SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who; Sex in Game of Thrones; Homeland; Dexter; Elementary v. Sherlock; The Avengers; Merlin; Blake’s 7 Reboot; Amy Sherman-Palladino Interview

Doctor Who has become the first British television show to make the cover of Entertainment Weekly.

How do you know when a TV show has become a cult phenomenon? When its (often comparatively small) ratings are eclipsed by the wild ardor of its fans. Take the case of the British science fiction show Doctor Who, whose current lead, Matt Smith, is this week’s cover star. The now 49-year-old Who is hugely popular in its homeland but has always enjoyed a more select appeal here — not that you know that from the devotion of U.S.-based “Whovians.” In 1983, 7,000 people attended a Doctor Who convention in Chicago and over the past couple of years the time-traveling “Doctor” has received a bordering-on-the-absurd number of onscreen shout-outs from Community, Criminal Minds, Craig Ferguson’s The Late Late Show, Supernatural, and Grey’s Anatomy, whose creator, Shonda Rhimes, describes herself as a “psychotic” follower of Matt Smith’s time travel adventures in this week’s cover story. “It’s not an obscure show anymore,” says executive producer Steven Moffat. “It’s not even a ‘British import.’ It’s just Doctor Who.”

Has the time finally come for the so-called “Time Lord” to break big in America? Could be. The Doctor Who team has assiduously courted fans here with a succession of publicity appearances, including a panel at this year’s Comic-Con where Whovians paid homage to Smith’s red-haired costar Karen Gillan by donning ginger wigs. (No. 2 way you know  a TV show has become a cult favorite? When fans start dressing as characters.) In June 2011, the show’s U.S. broadcaster BBC America enjoyed its best ever ratings with the premiere episode of the sixth season since Doctor Who was revived in 2005, following a 16 year hiatus. The new season, which debuts later this summer, may well be the most eagerly anticipated ever as the Doctor prepares to say goodbye to his two trusty and beloved-by-fans “companions,” Gillan’s Amy Pond and Arthur Darvill’s Rory Williams. In the cover story we track the ups and downs of the show’s remarkable half-century history and preview the new episodes with help from Smith, Gillan, Darvill, and  exec producer, Steven Moffat.

Mary Tamm, the first actress to play Romana as companion to Tom Baker on Doctor Who died during the past week at age 62. Regret ably she was not able to regenerate like the character she played. A video tribute to Mary Tamm follows:

BBC America will be broadcasting four documentaries about Doctor Who in August:

The Science of Doctor Who: explores the real life science behind the biggest concepts and most iconic ideas in Doctor Who. The Science of Doctor Who premieres Saturday, August 4, 11:00 pm ET.

The Women of Doctor Who: Behind every great Time Lord there’s a great woman. Whether they’re busting Daleks or the Doctor’s ego, the women of Doctor Who prove that you don’t need testosterone to save the universe. Premieres Saturday, August 11, 9:00pm ET.

The Timey-Wimey Stuff of Doctor Who: When the Doctor’s around, tomorrow is yesterday, yesterday is tomorrow and 18th century France is in your fireplace. Confused yet? You’ve already seen it in the future. The Timey-Wimey Stuff of Doctor Who premieres Saturday, August 18, 11:00pm ET.

The Destinations of Doctor Who: Leave the beach towel at home and take a trip to the end of the Earth – literally. From the Starship UK to one very haunted hotel, you won’t find the destinations of Doctor Who in any guidebook. This final instalment premieres Saturday, August 25, 9:00pm ET.

George R. R. Martin commented on the reaction to the sex in Game of Thrones during an interview with the Daily Star:

Martin, who has a blue collar background in an industrial suburb of New Jersey said he has been surprised with the reaction against explicit sex scenes coming from some American readers.

“I can describe an axe entering a human skull in great explicit detail and no one will blink twice at it. I provide a similar description, just as detailed, of a penis entering a vagina, and I get letters about it and people swearing off,” he said.

