SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who; The Prisoner; Star Trek; Dollhouse Canceled (Whedon Starting Binge Drinking); Captain Jack Returning; And Sellling Caprica with Nudity

Prisoner AMC

It is going to be a busy week for science fiction. The Doctor Who special, The Waters of Mars, aired today on the BBC  and I’ll be reviewing this soon. The remake of The Prisoner starts a three day run on AMC tonight. I have my doubts as to how good a remake of such an excellent show will be, fearing that any attempts to answer the questions it left will be a disappointment. There is no doubt I’ll watch, but some early reviews, such as at IO9 have been disappointing.

The big event of the week for movies will be the release of the J.J. Abrams Star Trek movie on DVD and Blu-ray, with lots of extras. The Blu-ray release of the third season of the original show might be disappointing due to the deterioration in quality that season. There will be an unexpected extra–a recently discovered alternate version of the pilot episode, Where No Man Has Gone Before. This second pilot was written after NBC found the original pilot episode, The Cage, to be too cerebral. It is believed that this lost version is the one actually watched by NBC executives deciding upon whether to pick up the show, with some changes having been made by the time the episode actually aired to fit into the reworked series. A clip, including the original opening for the show, is above.


It comes as no surprise that Dollhouse was officially canceled. The series finale will air January 22, with the final two episodes still be be filmed, giving a chance at some degree of closure. Joss Whedon states he plans on starting new internet ventures and binge drinking in response to the cancellation. He also teases, ” By the time the last episode airs, you’ll know what my next project is. But for now there’s a lot of work still to be done, and disappointment to bear.”


It is looking likely that there will be a fourth season for Torchwood with Captain Jack returning. Via Airlock Alpha:

“The recession has hit British television,” he explained to TV Guide magazine. “But fingers crossed, it will be a go. We expect things to start to move in January.”

Davies has always insisted that he has a plan for the future of the show, and even when the miniseries concluded, he revealed that he even had an idea for the fourth season ready to present to the BBC should they give him a call. Of course, it comes as no surprise that the Beeb is very much interested in an additional season of the show thanks to some stellar ratings which grew as the five-part adventure unfolded earlier this year.

“We’ve got great ideas for the show,” Davies said. “I think there’s a further lease on life for many years to come, but certainly for a [fourth season].”

While some might be questioning whether or not star John Barrowman will return to reprise his role as Capt. Jack Harkness, Davies made it clear that this is the star of the show.

If 2010 is too long to wait for a Capt. Jack fix, however, fans have no further to look than “Doctor Who.” Barrowman has a role in the final episodes of David Tennant’s tenure and will help smooth over the transition of introducing a new Doctor.


Caprica begins January 22 on SyFy. Cylon sex was always a big part of Battlestar Galactica, and nudity was included in the DVD release of the pilot for Caprica. They are continuing to try to use sex to sell the series, as can be seen in the promotional poster above featuring a nude Zoe Graystone.

Can The Republicans Fool Enough Of The People With This Report?

While the Republican Party might have little meaningful to say on today’s issues, you have to concede they sure beat the Democrats when it comes to showing chutzpah. They are making a lot of noise over a report (pdf here) from a CMS actuary which means far less than they are claiming.

The first point of interest is that the Congressional Republicans have event turned to a CMS actuary. During the battle over George Bush’s Medicare Part D program, the Bush administration had threatened to fire a CMS actuary if he reported to Congress about the true cost of the program.

With this report the Republicans were able to obtain the answers they want due to the limitations placed upon the data requested. The report basically says that if you ignore 1) potential cost savings and 2) any increases in any forms of taxes, then health care reform will increase government expenses. You hardly needed an actuary to tell you that.

The report makes many of the same points I have made here in previous posts. Yes, as I have frequently written, health care reform will probably cost more than is estimated. Democrats are not without blame here. They are doing what all politicians do. The Democrats are underestimating the initial costs of their program, just as Republicans underestimated the cost of the Medicare D program and of the Iraq War. It is common for politicians to underestimate the costs of their programs. At least they are not threatening to fire those who present the data as the Bush administration did.

Among areas where the report is consistent with my previous predictions, they note that it does cost more to institute preventive care programs and that the cost savings of these are not clear. As I’ve previously argued, we should spend money on preventive because of its benefits to the country. Potential cost savings are an added benefit, but not the primary reason for spending money to have a healthier population with a longer life expectancy.

