SciFi Friday: First Glimpse of Doctor Who Christmas Episode, Star Trek Casting, Trashing Mistakes, And Fred Thompson Revealed

The BBC has released the first publicity shot for this year’s Doctor Who Christimas episode in which Kylie Minogue plays The Doctor’s companion. The episode, “Voyage of the Damned” takes place aboard the Titanic. Those who held off on watching Doctor Who until it starting airing on the SciFi Channel saw The Shakespeare Code tonight. While entertaining, this episode (and pretty much the entire first half of the season) was weak when compared to the final six episodes.

There are reports that William Shatner is saying he will not appear in the movie, but Leonard Nimoy will appear. Zachary Quinto, who plays Sylar on Heroes, is reportedly pushing to play Spock in the upcoming Star Trek movie. Besides possibly Quinto and George Takei there will be yet another connection between Heroes and Star Trek. Dominic Keating, who played Malcom Reed on Star Trek: Enterprise will play an Irish mobster in a recurring role.

Slice of ScFi Reports on a couple of upcoming miniseries from the SciFi Channel:

Coming up for the new season will be “Tin Man,” a six-hour miniseries that takes a new look at the Dorothy and Wizard of Oz story and brings it into the 21st Century…

The other new six-hour miniseries on tap for SCI FI will be something called “Going Homer.” This one will make good use of “Stargate SG-1″ and “Farscape” star Ben Browder and will be directed by Andrew Prowse (”Farscape”). Prowse is currently in post-production with his new film “Heatstroke,” a scifi actioner starring D.B. Sweeney.

“Going Homer” is a modern-day turn on Homer’s Odyssey but takes place on a road-trip that a 12-year old boy takes from Los Angeles to New York. He makes the journey to avoid the bitter custody battle ensuing over him. During his travels he is able to see and communicate with the ancient Greek and Roman gods. Problem is no one else can see or hear them as these giants of Earth’s past walk among mortal men, which makes it hard for the young boy to seek refuge from those gods out to destroy him. Other gods in the pantheon, however come to his rescue as he struggles to find his way home.

Fox has decided to trash the work done so far on for the next season of 24 and start over–something they might have considered last season. The interesting aspect is that the story was to take place in Africa. Either this would mean the entire season would have had to take place in or near Africa or they would have to scrap the real time format. I know there were some dull moments last season, but they would be nothing compared to all those episodes it would take to have Jack Bower fly to Africa. Some might argue that if he can drive anywhere in Los Angeles in a portion of an episode, he should be able to fly to Africa within an hour.

The producers of 24 aren’t the only ones to realize they need to go stop rehashing the same old thing. Disney is giving up those embarrassing sequels to their classic animated movies:

In a strategy shift, the Walt Disney Co. said it will stop making lucrative direct-to-DVD sequels of such classic animated films as “Cinderella,” a move that reflects the growing influence of former Pixar Animation executives John Lasseter and Steve Jobs, who once called the films “embarrassing.”

The change comes with a shake-up at the company’s DisneyToon Studios, including the removal of longtime President Sharon Morrill, who will continue with the company in another capacity, Disney said Friday…

DisneyToon will now only produce original DVD films, including an upcoming film starring the fairy Tinkerbell. It isn’t clear whether sequels already in production, such as “Cinderella III,” will continue…

Although those DVDs were moneymakers for the studio, Disney purists scoffed, including Messrs. Lasseter and Jobs. In a 2003 conference call with financial analysts, Mr. Jobs said how much he hated the DVD sequels.

“We feel sick about Disney doing sequels,” Mr. Jobs said. “If you look at the quality of their sequels…it’s pretty embarrassing.”

When Disney bought Pixar, it put former Pixar President Catmull and Mr. Lasseter in charge of its own animation efforts. Mr. Lasseter has made no secret of his disdain for sequels in general, although he is working on “Toy Story 3.” That movie is planned to be released in theaters, however, scheduled for 2010.

And, finally, P.Z. Myers has outed Fred Thompson. I’m not speaking about those rumors that he’s gay. Myers exposed him as an evil alien:


Who Should Debate?

Fox News might have gotten their revenge on John Edwards and Hillary Clinton for not wanting to debate on their network as their microphones picked up Edwards and Clinton speaking of limiting those allowed to participate in future debates. While there is no doubt that the current debate format is horrible, limiting the candidates which can particpate is not the solution.

The problem comes down to where one draws the line. If we limit the debates to the front runners months ahead of the primaries we are creating a self-fulfilling prediction. The front runners may remain front runners because other candidates don’t get a chance to be heard. Not only would they be denied coverage at the debates, but I bet that the media would use this as reason to reduce coverage even further of the other candidates.

Sure, there are candidates who have no chance. If Al Sharpton had been excluded from the debates in 2003 it wouldn’t have affected the outcome of the race, but the debates would have been a lot less fun. If we excluded Al Sharpton, should John Kerry have also been excluded in the fall of 2003 when he trailed Sharpton in the polls?

Looking at this year’s race, there is strong reason to argue that only Clinton and Obama have a real shot, so perhaps even Edwards should be excluded. Some might even argue that Clinton has already clinched it, and we should just have Hillary talking to herself for ninety minutes. I’m certain she could handle arguing both sides of the Iraq war.

I imagine Edwards and Clinton were envisioning a debate between themselves along with Barack Obama, but why draw the line there? Edwards had a pretty unimpressive second quarter. Bill Richardson, who has far more experience than any of them, almost caught Edwards in second quarter fund raising, and is improving in the polls. Of course some might argue that Richardson’s chances would be better if he was left out of the debates after his appearances so far.

