Game of Thrones’ Sansa Stark Is Awesome: A Treatise

Hey, folks! It's about that time of the year where I head to an abandoned cabin and have constant sex with Olivia Williams, so there will be no "Postal Apocalypse" next week. My apologies! But get those end of the year questions ready, because "PA" will return on January 1st, 2014! (At Ms. Williams's discretion, of course.)


Sansa Anarchy

New Game of Thrones Fan:

Dear Mr. Postman,

A few weeks ago, you talked about how fans had been unfairly slagging Sansa Stark in "Game of Thrones." Your defense of Sansa, that she was a product of too many romantic stories, made her character understandable if not necessarily likable. Arya Stark's reaction to her older sister's hopes of wedding Prince Joffrey made me laugh out loud.

So why doesn't a bit more Internet wrath fall on Ned Stark's head for being a dumbass? Unlike his daughter, the Hand of the King makes some really bad decisions that winds up getting a lot of his servants killed and sparks war among the kingdoms of Westeros. Also, his utter lack of political savvy leads him to not take actions that would have prevented his enemies from growing far stronger. Do you have an answer more sophisticated than "well, Ned Stark has a wang and Sansa does not?"

I do, actually! Ned is more of a primary protagonist than Sansa, so it's easier to take his point of view. Plus, he's a man grown, with plenty of fighting and ass-kicking behind him, and he tries to protect his increasingly threatened family, and most of all, he's honorable. Ned is a good man in a bad world, and it's very, very easy to root for that. Meanwhile, in comparison, Sansa seems selfish for wanting to stay in King's Landing and be Queen of Westeros, despite the danger it puts her family in.

The thing is, Sansa doesn't understand what's going on, because 1) she doesn't see any of the bullshit or danger going on behind the scenes, and 2) she's a kid. To her point of view, her dad came out of nowhere and said, "You know how I told you you'd be Queen of Westeros? Well, now you're not, you're going home, and I'm not going to explain why." Who wouldn't be pissed about that, at any age? And she certainly doesn't have a clue about the trouble her family is in, because she's not given the information. I seriously doubt if anyone asked Sansa, "Would you rather be Queen or keep your family alive?" that Sansa would hesitate for a moment in choosing her family. Because when Queen Cersei tells her the only way to save her father and the rest of her family is to write a letter calling Ned a traitor, she does it. Not because she wants to marry Joffrey, but for the good of her family. That's it.

But while Sansa doesn't see how the world works — again, she's just a kid — the adult Ned refuses to acknowledge how the world works, which I would argue is much worse. He knows people don't follow the code he does, but he's determined to keep his honor anyways, no matter how this endangers his family. Hell, he was all ready to die in King's Landing because he refused to lie that Joffrey was Robert's son, until Varys reminded him that he had daughters and perhaps he ought to think of them before his honor.

By the end of season 3 of the show and the third book, Sansa is more politically savvy than Ned ever was. She's still young, and she's still powerless, but just surviving in King's Landing with Joffrey, his knights, and everything else is an impressive accomplishment. But she also manages Joffrey, as much as anyone without any political power whatsoever can do, which is beyond impressive. Now in the books, she's in another terrible situation and holding her own, but people still hold her early ignorance against her. We'll see what they think once Sansa rules in Winterfell.

Oh, it's happening, people. I can feel it. [Mild Game of Thrones Book spoilers here!] Ask yourself where all the other Stark kids are, and if any of them will be in position to take the throne (or want it). Robb's dead. Jon, Bran and Arya have new jobs. All that leaves is Sansa and Rickon, and when we last saw Rickon he was pretty much crazy, and apparently he's spent his time since on Skagos with cannibals. I have my doubts he'll be a suitable ruler or even want it.


Game of Thrones’ Sansa Stark Is Awesome: A Treatise

Not So Nifty Fifty

Anthony C.:

Greetings, Postman!

In a couple of missives from The Future, you've mentioned a general dissatisfaction with the Day of the Doctor, but you've never actually clarified those views. So, inquiring mind want to know – what did you think of the 50th anniversary special?

And since you've seen The Future - how is Peter Capaldi as The Doctor, anyway?

I thought it was disappointing. Not overwhelmingly so, and it certainly had its moments, but it wasn't nearly as grand as I expected the 50th anniversary special to be.

First of all, I didn't really think the Time War needed fixing. I liked the pathos that it brought to the Doctor, because for me, the Doctor has an edge — he's not quite human, he's willing to make some hard choices, and if for one insane moment he decided to save the universe by basically destroying his own people and the Daleks, and then had to live with the guilt, and he spent his time afterwards trying desperately to avoid having to get in a situation where he would have to make a similarly awful choice — that worked for me. But for Moffat, the doctor is the guy who always does the right thing; when the situation is nothing but bad choices the Doctor upends the rules and finds a way. Since that's how I view Superman and why I'm bitching constantly about Man of Steel, I can't really begrudge him that. Maybe that's how a lot of British people view the Doctor — as a being of absolute good. But that was not my impression of the Doctor.

