SciFi Friday: Doctor Who and Its Spin Offs


This week’s installment of SciFi Friday will deal with Doctor Who and some of its spin offs. First let’s get everyone up to date. The video above contains the entire history of Doctor Who in under eight minutes from the first episode in 1963 through this season’s two-part finale, The Stolen Earth and Journey’s End, and even covers the spin offs.

Tardis and Torchwood Treasures reports that David Tennant has bee named the planet’s greenest star:

David Tennant has been named the Planet’s greenest star in this year’s Playing for the Planet Awards. The poll was carried out by Playhouse Disney and David was nominated for the award as he drives a hybrid car. Peter Duncan, awards judge and ambassador, said this about David winning the award:

“I am delighted that David Tennant has won the Greenest Star award – he’s a great role model for kids everywhere and clearly is as passionate at saving the planet as his character ‘The Doctor’.

Torchwood will be returning as a radio play on September 10. Here is a description of the planned show:

“Somewhere out there in that chaos of darkness and light, of science and protons, of gods and stars and death… somewhere there’s an answer.”

The Torchwood Institute was founded by Queen Victoria in 1879 to protect the British Empire against the threat of alien invasion. By 2008, all that remains of the organisation is a small team based in Cardiff. And now, following the tragic deaths of two of their colleagues, the remaining three – Captain Jack Harkness, Gwen Cooper and Ianto Jones – have to protect the human race against another unknown force from the darkness.

Martha Jones, ex-time traveller and now working as a doctor for a UN task force, has been called to CERN – the world’s largest particle physics laboratory in Geneva – where they’re about to activate the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).

The LHC is a particle accelerator which has been built deep underground in a 27km tunnel under Switzerland and France. Once activated, the collider will fire beams of protons together, recreating conditions a billionth of a second after the Big Bang – and potentially allowing the human race a greater insight into what the Universe is made of.

But so much could go wrong – it could open a gateway to a parallel dimension, or create a black hole – and now voices from the past are calling out to people and scientists have started to disappear…

Where have the missing scientists gone? What is the secret of the glowing man? What is lurking in the underground tunnel? And do the dead ever really stay dead?

Torchwood is a spin-off from the award-winning BBC Wales TV production Torchwood. Written by Joseph Lidster, it stars John Barrowman, Freema Agyeman, Eve Myles, Gareth David-Lloyd, Lucy Montgomery (of Tittybangbang) and Stephen Critchlow.

The television show will be limited to a five-part miniseries next season entitled Torchwood: Children of Earth, but it has been promoted to BBC-1. Hopefully this will give the show greater exposure and perhaps it will be shown for longer periods in future years.  While BBC-1 might not allow some of the material from earlier seasons on BBC-2 and BBC-3, fortunately it will air after 9:00 p.m. where some naughtiness is still allowed.  The miniseries is rumored to be about the sleeper aliens from the second season.

The final story technically isn’t about a Doctor Who spin off but there is a close connection. Coupling, which I’ve previously posted about here and here, was written by Steven Moffat who will be taking over as producer of Doctor Who in 2010. Moffat had a couple brief references to Doctor Who and Daleks in the first three seasons. In the fourth season Jeff was replaced by a new character named Oliver. In order to demonstrate his geekiness, he was made the owner of a science fiction book store, and in one scene he was seen with a full sized Dalek.

I completed watching the series this morning and then attempted to read a post at a Doctor Who forum mentioned in the shows Wikipedia entry in which Steven Moffat answers a fan’s request for closure by giving a run down of what will happen to the characters. The link given is to a forum which is now closed to new registration and therefore is no longer visible to many people. I finally tracked it down at a newer version of the forum and even found there were some fights at Wikipedia over the post’s inclusion.

As Steven Moffat’s post on the fates of his characters is not  easily available I will post it below. It does reference events in episodes of the show which will not mean anything to those who have not seen it. It also contains spoilers which those who plan to watch the show should avoid until they have seen the complete series. Beware the first line contains a major spoiler.

