As part of my new posting initiative (posting every day in March!), I hope to do more comic reviews on Sundays, so make sure to check back every weekend to see a review of the next chapter. If you have something you think I should check out for this, feel free to drop a comment. Now that introductions are out of the way, it’s time for the task at hand – It’s been a while since I took a look at this crossover to end all crossovers brought to us by IDW Comics. Fans have speculated for years as to which cybernetic villain would prevail in a hypothetical battle between Doctor Who’s cybermen or Star Trek’sBorg, and Doctor Who / Star Trek: Assimilation Squared is just what the doctor ordered. Sadly both armies of zombie androids are still on the same side as of issue three, we’ll see how long that lasts!
To recap the story so far, a Star Fleet outpost on Delta IV has been ransacked by The Borg, only they seem to have new upgrades or another race entirely helping them. This is of course The Cybermen from the Doctor Who universe, and for some reason these seemingly parallel dimensions have crossed allowing both villains to team up. It all starts when The Doctor and Amy Pond find their way into what they think is the past, only for it to be revealed as the Holo-deck on the U.S.S. Enterprise. Shenanigans ensue, and just when everyone is starting to get used to each other, The Enterprise itself gets attacked.
We finally get to see the new Cyber-controller, a vague term given to a myriad of different high-ranking Doctor Who villains that control the Cybermen. This time it is a Cyberman that has Borg implants. One only assumes that this new leader has assumed the roles of both Cyber-Controller and The Hive Queen, which is a terrifying thought! Captain Jean Luc Picard and crew scour their Star Fleet archives to see if there is any record of so called “Cyber Men” and come up with a few sparse records of contact with the NCC-1701 Enterprise commanded by none other than Captain James T. Kirk.
This scene made me chuckle a bit because it was sort of like Commander Data ran a Google Image Search for “Cybermen” and read off of a Wikipedia page or something. I guess the internet doesn’t change too much in the next few hundred years! This old-school crossover should be no surprise if you saw the awesome cover that this book is sporting. The Doctor collapses in pain as if he is just remembering something – his first encounter with the Star Trek crew!
The next few pages of flash-backs are pretty fun, and the entire tone of the comic shifts with the new setting. Gone are the painted panels by J.K. Woodward, replaced by vaguely “retro” ones depicting Kirk and Co. battling 1970’s Cybermen alongside The Doctor as portrayed by Tom Baker. I really enjoyed all of the tropes like Kirk trying to fight the Cybermen with his patented “double axe-handle” punch we’ve seen so much in the show. Also quite humorous was Mr. Spock finding out what Jelly babies are.
At the end of this issue, were still not sure what has exactly brought these two world together, but one can assume that some sort of time travel is happening considering The Doctor both remembers his time with Kirk and remembers not remembering it. Perhaps a cyberman slipped dimensions and ended up in Star trek? Who knows right now, but hopefully we’ll find out soon. Perhaps that is the most refreshing thing about Doctor Who / Star Trek: Assimilation Squared – unlike most crossover events, the tone of the book doesn’t seem to be preoccupied with a lead up to some massive battle, but a mystery of how exactly the cross-over even happened.
The next issue should be pretty awesome considering Guinan knows pretty much everything, it’ll be interesting to see if she knows about Time Lords and Cybermen.
As you can see from the title, this post is largely unrelated to the main theme of this site, and happens to be a convention report. Thankfully, as you can see from the image above, there was definitely some UK science fiction fun to be had! Yeah, that ugly mug up there happens to be mine, and standing next to me is none other than Sylvester McCoy aka The seventh Doctor aka Radagast The Brown. Said convention was a Kansas City-based convention called Planet Comicon and it was held in downtown Kansas City, Missouri.
The reason I decided to write about this on here, is that personally, I think there is some cross-over appeal from sci-fi fans and those who go to “comic-cons”, because in all honestly they aren’t just about comics anymore. Thankfully I live in the middle of Missouri, and Hollywood has never swooped in on our conventions, so it’s not like it has deviated too far from the main purpose of these types of conventions. There are panels, media guests and comic book writers and artists like anything else, minus all the BS that seems to have been messing up much larger events like San Diego Comic Con.
