A few months ago, I got into a name calling contest with someone I’d never met that spanned nearly three days. The fight was spurred by a comment I made on the Ottawa Citizen’s website regarding a story on Emma Watson’s (a.k.a. Hermione) speech at the United Nations. Miss Watson had just been appointed the UN’s Goodwill Ambassador for Women and just delivered what I (and many others) thought was an excellent speech on gender equality. And I said as much in the comment I left, adding that if things were to improve, that men were going to help with some of the heavy lifting as well. Well, this apparently provoked this individual (who…

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I hate time travel.

Not as an idea mind you, I love listening to Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Stephen Hawking’s musings on the topic (as much as I can understand anyway) probably far more than the next guy, but I can’t stand time travel as a storytelling device.  Sure, it’s sometimes nice to see what Captain Picard would have looked like if he’d been more responsible and standupish during his youth, or how Superman may have turned out if he wasn’t raised by parents as noble and compassionate as the Kents.  One of my favourite Christmas movies of all time is the Frank Capra directed classic It’s a Wonderful Life, where Jimmy Stewart is given a glimpse of what the world, and more importantly the lives he touched and influenced along the way, would have looked like if he’d never been born.  And I enjoyed last May’s time bending X-Men: Days of Future Past.  But for the most part, time travel stories are like a thirty year old K-car in winter, prone to problems, they break down more times than not and sometimes your lucky if they ever even get going.  As a result, I tend to avoid the majority of movies or TV shows that include time travel as their primary narrative conceit.  Need a quick example?  The Terminator.  I know I’m inviting a veritable tsunami of scorn and outrage by nitpicking a classic 80’s Arnold flick (and a franchise that is about to release its fifth movie this summer with Terminator: Genisys), but bear with me.  For those not in the know, the story revolved around a Terminator sent back from the future by the omnipotent computer Skynet, that has led the machines in an uprising that has nearly wiped out the human race.  With me so far?  Cool.  But humanity’s last remaining survivors have successfully mounted a resistance, lead by a brilliant and charismatic strategist named John Connor.  Skynet’s solution to these pesky rebels is to send a Terminator robot back in time to kill John Connor’s mother Sarah, thereby preventing him from ever being born.  Sounds like a solid plan.  Except if the Terminator had been successful, and John Connor had never been born to lead the human uprising against Skynet, then there never would have been any reason to send a Terminator back in the first place.  There would be no reason, no cause to take the action that changed events.  Essentially C cannot be equaled unless provoked by A and B.  And that defective little equations sums up my entire problem with time travel stories.

I’m a stickler for story and diligent attention paid to detail, which doesn’t help because, by their very nature, it’s virtually impossible for time travel stories to properly adhere to a logical plot.  You know what one of my biggest pet peeves in science fiction (the genre that employs time travel the most) is?  The fact that whenever Earthlings venture to another world or encounter alien life, everyone speaks perfect English, even on backwater worlds thousands of light years away.  Now some movies make at least an effort to address this little plot point.  Star Wars had C3P0, who could speak and translate something like six million languages, Star Trek innovated the universal translator and made it standard issue for all Starfleet personnel so they could understand whatever insults the Klingons or the Romulans were throwing their way, and even in Transformers, the most plot allergic movies in recent memory, everyone’s favourite robots in disguise learned human languages from the internet before they made initial contact.  But in just about every other sci-fi flick that includes human interaction with some form of extraterrestrial life, the aliens possess a greater command of the English language than a typical tenth grader.  So you can imagine how much time travel irks me.  It’s why I’ve never been able to sit through an episode of Doctor Who, the original time jockey, despite about seven hundred and thirty-three million recommendations that I should.  And an equal number of shocked expressions when I tell people I don’t.  I’ve lost track how often I’ve been told by friends and colleagues how much I’d love it, and Doctor Who is no doubt one of the most popular genre TV shows on the planet right now.  But in the few episodes I’ve seen there are more plot holes then a thousand pound chunk of Swiss cheese.