If we stretch the debates to include Richardson, then what of Biden and Dodd. Both are more experienced than many others in the race. If Richardson could show signs of improvement in the second quarter, whose to say that Biden or Dodd might not catch on later in the year.

Realistically we could leave out Kucinich and Gravel, but if we’ve already allowed all the others in, having two more won’t really matter. While Kucinich’s protest does contain some hyperbole, I’m still inclined to let these two speak.

There has to be better ways to handle the debates, but a lesser number of candidates does not guarantee great debates. There have been plenty of two candidate debates in the general election campaign which weren’t all that impressive either. I’d prefer to see fewere (and better) questions where candidates are provided more time to respond to both the question and each other.

Update: Ultimately the field will be reduced without having to exclude candidates as the weaker candidates are forced to drop out. A day after posting this, The Politico reports that James Gilmore is dropping out. The Democrats have also had one candidate drop out–Tom Vilsack.

Bush Misleads on al Qaeda; Former CIA Offical Says al Qaeda Thrives on the American Occupation

If only the media had debunked Bush on al Qaeda like this before the war. The New York Times reviews the manner in which Bush has been distorting al Qaeda links in Iraq. Especially note the assessment at the end of that “Al Qaeda, both in Iraq and globally, thrives on the American occupation.”

In rebuffing calls to bring troops home from Iraq, President Bush on Thursday employed a stark and ominous defense. “The same folks that are bombing innocent people in Iraq,” he said, “were the ones who attacked us in America on September the 11th, and that’s why what happens in Iraq matters to the security here at home.”

It is an argument Mr. Bush has been making with frequency in the past few months, as the challenges to the continuation of the war have grown. On Thursday alone, he referred at least 30 times to Al Qaeda or its presence in Iraq.

But his references to Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, and his assertions that it is the same group that attacked the United States in 2001, have greatly oversimplified the nature of the insurgency in Iraq and its relationship with the Qaeda leadership.

There is no question that the group is one of the most dangerous in Iraq. But Mr. Bush’s critics argue that he has overstated the Qaeda connection in an attempt to exploit the same kinds of post-Sept. 11 emotions that helped him win support for the invasion in the first place.

Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia did not exist before the Sept. 11 attacks. The Sunni group thrived as a magnet for recruiting and a force for violence largely because of the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, which brought an American occupying force of more than 100,000 troops to the heart of the Middle East, and led to a Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad.

The American military and American intelligence agencies characterize Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia as a ruthless, mostly foreign-led group that is responsible for a disproportionately large share of the suicide car bomb attacks that have stoked sectarian violence. Gen. David H. Petraeus, the senior American commander in Iraq, said in an interview that he considered the group to be “the principal short-term threat to Iraq.”

But while American intelligence agencies have pointed to links between leaders of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia and the top leadership of the broader Qaeda group, the militant group is in many respects an Iraqi phenomenon. They believe the membership of the group is overwhelmingly Iraqi. Its financing is derived largely indigenously from kidnappings and other criminal activities. And many of its most ardent foes are close at home, namely the Shiite militias and the Iranians who are deemed to support them.

“The president wants to play on Al Qaeda because he thinks Americans understand the threat Al Qaeda poses,” said Bruce Riedel, an expert at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy and a former C.I.A. official. “But I don’t think he demonstrates that fighting Al Qaeda in Iraq precludes Al Qaeda from attacking America here tomorrow. Al Qaeda, both in Iraq and globally, thrives on the American occupation.”

If the goal is to reduce the risk of an attack on the United States, we must end the occupation which has strengthened al Qaeda.

Keith Olbermann’s Special Comment on Chertoff’s Gut


Keith Olbermann had a Special Comment on Michael Chertof’s gut felling that we are at risk of another terrorist attack. Video is above, with transcript under the fold. (more…)

Richardson Improving in Polls Making Possible Four Way Race

There’s more signs that there just might be a four way race after all for the Democratic nomination. After previous polls showed Richardson improving in Iowa and New Hampshire, the latest Strategic Vision polls show gains in Pennsylvania and Michigan. Richardson also came close to John Edwards in second quarter fund raising after a bad quarter in many respects for the Edwards campaign.

The first problem for Richardson is that at the moment it is increasingly looking like a two way race between Clinton and Obama, and while it is always possible for a front runner to fall, the chances of both doing so are much remoter. At present it appears that either Clinton will walk away with the nomination, or the anti-Clinton vote will unify behind Obama to stop her. If both the Clinton and Obama campaigns should fail, and assuming Al Gore remains out of the race, it then becomes murky as to whether Richardson or Edwards has a better shot.

Edwards is counting on a win in Iowa to allow him to repeat John Kerry’s path to victory from 2004. This might not be as straight forward as many believe. While a populst like Edwards would be expected to do well in Iowa, such candidates typically do more poorly in New Hampshire. Kerry had the advantage of winning in Iowa, which was not where he would be expected to be strong, and then being able to go on to New Hampshire which was an easy win for him once Dean’s campaign self-destructed.

It is not clear how well Richardson would do in New Hampshire, but he has a fighting chance if he can be seen as a socially liberal, fiscally conservative Democrat in the tradition of Paul Tsongas and John Kerry. A decent showing in Iowa could allow him to beat Edwards in New Hampshire, especially if Edwards has more quarters as poor as the last one was. Richardson remains a long shot, but he has gotten himself into the race, and can be encouraged by the success of other long shots such as Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.