SciFi Weekend: Harry Potter; Torchwood; Spock; Hayden Panettiere; and Anna Friel


The sixth Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was a box office success but I found it to be a huge disappointment. There is always a problem turning the full novels into a movie-length story but this movie did the poorest job of the six movies out so far. I felt like I was seeing a succession of excerpts from the novel being placed on screen as opposed to a coherent story. We got a small feeling for the effects of teenage hormones now acting on the main characters and some bits and pieces to lead up to the upcoming final battle against Voldemort in the final installment, but it didn’t work as a coherent story as the novel did.

Emma Watson as Hermione Granger did have a few good scenes as she felt like vomiting at the site of Ron Weasley with other girls, and Ginny Weasley looked far more grown up than I had pictured her. I thought that, while imperfect, at least the conclusion captured much of importance from the novel. I09 was also disappointed in the ending.

Children of Earth

The Torchwood: Children of Earth miniseries which begins on BBC America is one of the best science fiction stories to appear on television in recent years. (Reviewed here but do not read until after viewed due to major spoilers). AOL Canada interviewed Russell T. Davies:

What was the inspiration behind ‘Children of Earth’? It’s a very scary concept.

I wanted it to be a big event. In Britain, it was moving to BBC1, the biggest channel in the country. They wanted to show it across the week, from Monday to Friday. The stakes were high, and I knew I had to make a big impact. I also wanted it to work on an international level, but again, relating it to the domestic story as well – the government, the police, the Army. Then there’s America, the United Nations…that’s the world, but you’re still talking to people in their living rooms, their kitchens. Ordinary lives being changed by huge decisions.

Big events like all the children being affected, and the invasion of Species 456…truly exciting and terrifying. Writ large, yes. But I think I had something to say about the world, and I think that’s the point.

Did you choose children as the victims deliberately?

Quite frankly, I didn’t put too much thought into it. I simply had the idea. I was just like, what if we have all the children suddenly stop and scream? Now, with hindsight, I look back and think, well that was a great idea. I don’t think it would have been as frightening if I said every man should stop and scream. Children are precious and vulnerable, and dramatically represent the innocent.

Did the BBC think they were taking a risk with the bleak ‘Children of Earth’?

They didn’t worry about the bleakness for a second. I think the bigger risk was running it from Monday to Friday. We all took a big breath with that one, and it worked! That week, we had the biggest audiences that we’ve ever had, and we were the number one drama for the entire week. We won every single night.

Will you miss ‘Doctor Who’, now that you’re moving on from it?

Enormously. They’re gearing up for their next season right now, and I’m slightly turning into their stalker. I keep emailing them, ‘How are you?’ ‘How’s it going?’ ‘What’s happening?’ I can’t wait to be a viewer, to sit back and watch their series. It’s the first Doctor Who series that I get to watch for the first time in 21 years.

‘Children of Earth’ had the feeling of a series ender. How is ‘Torchwood’ supposed to return to its alien-of-the-week format?

I’m not sure it will ever return to its alien-of-the-week format. I think we’ve proven that the show can work really well with this continuous-story format. I think we’ve set a new benchmark for Torchwood. Let’s be honest, though: if they gave me a pile of money and tell me to make a monster-of-the-week, I would go and do it. But the story never ends. It looks like an ending because it was the perfect ending to the story, but I could easily write the next five scenes of what happens next. I won’t run out of stories, not until the day I die.

Spock Prime interviewed Leonard Nimoy regarding playing Spock once again, his possible future as Spock Prime in future Star Trek movies, Barack Obama’s interest in Star Trek, and his role in Fringe. Here are some of the questions from the interview:

DM: Do you feel a sense of completion with the Spock character after this film or is this the beginning of a new era for you and Spock?

LN: Both! I don’t know about me and Spock. It certainly is the beginning of a new era for Spock! It is impossible to predict about me and Spock. I have no idea where they want to go next and I feel very comfortable either way. I feel very gratified that I have been able to have some kind of closure. If this is the closure, then I am very comfortable with it. I was not happy at all with the closure that was imposed on the Spock character some years ago when Spock was just simply abandoned and Kirk was killed all in one fell swoop! I felt both were great losses to Star Trek. There was no reason to kill Kirk and there was a neglect of the Spock character. It seemed intentional. It seemed as if someone was saying, “Well, we have to put a stop to that and start with a whole new era here.” Having had this movie and this experience as Spock and seeing Zachary Quinto in the role now, I feel the character has a potentially wonderful, new life and certainly the success of the movie is just so terrific! It is so wonderful to see this happen and to see Star Trek have a chance of a reinvention and a revival. It was certainly in need of a revival.