And it isn’t like I haven’t asked questions.  For instance, does the Doctor ever change or adjust the past during one of his many time traveling adventures?  Answer; sure, all the time.  But then how does the show account for the effects his interference would have on the course of history?  Answer; well some things can’t be changed, like the outcome of World War 2 or the assassination of JFK.  OK, well what about everything else then?  What about the butterfly effect, that states that even the tiniest change can affect the entire course of history?  Answer; Oh, well the show just kind of ignores that?

Wait, what?

And what about the Doctor himself?  Other than his encyclopedic knowledge of the history of, well everything, his sonic screwdriver (which is occasionally omnipotent, except against wood, so I guess if he’s ever attacked by some angry Ewoks armed with number two pencils the good Doc is really up the creek) and his time travelling, space defying Tardis, what can the Doctor do?  You know, what are his super powers?  Answer; well, he’s very clever.  That’s it?  That’s all you got?  You know who is else is really clever?  Like fiendishly clever?  Batman, but he’s also just about the baddest ass fighter in the history of history and has a utility belt with more goodies then Santa’s workshop on crack.   Look, I’m all for the smart guys winning the big one just as much as the sword swinging, gun-toting, face punching jocks (one of the things I really liked about Pacific Rim was that without the information acquired by Charlie Day’s scientist, the military types would have been completely impotent when it came time to save the world) but from the few episodes I’ve seen, and many others I’ve heard about, the Doc routinely goes up against alien warlords, interstellar tyrants, evil cyborgs and even the occasional demon lord.  And all he’s got is clever?

Insert face palm here.

You remember how popular and critically acclaimed the Battlestar Galactica remake was a few years ago?  You may also remember that many of the shows long time and hardcore fans were left wanting and disappointed by the show’s ending, especially after following it for four seasons.  Many even felt betrayed by the ending’s heavy religious overtones, seeing it as a cop-out by writers who couldn’t devise a better, more creative resolution.  Well I’m pretty sure that there was more storytelling integrity in BSG’s final, disappointing episodes then a typical episode of Doctor Who.

Look, I understand when people really, really like something, that you have a pretty significant capacity to overlook it’s warts.  God knows people do it on far larger scales than TV shows (politics, religion, professional sports, boy bands), but could people please stop looking at me like I’ve got a fluorescent brain tumour hanging out of my left nostril when I tell them I don’t watch Doctor Who because I really don’t get it?  And by “it” I mean the writing and sloppy continuity.  It’s almost like this show has become the Justin Bieber of genre TV.  “What do you mean you don’t like it?  It’s soooooo dreamy!  You just don’t know anything good!”  But let’s be honest, this show, like many other long running and popular forms of entertainment, is just imagination candy with very little to no attention paid or invested in its storytelling.  It’s the same reason I don’t watch The Walking Dead (not only because it avoids obvious, tough to answer questions but also because it ripped off its opening from 28 Days Later) and I’ve stopped watching other TV shows and quit books right in middle the for the same reason.  But don’t take my word for it, just listen to the guy in the video beneath. He’s much funnier and is a snappier dresser (I might avoid some of the comments thought, because, well, YouTube).

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/uHp1MwBpSjg?rel=0&#8243; frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen>

I honestly don’t care if you love this show and think it’s the best thing on TV.  You probably feel the same way about many other pieces of entertainment currently floating around the airwaves or the Internet.  More power to both you and whatever tickles your amusement fancy.  But please spare me the ridiculous reactions when I tell you I don’t watch something (like Doctor Who) because I don’t like it.  There’s usually a reason.

