And the best thing about it? We didn’t get any sort of blow back from it. Other than a few trolls on the Nerdist Instagram post anyway.

Punk Modern Companions.

Group Selfie Time!

Another really important aspect of Gally is that it feels like a safe space for you to push yourself outside your comfort zone. While I didn’t do any formal panels this year, I definitely upped my participation level, which is always something I’ve been HORRIBLE about. I’ve sat on the front row of “In Defense Of” EVERY YEAR and judged the hell out of the BS coming out of the participant’s mouths (which is the fun of the whole thing) but I’ve never had the guts to put myself on the line. It’s silly, really, because if you can’t make a fool of yourself at Gally, where can you? After Michelle’s triumphant performance at LI Who, I promised myself that I would do it. That didn’t stop me from breaking out into a cold sweat the moment Deb Stanish called my name though. “In Defense Of” is like an out-of-body experience in the BEST way. You just have to give no fucks in regards to whatever comes out of your mouth (I actually tied Tegan getting the snacks to women throughout history being water-bearers?! I don’t even know where that came from.) or turn your OWN criticism on topics into sarcastic defenses (Shippers NEED to be told by old school fans how to think about Doctor Who, you guys). I was RELIEVED when I finally was dethroned but it was the MOST FUN and I’m so glad I did it.

Kim's team DOMINATED Paul Cornell's "Would I Lie To You?" because they are all compulsive liars who can't be trusted. #Gally1

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When you combine that experience with doing a live Comedy Sketch for Reality Bomb and participating in Paul Cornell’s “Would I Lie To You?” game show, so much of my panel experience was performance oriented and fly by the seat of your pants improv, which was a totally new thing for me. And it felt GOOD remembering that part of me that went kicking and screaming into my college improv troupe before I ended up loving it.

Paneling

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“Life’s not a comic book, right?” – Doctor Who Recap – The Return of Doctor Mysterio

source: gloriusamy.tumblr.com

Doctor Who 2016 Christmas Special
“The Return of Doctor Mysterio”
Posted by Kim

I’m a young Whovian. (I’ll be six this December!) I had no idea the show existed during the year of one David Tennant Special every few months. I was too busy bingeing the show during the 9 and a half months between “The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe” and “Asylum of the Daleks” to realize that existing fans had been without the show for so long. I really had no idea what it was like to wait SO LONG for new Who until this year break between “The Husbands of River Song” and “The Return of Doctor Mysterio” and let me speak for all of us when I say it SUCKED. (Could no Who be one of the reasons 2016 ended up being a dumpster fire? Discuss.) So I curled up on Christmas evening to watch Doctor Who and was overwhelmed with a desire to just hug my television. PETER CAPALDI I MISSED YOU SO MUCH NEVER LEAVE ME AGAIN.

Will “The Return of Doctor Mysterio” go down as the Best Christmas Special in Whovian History? No. (My shipper trash self will always go for “Last Christmas” and “The Christmas Invasion” first.) But it was a fun take on a superhero story, filled with charming performances and snappy dialogue, AND no one died, which is all we can ask for from a Christmas Special, really. It also serves as a lovely coda for Series 9 and last year’s special “The Husbands of River Song” while also setting up the Doctor’s emotional state going into Series 10. (Here’s a hint: he’s desperately lonely, but at the same time, he’s afraid to commit to a new Human companion because he’s still reeling from the loss of Clara and River.)



source: ochocolate.tumblr.com
One of the themes that Series 9 explored was the concept of the Doctor coming face to face with the repercussions of his actions in regards to the people he’s encountered and left. We saw the disastrous results of an encounter with the Doctor in Ashildr/Lady Me; we get the opposite in the story of Grant, a young comic book nerd who saves the Doctor from plummeting to his death on a Christmas Eve in New York City. (Never mind that whole plot thread about the TARDIS never being able to go back to New York after the events of “The Angels Take Manhattan”. It’s Christmas, no one care about continuity.) The Doctor is setting up a trap on Grant’s roof (Why? Details, schmetails! Look at how cute Peter Capaldi is with this kid! Look at how they are bonding over superheroes!) and enlists his new pal to help him finish it.

The Doctor hands Grant a red gemstone as he attempts to explain to Grant exactly WHAT he is doing (“It’s a time distortion equalizer thingy.” Okay, so maybe he’s trying to fix what happened in “Angels Take Manhattan”?). The gemstone is the final element to get it to work but unfortunately Grant mistook it for medicine to help his Christmas Cold, so he swallowed it. (In his defense, I’m sucking on a Halls right now and it looks just like the gemstone did.) Because this is a superhero origin story, naturally this is no ordinary gemstone. No, it’s an intuitive gemstone. “It knows what you want and it draws energy from the nearest star to make it happen.” What does meek little Grant want most in the whole world? To be a superhero. Grant’s chest glows red and he zooms off the building, the Doctor clutching at his heels. Hey, it’s better than a bite from a radioactive spider. The Doctor makes Grant promise that he won’t use his newly found powers but we all know how THAT will turn out. I mean…if you could fly, wouldn’t YOU? Exactly.


source: fafana20.tumblr.com
What goes down for the rest of the episode is lovely homage to Superman (The Christopher Reeve films, naturally. AKA the only ones that exist). Grant lives a double life as a glasses-wearing mild-mannered Nanny and the confident protector of New York City, The Ghost. (Grant also proves his knowledge of comics because he completely covers his face as The Ghost, unlike Superman, who only uses glasses to differentiate himself from his Alt-Ego Clark Kent.) We have a feisty Lois Lane heroine in Lucy Fletcher Lombard, Grant’s employer and unrequited childhood love. There are shady alien bad guys, Harmony Shoal, who are a bunch of brains in blue liquid trying to stage a fake alien takeover so they can take over the bodies of world leaders. (Also, they exist solely to show how much the special effects on Doctor Who have improved since the days of the Slitheen.) There are hijinks, there’s screwball romance, and there’s heroism. Grant (with the Doctor’s help) saves New York City AND gets the girl, who loves him, just as he is. The end.

Source: scriptscribbles.tumblr.com

So why am I even doing an episode recap if I found the plot so basic? Because despite the fluff, I think “The Return of Doctor Mysterio” is an incredibly important episode for the Doctor as a character. The Doctor needed a WIN, y’all. Think about it. The Doctor spent four and a half billion years in his own personal hell, mourning Clara, grieving her, and torturing himself trying to find a way to save her. And he STILL lost her in the end. He lost her physically and he lost every memory of the woman who helped shaped this regeneration into the man he is today. (*Dark Kermit Meme* He totally remembers her though, which makes it worse.) Sure, “The Husbands of River Song” was a wacky good time adventure but how did it END? It ended with The Doctor spending a 24-year-long night with someone he loved, only to send her off to her imminent death in the library. I may never buy into the great love story of the Doctor and River Song (nope, can’t do it) but I will NEVER deny the fact that he loved her, wholeheartedly. So he lost her too. All the Doctor has done lately is LOSE and it’s heartbreaking.

Grief is not an easy process and it’s not something that anyone can put on any sort of time-table. You can be fine one day and the next day it can sweep over you and leave you incapacitated. The Doctor in “The Return of Doctor Mysterio” is a portrait of grief. Sure, he’s there with his sarcastic remarks and his heroic acts of defending the earth, but it’s almost like his heart isn’t fully in it. He’s trying to put one foot in front of the other, telling himself that he’s “fine” (Okay, Scully.) when he’s not. The cracks in the facade show whenever the concept of time comes up or whenever Nardole tries to push him into talking about his feelings. He pushes through and carries on as normally as possible because that’s the only thing he knows how to do.

