Okay, the one where Ivanova gets to do the credits monologue, Delenn has her most famous scene of the show, Sheridan decides he and the entire command crew need a fashion makeover as far as their uniforms are concerned and my guys Londo and G'Kar hit at different points rock bottom, which leads to great things in season 4.

In case there are some B5 newbies finding this entry, I shall now employ a spoiler cut )
Tags:
Today's [community profile] fandomsecrets has, for about the fifth or sixth time that I recall, a secret involving Once Upon A Time character Regina Mills aka The Evil Queen and the fact that back in season 1, she had a non-consensual sexual relationship with a male supporting character (he was the one non-consenting). Now Regina did a lot of other villainous things (including ordering massacres), but I don't think any of them, with the arguable exception of her gaslighting her son, is brought up and argued about more. (I may be wrong about that, since I try to keep away from most OuaT fannish discussions unless I know the people in question.) Cue usual "oh no she didn't!"/"oh yes she did", as well as "if she was a male character, this wouldn't even be a question" (both from the "oh yes she did" side in the sense that a male ruler ordering a female prisoner who is revolted by him into his bedchamber would not be interpreted as anything but a rapist, and from the "oh no she didn't" side (which argues that male fictional rapists get excused all the time). In between, someone points out that Regina did a whole lot of other stuff which doesn't get argued about, and why is rape treated as the ultimate crime? Good question, and not just regarding Regina. It's the crime most often named when people argue why they can't root for the redemption of character X and/or the crime most argued to not even have been committed by X from people who want said character redeemed (or see him, and in rarer cases her, already as good).

Now I think that "more/less evil" isn't a criteria you can put on rape versus, say, murder. They're both heinous actions. But it's still worth noting that as far as fannish discussions are concerned, the killing score of sympathetic villains/morally ambiguous characters seems to bother fans a whole lot less than if their canon shows them committing, or trying to committ, a rape. At a guess, part of this is that fantasy violence (especially if the canon avoids showing much of the resulting dead bodies and gore) is easier to dissociate from real life, while rape is not. And then, there is probably the fear: "I like this character, maybe I even love him/her or fantasize about him/her, I want this character to succeed, to win, to be loved - but this character committed rape. What does this say about me? Therefore, this character hasn't really committed rape. The fantasy surroundings make it not count. Or I take the Doylist appraoch and declare it was the writers (whereas the character's other actions which endeared him/her to me in the first place were of course Watsonian and only the character). Or: the character was himself/herself a victim and so traumatized that she/he can't be held accountable for their actions. Or the ever popular: hero X did something just as bad, so there!"

I decided to do some self inventory and see which of the characters whom I like (in varying degrees ranging "mildly fond" to "love and adore") comitted rape in their canons, and how fannish discussion (if it exists at all) handles that. Let's start with the Romans, because if you are in a slave owning society, and among the owners, and also not in a show that deliberately avoids the issue, chances are that you're guilty as charged, but even so, some characters go above and beyond:

Rome: Mark Antony, definitely. One of his very first scenes shows him having sex with a peasant woman against a tree mid-travelling. I doubt he bothered to ask her first. There is also an episode in which he wants to have sex before getting out of bed, Atia is not in the mood and orders one of her slaves to accommodate him. Which btw means Atia is enabling said rape. Also a rapist: Pullo. Who is in love with his slave (later freedwoman, even later wife) when having sex with her but doesn't bother to ask for her consent, either and is shocked when finding out that upon being freed, she wants to marry a fellow slave (cue death of male slave). I'm fond of Mark Antony, Atia and Pullo. I think the only one whose actions get debated in this context is Pullo, with the argument being "but he thought Eirene was already in love with him!" and/or "different times". Well, yes, different times, and presumably he did think she was in love with him until disabused of the notion. He still didn't ask, and she was his property at the time, to do with as he pleased. The scene as shown also had her enduring, not responding, to his caresses.

Spartacus: nearly every Roman character, sooner or later, but re: the topic in question, let's stick with Batiatus and Lucretia, both of whom use their slaves as sexual toys for themselves and for other people. I don't think I've seen anyone saying Batiatus isn't guilty, but I did some some debate around Lucretia, specifically, her relationship with the gladiator Crixus. (The debate nexter brings up all the other slaves Lucretia and Batiatus use to turn themselves on at all.) The "oh no she didn't" argument usually goes thusly: she developed genuine feelings for him, then she thought he also loved her, and then there was that one time where she didn't have sex with him when he didn't want to because she was concerned for his life (plot reasons). This ignores that Spartacus isn't subtle about the whole ownership point: Crixus and Lucretia first start to have sex because she orders him to, he is her property, and the fact she doesn't insist that one time doesn't negate all the other times. (Not to mention Lucretia's reaction once she finds out Crixus loves someone else.) Lucretia is played by Lucy Lawless, and she was one of my favourite characters on the show. She's also, no question about it, a rapist. (Ditto, of course, her husband, whom I was also fond of, horrible person who he was.)

Moving on to contemporary shows with long lived characters:

Highlander: Methos, obviously. Universal fannish favourite, and for quite a while, he was mine, too. (Then Amanda overtook him.) (I still like Methos a lot, though.) He's also, no question about it, a rapist, over a really long time. And wouldn't you know, while fandom never tried to explain the pillaging part in "rape and pillage" away, or the massacring of "tens of thousands", au contraire, thought that Methos' Bronze Age raider past made him even more interesting than he'd already been, it solved the "rape" part by vilifying the surviving victim of same and/or write stories in which Methos was the one raped (by other characters), which made him so traumatized that he, da capo, al fine. Oh, and of course times were different.

Buffy and Angel: oh, the can of worms to dwarf most others, and I really don't want the discussion to end up in a reiteration of the Spike Wars, but it would be cheating not to bring the Buffyverse up. So: Angel(us): definitely a rapist, and not just in a metaphorical bloodsucking vampire way. (There are the servant girl in the Amends flashback and Holtz' wife, and the implication is certainly that there were others.) (And driving mortal Drusilla into insanity culminated in Angel and Darla having sex in front of her before Angel turned her; what do you want to bet they left it at taking her blood?) Spike: see above re: Spike Wars, avoidance of same. But even leaving out Seeing Red, he mentioned multiple rapes in Never Leave Me, which however often gets dismissed as "he just wanted to get Buffy to stake him on that occasion" (well, yes, but that doesn't mean he made that up; over at AtS, near the end of Damages, a key Spike self realization is his admittance that while he wasn't Dana's tormentor, he did do similar things to a great many other people). Darla: while we don't see her having on screen sex with an unwilling victim, she certainly gets a kick of watching her darling boy doing so. Faith: when about to strangle Xander, she sexually assaulted him as well (and he did say no repeatedly). I do like Angel, Spike and Faith, a lot. Darla is my overall AtS favourite.