For years, I have always attended anime conventions because part of me (erroneously) assumed that my local comic conventions were nothing more than small dealer rooms that you paid to get into. When I heard that Planet Comicon was going to be held at Bartle Hall, a huge convention center, I immediately took notice. I think the biggest con I attended was an anime convention in Dallas Texas (Project A-Kon) that had something close to 10.000 people attending, and considering the size of the building plus the sheer amount of people at Planet Comicon that I saw, I’m assuming that this one will be bigger when all the numbers are added up. The paper was suggesting almost 20,000 minimum!
One reason I don’t attend too many of those aforementioned anime conventions is because of my age. I’m 31 now, and most anime convention attendees seem to be somewhere between 12-17. Not to be one of those “get off my lawn” types, but the younger millennial crowd sort of annoys me, and having thousands of them left unsupervised means that I get to witness things like pulled fire alarms, trash all over the place, hormonal kids making out in hallways, and other fun stuff. A Comic Con crowd is skewed much older, and as a result the rude people are heavily outweighed by awesome people that can handle themselves in public.
Aside from that, the MAIN reason I honestly stopped going to many anime conventions was the fact that I really enjoy panels, and at anime convention panels are REALLY hit or miss. Occasionally one stumbles upon something good, like the year I saw the world premiere and Q&A of Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles. Other times were not as good, like that time I had to sit through two awkward twelve year olds attempting to run a panel on Japanese horror films, and my quest to try to sneak out of the room as politely as possible.
I attended some pretty cool stuff this year, most of which was related to Star Trek: The Next Generation. This was because this convention had basically all principle cast members from TNG including Marina Sirtis, Levar Burton, Wil Wheaton, Jonathan Frakes, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, and Brent Spiner. Also in attendance was the Star Trek God himself William Shatner and an unannounced John De Lancie! The convention did advertise a special moderated panel featuring all the the Trek guys, but I could not afford tickets to it. Good news is, most of these guys had smaller panels themselves.
The first panel I attended was a Q&A session with the Canadian-American “scream queen” and occasional Lois Lane herself – Margot Kidder. This was a guided Q&A (Moderated by a member of scifi4me.com) with an interview of sorts at the beginning and audience questions afterwards. Some gems were discussions on how Kidder got started in a tiny Canadian mining settlement mere miles from the arctic circle and her occasional flings with the likes of Warren Beatty and Jeff Bridges. Superman was, of course, a main topic towards the end of the panel, and Kidder suggested that she understood the torn fandom on the latest Superman offering suggesting, that the newest movie was perhaps “too dark”. All in all, pretty cool panel.
Up next for us was a Star Trek related panel featuring Michael Dorn and Marina Sirtis in the hot-seats. As Trek fans will know, they played Deanna Troi and Worf on TNG. This was more of a full-on Q&A and started with some lighthearted banter between the two at the beginning. Sirtis cracked me up because I’m VERY used to her calm demeanor as Deanna Troi in TNG, so hearing her coarse, no-nonsense verbal attacks on various topics was pretty fun. On the flip-side, Mr. Dorn was “the straight man” of the affair, and tried to keep everything on topic. The running joke of this panel was that Marina kept bringing up how somebody had told her to be “sensitive to the mid-west view on political issues” which was like a splash of blood in shark infested water for her. She comically veered the discussions into a commentary on health care reform, gay marriage, and marijuana legalization no matter what Dorn tried to do to stop it.
On Saturday, we attended a Wil Wheaton Panel where the former Wesley Crusher himself lead a fun discussion about tabletop gaming, craft beer, and the perils of being a step-father. We ended up WAAAY in the back of the room for this and another panel so the picture that I am about to post will be tiny and awful. The best part of this panel was a “cameo” by Gates McFadden, introduced as “Space Mom”. As Trek fans will know, McFadden played Beverly Crusher in Star Trek: TNG, and was the on-screen mother for Wheaton during his time on the USS Enterprise. Since she didn’t have a panel of her own at this convention, it was cool seeing her appear in some capacity.