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16 Things We Learned at New York Comic Con 2016, Part I

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Posted by Kim and Sage

I don’t have any grey hairs yet, so I’m marking the aging process by how tired I get when someone even MENTIONS Comic Con. Some people’s bodies show evidence of long-term damage from playing sports or running a marathon. I want to know about the long-term effects of standing on a cement floor in a pair of Toms for five hours straight.

But New York Comic Con is a tentpole event of our year and endure, we must. Once again, we headed back to the Javits for four full days of fandom fun. (I usually say “nights” too, but we left the after-parties to the kids this year. Your grandmas had to go home to watch their shows.) As ever, NYCC was a learning experience. And we’re here to pass those lessons along to you. –Sage

1. Tapping in Is the Way of the Future

Head Over Feels line selfie NYCC

The principle difference between New York Comic Con and San Diego Comic Con is the fact that they clear their mainstage hall between each panel. (Would that SDCC could figure out a way to clear Hall H between panels, honestly.) For the past two years, NYCC has had a wristband system for their mainstage panels, where each panel had a chute in the queue hall and you would have to pick one to wait in until 10 AM, at which time harried volunteers would then put wristbands on impatient nerds one by one until the panel was capped out. Then, if you wanted to do another panel, you would go into that chute to get another wristband if that panel had not capped out. This system worked because it FORCED you to prioritize your mainstage panels but at the same time it was a sloooooooow process and human error was a big factor. (Notoriously last year, the volunteers gave out wristbands for the Jessica Jones panel to the standby line first, cutting off people who had gotten there much earlier.)

When in line, read fan fic.

When in line, read fan fic.

For NYCC 2016, a new system was implemented. Instead of wristbands, volunteers tapped the RFID chip on the badges, which registered your spot on the panel. Then, when it came time to load people in for panels, you would have to tap your badge to gain admittance into the room. I had some doubts about how this system would work at first, but let me tell you…it worked BEAUTIFULLY. First of all, they started tapping our badges almost as soon as the initial rush got settled into the chutes, allowing the crowds to either go get in the line for the show floor or another mainstage line. Second, you got an email confirmation from the system as soon as your badge was tapped, leaving no room for doubt that you would indeed be attending that panel. Third, it allowed the NYCC app to give constant updates on the status of each panel and whether or not they had capped. (For example, we got buzzed that the Iron Fist panel had capped before we even made it into the queue hall on Saturday morning.) Fourth, it slowed the crush of humanity and the race for good seats when they were loading everyone into the room for the panels because every single person had to have their badge tapped. It was all dignified and organized and dare I say CALM which was refreshing as hell. Well done, NYCC. Four for you.

I also have to give a bonus shout-out to the staff of NYCC for choosing to allow the crowd to be loaded into the Javits Center on Sunday morning MUCH earlier than normal due to inclement weather. A little kindness goes a LONG way, especially on the last day of a long weekend. Snaps. –Kim

2. “Native Stories” Are Maybe Not Ethan Hawke’s Area of Expertise

Ethan Hawke and Greg Ruth NYCC

Our first panel was our most problematic one. Well. Nice to get it out of the way.

For Reality Bites/Before trilogy/Dead Poets reasons, we checked out the panel Ethan Hawke was speaking on, along with artist Greg Ruth. They were talking about a black-and-white graphic novel they collaborated on called Indeh:  A Story of the Apache Wars. The panel was titled “Native Stories.” Guess how many Native people were sitting on the dais. Goose egg.

I haven’t read this book. And both Ruth and Hawke seemed to be passionate about presenting a quintessentially American story from a history that’s shamefully ignored. I won’t make a judgment about who can tell whose stories, though I have many, MANY thoughts about it. What I want to talk about is the collaborators’ responses to serious and frankly obvious questions about strapping on the ol’ cultural blinders. Moderator Abraham Reisman from Vulture introduced the elephant in the room, asking if Ruth and Hawke ever had any qualms about being two white men writing and framing a Native American narrative.

Ethan Hawke and Greg Ruth NYCC

“AS A WHITE GUY…”

You guys. The mental and verbal gymnastics that these men did. It was almost inspiring. Tone-deaf and drowning in privilege, but inspiring. The answer pinged back and forth between Ruth and Hawke and lasted for nearly ten minutes. The conclusion Hawke came to was this: “We’ve given ourselves a harder time for this than anyone.” OH OKAY. Great news, y’all. An artist accused himself of cultural appropriation; thought about it long and hard; and then found himself not guilty. The justice of it all. The ability of white cis straight men to forgive themselves while outside criticism ricochets off them like bullets off Luke friggin’ Cage is truly amazing.

Oh, Hawke mentioned that he’d given the galleys of the book to two of his castmates on The Magnificent Seven: Martin Sensmeier, who grew up in a Tlingit community in Alaska, and Jonathan Joss, who was born in Texas and has Comanche and Apache blood. He told the audience that the actors “and their entire families” had a LOT of feedback for him. And he didn’t volunteer the nature of that feedback, so I’m guessing it wasn’t positive.

Ethan Hawke and Greg Ruth NYCC

That conversation came about when an audience member asked the panelists if they’d spoken with any indigenous people while working on the book. Hawke went on and on about how “inviting too many” people into the creative process “dilutes” it. (???????) The whole first half of the panel was all about how these two poured blood and sweat into this book in their selfless effort to tell this story accurately, but a couple of notes from an ACTUAL Apache would have derailed the whole exercise? And how is handing over a finished copy to the only native folks in your immediate vicinity so they can tell you how great it is comparable to responsible cultural storytelling? I hope they recorded this and reviewed the game tapes of this one later, because GEEZ. –Sage

3. Matt Smith, Jenna Coleman, and Alex Kingston Like Each Other A Whole Lot

Matt Smith Jenna Coleman Alex Kingston panel NYCC

NYCC 2016 was overflowing in riches when it came to Doctor Who. (About time, really. This is our fourth year going and other than a Big Finish panel in 2013 and a Q&A with Arthur Darvill in 2014, Doctor Who has been incredibly absent from NYCC.) Not only did we get a panel with the current TARDIS team (more on that later), we got a nostalgia panel with Matt Smith (The Eleventh Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara Oswald, queen of our hearts), and Alex Kingston (River Song). We have had the pleasure of seeing Alex and Jenna on panels at other conventions but we’ve never had the pleasure hearing Matt Smith talk about his time in the TARDIS in person. All three of these cupcakes are great on their own but putting them together on one panel? That is something special, friends. It was such a delight to see the genuine affection they have for each other and the way they played off of each other. That hour FLEW by. –Kim

  • Want a lesson on how tabloid reporting works? Matt quipped that he was on a panel with his wife and his girlfriend and MINUTES later there was an article on Radio Times proclaiming “Matt Smith calls Clara The Doctor’s Girlfriend!!” (They even pulled one of our tweets as proof of this statement, thanks guys!) Never mind that Matt totally said it tongue in cheek.
  • Jenna is fresh off the success of Victoria and Matt made no bones about fawning over his former co-star? “You’re getting a Christmas Special? Bloody Hell!” HE’S SO PROUD OF HER.
  • Matt also has done the math for the character he plays in Netflix’s The Crown and Jenna’s Victoria. “Great-great-great-son-in-law. So TECHNICALLY we could get it on.” Okay, we’re all agreed that everyone was a little bit in love with Jenna, yes? Yes. Moving on.
  • There was a LOT of discussion about Arthur Darvill’s role on Legends of Tomorrow. “To me, he’s always Silly Old Rory with his strange face,” Matt quipped when asked if Arthur was better at playing a Time Lord-esque character than him. Alex added to the brain melting Whovian family tree by factoring in HER role as Sara Lance’s mother on Arrow. “My daughter on Arrow is now on Legends with my father. Technically, Rip is Sara’s grandfather?” THAT MAKES SHIPPING THEM PROBLEMATIC, WHOOPS.

