Why Doctor Who is Brilliant and a Cheater


In honor of Doctor Who’s 50th Anniversary, I wanted to talk about time travel. (Spoiler warning, but none of the episodes I mention are from the latest season.) I asked my friend what aspect of time travel to focus on. During our discussion, he asked which school Doctor Who followed: whether time travelers can change history, or whether they can’t. When I said “both,” he said that’s cheating.

He’s right. It’s cheating. But it’s also brilliant.

According to the Doctor, time is in flux. Anything can happen. But the exceptions are fixed points in time, moments that can’t change from what has already happened.

Great example? Pompeii. Vesuvius erupts and destroys Pompeii. The Doctor can’t stop that. Actually, he causes it, which is one of my favorite aspects of time travel. But he can’t evacuate the town to save everyone or do anything to stop the volcano erupting because Pompeii’s destruction is a fixed point.

The majority of episodes don’t deal with fixed points. The Doctor is free to try to save people from the disaster of the day. This approach allows them all sorts of flexibility.

But they can get in trouble when they break their own rules. I distinctly remember two instances where the show has broken its rule about fixed points.

In one episode, the Tenth Doctor visits a scientific expedition on Mars whose total destruction is a fixed point. He keeps trying to leave without getting involved, because he knows that he can’t save them. But then he changes his mind and saves a few of the team members. This time, history has a way of correcting itself, and it turns out not to matter that he saved them.

In another episode, the Eleventh Doctor is supposed to die at a specific time in a specific place. And when he doesn’t, time breaks. All of time happens in the same moment. (It’s a strange concept I don’t really understand yet; just go with it.)

Two fixed points that are changed when they shouldn’t be; two completely different consequences. That rule-breaking is how the show truly cheats at time travel. But since they did break their rule, it would have been better to have consistency. Personally, I prefer the first consequence, since fixed points in time aren’t supposed to be able to change anyway.

But those are the exceptions. Most of the time, the fixed point is one more obstacle the Doctor has to face when trying to save people, like in the Pompeii episode. I love that type of conflict.

Still doubt that it’s brilliant? Here’s the proof: Doctor Who is 50 years old, and going strong.

Happy 50th, Doctor!

Jennifer A. Johnson is a newly published fantasy writer thanks to The Adventure of Creation anthology. She's still revising her first novel, but you can sign up for her free newsletter to pass the time.

Songs for Isabelle

Lately, I’ve been working on a Beauty and the Beast retelling featuring the main character of my upcoming series. Isabelle’s a strong young woman, but I’m giving her a mountain of troubles to prove it.

This week, I thought I would share two of the songs I associate with her. Both of these are Pandora finds, and I love them so much.

Christina Perri | The Lonely

The Lonely encapsulates Isabelle as a character. A little sad, a little wistful. I take everything away from her very early on, and she spends most of the series fighting to get it back.

Jayme Dee | Till I Fall Asleep

This song I see as Isabelle pleading with her true love, Frederick. Remember I said I took everything away from her? Frederick was one of those things. His memory was erased, and he was held captive by the fairies long after Isabelle had escaped. Now she wants him to believe in their love again.

Disclaimer: I don’t own either of these songs. I didn’t make either of these videos. I just wanted to share these beautiful songs with you. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

Jennifer A. Johnson is a newly published fantasy writer thanks to The Adventure of Creation anthology. She's still revising her first novel, but you can sign up for her free newsletter to pass the time.

The Smiling Villain

13401313901327499038Cartoon Skull.svg.med

“That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain.” — Hamlet

I’ve always had a soft spot for the smiling villains. The ones who are charming and funny and everyone’s best friend — everyone except the hero of course. It’s one thing to fight the Big Bad that is universally declared True Evil, but it’s a completely different war when faced with the smiling villains.

Claudius is, of course, a perfect example. He was probably a charmer before murdering his brother (unlike Lion King’s Scar), so the court’s attitude toward him probably didn’t change. He did manage to win over Gertrude fairly quickly though. Hamlet is the only one in the entire court to find him suspicious, and voicing his displeasure makes him seem like a resentful, spoiled brat who hates his uncle/step-father on principle. Which only gets worse when he pretends to go mad. Nobody believes him except his best friend Horatio, and even that’s tenuous at best.

