There were two special events in genre television this week, with one turning out to be excellent and the other horrible. I’ll start with the Doctor Who special, The Waters of Mars. As it does not air in the United States until December 19 I’ll try to avoid any significant spoilers and return to this episode in the future.
The previous Doctor Who specials were mediocre episodes which merely served to fill in time between the end of the last full season and the concluding episodes. This episode was excellent and, while it is not obvious from the beginning, this episode does serve to move us towards the conclusion of the David Tennant/Russell T. Davies era.
The story starts out with the feel of another stand alone story somewhere in space. The Doctor winds up on a Mars space station where the staff is threatened by a parasite. The difference between this and just any stand alone story is that The Doctor realized that he knew the fate of the people he was encountering. This raised questions as to tinkering with time. There is much to consider about the choices made both by The Doctor and a key person on the episode but I will leave that until after the show airs in the United States to avoid any serious spoilers.
Most fans already know that the two-part finale will bring back characters from The Doctor’s past. This begins in this episode with a brief flash back involving Daleks and with the return of a species The Doctor had previously encountered at the end.
The conclusion of The Waters of Mars leads into the two-part finale for David Tennant, The End of Time. The above clip from the episode was first shown on the BBC on the Children in Need special and is also being distributed by BBC America. The BBC will be showing the first part of The End of Time on December 25 and BBC America will be showing it the following day. The second part will be shown on the BBC on January 1 with the US date not yet announced.
After the conclusion of the remake of The Prisoner aired I indicated I planned a fuller review. At present I don’t see any point in writing much more than I said here. The critics universally gave it poor reviews. The blogs were full of not only terrible reviews but many sites were attacking AMC for wasting their time by airing such a terrible show. Well over half the viewers abandoned the show after the first night. I don’t think anybody really cares to read a more through discussion of the miniseries.
As I previously mentioned, the remake ignored those aspects which made the original so great. The original series was not just about a man taken to a Village but about ideas. Taking some of the images and a few scenes from the original and writing a story with a totally different message (to the limited degree this had a coherent message) was pointless. Part of the problem is the timing. The original series worked best during the Cold War when it could deal with issues such as totalitarianism and raising the question of whether the West was also infringing upon the rights of the individual. While stories can always be written about totalitarian governments, it is far less relevant when not fitting as well into current events. Dealing with a corporation does not carry the same weight.
Fringe has successfully been mixing stand alone stories similar to the stand alone episodes of The X-Files while also gradually developing its own mythology. We have seen the observers in past episodes but did not know hardly anything about them until this week. I09 listed some of the things we learned about them–check out their post for the full list
They can catch bullets. The ability to catch bullets probably comes in handy when you hop around time observing significant (and often violent) moments in history. But August’s Superman stunt is just another sign that the Observers aren’t human (or if they are, they are extremely altered), and that they can be powerful, even if those powers are rarely used.
They know the future (to some extent). August says that he can see Christine’s future, and he knows both what she is about to say before she says it and when the report of the crash will come on TV. And the Observers watching Olivia and her niece comment that it’s a shame things are going to be so hard for her. On a side note — are we supposed to automatically assume they’re talking about Olivia, or could they be talking about her niece?
They can still be surprised. At least, they’re surprised when August interferes with the natural order of things. Are Observers the only ones with free will, or do they observe to see how individuals react to these big, important situations.
Their writing is culled from various civilizations. So it turns out that the Observer language isn’t a language at all, but simply words written in various languages from throughout human history (and perhaps other people’s histories as well). It’s got to be a handy way of communicating exclusively with people who have an encyclopedic knowledge of all languages ever written.
They appear at important moments in history. We actually know this from the promo campaign, but the episode makes it official. Also, the increasing frequency of Observer appearances suggest that the most important event in human history is about to occur.
They eat fancy peppers. We already knew the Observers were fans of the hot stuff, but hot peppers are a handy way to track them. Will the apocalypse be marked by record sales of hot peppers?
Katee plays Chloe’s boss. Chloe has never let authority stop her from getting the job done, but she’s never dealt with anyone like Dana before. “Dana is permanently happy,” Sackhoff said. “I think that also pisses Chloe off, because Dana’s like, ‘Oh, no, it’s totally fine that you don’t get it. Let me help you. It’s great. I’ll do that. It’s fine. You don’t need to figure it out, because I’m good enough to do both our jobs.’ So that really pisses Chloe off.”
