A Speedster, an Archer, and a Kryptonian Walk Into a Bar

I mentioned this a few posts back, but tonight is the start of a four-way crossover on all the CW network’s superhero shows.   It starts towards the end of tonight’s Supergirl, continues tomorrow on Flash, then on to Arrow on Wednesday, concluding with Legends of Tomorrow on Thursday.

This is the closest thing we’ve ever seen to a live-action Justice League.   It’s already better than next year’s Justice League movie with emo-Flash, Aqua-grunge-man, and Batfleck.

Just look at this line-up!   This picture contains Supergirl, Green Arrow, Flash, Firestorm, Atom, Vixen, and a bunch of other people!     Honestly, this is the closest we’ve ever come in live action to the Justice League Unlimited cartoon, which was always kind of amazing and wonderful.

fourwayteamup

I’ve been enjoying the hell out of The Flash ever since his first pre-lightning appearance on Arrow in season two.  I love that they leaned into the comic book aspects and showed that not everything has to be darkness and grunge and pain.   In this respect, the DC television universe is infinitely better than the DC movie universe, which was so loathe to do Superman as bright and hopeful that they didn’t even call him Superman until the last few minutes of Man of Steel.

At the beginning of this season of Supergirl, they brought Superman onto the show and he was everything that the movie Superman isn’t.  He was charming and colorful and true to the original comic vision for the character.   He was optimistic and hopeful, which is how Big Blue is supposed to be.  I feel like the people behind the movie iteration have forgotten this, if they ever knew it.

On the television side, however, they definitely know it.  Superman, Supergirl, and Flash are all characters who inspire hope.  That’s part of why Arrow has floundered a bit since the first two seasons-  this version of Arrow is heavily Batmanned-   full of darkness and broody angst.   (And let’s face it- the 1941 first appearance of Green Arrow was obviously trying to cash in on the success of the 1939 first appearance of the Caped Crusader, right down to the Arrow-Car.)

It’s kind of interesting that although Arrow paved the way for the current crop of CW Superhero shows, it’s the one that is the least comfortable with embracing the fantastical nature of comic book heroes.  Arrow has, for the most part, tried to keep things grounded.  They didn’t do superpowers until after the Flash had premiered, and they waited until season four to bring up the idea of magic, not counting the Lazarus Pit.  Even with powered characters like Firestorm and Hawkgirl running around the “Arrowverse,” the show that started it all still prefers to work with non-powered characters.

That’s part of the fun, for me though-  one of my favorite parts of bringing the Flash into the Arrowverse was seeing Diggle’s reaction (and stunned disbelief) at what Barry could do.   The first time these two had a proper team-up, I was super psyched, even though Oliver is kind of a dick to Barry most of the time.

The cross-network Flash-Supergirl crossover last year was much more satisfying.  Barry is way more at home in Kara’s world than in Oliver’s.  The entire episode, from start to finish, is just fun as heck.   (Kara’s reaction when Barry demonstrated his super-speed by getting everyone in the room ice cream is one of the best moments on television so far this year.) The Legends of Tomorrow, while not the strongest show in the current line-up is still entertaining enough, and it takes its tone cues more from Flash than from Arrow.

Tonight, the whole lot of them start to battle an honest-to-goodness alien invasion.  It’s gonna be great.

And I can’t wait to see how Diggle reacts to Supergirl.

Are you a DC or a Marvel?   What’s your favorite live-action superhero adaptation?

Editor’s Note:  I’m attempting to blog every day in November with CheerPeppers.  I don’t expect to succeed because life be crazy, but any blogging in excess of my previous post-free month is a win, right?

The Upfronts are coming, the Upfronts are coming!

Next week, the television networks have their Upfront presentations where they detail their new fall line-ups.  NBC and FOX will present on Monday, ABC on Tuesday, CBS on Wednesday, and the CW will close it out on Thursday. For many years, going all the way back to my time on LiveJournal, I did a series of posts during the week of the television network Upfronts to talk about all the new shows.

