The View from my Chair: A Shared Universe?

Recently there’s been some talk around the blogsphere about shared universes and continuity porn.  This is something that the VS family has played with for years.  The recent spark of the debate was lit when i09 asked why the Siffy Channel (SyFy) doesn’t have it’s shows all set in one shared universe.

The easy answer to this is that these shows are produced by different companies, unlike the shared universes of Marvel or DC comics which are housed under big corporate umbrellas.  The logistics of having some Go’uald technology show up in Eureka or the teams for Sanctuary and Warehouse 13 teaming up together are pretty insurmountable.  Corporate brand identity and the question of who owns what portion of the story would prevent that from happening.  Witness the failed attempt for a Spidey cameo appearance in X3, Sony balked at the idea because they held the rights to film adaptations of the Spidey-verse.  A shared universe on a cable channel, unless intentionally built isn’t gonna happen any time soon.

That said, we (me and the P.I.T.’s) have long-held the belief that unless explicitly proven otherwise, our favorite TV shows and movies DO exist in one self-contained shared universe.  Obviously the universes of ‘2012’ and ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ are mutually exclusive.  But the universes of ‘Mission Impossible’ and ‘Star Trek’ need not be.  (OK I am not even going to throw open the door of the multiple quantum universes postulated by the Star Trek episode ‘Parallels’ or the Heinlein novel ‘Number of the Beast’).

We never quite put it down on paper before but the theory is basically “Unless the world depicted by the entertainment contradicts some other aspect of a different universe, the depicted universes are in the same quantum space.”  Simply put, Agent Mulder has somewhere in his files data on Alf, Mork, Uncle Martin, the unexpected flyover of Los Angeles by the USS Voyager, and Dr. Solomon.  The crew of any Federation starship could in fact through any number of time travel effects have an adventure with James Bond, Spider-Man or the Mission Impossible force.  Indiana Jones could very well be the great-great-(you figure it out)-great-grandfather of Cyrano Jones.  I know the folks at Hogwarts don’t concern themselves too much with the happenings of the muggle-world but would they consider Herbie the Volkswagen and enchanted beast?

What does this mean for your game, creative fiction, night at the movies?

What this means for your game night is that as a GM you can throw in whatever characters you deem appropriate and not feel guilty about it.  Do you want your party of Elves to have an encounter with Spock?  By all means if handled correctly it could be a blast.

What this means for your creative fiction (another means of role play IMHO) is that if you can come up with a “LOGICAL” reason for another character to appear in your story then by all means run with it.

What this means for your geek-gasm night of movie watching is that you can fantasize that the information on the screen of Mulder’s computer is listing of Gordon Shumway’s recent activities (bonus points if you get that reference).  You can hide the smirk or laugh out loud because you know that the gods of Olympus will eventually leave Earth and Percy Jackson  behind and settle on Pollux IV.

Would it be cool if the was one big shared universe?  Yes.  But, then to my way of thinking there already is.

*editor’s note*  The DC Universe and the Marvel universe were revealed to be two separate quantum universes in the Marvel vs. DC limited series.  As such by our theory there at least two combined shared universes; one with DC super-heroes and on with Marvel heroes.


  1. I hereby claim my bonus points.

    Crossover fic can get tricky, depending on how exacting you want to be, and how “exotic” the settings are. The more unusual elements there are in the setting, the more likely it is that they will conflict.

    I mean, I could totally see a Bones episode involving a serial killer, that then calls in the BAU team from Criminal Minds, that then calls in Mulder and Scully when things get weird. They find out that it is a robot, killing off all the women in the area named Sarah Connor. they send the robot off to Eureka to tear it down and find out how it ticks.

    Fair enough so far. Especially if you’re assuming it’s a Terminator. But, what if it is a Dalek? OK, it still totally works. But, now, what if it is a Dalek sent back in time by Skynet?

    Can the time travel rules of Dr. Who exist in the same universe as the time travel rules of Terminator? Could The Doctor work with John Connor and Jack Burton to destroy Skynet? If Jack Burton is along, do we have to worry about Chinese black magic? If we have to worry about Chinese black magic, can The Slayer show up to handle that bit?

    Once the Slayer is involved, we run headlong into the hardest subgenre to work with. Buffy’s vampires are inconsistent with, say, Dresden Files’ vampires, which are inconsistent with Anita Blake’s vampires, which have no relation whatsoever to Twilight’s vampires. Try throwing Blade, Underworld, classic Hammer films, and Stoker’s original Dracula into the mix. Sure, they’re all vampires, but you would almost need to suggest that vampires change their natures to fit the person they’re fighting.

    And, of course, it also gets tricky when you have a universe in which there is an event that changes everything forever. The current easy example is FlashForward. It’s hard to say that the other shows just missed that happening.

    That said, I would love to work up the “Prime Time” world, in which all of the various figures from the various crime, medical, and other dramas coexist. Add in several of the shows that are just slightly off, like Sarah Connor Chronicles, Beauty and the Beast, X-Files, Warehouse 13, and Eureka. Drop something like the FlashForward on them all, and watch all these different “best and the brightest” teams try to work it out.

    Hmm. Now I’m wondering if Robin Masters plays in Richard Castle’s “Author Poker Night,” and if maybe he’d bring his security specialist along at some point. (Bonus points back to you if you know who that is.)

  2. @Lugh – You only claimed your bonus points, you didn’t give me any indication you caught the reference. 😎 let me know that you know and I’ll have Magnum deliver the points.

    That aside, you and I are on the same page.

  3. Gordon Shumway is, of course, one of the top darts callers in Germany. Wait, what? What does a darts caller even do?

    You were more likely referring to the name of ALF. Of course, I think I’m one of the very few people who preferred the cartoon to the sitcom. The sitcom was never anything more than 22 minutes of Generic American Family(TM) handing ALF straight lines.

    Incidentally, did you see this announcement from back on April 1? Seemed, I dunno, relevant.

  4. Ding.. ding.. ding, X gets the square. Expect Magnum to stop by with your points just as soon as he can borrow the helicopter.

    Alan Moore has the whole idea of shared universes nailed.

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