2013 marks the fiftieth anniversary of two of geekdom's most beloved franchises: X-Men and Doctor Who. (Avengers can go cry itself to sleep over this snub atop its pile of movie money and co-opted characters.) Despite their seemingly evergreen popularity, reaching this golden anniversary milestone was once thought unlikely as both properties endured protracted "wilderness years" where they were almost defunct. The disastrously schlocky TV movies both had on Fox in 1996 didn't help their odds either.
Now that both are thriving, it's the perfect time for these ultra-liberal sci-fi adventure tales to finally crossover. Or do X-Men and Doctor Who have so much in common that an official crossover would be redundant?
I've noticed a disturbingly high amount of parallels between the two properties. You may chalk them up to zeitgeisty coincidences, but my string & thumbtack collage chart (just like the ones made by every paranoid conspiracist in TV and film) says otherwise. For one thing, Chris Claremont and John Byrne, who were responsible for much of X-Men's classic tales, are self-professed Whovians. It's not a one-way homage though, as Russell T. Davies and Steven Moffat, relaunched Doctor Who's showrunners, appear to be secret X-Fans.
I'll be focusing on the core media for each (television and comic books) as there's too much auxillary media to cram into a single post, but here be fifty year's worth of spoilers. Another thing I've learned is that if you ever to synopsize either to the uninitiated they'll realize you're a crazy person. So hold on to your monocles as I explain why X-Men and Doctor Who are secretly the same franchise!
10) X-Men and the Doctor Squander Any Advantage of Being "Dead"
The X-Men sacrifice their lives to help the Goddess Roma save all creation from the generically named Adversary. Roma resurrects them with the bonus of being undetectable by electronic means, such as video cameras, as if they were vampires. The X-Men, who were publically regarded as outlaws because their Avengers and Fantastic Four "friends" never put in a good word for them with the authorities, think this new ability to work under the radar is great.
The downside is that media outlets can no longer get proof of the X-Men protecting the world as pro-mutant PR. They really needed it as X-Factor (the original X-Men) had been masquerading as mutant hunters to find new mutants to train. (That'd be as counterproductive as the NAACP dressing as KKK to promote tolerance.) They certainly weren't as productive as their mentor, Professor X, who'd once let a shapeshifter die in his place so he could have plenty of time to brainstorm how to vanquish an alien invasion without whiny teens bothering him. The team's tactical advantage of being undetectable doesn't last long as racist cyborg Reavers have scanners that are unaffected by magic. The rumors of their deaths being slightly exaggerated is blown to the world when the team is tried by kangaroo court in apartheid Genosha. This stealth enhancement barely lasted until the next writers literally forgot it was a plot point.
The Doctor's braggadocio earns him the enmity of the Silence, a religious order devoted to his downfall composed of useless soldiers, dime store Nazgul, and amnesia-inducing aliens from a Munch painting. He gets them off his back by ensuring that River Song "kills" a robotic decoy of him, for which his wife is dutifully imprisoned on a bum murder rap to maintain the trick.
How such a cacklebladder can be sustained when the Silence can also time travel is never addressed. The Doctor certainly doesn't make it easy on himself since he continued to associate with the Ponds and still hasn't fixed his TARDIS's Chameleon Circuit. It'd be the perfect opportunity for him to dye himself ginger. Clara Oswin does erase his files from most databanks, but the Cybermen explain they could easily reconstitute this data from the digital abscesses she left behind. If the Doctor does manage to stay off the grid as a dead man, it won't be because he's playing it clever. It'll be because the writers forgot the Silence existed when they stopped looking at them.
9) Suppossedly Impossible Paradoxes Overwrite the Whole Universe
According to Who, some events in time are fixed whereas others are mutable, but you'd have to be Gallifreyan to tell the difference. Whether or not Egyptian God Sutekh destroys Earth in 1910 is shown as being completely variable, although the entirety of the show hinges on that not happening. Of course "time can be rewritten" even when it comes to fixed events, which makes this distinction meaningless.
When River opts not to shoot the Doctor-shaped Teselecta (which we are told is a fixed point in time), reality instantly morphs into one giant anachronism in danger of imploding. So instead of being completely immutable, that event turned out to be the easiest thing to screw up in a bajillion ways. Rather than being somewhat elastic, the space-time continuum is akin to a game of Jenga. (The universe does get reset once the Doctor reveals to River that she won't really kill him when she shoots "him," so she does.) The Doctor crossing into his own personal timeline (which we're told is the one thing he absolutely must never do) after the Great Intelligence and Clara were fragmented throughout it ought to be even worse, but who knows if there will be any lasting consequences? This program kinda has a spotty record when it comes to follow through.