As the landscape of television and the shape of the Internet have changed, those posts have become entirely redundant.  Most of the show renewal and cancellation announcements are out weeks or months before the Upfronts, and the new show announcements hit earlier and earlier as each network releases their loglines.  The various entertainment blogs pick up the details from there, and then Facebook makes sure that everyone hears about everything. Last year, I gave up the idea of talking about each network in separate posts, and I did one combined post that talked mostly about the new shows that interested me.

This year is no different than last year-  the announcements have been coming for several months already,  and although we won’t know the new fall schedule until the announcements next week, we do know what shows have been kept, canceled, or ordered as new.  The shows that interest me are few and far between, because it’s more of the same-  more procedurals, more Shondaland, more fish-out-of-water family dramas.  Several of the new show loglines sound like they’re copy-pasted off each other.

Moving on, then. Let’s start with ABC.  Remember, I’m not listing every show, just the stuff I watch and some of the more popular ones. If your favorite show isn’t listed here, you’ll need to check elsewhere to find out if it’s coming back.

ABC:

Renewed: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Fresh Off The Boat, Dr. Ken, Once Upon A Time, Black-Ish, the Middle, How I Met Your Murderer, The Goldbergs, Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, Modern Family.

Canceled: Galavant, Agent Carter, The Muppets, The Family, Nashville, and Castle.

I’m kind of glad to see Nashville and Castle getting cut, because I feel like they’ve both lost a lot of steam.  I’m sad to see Galavant, Agent Carter, and The Muppets go.

Of the new shows the network has ordered, these three caught my attention.  I will probably only watch the first one, and only until it gets canceled:

Time After Time – Based loosely on the novel and 1979 movie (which I loved,) this story starts when science-fiction writer H.G. Wells is transported to modern day Manhattan in pursuit of Jack the Ripper.

Imaginary Mary – Jenna Elfman plays opposite her childhood imaginary friend (CGI’d, and voiced by SNL vet Rachel Dratch)

IMAGINARY MARY - ABC's “Imaginary Mary" stars Jenna Elfman as Alice. (ABC/Ed Herrera)

Designated Survivor – Kiefer Sutherland is the President of the US! He’s like seventh in line for the Presidency and a big attack knocks off everyone above him.

Still Star-Crossed – The newest Shonda Rhimes show is a sequel to Romeo & Juliet that picks up after the double suicide.  This looks like it could be fantastic and horrible and ridiculous.  Plus it’s got Anthony Head as a Capulet!  I always like seeing Giles in a doublet.

CBS:

Renewed:  Elementary, Hawaii 5.0, a bunch of NCISes, Blue Bloods, Survivor, The Amazing Race, Madam Secretary, 2 Broke Girls, Mom, Scorpion, and The Big Bang Theory.

Canceled: CBS hasn’t announced many cancellations, but they did announce that Supergirl is moving to the CW, so I’m pretty happy about that.

Of the new shows that CBS has ordered, these two have my attention:

Macgyver – An entirely unnecessary reboot of the original show, this version follows a 20-something MacGyver (Lucas Till) as he “creates a clandestine organization where he uses his knack for solving problems in unconventional ways to help prevent disasters from happening.”  In other words, it’s “Macgyver Begins.”  I bet Liam Neeson trains him and everything.

The Great Indoors – Joel McHale plays an adventure reporter who has to take over the digital department of a magazine, where he’s the boss to a bunch of entitled millennials.  I love Joel McHale, so this could be hilarious.

FOX:

Renewed: Lucifer, Scream Queens, Bob’s Burgers, Bones, The Last Man On Earth, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Gotham, The Simpsons, Empire, Sleepy Hollow

Cancelled: The Grinder, Grandfathered, Cooper Barrett, Bordertown

I’m astonished that Lucifer was renewed.  It’s a great show, and it’s very funny, but I didn’t think for a second that this one would make it through season one.    I’m sad to see Cooper Barrett and Bordertown go, but I’m not surprised at either one.  Cooper Barrett was light goofy fun, and Bordertown has gotten progressively weirder and more hilarious with every episode.

