Confession #115: I'm Considering Cutting Corners

My daughters have continued to expand their Doctor Who horizons in the past few months (we're currently on a Seven-and-Ace kick), which has led them to a broader awareness of my own fannish activities. The last time I mentioned some breaking guest news from Gallifrey One, for example, one of them pouted, "I really want to go to Gally..."

It dawned on me last weekend that although getting them to Gally with me is unlikely to prove financially feasible any time soon (flying roughly 2000 miles isn't cheap for one, let alone three or four—never mind the cost of lodging, food, and souvenirs), we have a local Doctor Who con (CONsole Room) where they could dip their toes into the experience.

So I wandered over to the CONsole Room site to see what the con might have in store for my girls, should we decide to go. At this early stage (we're still seven months out), there isn't a lot of detail to be had. However, there is a headliner who's been announced, and having seen her myself at Gally, I can vouch for her being a great guest: Neve McIntosh (a.k.a. Madame Vastra). I bet the girls would love her.

Except they currently have no idea who Vastra is.

Now I'm in a bit of a pickle. I have been trying hard not to force any viewing on my kids, because I want them to want to watch my favorite show, rather than to feel pressured into it, thereby enjoying it less. I've presented some options throughout the Classic/pre-Hiatus run, and let them choose among those curated offerings. My reasoning is sometimes peculiar, but so far they haven't come away disliking anything, even the more esoteric and oft-disparaged serials.

With the modern/post-Hiatus era, though, I've been a bit more particular. We watched some of The Sarah Jane Adventures—and some of Sarah Jane's adventures—together, and I knew they'd love seeing her meet the Doctor again in School Reunion. I felt strongly, though, that they should know Rose as a character before throwing the two of them together, or the impact wouldn't be the same. So we started with Rose and went from there.

I'm pleased to report that their reaction to School Reunion was just as I'd hoped, but eventually our viewing schedule was disrupted by awkward things like their own school year starting up again, and their penchant for choosing Classic serials when we do make time to watch together. We are thus suspended just over halfway through Series Two, waiting to move forward with modern Who.

The trouble now is that we need to get at least to the eighth and ninth episodes of Series Five (The Hungry Earth / Cold Blood) before they see Neve in action at all (she has played all the Silurian women to date, including Alaya). And if I want them to see her as Vastra, we have to get another series in (S06E07: A Good Man Goes to War) to even meet the character, much less see all of her appearances to date (the last being S08E01: Deep Breath).

Given our track record over the last six or seven weeks, I don't think seven months is enough to get through the fifty-eight episodes up to the introduction of Vastra. I am thus considering ~gasp~ skipping a bunch of episodes to allow the girls to fully appreciate meeting an actor at a con.

It breaks my brain a little.

In looking at Vastra's storyline, though, I'm realizing that's easier said than done. I can't just throw them in at her first appearance in AGMGtW—they simply won't have the backstory. To begin, AGMGtW follows immediately on from The Rebel Flesh / The Almost People, so we'd have to go back to those. More importantly, though, River Song's true identity is revealed—and they don't know anything about her.

We could conceivably get away without getting fully into who Amy and Rory are, as the girls have jumped into the middle of a few different Classic Companions' runs now, and done fine. However, River's story is a unique case for the viewer. So we could just dip in and out of the Doctor's timeline with River (except in the order the Doctor experienced it, which... may not be the right order if one's picking and choosing anyway; hmm...): Silence in the Library / Forest of the Dead (S04 E08-09), The Time of Angels / Flesh and Stone (S05 E04-05), The Pandorica Opens / The Big Bang (S05 E12-13), The Impossible Astronaut / Day of the Moon (S06 E01-02). Then they'd be set up for AGMGtW, to be followed by The Snowmen, The Crimson Horror, The Name of the Doctor, and Deep Breath for their full Vastra education.

Then there's the problem of how many of those episodes have larger implications to other storylines (read: spoilers!). To begin, River's portion of Series Five comprises the four series-arc-relevant episodes. Watching those almost feels like negating the need for the girls to see the rest of that series, despite some other decent stories. Meanwhile AGMGtW itself (the nominal reason for the whole River detour) is something of an event episode—that is, it's both the mid-series climax and the answer to the big "Who are you?" that had been hanging over River since we'd all first met her. Further, it's the first of yet another two-parter; I would have to screen Let's Kill Hitler before I could move on with Vastra's adventures.