Torchwood: my own assumption when watching the Torchwood pilot, in which, among other things, Owen uses a alien pheromene McGuffin to make himself sexually irresistable when going out) was that when he used it on the boyfriend of the girl he'd been hitting on, he made a quick getaway as opposed to having a threesome, so that on this particular occasion, no sex took place. However, the original intention certainly had been to have sex with the girl, who showed no inclination to respond to his overtures before he used the pheromene McGuffin. Which, yes, makes Owen an attempted rapist (and since I doubt this was the first time he used the McGuffin, I'd be ready to drop the "attempted".) Owen was my favourite TW character during the first two seasons.

Being Human: Mitchell and Hal, step forward. Definitely, like Angelus, guilty of rape in the literally sexual as well as the blood taking vampire sense. Neither of them were my favourites in their canons, but I definitely had times of being fond of both, and my Mitchell issues weren't due to him having raped people (also my Mitchell issues were brilliantly resolved by canon, but that's another story).

Once upon a Time: and we're back to Regina. Who isn't my favourite, but I like her and am certainly on board with her current storyline. In addition to being a multiple murderer, guilty of mental and physical torture on various occasions, and the kidnapper to dwarf all other kidnappers (it's hard to beat transferring everyone in Storybrooke from one dimension to another in order to play out her fantasy scenario, but Regina is also a kidnapper on the mundane literal level, see also: Hansel and Gretel, Owen), she is most definitely a rapist.

And now for the future - including the wretched Prophets of DS9 would be cheating, because while they do committ rape I never could stand them, and they're not fannishly popular, either, so they don't qualify.

Babylon 5: I was going back and thro whether or not to include this example, because it's not sexual non-con, and if you start to include fantasy metaphors, you don't have to bother to differentiate with all the vampires between literal rape and blood taking to begin with. But still: what happens in the episode Dust to Dust is a mental assault/violation which gets textually, on screen, called a rape (Bester, who ought to know, explains the effect of Dust that way in the exposition scene early on), so I'll include it. Anyway, the perpetrator, G'Kar, who hits rock bottom here, followed by enlightenment, is most definitely among my favourite B5 characters.


In conclusion: I seem to be fond of a lot of fictional rapists. (Or fictional versions of historical characters, in the Roman cases.) The fact they raped people isn't why I like them, obviously, but neither did it stop me from liking them (or prevent me from ever developing sympathy, in the cases where the rapes happen early on). Whereas I don't think there is a rapist among the few fictional characters I have a visceral loathing for, come to think of it, which presumably goes to show rape isn't one of my triggers, at least not in the sense of reacting with "I no longer like this character" or "I have to explain this away in order to continue liking this character". I think my own inner self justification for this, beyond "but they're interesting", is to keep their victims in mind (and in both Methos' and Spike's cases, write fanfiction from their pov). (The other day I came across yet another variation of "but how rude and horrid are the Charmings and the rest of Storybrooke for not wanting to have dinner with Regina mid season 2" . Err. Just about anyone from the Enchanted Forest, with the exception of Rumplestilskin who did his share to form her and besides is guilty of centuries more crimes, is justified in not wanting to socialize with Regina for the rest of their lives. ) (Though since Regina has interesting interactions with other characters, I'm glad some are around her anyway.) And not to prettify anything they've done. Especially when/if I want them to redeem themselves.
selenak: (LondoGkar)
( Sep. 9th, 2013 09:04 am)
I just saw that TV Tropes also does fanfic recs, and was both pleased and amused that a story of mine made the cut, to wit, In the Pale Moonlight, which got recced in the Babylon 5 section, subsection shipper fic. (Um, I suppose you could call it that? In a unrequited type mindmessing type of way? Since it's about Cartagia and Londo.) The reccer spotted my shameless theft of one of Oscar Wilde's aphorisms for Londo's dialogue, and gratifyingly declares this to be IC for Londo.

Anyway, the great thing about discovering a whole new set of fanfic recs is of course following said recs, which is how I found a short, intense and sublime Once Upon A Time story about what it was like for Henry to grow up in Storybrooke:

Growing Pains (1152 words) by Malteaser
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Once Upon a Time (TV)
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Characters: Henry Mills, Evil Queen | Regina Mills, Jiminy Cricket | Archibald 'Archie' Hopper
Additional Tags: Family, Dysfunctional Family, Family Secrets, Angst, Growing Up
Summary:

Henry Mills grows up in Storybrooke. He's the only one.



Comes in particularly handy when you think, as I admit I sometimes did during originally watching s1 (but not upon rewatching with the whole of canon in mind!) that Henry gives Regina a hard time during the first season. He had reason. Did he ever.


Not courtesy of TV Tropes but spotted by yours truly on the net yesterday were these two gems:


X-Men Movieverse:

Repentance (4526 words) by zandperl
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: X-Men (Movieverse), X-Men (Movies), X-Men: First Class (2011), X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Characters: Erik Lehnsherr
Additional Tags: Introspection
Summary:

Post-Cure Erik Lehnsherr alternates days playing chess in Central Park and doing chores, except for on the Sabbath. When he makes a new friend who reminds him of an old friend, he realizes the meaning of the Ten Days.



XMFC brought an onslaught of new Charles/Erik stories, but not only did these tend to be more and more AUs with ever more unrecognizable characterisation, they made me miss stories about the older versions of these characters, the Stewart and McKellen shaped ones who first won my heart. So I was very happy to find this one, which manages to use all the movieverse canon and also explores Erik Lehnsherr's Jewish heritage beyond the Holocaust.

Babylon 5:

Drink Deep (3194 words) by Amatara
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Babylon 5
Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: G'Kar/Londo Mollari
Characters: Londo Mollari, G'Kar, Vir Cotto
Additional Tags: Hurt/Comfort, Angst, Drunkenness, Awkward Conversations
Summary:

G'Kar struggles with his sudden status as a religious icon, and Londo realizes he can take some lessons from Vir in how to handle melancholy drunks. Missing scene for the season 5 episode "The Ragged Edge".