Fox is doing a show based on the Exorcist.  For real.  Other things they’ve ordered include a Lethal Weapon show and a reboot of 24.  So far, I’m not really interested in any of their newly announced programs.

NBC:

Renewed:  The Blacklist, Superstore, all the Chicago emergency services, Blindspot, Law & Order: SVU

Canceled:  Heroes Reborn, Undateable

NBC has the highest count of interesting new shows ordered this year, even if they did jump on the time-travel bandwagon that this season seems to be all about.  There are four that have my interest this year:

Powerless – The first comedy series set in the universe of DC Comics, Powerless is about an insurance agency specializing in regular-people coverage against damage caused by the crime-fighting superheroes.  The ensemble cast also includes Alan Tudyk and Danny Pudi.  I think this is going to be hilarious.

powerless

The Good Place – “When Eleanor (Kristen Bell) has a brush with the afterlife, she realizes she hasn’t been a very good person. So she works to fix that, aided by an “afterlife mentor” played by Ted Danson.  I’ll give this one episode to hook me-  the tone of the show could be very light or it could be very “Highway to Heaven.”

Midnight, Texas – From the books by True Blood author Charlaine Harris, this show is about a town in Texas with vampires and witches to psychics and hit men.  I want to see at least a commercial before I decide whether to watch or pass on this one.

Timeless – From Eric Kripke and Shawn Ryan, Timeless is described as an action-adventure series in which a mysterious criminal  steals a secret state-of-the-art time machine, intent on destroying America as we know it by changing the past. The team that tries to stop him includes a scientist (Better Off Ted‘s Malcolm Barrett!!!), a soldier, and a history professor who use the machine’s prototype to travel back in time to critical events.  Honestly, I wouldn’t even bother giving this a shot, except that Kripke does interesting television and Malcolm Barrett is fun to watch.

The CW:

Renewed: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Reign ,  Jane the Virgin, The Vampire Diaries, iZombie, The 100, Legends of Tomorrow,The Originals, Supernatural,Arrow, The Flash, and Supergirl (coming over from CBS.)

Canceled: Almost nothing.  They only cancel shows that nobody watches.

Five of the shows on the CW this fall will be comic book shows.  I hereby dub them the DC Comics Network.   (And incidentally, I wish that DC comics would stick to television where they get it right, instead of making terrible movies.  Let Marvel rule the box office; DC is much better at episodic television.)

The CW has so many renewals that they didn’t order many new shows.  They announced three pickup orders, and I’m not really interested in any of them.  These two are the more interestong ones:

Frequency – “In this reimagining of the New Line Cinema film, a female police detective in 2016 discovers she is able to speak via a ham radio with her estranged father (also a detective) who died in 1996. They forge a new relationship while working together on an unresolved murder case, but unintended consequences of the ‘butterfly effect’ wreak havoc in the present day.”

Riverdale – Archie Comics characters are set in the present day.  The network says it’s “a surprising and subversive take on Archie, Betty, Veronica, and their friends, exploring the surrealism of small town life — the darkness and weirdness bubbling beneath Riverdale’s wholesome facade.”

What do you think about all the new shows, reboots, and time-travel adventures?

The 2015 Television Upfronts

Every May, the five main American broadcast television networks get together at a big party called the Upfronts to show their new fall shows to advertisers.  This is when we, the viewers, get our first taste of the new fall schedule.

Over the past several years, I’ve always talked about the Upfronts elsewhere on the Web.  In years past, I would write one post for each of the five networks.  In each post, I would list the network’s announced fall schedule and detail the new shows.  I would always come up with a big summary post at the end with a grid showing what programs I would watch in the fall.

Over the last few years, things have changed.  While I was in Germany, I couldn’t watch American television in real time.  My TiVo was back in Florida, and I had to rely on a variety of Internet technologies to keep up with my TV watching.

Another big change over the last few years is the television landscape itself-  I loved Community when it started, but now it’s not even playing on a normal network- it’s showing on Yahoo Screen.  The idea of an Internet company making television programming blows my mind entirely.