DM: Can you describe for me, from your perspective, how Spock has changed over the years, from the first pilot to this latest film?

LN: In a lot of ways I feel closer to Spock personally than I ever have.

The Spock that I played in this movie is closer to me, in my personal life condition, than he has ever been before. It was a “performance” during the series years and during the film years because I was far more human and emotional, in the broadest terms, than the Spock I was playing – now that doesn’t mean that Spock had no emotions; as we all know, Spock had his own inner life. But what I was playing was a very logical, very cool, rational Spock. In this movie, my Spock has come to terms with himself in a very comfortable way. So I see myself up there as Spock now whereas Zachary did a wonderful job bringing us a Spock character before the Spock that I played in the original Star Trek series. And, finally, at the end of this movie, we see him arriving at the Spock that I played during the original series.

DM: What do you believe is Spock Prime’s future after this film?

LN: My sense is that he has some work to do. He talked about establishing a new Vulcan colony and I think he will be very involved in that. If we never see him again that is what I would imagine he is doing. He is busy rebuilding the Vulcan story.

DM: There has been a lot of talk of President Obama being an admirer of Star Trek and being compared to the Spock character. He even said he saw the new film and really liked it in a recent Newsweek interview and he mentioned the Spock connection. Have you ever met the President and discussed Star Trek with him?

LN: I met him twice. We didn’t actually talk Star Trek but the first time I met him he gave me the Vulcan salute when he first saw me! My wife and I were at a luncheon for him a long time ago. It was just at the very earliest stages of his beginning to campaign for the nomination for the Presidency. He came through a group of people – it was a small crowd – maybe 60 or 80 people and he saw me and raised his hand in the Vulcan gesture and said, “They told me you were here.” I gave the Vulcan salute back to him and that was the beginning of our relationship. I understand he grew up watching Star Trek.

DM: I assume as well that you are very open minded to appearing as Spock again should they ask you?

LN: I have no illusions on whether or not they need me. They decided that they wanted to make this film using Spock as kind of an anchor for the story, which I think worked very, very well. They don’t have to do that again. If they decide they have a role for me to play I would be very interested in talking to them about it. But I have every reason to believe that they have established a whole new set of characters and they can sail very well without me and that’s fine. Either way is good with me. I am very gratified that this has happened.

DM: Are you going to be a regular on the TV series Fringe now?

LN: I have committed to at least two episodes for next season. That’s the beginning. Then we will see how it goes. The character I play on that show is just being given birth so we’ll just have to see how it evolves.


Hayden Panettiere of Heroes has attracted attention for her fairly tame topless scene in I Love You, Beth Cooper. I find the pictures of her in an upcoming book entitled Room 23 (such as above) to be far more interesting.

Anna Friel Vanity Fair Topless

Seeing the pictures of Anna Friel in Vanity Fair has me wondering why it was that I stopped watching Pushing Daisies after a handful of episodes and why I have not gotten around to seeing Land of the Lost.

Frank McCourt Dies at 78


Frank McCourt, author of Angela’s Ashes, ‘Tis, and Teacher Man has died at age 78 of melanoma.   McCourt won the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award for Angela’s Ashes.

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Nate Silver Challenges Climate Change Skeptics

Nate Silver seems pretty fed up with some of the ridiculous arguments made by climate change skeptics such as item from John Hinderaker:

I don’t think things are quite so bad this year, but if something doesn’t change pretty soon 2009 may go down in history, in some parts of the U.S. at least, as another year with barely any summer. Here in Minnesota and across the Midwest, temperatures are abnormally cold. I don’t know whether the phenomenon is world-wide–data that will answer this question have probably not been assembled, and may not be honestly reported–but the current low level of solar activity suggests that the cooling trend could indeed be universal.

There are two obvious problems with this line of thought. This confuses long term climate change with short term variation in weather. Even if we had a summer which was colder than average, this would say nothing about long term climate change. Hinderaker suffers from selective memory. Silver points out that, despite some recent cold days, “It’s been a completely typical summer in Minneapolis, although with one rather hot period in late June and one rather cool one now.”

Silver writes “because I’d like to see more accountability on all sides of this debate and because I’m tired of people who don’t understand statistics and because I’d like to make some money, I issue the following challenge. ”

See his actual post for the specifics but here is the key part:

For each day that the high temperature in your hometown is at least 1 degree Fahrenheit above average, as listed by Weather Underground, you owe me $25. For each day that it is at least 1 degree Fahrenheit below average, I owe you $25.