Matt Smith Jenna Coleman Alex Kingston panel NYCC

  • Not seen in any of these pictures: Alex’s IMPRESSIVE statement ring.
  • Alex prefers Capaldi’s TARDIS to Matt’s. I also think she said this to rile Matt up because he was notoriously jealous that she went back to Doctor Who because he’s more than a little possessive of River as Eleven’s person. She also said that Ten’s TARDIS “felt a little like being inside a pumpkin.”
  • Jenna originally auditioned for Mels. “They were never going to cast me as Karen Gillan’s best friend because I’m just too short for her!”
  • Matt was asked when he would be following Karen and David’s lead by joining a Marvel franchise. “My question is…when will they ask me?” SOON PLEASE AND THANK YOU.
  • As tends to be the norm on panels like these, there was a lot of love for Billie Piper and Rose Tyler. Matt picked her as the companion he would have liked to have worked with (“She’s my friend and I like her.”) and Alex told a story of getting smashed with Bills at a bar after they did a convention together. Add that tidbit to the tales John Hurt told of drinking with Billie while they were filming the 50th and you have the person WE most want to party with from the Doctor Who family.
  • “It was amazing…I shit my pants though.” – Matt getting real about shooting the TARDIS arriving in Trafalgar Square for the 50th Anniversary.

Matt Smith Jenna Coleman Alex Kingston panel NYCC

  • Matt commented that some of his favorite scenes he filmed with Jenna were the more domestic scenes between Clara and Eleven. He specifically pointed out the scene in “The Bells of St. John” where Eleven set out a platter of Jammy Dodgers for a sleeping Clara which OUCH. Clara and the Doctor is SO REAL.
  • Drinking often proved the only way to battle the cold Welsh weather…or so Alex claimed when Matt called them out for drinking red wine all while filming “The Time of Angels” and “Flesh and Stone.”
  • Alex is in complete favor of River Song joining forces with Torchwood if the reboot happens. YES PLEASE OH MY GOD.
  • “He’s like a jazz musician. But in space.” – Matt perfectly summing up his interpretation of The Doctor.
  • “I quite like that one with The Devil.” – Matt picking his favorite RTD episode and proving that his taste is exquisite because “The Satan Pit” is FLAWLESS. Fight us.
  • The moderator dared to suggest that Clara was a bad teacher because she missed so much time on her adventures with The Doctor. Jenna shut that shit down IMMEDIATELY, reminding him that Clara’s agreement with The Doctor involved taking her back to the moment she left so she WOULDN’T miss anything in her normal life. Queen.

Matt Smith Jenna Coleman Alex Kingston panel NYCC

  • Doctor Who, at its core, is a show about love. In all forms. So put that in your pipe and smoke it.” – Alex Kingston, gloriously shutting down all the Noromo Whovians.
  • When the panel was asked if anyone ever broke anything on set, both ladies turned and pointed at Matt. “I am Matt and I am clumsy,” he said ruefully. The Drunken Giraffe is a real thing, y’all.
  • Jenna: “I broke the TARDIS on my first day. It was awful.” Matt: “You just broke my heart.” WHY IS HE LIKE THIS?
  • Alex hopped to Matt’s defense when one fan accused him of leaving the show too soon. “Do you KNOW how hard they work the Doctors?” Then she recounted Capaldi’s exhausting schedule while they were filming “The Husbands of River Song” and it made me want to take a nap.
  • “That’s one of my great regrets. That I didn’t get a full season with Jenna.” He also called her “Coleman” at one point, really we’re fine.

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Vote for the Third Annual Feelies!

Posted by Kim and Sage

The great Ron Swanson said that awards are stupid, but they are less stupid when they go to the right people. No disrespect yet ALL the disrespect to the Emmys, but when it comes to television there are WAY shows more shows and performances than the principle awards bodies can possibly recognize. (Plus the Emmys are fucking lazy and repeatedly nominate the same people based on history and celebrity, whatever it’s fine.) The thing we love about the Feelies is that they are completely determined by YOU. We may choose the nominees but the outcome is in the hands of whatever fandom chooses to mobillize. Any of these nominees would be worthy winners. We wouldn’t pick them if we didn’t think so? So who deserves to be the Feelie champions for 2016? Read on to see who we think deserves a shot at the mantle.The rest is up to you. –Kim

Best Comedy

Broad City
Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
Jane the Virgin
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Veep

Sage: The urban adventures of Abbi  and Ilana raged on in the third uproarious season of Broad City. The girls grappled with period emergencies, apartment shares websites, snooty co-ops, and clever cameos by Vanessa Williams and Tony Danza. But as ever, the best lady friendship on TV was at the heart of it all. Brooklyn Nine-Nine‘s skilled and diverse (YAY) ensemble has relaxed into each other, and the continued viability of the Jake and Amy relationship proved that Mike Schur still knows how to make a ship canon without killing our buzz. The cop comedy keeps on quietly slaying with sharp, character-based humor and unexpectedly poignant moments. Veep went into this year with a new showrunner, but the best (and at this point, most true) political comedy on TV didn’t lose its momentum or its foul-mouthed edge. Julia Louis-Dreyfus is still beyond-excellent; the scripts are still sharp enough to draw blood; and the season ended with a stroke of genius game-changer.

Kim: Last year’s champ Jane the Virgin delivered another stellar season filled with heart, ridiculous melodrama, meta commentary, and telenovela antics as Jane and Petra tackled the challenges of learning to be a new mom without completely losing their sense of self. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt took its quirky humor to new heights as Kimmy continued to take ownership over her new life while coming to terms with her traumatic past. And lastly, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend took all the things we love in life (musical numbers, searing feminist commentary, cute boys, body positivity) and blended them into one delicious confection of a television show that EVERYONE needs to be watching.

Best Drama

Doctor Who
Jessica Jones
Outlander
Penny Dreadful
Scandal
UnReal

Kim: Never one to rest on its laurels, series nine of Doctor Who took all sorts of creative risks, from structuring the entire series into two-parters to having one episode be a 45 minute soliloquy for Peter Capaldi to having an entire episode constructed out of “found” footage. (Well, like all risks in life, you can’t win them all.) It also punched us right in the feels as we bid a devastating goodbye (or is it a see you soon?) to Clara Oswald. After a lackluster fourth season, Scandal was revitalized by both Olivia kicking Fitz to the curb and the political intrigue of the Presidential Campaign. (Grant/Ballard 2016, y’all!) In what turned out to be its swan song, Penny Dreadful deftly balanced the terror of the supernatural (DRACULA) with the terror of a more human nature (misogyny, daddy issues) all while Eva Green stood in the center of the storm, giving the bravest performance on television.

Sage: A superhero show that tackles rape culture, toxic masculinity, and survivor recovery? I devoured Jessica Jones in a two-day binge, dazzled by its bravery and neo-noir style. Anyone who tells you that Outlander is a mere bodice ripper has been misinformed. Bodices were ripped in Season 2, thank god, but the superbly-acted genre-defying series also moved effortlessly from the salons of Paris to the battlefields of Scotland to the 1960s and took its characters to the brink yet again. UnREAL had a bit of a stumble in its sophomore outing but technically the Feelies season falls such that Season 1 can also be considered. And Season 1 of UnREAL was a doozy. Anchored by two female anti-heroes (TWO. In one show. And they’re FRIENDS.), the Lifetime drama exposed the seedy underbelly of reality TV and thus, became just as addictive.