Add to that the fact that most of the new programming that shows up on television is total crap, and you wind up with a very dull screen.  Here’s a perfect example:  This fall, the networks are producing at least three shows that are either based on or continuing the story from a previous movie:  Rush Hour, Limitless, and Minority Report.  All three could be good, but I really kinda doubt it.

The days of the program grid and the scheduled television are over.  I’m not going to cover every announced new show, I’m only going to talk about the five new shows that I’m really excited about.  Only three of them are based on comic books, so that’s something.  Oh, and it worked out to one per network.

Going alphabetically, I guess I’m starting with ABC.

THE MUPPETS - "The Muppets" return to prime time with a contemporary, documentary-style show that, for the first time ever, will explore the Muppets’ personal lives and relationships, both at home and at work, as well as romances, break-ups, achievements, disappointments, wants and desires; a more adult Muppet show, for kids of all ages.  (ABC/Eric McCandless) KERMIT THE FROG, GONZO THE GREATThe Muppets – Bill Prady is one of the names behind this new television incarnation of the muppets.  It’s being set up as a “documentary-style show that, for the first time ever, will explore the Muppets’ personal lives and relationships, both at home and at work, as well as romances, break-ups, achievements, disappointments, wants and desires; a more adult Muppet show, for kids of all ages.”

I was skeptical about the format until I watched the trailer.  This looks like it will be a hoot, even though some of the new muppet voices totally take me out of the moment.

Next up is CBS.

new-tv-shows-supergirlSupergirl –  “Kara Zor-El escaped her home planet of Krypton amid its destruction years ago. Since arriving on Earth, she has concealed the powers she shares with her (ahem) “famous cousin.” But now, at age 24, she decides to embrace her superhuman abilities and be the hero she was always meant to be.”

The trailer for this appeared online a few days ago, and I think this is going to be a lot of fun.  It looks closer in tone to Lois & Clark than it does to Smallville, and that’s a very good thing.    Unfortunately, we have to wait until after football ends in November to see this one.

Next up, FOX.

Lucifer – “Bored as the Lord of Hell, Lucifer resigns his throne and abandons his kingdom for the gorgeous, shimmering insanity of Los Angeles, where he gets his kicks helping the LAPD punish criminals. Based on characters from DC Entertainment’s Vertigo imprint.”

Slated for midseason, this is another show that I was very skeptical about until I saw the trailer.  Lucifer is a brilliant character, but I thought at first they were going to turn this into just another police procedural.  CSI: Hell, in other words.  This has potential, but only if FOX executives can keep their mitts off the production process as they move along.

NBC’s best new show is going to be:

new-tv-shows-best-time-ever-with-neil-patrick-harrisBest Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris –  This show has a 10 pm air time, and I saw it referenced once as a variety show.  I don’t really know what that means, but I’m assuming there will be singing and dancing because it’s Neil Patrick Harris.  I keep hoping he’ll be able to get some How I Met Your Mother gags in, but we’ll see.

I love pretty much everything that NPH does, and I have very high hopes for this one.

Last but not least, The CW has decided to spin a show off of their shared Arrow/Flash world.

DC's Legends of TomorrowDC’s Legends Of Tomorrow – “When heroes alone are not enough… the world needs legends. Having seen the future, one he will desperately try to prevent from happening, time-traveling rogue Rip Hunter is tasked with assembling a disparate group of both heroes and villains to confront an unstoppable threat – one in which not only is the planet at stake, but all of time itself. Can this ragtag team defeat an immortal threat unlike anything they have ever known? The cast includes Victor Garber (The Flash); Brandon Routh (Arrow); Arthur Darvill (Doctor Who); Caity Lotz (Arrow); Dominic Purcell (The Flash) and Wentworth Miller (The Flash).”

There is so much awesome in this trailer that I’m kind of amazed that it got pushed to television so fast- it’s a Justice-League-esque show without most of the actual comics Justice League.    Add to that a live-action Hawk Girl, live-action Firestorm, an Atom who actually shrinks, and a live-action Vandal Savage… I’m damned impressed.  I kind of wonder who they’ll get to play Savage, though.