Next up was the Brent Spiner and Levar Burton panel, which had an ENORMOUS line waiting for it. We were actually scared that we wouldn’t be able to get in, but thankfully were able to get a few seats towards the back of the room. The panel started with Spiner having to deal with a rowdy “heckler” with a deep southern drawl yelling about how awful he was. Eventually security came in and revealed the “heckler” to be non other than Jonathan Frakes playing an obviously pre-determined joke of Brent. This was pretty great and really got the crowd going. Gates McFadden also made yet another guest appearance, and after that it was all questions!
The hot topic seemed to be LeVar’s other popular role as the host of the popular PBS educational program Reading Rainbow. o many questions were asked about this that Burton had the audience sing the theme song, and announced a Kickstarter campaign was about to materialize to help fund internet video versions of the show for a new audience and a smartphone app. Brent pretended to be irritated by the attention, referring to Burton as “Roots guy” and discussed popular roles on Independence Day and a fictitious sequel to Star Trek Nemesis where Commander Data didn’t die after all.
Perhaps the highlight of this con for me was getting to meet Sylvester McCoy and attending his Panel. The panel itself was simply amazing because he decided to forgo the stuffy rule of “guest sits in chair” and proceeded to walk around talking to the audience, hugging people and other things. I’m pretty sure that the guys from the Traveling The Vortex Podcastwere probably annoyed slightly, because McCoy sort of moderated his own panel, but they were good sports. The panel itself appears to have been recorded as a podcast on their site, so be sure to check that out if you want to listen to the fun we had.
Highlights of McCoy’s panel was an impromptu session of spoon playing on Darth Vader’s head and a kazoo heavy rendition of the Doctor Who theme to close everything out. My wife gets really nervous around celebrities, so she was freaking out a little bit about how close to everyone McCoy was. stories like his near foray into the priesthood as a teenager were delightful, and really made this the best panel I have EVER attended. If you ever get a change to see Sylvester McCoy at a con or something you will have a ball.
Another fun Doctor Who related event was a performance of the “Timey-Wimey Puppet Show” – a one man “Punch and Judy styled puppet show for kids and adults alike. I later got to meet the man behind the show, Mike Horner, and snap a picture with him. do yourself a favor and watch a few of his videos on YouTube up there, it’s pretty funny.
The highlight of the puppet show for me was a segment where cosplayers we asked to come up on stage for a rendition of “Twelve Days of Christmas” featuring regenerations of The Doctor, and there was a little boy, no older than five, dressed as William Hartnell. He was even a master at holding his lapels and looking surly.
This was a crazy weekend here is Kansas City because this convention, Big 12 Basketball, some sort of marathon, and a symphony performance were all scheduled at the same time within a few blocks of each other. Not only did that mean crazy traffic, but it also meant that parking was awful, and way too many people from Kansas and Iowa (due to basketball) were all over the place. If I have only one complaint it was that the city could have staggered these events a bit. Thankfully another convention, Naka-Con (an anime convention) was over the state-line in Kansas or it would have been too much to deal with.
I do have a funny story about the parking situation this weekend. On Saturday, we had TONS of trouble finding a parking space. Many of the bigger garages were at capacity, and many were resorting to shady stuff like parking at Denny’s to avoid high fees. we eventually found a nearly empty garage a few blocks away in “the art district” and jumped at the opportunity to get a place to stop at a cheaper price.
Not only did we discover that a nearly-vacant parking garage is sort of creepy, but the whole thing had “artsy-fartsy” minimalist music piped into it that sounded like a combination of a didgeridoo and someone scraping metal on the ground. To me, this was the soundtrack of hell itself, and I imagined that we’d soon witness Pyramid Head from the Silent Hill franchise walking around a corner at any moment. Had I thought this out, I would have attempted to record this for the site, but I wasn’t sure I’d even discuss this in any way.
I haven’t had this much fun at a convention for a LONG time. For a while I always had something spoil the whole thing for me: whether be someone we came with getting cranky, annoying kids, or poor management. There is basically nothing bad I can say about the con itself, and I’d recommend this experience to ANYONE into comics or other nerdy “pop-culture” things. Planet Comicon has won me over, and they better expect me there for years to come!
If any of the footage from the panels surfaces online (I think it was recorded by the con staff) I will try to post it on here at some point, but otherwise listen to that podcast up there for a taste of what Sylvester McCoy had to offer.
Or: Why did I limit myself on topics when I created this blog?