Best Actress in a Comedy

Rachel Bloom as Rebecca Bunch, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
Ilana Glazer as Ilana Wexler, Broad City
Abbi Jacobson as Abbi Abrams, Broad City
Ellie Kemper as Kimmy Schmidt, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Selina Meyer, Veep
Gina Rodriguez as Jane Villanueva, Jane the Virgin

Sage: I know. It feels impossible to separate the performances of our Broad City leading ladies, so much do they rely on and compliment each other. There’s trust and fun emanating from every scene, which is probably why they can collectively take it so far. But both women deserve a personal shout-out. As the more grounded of the two, no one does crushing embarrassment and millennial self-questioning like Abbi Jacobsen. And her Ilana impression in the co-op episode was a true thing of beauty. Kooky Ilana Glazer shined in a different way this season when faced for the first time with her very best kween keeping a secret from her. It was effectively disconcerting to see the worst employee Deals! Deals! Deals! ever had to take something seriously for once. And really, what is there even left to talk about when it comes to Julia Louis-Dreyfus‘s performance on Veep? She can kill a scene with a single reaction and yet she’s the ultimate team player in a devastatingly funny ensemble. JLD may have another iconic character in her past, but petty, under-qualified Selina Meyer is the role she was born to play.
Kim: Look, I know we give the Golden Globes a lot of shit when it comes to their celebrity thirst, but they know where it’s AT when it comes to recognizing new talent in television. Last year, the award went to Gina Rodriguez (who was the Feelie winner as well), who continues to deliver a LUMINOUS performance on Jane the Virgin. There’s no other word to describe Gina’s work, really. She glows and emanates pure warmth on screen and she can flip between comedy and drama in the blink of an eye. This year the Golden Globe went to Rachel Bloom, whose work on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is a masterclass in comedic shamelessness. There is no length Rachel won’t go to in order to land a gag, from throwing her heavy (and glorious) boobs into a musical number to fearlessly showing the ugly sides of Rebecca’s personality. She is a GIFT and we should all treasure her. Finally, in a lesser actress’ hands, Kimmy Schmidt would be grating and overly saccharine but Ellie Kemper brings the perfect amount of salt to the role. She may be sweet and sunny but she’s also tough as nails when it comes to getting what she wants. Females are strong as hell, y’all.

Best Actress in a Drama

Caitriona Balfe as Claire Fraser, Outlander
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald, Doctor Who
Eva Green as Vanessa Ives, Penny Dreadful
Tatiana Maslany as the Leda Clones, Orphan Black
Sarah Paulson as Marcia Clark, The People vs. OJ Simpson
Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones, Jessica Jones
Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope, Scandal

Kim: I’ve said it once in this post already but Eva Green‘s Vanessa Ives is one of the bravest and boldest performances I’ve EVER seen on television, this year or any other year. Vanessa is broken and beaten down by the world around her, yet she stands tall in her strength and defiance and HOPE. Eva brings a raw, almost feral quality to Vanessa, with her scratchy smoker’s rasp and her giant alien eyes that have seen horrors we can’t even imagine. I don’t understand why she hasn’t been showered with awards for the past three years, it’s a travesty. There not much that can be said about Tatiana Maslany that hasn’t been said before. She infuses each of the Leda Clones with such a distinct personality, posture, and voice that you forget that it’s ONE actress. She makes it look easy, y’all, and I would hate her if I didn’t respect her so goddamn much. After several seasons of being rendered spineless by her father and Fitzgerald Grant, Olivia Pope found her backbone again, doing what she does best (being a Political Bad Ass) and Kerry Washington flourished. Anyone who was surprised by Olivia FINALLY snapping was watching the show wrong, even if the way she snapped was shocking.

Sage: Look, I don’t understand how the Emmys can sleep at night knowing that Caitrona Balfe‘s work on Outlander is going unrecognized. I won’t say she worked the hardest of any actress this year, because this list is so stacked with BEASTS. But the show asks so much of the woman playing Claire Fraser, especially this season. We saw Jamie’s bride scheme and connive among the elite in Paris; get some practice-mothering in by nurturing Mary Hawkins and Gavroche 2 (I know that’s not his name); and say goodbye to the one, true love of her life. Once to his face and once at his grave. (Or IS it?) But Cait’s shining moment came when tragedy befell the growing Fraser family. Her baby stillborn, Claire loses herself completely in grief and shock. It was primal, her clinging to the body of her child, eyes unfocused and posture tense. These aren’t just pretty faces, you guys. Life is change and change is Doctor Who. Still, it wasn’t easy to say goodbye to Jenna Coleman, who so consistently BROUGHT it as the most polarizing, headstrong, MAGNIFICENTLY messy companion the show has ever seen. I’ve said it before, and absolutely no disrespect to Matt Smith, but Peter and Jenna are magic together. Twelve and Clara’s tragic co-dependency defined this series and the petite, wide-eyed companion got to be the strong one. If any companion deserved and needed that ending, it was Clara Oswald. Sarah effing PAULSON. I wish she wasn’t shackled to American Horror Story because she’s one of our most interesting actresses. Against all odds, the OJ show worked and Sarah turned in a desperately human performance as bullied DA Marcia Clark. I’ll never be over how she played Clark’s bafflement at the relevancy of her haircut to a double murder case or her sweet and sexy chemistry with Chris Darden. (What HAPPENED there, you guys? I need to know.) And Jessica Jones succeeded on the back of the flawless casting and compelling performance of Krysten Ritter. Who else would you get to play a whiskey-swilling, leather-jacket-wearing defender of women? Jessica may wear her damage on her sleeve, but she also allows it to motivate her. Krysten nailed the show’s moments of dark comedy (“I can’t get her to wear a dress for the life of me.” “I’ll wear one to your funeral.”), but also beautifully expressed Jessica’s sarcastic and tender friendship with Trish and her determination to move through her fear to bring Kilgrave down. And if we had some kind of stunt Feelie, rest assured she’d get it for those headboard-breaking sex scenes with Mike Colter’s Luke Cage.

Best Actor in a Comedy


Tituss Burgess as Titus Andromedon, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Billy Eichner as Billy Epstein, Difficult People
Santino Fontana as Greg Serrano, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
Vincent Rodriguez III as Josh Chan, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
Andy Samberg as Jake Peralta, Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Sage: I feel a kinship with actors who’ve made their name in part by being LOUD, and that thought includes the delightfully shrill Billy Eichner. The comedian finally gets to scale it back and be a true lead in Hulu’s Difficult People aka the life of every struggling, cynical New York artist that I know. We’re coming out hard as Team Greg on Head Over Feels, because we do love an emotionally constipated boy with a nice singing voice. But really, actual Disney prince Santino Fontana deserves the credit for selling Greg’s crippling fear of inadequacy and his good, good heart. The dude is a mess, but name me one other guy who could sweep you off your feet while bragging (in song) about giving you a UTI? Andy Samberg‘s Jake Peralta is still THE unproblematic fave. Professionally, Jake is actually one of Brooklyn’s finest, but Andy makes sure the audience knows that deep down, Jake is playing one career-long game of Cops and Robbers.

Kim: While Tituss Burgess is Emmy nominated as a Supporting Actor for his work in Kimmy Schmidt, we at Head Over Feels feel that he merits a leading actor nomination. Titus Andromedon remained a hurricane of ego and melodrama in season two but he ALSO fell in love in the sweetest and most unexpected way and it was delightful to see how it threw him for a loop. It’s no easy task to play the dream guy that the heroine is willing to overhaul her life for (just ask Felicity‘s Scott Speedman) but Vincent Rodriguez III brings such a sweetness to Josh Chan that you completely buy Rebecca being the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend who gave everything up for him. I may hold my own shipping beliefs but you can’t deny Josh’s simple goodness (and cluelessness) as he fights the undeniable pull he has towards Rebecca. The fact that Vincent looks like the lost member of the Backstreet Boys is just a bonus.