What do you think about these new shows?  Are you getting burnt out on all the comics on television?

 

Last Weekend, In A Photo Gallery Nutshell

While my inbox was exploding with new friends from being Freshly Pressed and listed in Friday Faves, I was out of the country, and mildly out of my mind. I’m planning on going back through all the comments and likes and follows from the Sci-Fi Expatriates post, but I just haven’t had the time yet. I got stuck for an extra night in Frankfurt last week because of flight delays, but that’s another post. That’s probably Monday’s post, actually.

The reason that I was in Frankfurt in the first place is that I was on my way to Orlando to hang out with some friends at Megacon, a pretty nifty convention for sci-fi, anime, gaming, and so forth. The big highlight of this year’s Megacon was a panel with the entire original cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation- Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, Michael Dorn, Levar Burton, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis, Wil Wheaton, Denise Crosby, and even John DeLancie. Much fun was had by all.

Panels and friends are only part of the fun at conventions though- one of my favorite things about cons is all the people in costumes! People in fandom can be so creative, and I love to see what people get into. Generally speaking, I don’t get the anime and video game based costumes, but the stuff from comics, movies, and television I usually get right away because that’s my particular geekiness.

Since I only have two days between getting back from Florida and heading off to Frankfurt again (but planned, this time!) I’m going to cheat a bit and just show you guys a gallery of my some of my favorite costumes from the weekend. Make with the clicky to see captions!

Grokking Expatriates In Sci-Fi*

I was having a conversation with Spring about Doctor Who, as we often do, and it occurred to me that The Doctor is actually an expatriate.

That’s really what this blog is about-  I started to write here originally just to tell my family and close friends what I was up to during my time in Germany.  Over time, however, my blog evolved into more than that-  I talk about life as an expat, and I talk about things that are different from life back in the US, different from the life I knew before last year.

Every third or fourth time I use the word expatriate, or expat for short, someone asks me what it means.  An expatriate is just somebody who lives outside of their native country, whether that be temporary or permanent.  The original meaning of the word referred to people who were permanently exiled or who had renounced their homes, but the word is used much  more generically now to describe anyone living outside their home country.

Doctor WhoIf you broaden the definition slightly of expatriate from country to planet, you can posit that the Doctor is actually an expat.   His homeworld is Gallifrey, a planet that is lost forever in time, but he spends an awful lot of time on Earth, hanging out with humans and generally getting involved with the culture.  That, my friends, is what an expatriate does.  Most of us don’t spend quite as much time running as the Doctor,  though, with the possible exception of Mandi.

Talking about the Doctor as an expatriate got me thinking about all the other expats scattered throughout geeky pop culture, and there are hundreds upon hundreds of them.  Since I’m a huge list-making nerd, this naturally led to me making a list of some of my favorite sci-fi and fantasy expats from movies, television, comics, and books.  There are far too many to include in one sitting, but these are some of my favorites.  I separate most of them into one of four basic categories: Last Of My Kind, Stranded, Out Of Time, and Expat By Choice.

The Doctor falls into the Last Of My Kind grouping.

jonnjonnzAnother memorable example of the last of his kind is J’onn J’onnz, the Martian Manhunter.  J’onn has taken on the human secret identity of John Jones, and he works as a police detective.  Here we encounter a major genre caveat:  Almost all comic book characters have had their story told and retold so many times that there are numerous versions, numerous origins, and numerous backstories.  J’onn was not always the last of his kind, and certain versions of him have other martians around.  In current continuity, there are green martians and white martians- J’onn is a green.  In most of the versions though, J’onn spends much of his non-crimefighting time observing and trying to understand humanity.

bigblueContinuing on in comics, we have perhaps one of the most famous expatriates of all time:  Kal-El of Krypton. Sent to earth by his father to escape a dying planet, baby Kal is adopted by Jonathan and Martha Kent, and is raised as their son, Clark Kent.  The story of Superman is so well known in our shared popular culture that even people who don’t read comics tend to have at least some knowledge of the story.  One interesting question where Superman is concerned, however:  In most versions of his story, Kal-El really knows very little of the cultural heritage of Krypton.  He was raised on Earth, as an Earth child.  Does this mean he’s not really an expatriate?

