I don't consider this a particularly controversial question unless it's plainly stupid (Does The Incredible Hulk take place in the same universe as 2001 A Space Oddysey).

For those of you that are unaware, many television shows make reference to other ones which you'd think hadn't happened unless you were aware of it. For instance, The X-Files has an episode where Det. Munch from Homicide and Law & Order: SVU makes a cameo. And both of those shows make even more references to yet more shows, to the point that several hundred television series are connected (if indirectly) to one another. The two shows that seem pivotal in this phenomena are St. Elsewhere and Homicide: Life on the Street. This is often referred to as the Tommy Westphall universe.

diagram of many tv shows and their connections

Some of the connections are rather weak, but others are full crossover (and yet others seem to be full crossovers, but clearly have contradictory events such as Det. Munch making an X-Files joke as if it were only a tv show).

It's my opinion that such questions clearly deserve benefit of the doubt, and that we should refrain from comments that ask the questioner to justify their question.

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    How is a questioner supposed to distinguish between things having connections they're unaware of and things having no connections? Closing a question based on its answer is nearly my least favorite thing. Both questions are asked out of ignorance on imaginative whims -- why should we host them? If there seems to be some connection and they're exploring it that's very different than just asking about two things at random. Feb 12, 2013 at 22:26
  • @MatthewRead So you want to punish the questioner for not knowing the answer, or at least not having a good hunch that an answer exists?
    – John O
    Feb 12, 2013 at 22:35
  • Ideally that's what "This question shows research effort" is for in the upvote/downvote mouse-over text. I'm not quite sure how that translates in the SF&F domain though.
    – tugs
    Feb 12, 2013 at 22:43
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    @JohnO Closing isn't a punishment, but pretending it is: I want to punish them for thinking up something at random and deciding to waste people's time with it. Why should infinite variations of the same unsupported question be on-topic? Just allow the ones that have some reason for existing (evidence known to the questioner). Feb 12, 2013 at 22:55
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    Random questions aren't necessarily bad. This isn't StackOverflow, where we are solving problems... we're just satisfying curiosity. If the questioner has evidence, they've already answered it for themselves, no need to ask. I've just given quite alot of evidence that, at least among tv shows, these are supportable questions.
    – John O
    Feb 12, 2013 at 22:58
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    I'm all for satisfying curiosity but don't all other questions here have some support for said curiosity? When something seems to be contradictory or nonsensical (plot holes), you can ask about it. But you don't ask "Are there any plot holes in X?" just because most stories have plot holes and you should be given the benefit of the doubt. You don't ask "Why do cookies exist in the Fringe universe?" just because it's been shown that cookies don't exist in certain other works and hey, it's possible to imagine a reason that cookies shouldn't exist in Fringe. Feb 12, 2013 at 23:13
  • I just provided support for all television crossover questions, in bulk.
    – John O
    Feb 13, 2013 at 1:21

2 Answers 2


I'd lean towards saying there should be some justification for asking the question, otherwise there's the very real possibility that the question should be considered "too localized". Just because one person wants to know if show X and (seemingly unrelated) show Y have even the vaguest connection or references to one another, that doesn't mean anybody else is ever going to have the same question again.

A reason for asking the question beyond "I'm curious" at the very least provides a means for determining if it's likely to be useful for future visitors.