Even looking ahead just with Vastra, The Name of the Doctor effectively wraps up three series' worth of loose ends, leaving only the 50th Anniversary Special and a Christmas Special to round out Eleven's tenure. Showing my daughters this denouement before they've even seen The Eleventh Hour feels like the worst kind of betrayal. (Granted, I'm the kind of person who would never dream of skipping ahead in a book to see how things turn out, while at least one of the girls has been known to do so.)

In the end, perhaps I'm more comfortable with having my girls under-appreciate their encounter with Neve than in pushing them too far, too fast in their modern Who education. It seems like such a colossal waste of the experience to rush into all these stories without being properly grounded. So although I'm willing to cut a few corners, I'm not ready to cut the number outlined above. I think we'll just keep going as we have been, and screen The Snowmen at the last minute. They'll still be thrilled to meet Neve.

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Pick one or two episodes with Vastra in them that aren't so essential. I suggest the Holiday special about the killer snowmen and the one where the alien parasites open a health cult where they actually freeze people. Maybe Capaldi's first episode as well. They don't need to see every episode Vastra was in and they don't need to know every fine nuance of how that episode fits into series continuity.

Just tell your girls "We will be seeing this actress at the con and here are some of the episodes she was in." Young kids care less about continuity than you do. They'll just like the character because Vastra is great.

I forget how old I was when I went to my first con, late Middle school or maybe early High School. It was a Creation Con in NYC. We saw David Prowse (Darth Vader's body) and Scotty from Star Trek (yes I know his name but am completely blanking on it. I'm getting old and my memory is like swiss cheese some times).

But the first guest we saw was this guy who was completely convinced that Vampires were real and living among us and planning some kind of uprising. He was trying to warn us about this deadly danger. He was nutty as a fruit cake. Wow.

But there was also the dealer's room and the comic artists selling sketches and screenings of movies and all kinds of interesting stuff.

You never forget your first con. Your kids will have a ball.

Have a good time.

By Kara S (not verified)
mrfranklin's picture

I'm well known for overthinking things! Haha! I think I'll probably just show them The Snowmen if we haven't gotten there by then, and call it good.

And they've actually already been to Convergence and really enjoyed it—just never a Who-exclusive con (since they only just started watching). They totally loved that, which is one reason they're eager to try another! :)

p.s. Totally jealous you got to meet James Doohan! I've only been to a very few cons (mostly Gally), so have never had the opportunity to indulge my Trek fandom.

By mrfranklin

I've seen all of the cast of TOS speak except Nichelle Nichols. I've seen Shatner twice. Also Gene Roddenberry.

I had the opportunity to see Nichelle at a con in Syracuse while I was in college but opted to study for a test and/or write a paper instead. A bunch of my friends went though and told me about it. I'm hoping the opportunity to see her will come again someday.

If you like Farscape, I've also seen Virginia Hey twice, including at Scapercon where I got to have a nice chat with her. Lovely lady. Also Ben Browder and Claudia Black when they appeared at a Creation Con in NYC the weekend before 911. I have lots of second hand stories about that one.

By Kara S (not verified)
mrfranklin's picture

I've never gotten into Farscape, so those other names mean nothing to me.

By weird coincidence, the one TOS (well, any Trek) cast member I've met is Nichelle! She was an additional guest at Gally one year, and I got her autograph there. (I also have the Uhura Barbie now...)

The stories about that con in NYC must be epic.

By mrfranklin

Oh yeah! Some epic tales of people trying to get home from the con with all airplanes grounded.

I live in the NYC area so I was already home. But a friend who stayed with me flew out of LaGuardia on that Tuesday morning, headed for Oklahoma, and got stuck in Atlanta where he was scheduled to change planes. Two of the international 'Scapers, sisters from Finland, had their dream vacation to NYC turn into a nightmare when they got stuck in the city and ran out of money. And the younger sister ended up with a whacking case of PTSD, suffering nightmares for months after they go home.

The stars of the show themselves got stuck in NYC and were late getting back to Australia to start production of the next season.

If you've never seen Farscape you should give it a try. I think you'll like it.

By Kara S (not verified)
mrfranklin's picture

Wow...

By mrfranklin

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