There are too few stories exploring G'Kar dealing with both the realisation his religous icon status separated him from his people, the long term effects of the Centauri Occuspation and with what happened to Na'Toth, not to mention what his relationship with Londo turned into. This story tackles it in a short but poignant manner.
selenak: (Timov - Muffinmonster)
( Aug. 10th, 2013 04:43 pm)
A compelling new story about my all time favourite one episode only (why? oh why?) character from Babylon 5, Timov:

Et Amo (2745 words) by Amatara
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Babylon 5
Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Londo Mollari/Timov
Characters: Londo Mollari, Timov, Vir Cotto
Additional Tags: Missing Scene, Angst, Snark
Summary:

With Cartagia dead and the Shadows and Vorlons gone, Londo and Vir visit Timov just before their return to Babylon 5. Missing scene for the season 4 episode Into the Fire.

You know what I gave my Aged Parents for Christmas? Tickets for tonight's Bruce Springsteen concert in Munich. On the reasonable assumption at a concert at the end of May would have, if not nice weather, than somewhat warm weather.

It's rainining cats and dogs, and 5° Centigrade. The APs and self shall try to brave the Olympiastadion nonetheless for Mr. Springsteen, but if it turns out our part of the seats doesn't fall among the ones that are covered, we're out of there.

Meanwhile, links:

Once upon a time:

Twenty-Eight Years: the one repeating day for Cora and Killian Jones, aka Hook. Beautifully written and intense.

Babylon 5:

At a convention, JMS doesn't only share some hilarious Londo and G'Kar related anecdotes (of course the rest of the cast and himself arranged to be around when their intense scenes were filmed!) but also the deeply moving story of why Michael O'Hare really left, necessitating Sinclair being written out. It's not anything that was speculated before and makes me respect the actor all the more.
In which I agree with what seems to have been the above cut lj consensus: not as good as The Doctor's Wife, but a fun adventure.

Am I the only one paying attention? )
Day 26 - OMG WTF? Season finale

Star Trek: Enterprise, season 4: These are the voyages... comes immediately to mind.

Some background first: I had watched the first few Enterprise episodes when they were broadcast and then decided the show wasn't really for me. Not that it was staggeringly incompetent or something like that, but it came at the tail end of the production team having more or less written Star Trek in various variations for sixteen years, and it showed. Especially since Enterprise had the bad luck to come at a time where there were several other good sci fi shows around. Give it a rest for a while, thought I, meaning both myself and anyone producing Star Trek. The fact that fannish rumour told me subsequent seasons reflect 9/11 happening and Star Trek suddenly going all gung ho (and not in a self critical way, unlike, say, the relevant DS9 episodes where Sisko & team are confronted what the Dominion threat has made of them and Starfleet at large) didn't encourage me to tune in again.

However, the show did have its champions. And I often have a soft spot for the fannish underdog. (By which I don't mean the in-story underdog, I mean those characters unpopular by fandom at large.) So when I began to hear, from [personal profile] bimo and others, that Enterprise offered some genuinenly good stuff, like fleshing out the Andorians the way TOS had done the Vulcans, TNG had done the Klingons and DS9 had done the Cardassians, Bajorans and Ferengi, that the fourth season in particular was eminently watchable, other than the finale, which everyone hated (including, as I heard at FedCon from Jolene Blaylock, the actors), I thought, come on, why not? So I watched the fourth season, which I was assured I could do without having watched the previous ones, and didn't regret it. But boy, could I ever see what the complaints about the finale (which wasn't just the season but the series finale) had been about. I didn't hate it, I just thought it was the most misguided idea ever for a series finale. If it had been a mid season inter-Trek crossover episode (which TNG, DS9 and Voy had all done), it would have been not stellar, but okay.

Here are the spoilery reasons why as a FINALE, it is my choice for the WTF? category above all other candidates )
Day 23 - Most annoying character

Disclaimer first: like so many things, annoyance is in the eyes of the beholder. One person's much beloved character is another person's well of irritation, and I know I sometimes feel absurdly hurt reading my favourites torn to shreds by internet friends, so I apologize in advance. Another disclaimer: to me, there is a big difference between characters designed to be annoying and who are recognized by their narrative to be - where it's a deliberate part of their characterisation - and characters whose irritation factor is heightened (imo, as always) by the fact that their annoying qualities while for me glaring are either ignored by their narrative or even declared to be virtues. I may sometimes be irritated indeed by the former, but never so much as by the later. Which is why you won't find, say, Ziggy Sobotka from The Wire as my choice. To quote Jessica Rabbit, he was written that way. :)

The characters whose annoyance factor was out of all proportion to me weren't. They were not supposed to be irritating. But they still managed to push every one of my irritation buttons, and then some. Step forward, Galen from Crusade, Byron from Babylon 5 and Bill Adama from Battlestar Galactica, so that I may choose between you. You are relieved, Michael Vaughn from Alias and Jack Shephard from Lost, by virtue of having reached the peak of your annoyingness several seasons before your show ended and having improved subsequently. You didn't exactly became favourites, but I made my peace with you and occasionally even felt for you, when I had only wanted to strangle you in your respective third seasons. So, you are not my choice.

On the other hand, it's really hard to pick one of these three gentlemen:

1.) Byron from Babylon 5. I feel a bit like beating a deceased equine, because Byron is probably going to be topping a lot of replies to this question. I won't say he's universally loathed, because I actually met a Byron fan in person and another in othe internet, but... he's the closest thing to universally loathed I've known a B5 character to be. The best in show thing about Byron is that he brought Bester back to the show several times, and the best fandom thing is the hilarious filk titled I am the very model of a maudlin telepath, but neither really justifies his existence. It's... well, everything about him. He's supposed to be a charismatic cult leader, and I'm sorry, but the actor doesn't have charisma, at least not in this role. (He's okay as a Minbari in In the Beginning.) Also, he has speeches that are JMS in over the top rethorical mode, and you need to be Andreas Katsulas to make these come across as wise and profound. Alas, the actor is no Andreas Katsulas. Then there's the long golden shampoo commercial hair when he's supposed to live in poverty and on the run, and the awful love speeches ("you are my willow").... he's just the very model, you know?