I have a confession to make. Like Benedict Arnold, Tokyo Rose, and Jane Fonda before me, I am a traitor to my own country. I haven’t spied on anyone, I haven’t sold state secrets to anyone, nor have I taken up arms against anyone. What I have done, however, can be seen as just as bad by some in the geek culture – I’ve sided with The United Kingdom when it comes to entertainment, most notably with my science fiction tastes. For years now, I haven’t really cared about Battlestar Galactica, Star Wars, or Firefly The latter of the three even got me in a bit of trouble. So the question is: Is there a tangible difference between American and British science fiction, or have I become some sort of anglophile “weeaboo*” that pretends everything form the UK is better? In this article I hope to explain why I like what I like and show that these two types of science fiction couldn’t be more different.
*Note: “Weeaboo” is a pejorative term applied to fans of Japanese animation that apply fetishism to the country of origin and appropriate cultural references in a perverse way. Watch the SNL skit “American Jpop Funtime Now” for an example of this mentality.
When I first started this blog, I did a similar concept in an article called “Bristish Science Fiction VS American Science Fiction – Why all the Fuss”, this was sadly an article that pretty much devolved into me whining about the remake of Life on Mars and lost all momentum. I should learn that ranting right after watching something is a bad idea! I was going to simply re-write that article, but figured a new take on it would be a better idea – perhaps actually explaining my stance would be a great idea. What I did lay out then was a general thesis of why I liked stuff from the UK more – “I think the main difference can all be chalked up to the argument of mood vs spectacle with the British productions geared heavily towards atmosphere, mood, and concepts and most American-helmed productions relying mostly on spectacle, visuals, and special effects. ” As one can see here, I was really vague and applied my theory to only the visual media. If we step back a bit and look at all mediums including books, audio, and TV/film this is still salvageable. I think the main difference can be simplified to “humility vs pride”.
What could I possibly mean by this? When I originally talked about my dislike for needless “spectacle” in American science fiction I was talking about the way in which much of the media I’ve seen turns into vapid feel-good schlock with little substance. Something like James Cameron’s Avatar is a prime example of this as it has some of the best special effects, but little story to back it up. It’s one of those movies that tricks you into thinking that you’ve seen something amazing, then you realize you just saw another re-make of the tired John Smith meets Pocahontas storyline, just with blue cat-people. It truly is the story of the noble savage for a modern generation.
These age-old nationalist themes run deep in most American science fiction productions. If you look at a show like Star Trek and boil it down to it’s essence, The travels of the Starship Enterprise can seem almost exactly like that of a frontiersman venturing into the American wilderness. Gene Roddenberry even famously said that his past experience on the show Wagon Train essentially meant that Star Trek was “Wagon Train in space.” So Star Trek is based on American Expansionism, surely not all American Science Fiction is based on that? Well,no. But most stories are about some sort of space adventuring, space colonization, and optimistic futurist fluff. I think this all goes back to World War II, and America’s status as the world’s premier mega-power from then on. American exceptionalism has tainted us with a false sense that “everything is okay, because we live in America” at all times, and to me that really isn’t true.
