SciFi Friday: Season Finales and Specials For Doctor Who, Dexter, Homeland, Merlin, and Downton Abbey

It is now the start of 2012 (except for those in the GOP who remain in 1812), making it a good time to look back on the past year. 2011 ended with a few significant season finales for genre shows. The most recent to air was the Doctor Who Christmas Special: The Doctor, The Widow, and the Wardrobe.  I did not think it was up to the level of last year’s Christmas special, A Christmas Carol. There were many excellent moments, primarily at the start and the end, but it didn’t work well as a complete story. Matt Smith was wonderful as the mad caretaker, showing off features of the home which  the children would love, such as the  taps for hot, cold, and lemonade. Once the story moved from the house to the forest it went downhill but there were still good moments. (“Please tell me we can tell the difference between wool and sidearms.”)

Fortunately the story picked up as a trip through the time vortex allowed them to lead  the alleged widow’s husband home. From there we returned to the continuity of the past season where the Doctor allowed everyone to think he is dead. He was convinced to return to visit Amy and Rory for Christmas. He arrived two years later to find that River had  told Amy that the Doctor was alive. (Amy: “River told us.” The Doctor: “Of course she did.” Amy:”She’s a good girl!” ) Seeing Amy again made the episode worthwhile. This presumably foreshadows next season, with the Doctor working more in the background with most believing he is dead, along with a temporary return of Amy and Rory.

Showtime had excellent conclusions for both Dexter and Homeland. The first season of Dexter closely matched the first Dexter novel with one key difference–Debra learned about Dexter’s secret. The past season showed changes in Debra which prepared her for this knowledge, making the final moment predictable with Debra seeing Dexter kill Travis. The show is now scheduled to conclude after two more seasons, which will certainly concentrate on the changing relationship between Dexter and Debra.

Homeland was the best new show of the past season but it seemed to be a season-long story and I had wondered how they would keep matters open for a second season. The season began with questions over the sanity of CIA agent Carrie Mathison and questions over whether rescued al Quida prisoner Sgt. Nicholas Brody had been turned into a terrorist. Over the course of the season it became clear that Carrie is both mentally ill and right about at least some of her suspicions. For a brief time it appeared that another prisoner, not Brody, had been turned. By the end of the season it became clear that both former prisoners had been brainwashed. The other was to shoot at a group of top government officials, leading to them being rushed past security to a safe room. This included Brody, who was wearing a suicide vest to enable him to kill the entire group.

Carrie made a final attempt to stop the killings, which only she suspected, by having Brody’s daughter call him. At the end of the episode she was unaware that her effort was successful. The episode ended with Carrie undergoing electroshock treatment which would cause short term memory loss. At the last moment she remembered that, while they were in bed together earlier in the season, Bordy had shouted the name Issa during a flashback. Brody told Carrie that this was the name of his guard, but just before receiving the electroshock Carrie realized that this was the name of the son of Abu Nazir, who was killed in an American drone attack. This was the key to understanding why Brody had turned. Next season we will  presumably see when Carrie remembers this, or finds other reason to again investigate Brody while others do not suspect him.

Two shows which have not yet aired the United States also concluded in the U.K. Merlin had another excellent season. While I will avoid spoilers here, the story is getting even closer to the conventional King Arthur legends. The  Downton Abbey Christmas Special tied up some of  the story lines from the second season while keeping aspects open for new stories next season.

In other holiday news, David Tennant and Georgia Moffat maried on News Years Eve.  Sherlock returned in the U.K. on New Years Day.

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