Sally said yes to Patrick, they got married and are very happy. Especially as Sally beat Susan to the altar, and finally did something first. Patrick is now a completely devoted husband, who lives in total denial that he was anything other an upstanding member of the community. Or possibly he’s actually forgotten. He doesn’t like remembering things because it’s a bit like thinking.

Jane and Oliver never actually did have sex, but they did become very good friends. They often rejoice together that their friendship is uncomplicated by any kind of sexual attraction – but they both get murderously jealous when the other is dating. Jane has a job at Oliver’s science fiction book shop now – and since Oliver has that one moment of Naked Jane burnt on the inside of his eyelids, he now loses the place in one in every three sentences. People who know them well think something’s gotta give – and they’re right. Especially as Jane comes to work in a metal bikini.

Steve and Susan have two children now, and have recently completed work on a sitcom about their early lives together. They’re developing a new television project, but it keeps getting delayed as he insists on writing episodes of some old kids show they recently pulled out of mothballs. She gets very cross about this, and if he says “Yeah but check out the season poll!” one more time, he will not live to write another word.

Jeff is still abroad. He lives a life a complete peace and serenity now, having taken the precaution of not learning a word of the local langauge and therefore protecting himself from the consequences of his own special brand of communication. If any English speakers turn up, he pretends he only speaks Hebrew. He is, at this very moment, staring out to sea, and sighing happily every thirty-eight seconds.

What he doesn’t know, of course, is that even now a beautiful Israeli girl he once met in a bar, is heading towards his apartment, having been directed to the only Hebrew speaker on the island. What he also doesn’t know is that she is being driven by a young ex-pat English woman, who is still grieving the loss of a charming, one-legged Welshman she once met on a train. And he cannot possible suspect that (owing to a laundry mix-up, and a stag party the previous night in the same block) he is wearing heat-dissolving trunks.

As the doorbell rings, it is best that we draw a veil.

The Significance of Obama’s Lead

Clintonistas and right wingers (there I go being redundant again) have been trying to minimize Obama’s political accomplishments by claiming he isn’t leading McCain by as many points as he should. Frank Rich puts Obama’s lead in perspective:

It seems almost churlish to look at some actual facts. No presidential candidate was breaking the 50 percent mark in mid-August polls in 2004 or 2000. Obama’s average lead of three to four points is marginally larger than both John Kerry’s and Al Gore’s leads then (each was winning by one point in Gallup surveys). Obama is also ahead of Ronald Reagan in mid-August 1980 (40 percent to Jimmy Carter’s 46). At, which aggregates polls and gauges the electoral count, Obama as of Friday stood at 284 electoral votes, McCain at 169. That means McCain could win all 85 electoral votes in current toss-up states and still lose the election.

Yet surely, we keep hearing, Obama should be running away with the thing. Even Michael Dukakis was beating the first George Bush by 17 percentage points in the summer of 1988. Of course, were Obama ahead by 17 points today, the same prognosticators now fussing over his narrow lead would be predicting that the arrogant and presumptuous Obama was destined to squander that landslide on vacation and tank just like his hapless predecessor.

The truth is we have no idea what will happen in November. But for the sake of argument, let’s posit that one thread of the Obama-is-doomed scenario is right: His lead should be huge in a year when the G.O.P. is in such disrepute that at least eight of the party’s own senatorial incumbents are skipping their own convention, the fail-safe way to avoid being caught near the Larry Craig Memorial Men’s Room at the Twin Cities airport.

So why isn’t Obama romping? The obvious answer — and both the excessively genteel Obama campaign and a too-compliant press bear responsibility for it — is that the public doesn’t know who on earth John McCain is. The most revealing poll this month by far is the Pew Research Center survey finding that 48 percent of Americans feel they’re “hearing too much” about Obama. Pew found that only 26 percent feel that way about McCain, and that nearly 4 in 10 Americans feel they hear too little about him. It’s past time for that pressing educational need to be met.

What is widely known is the skin-deep, out-of-date McCain image. As this fairy tale has it, the hero who survived the Hanoi Hilton has stood up as rebelliously in Washington as he did to his Vietnamese captors. He strenuously opposed the execution of the Iraq war; he slammed the president’s response to Katrina; he fought the “agents of intolerance” of the religious right; he crusaded against the G.O.P. House leader Tom DeLay, the criminal lobbyist Jack Abramoff and their coterie of influence-peddlers.