On a sharp contrast, The United Kingdom was faced with decades of hardship after the war, even long after the scars of the Blitz healed. Their empire crumbled, and the economy slowed to a crawl not too long after. Internal strife, terrorism, and even labor unrest lead to many calling the once mighty nation the “sick man of Europe“. America had it’s problems, most notably with civil rights, but while most American suburbanites pretended to live in the realm of the fictionalized Leave it to Beaver TV show, many in England were miserable. This lead to a creative path of social commentary in most British science fiction. The book British Science Fiction Television: A Hitchhiker’s Guide by John R. Cook and Peter Wright lays this theory out pretty well:
“British [science fiction] TV was different. While America was assured of its leadership role in the emerging space race and could look with confidence to the stars as an extension of the utopian frontier possibilities of the American Dream, Britain was having to cope anxiously in the same period with the loss of empire and general decline as a world power. Thus the notion of the British in space was not only a depressing impossibility but an outright absurdity. Some of the basic differences in character between British and US science fiction TV may be traceable to this: where archetypal US series like Star Trek often confronted the future with a sense of gung-ho optimism. British equivalents were more prone to view it with pessimism, anxiety or, especially later with such shows as The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (BBC TV, 1981) and Red Dwarf (BBC TV, 1988-99), an alternative response of absurdist humour […]”
The above quote really struck a chord with me, and got me thinking about shows like Quatermass. When you first meet the titular character Bernard Quatermass, he is thrilled to have sent the first human, even better a human from Britain, into space. In a classic fashion, It all goes downhill from there and every subsequent series shows that he is slowly becoming disillusioned with the government, world space programs, the dangers of science, and finally life itself. That’s heavy stuff for a space adventure, in America Bruce Willis just rides in and saves the day. Even the “safest” UK science fiction, material geared towards families, follows this mindset. While quite a few episodes of Doctor Who can be seen as family friendly fun, there is a hidden darkness in there as well. iconic alien races such as the Cybermen are a commentary on cosmetic surgery and how long you can alter yourself and still be a human. Daleks are fascists in space, and episodes like The Green Death are taking a jab at industrial eco-hazards. Doctor Who has even tackled subjects such as religion and homosexuality, a huge “no-no” over here.
This tendency towards social commentary and pessimism isn’t without it’s critics. In the 1960’s the BBC produced a drama called The War Game that depicted the aftermath of a nuclear strike on the UK. As I pointed out in my review, establishment types were not happy: “The War Game didn’t actually get shown on any TV network until the mid-1980’s, and I’m thankful it didn’t meet the same fate as other 1960’s BBC productions –wiped and junked. It was deemed too dark, it made the British infrastructure look bad, it belittled civil servants, and it stood in the face of over-zealous national pride –things that weren’t cool forty years ago. At least now we can watch it, and enjoy it without any censorship involved.” A lot of fans don’t like this either and label British science fiction as too dark or depressing. For me this is a case of “to each their own, as I’d rather have emotional attachment to something in a show than just watch eye candy all day.
So there we have it, American science fiction is far too optimistic for my taste and does little to talk about social commentary. Instead, much of it tries to further idealistic post-war American values that many Americans no longer value – such as new imperialism. American productions seem whitewashed and fake in this climate, while UK productions still have teeth, even to this day. Not everything has to be bleak – being witty, satirical, or even mocking is fine as long as the subject has substance. I just want something more than “YES WE CAN!” because I’m too cynical for that garbage. Maybe Bruce Willis Won’t save the day, Aerosmith won’t play a cool song, and maybe the rock hits the Earth, let’s make the most out of it! Lately there has been an uprising of US based shows with a UK slant directly coinciding with the rough times we are having as of late, so there is hope that they are trending to a common end. Not everyone is happy about this though, as I leave you with a quote from a Time Magazine article that pines for the long-gone days of “happy science fiction”:
“There was a stretch of time — from the early 20th century through the beginning of comic books — when science fiction was an exercise in optimism and what is these days referred to as a “can-do” attitude. There appeared to be no problem that couldn’t be dealt with either by the one-two punch of positive thinking and, well, punching— or by intellect and inspiration: new inventions were dreamed up that automated everyday tasks and made the impossible not only possible but also commonplace.”
Since there is a new Star Trek film just on the horizon and a new season of Doctor Who hitting the airwaves, I figured that now would be a great time to read some more of the recent comic crossover Assimilation Squared. For those that didn’t catch my last review, this story centers on an alliance between The Borg and The Cybermen – two similar alien races from both franchises. Their first action as a unified front was the sacking of Delta IV, an attack that was very surprising considering the way The Borg usually make themselves known prior to any offensive actions. In the final panel in the previous issue the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise and the crew of the Tradis were just about to meet in what The Doctor assumes is prohibition era San Francisco.
While the first issue dealt mostly with setting up the shocking alliance between both armies of zombie androids and their attack on Delta IV, issue two is a little deeper, a bit more “talky”. Tipton does a great job writing convincing Star Trek: The Next Generation dialog. For example, I really enjoyed the conversations between Commander Geordi LaForge and Commander Data since their “bromance” was often times my favorite part of the show itself. Usually Data would misunderstand a human trait of some sort whether it be laughter or anger, and Geordi would have to set him straight. Take this snippet for example:
Geordi has pointed out that Data was created more than thirty years ago, and that he could benefit a lot from some of the more “modern” android technology being worked on currently. Data, in the most supreme example of foreshadowing ever, ponders on whether that could get out of hand, and if he’d lose himself in the process.