“To my mind this is kind of frustrating, it’s madness. Ultimately, in the history of [the] world, penises entering vaginas have given a lot of people a lot of pleasure; axes entering skulls, well, not so much.”

Above is a trailer for the second season of Homeland, which returns on September 30. Showtime has released this press release:

In the wake of Israeli air strikes against Iran, the Middle East threatens to erupt in fresh violence. In Beirut, flags bearing the Star of David, and the Red, White, and Blue, burn in the streets. A woman swims through the chaos towards the American embassy, trying to make contact. The abused wife of a Hezbollah commander, she carries information about an attack – retaliation against Israel’s ally, the United States. But this would-be informant insists she will only speak to her one-time CIA handler: Carrie Mathison.

The problem: Carrie Mathison is no longer with the Agency. The disgraced ex-officer is on the slow path to recovery, after her manic flight in Season One nearly crashed the political career of American hero Nicholas Brody. Months after her expulsion from the CIA, the adventure and turmoil that once defined Carrie’s life is now a dull memory, replaced by regular ECT treatment and her father and sister’s protective cocoon. It’s this fragile new existence that Carrie’s former colleagues Saul Berenson and David Estes threaten to shatter, when they come to her door asking for help.

Meanwhile Nicholas Brody, several months into his inaugural term as a freshman Congressman, finds himself buffeted daily by competing agendas. Everyone has a plan for him – whether it’s Vice President William Walden, fellow Marine Mike Faber, or terrorist mastermind Abu Nazir. While Brody strives to change the face of American foreign policy without bloodshed, he learns that doing so may not be good enough for Nazir. And with every lie he tells, the walls around him close in a little tighter, threatening to bring Brody down, along with his family and everything they’ve achieved since his return.

As the situation at home and abroad escalates, Carrie and Brody’s worlds will collide yet again, deepening a relationship built on lies, suspicion and longing. Will Carrie finally be vindicated for the truth she was so close to uncovering? Can Brody keep his head above water, as opposing powers play him like a pawn? Whoever gains the upper hand in this dangerous pairing, neither Carrie nor Brody will come out of it unscathed.

They also released this press release about the seventh season of Dexter:

Season 7 returns in explosive fashion, as Dexter (Michael C. Hall) is finally forced to confront his greatest fear, as Debra (Jennifer Carpenter) witnesses his insatiable, ritualistic slaying of a killer. Now Deb knows the secret of his Dark Passenger, his undeniable thirst for blood, and the Code that their father Harry (‘James Remar’) instilled in him as a young boy.

But as Deb tries to reconcile the unfathomable idea that her beloved, mild-mannered brother is Miami’s most notorious serial killer, Dexter is still pulled by his natural impulses to seek out the guilty and exact his brand of vigilante justice, which leads him on the trail of a brutal Ukrainian mobster (Ray Stevenson).

Along the way, Dexter meets Hannah McKay (Yvonne Strahovski), a strong, independent woman with a past that she’s struggled to put behind her. As a turn of events leads Miami Metro Homicide to ask for her help in solving some old cases, Dexter works with her and begins to wonder if there’s more to this woman than she’s professed.

The producers of Elementary and Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch discussed comparisons with the other show and the choice of a female Watson on Elementary. Elementary‘s executive producers Robert Doherty and Carl Beverly answered these questions at Comic Con:

Can you talk about how it came about that Watson is a woman in this show?
Robert: “[In preparation for the show], I read a handful of psychological assessments of [Sherlock] that real doctors have written up over the years. Somebody classified him as bipolar, somebody else said he had a mild form of Asperger’s, and one of them happened to mention that he was classified as a gynophobe – he had just not a terribly healthy relationship with women, he was a little suspicious of them.

“And it just sort of made me laugh when I read it because I was like, ‘Well, what would make him crazier than Watson is a woman? He’s actually living with someone who’s monitoring him who’s also a woman’. All of that said, our Holmes is not a gynophobe, he’s not a misogynist – it’s just sort of what got that ball rolling.