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    Too localized only makes sense on StackOverflow. It's for those programming questions that are so specific that they can't possibly be of use to anyone else. Here on SFF.SE if we only allow those which are popular (that someone else might find interesting), it's going to turn into the comic book movie SE. I don't think it's a good reason for this site to close questions.
    – John O
    Feb 12, 2013 at 22:34
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    @JohnO Too localized only makes sense on StackOverflow is not remotely true. Why do you think it exists as a close reason on every site in the network? Questions and answers should absolutely have at least a reasonable chance at being useful to other people. It's a web knowledge repository, not a private answer service. Feb 12, 2013 at 22:57
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    @MatthewRead It exists because they can't easily do per-SE configurable close reasons. And because StackOverflow was first, so all have it. It's not really valid for us.
    – John O
    Feb 12, 2013 at 22:59
  • @JohnO They have done that, actually (see the General Reference close reason). It's in use on all sites that I'm aware of, not merely present. Example from here: scifi.stackexchange.com/q/22404/1470 Feb 12, 2013 at 23:01
  • @MatthewRead We've actually talked about getting rid of GR here, since it also makes little sense in the context of our subject matter.
    – John O
    Feb 12, 2013 at 23:04
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    @JohnO The point is that GR is a close reason that is/was on particular sites only. Feb 12, 2013 at 23:06
  • @JohnO Regarding "Too Localized", your use of the word "programming" in your description "It's for those programming questions that are so specific that they can't possibly be of use to anyone else." is entirely unnecessary. There are plenty of questions that fall into the category of "too localized" across the entire platform. We use it on parenting.se. For example: pricing nannies is too localized because answers wouldn't be universal.
    – Beofett
    Feb 13, 2013 at 13:32
  • We don't price nannies here on SFF.
    – John O
    Feb 13, 2013 at 14:25
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    Your argument was that "Too Localized" is only valid on SO, and none of the other SE sites. I provided a single example that demonstrates that that assumption is not true. You trying to claim that because my specific example doesn't apply here means that your fundamental premise must be true is just a horrendous logical fallacy.
    – Beofett
    Feb 13, 2013 at 15:30
  • By the way, Keen just closed a question here on SciFi.SE as Too Localized.
    – Izkata
    Feb 16, 2013 at 4:49
  • @Beofett - the point is that Too Localized is idiotic to use on SFF. If I'm curious about something after reading/watching X, someone else is quite possible wonder the same thing. To claim "nobody else will be helped by this question" is a height of assumption and arrogance when it comes to SFF, and usually comes from "I'm so much smarter than you" POV. I'm sure you can contrive some very unusual question to ask on SFF that's too localized - but I don't think I saw more than 1 or 2 that would be legitimately T.L. in my 2 years here. Feb 17, 2013 at 4:24
  • @Beofett - Sorry, didn't meant to imply that anything you might respond with will be contrived, merely that I haven't observed many "in the wild" examples, and am not interested in artificially constructed ones. This site suffers from too few interesting questions, not a glut of non-interesting too-localized ones, and T.L. is usually proposed on way-wrong ones (by people conflating "not interesting/helpful TO ME" with "won't ever be helpful to anyone but OP"). Feb 17, 2013 at 14:16
  • @DVK but in the context of this discussion, the examples aren't contrived. "Does X-Files cross over with Twin Peaks" is, imo, non-interesting and too-localized, especially when the justification is "one of the actors was in both shows". While it is possible that there could be an interesting question hidden in there, the point is that it is up to the asker to put in enough information as to why they wonder about it. I think it's debatable whether the proper response is NARQ, TL, or simply downvote, but I don't think any of those choices are wrong.
    – Beofett
    Feb 17, 2013 at 15:03
  • @Beofett - downvote is plausible. The fact that Westphall universe DOES exist (and so does Canadian Eureca/W13/etc..) makes any VTC merely a product of lack of knowledge. I personally found the question useful and interesting (and so did JohnO), so any assumption that NOBODY ELSE could be helped by this question is clearly wrong. And the criteria for TL isn't "some people won't find the answer useful", it's "NOBODY will". Feb 17, 2013 at 15:39
  • @DVK The TL description isn't "NOBODY ELSE could be helped by this question". It is "This question is unlikely to help any future visitor...an extraordinarily narrow situation that is not generally applicable to the worldwide audience of the internet". However, I'll buy that SFF deserves a bit of leniency in that since there are many good questions that seemingly fall under that. However, I don't think the existence of the Westphall universe is justification for any possible "does x cross over with y" question without further elaboration.
    – Beofett
    Feb 17, 2013 at 19:46

The reason that we shouldn't allow these questions is easy. They are always going to be list questions. The problem with list questions is they just don't fit well with this style of Q&A. Any person can slap in a crappy one sentence answer and have it be correct. This isn't a forum or a personal website. The only place on this site that such answers would appropriate would be on the blog. I agree, there are a lot of crossovers of all kinds in SF&F, but we just aren't set up to deal with them.

I would say that any particular reference would be on topic, however. That's an entirely answerable question and is a good fit for the site.

Example to the good: I was watching blah episode of Homicide and the Det. made this joke "Imaginary Block Quote", Does that mean that the X-Files exist in this universe?


I was watching this show and I didn't get this reference, what are they talking about?

Example to the bad:

Does X show ever reference Y

We wouldn't allow a question like "can you tell me every time the HULK ate a banana?" or "How many times did character X talk about Y". They are open-ended and bad questions, so why would we create a loophole for entire universe of them just because they were on t.v.?

  • They don't have to be list questions (though I still don't think they should be allowed). "Does X ever reference Y?" isn't really like "Can you tell me every time the Hulk ate a banana?", it's more like "Has the Hulk ever eaten a banana?" That, however, opens us up to a load of other questions, such as "Has the Hulk ever eaten an apple?", "Has the Hulk ever eaten an orange?", and there needs to be a limit to that. Feb 13, 2013 at 15:54
  • If, however, the Hulk at some point mentioned a dislike of bananas, that would make a "Has the Hulk ever eaten a banana?" question more valid. Feb 13, 2013 at 15:56
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  • Huh? How is a "is there any link between show X and Y?" a list question. The very nature of the question makes it such that there will be only one or two incidents/events/details that link the shows (excluding obvious spinoffs, which no one will ask about).
    – John O
    Feb 13, 2013 at 16:39
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    @Beofett Your example is exactly inline with where I would call the line. The question is specific and tightly contained. It's way different than say "What are the shows that Futurama referenced over it's initial Fox run?" Feb 13, 2013 at 17:37
  • @AnthonyGrist Yes the specific ones won't be, the nonspecific can't help but be. Feb 13, 2013 at 17:38
  • @JohnO That broad of a question can have any number of "correct" answers shoved in it. T.V. actor cross over all the time in shows. On prime time T.V THIS VERY MOMENT you have seven writers that are writing for 3 or more shows. The cross connects are huge and the more open ended we allow the questions to be, the worse it gets. Feb 13, 2013 at 17:44

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