Shayne Kempton



Back in December the National Capital Commission announced it was donating 21.5 hectares of land on Lebreton Flats for development, and it would be accepting proposals from organizations and businesses for developing that parcel along the NCC’s criteria. Speculation about a new home for the Ottawa Senators didn’t have time to get going in earnest before the Sens confirmed that they were indeed submitting a proposal. Sens Army worked itself into a lather at the prospect and during All Star weekend Senators president Cyril Leeder gave a lengthy interview with the Ottawa Sun on why he thought the Sens proposal (one of five submitted before the January 7th deadline) had merit. And over the course of the following week, the NCC teased that all but one of the proposals had plans for a new main branch for the Ottawa Public Library, capitalizing on the current movement to replace the aging one downtown (the NCC has been tightlipped on what the other four proposals entail and who they were submitted by). But there are five reasons why Sens Army, to paraphrase our British friends, should keep calm and carry on.

THE NCC: Ah yes, the National Capital Commission, the biggest stick in the mud since Noah’s Ark got stuck on Mount Ararat. The NCC, also known as Fun’s Greatest Haters, is donating the land in question, and as such reserves final approval on all proposals being submitted. And while the NCC hasn’t thrown cold water on the idea of a new hockey on Lebreton Flats (yet), you can only imagine what the bore-mongers who call the shots on that board of pompous buffoons is really thinking. The NCC seems to have moved beyond its mandate of protecting public lands to being the biggest killjoys this side of the 49th parallel. If someone wants to plant a tree within spitting distance of Parliament Hill or the Ottawa River, the NCC has something to say about it. They’ll rain on a parade, any parade, at a moment’s notice. Last November they threw another political hurdle in the way of Ottawa’s LRT project, most notably it’s western expansion. You know, the LRT project that’s already well underway and has dominated Ottawa’s municipal politics for the last decade or so. Yeah, that LRT, which they just now got around to interfering with, at a potential cost of hundred of millions of dollars. No matter what you think of him or his politics, Ottawa mayor Jim Watson is one of the most civil politicians your going to find, and he’s diplomatically selective in the use of his vocabulary. But recently you can almost hear the F-bombs simmering beneath the surface of his strained restraint when he talks about the NCC. If the NCC thinks anyone will genuinely have a good time at a new arena, they’ll quash it right then and there.

THE DOLLARS: So one important question hasn’t really been asked about a possible new arena, let alone answered: who’s going to pay for it? Eugene Melnyk has essentially been crying poor for the past few years (the Sens lowball contract offer convinced long time Sens captain Daniel Alfredsson to leave the team in 2013 and it’s the reason the team’s payroll currently sits 29th in the NHL) and Watson has already thrown cold water on the idea the city will cover any of the costs (only a handful of professional sports stadiums have recently been built in North America without significant or complete tax dollar financing). So, who’s going to open up their purse? The province? Not when it’s facing a 16 billion dollar deficit and is in debt a few miles north of its eyeballs. The feds? Could you imagine how much ammunition a Conservative government committing hundreds of millions of dollars to a hockey stadium would provide Stephen Harper’s opponents with in an election year? A private developer? OK, then how does said developer and the team split the revenue (it’s a universal rule in the NHL that both the team and the arena they call home have to be owned by the same party in order to be profitable). Well, you may ask, why doesn’t Eugene Melnyk sell the current Canadian Tire Centre and use that money to cover the tab of building a new arena? To which I’d reply, that while that may be all well and good, who do you think is on the short list to buy an 18,000 plus seat hockey arena with no tenant? And if you DO manage to find a buyer, do you honestly think they cough up the couple hundred million such a project will demand? On a side note, Melnyk has said that the not-quite-20 year-old CTC wasn’t built to last 30 or 40 years, implying its nearing the end of its life expectancy. Funny, we never heard that argument a little over a year ago when he was campaigning to add a casino to it.