“I also was sort of up for the challenge. I knew it would be inevitable that people would be fascinated by the ‘will-they-won’t-they’ that would come up and I like that the question is there and it exists, but I also don’t feel any rush to… In fact, let me be blunt – I don’t want them to end up in bed together. That’s just not what the show is for.

“I don’t think that would be true to the spirit of the original relationship between the two characters, and that’s important to me. I’d like to show that a man and a woman can be friends and go to work and live together and not end up romantically entangled.”

Carl: “Robert often calls it a bromance, but one of the bros just happens to be a woman.

“I think it’s a really apt description because there’s this idea that a man and woman can’t be together – on a show, especially – without needing to be together sexually or in love or whatever. And this is really just about the evolution of a friendship and how that happens. Watching that should be as much the story of this show as the mystery you see week in, week out about who killed who.

“You know, we love that and those stories will be great, but the mystery of this relationship and how the friendship comes into being, that should be something that draws people in too.”

Obviously there will be comparisons to the BBC’s Sherlock
Carl: “We think it’s fantastic.”

Robert: “It’s an incredible show. I have nothing but the highest regard for that show and Steven as a writer. I think sometimes we catch flak because we are a contemporised Sherlock. Sherlock has been contemporised dating back to the ’40s. There were movies with Basil Rathbone set in the Victorian era and then suddenly there were movies with Basil Rathbone in World War II where they’re fighting Nazis, so the idea’s been around a long time.

Sherlock has done it extremely well – I think it’s a brilliant show. I’ve only seen the first series but I hear the second series is just as excellent. But as far as taking from the show, I just don’t think that’s true. Because he exists mostly in the public domain, many hands have handled Sherlock over the years.

“He’s been everywhere – he’s been to the future, he’s been to the past, I’ve seen him in comics, I’ve seen him in books, I’ve seen many, many, many different takes and interpretations of the character and the franchise. They’re all great. I don’t think any of them hurt any of the others. Sherlock the character has big shoulders and I think he can carry all of us.”

Answers from additional questions suggested a couple of ways in which Elementary might differ from Sherlock. They do not plan to update original Sherlock Holmes stories as has been done on Sherlock. Mycroft will probably wind up on the show eventually, but not initially. Sherlock’s father will probably appear first.

Benedict Cumberbatch expressed these views on Elementary:

“If I were the [producer], I’d be frightened of the dynamic of male friendship that you’d lose,” he confesses to TVLine, “because that is obviously the bedrock of the books as well. [Now] there might be sexual tension between Joan [Holmes] and Sherlock, which is [a different dynamic than you'd have] between the two men. So, that’s a new thing to explore.”

And not necessarily a bad thing to explore. Cumberbatch – who is friends with Miller and even appeared opposite him in the UK stage production of Frankenstein – believes the world is big enough for multiple interpretations of Sherlock. (And, having seen the jolly good pilot, I’m inclined to agree.) “I wish them luck, I really do,” the actor insists. “I think it will be great. It will be a different spin on it, because obviously, theirs is modern-day as well, so it needs to be different from ours, and I think the more differences, the better, to be honest.

“I don’t see why they shouldn’t co-exist with us,” he adds, “I don’t think they’ll steal our audience. I think people who are Holmes fans who think they do a good job of it will have a treat in watching ours and the films. So I wish them good luck!”

I’m not exactly sure what a television show set in the Avenger’s universe but without the superheroes would be like, but such a show is being considered:

After scoring huge at the box office with its Avengers movie, Marvel is looking to explore the mythology on the small screen too. I’ve learned that Marvel’s TV division is in conversation with ABC and ABC Studios about doing a drama series in the Avengers world. I hear that the connection to the Avengers franchise would be light as the project is expected to be set in the universe and feature some of its themes and feel, but may not include any characters from Joss Whedon’s blockbuster. I hear the project is in a nascent stage, described as “a kernel of an idea,” with a number of scenarios being explored, including a high-concept cop show. Marvel has already given the Avengers the animated treatment with Disney XD’s The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and the upcoming Avengers Assemble.