2.) Galen from Crusade. As opposed to Byron, Galen is really popular in fandom. 99% of what exists of Crusade fanfiction is about him. So unless you've been following my ramblings since years, you may be surprised I find him so annoying. Here's why: For starters, he's the third example of JMS' tendency of casting a British actor in the role of black-clad, brooding man with a mysterious past (after Marcus and Byron), and at the time it was getting old. Secondly, he's also an example of JMS' Tolkien fanboying, not just because he's a technomage, but because he does the Gandalf thing of mysteriously coming and going and delaying explanations. But it sometimes irritates me even when Gandalf does it, and Galen is no Gandalf. Thirdly, his narrative does not chastize him for endangering everyone else in a gratitious and reckless way to soothe his mourning soul. I think if I had the impression that Path of Tears meant me to be furious with Galen for the stunt he pulls, I would not mind. After all, my beloved Londo does a great many infuriating things, but in his case, the story means us to see this as wrong. (Or, to remain in the same show, Max Eilerson does a great many selfish things, and I adore him. The difference is of course that the show points out to Max and the viewers alike when he's being a pain in the butt.) But in the case of Galen, I thought the show wanted me to go "awww, poor woobie!", and I most certainly did not. Fourthly, with all my fondness for manipulative characters, female and male alike, I still didn't like what Galen did with Dureena. And I absolutely can't stand his voice, which I have to hear during the credits in every single Crusade episode. And did I mention that 99% of the existing fanfic is about him? In conclusion: bloody Galen!

3.) William Adama from Battlestar Galactica. You know, there was a time when I liked Adama, and I've written the fanfiction to prove it. Also, just recently I rewatched, for the first time since the original broadcast, the first half of season 4 of BSG and went "hm, this is tighter written than I remember... I really like these eps... maybe I was too hard on Adama, these scenes when he reads to Roslin are actually sweet, and Eddie Olmos doesn't overact, he's conveying great warmth here"....and then my rewatch arrived at the episode Sine Qua Non. At which point not only my Adama annoyance but my Adama hatred came back in full force and all my zen disappeared. I wished Adama had been rejected and spat into the eye by every single of the few characters he cared about. I wished he had been retconned out of existence by a time travelling Romulan. I wished... well, you get the picture. Seriously, there is nothing like Sine Qua Non to sum up every bad trait Bill Adama ever had and put it to its worst effect. If you wish to know the gory details, here is the review I wrote at the time, and rewatching gave me only more, not fewer things to complain about. (One annoyance I did not mention in my original review: our hero Adama, informed that his XO got a Cylon prisoner pregnant, not only telling the man that it would have been preferable if Tigh had tortured the woman, but also adding "what would Ellen have said?". I mean, seriously. Adama despised Ellen. (And vice versa.) That the news of Tigh having sex with a Cylon isn't bad to him because it could have been rape (that doesn't even seem to occur to him) and that he declares torture to have been a better alternative is awful enough without adding the hypocrisy of "what would Ellen think of you?" as if Adama had ever had a moment where he didn't wish Ellen to disappear from the universe. And it's very satisfying to me that Ellen, not Bill, gets the ever after with Saul Tigh, oh yes, it is.) To get from Sine Qua Non back to Adama in general, here is why he wins over Byron and Galen in the degree in which he annoys the living hell out of me: his hypocrisy, self-righteousness, self-pity and complete lack of empathy for anyone outside his very limited circle grew and grew and grew over the course of the show, but unlike at the start this was neither balanced by a display of his good qualities, nor by in-show criticism from sympathetic characters; instead, everyone insisted on admiring him despite the show not giving us any longer reasons for this to be the case. And they let Eddie Olmos go completely overboard with chewing the scenery, severely overestimating my patience for scenes where we see Adama cry, rage, or monologue. And, worst of all, one of the best, most interesting female characters in the last decade, Laura Roslin, was reduced to simply being his love interest, having no virtually no scenes which weren't about Adama in the last ten or so episodes she was in. Byron and Galen at least got neither of them even a complete season to bother me. Adama? Is still getting webisodes.

Most annoying (to me) character ever.


The rest of the days )
Thank you for all the gloriously crazy prompts! Okay, here's the list:

1.) Natasha Romanoff (MCU)

2.) Gaius Baltar (BSG)

3.) Skyler White (Breaking Bad)

4.) Quark (DS9)

5.) Alfred Bester (Babylon 5)

6.) Joan Watson (Elementary)

7.) Emma Swan (Once Upon A Time)

8.) Caleb Temple (American Gothic)

9.) Amanda Darieux (Highlander)

10.) Arvin Sloane (Alias)

11.) Kima Greggs (The Wire)

12.) Birgitte Nyborg (Borgen)

13.) Gwen Cooper (Torchwood)

14.) Arthur Pendragon (Merlin)

15.) David Fisher (Six Feet Under)


And now behold the results! )
Day 19 - Best TV show cast

I take this to mean "best cast of actors", not "best cast of characters", which would be a very different thing. Even so, it's not easy to answer, not least because an actor just marking time or having cameos in one show might reveal he or she has actually amazing range in another. For example, I would never have guessed how good an actor Walter Koenig is before seeing him as Alfred Bester in Babylon 5, because Chekov in Star Trek wasn't a role in which he could do more than be cheerfully optimistic and talk in a fake Russian accent. And the two or so episodes of the original Battlestar Galactica I watched certainly didn't prepare me for Richard Hatch, who was the original Galactica's straight man Apollo, being great and utterly convincing as devious politician and ex terrorist Tom Zarek in the new BSG. Then there are cases where an actor might be good in one particular role but once you see him or her in another show/film/play, you realise it was the writing, not the acting, which made this character so memorable. Or at best a union between the two. *eyes James Marsters*

Conversely, there are cases where a show actually isn't that good but the cast is amazing. I would say Dollhouse is an interesting failure at best, but the ensemble of actors, both regular and recurring, with the notable exception of the leading lady (and oh, the irony that a show designed to show off Eliza Dushku's versatility instead pointed out she's something of a one trick pony as an actress), might actually be stronger than in any other Whedon show (and all the others were far better written). With Dinchen Lachman and Enver Gjokaj the standouts as Victor and Sierra, but Olivia Williams, Fran Kranz and Harry Lennix also did superb jobs, as did Amy Acker (and Alexis Denisof in his s2 appearance reminded me all over again of the mystery that post Angel, this best of all male Jossverse actors pre- Gjokaj didn't seem to get any roles).

