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It was at least six or seven years ago Comic Con expanded beyond the capacity of the San Diego convention centre to accommodate, panels spilling over into all the ballrooms of all the hotels in the vicinity. But it was only this year I finally got around to seeing the Hilton Indigo Ballroom where there were two panels I wanted to see this year, the classic Doctor Who panel on Friday and the Expanse panel on Saturday.



And it looks like the Expanse panel isn't on YouTube yet so I can actually use some of the footage I took.



I mainly focused on writers Naren Shankar and Mark Fergus. In my experience, writers generally have the most interesting things to say on panels, but I couldn't resist getting some footage of Shohreh Aghdashloo as well.

I was a little sorry I missed getting a story Wes Chatham told about being stuck in a harness for some time during a stunt sequence because people had forgotten about him.

Despite the warnings about swearing written on the name cards, the panel previous to the Expanse, for another SyFy channel series called The Magicians, showed a complete lack of restraint with language.



I'd never heard of this show but judging from the crowd it has an extremely enthusiastic fanbase. Among them is moderator Chris Hardwick who seems to be regarded as the moderator of choice for any Comic Con panel. And he is pretty good--I've seen him moderate a lot of panels over the years and after being a bit too focused on himself early on he's really harnessed his talent for hosting to deliver consistently good work, generally finding just the right mix of staying out of the way of panellists and injecting humour and perspective when necessary. He said he'd begged to moderate The Magicians panel, calling it the new Buffy. The panel had a very good rapport so this was all enough to motivate me to check out the series for myself.



It's essentially Harry Potter with grad students. I enjoyed the first episode--I liked how quickly it moved, the references to Narnia were fun, and the use of magic as a metaphor for thinking outside a system was nice. But by the fourth episode I've found myself a bit tired of how whiny the characters are. I feel like this may be my age--it seems like whining is kind of a basic part of how millennials communicate because there's so much focus on nurturing one's own mental health. The fourth episode surprised me by featuring the standard plot of a main character waking up in a mental institution and being led to believe the reality in all the other episodes is his delusion. It seemed like record time for a show to go to a stock plot and, combining this with the whining, I don't feel especially motivated to continue watching it. The actors were pretty entertaining on the panel, though.



Even more entertaining was the panel for Gotham that preceded it, another show I haven't seen, though I have heard of it. My favourite part of the panel was the adorable Camren Bicondova, who plays Selena Kyle on the series, describing the filming of a scene that sounds similar to Selena's transformation in Batman Returns, where Selena is swarmed by cats while lying unconscious in the street. Bicondova described how all the cats but one were too afraid of the rain to actually perform so most of the cats eventually seen on screen were cgi, prompting Bicondova's co-star, Drew Powell, to remark, "Cats are pussies." Which I thought was pretty hilarious but there was a general offended "Oouuuu" from the audience in response. I don't know if it's because kids generally don't know "pussy" originally referred to cats or if they just considered it more important to be offended.

It was hard to get into the Indigo Ballroom that day, I think because Gotham and The Magicians were so popular. The room never filled up on the Thursday I saw the Classic Doctor Who panel, it was still too early for the click-bait attack campaign on Peter Davison to draw the torch and pitchfork mob. I saw panels for three shows I'd never heard of before the Doctor Who panel--Shadow Hunters, Z Nation, and a new Van Helsing series on SyFy that stars a female descendant of the famous vampire hunter, Vanessa Van Helsing, played by a lacklustre Kelly Overton, who was not present at the panel.



Rukiya Bernard, on the right above, plays a supporting character called Doc. Someone in the audience gushed to her about her performance which was the only part of the panel that made the show seem in any way interesting. This panel blurred with the similarly dull Z Nation panel.

Going to panels at the Hilton was nice, the lobby there being much more comfortable, with more comfortable seats, than the convention centre. There were shorter lines there for the bar and their cafeteria cart, too. Their system for getting people into the room was pretty disorganised, though, being the only line I've ever been in for Comic Con with a security bag check, which I suppose is a good idea, but with multiple bag check people it led to some confusion on Saturday when the line ended and dissolved in one spot and then everyone was supposed to line up again in a waiting area.
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The pendulum swung the other way on the question of justified violence in last night's good new episode of The Expanse. Featuring some nice action, suspense, problem solving, and a cameo from Adam Savage, it also occurred to me that for a show that's not half as popular as The Walking Dead its special effects budget certainly seems a lot better, in that the effects actually support the story really well. I don't know, maybe animating a tiger is a lot more expensive than what we saw last night.