Establishing a primetime foothold has been a priority for Disney-owned Marvel. The company has developed several projects for ABC Studios over the last couple of years, one of which, a Hulk series, is still in the works. Search is under way for a new writer to pen the project.

Perhaps they could start with repairing all the damage to New York. Actually I stayed on Park Avenue in New York last weekend for the first time since the damage depicted in the movie and everything seems to have been restored. I did pass a couple of shawarma restaurants, but no sign of any superheroes.

The above trailer has been released for the fifth season of Merlin. The show was originally envisioned as running for five seasons but now there is talk of extending to a sixth season, along with a movie.

William Shatner’s new documentary Get A Life! premiers this weekend on Epix. Trekmovie.com has a review.

A reboot of Blake’s 7 is in the works, directed by Martin Campbell (Casino Royal). A reboot makes the most sense considering how much time has gone by and how the original ended, but I’d love to see them try to continue the series from the point of the finale of the original series.  The opening to the original series is above.

Amy Sherman-Palladino was interviewed by Deadline Hollywood about her new show, Bunheads, and inevitably Gilmore Girls came up. No word on her planned final four words for the series and she is quite pessimistic about the chances of a Gilmore Girls movie:

DEADLINE: Well, Gilmore Girls worked — until you left. Right now, Gilmore Girls is back in the news because journalists are comparing your departure to the situation at NBC’s Community, predicting that series won’t survive the ouster of creator Dan Harmon as showrunner. Can a series successfully outlive its creator?
SHERMAN-PALLADINO: I think certain shows can. Great shows like Cheers went on and on after the original guys left, but you have to be able to train people in the style. I think procedurals can go on because you are doing cases. When a show is about a singular voice or a singular relationship, I think it’s a lot harder. When you’ve got the guy who basically was Community, and you get rid of him in year four, I don’t understand that position. You either keep the guy for a fourth season, or maybe you just don’t pick it up. I don’t know Dan Harmon; some people say terrible things about him. I don’t know, maybe he is Lucifer. But if we based everything in Hollywood on who was a nice guy, holy moly, we would have no movies. No actors would work. This is not an industry that is ruled by kindness and generosity. But maybe Community will be a fucking phenomenon this year, who knows? I didn’t watch Community, I don’t have a dog in this race, but all the things I read about it just felt weird.

DEADLINE: Was the end of Gilmore Girls inevitable after you left?
SHERMAN-PALLADINO: Gilmore was tough and the cast was tired. It was a hard show, and I think that once I left there were pressures to do it cheaper, to really streamline it, to do things that they could not get me to do. But there are practicalities. If you are new, and they are telling you to do something and you would like to remain in your job, you need to do that. I think Gilmore Girls could have gone on another couple-three years. I was sad the way it went down and I don’t think it had to go down that way. But I don’t control the business, although I would like to. It was a great and wonderful experience, and I was lucky to have it.

DEADLINE: Sounds like that’s TV.
SHERMAN-PALLADINO: It is TV. If I had any other transferrable skills, any other way to make a car payment, I would do it. It’s the one thing I can do. You talk to people and they say, the business is changing and it sucks and it’s awful. Well OK, but what’s my option? This is it. It may suck, it may be awful, but you’ve got to just keep going.

DEADLINE: Any chance of a Gilmore Girls movie?
SHERMAN-PALLADINO: I thought so for a long time, I was into it, Lauren [star Lauren Graham] was into it, but the studio just does not seem to want to discuss it, so I’m thinking it probably won’t happen. She and I were totally there, we were game, I had stories, I had a way that I thought would have worked for fans and non-fans alike, but Warner Bros right now is not interested in doing that kind of movie.

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