Then there are shows where there are stronger and weaker actors but the parts for the weaker ones are either so small or play to these particular actors' strengths, and the overall writing is strong enough that the general impression is of a strong cast. (Case in point: Star Trek: The Next Generation. I don't think anyone else in the cast is as good as Patrick Stewart, but no one is bad, Brent Spiner really is excellent, and after the shaky first season the writing gets to a point where actor strengths and character happily meld for the entire ensemble, and most importantly, no one, be it a good episode or a bad episode, ever gives you the impression of just marking time and waiting for their pay check. And the general chemistry is really good.)

...and then there are the cases where the writing is not just good but great, and the actors are amazing in these and other roles. Which means I have to choose between:

1.) I, Claudius: as I said elsewhere, the cream of 70s British acting shows up there - Derek Jacobi, John Hurt, Sian Phillips, Patrick Stewart, John Rhys-Davies; and, again as mentioned on another day, Brian Blessed delivers one of the most amazing death scenes ever as Augustus in complete silence, acting only with his eyes and the most subtle of expressions and proves once and for all that if given the opportunity he can do more than shout.

2.) Six Feet Under: the wonderful Frances Conroy as Ruth Fisher, Michael C. Hall as my favourite gay character of all time, David Fisher, Peter Krause as Nate, Lauren Ambrose being awesome as Claire (and in many ways Claire is the pov character throughout the show), Rachel Griffiths as Brenda, and those are just the regulars through all seasons. Terrific cast, great writing, and that goes for the recurring characters and one shot guest stars as well.

3.) The Wire: I marathoned it so recently that I'm hesitant to include it because usually I need some temporal distance to be sure about my jugment, but it really is everything that was claimed about it in fandom and in professional criticism, both writing and acting wise. And even though the earlier two examples make it hard, I think I'll still name The Wire as my end choice, because the format - five seasons, with each seasons introducing new characters in addition to the established ones and putting the emphasis elsewhere, which means, for example, a minor character in s1 can be a main character in s4, and the reverse, a main character from s1 can get only cameos in s4 - means that of all the shows I named, this one has the largest ensemble of actors, and the best opportunity to give each othem the chance to shine. This includes some teenagers played by actual teenagers, not adults playing teenagers as is the custom on tv, which, considering said teenagers have to do some heavy dramatic lifting, was a risky move that pays of amazingly.

...in conclusion: the cast from The Wire, who were, in the order that Wikipedia gives them and not limited to, Dominic West, John Doman, Idris Elba, Frankie Faison, Larry Gilliard, Jr., Wood Harris, Deirdre Lovejoy, Wendell Pierce, Lance Reddick, Andre Royo, Sonja Sohn, Chris Bauer, Paul Ben-Victor, Clarke Peters, Amy Ryan, Aidan Gillen, Jim True-Frost, Robert Wisdom, Seth Gilliam, Domenick Lombardozzi, J. D. Williams, Michael K. Williams, Corey Parker Robinson, Reg E. Cathey, Chad L. Coleman, Jamie Hector, Glynn Turman, Clark Johnson, Tom McCarthy, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Neal Huff, Jermaine Crawford, Tristan Wilds, Michael Kostroff, Michelle Paress, Isiah Whitlock, Jr.

The rest of the days )
Day 18 - Favorite title sequence

Impossible to narrow it down to one, but I shall try. Before I discuss the various top candidates under a cut because I shall use the vids to demonstrate, let me explain about one candidate which isn't there: the Dexter title sequence, which is witty and clever (making what turns out to be Dexter simply going through his morning routine of breakfeast, cleaning his teeth, getting dressed, leaving his apartment look incredibly sinister). However due to my increasing disaffection for the show I can no longer enjoy it as I used to. It's not the title sequence, it's me! Now on to the others.

Share the wonders that I've seen )


Trying to decide between these is really hard, you guys. With a pistol pressed at my head, I shall say that artistically I admire the Carnivale intro most, am most mushy about the B5 season 5 intro, and in its mixture between the stylistic and the emotional appeal love the Farscape s3 intro best.




The rest of the days )
Day 14 - Favorite male character

Londo Mollari, of the show Babylon 5

Since I've written an an entire essay about the reasons why, allow me to quote from it: Throughout the show, he takes turns as comic relief, villain, antihero and finally tragic hero. And sometimes all at the same time. (...) Londo Mollari, ready to go over dead bodies to fulfil his ambition and yet capable of enormous self-sacrifice - offering his own life for others without hesitation -, witty ("arrogance and stupidity in the same package; how very efficient of you") and bombastic ("you make me feel alive, you fountain of passion"), who dooms and saves his planet, who redeems himself not through dying a heroic death but through living in torture, a complete traditionalist (even when he's planning to assassinate the Emperor, it's important to him to show up completely dressed when Cartagia calls him, as anything else would be disrespect to the imperial position) who comes to be closer to his former greatest enemy than he ever was to any of his own people, save Vir, who is incapable of sitting still for longer than five minutes without talking, yelling or laughing and then ends up brooding endlessly and alone in the prison of his own body, remains, to me, the most fascinating character I saw on tv.


The rest of the days )
Day 09 - Best scene ever

Great Maker, as Londo Mollari would say. One? Out of the gazillion? Well... okay then. I'll just have to go with one particular scene from The Fall of Centauri Prime, a season 5 of Babylon 5 episode. In which the arcs of Londo and G'Kar culminate in a wonderful, sublime, unforgettable scene which has been termed by many a watcher of the show, including yours truly, you guessed it... "the best scene ever".

Mind you: you really have to have followed the show through its five seasons to understand the full emotional impact. What Londo did, what G'Kar did, the story of their worlds. You need to have watched their relationship change throughout the seasons, in the best canon example of and now it gets spoilery )

Best. Scene. Ever.


The rest of the days )
Day 06 - Favorite episode of your favorite TV show


As detailed here, I can't narrow it down to one favourite show, only one per genre. Favourite episodes are similarly difficult, but with an heroic effort, I can come up with:

Babylon 5 and Buffy: Dust to Dust and Restless, for reasons explained in more detail here.