The report also is consistent with my objections to expanding Medicaid to provide coverage to the uninsured, noting that patients in Medicaid programs will have difficulties with access to care. Of course the solution to this problem is to spend more money to allow everyone to have private insurance or a public plan which provides benefits comparable to private insurance. It is doubtful that Republicans will agree to this added spending.

Health care reform is largely a matter of how much we are willing to pay and how much government action we are willing to accept to hold down costs. If this was purely a matter of cost, then by far the most cost effective way to deliver medical care would be a with a single payer system modeled on the Medicare program. Republicans try to obfuscate the benefits here by citing projections of future financial difficulties for Medicare if there are no changes. Of course any projections which do not allow for changes over time mean very little. What business would remain in business indefinitely if they never made changes? In addition, much of Medicare’s financial problems come from Republicans-sponsored measures in the Part D program which would be eliminated under health care reform legislation.

Republicans certainly will not accept a single payer plan regardless of how much money it would save. The added irony of their position is that they complain about the cost of health care reform while fighting most of the measures which would bring about the greatest cost savings. They oppose the public option (while a small number of economic conservatives have made a free market argument for the plan). Republicans also oppose plans to take future decisions on Medicare partially outside of the political process, and they even voluntary attack end of life counseling as the creation of “death panels.” Of course health care reform will cost more when the Republicans block most attempts at cost savings. You hardly needed an actuary to tell you that.

The real problem here is in allowing the Republicans to frame the issue as simply a matter of cost. Republicans have so altered the political debate that any consideration of spending more money (unless it involves invading other countries or committing torture) is difficult to bring up, regardless of how beneficial increased domestic spending in some areas might be.

If we frame the issue as one of spending money, then of course the Republicans will win. There is no such thing as a free lunch. If Americans can once again look at the issues as adults, then we can look at the real issues. We have the worst health care delivery system in the modern industrialized world. Any discussion of health care should start from the perspective that the United States should be able to do what the rest of the industrialized world does in enabling all of its citizens to obtain affordable health care.

So far the Republicans have no meaningful answers as to expanding health care coverage. They essentially have two proposals: allowing people to purchase insurance across state lines and malpractice reform. The first is basically a way to allow insurance companies to avoid state regulations which is the opposite of what is needed as long as insurance companies are destroying the individual market by finding ways to deny care. Tort reform should be included in health care reform. We need to take advantage of all possible ways to reduce health care costs without reducing quality or limiting choice. While this should be included, tort reform would only have a small impact on overall health care costs and by itself it is not a solution.

We need to look beyond the question of whether health care reform costs money to  looking at the problems which must be solved. Unfortunately the Democrats also reinforce the Republican framing when they make promises which they might not be able to keep to reform health care without raising any taxes on most people. Having a country in which  everyone has access to health care, and nobody has to fear that losing their jobs or developing a serious illness might force them into bankruptcy, is something which is worth paying for. If the rest of the industrialized world can do this, the United States should be able to. Republicans are hoping that they can fool enough people with their spin on this report to avoid having to answer the real questions on health care reform.

Paul Undecided On 2012 Run

While there was little which was truly pro-freedom in Ron Paul’s platform of mixing Republican social conservatism and states’ rights ideas with libertarian bumper sticker lines, the Paul campaign was one of the more interesting aspects of the 2008 elections. The Hill reports that Paul says it is “too early” to decide as to whether he is running for president in 2012. For now he is concentrating on his reelection campaign.

While Paul generated a lot of interest, he was not able to receive a meaningful number of votes. It is questionable if he could match his 2008 levels of support without the Iraq war as a major issue. Paul did manage to build a grass roots movement capable of making some noise, but was not able to obtain any meaningful degree of national support.

Unfortunately the libertarian elements of his movement were ultimately drowned out by the racists, anti-Semites and neo-Nazis who also flocked to the Paul movement, often better understanding Paul’s views than his younger supporters. Ultimately Paul’s close relationship with extremist groups and the promotion of racism in his newsletter led many libertarians to disassociate themselves with Paul. Without either the Iraq war or support from libertarians it is questionable if Paul could recreate the excitement of the 2008 campaign.