I could go on and on about expats in comics, since many of the comic book heroes are living outside their home countries.   As my friend Frank Fradella put it when I bounced the idea for this post off of him, “…and geez… the entire “new” X-Men were expats. Storm, Colossus, Banshee, Sunfire, Nightcrawler.”  Frank is right-  if I keep listing comic book expats, we’ll never get around to other fun characters.  Let’s move on to the Stranded expats.

While most expat stories in the sci-fi/fantasy genre tend to be fish out of water stories, it’s a pretty common trope to have people stuck somewhere, trying to get home.  Heck, that’s the entire premise of Star Trek: Voyager.  I don’t count them as expatriates, though, because they’re living in a community of their own kind (i.e. on board Voyager) and they’re not really integrating into the society around them as much as they’re just passing  through.  Star Trek: Voyager is the sci-fi equivalent of an American Army base in Germany- just passing through, folks.

farscapeOften, however, the characters who fit this category are stuck.  They want to go home, but don’t know a way.  Like John Crichton in Farscape.  John is an astronaut and test pilot.  In the first episode of the series, he’s flying his module, Farscape One, and he is pulled into a suddenly appearing wormhole.  When he exits the other side, he’s in the middle of a battle between the Peacekeepers, a human-looking species called the Sebacean, and a group of escaped prisoners of various alien species aboard Moya, a living ship.  He’s pulled onboard Moya, and the rest of the series is a combination of his adventures with that group and his attempts to get home.

flashgordonFlash Gordon‘s story is not all that different than John Crichton, although in the wonderfully campy 1980 movie version, he’s not an astronaut, he’s a professional football player. (The original 1930s version had him as a polo player.)   During a series of pretty ludicrous events, he gets launched into space, and crash-lands on Mongo, before getting into a series of adventures with the various peoples of that world.  Flash adapts amazingly well, and ultimately winds up saving the various different nations of Mongo from their evil overlord, Ming The Merciless.  There have been other versions of Flash’s story, but the 1980 version is my favorite, partially because of the amazing Queen rock-score for the film, but mostly for the amazing cast, including Timothy Dalton as Prince Barin, Max von Sydow as Ming, and the amazing Brian Blessed as Prince Vultan:

Gordon's alive?

Moving on, then.  The television series Land Of The Lost counts as a Stranded expat story, because the Marshall family (father Rick, children Will and Holly) accidentally moves through a dimensional portal and spends the rest of their time dodging dinosaurs and Sleestaks (humanoid reptilian bad guys) and trying to get back home.  I have no particular fondness for this series, but I like saying “Sleestak.”

Another great expatriate character who is stuck away from his home is Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkel Emmannuel Ambroise Diggs, known to most as the Wizard of Oz.  As with comics, there are many different versions of this character.  In some versions, he’s fairly benificent.  In the original book version, he really just wanted to go home.  In the musical Wicked, (my favorite version, incidentally,) he’s actually kind of a dick.

kevinflynnIn another of my all time favorites, the TRON series, Kevin Flynn has a rather interesting version of being stuck in another place. Since 1989, Flynn has been living in the Grid, a fictional virtual reality world.  We don’t really see much of Flynn’s life on the Grid, because the movie follows his son, Sam Flynn.  Still, it’s evident from what you do see that he has established a remarkable life for himself there.

fordprefectUp until this point, all of my Stranded examples have been humans.  However, one of my favorite expatriate characters isn’t human at all.  He is, in fact, from a small planet somewhere in the vicinity of Betelgeuse.   Ford Prefect, from the Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy series, has been in many formats-  books, television shows, radio shows, a movie, comic books, trading cards-  the version pictured to the right is the movie Ford, played by Mos Def.  I prefer the book and radio show versions of Ford, but it was much easier to find a picture of the movie version.   Ford is a roving researcher for the titular Hitchhiker’s Guide.  He came to Earth to research it for the book, and got stuck for fifteen years.