Angel: Either Darla or Deep Down, when I'm in a noir mood; if I want to be cheered up, why, Smile Time, of course. :) (Despite the fact Gunn essentially makes the classic Faustian deal from hell in that one.)

I, Claudius: tricky, tricky, very hard to choose, but it's probably Queen of Heaven. Mostly for the two stunning Livia scenes; first the birthday dinner with Caligula and Claudius, and at the end of the episode her death scene, again first with Caligula, then Claudius. They accomplish to much. In the long term narrative, this is where the role of main villain gets handed over from Livia to Caligula (while various Little Bads abound; at ths point, it's Sejanus, played by Patrick Stewart), but that's the least of it. The dinner is the one and only time where our hero and narrator, Claudius, and Livia who was the main antagonist for most of the show until this point speak completely honestly to each other; it's a mutual revelation scene and the emotional build up which makes it possible is so wonderfully done. (Also, Caligula is around for a while being incredibly creepy, setting himself up as the next main antagonist.) The death scene accomplishes something very very few stories ever manage. Livia has committed various murders and ruined lives of people the audience cares about. She's not repentant about any of this. (Though she'd rather not pay for them in the afterlife, hence the importance to her to be declared a goddess once she's dead, as the gods can commit any crime they want.) And yet, when she dies, both the audience and Claudius, who has hated and feared her through his entire life, feel intensely sorry for her - again, without diminishing or prettifying any of her previous acts. Part of it is, again, Caligula, and the way he takes his leave of her, but it's also the acting and the state Rome is in at that point and - well, everything.

Six Feet Under: Again, very tricky, but I think I'll go with the s1 finale, Knock, Knock. Various themes of the first season (and some overall themes of the show) get a great showcase here, it has some of David's best scenes (and one of the show's most famous visual gags), the screwed up family dynamics (the Fishers among each other, Federico and the Fishers, Brenda and Billy) each get showcases, and it conveys that "life is a mess, but there is hope" atmosphere of the show so well.


The rest of the days )
Day 04 - Your favorite show ever

Great Maker, as Londo Mollari would say. How could I possibly narrow it down like that? I don't have just a single favourite show ever, I honestly don't. I suppose I could say one per genre. Yes, let's try that.

Science Fiction: Star Trek in its various permutations is my oldest fandom, and I love it with undiminished passion, but my loyalties for the top spot are split between DS9 and TNG, and thus it simply has to be the arc show to end all arc shows, the space opera to end all space operas. It was the dawn of the third age of mankind, you know. Why, Babylon 5 of course.

History: I, Claudius, no question about it, based on Robert Graves' novel. I mean, I have loved several shows since, but this masterpiece of 1970s British tv had it all: brilliant dialogue, the best British actors of the day in major and minor roles, and not type cast, either (if you've only ever seen Brian Blessed in shouty roles, check out Augustus' death scene, in which he doesn't utter a word the entire time and does it all with his eyes during Livia's monologue; you'll know exactly the moment he dies, and no, the eyes stay open, it's not that), Derek Jacobi delivering the performance that makes me still forgive much of his Oxfordian nonsense as the title character, Sian Phillips being the overlady to rule them all, and so forth. Also they were on a budget (as most British tv used to be) and thus there are no crowd scenes or spectacles at all (whenever someone watches, say, gladiator games, we stay with three or four spectators the entire time), and you don't miss it at all. The übergory Spartacus doesn't have anything so frightful as the short scene where Caligula opens the door to Claudius, where technically you don't see anything but John Hurt and Derek Jacobi in close up, but because of the information the audience has as to what Claudius sees over Caligula's shoulders, it haunts me to this day. And did I mention the dialogue is brilliant?

Tiberius: Did it ever occur to you, mother, that it might be you they hate, more than me?
Livia: Nothing ever occurs to you that doesn't occur to me first. This is the affliction with which I live.


Fantasy: Here my loyalties are split between Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spin-off Angel. It really depends on the day I'm having. Angel inspired more fanfiction, Buffymore meta from yours truly. Buffy is the greater achievement, no question, but the category isn't about a critical pov but one's own emotions on the subject, and I really love them both fervently.

Contemporary Drama: Six Feet Under. It had it all: messed up families (as Alan Ball once said, the Fishers were Scandivian drama, the Chenovitchs were Greek drama), black humour, fine actors, the two big canon romances - Nate/Brenda and David/Keith - being treated with equal screentime, and the various sibling and child-parent relationships getting just as much screen time - satire and emotional depth. Oh, and it taught me all about the benefits of clear instructions for my future funeral director. ( I promise not to demand favourite rare comics to be buried with me, too.) I'm a bit more uncertain about the other big SFU message, which is that either pot or LSD are great for enlightenment or family bonding, but there you go. :)


The rest of the days )
selenak: (Katniss by Monanotlisa)
( Jan. 13th, 2013 08:14 pm)
I discovered that my favourite Star Wars author of old, [profile] fernwithy, is now writing Hunger Games fanfiction, which is delightful news. So far my favourite is this Johanna pov set near the end of Mockingjay, and her still in progress Haymitch-during-Catching Fire series, Golden Mean.

Also, because I guessed her Yuletide story correctly, [personal profile] amatara wrote me this lovely story about Regent Virini. Spoilers for all five seasons of Babylon 5, so newbies beware, but if you alrready know all the canon, this is a sensitive portrait of a character who gets very little fanfic or meta attention yet was a part of the Centauri storyline through its most crucial seasons.
selenak: (Londo and Vir by Ruuger)
( Dec. 27th, 2012 07:36 am)
Emerging bleary-eyed from a lot of reading, I bring reccomendations. (Well, the first part of them anyway. More to follow.) As for my own stories, both the recipients liked them and wrote lovely things about them at their own journals (their summaries of what the stories are about are better than mine, drat!), which makes me glad, but not too many other people so far bothered to check them out so far, woe. Ah well. Self, you knew this would happen, a rare fandom is a rare fandom, and within rare fandoms, at least in one case you picked a subject you knew maybe only recipient and yourself are interested in. (But I still want other people to read both stories, she sniffles, they mean so much to me this year!)

However, as a reader, I'm in unqualified ecstasy. Have a first bunch of recs (excluding, of course, my gifts which I have already talked about).

