SciFi Weekend: Remembrances for Majel Barrett Roddenberry; Forbidden Planet; Battlestar Galacitica and Heroes Webisodes; Surviving The Rise of the Machines; and a Doctor Who Christmas Preview

The top story of the week, as I reported on Thursday, was the death of Majel Barrett Roddenberry, widow of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and a character is several versions of Star Trek. Trek Movie.com has assembled a collection of condolence messages from many people who have been involved with Star Trek.

Latino Review has some spoilers on J. Michael Straczynski’s plans for a remake of Forbidden Planet. He is actually planning a trilogy, with the first movie to be a prequel to the original:

The prologue to the script contains the following: Two ships traveled to Altair 4, a planet orbiting a star 16.7 light years from Earth. The first ship, the Bellerophon, came to explore that world. The humans on board encountered the relics of the Krell civilization for the first time and exhumed their dangerous past. The Bellerophon was never heard from again. Twenty years later, a second ship, a C-57D Starcruiser, came to investigate the dissapearance of the Bellerophon and her crew.

The original 1956 Forbidden Planet told the tale of the second ship. What Straczynski’s draft is about is the never-before revealed tale of the first ship, the Bellerophon…

  • Movie One tells the story of the original ship that came to Altair 4.

  • Movie Two tells the story of the search for the Krell by the captain of the Bellerophon and his crew…as Diana continues to grow into something profoundly other-wordly. The search takes them beyond the limits of known space into other dimensions, passing from what’s known into what’s not.

  • Movie Three tells the story of the second ship to arrive at Altair 4 to investigate what happened to the Bellerophon. They discover Morbius and his “daughter,” who is desperate to get off the planet and out into the rest of the universe, where her power would nearly be god-like…a fate we are spared when Morbius sacrifices his life to keep her there and eliminate the Krell homeworld once and for all.

Because movies two and three would have some overlapping cast members, but not all of them, they could be easily shot concurrently or back to back.

Straczynski personally states in the last paragraph that what is cool about this new movie is that events shown completely change the meaning of the original Forbidden Planet without changing a frame of film. Altaira’s attempt to seduce or inveigle the crew comes across as manipulative, using them to get off the planet. Straczynski also states that this has value to geeks of which he is one.

With most television shows being on hiatus until January, and some not having been aired since last spring, some shows are keeping the attention of their fans by posting webisodes. TV Guide has an interview with Jane Espenson on the ten part Battlestar Galactica webisodes which lead into the conclusion of the final season. The webisodes concentrate on  Lt. Gaeta and it is revealed that he is bisexual. The webisodes can viewed on line here.

Epenson has also discussed the made for television movie, The Plan, which tells of the early events of Battlestar Galactica from the viewpoint of the Cylons, with Sci Fi Wire:

Jane Espenson, who wrote the upcoming movie Battlestar Galactica: The Plan, said that the telefilm will retell the initial story of the SCI FI Channel series, but from the perspective of the Cylons, and that it will take advantage of revelations that will come in the upcoming new episodes of the show’s fourth and final season.

“The events of The Plan are the events that you’ve seen … in the show, from the miniseries to almost the end of season two,” Espenson said in an exclusive interview. “So it’s that chunk of time, but sort of seen with the Cylon perspective. So you’re going to see a lot of stuff that was going on that you weren’t aware of at the time: on Caprica, in the fleet. … This was the time when the Cylons, as depicted in the original show, … were very mysterious, enemies that would come out of the darkness and retreat. And this is … what were they really doing all that time: what was the internal stuff. … A lot of loose ends are tied up, a lot of questions are asked that you don’t even know you have.”

The movie–the second stand-alone telefilm based on the Peabody Award-winning show–deals with all the mythology’s secrets. “If you had a copy now, you might feel that you could go ahead and watch it, because it’s about stuff that already happened,” Espenson said. “But don’t do it. Of course, you don’t have a copy now, because there isn’t even a cut yet. … But it’s very much designed to be watched after the run of the series, because it definitely relies on stuff you don’t learn until much later.”

Newsweek uses Battlestar Galactica as an example of how art has addressed the political issues during the Bush administration:

An orchestrated terrorist attack. An inexorable march to war. An enemy capable of disappearing among its targets, armed with an indifference to its own mortality. It sounds like a PBS special on Al Qaeda. In fact, it’s a synopsis of the Sci Fi Channel series “Battlestar Galactica,” which—for anyone who manages to get past the goofy name—captures better than any other TV drama of the past eight years the fear, uncertainty and moral ambiguity of the post-9/11 world. Yes, even better than “24,” with its neocon fantasies of terrorists who get chatty if Jack Bauer pokes the right pressure point. Of the two shows, “Battlestar” has been more honest about the psychological toll of the war on terror. It confronts the thorny issues that crop up in a society’s battle to preserve its way of life: the efficacy of torture, the curtailing of personal rights, the meaning of patriotism in a nation under siege. It also doesn’t flinch from one question that “24” wouldn’t dare raise: is our way of life even worth saving?

“Battlestar Galactica” always finds ways to challenge the audience’s beliefs—it is no more an ode to pacifism than “24” is to “bring ’em on” warmongering. In the pilot, humanity is nearly eradicated by the Cylons, a race of robots that revolt against their human creators. The only survivors are stationed on a spacecraft called Battlestar Galactica; they’re spared because the ship’s commander, William Adama (Edward James Olmos), had refused to relax any wartime restrictions. Adama is a hard-liner, willing to sacrifice personal freedoms in order to provide safety from an abstract threat. And he was right: the moment the human race let its guard down, the Cylons attacked. As the show unfolds, though, the survivors must constantly reflect on the price of keeping their enemies at bay, and whether it’s worth paying. The show’s futuristic setting—hushed and grimy, not the metallic cool of stereotypical sci-fi—helps ground the writers’ ruminations in a nail-biting drama series. “Battlestar Galactica” achieves the ultimate in sci-fi: it presents a world that looks nothing like our own, and yet evokes it with chilling accuracy.

Of course it would be an oversimplification to describe Battlestar Galactica as an argument that sacrificing personal freedoms is necessarily the correct response to current terrorist threats. Al Qaeda is certainly not the Cylons, and the show was written as a retelling of a story written well before we faced the current threats. One segment of the series was widely interpreted as being told from the viewpoint of the Iraqis in which the Cylons represented the United States as an occupying power.

Should the robots here on earth rebel, at least we are at less of a risk than many other industrialized countries, but you might want to consider moving to Africa. Both fans of Battlestar Galactica and the Terminator series might find this data to be of value.

Heroes ended a weak chapter last week and hopefully the show will recover when they have a less convoluted storyline beginning in January. We learned a little more at the conclusion of the last episode with Nathan appearing to be on the side of those hunting the other heroes, and we find that Michael Dorn (Worf) is the latest Star Trek star to appear on the show, playing the president. They are also presenting a series of webisodes until the show resumes, with the first episode embedded above.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N4pgws7Og78]

Another trailer is available for this year’s Doctor Who Christmas special (video above).

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