Dana kicks ass. But intellectually. Starbuck fans might be disappointed they don’t get to see Sackhoff beat up terrorists. The show’s writers have a different idea for utilizing Sackhoff’s talents. “I wanted to just blow s–t up, and they were like, ‘I don’t know if we can do that,’” she said. “I came in and sat down with the producers and writers, and we had a discussion as far as what they wanted from me and what I wanted to do, and hopefully we’ll all [meet] in the middle, so we’ll see.”
You’ll see Sackhoff in a whole new light. Dana may be locked inside the CTU offices all day, but the premise is that she’s had an earthbound life. That allows Sackhoff to finally get some sun. “The first thing I thought was, I’m going to constantly have a tan, which is fantastic for me, because I spent the last five years on a show that you were in space, so you weren’t supposed to have a tan,” she said. “So this is, like, the orange [stage light] bounces off your skin, and everyone just has a nice little glow. You’ve either just been to Mexico, or you’re pregnant, so it’s perfect. It’s really nice, and just new. Orange looks good on me, so it’s exciting. I went from a show where color was bad to you’re now in an orange set, which is awesome.”
Something happens at CTU. Gee, thanks for the big tip. Sackhoff’s allowed to reveal that something’s going on at CTU. “I was like, ‘Seriously? I don’t know if anyone thinks that’s actually a big secret,’” Sackhoff joked about her gag order. “Could you imagine? So this is a 24 episode, and the whole season is just about nothing. No controversy, nobody dies, nobody gets beat up, Jack Bauer doesn’t do anything. He might not even show up, and for 24 hours that would just be what it is. Could you imagine?” That might actually be funny for like the first six hours. “It would, and then people would go, like, ‘Are you serious?’ Just office lives. I’m handing my files to Chloe. They show us at lunch.”
Continuity is easy. A lot may happen in a day on 24, and by episode 20 it can be hard to remember what you were playing in episode 2. At least her wardrobe doesn’t have to change. “It almost makes it easier, because it all takes place in the same day,” she said. “It’s one of those things where the continuity as far as your wardrobe doesn’t change, so it’s like, ‘Something’s [off]… my watch isn’t here.” Because you’re so used to wearing it that it becomes kind of like the gunbelt from Battlestar. It would seem very odd to not have it on. You have to remind yourself what room you were in last, not what happened last episode, because it all is taking you to the exact same place at the end of the day, kind of. So I found that easier.”
She’s still got a potty mouth. The word “frak” might not exist in the world of 24, and the Fox network has stricter language guidelines for broadcast than did Syfy, but behind the scenes, Sackhoff still talks dirty. She endeared herself to the 24 crew right away by sharing a dirty story about Battlestar. While Edward James Olmos was shooting The Plan, he reveled in the chance to include nudity on the DVD release. “There’s a scene in the Head where everyone’s just naked, and Eddie on the day is going, ‘Zoom in on the c–k. Zoom in on the c–k,’” Sackhoff recalled. “The camera guy’s like, ‘I can’t zoom in the c–k. He keeps covering up the c–k.’ They’re like, ‘Zoom in the c–k. Get him to do something else with his hands. Make him shave.’ So then he’s shaving, and he’s like, ‘Now, zoom in on the c–k.’ That’s on the daily. That is so Eddie. It’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard. ‘Zoom in on the c–k’ in Eddie’s voice. I think I told that story my first day here, and the crew was like, ‘We like you.’”
BTW, what really happened to Starbuck? Here’s Sackhoff’s theory about her ambiguous conclusion on Battlestar Galactica. “So when she at the end was saying goodbye to [Anders], I think that she was saying goodbye to their bodily forms,” she said. “I think she knew, especially if he says, ‘I’ll see you on the other side,’ I think she’s with him. I think they’re both dead, but I think she’s with him. That was a decision that we made, because I selfishly wanted her at peace, and the only way to do that was to have her with someone at the end, or to be with the person she wanted to be with. I don’t know. That’s kind of where I think she is. She’s with Michael Trucco playing pyramid in the sky somewhere.”
Gregory Itzin will also be returning to 24 to reprise his role as the Nixonian former president Charles Logan.