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“It’s like loving the stars themselves.” – Doctor Who Recap, “The Husbands Of River Song”

doctor diver

Doctor Who Series 9, Episode 13
“The Husbands of River Song”
Posted by Sage

Especially in the Tennant era, Christmas specials functioned as transitional episodes. “Christmas Invasion,” “The Runaway Bride,” and “Voyage of the Damned” are between-season interludes to get audiences acclimated to a change, whether it’s a new-new Doctor sword-fighting in his PJs or a companion’s recent departure. I knew, because of Jenna Coleman’s announcement, that “The Husbands of River Song” would be that kind of Christmas special too. And I worried. Steven Moffat has no objectivity when it comes to this character. And I’m still in mourning. Could Moffat write River the way he wanted and still be sensitive to Clara’s memory? It helped that he nearly wrote out the Doctor’s grief completely. But just nearly.

Will “The Husbands of River Song” go down in Doctor Who history as one of the show’s finest holiday episodes? No, of course not. But it serves its purpose. I am satisfied by the end of Clara Oswald’s story, but that didn’t mean I was ready to welcome a new companion the moment the credits of “Hell Bent” started to roll. But this episode functioned as a narrative stepping stone. A palate cleanser. And guess what? Peter Capaldi has chemistry with everyone, so bring on that new TARDIS roommate, whoever he, she, or it may be.

Alex Kingston was one of the headlining guests at Chicago TARDIS 2015. And though some trailers and promotional images had been released for the episode, there was little she could share in the way of details. What she could tell us about the ownership some of the men in her life feel over River Song is about as surprising as a “Hello, sweetie” in one of her episodes. For a time, Moffat considered making series 9 his last as showrunner. And if that season’s special would be the last he’d ever write, he wanted River on it. And then there’s Matt, who apparently confronted Alex in the wee hours of her own wedding reception to express his jealousy that “his” wife would be working with another Doctor. See what I mean about the objectivity? It’s sweet, yeah, but this favoritism is what’s always made me uncomfortable about Dr. Song as a character.

There’s a huge and passionate River Song fandom, and more power to ’em. Not being a card-carrying member, I went into this Christmas special reminding myself that maybe I wasn’t the intended audience, and that that was okay. To my surprise, this episode was the most effective use of River’s character since her debut in “The Silence in the Library” two-parter, and at no point did I feel like she was being ranked ahead of Clara. Nor that their characters were even being compared. And honestly, PHEW.

River is at best when she is allowed to be vulnerable, same as the Doctor. I grow frustrated with her in series 6, because she’s rarely anything less than perfectly confident and aggravatingly inaccessible. She’s, like, the opposite of a Mary Sue: a male fantasy of sexual domination and the “cougar” trope, armed with poisonous lipstick and an arsenal of innuendo. What could be more boring?

That’s how River starts off in this episode too, but more of her is eventually, finally revealed. Moffat has grown in this area, as “Hell Bent” certainly proves. And River benefits from his feminist leveling-up as well. The Doctor runs into Dr. Song (or is dragged to her, more accurately) on the planet Mendorax Dellora in the year 5434, by Nardole, a bumbling jester of sorts. (Matt Lucas is great, but Nardole is sadly extraneous. I won’t be mentioning him again.) River has called for a surgeon, and she and her minion think the Doctor is it. He’s thrilled to see her, of course. (“Rivaaaaaaaahhhh!”) She hasn’t a blessed clue who he is. And she wants to retain her anonymity as well.

river bones.gif

The Doctor goes along with the misunderstanding for two reasons: first, he’s dying to see what River’s gotten up to (and he’s sure she’ll eventually need his help); and second, he’s waiting for her to recognize him. He can’t believe she hasn’t already; he’s well aware she’s cleverer than him in a laundry list of ways.

you knowyou know 2
 

River has called for a surgeon to aid her husband, King Hydroflax, who has a foreign object lodged in his brain. She tends to him – while the Doctor looks on incredulously – laying on the endearments and the promises of eternal loyalty. By the way, King Hydroflax isn’t, strictly speaking, a person. But if anyone could get a murderous 10-foot-tall android with a human head to settle down with her, it’s River. The Doctor hates this. A lot. And he’s always been a bit shit at covering up his jealousy. (“That’s who you’re married to? Not….anybody else?”)

river husband

This marriage, not unlike any of her others probably, is a long con. The projectile that’s killing Hydroflax is the Halassi Androvar – the most valuable diamond in universe – and River wants it. She engaged the services of a surgeon not to save the brutish dictator, but to pull a Queen of Hearts. (“I basically married the diamond.”) Why does she need a professional to go “off with his head” if his survival isn’t a necessity? I assume that she just got the an obscenely expensive manicure at some swanky space salon or some such. That doesn’t matter, nor does the rest of the episode’s weak-ish plotting. What does matter is that River Song was once married to Stephen Fry, and the Doctor’s still not over that either.

steal boxsteal box 2
 

TL;DR: River and the Doctor escape Hydroflax’s flying saucer (that’s what it is!) with his head in a duffel bag. He’s still alive and threatening them (“Oh, zip it.”), and his metal body is on the hunt for a replacement cranium. River rendezvous with another husband, the young and handsome Ramone, who’s been assisting her the whole time. Her getaway vehicle is the TARDIS; a reveal that leaves the Doctor looking annoyed, but not shocked. One of River’s strengths as a character is that her life outside of what we see on the show is so rich. The possibilities are endless, especially if she’s made a habit on borrowing “Dad’s” car when he’s otherwise engaged. There’s literally never a dull moment with River, no matter when Doctor Who catches up with her. She’s always neck-deep in some scheme, with a few needy men seduced into doing her bidding. (“I’ll see you on Temple Beach. I’ve already picked out your swimwear.”) She may not be my favorite companion, but she is kind of my hero.

Between all the kissing (“As an activity, it’s not hugely varied, is it?”) and the decapitated despot in his luggage, the Doctor isn’t having a great time. That is, until he realizes that he can finally give himself and his TARDIS the awed reaction that they both deserve. It’s the comedic high point of the episode and a sad reminder that all of series 9 was far too serious for the a show led by the guy who played Malcolm Tucker.

tardistardis 2
 

Once River has her ride and a fresh drink (did the Doctor even know the TARDIS has a bar cart?), it’s off to the Starship Harmony & Redemption. That’s a space cruise with a very nice name intended for a lot of very not-nice people, and the best place to find a buyer who won’t mind snuffing out Hydroflax in order to fish out his prize. (“Suites are reserved for planet burners.”) The Doctor is still nipping along at River’s heels, increasingly desperate for the other shoe to drop. How can she not know him? Is he so changed? And where did she get her wallet gallery of his 12 other faces?

doctor photos

That sad ‘lil flip. 🙁

River’s inability or unwillingness to recognize her “surgeon” for who he really is gives the Doctor the first chance he’s had to anonymously observe her. On the surface, she’s all one-liners and sparkly dresses, as per usual. He’s the only one of her husbands who can spot the melancholy under the glamour. The source? Her salacious travel read. It’s her own story, which she fears is rapidly coming to a close.

diary

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The Top 20 Television Moments of 2015 – Part One

tv-and-life

Posted by Kim and Sage

Another year has passed and again, Head Over Feels has spent most of it parked in front of a screen of some kind. Regrets are for wimps.