Alanna from Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness quartet faces a similar problem with Duke Roger, a powerful sorcerer and cousin to the prince. Everyone loves Roger. They trust him, confide in him, rely on him to protect his extended family. And because everyone implicitly trusts him, Alanna can’t reveal her suspicions to the prince. With only two allies who believe her, she has to stand up to Roger without attracting attention, without drawing the anger of her friends at court.

In both cases, the hero has to fight sneakily. You can’t draw swords with the Big Bad when everyone else thinks they’re the Big Good. The heroes have virtually no support in opposing the villain. If they let their suspicions slip they’re in danger of being attacked by people who should be allies.

And that conflict is amazing.

I haven’t created a smiling villain yet for my upcoming series, but I think it would be great fun to play with. Now to find a good fit…

Jennifer A. Johnson is a newly published fantasy writer thanks to The Adventure of Creation anthology. She's still revising her first novel, but you can sign up for her free newsletter to pass the time.

Beauty and the Beast: Hidden in Plain Sight


If you want to be trapped in a total time-suck, visit TVTropes (although my poison of choice is actually Oh My Disney). But I braved TVTropes the other day to find inspiration for my Beast character, and stumbled across something completely different.

A lot of my favorite couples from literature and television are basically Beauty and the Beast. Who knew?! (You probably did…)

I’ve made a list of these couples, plus one or two I thought of on my own that weren’t cited as examples but still qualify. We’ll start with the no-brainers and work our way down:

  • Belle and Adam (the Beast): Honestly, I can’t believe they forgot to include his name. But the Disney version is one of my favorite movies, and probably my favorite classic retelling of the fairy tale. And who doesn’t love a good musical?
  • Rumpelstiltskin and Belle: Once Upon a Time’s interpretation, heavily based on the Disney one (not surprising, considering it’s a Disney show). Remember the famous Beast-giving-Belle-a-library scene? OUaT has two of those. TWO. Rumpel better not mess up again, he’s run out of libraries to gift-wrap.
  • Erik (the Phantom) and Christine: No matter how many times I see this musical, I always hope that Christine will choose to stay with the Phantom. Erik will say “fine, take Raoul and go,” and she’ll say “No, I actually chose you! He can drown for all I care.” Don’t take this the wrong way, Erik, but I want you to wear your mask all the time. It’s awesome.
  • Cyrano and Roxane: If you haven’t read/seen this yet, do so! It’s so amazing. Really depressing, but amazing.
  • Sandor (the Hound) and Sansa: I know, this relationship is slightly creepy and there’s a huge age gap, but I love them. Classic beauty and the beast here, because Sansa brings out the best in Sandor.
  • Jaime and Brienne: Same series, different dynamic. Jaime’s the pretty one, Brienne’s the honorable one. And they both bring out the best in each other!
  • WALL-E and EVE: WALL-E is the ugly little robot with a heart/processor of gold, and EVE is the beautifully sleek robot who learns to love. So adorable. And the ending is just perfect!
  • Tiana and Naveen: Disney, stop crossing-over your own stories. What’s interesting is that this couple doesn’t fall in love until they’re both frogs.
  • Tohru and Kyo: Fruits Basket starts out cheery, but it’s actually really dark. Almost every character is damaged, and Tohru’s gentle nature helps to heal all of them, but none more than Kyo. He’s always been told he’s a monster, so he finally started to believe it, and revel in it.
  • Rachel and Tobias: Tobias is the “cursed” one, trapped as a hawk, but Rachel is the one who is ruthless and out of control. I never even considered aligning them with Beauty and the Beast, but it makes total sense now!
  • Buffy and Spike: Spike doesn’t have a soul and works hard to be evil, but Buffy makes him want to be a better man. What’s interesting is that she’s not even very nice to him (she hates him for a long time), but he changes anyway to try and be worthy of her.
  • Antimony and Reynardine: Reynardine is a body-snatching demon who accidentally ends up under Antimony’s control. Their relationship has its bumps, but he’s definitely mellowed out under her influence. And is fiercely protective of her. I just wish she would notice him!
  • Elizabeth and Darcy: Arrogant and rude Mr. Darcy versus the “tolerable” Elizabeth with fine eyes. It takes a direct confrontation to make Darcy realize what a beast he’s been, but he makes his amends in time for a happily ever after.*

That’s my list! Are any of your favorite couples on here? Go ahead and add more in the comments!

* Mileage varies according to your fanfiction.

Jennifer A. Johnson is a newly published fantasy writer thanks to The Adventure of Creation anthology. She's still revising her first novel, but you can sign up for her free newsletter to pass the time.