I was surprised that the beginning of the issue shifted back, in a non-linear manner, to before the meeting between The Enterprise crew and The Doctor. This makes sense because we only saw Picard and Co. for like half a panel at the end of the last issue, so it’s good to see what they were doing during the Delta IV attack. Starfleet has set up a mining operation on a remote aquatic planet populated by “fish people” a fact that Commander Worf humorously undercuts with “they sound delicious!” In order to make quotas and keep the flow of the minerals steady, the folks in charge of the operation have had to cut corners leading to accidents and losses of life. Geordi asks why they are mining so frantically, a question Picard replies to with “The Borg”. It seems that Starfleet was nearly decimated at the battle of Wolf 359, a Star Trek battle depicted in the fan favorite episodes The Best of Both Worlds: parts 1 and 2.
Speaking of those episodes, and derailing any sort of flow here: that two-parter is soon to be re-released with HD special effects next week on Blu-Ray, you should all pre-order it below if you like the series:
You may be asking yourself: “Where is this Doctor fellow that is supposed to be in the book, I think there is an image of him on the cover?” Well, much like the previous issue, the interactions between the two sets of characters is kept to a minimum until the very end where we finally see them interact. This scene is pretty funny as The Doctor basically ignores everyone and bee-line’s it directly to Commander Data. There is a misunderstanding where the Enterprise crew thinks that the holodeck has gained sentience and that the Doctor is merely a “bug” in the system, and The Doctor simultaneously thinks that Data is some sort of anachronistic robot that shouldn’t be in the past. And just when everyone is having fun, the Borg and Cybermen arrive…..bummer
I really enjoyed issue one of this series, but issue two tops it in every way. The first issue almost seemed like two unrelated stories jammed together, and this one flows so much better overall. I definitely love the art style by J.K. Woodward, he uses life-like painted interiors that one seldom sees in comics these days. It really adds to the realism that makes one think this could have been a real episode of either show. Now that the cast is all together, and the villains have appeared, I think we are in for a real treat in the next issue. Maybe Commander Worf will smack the Doctor for talking too much or maybe we’ll find out what’s going on!
Family Guy – As far as I know there have been at least three references in Family Guy of something related to Doctor Who, the first was when Brian mentions that since marijuana has been legalized in Quahog, “Doctor Who ratings are through the roof”. Another brief reference involves Peter naming an owl “Doctor Hoo”. The best example of this is in the very first Star Wars special that they did. As the crew jumps into hyperspace, one can see the fourth Doctor theme through the window to which Peter suggests that “Hyperspace is weird!”
Simpsons – Matt Groening is a big fan of Tom Baker Era Doctor Who, so it’s really no surprise that The Doctor Shows up constantly!
Futurama – And the tradition carries over in his other show as well.
South Park – Fairly recently, South Park did an episode featuring a German Comedy Robot named “Funnybot”. Of course Funnybot is in fact a parody of a Dalek!
Star Trek – One could write a book about Doctor Who references in Star Trek and even vice versa. One of the oddest took place in a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode entitled “The Neutral Zone”. In the episode, the crew comes face to face with survivors from an ancient cryoship. One of the thawed folks, Clare Raymond, is scanned so that her lineage can be seen. It seems she is descended from William Hartnell, Tom Baker, Colin Baker, and Even Kermit T. Frog!
Saturday Night Live –The season 30 episode starring Paris Hilton had a treat for all the Doctor Who fans out there. Sadly Paris Hilton, of all people, donned a Tom Baker-esque scarf and contributed to a new phone sex line for nerds including Star Trek, Harry Potter, and World of Warcraft ladies. To be honest, even with a Doctor Who scarf, Ms. Hilton is just about as sexy as a brick to me.
I used to be embarrassed because I was just a comic-book writer… And then I began to realize: entertainment is one of the most important things in people's lives. Without it they might go off the deep end. I feel that if you're able to entertain people, you're doing a good thing. -Stan Lee