We can go in with the Stranded examples for pages and pages, but I think it’s Time to move onto the Out Of Time category.  (See what I did there?)  These are characters who wind up stuck outside of their own time, like Booster Gold.  I said I wouldn’t do any more comic book heroes in this list, though.

fryI didn’t say anything about cartoons, though.  Take Philip J. Fry, in Futurama for example.  In the pilot episode of the series, Fry is a pizza delivery man who gets accidentally (ish) frozen in a cryogenic tube for one thousand years.  He wakes up in the future, and starts working as a delivery boy (naturally) at Planet Express, a delivery company owned as a side-business by Fry’s distant, distant, very distant nephew, Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth.  A quick side-note about Futurama-  this show is insanely smart at times.  From the earliest episodes, the creators plotted out certain things that get threaded throughout the series.  For example, in the future world of Futurama, owls have become vermin and pests, not unlike city rats of the present day.  Don’t believe me?  Watch the show again from the beginning, and watch for owls.

Bidi-bidi-bidi.Getting back to our expats in time, we have Buck Rogers.  Buck is another old character who has been in movies, television shows, comics, and even video games.  The version most people know about is the 1979-1981 television show Buck Rogers, in which he’s a shuttle pilot who accidentally gets frozen for roughly 500 years. Once revived, he joins the Earth Defense Directorate, finds love, and gains a pet ambuquad named Twiki, a little robot who seems to have been designed to cash in on the popularity of C3PO and R2-D2 from the newly released film Star Wars.

I can’t believe it never occurred to me before right now as I write this sentence that Buck Rogers + Flash Gordon = Farscape.  Hmm.

Enhance your calm, John Spartan!As with all my other examples of expats stuck out of time, John Spartan of Demolition Man was crygenically frozen.  Whatever happened to a good old time machine?  John Spartan is a cop, sent to CryoPrison in 1996.  They wake him up about forty years later to stop another escaped cryoprisoner, the dastardly Simon Phoenix.  You can tell that Simon is the bad guy because his hair is an unnatural yellow-white color.

Let’s move on to the Expat By Choice category.  I could reference Wonder Woman’s decision to leave Themyscira, but dang it, I said no more comic book heroes.

chewbaccaIn the Star Wars universe, Chewbacca could loosely be considered an expat.  He isn’t hanging out on Kashyyyk with the other Wookiees.  However, expanded universe canon states that he fled his home-world when the Empire enslaved the rest of the Wookiees to get construction of the Death Star back on schedule.  This means that technically, Chewie is more of a refugee than an expatriate.  Additionally, since he travels with his friend and business partner Han Solo to fulfill his life-debt (long story), Chewbacca isn’t really embracing the culture of any specific new place.

While I would love to say that Babylon 5 is full of expatriate characters, it really only has two:  Sinclair and Sheridan.  Both of them go to live on Minbar at different points in the series.   The rest don’t quite match the definition of expatriate because the different species on board Babylon 5 all have their own groupings.  You rarely see a Pak’mara hanging out with the Gaim, for example, and you would never see a Drazi living on the Vorlon homeworld.  It just isn’t done.   Babylon 5 is a merchant outpost and a travel hub, and although it’s referred to as a city in space in the opening credits, it really isn’t.  B5 is run primarily by EarthForce, and it has no predominant single culture.

spockSimilarly, Star Trek is full of characters who seem to fit the role of expat at first, but perhaps aren’t textbook examples.  We have characters like Quark on Deep Space Nine, and Worf on board the Enterprise (and later, Deep Space Nine.)  Quark is a merchant, and since the station is a trading post, he’s not really adopting the culture of a new home-world.  As for Worf, he has Kal-El’s problem.  Worf may have been born a Klingon, but he was adopted by and raised by humans.  His primary culture is the one that he’s most commonly in touch with.  Worf isn’t an expatriate at all.  He falls into a slightly different category though, and I’ll touch on that a little bit later on.  Lastly, from my Star Trek examples, there’s Spock.  Spock was raised on Vulcan, but one of his parents was human.  He chooses to live in Starfleet, which is mostly populated by humans.  Even later in his timeline, when he becomes an Ambassador, he mostly sticks around Earth until his eventual trip to Romulus for reunification efforts between the Vulcans and Romulans.