History/Hunger Games: The Sticking Place

Yes, you read the fandoms right. Someone wrote an ingenious fusion of the Hunger Games premise with the 15th century. In the Fifth Hunger Games, Lucrezia Borgia, Richard (III.) of York, Marguerite d'Anjou and poor Henry of Lancaster are all tributes. It sounds like crack, but the characters are played, err, written straight, and of course it has to end the way it does.

History: The most pleasant tale of Lady Bessy

Four titles Elizabeth of York never held, and one she did. The "Five Things" format applied to the woman who was the last Planatagenet princess and the first Tudor queen, but rarely gets fictional or biographical attention. This year, she got several stories. This one which applies the "Five Things" format in ingenious ways is my favourite.

A Place of Greater Safety: Parallel or Together

In which Camille Desmoulins tries to bring Robespierre and Danton together. It doesn't work out the way he expected. The characterisations ring very true to Hilary Mantel's novel, and it does something I've been secretly and not so secretly hoping for when reading the actual book, where it didn't but could have. :)

Babylon 5:

The Subtle Arrangement of Stones: the Babylon 5 story I never knew was missing in my life, but retrospectively it so was, and oh, how it wins at Yuletide! Set during the first season. Londo, G'Kar and Delenn are kidnapped by the Homeguard, and it's up to their valiant aides, Vir, Na'Toth and Lennier to rescue them. The characterisations and - as invevitable given the characters in question - the bickering are top notch, the format (Garibaldi interviewing everyone for the security files afterwards) ingenious, and it fits into canon beautifully. I loved this to bits.

The Price of a Favour: Timov in the days of Cartagia. I'm always thrilled to find fic dealing with my favourite B5 one episode character, and this was great.

In Flagrante: three times Londo and G'Kar are caught in the act. One happy, one angry, one sad. Alternatively funny and heartbreaking, as Londo and G'Kar are wont to be.

James Bond: Protégé

M passes on what she learned. Contains two of my favourite things, M backstory and Eve Moneypenny fleshing out. I loved it.

Elementary (which had 21 new stories in Yuletide - hooray!):

Three Anniversaries: A Love Story: Not all great love stories are about romance is the summary the author gives, and this one celebrates the (platonic) friendship between Sherlock Holmes and Joan Watson through the years. Present and future fic that feels true to where the characters are now and where they could be through the years, and has that same restraint and understated affection I find appealing on the show.

The Long Summer: this one is an ensemble fic that uses a frustrating case to show Holmes' relationships to Watson, Gregson, Bell and deliver an excellent Holmes character exploration to boot.

Greek Mythology: this year one of the requests was for a story about Ariadne and Icarus growing up together in Crete. This resulted in a dozen or so great tales, and it feels unfair to single one out, but this is my favourite of them all:

Thirteen Views Of A Labyrinth: They are not so very different, Ariadne and Pasiphaë, Icarus and Daedalus, Ariadne and Icarus. This has fantastic world building and awe-inspiring characterisations of everyone, is full of shades of grey and surprising yet sense making twists on the myths. I admire it so much.

The Count of Monte-Cristo: Constant.

It's a rare story which takes one of the source canon's villains - in this case Fernand Mondego, the later Count de Morcerf - and fleshes him out without going the excuse and woobiefication road. This story accomplishes it.

New Tricks: New Tricks for Old Dogs (or Five Alternate Universes Where Sandra Pullman Was Always Awesome)

What the title says. :) Wonderful banter and character voices in every universe.

Prometheus: Satellites: Three events in the life of Peter Weyland. Dysfunctional family relationships are my soft spot, and they rarely come more messed up than with Weyland, Meredith Vickers and David 8. This story gives us some background for this, in a Weyland, Meredith and David pov respectively, and it's fascinating.
First, via [personal profile] nenya_kanadka, a sad and beautiful post by Mira Furlan apropos Michael O'Hare's death about all the Babylon 5 cast members who have died by now. (In the middle of being moved, I had an eerie moment of recognition, because I know the German children's rhyme Mira F. remembers.) Really, universe, lay off the rest of our cast for a while, will you?

Secondly, since US politics affect the rest of the world so much, of course we're following the election campaigns over here with baited breath as well. And lo, there was much relief about Obama's performance in the second debate. I don't think even our conservatives want Romney. This would be because a German moderate conservative in most cases qualifies as a leaning-to-the middle liberal in the US, and vice versa. Also Romney's trip abroad in the summer was one giant facepalm after the other and brought back memories of the unmissed Dubya. However, we don't get to vote, so of course journalists fill their columns with speculations about the general American state of mind and what exactly Americans want from their Presidents.

I'm tempted to pull a Joss Whedon and declare there is a difference between what they want and what they need. Or even between what they think they want and what they actually want, and I mean that bi-partisanly. For example, I think if you'd ask members of either party about traits their ideal president should possess, I think here's what both Republicans and Democrats would agree on: he (for it's still a he in most people's imaginations) should be an uncorrupted outsider to Washington politics, solidly married to his first and only wife and so faithful to her that he sees even the occasional lustful thought about other women as a fault, naming faults in a crisis instead of indulging in euphemisms and lies, oh, and a good Christian because that's still a specifically American must. Now it occurs to me that within living memory, there actually was such a paragorn. This would be Jimmy Carter, aka the one Republicans still use to beat up Democrats with and Democrats for the most part are still busy distancing themselves from. (And not just them. I remember reading our chancellor of the 70s, Helmut Schmidt's, memoirs, in which he declares he had far more respect for Nixon than Carter; Schmidt is a Social Democrat.)

Again, looking at Presidents from both parties and broadly speaking, it seems to me the most popular were the ones who made people feel good about themselves. Unless their decisions were so catastrophic that even the hail-fellow-well-met-aren't-we-great! factor doesn't cover it anymore, hence Reagan still being a party saint whereas Bush the Younger seems to be the Republican Carter, aka the one his own party tries to pretend doesn't exist. And the eternal phoenix act of Bill Clinton. Mind you, there are other factors at work in all those cases, I know, but still, imo this is one. I mean, even Maureen Dowd, who used to disdain both Clintons (hence her being the likely original for the journalist in Political Animals and greeted No Drama Obama with "an adult, at last!", admitted to missing Clinton's unabashed "loves to be needed, needs to be loved" style even before the Democratic convention when she wrote in this article, comparing Clinton with Obama:

When the diffident debutante ended up in the deserted AmericInn’s lobby in Iowa Falls on an icy Saturday night with reporters and a few six-packs, he did not seize the opportunity to seduce, as Bill would have. Clinton probably would have chatted with one reporter about Gabriel García Márquez, another about economic philosophy and a third about prowling the Arkansas backwoods to find antique cameos for Hillary.

