SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, The Snowmen; Merlin Finale; Fringe; Star Trek Into Darkness; Dexter; and Homeland

Doctor Who: The Snowmen airs on Christmas Day, introducing a new companion. Some clips and interviews can be seen in the video above.

Another clip from The Snowmen above.

Digital Spy interviewed Steven Moffat, who talked about the upcoming episodes of Doctor Who. He also denies internet rumors that William Shatner might play the Master:

William Shatner being The Master would be too confusing wouldn’t it? He’s Captain Kirk! It’s already confusing that there are now two Captain Kirks. But if I was considering it I wouldn’t tell you. I love William Shatner but John Simm is The Master… John Simm would beat [Shatner] up if he thought he was going to take that part.

Matt Smith and Jenna-Louise Smith discussed how the Doctor met his new companion in the interview above.

Jenna Louise Dec 2012

The Telegraph interviewed Jenna-Louise Coleman:

What can Coleman do with the role of companion that hasn’t been done before? Does she believe that her character moves it into a new realm? ‘Yes I do!’ she says enthusiastically. ‘The Doctor really wants to find out about her. She is obviously very clever, possibly more clever than he is, so she’s a challenge. I really liked that about the role.’

Has she any idea just how this will change her life? ‘Well,’ she says, ‘on one level it already has! I’ve been filming non-stop since it was announced, so my life has really been taken over by Doctor Who and nothing else.’ When she has had some free time, such as the occasional weekend, she has returned to the flat in London she shares with three of her childhood friends.

‘It’s refreshing,’ she says. ‘We all do different jobs now. I have to work the hardest at maintaining my friendships, though, because I am never around. I suppose my friends are very tolerant.’ She says the same goes for her relationship with her boyfriend, Richard Madden, the Game of Thrones star. ‘We both work hard,’ she says. ‘But he’s coming back from filming soon, so …’ She shrugs. ‘It’s good, work is good.

Merlin Finale

The Diamond of the Day, the two-part series finale of Merlin, received excellent reviews before it aired and another review can be found here. The series finale will air on Christmas Eve.

Fringa Nina

Fringe showed the end of Nina’s story, at least until a possible reset which was mentioned in the previews. While she killed herself to avoid interrogation by the Observers while hiding the child Observer, Nina would have been in trouble regardless of the events of this weeks episode as the Observers had already figured out that she was  source of the concrete-melting device used in a previous episode. The episode also revealed that Donald and September are the same person, leaving questions as to  whether September was once a normal human and how he became an Observer. Perhaps the arc showing Peter place the device in his neck was to set up the possibility of a human becoming an Observer.

Star Trek Into Darkness

J.J. Abramas has said more than he has revealed in the past about the plot of Star Trek Into Darkness and the villain played by Benedict Cumberbatch:

So this movie doesn’t require you have seen the first movie. The characters are a group of people who have recently come together and find themselves up against this incredibly terrifying force. His name is John Harrison and he is sort of an average – that is what makes him so scary – he is just an average guy who works in an organization called Starfleet, and he turns against the group because he has got this back-story and this kind of amazing secret agenda. After two very violent attacks, one in London and one in the US, our characters have to go after this guy and apprehend him. And it is a far more complicated and difficult thing then they ever anticipated. “Into Darkness” is very much about how intense it gets and really what they are up against.

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Dexter and Homeland concluded their seasons last week. Dexter is heading toward the end, which probably will not be good for a serial killer. Dexter has killed at least three people who do not meet his code before the season finale: someone he mistook for a killer in Season 4, the guy in the bathroom after Rita’s murder, and Hannah’s father. With LaGuerta, not only is Dexter willing to kill someone who is innocent but Debra pulled the trigger. Hannah (Yvonne Strahovsk) ominously left Dexter a black orchid after escaped policy custody, and the producers are hoping to bring her back for another season.

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Homeland left Brody on the run and presumably they will find some way to get him back into the main action next season. Perhaps he will find information on a terrorist plot while on the run, or perhaps it will turn out that he has more knowledge which the CIA needs to obtain from him. As he is using Carrie’s network, it wouldn’t be implausible for Carrie to track him down. Carrie already believes Brody is innocent. Saul should also realize that Brody was set up, knowing that the confession tape had been filmed quite a while previously and was in the hands of others. As Brody’s daughter believes that Brody did not plan a suicide bombing this time, room is left open for reconciliation with his family. It would be harder for Brody to publicly be seen as innocent. They certainly cannot say that the tape was made not now but before a previous planned suicide bombing. Perhaps the most plausible story would be that Brody had been forced to make this tape while still a prisoner, and broken to the extent that he would read anything.