teal'cNow that we’ve covered Star Wars and Star Trek, I would be remiss to leave out the third Star* franchise, Stargate.  Teal’c is another character that looks human, but isn’t quite human.  He is a Jaffa, which is a genetically modified human with an abdominal pouch so that he can serve as an incubator for a larval Goa’uld symbiote.  It’s not as icky as it sounds, because the symbiote grants its host Jaffa enhanced strength, health, and longevity as well as rapid healing.  The Jaffa are also an enslaved race at the beginning of the series, serving as military forces to the System Lords, who are the initial run of bad guys in the show.  I’m vastly oversimplifying the sequence of events here, but Teal’c defects to the SG1 team and goes back to Earth in the pilot episode of the series.    He becomes a valuable member of the team, and he even tries to live outside of Stargate Command in a regular apartment at one point in the series.  Naturally, he wears a hat to cover up the gold embossed tattoo on his forehead whenever he’s out in public.

spikegilesMeanwhile, back in Sunnydale, we have a couple of Brits living in America.  One of them is Giles, a Watcher, and the other is Spike, a vampire.  (I won’t get into Liam… sorry, Angelus here, because his Irish accent was just too horrific for words.)  The expats in Buffy The Vampire Slayer tend to be much more like the textbook definition of expatriate.  Giles is sent to Sunnydale by the Watcher’s Council, and that’s not all that different than me being sent to Germany for my job.  As for Spike, I suppose when you’ve lived for a hundred years or more, it makes sense to try to live somewhere different.

travelinmattAlso in the Expat By Choice category is Uncle Traveling Matt, a Fraggle who spends most of his time exploring “Outer Space,” his term for the normal human world the rest of us inhabit.  Matthew is the quintessential exploring expatriate, constantly evaluating the culture and norms around him, even if his observations are more Jane Goodall than Terry Gilliam.  (For those of you that know me well, you know I couldn’t do a list like this without including at least one Muppet.)

A few paragraphs back, I mentioned that Worf isn’t an expatriate, and that he falls into a different category than the rest of this list.  That category is Third-Culture Kids. A third-culture kid, or trans-culture kid, in the real world is usually the child of an expatriate.  For example, an American couple has a child while living in Germany.  The child is American-born, but German by culture.  When the family relocates back to the country of their passports, the child has to deal with this cultural divide.  Third-Culture Kids are often multilingual, and are very often accomplished.  However, adjusting to their passport country after years of living in other cultures can be incredibly difficult and can take a great deal of time.  This is Worf in a nutshell, although he didn’t reintegrate with Klingon culture until very late in his life.

valentinemichaelsmithMy favorite literary Third-Culture Kid would have to be Valentine Michael Smith, the man from Mars, in Heinlein’s amazing novel, Stranger In A Strange Land.  Mike to his friends, Smith is the biological child of Mary Jane Lyle Smith and Captain Michael Brant of the Envoythe first ship to travel to Mars.  The fate of the Envoy crew is unknown for twenty years, and when another ship finally arrives to investigate, they find that Mike is the Envoy’s only survivorSince Mike was raised by Martians, he went the first twenty years of his life never seeing any other human, and he spoke and thought in Martian at the beginning of the story.  Michael Smith is an incredibly intelligent character, and it didn’t take him long to pick up most of the language, but the first two thirds of the novel deal with his adaptation to a completely alien culture- that of Earth- in a very detailed and fascinating way.

These are some of my favorite expatriates from Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Comic Book culture. What are some of your favorites?

*Don’t know what Grokking means?  I guess you should read Stranger In A Strange Land, then.  I’m off to MegaCon in Orlando this weekend, so you can tell me what you thought of it after I get back.