Barry, for his part, looked around with dazed distaste and scurried up to his room.


Post-convention, and several weeks later, the articles marvelling about how the 2008 situation, when Obama to the (non-Republican) media was the refreshing new hope and both Clintons the tired old has beens who should just go already, reversed itself so completely that "why can't you be more like Bill?" appears to be an ongoing subtext, have been coming a plenty. Some choice quotes from the latest one:

(In 2008) Seated on a stool next to Clinton, Obama wore an impassive expression, as if he were being endorsed by a Kissimmee town councilman—or a former president whose vaunted rhetorical gifts were inferior to his own. “He thought it was fine,” recalls a senior Obama adviser. “We were all watching on TV, and we thought it was fine, too. But by then, nobody cared that much. We were all just so far past the Clintons.”

Four years later, two words leap to mind:
As if. Today, Hillary Clinton is the most popular member of Obama’s Cabinet, and her husband is not only his greatest but most tireless political ally. This past September 11, the Y-chromosome Clinton was in Miami, ripping Mitt Romney a new one over Medicare. Since then, Clinton has campaigned for Obama in New Hampshire and Nevada, raised money for him in Boston and with him in Los Angeles—and there is more to come. A TV ad with Clinton making the case for Obama’s reelection has run 16,000 times in swing states across the country. Another, featuring a clip of Clinton’s address at the Democratic convention, almost gives the impression that he is Obama’s running mate. Then there is that speech itself, which another top Obama adviser tells me flatly is “the most important moment of the campaign so far.”

and:

Last time around, recall, Obama’s candidacy was based in part on the consignment of Clintonism to the dustbin of history. But now, with Obama running unabashedly as the inheritor of that creed, Clinton is reveling in seeing his legacy restored to what he regards as its rightful status: a restoration that will mightily benefit his wife if she hurls herself at the White House again in 2016. Speculation on that topic is rife within the Clinton diaspora; no one has a clue as to whether or not Hillary will run. But, equally, no one doubts that her husband dearly wants her to—mainly because, among members of the tribe, he can’t shut up about it.

Clintonism isn’t the only thing being rejuvenated here, however. What’s taking place is the revivification—and the ­Godzilla-scale enlargement—of Clinton himself. In 2008, a not insignificant number of white liberals and African-Americans assailed him as, if not a racist, a race-baiter; he was battered and bruised, scalded and scarred, mired in self-pity. But in 2012, he has emerged as the Democrats’ own Dutch: revered by his party, respected so much by the GOP that it dare not cross him, sanctified by the great heaving middle.


Again, there are lots of factors for this reevaluation - Hillary's professionalism and loyalty to Obama as Secretary of State (defying all "she'll stab him in the back" predictions), nostalgia for the Niineties (budget surplus, and in the American perception no wars - Germany perceives it a bit differently, what with Bosnia being not that far away from our doorstep) - but it seems to me a lot of the complaints really go back to the feel good factor rather than actual difference of achievement. (As the above quoted article also states, there are a lot of parallels between the first two years of Clinton and Obama.) Obama's coolness was refreshing after eight years of Bush's all-emotion-no-brains and before that Clinton's emotions-and-brains-but-self-indulgence-again-and-again, but now until the second debate the constant refrain was "show more emotions! Show that you care!"

(Unless, of course, you're a woman. I still remembver all that business about Hillary crying, or not, in the Democratic primaries.) Politics and show business really are twins.
selenak: (Alex Drake by Renestarko)
( Oct. 1st, 2012 02:18 pm)
Evil lingering cold is evil. And tomorrow a cousin's wedding, too.

On the cheerful side of things, The Bletchley Circle was as great as advertised. The basic premise - four women who used to be among the 80% female part of Bletchley Park employees (aka busy breaking codes in WWII) team up again to solve a case of murders nine years after the war is over and they've tried, with varying success, to cope with "ordinary" life in the 50s - should be good for a longer series, but if the miniseries of three parts i all there'll ever be, I'll still be content because it was fabulous. Not flawless - the third part was weaker than the first two, since the denouement depended on a very clever and sensible character doing something eminently stupid - but the good far outweighed this: the four women (Susan, Millie, Jean and Lucy) were all competent, interesting, with distinct personalities, and the revival of their war time comraderie under the very different circumstances they're now in was compelling.

With all the hiati and season premieres, it occurs to me that I've now dropped three shows I used to watch, all in the same year - Fringe, Dexter and now Downton Abbey. DA is painless, Fringe had such a lot going for it that dropping it leaves the kind of ache that dropping Heroes caused me a while back, but just as in that case, it has become necessary, and the decline of Dexter in s6 (though the rot set in earlier than that) still infuriates me.

It also makes me nervous because Homeland had its season premiere last night (haven't had a chance to watch yet, will do so soon), and the first season for me was terrific but also good in a way that makes me wonder whether this particular premise is sustainable for more than one season, and I should hate to see it decline the way Dexter did. I'll access my inner optimist soon!

Maybe, cold aside, I feel a bit in the doldrums because we've been doing media tie ins over at b5_revisited for a while now, having exhausted all the on screen canon, and while that was fine when we were talking about the telepath trilogy, it's become depressing for the most part since, because I dislike so much about the the Centauri trilogy (oh my beloved Centauri!), and of the JMS and Fiona Avery short stories, I loved The Shadow of his Thoughts, was fine with Genius Loci, but then came the appalling Space, Time and the Incurable Romantic and now Ms. Avery's story True Seeker, which I didn't know before, turns out to contain more coals than gems as well. So that meant I've been writing negative reviews for weeks now. And it's depressing. I don't like doing that, I really don't, it's just that hardly anyone else writes reviews at all and it's the Babylonverse which I still love discussing because of my ongoing affection for the show proper. But it's incredibly depressing. :( ...so much more fun to squee, I can't tell you. Speaking of which:

Discword/Avengers crossover of genius: Ankh-Morpork, Avenged. Which absolutely had to happen. It made my Monday.
.

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