However, regardless of how Moffat or I view the Doctor, I was super-excited by the idea of the War Doctor played by John Hurt. A Doctor that had done things so horrible that the other incarnations had disavowed him. A regeneration that spent all its time fighting, not because he wanted to, but because he needed to, to avoid being forced to destroy his entire people — which, in the end, he couldn't avoid. I like the idea of the War Doctor even better than if it had been the Eighth Doctor doing all this stuff, as Moffat had originally hoped (but knew Chris Eccleston would probably never go for).

And then the War Doctor shows up and he's just a mildly cranky old man. He basically sits on the sidelines and is confused by Ten and Eleven's banter and meet-cute (which was nice, but hardly something to base the entire 50th anniversary special around). Ten and Eleven aren't appalled by him, they don't dislike him, they don't look like they feel especially guilty at the things this past self had to do. They all just kind of dick around until the end, which, to be fair, was pretty epic — but that was only the last 10 minutes or so. Everything before it was nice, but I expected way more. I think Moffat wasted the idea of the War Doctor, and I know he wasted John Hurt, who could have brought all the steel and determination and edge to the War doctor that I was looking for.

As for how Capaldi ends up? Good. He won't replace David Tennant or Matt Smith in anyone's hearts, but no one has any complaints, either. But the best thing about Capaldi is all the internet videos where people use his Doctor Who footage and replace the dialogue with his profanity-laden lines from The Thick of It. Totally worth it.


Game of Thrones’ Sansa Stark Is Awesome: A Treatise

Having Your Fillion

Utsav B.:

Hey Rob,

Nathan Fillion seems to be a person who every nerd sees as their perfect Green Lantern/Indiana Jones/etc.. Yet, while we see him cameoing in some franchises, giving talks in conventions and all, we haven't seen him take up a major franchisee since Firefly. I doubt the nerd in him is rejecting such roles for his role on Castle, so why do you think studios are not taking Nathan in?

Thanks and Regards!

Well, Castle isn't a major genre franchise, but it's a pretty major TV series. It has 115 episodes, it's one of the 20 or so most-watched series on TV, it's syndicated on TNT — it's big, man. It's definitely big enough to keep him from taking major movie roles that would require him to spend more than the 4-5 months he's off from filming Castle, which is why the top of his IMDB includes mainly smaller things like Much Ado About Nothing and Percy Jackson and a lot of voice-work. He also goes to Comic-Con, does awesome things like pose as Darth Vader in charity calendars, and other nerdy stuff.

As to why he's not a bigger movie star, he had to make it as a TV star first, and that only happened with Castle. Hollywood knew he was a leading man — he's starred in a great many shows — but they kept getting canceled, and no one was going to trust him with a movie franchise until he had a successful show. Now he has it, but by the time Castle is over — and being a crime procedural, it can run pretty much forever until one of the stars gets tired of it — he'll probably be too old to be the star of an Indiana Jones-type franchise (he's 42 now). But I can pretty much guarantee he can star in as many TV shows as he wants for the rest of his life. And he seems happy doing what he's doing, so that's cool with me.


Game of Thrones’ Sansa Stark Is Awesome: A Treatise

Story Crime

Mosno Al-Moseeki:

Dear Mr. Postman,

Two things I really don't understand. Thing 1: If you want to make a good movie, then you need a good script, right? So why not utilize the writers (or even the stories) that are already in existence. For example, Joseph Loeb is my of my favorite graphic novel writers, and he wrote some great Batman stand alone novels such as "The long halloween", which I think can be a great film.

Thing 2: There are so many great story arcs, that can be easily adapted into killer mini-series. For example, the two part "Court of the owls / City of owls" story line, its brilliant, in my humble opinion. You also have "Hush". Heck, Batman Incorporated can be an awesome series, if done right.

So why on Planet Earth have they not utilized these, obvious & accessible resources, to make better Bat-entertainment instead of re-imagining the origin storyline every few years. Its frustrating. Thank you for your time Mr. Postman :)

Well, superhero movies borrow from comics all the time. Captain America: The Winter Soldier will be based on Ed Brubaker's run, obviously. Thor: The Dark World is based on part of Walt Simonson's amazing Thor comics, the ones where Malekith the Accursed tries to plunge Midgard into eternal winter. Green Lantern was based on his origin story and part of Geoff Johns' Parallax stories. And X-Men: Days of Future Past is based on X-Men: Days of Future Past, of course.