THE TRAFFIC: Do me a favour, picture the traffic in crowded downtown Ottawa during rush hour on a Wednesday afternoon. Now picture the traffic headed west on the Queensway in the hours leading up to a Senators home game at the CTC. Now take the Queensway traffic and shove each and every car into the downtown traffic you first pictured. Did you throw up a little? The traffic congestion that would result downtown during home games would be nothing short of catastrophic and it would have a ripple effect throughout much of the city. But what about public transit, you may ask. What about it? Have you seen how many buses, packed to the gills each and every one, travel to the CTC during hockey games? Over forty per game, and the traffic is still stupid. But it works at the TD place, you may counter. Perhaps, but there’s already been an avalanche of complaints about funneling visitors to Lansdowne for Red-Blacks games through public transit and it’s only been one season. And the CFL isn’t the NHL, which will outdraw Canada’s football league nine times out of ten, even in the Nation’s Capital (Bruce Firestone, who was the driving force behind the Sens return to the NHL, once wrote that if they depended on buses to fill their new building, wherever it was put, they’d have exactly one sellout-the home opener-and then the fans would revolt). But, you’ll add with no shortage of confidence, people will be able to walk to and from games downtown. Sure, that works in October and March, but January and February aren’t exactly pedestrian friendly months weather wise and judging by OC Transpo’s slowly declining ridership, Ottawa natives have proven that if they can, they’ll drive as opposed to other modes of travel, regardless of cost or convenience. And plummeting gas prices will only add to that preference. But in one final, smug argument, you’ll remind me that by then the LRT should be up and running and can ferry Sens Army to support the hometown boys. And I will politely refer you to point number one of this column. Right now no one knows how the NCC’s recent interference in the city’s LRT western expansion could affect the whole plan. Anything else?

THE PUBLIC: And speaking of Lansdowne, do you remember a little group called Friends of Lansdowne? The group who fought the city tooth and nail and tooth again over its plans for a rejuvenated and renovated Lansdowne Park, one that would welcome (yet) another CFL franchise? Do you remember the tantrums and the caterwauling, the fact that the city spent over a million dollars fighting the group in court and that it put a hold on the entire operation for years, jeopardizing a number of interested tenants (including the CFL)? Don’t think for a second that a similar fight won’t happen if the land in question is used for a new NHL arena downtown. The first day this news broke, some community leaders were quoted saying they liked the idea of a new arena downtown, but didn’t think it was the best use for public land. And the traffic problem I previously described will be the biggest bullet opponent’s arsenal.

THE WEST: You may seem to remember last October, the weekend following Thanksgiving, that there was a pretty big opening in the west end. What was that again? Oh, right, the Tanger Outlet Mall that opened right next door to the Canadian Tire Centre (and it’s opening attracted more then enough traffic to complicate things in the entire west end, all the way out in Kanata, just saying). Now you may be curious why I would bring up Tanger. I mean, the two buildings seem totally unrelated, even if they are neighbours. Except, rumour has it that Tanger was built there in an effort to help develop the west end. You see, way back in the day, the original brain trust behind brining the NHL back to Ottawa wanted to put their arena on Lebreton Flats, pretty much on the land that’s being debated today, but they were denied by, wait for it, the NCC. So when ground was broken on the current location, the underlying idea was that the land around the then Palladium would gradually be developed with strip malls and suburbs and office buildings (until then Ottawa boasted the biggest sports and entertainment venue in the middle of, you know, nowhere). But while the progress has been slower then hoped on that front, the lands around the now CTC have slowly been looking more and more like an urban centre and less like a farmer’s field (I had a job interview at the CTC shortly after it opened, and upon completion of my interview I went and played with the neighbouring farm’s cows). That, according to rumour, was the biggest motivator behind putting Tanger right next door to the arena. Both Mayor Watson and a handful of Kanata business leaders have wondered aloud what would happen if the Sens were to leave Kanata, how it would affect west end businesses as well as long term plans to develop the west end further.

Is a new arena downtown impossible? No, but highly improbable, and not just for the five reasons I discussed (there are probably a dozen more I don’t know about). If it happens, I’ll toast it right alongside you Sens Army, just don’t count your chickens before the eggs are even laid.

Shayne Kempton