Spoilers after the screenshot



I only just realised it was the season finale. It really didn't feel like a season finale somehow. I guess that's why Naomi (Dominique Tipper) had that montage narration at the end. I would rather have had Bobbie (Frankie Adams) saving Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo) and Cotyar (Nick E. Tarabay) without the distance created between us and the scene by the narration. Still, it was all reasonably satisfying.

The episode was written by the writers of the novels the show was based on, Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck (their collaborative pen name is James S.A. Corey), and veteran Star Trek writer Naren Shankar and I liked everyone brainstorming how to deal with the protomolecule soldier, that felt very Star Trek in a very good way. Amos (Wes Chatham) coming up with one solution and Prax (Terry Chen) coming up with another, better one after being inspired by his plants. That was right out of the old Star Trek: The Next Generation playbook.



Ever since I saw Samuel L. Jackson, in talking about Get Out, criticise the tendency to cast British actors over American actors under the belief that British actors are better trained, I have to admit . . . generally I've been noticing how the American actors aren't as well trained. This doesn't include exceptional performers like Thomas Jane, who I'm missing more and more, but the rank and file like Wes Chatham and Steven Strait. Aside from Aghdashloo, no-one on the show of any nationality has what might be called star quality but the British, Australian, and New Zealander actors seem to have a greater repertoire of facial expressions and vocal intonations to draw on. I guess with Amos it at least makes sense since he's supposed be emotionally numb. But Nick E. Tarabay was particularly bad last night as Avasarala's injured right hand man, Aghdashloo having to carry almost all the emotional weight of his possible betrayal with her reaction shots. She is equal to the task, though, more so than Steven Strait reacting to Dominque Tipper at the end. I can almost hear the actor thinking, "Do I switch on Good Holden or Evil Holden?"



Evil Holden seems to have more of a southern accent. I wonder if Steven Strait and Andrew Lincoln spent a lot of time watching De Niro in Scorsese's remake of Cape Fear.



Before it got diluted by the narration at the end, I was really enjoying Bobbie's segment, though, as much as I do like Frankie Adams, I wish she'd move more like a soldier. But considering all this show does manage to do maybe I shouldn't quibble.

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Last night's new episode of The Expanse, "The Monster and the Rocket", was another refreshing example of the show moving away from the trend in the best television shows of the past few years, like Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones, to focus on ruthless protagonists. This was a story about how doing the stone cold, destructive thing is sometimes the wrong choice.

Spoilers after the screenshot



Holden (Steven Strait) really seems to be losing himself going after that guy without a spacesuit. Meanwhile, Naomi (Dominique Tipper) has to tranquillise Amos (Wes Chatham) so he can't stop her from trying to save half an unruly mob. A more cynical writer would've had Naomi torn to pieces when she opened that door, it was a nice thing to see the group actually calm down and organise so the half of them who could leave, could leave. It's nice to see a show with some faith in human nature.



That doesn't make Errinwright's (Shawn Doyle) reversion to villainy any less satisfying. I'm looking forward to seeing how the stand off on Mao's ship resolves next week.



I knew Bobbie (Frankie Adams) was going to accompany Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo) to the meeting with Mao and I wondered how the writers were going to justify it. It shows how much I like the show that I don't mind the explanation that Avarsarala's bringing her along so she can't be a bargaining chip. Bobbie's a little too valuable to be risked on a mission like this but, okay, I liked watching her stuff herself with cucumber sandwiches. Not since The Importance of Being Earnest have cucumber sandwiches been so memorably employed.



Twitter Sonnet #982

In tangerine the tie invests in sand.
The soil swirls about the bones of trees.
In faces sipped through needle straws we stand.
Electric blue we burned the skies and seas.
A quarter claimed accustomed tallies late.
Allowed inside the froth, a river loops.
No chance the gum in orbs'll yet abate.
Between the eyes the beaks align the coops.
A paper bird aligned with stars of wind.
In tattered canvas gowns the cops relaxed.
The guards reviewed the Martian tourists pinned.
Additional ink stains were quickly faxed.
The dimes between the pennies picked the ace.
Exposed in glass the car'll run the race.

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