But I suspect you're talking about why Hollywood doesn't just make straight adaptations of beloved comic stories and there are a couple of reasons. Basically, each story is different, and there are a variety of different reasons why they can't (or shouldn't) be made into a movie.

Some just aren't defined enough. For instance, Marvel couldn't shoot an exact version of Ed Brubaker's Winter Soldier comics, because those comics were written during the Civil War event/mess and included the death of Captain America, and the former would make no sense to mass audiences, and the latter would just be complicated to insert. You have to edit them down.

Even if you found truly stand-alone stories with a clear beginning, middle arc and an end, there can be problems. Say Hush: because of all the villains included in it, a Hush movie would probably be 3-4 hours long and cost $500 million to make. No one is doing that. I think the recent Avengers: Endless Wartime graphic novel would be a great Avengers movie, but it has Wolverine in it, so you know that's not happening.

And of these stand-alone stories, how many are dependent on being read by fans to be understandable or enjoyable? For instance, one of my favorite comics is Jason Aaron's current Wolverine and the X-Men. I'd love to see a movie of this. But would a Hellfire Club run by kids really mean anything to mass audiences? I don't think so. Sure, fans know the Hellfire Club as major X-Men villains, but all most movie-goers know is Kevin Bacon. Seeing a bunch of kids on screen wouldn't be a credible threat at all.

And last but not least, there's just the way Marvel and DC/WB operates. Marvel is interested in expanding its movie-verse, and is happy to mine its characters' greatest hits — Winter Soldier, Malekith, Ultron, etc. — just reframed for mass audiences. DC/WB, meanwhile, doesn't trust their comics. The can't imagine that any of the comics could provide a suitable story, so they either want all-new audience friendly stories like Chris Nolan's Batman films, or content rehashing of old ones, like Man of Steel. I'm certain that Batman/Superman, especially with its ever-increasing cast, will be an all-new story that barely draws upon the comics at all.

So no Batman: Court of Owls movie, at least for the foreseeable future. Maybe once DC establishes a movie, maybe if it's all well-received, they'll be forced to mine from their comics some in order to keep up demand. I wouldn't hold your breath, though.


ROB'S KORRECTION KORNER

So last week the main question was about the troubles with a female Doctor on Doctor Who. I misunderstood the letter, and it took one of you to explain it to me. From SteBee in the comments:

I think you fell pretty wide of Fake Name's point here. The point I took away is basically that, (1) half the audience would view a female Doctor as a ratings stunt and/or kowtowing to political correctness, and would switch off the show in disgust. Following that, (2) the other half of the audience would, in a frenzy of hypervigilant feminism, ruthlessly scan every line uttered by the Doctor looking for signs of misogyny, and inevitably finding such signs switch off the show in disgust. Net result: total disaster.

Fake Name was explicitly not saying that it wouldbe a ratings stunt, or that the writers wouldbe making cheap jokes—merely that people would look for and find evidence of both. And frankly, I think that's incontestably true. I realize that from your post-apocalyptic vantage point, you don't remember how the Internet was, but trust me on this, when it comes to generating white-hot outrage over wholly imaginary slights, the Internet is and will forever be the absolute zenith of human achievement. The BBC would be insane to risk this kind of fan backlash just to counter the very mild tut-tutting it's currently getting about the lack of a female Doctor.

That makes sense to me. So let me answer FakeName again now that I know what the hell he's really saying — that a female Doctor would either be seen as a stunt, or so overanalyzed as to be hated for any perceivable mis-step on the actress or writer or Moffat's part. And again, I remind you that I am a fake mailman from the future. I am not infallible — so always feel free to correct me whenever you think its appropriate it (although most of you already do).

I think there will definitely be some people who think a female Doctor will be a stunt, and there will be many more people who freak out at pretty much anything and everything a female Doctor will say or do (or not say or not do). Tons of people, in fact. And the exact same thing will happen when a person of color is finally cast as the Doctor.

But I think both groups will be outweighed, and outweighed mightily by regular fans and viewers who will judge the character on her merits and the actress on her talents and the writing on its quality. Oh, the others will be loud, especially on the internet, but I don't think those will be the only two reactions to a female Doctor — and I certainly don't think that's a reason not to have one. Even if the first Doctor results in nothing but misogyny and moral shrieking, the second female Doctor will be less provocative, and the third less still, and eventually it'll just be an accepted part of Doctor Who, as it should be. But we have to start somewhere, and given that it's almost 2014, it should probably start reasonably soon.


Do you have questions about anything scifi, fantasy, superhero, or nerd-related? Email the postman@io9.com! No question too difficult, no question too dumb! Obviously!