The official Marvel rules of time travel avoid paradoxes by insisting that it's only possible to visit alternate reality timelines. X-Men pisses on this rule whenever possible. Professor X's bastard son, Legion (who inherited the toothbrush hair genes from his mom), goes back in time to kill Magneto before he becomes a supervillain. Instead, he accidentally kills Xavier before he formed the X-Men or had unprotected sex. (There's an icky scene that suggests Legion becomes his own dad for a bonus bootstrap paradox or to negate the inherent grandfather paradox.) This causes the entire Marvel universe to shift to a world conquered by Apocalypse, a self-professed former Sutekh impersonator.
The timeline is corrected when Bishop is sent back again (just to score this arc a Blinovitch spot on the paradox bingo) to kill Legion before he slays anyone. Of course Legion is now alive and headlining X-Men Legacy for reasons that don't explain anything. Despite being erradicated, the "Age of Apocalypse" has now become a distinct alternate reality so it can be Marvel's most nihilistic cash cow.
8) Invertebrate TV Overlords Deliver Meta-Commentary
When it comes to meta-commentary, X-Men has Mojo, an obese histrionic invertebrate in a robotic scorpion chair. He rules the Mojoverse dimension where television ratings are power and the violent struggles of mutants are catnip to his couch potato subjects. Keep in mind that he was invented years before humanity realized that reality shows were the opiate of the masses and bane of civilization. He even had his top henchwomen, Spiral, insert cameras into Psylocke's eyes so they'd get a constant video feed of superheroics. (She later turned the Caucasian Psylocke into a Japanese ninja in an over the top parody of the "Two Darrins" effect.)
When the X-Men are unavailable, Mojo creates the X-Babies as a quick cash-in, much like Disney will eventually. You'd think Mojo would be a one-off joke, but he's actually become a recurring villain who appeared in two cartoon adaptations to add an extra layer of meta. His continued exploitation of mutants (and his genetically engineered humanoid slaves that the X-Men can't be bothered liberating) mocks Marvel for pandering to fans who buy X-books just for superpowered fisticuffs rather than the thought-provoking human rights issues at its core. His presence underscores the fact that the X-Men are really just an entertainment commodity.
See also the ironically abbreviated "AvX," the sprawling cross-over slugfest that throws both the X-Men and Avengers under the bus because of a magic RPG between junior members Pixie and Squirrel Girl.
The Doctor practically knocks down the Fourth Wall in "The Greatest Show in the Galaxy," which satirized its creators, fans, and BBC brass. It's so meta that it's basically The Cabin in the Woods two decades ahead of schedule.
Not content with having the more subtle critique, the revived Doctor Who blatantly rips off the Mojoverse. In "The Long Game," all media for the Fourth Great and Bountiful Human Empire is controlled by Mighty Jagrafess of the Holy Hadrojassic Maxarodenfoe, a giant carnivorous slug stuck to the ceiling of Satellite Five's control room. Just as Mojo has a wry major domo in the android Major Domo, the unintelligible Jagrafess had a wry factotum played by an albino Simon Pegg.
That's one point for Who, though it still loses to X-Men for not including a teleporting six-armed swordswoman like Spiral. (Also, the predatory yet flatulent Slitheen who disguise themselves by wearing humans' skins were totally inspired by Mojo's predatory yet shiny Warwolves that disguise themselves by wearing humans' skins.) Even in the distant future, this popular TV show insists that television will still be the preeminent medium for propaganda, especially if it's broadcast by a BBC stand-in.
At the end of series one (or twenty-seven, depending on how you're counting), Satellite Five's deadly reality shows are taken over by Daleks because there's no greater shorthand for creative bankruptcy. Lazy Who writers slap Daleks on everything!
7) Beneath Their Saintly Reputations, the Doctor and Professor X Are Secretly Jerkwads
The general view of the Doctor as an itinerant savior has recently been called into question by Davros, the Silence, and the Great Intelligence. While they lack moral authority, their cynicism is supported by the series.