How I Met Your Mother has been renewed for a ninth and final season, dragging out the explanation as to how Ted met his wife for yet another year.

Walking Dead has been renewed for a fourth season but Glen Mazzara, is leaving as show runner.

The Day The Republicans Jumped The Shark

The week ended very badly for the Republicans, hopefully showing those who do not realize it yet that the Republican Party is now run by extremists who are incapable of fulfilling the responsibilities of those elected to positions of power. Two extreme elements of the Republican Party were on display this week. We say the influence of the Tea Party (i.e. unthinking pawns of the ultra-wealthy) as John Boehner could not pass a plan which would preserve tax cuts for all except those making over one million dollars per year. The Republican insanity regarding guns was highlighted by the NRA’s proposal to put armed guards in schools, apparently ignorant of the fact that there had been an armed guard at Columbine. There is now the possibility that a conservative effort to unseat Boehner might work.

The disarray in the Republican Party, besides interfering with plans for economic recovery, is an especially unsatisfactory situation for serious conservatives. Andrew Sullivan, who has long been unhappy with the insanity of the Republican Party, says Enough!

Between the humiliating and chaotic collapse of Speaker Boehner’s already ludicrously extreme Plan B and Wayne La Pierre’s deranged proposal to put government agents in schools with guns, the Republican slide into total epistemic closure and political marginalization has now become a free-fall. This party, not to mince words, is unfit for government. There is no conservative party in the West – except for minor anti-immigrant neo-fascist ones in Europe – anywhere close to this level of far right extremism. And now the damage these fanatics can do is not just to their own country – was the debt ceiling debacle of 2011 not enough for them? – but to the entire world.

Those of us who have warned for years about this disturbing trend toward ever more extreme measures – backing torture, pre-emptive un-budgeted wars, out-of-control spending followed, like a frantic mood swing, by anti-spending absolutism of the most insane variety in a steep recession, vicious hostility to illegal immigrants, contempt for gay couples, hostility even to contraception, let alone a middle ground on abortion … well, you know it all by now.

But the current constitutional and economic vandalism removes any shred of doubt that this party and its lucrative media bubble is in any way conservative. They aren’t. They’re ideological zealots, indifferent to the consequences of their actions, contemptuous of the very to-and-fro essential for the American system to work, gerry-mandering to thwart the popular will, filibustering in a way that all but wrecks the core mechanics of American democracy, and now willing to acquiesce to the biggest tax increase imaginable because they cannot even accept Obama’s compromise from his clear campaign promise to raise rates for those earning over $250,000 to $400,000 a year…

Enough. This faction and its unhinged fanaticism has no place in any advanced democracy. They must be broken. But the current irony is that no one has managed to expose their extremism more clearly than their own Speaker. His career is over. As is the current Republican party. We need a new governing coalition in the House – Democrats and those few sane Republicans willing to put country before ideology. But even that may be impossible.

Were They Wrong?

Record high temperatures, a major political party under the control of dangerous theocrats, and the economy on the verge of plunging over the fiscal cliff. Why are some people saying the Mayans were wrong?

Actually things seem  to be pretty much the same after the end of the world. The Doctor has a new companion and the Republicans are even in more disarray than usual, but otherwise not much has changed.

Easy Question of the Day: Are Republican Policies Too Extreme?

Earlier in the month Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein were pointing out how the mainstream media missed the big story of the year–the extremism of the Republican Party. CNN partially made up for this with poll results run under the headline CNN Poll: Are GOP policies too extreme? The answer, of course, is yes:

According to the survey, 53% say the GOP should compromise more, with 41% saying the Democratic Party should give up more of the proposals it supports to develop bipartisan solutions.

“That’s due in part to the fact that the Republican brand is not doing all that well,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

Fifty-three percent of those surveyed say they view the policies of the GOP as too extreme, up 17 points from two years ago. Only 37% say they view the polices of the Democratic Party as too extreme.

It probably doesn’t help that House Speaker John Boehner, who’s leading GOP fiscal cliff negotiations with the president, is held in fairly low regard, particularly in comparison to Obama. According to the poll, 34% of the public approves of how the top Republican in the House handling his job. By contrast, the president’s approval rating stands at 52%.

Gallup has even better numbers for Obama, with his approval up to 56 percent.