With the exception of McCain’s imprisonment in Vietnam, every aspect of this profile in courage is inaccurate or defunct.

McCain never called for Donald Rumsfeld to be fired and didn’t start criticizing the war plan until late August 2003, nearly four months after “Mission Accomplished.” By then the growing insurgency was undeniable. On the day Hurricane Katrina hit, McCain laughed it up with the oblivious president at a birthday photo-op in Arizona. McCain didn’t get to New Orleans for another six months and didn’t sharply express public criticism of the Bush response to the calamity until this April, when he traveled to the Gulf Coast in desperate search of election-year pageantry surrounding him with black extras.

McCain long ago embraced the right’s agents of intolerance, even spending months courting the Rev. John Hagee, whose fringe views about Roman Catholics and the Holocaust were known to anyone who can use the Internet. (Once the McCain campaign discovered YouTube, it ditched Hagee.) On Monday McCain is scheduled to appear at an Atlanta fund-raiser being promoted by Ralph Reed, who is not only the former aide de camp to one of the agents of intolerance McCain once vilified (Pat Robertson) but is also the former Abramoff acolyte showcased in McCain’s own Senate investigation of Indian casino lobbying.

Though the McCain campaign announced a new no-lobbyists policy three months after The Washington Post’s February report that lobbyists were “essentially running” the whole operation, the fact remains that McCain’s top officials and fund-raisers have past financial ties to nearly every domestic and foreign flashpoint, from Fannie Mae to Blackwater to Ahmad Chalabi to the government of Georgia. No sooner does McCain flip-flop on oil drilling than a bevy of Hess Oil family members and executives, not to mention a lowly Hess office manager and his wife, each give a maximum $28,500 to the Republican Party.

While reporters at The Post and The New York Times have been vetting McCain, many others give him a free pass. Their default cliché is to present him as the Old Faithful everyone already knows. They routinely salute his “independence,” his “maverick image” and his “renegade reputation” — as the hackneyed script was reiterated by Karl Rove in a Wall Street Journal op-ed column last week. At Talking Points Memo, the essential blog vigilantly pursuing the McCain revelations often ignored elsewhere, Josh Marshall accurately observes that the Republican candidate is “graded on a curve.”

Most Americans still don’t know, as Marshall writes, that on the campaign trail “McCain frequently forgets key elements of policies, gets countries’ names wrong, forgets things he’s said only hours or days before and is frequently just confused.” Most Americans still don’t know it is precisely for this reason that the McCain campaign has now shut down the press’s previously unfettered access to the candidate on the Straight Talk Express.

Rich has even more to say but I think this makes the point. Obama already has a lead, and McCain risks falling further as voters get a closer look at him. There is no need for Obama to fire all his ammunition at McCain yet. With any luck he will self-destruct on his own, and possibly look even worse in the debates against Obama than Bush looked against Kerry, if that is even possible. Obama can afford to take the high road now and maintain a small but significant lead. He can always finish McCain off in October, when it really matters, if McCain is even still in contention at that point.

John McCain, Big Ideas, and Big Lies

Think Progress comments on how Bobby Jindal, appearing on Meet the Press, was unable to cite any big ideas which John McCain has had. It is actually unfair to say that John McCain has no big ideas. Making people pay even more of their health care costs out of their pocket might not be a good idea, but it is a big idea. Staying in Iraq for one hundred years is insane, but also might qualify as a big idea. Perhaps giving even bigger tax cuts to the top one tenth of one percent than George Bush gave them might also be considered a big idea. It must be tough acting as a surrogate for a candidate who has nothing but bad ideas.

I was actually bothered far more by another one of Jindal’s answers. He attacked Obama by repeating all the same lies about Obama’s tax plans which have been repeatedly debunked, including twice by Factcheck (here and here.) Host David Gregory let this go by without a follow up question. Instead he asked Tim Kaine a different question. As Obama’s surrogate, I wish that Kaine had responded to Jindal’s untrue statements as opposed to only responding to the question he was asked.