Since 2015 began, we’ve been bookmarking all the television events that have made us weep, cheer, and clutch our pearls like the innocent flowers that we are. And as we get ready to welcome all the entertainment 2016 has to offer, the time has come to pay tribute to 20 unforgettable moments from this year in TV.

1) The White Party – Empire

jamal

Empire never does anything small, so I’d figured that Jamal’s eventual coming out wouldn’t be a quiet affair. And yet, how could I have been prepared for his barrier-smashing performance at the label’s annual White Party in “The Lyon’s Roar”? Empire drew praise and jeers in its first season for its portrayal of homophobia in black culture and the unofficial “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in the mainstream music industry. I’m not qualified to offer comment on the show’s socio-political responsibilities in these areas, but I can tell you about the impact this storyline had on me as an individual viewer.

First of all, the scene is visually stunning, from the mansion setting to the fabulous achromatic costuming. (To Most Handsome Young Man nominee Jussie Smollett, who looks quite delicious, as per usual.) Empire has this great tradition of closing up the distance between musicians and audiences, so that every performance scene looks like a house party instead of a concert. I love that I can hear the guests singing along to the track. I love that I can read the reactions on individual faces when Jamal changes his shitty-ass dad’s lyric to “this the kind of song that makes a man love a man.” I love Jamal’s joyful defiance, and the way he turns directly to Lucious to look him in the face while he stands up and claims his own identity. And Cookie loves it too. The mother/son relationship between these two was the heart of season one to me, and she is incandescent with pride in this scene. Remember that Lucious wrote this song for CookieWith their marriage in the shitter (because Lucious is a GARBAGE PERSON), Jamal gives “You’re So Beautiful” welcome new meaning for the person who never stopped telling him it was okay to be who he was. He gave the world a show. And the world didn’t end. –Sage

2) Peggy and Stan Are in Love – Mad Men

peggy

Never in my wildest dreams did I think that Mad Men would give us such an overtly romantic ending for my queen Peggy Olson. I had ALWAYS shipped Peggy and Stan but I had made my peace that it was never going to happen on the show. No one got to be happy on Mad Men! EVER.  So imagine my surprise and delight when Peggy and Stan finally figured their shit out in “Person to Person”.  I watched the finale in the wee hours of the morning after I came home from a two-show day and I started screaming at 3 AM when Stan confessed his love in the most perfectly Stan and Peggy way…over the phone. Their phone calls were one of the hallmarks of their relationship over the course of the series, so it was only fitting that it happened this way.

Peggy: I mean, I’m going to stay.
Stan: Good, because I didn’t want you to leave.
Peggy: Then why didn’t you just say that?
Stan: Because every time I’m face to face with you, I want to strangle you. And then I miss you when I go away. And I miss you and I call you on the phone and I get the person I want to talk to.
Peggy: That’s not true.
Stan: Yeah, well, I don’t know what it is, but when I’m standing in front of you, I bring out something terrible. I think about how you came into my life and how you drove me crazy and now I– I don’t even know what to do with myself because all I want to do is be with you.
Peggy: What? What did you just say?
Stan: I want to be with you. I’m in love with you.
Peggy: What?
Stan: I love you, Peggy.
Peggy: Oh, my God. That’s what I thought you said.

My heart dropped when it seemed that Peggy was about to reject Stan. Because of course she wasn’t in love with him, right? I mean we all knew she was in love with him, but did SHE? Watching her figure out that she was in love with him was a MARVEL. What a performance by Elisabeth Moss. She goes from disbelief to confusion to sudden realization in a matter of moments and it’s beautiful.

Peggy: I– I– I don’t know what to say. Whew. I feel like I can’t breathe almost. I mean, I don’t even think about you. Uh I mean, I do all the time, because you’re there. (touches her heart) And you’re here. And you make everything okay. You always do. No matter what. I mean, I must be. Because you’re always right. I can’t believe this. I think I’m in love with you, too. I really do. Stan? Are you there? (silence) Stan?

ME: OH NO STAN DID YOU REALLY HANG UP HOW COULD YOU MISS THIS WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME SHOW? Cue Stan appearing in Peggy’s doorway, out of breath because he SPRINTED to her office as soon as he realized where this was going. Is this Mad Men or my favorite romantic comedy?

Stan: What were you saying?
Peggy: I love you.

All my tears. –Kim

3) The Diner Fight – Agent Carter

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I love that we live in a world where Agent Carter exists. I love that it’s a show run by women and I love Peggy Carter (and Hayley Atwell) for being an icon of femininity and badassery. There are definitely more emotional Agent Carter moments we could have picked for this list. Peggy’s “I know my value” speech was instantly iconic. If you didn’t cry when Peggy laid Steve Rogers to rest by pouring out the vial of his blood on the Brooklyn Bridge, I question your humanity. But we chose the diner fight scene because it’s just so much FUN. It’s stylistically gorgeous, with the bright colors of the diner and the big band music roaring in the background. It’s hilarious with Jarvis bumbling in the background while Peggy singlehandedly takes down all the men. And it just serves as a reminder that Peggy Carter is not to be trifled with. Harrison Ford once said that Indiana Jones wasn’t the BEST fighter but he was the SMARTEST fighter because he used what was around him to serve to his advantage. That is exactly what I see here, especially in the way Peggy uses that plate as the world’s deadliest frisbee. And she does it all in a gorgeous period suit because even when she is kicking ass, Peggy Carter is a LADY above all things. –Kim

4) “You’re a stone cold bitch.” – The Mindy Project

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I have to confess something. I’ve fallen SUPER behind on The Mindy Project.  And the things I have heard about the episodes post-Leo’s birth don’t make me want to catch up anytime soon. But this moment? This is perfection. Dramatic births in unconventional situations is a sitcom staple and Mindy plays the stereotype to the max. There is absolutely no way Danny would have ever been able to get to her on a stalled subway car but we forgive it because we don’t watch television for reality. We watch for the way our hearts swell when Danny makes it just in time for the birth of his son. We watch TV for the way Danny calms a panicked Mindy because NO ONE wants their lady parts exposed on a dirty subway car, much less push a baby out there. I love how Danny knows EXACTLY what to say to her to get her to calm down and believe in herself. He may be an ass some of the time, but he always comes through. That’s why we watch. Who knew that being called a “stone cold bitch” could be the most romantic words in the universe? –Kim

5) Stevie Wonder Carpool Karaoke – The Late Late Show

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Anyone worth hanging out with knows how to properly jam in the car.

Maybe I’ve seen American Graffiti too many times, but isn’t there a beautiful sense of freedom that comes with being behind the wheel of a car? The Late Late Show‘s Carpool Karaoke series leverages the comforting familiarity of the road trip singalong, a “the stars, they’re just like us!” sense of bonding, and host James Corden’s authentic fangirling and driver’s seat chair-dancing. From the very first edition of this sketch (with a totally game Mariah Carey, thank you), it’s been a favorite of our blog and the bit with the most viral traction. Knowing us, you perhaps you expected to see One Direction’s Carpool Karaoke on this list. But even a choreographed performance of morning wood anthem “No Control” couldn’t quite steal the slot from Stevie Wonder. Because he is Stevie Wonder, as James’s wife confirmed firsthand.