Person of the Year: Barack Obama

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This was a rather obvious choice in an election year. As Time points out, Obama is “the first Democrat in more than 75 years to get a majority of the popular vote twice. Only five other Presidents have done that in all of U.S. history.” Time‘s explanation:

There are many reasons for this, but the biggest by far are the nation’s changing demographics and Obama’s unique ability to capitalize on them. When his name is on the ballot, the next America — a younger, more diverse America — turns out at the polls. In 2008, blacks voted at the same rate as whites for the first time in history, and Latinos broke turnout records. The early numbers suggest that both groups did it again in 2012, even in nonbattleground states, where the Obama forces were far less organized. When minorities vote, that means young people do too, because the next America is far more diverse than the last. And when all that happens, Obama wins. He got 71% of Latinos, 93% of blacks, 73% of Asians and 60% of those under 30.

They left out the more important fact that Obama ran against a Republican Party which has moved to the extreme right and very well might never again be able to win a national election until the party changes. (Some Republican apologists might counter by claims that John McCain and Mitt Romney are moderates but in reality both ran on platforms which were bat-shit crazy, even if the Republicans do have even worse lunatics among their ranks.)
Time’s interview with Obama gives indications we are living in a world which the authoritarian right just cannot handle. Obama took time to announce his support for gay marriage, but we may have reached a tipping point where any candidate who does not support marriage equality would be seen in the same light as someone who didn’t support interracial marriage. Obama is more conservative than many of his supporters on drugs, and it is a disappointment that he is not ending the drug war, but at least does not intend to use government resources for prosecution of marijuana users:

I have a couple of policy questions growing out of that shift. Do you expect your administration will join the gay marriage cases at the Supreme Court?

We are looking at the cases right now. I’ve already been very clear about DOMA, so there is no doubt that we would continue the position we’re on, that DOMA is unconstitutional and should be struck down. And I think the Prop-8 case, because the briefs are still being written, I should probably be careful about making any specific comments on it.

One of the other big things that happened in the election was in Washington State and Colorado, marijuana for recreational use was legalized. And, again, the same base — the younger people, more progressive people are in favor of that. Is a recreational marijuana user who is following state law someone who should be a federal law enforcement priority?

No. And I think what the Justice Department has consistently asserted is that it’s got finite resources. Our focus has to be on threats to safety, threats to property. When it comes to drug enforcement, big-time drug dealers, folks who are preying on our kids, those who are engaging in violence — that has to be our focus.

Now, obviously, you’ve got a challenge, which is federal laws that are still on the books making marijuana a Class I drug that is subject to significant penalties, and you’ve got state laws now that say it’s legal. We’re going to have to have a conversation about how to reconcile that, because it puts the Department of Justice and the U.S. attorneys in a pretty tough position; they don’t want to look like they’re nullifying laws that are on the books; their job is to carry out the laws of the federal government. On the other hand, I think not only have these states indicated that they’ve got a different view, but what’s also true isthat the public as a whole — even those who don’t necessarily agree with decriminalization of marijuana — don’t think that this should be a top priority for law enforcement.

So this will be something that we navigate over the next several months and next several years. I think that the broader lesson to draw here is that substance abuse is a big problem in oursociety, and we should be doing everything we can to prevent our kids from being trapped by substance abuse. I think a law enforcement model alone, or an emphasis on a law enforcement strategy and not enough emphasis on the public health approach and treatment has not yielded the kind of results that I think we would like. And we’re going to have to have a serious discussion about that.

There are many pictures worth viewing accompanying the articles:
Obama Clinton
Obama Spiderman
Obama from Behind
Obama Chicago
obama white house
Obama Families 911 Victims
Obama Bo
Obama 3D Glasses

Merlin Finale: Le Morte d’Arthur?

The BBC has released the above trailer for the final episode of Merlin, to air on December 25. As the fifth season hasn’t aired in the United States yet, this is sort of a spoiler, but since the Arthur legend is well know this shouldn’t totally ruin things for those who have not seen Season 5 yet.

The fifth season has not been the greatest mid season but last week’s episode leading into the two-part series finale was excellent. Radio Times says that this week’s episode, the first part of the two-part story concluding the series, The Diamond of the Day, is the best episode of the series so far:

Merlin_finale_part_1_preview____It_s_the_best_of_the_series_so_far_

To those who may have doubted Merlin in recent weeks, I say only this: watch the next episode. It’s a beauty, the best of the series so far.