When the Doctor debuted he was a curmudgeon who wanted to bludgeon a caveman to death for expediency. He mellowed as he spent more time with humans but still has bouts of sociopathy. He has the chance to preemptively wipe out the Daleks but decides it's not right to prevent them from waging genocidal campaigns against the rest of the cosmos. After telling Sarah Jane she wasn't allowed to come to Gallifrey with him, he drops her off in Aberdeen instead of South Croydon. Because of his shoddy repairs, the Xoanon supercomputer became a schizophrenic with the Doctor's visage and split the explorers it was designed to help into warring cargo cults. The Doctor belligerently installs himself as President of Gallifrey (with Leela in tow) just so he could discover the Vardan invasion he let in was a front for the Sontarrans.
The Sixth Doctor's first order of business was to choke new companion Peri and declare her his servant. He exposes Ace to all her fears to break her down. Then's there's the whole "killing all the Daleks and Gallifreyans during the Time War" thing. When chased by the Family of Blood, he surrenders all his advantages by becoming a powerless human school teacher while Dr Martha Jones has to settle for being as maid in 1913. It wasn't until the Family kills a bunch of townsfolk that the Doctor decides that subjecting the monsters to arabesque tortures (which appears ridiculously easy once he reverts back into a Time Lord) was a better strategy.
He keeps Clara in the dark about her timestream doppelgangers for flimsy reasons even after it's proven she's not a Trojan Horse. He can also stand to treat his wives, the TARDIS and River Song, much better.
The general view of Professor Xavier as the visionary who realized mutants and humans should live together in harmony was recently called into question by the X-Men after a cemetery's worth of skeletons fell out of his closet. These incriminating retcons are supported by the early comics, which revealed that Professor Xavier had a cavalier habit of erasing the minds of supervillains, superhero allies, and his students' parents. He also never told the public that his school trained mutants to control dangerous powers (until he was possessed by his long-lost evil twin sister) or that the X-Men support peaceful coexistence, which would've gone a long way to reducing anti-mutant hysteria.
Xavier strangles his twin sister in utero and abandons his step-brother in a temple cave-in, which caused his siblings to resurface years later as angry supervillains. In order to rescue the original X-Men from Krakoa the Mutant Island, he sends a trainee X-team that promptly dies. He erases everyone's memories of the dead X-Men and uses telepathic ventriloquism to make Krakoa speak English (he thinks that it helps his cover-up somehow) rather than helping the untrained international X-Men he sent in afterwards. To his ex- fiancée, world class geneticist Dr. Moira MacTaggert, he grants the lofty position of school housekeeper. When he found out an alien upgrade made the Danger Room sentient, he still forces it to torture his students in mock combat. He has the hubris to try to rehabilitate Sabretooth in the mansion against everyone's better judgement, which gets Psylocke gutted. Xavier even had to spend an extended arc apologizing to everyone Twelve Steps style.
If he doesn't sound quite as bad as the Doctor, it's only because Xavier has to jockey with so many other muties for page time.
6) ... and Their Repressed Bastardry Coalesces into Sentient Supervillains
The usually benign Fifth Doctor literally lets the Master die in a fire as he screams for mercy. (He gets better.)
The exceptionally dickish Sixth Doctor is put on trial by the Time Lord High Council for committing genocide on the obscene-looking Vervoids amongst other crimes (but not against fashion). The prosecutor, the Valeyard, turns out to be a possible penultimate incarnation of the Doctor distilled from his inner bastardry into an outright supervillain. The Valeyard rigs the trial's evidence in an attempt steal the Doctor's remaining regenerations upon his execution before betraying the High Council. "The Trial of a Time Lord season was so reviled that the show was put on hiatus for eighteen months, and the Valeyard was put off limits because his origin makes no sense. Although the show finally returned, it was living on borrowed time until the BBC officially axed it.
In the relaunch, The Doctor faces The Dream Lord, another foe sprung from his subconscious. John Hurt's Doctor must be even worse than either of them to merit a time out!
At one point during which he constantly nags others about the ethical usage of mutant powers, Professor X completely erases Magneto's brain. (He gets better.) The X-Men are defeated from within by the long foreshadowed and über-powerful Onslaught. Despite looking like the shamebaby of Magneto and Super Shredder, the new villain is revealed to be another astral manifestation of Xavier's bastardry. (In an earlier crossover, Xavier's evil subconscious called the Entity conquers the Microverse whilst dressed as a gladiator and literally brainrapes student Dani Moonstar.) Onslaught's threat to the whole Marvel universe is vanquished at the cost of everyone who wasn't an X-Man or Spider-Man being exiled to the "Heroes Reborn" reboot universe. Do I really need to embed pictures of Rob Liefeld's Captain America for you to see that this was a dark time indeed? At least Xavier is finally sent to the clink afterwards for this heinous crime.