A late night host has every opportunity I’ve ever dreamed of to make lasting memories with cool celebrities. But I think even James would admit that it’s going to be real hard to top sitting in a car with Stevie Wonder and listening to him sing “I just called to say James loves you…” to the woman he married. (When James cries, I cry.) The 10+ minute bit includes James and Stevie harmonizing on the artist’s ridiculous catalog (“Superstition,” “Isn’t She Lovely?” and “Signed, Sealed, Delivered”…you know, those hack jobs), but it’s James’s “indulgent” request and his heart-melting reaction that put this Carpool Karaoke on the top of a very entertaining heap. –Sage

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“I don’t think I could ever forget you.” – Doctor Who Recap “Hell Bent”


Doctor Who 
Series 9, Episode 12
“Hell Bent”
Posted by Kim

“A week ago you said to me “Do you believe I’ll never be too far? If you’re lost, just look for me, you’ll find me in the region of the summer stars.” The fact that we can sit right here and say goodbye means we’ve already won. A necessity for apologies between you and me, Baby, there is none.” 

A familiar diner in the middle of the Nevada desert with a familiar tune on the jukebox. A roguishly handsome Scot easily banters with a beautiful English rose. “How did you get out here,” he asks. “Magic,” she replies with a hint of a smile. It’s achingly familiar yet it feels entirely different.  Of course, we know that these two are The Doctor and Clara Oswald…but it seems as if THEY don’t. He strums his ever-present guitar (a new model that had guitar nerds cheering) and the opening notes of what we know as “Clara’s theme” echo through the diner. Her eyes light up ever so slightly, as if she knows this one.

CLARA: Is it a sad song?
DOCTOR: Nothing’s sad till it’s over. Then everything is.
CLARA: What’s it called?
DOCTOR: I think that it’s called Clara.
CLARA: Tell me about her.

Or, as Ood Sigma once told the Tenth Doctor, “This song is ending. But the story never ends.”

Raise your hand if you totally expected “Hell Bent” to open with a sweetly melancholy scene between Twelve and Clara? No one? Good. Doctor Who has been all about keeping us on our toes this season storytelling wise, sometimes with disastrous results (“Sleep No More”, WHY DO YOU PLAN ON DOING A SEQUEL?) but often with thrilling ones (“Heaven Sent”).  Ten years after the Ninth Doctor grabbed Rose Tyler’s hand and told her to run for her life, Doctor Who refuses to (as Sage said in her last recap) rest on its laurels. Steven Moffat, Rachel Talalay, Peter Capaldi, and Jenna Coleman are all at the top of their game right now and it’s been a PLEASURE to watch.  So let’s dive into “Hell Bent”, shall we?

Okay, I know we’re supposed to SUPER CARE that The Doctor has returned to Gallifrey at last. But really, given the weight of everything that happened with Clara, the first 20 minutes of the episode ended up being almost an afterthought.  Thus, here are the three things I learned from the Doctor’s return to Gallifrey…

  1. Gallifrey is basically the space version of Panem. Think about it. You have all those crazy mofos who dress funny in the Urban Capitol and the downtrodden common folk in the rural areas. Guess which side The Doctor relates to? Instead of going directly to the city to tear the high council apart, The Doctor retreats to his barn from “Day of The Doctor” and “Listen”.  He is surrounded and taken care of by the residents of that area. He just wants to eat his soup. He LITERALLY draws a line in the sand when the soldiers from the Capitol show up. (“Get off my planet.”) The Doctor is surrounded by the common folk who may as well be giving the soldiers the Mockingjay signal because The Doctor is the Gallifreyan Katniss Everdeen. “Who does he think he is,” Rassilon sneers. “The man who won the Time War.” DAMN SKIPPY. Even the soldiers sided with him when it came down to it. He’s a WAR HERO and don’t you forget it.
  2. Rassilon has always been and will be a dick. GOOD RIDDANCE.
  3. OH HEY TRANS-REGENERATION IS CANON.

If you read our post on Long Island Who, you’ll recall that Sage and I were on a panel about whether or not there should be a Female Doctor. (There should be.) The contrarian (HA) teenage boy on the panel insisted that one of the reasons against trans-regeneration was the fact that we had never SEEN it on-screen. (Graeme Burk: So what you’re saying is that you would need to ACTUALLY see John Simm regenerate into Michelle Gomez to believe it? CTB: Yes.) IMAGINE MY DELIGHT when we saw the General regenerate into a woman with a FIERCE smoky eye right before my eyes. When the underling who witnessed the regeneration immediately adopted his pronouns as if he were used to seeing this all the time, I CROWED. And when the General admitted that her last body was the only time she had been a man and she was relieved to be “back to normal”, I jumped up and down and pumped my fists as if I were Tom Cruise on Oprah.  THANK YOU Steven Moffat. THANK YOU.  And I hope that kid stopped to think when he saw this episode.  I imagine he probably added this to his list of why we don’t NEED a female Doctor because “Haven’t we be given enough now?” but one can dream. Maybe we’ll know at LI Who next year when we are inevitably on this panel again.

“We had some good times, didn’t we? We had some good tricks up our sleeves. Goodbyes are bittersweet…but it’s not the end. I’ll see your face again.”

WAITRESS!CLARA: Is this a story or did this really happen?
DOCTOR: Every story ever told really happened. Stories are where memories go when they’re forgotten.

So how does Clara Oswald factor into this? After The Doctor banishes Rassilon and the High Council, Ohila from the Sisterhood of Karn (who should have been carting around a bowl of popcorn because she was really only there to watch the show) and The General sit The Doctor down so he can spill what he knows about The Hybrid.

DOCTOR: I’ll need help, obviously.
GENERAL: Gallifrey is at your command.
DOCTOR: Oh, not from you lot. No, you’d cramp my style. Look at your hats. I’m going to need the use of an extraction chamber, to talk to an old friend.

OLD FRIEND. HA. Whatever you say, Doctor. Thus we return to the Trap Street where Clara Oswald stands with her arms outstretched. (Me: DON’T MAKE ME LIVE THROUGH THIS AGAIN.) Time freezes the moment before the Raven hits her chest. A door opens and a hand appears. “This way. I can save you.” It’s VERY “Fires of Pompeii” and I am too fragile for this.

Clara is understandably a little panicked once she enters the extraction chamber. She was about to die and MORE IMPORTANTLY, she was fine with dying. While she is thrilled to see The Doctor and obviously delighted to actually be on Gallifrey (Sage: Even in near-death Clara doesn’t lose her sense of adventure), Clara’s primary response is one of confusion. How is she here? What is The Doctor doing? To Clara’s credit though, her response to the whole “frozen before her final heartbeat” thing is minimal. She’s more concerned, as she’s ALWAYS been, at how this is affecting The Doctor. What OF The Doctor in this moment? Well, The Doctor looks at her like she is the most precious thing in the world that he would do ANYTHING to protect. (In other words, he’s a little crazed but in the best way possible.) “We have extracted you at the very end of your time stream to request your help,” the General says. “Once we’re finished here, you will be returned to your final moments. Your death is an established historical event and cannot be altered. I’m sorry.”  The Doctor’s response to that is basically “Fuck that noise.”  He will not let Clara die a second time, even if that would fracture the entirety of time and space. And despite his protestations, the General KNOWS this. Clara, naturally, is horrified because the LAST thing she wanted was The Doctor to be in this kind of mental place. She grabs his fingers, hoping her touch will stop him because she doesn’t WANT THIS (MY HEART), but The Doctor will not be deterred. He shoots the general (prompting the trans-regeneration, so thanks for that), grabs a human-compatible neural block, and runs away with Clara.  Clearly “Hell Bent” was meant to describe the Doctor’s determination to save his Clara, no matter what the cost.

WAITRESS!CLARA: So what was it, the thing you took?
DOCTOR: There was only one way to keep Clara safe. I had to wipe some of her memory.
WAITRESS!CLARA: Of what?
DOCTOR: Of me.