Structurally and emotionally, it’s the most satisfying, and tees up the finale in ripping fashion. Writer and co-creator Jake Michie knows better than most what makes Merlin magic, and here he’s concocted a potent brew.

Yes, series five has gone walkabout from time to time, but in that respect it’s no different to any of the preceding four. And you could accuse almost any long-running drama of mid-season sag. Even the mighty Homeland!

So what happens in The Day of the Diamond Part 1? Well, without giving anything away, Morgana acts on the information that her new ally Mordred has supplied – that Merlin is actually sorcerer supreme Emrys.

It’s impossible to watch Merlin without occasionally thinking of Harry Potter. And that’s no criticism. But just as Lord Voldemort would dispatch his pet snake Nagini to do his dirty work, so Morgana employs a big, magic-sapping slug to take Merlin out of the equation.

In the bigger picture, M&M (Morgana and Mordred) are closing in on Camelot, so Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table must hatch a cunning plan to protect the kingdom.

It sounds straightforward on paper, but there are some juicy little side issues. Even loyal, mouthy Sir Gwaine (Eoin Macken) is given a little more to do than swish a sword.

There’s not quite enough for Gwen or Gaius to sink their teeth into ­– same old, same old – and the supposedly ruthless Morgana does (or rather doesn’t do) something a bit stupid. But these are minor complaints in the context of an episode that has such heart, and guts.

A surprising reappearance, one quiet moment of almost poetic sorcery, an invigorating, Henry V-style pep talk and some stirring incidental music complete the package. Enjoy!

 

Rick Snyder’s Support Plummets After Signing Right To Work Law

In 2010 it was clear that Republicans would dominate the off-year elections due to the state of the economy and the national pro-Republican wave. Rick Snyder won the Republican nomination due to a combination of more conservative Republicans splitting the far right wing vote and Democrats crossing over to back Snyder as the lesser evil. By positioning himself as a moderate, Snyder had a good chance at getting re-elected in 2014. The problem with a moderate Republican governor is that he is still a Republican, and therefore will not veto extreme acts from the Republican legislature as regularly as a Democrat would. Signing the right to work legislation which the Republican legislature rammed through has cost Snyder a tremendous amount of support. From Public Policy Polling:

Snyder’s popularity plummets

Just last month when we took a first look at the 2014 landscape we talked about how much Rick Snyder had improved his popularity during his second year in office and how he led a generic Democrat for reelection by 6 points, even as Barack Obama won the state comfortably.

Last week he threw all that out the window.

We now find Snyder as one of the most unpopular Governors in the country. Only 38% of voters approve of him to 56% who disapprove. There are only 2 other sitting Governors we’ve polled on who have a worse net approval rating than Snyder’s -18. He’s dropped a net 28 points from our last poll on him, the weekend before the election, when he was at a +10 spread (47/37).

There’s not much doubt that it’s the right to work law and his embrace of other actions by the Republican legislature that are driving this precipitous drop in Snyder’s popularity. Only 41% of voters in the state support the right to work legislation, while 51% are opposed to it. If voters got to decide the issue directly only 40% of them say they would vote to keep the law enacted, while 49% would vote to overturn it. This comes on the heels of voters overturning Snyder’s signature emergency managers law last month. The simple reality is that Michigan voters like unions- 52% have a favorable opinion of them to only 33% with a negative one.

Snyder trails every Democrat we tested against him in a hypothetical match up. He’s down 49/38 to 2010 opponent Virg Bernero, 47/39 to Congressman Gary Peters, 46/38 to State Senator Gretchen Whitmer, and 44/39 to former Congressman Mark Schauer. The Bernero numbers are what’s most striking there. Snyder defeated Bernero by 18 points in 2010, so Bernero’s 11 point advantage represents a 29 point reversal. The Democrats all lead Snyder despite having very little name recognition- only 44% of voters are familiar with Bernero, 36% with Peters, 28% with Schauer, and 27% with Whitmer.

The Republicans in the legislature are even more unpopular than Snyder after their spate of last minute legislation…

Besides objection to the right to work legislation, many Michigan voters are also upset with the manner in which the legislation was pushed through.

Despite Snyder’s mistake in signing the right to work legislation, he is still far preferable to the other Republican choices who were available in 2010 such as Tea Party supporter Pete Hoekstra. At least Snyder will occasionally veto the most extreme Republican-passed legislation. Besides the right to work legislation which received national attention, the Michigan legislature has also pushed through other far right wing legislation.  After the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Snyder reconsidered a bill passed by the legislature to allow concealed weapons in schools and vetoed it. We know that many more extreme Republicans would have praised the idea with a warped view that having more guns in school would make children safer. While less likely, hopefully he will also veto legislation intended to reduce access to abortions.

Second Prequel To The Snowmen Released

The BBC has released a second prequel mini-episode to The Snowmen, this year’s Doctor Who Christmas Special (video above). The BBC has also announced that there will be a new title sequence with an updating of the theme music for the special.

 

SciFi Weekend: Homeland and Dexter Season Finales; Fringe; Doctor Who; Merlin; Dallas

Episode 212

Homeland concludes the second season tonight. With Abu Nazir and Vice President Walden dead, the biggest question is how (or whether) they will conclude the season and leave it plausible for Brody to survive into a third season. As this is becoming increasingly implausible, many fans are speculating that Brody might get killed in the finale and the series will continue on without him. I doubt it, but it certainly is possible. There is also speculation that Estes might get killed, with Saul in charge next season. Some of the theories floating around can be found here, but we will know how the season ends later this evening. Entertainment Weekly had an interview with executive producer Alex Gansa:

So what can Gansa tease about next week’s season finale? “The final episode is called ‘The Choice,’ and what I can say about it is Walden is dead. Nazir is dead. So we’ve sort of left the thriller aspects of the show behind and now we come to a very personal story about Carrie and Brody and all the obstacles that lie in the way of them being together. That is what the finale is about. It’s a real character study of these two people, where they’ve come from, how they regard each other, and whether or not there’s a future for them.”

Dexter also concludes the season tonight. The previews show him being arrested. That could be the season-ending cliff hanger or possibly even a dream. I suspect that it might be an event taking place earlier in the episode, with Dexter released due to lack of evidence against him. After all, Dexter and Debra have been busy planting false evidence, and we know that there is an entire season to go before seeing Dexter’s ultimate fate.

There is still a little time until the series finale of Fringe, and this week’s episode was a real trip (in Walter’s mind). They didn’t find Donald, but they found Sam Weiss and ultimately the child Observer, who undoubtedly will play a role in however this series does end. (Or perhaps not–I also believed that Peter developing Observer powers would be important, and it no longer looks like that is the case).

I’ve previously posted the BBC trailer for the Doctor Who Christmas Special, The Snowmen. Above is a different version from BBC America. Another BBC trailer can be seen here.

The BBC has announced that the second half of the current season of Doctor Who will begin airing in April.

The BBC commissioned a report on the portrayal of gay characters on television. While faults were found in stereotypes on some shows, other shows such as Doctor Who and Downton Abbey were praised: “Doctor Who quite often has a gay character in it but it isn’t always an issue or the plotline,” said anti-hate crime charity Galop. “It’s just incidental, which has been quite nice.” One example is more than just incidental–Captain Jack Harkness who has both been a companion to the Doctor and has stared in the spin off Torchwood.

I don’t want to give away too much to those waiting for Merlin to air in the United States, but this week’s episode has drawn the battle lines for the two-part series finale. This won’t come as a surprise to anyone acquainted with the King Arthur legends, but it does represent a change from earlier events of the final season.

TNT will have the funeral of J.R. Ewing on their remake of Dallas on the March 11 episode following the recent death of Larry Hagman while the series was filming. The series is being rewritten to account for the death of J.R.

John Kerry Reportedly To Be Chosen As Secretary of State

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Barack Obama has chosen John Kerry to be Secretary of State. This comes as no surprise after Susan Rice withdrew her name form consideration. There is also speculation that Obama had planned to choose Kerry but was forced into defending Rice following the dishonest smear campaign launched against her by Republicans such as John McCain.

Kerry was the best choice four years ago if not for the importance of getting Hillary Clinton out of the Senate. Politically getting Hillary into the administration, as opposed to being a source of potential opposition in the Senate, was extremely important. It was also necessary that Obama’s health care reform not be tainted by HillaryCare–otherwise Obama would not have obtained the support of organizations such as the AMA. Despite the attacks from the right, the plan which passed was essentially the conservative response to Hillary Clinton’s plan.

As an added, and major benefit, having Hillary Clinton in the administration set up the situation where Bill Clinton became a significant source in Obama’s reelection campaign.  Bill Clinton’s fantastic convention speech and subsequent  campaigning in battleground states was a tremendous help to Obama. Now Obama has become free to choose the person who is most qualified for the position, and most likely his preferred choice since 2008.