The Doctor and Clara flee to the Cloisters, which is essentially a rogue’s gallery of The Doctor’s greatest foes (spotted: Weeping Angels, a Cyberman, and a Dalek). It also happens to protect the Matrix Database, a living computer where all Time Lords are uploaded when they die. As The Doctor tells Clara about it, she realizes that the Matrix is how The Doctor was able to escape Gallifrey for the first time. She looks at him with the wisdom of a person who has been gone billions of years without even realizing it. Somehow she KNOWS what she’s been through. “How long has it been for you since you last saw me,” she asks gently. The Doctor brushes off her question as if he is embarrassed for her to know JUST how lost he was without her. Clara, precious Clara, doesn’t let the subject drop. “Tell me what they did to you. Tell me what they did to The Doctor.”

When we watched “Hell Bent” we commented on the time it took for The Doctor to grieve the loss of Clara. Well, it turns out we were wrong. The Doctor wasn’t grieving Clara, he was trying to figure out a way to SAVE her. He led the Time Lords to believe that he had information about the Hybrid so he would have something to bargain with. “What were you bargaining for,” Clara asks, even though in her heart of hearts she knows the answer. “What do you think? You. I had to find a way to save you. I knew it had to be the Time Lords. They cost you your life on Trap Street, Clara, and I was going to make them bring you back. I just had to hang on in there for a bit.”

A LITTLE BIT. OKAY.

By this point, The General and Ohila have shown up, so when The Doctor refuses to divulge exactly how long he was in the confession dial, Clara turns to them. “We think four and a half billion years,” Ohila says solemnly. “He could have left anytime he wanted,” the General adds. Clara’s REACTION to this information though. She looks like she was punched in the stomach. She looks like she wants to strangle The Doctor and cover his face with kisses at the same time. She’s furious with him yet she’s never been more in love with him. “Why? Why would you even do that to yourself?” “I had a duty of care,” The Doctor says simply, almost dazed from the sheer amount of weight that simple admission carries. Being The Doctor though, he can’t deal with too much emotion at one time, he starts to talk about how they need to get to a TARDIS so they can buy themselves more time. But The Doctor’s “duty of care” admission is enough to push Clara from asking The Doctor to stop what he was saying in “Face the Raven” to “People like me and you…we should say things to one another. And I’m going to say them now.”

Of course the camera pans away before Clara starts talking, leaving Clara and The Doctor with their Lost in Translation moment. I mean, we all know what Clara said. She told him how much she loved him, how much he’s meant to her, how she would never trade her time with him for anything in the world. She told him how special he is and that she KNOWS what that four and a half billion years was like for him. I think she also told him to LET GO, that it’s OKAY for him to let go of her. The thing is, I think while Clara knew how The Doctor felt about her, perhaps in that moment she realized that maybe he didn’t know how she felt about HIM. That maybe not knowing is what drove him to fight for four and a half billion years. IT ALWAYS NEEDS SAYING, YOU IDIOTS.  (Also they clearly discussed their getaway plan, but only after all the important stuff was said.)

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“I confess, I am afraid.” – Doctor Who Recap – Heaven Sent

hell of a bird

Doctor Who Series 9, Episode 11
“Heaven Sent”
Posted by Sage

The shepherd’s boy says, “There’s this mountain of pure diamond. It takes an hour to climb it, and an hour to go around it. Every hundred years, a little bird comes. It sharpens its beak on the diamond mountain. And when the entire mountain is chiseled away, the first second of eternity will have passed.

When normals ask you what’s so great about that show with the tall, British guy and the trash can robots and the blue box, what do you usually say? Sometimes I tell them about 53 years of history. Other times I tell them about how the Doctor does what’s right because it’s right, not because he expects any kind of salvation or about a fan culture that transcends every kind of physical and societal border there is. After “Heaven Sent,” I can also tell them that instead of resting on the laurels of international success, Doctor Who is out here serving art, testing the limits of a medium, and showcasing masters at the top of their game.

(And I may Who trash for life, but if you think my praise is guaranteed, please see my pained recap of the dreadful “Sleep No More.”)

I was surprised when it became clear what it means to “Face the Raven” that Steven Moffat would leave the death of Clara Oswald to another writer, and I agree with Kim that first-time Who scribe Sarah Dollard gave the character an exit worthy of her tenure as a companion. As “Heaven Sent” unfolded, I could see why Moffat made the decision he did. Since Twelve was coughed out of the mouth of a displaced dinosaur, he’s benefited from having a showrunner who truly gets the sort of man he is. (Unlike Eleven, unfortunately for all of us.) I love that Moffat stepped in with such a clear, bold concept for the aftermath of the loss of Clara Oswald. And as the best of his scripts do, “Heaven Sent” functioned on a mechanical and an emotional level.

Structurally, all this script had to do was get the Doctor from Ashildr’s trap street to whoever was using her to summon him. The end point of his journey? Gallifrey, as anyone whose been paying attention since the 50th anniversary guessed long ago. But instead of rushing him off to face the Time Lords immediately, “Heaven Sent” allows the Doctor an entire episode to occupy his grief. And not that I get my ya-yas from seeing the man suffer, but Clara Oswald deserves to be well and truly mourned. Especially with a “screwball comedy” of a Christmas special only two episodes away.

“Heaven Sent” picks up almost to the moment that “Face The Raven” leaves off. We don’t know at the end of that episode where the Doctor is immediately heading (and the castle in the trailer looks nothing like what we know of Gallifrey, so), and neither does he. The one thing he does know as he steps off a teleport and into hard, unforgiving stone is that even her last wishes weren’t strong enough to hold the Doctor back from avenging Clara.

If you think because she is dead, I am weak, then you understand very little. If you were any part of killing her, and you’re not afraid, then you understand nothing at all. So, for your own sake, understand this: I am the Doctor. I’m coming to find you, and I will never, ever stop.

Guys, it was right there. The whole time! Rewatch the episode if you haven’t yet, and you’ll see that the last words in this snatch of monologue aren’t the only clue to the Doctor’s medieval imprisonment. The first image, even before his materialization, is a scorched hand burning away in the sand. The newly arrived Doctor bends down and takes a handful of the stuff, letting it spill out through his fingers. The interrogation begins again.

sand 2

There’s a running meme on the internets right now involving New Who fans asking Classic Who fans why the Doctor’s own people are the source of such shittiness. “Because the Time Lords are dicks,” is the only cogent answer. And this incarceration has the Time Lord stink all over it. (And let’s be real, it’s the kind of punishment the Doctor would have no trouble dreaming up either. Remember the Family of Blood?) They basically imprison the Doctor inside time. If the Doctor ran because he needed freedom, then what could be worse than locking him inside a never-ending energy loop where he’s doomed to repeat his every action until he tells them what they need to know? I’ll tell you what’s worse: sending him to that place alone. I know the Time Lords didn’t plan to kill Clara, but that certainly worked out for them. Or it would have, if their bond weren’t as strong as it is, even in her death. (“I let Clara Oswald get into my head. Trust me, she never leaves.”) They did take the opportunity to redecorate his quarters, but hanging Clara’s portrait on his wall was another tactical error on their part. Just like Missy, the rest of the Time Lords think of his human companions as the Doctor’s pets. They can’t comprehend how anyone “below” their race could have anything to offer the Doctor besides someone to show off to. (I mean, that’s part of it.) Clara’s likeness is there to taunt the Doctor and to weaken him with grief and guilt. It never occurs to the Time Lords that her memory can do more than that – that what she continues to give to him can be what sustains him. Consider Ten back in “The Shakespeare Code” when the Carrionites toss out a Rose reference to throw him off his game. “Oooh, big mistake,” he says, growing about two inches taller. “Because that name keeps me fighting.”

clara painting clara painting 2
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