SciFi Weekend: Star Trek Into Darkness; Doctor Who; Hannibal; Arrested Development; Game of Thrones; Sherlock and Fake Sherlock; Roaring ’20s Cocktails

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As I discussed last week, Star Trek Into Darkness was a enjoyable action movie which hopefully serves to keep Star Trek alive in some form, but does not live up to the quality of the show. The producers ignored plot development to deliver a series of action scenes, while using the gimmick of an alternative timeline to avoid the need for consistency. Major spoilers do follow. Startrek.com interviewed Star Trek Into Darkness co-writers and co-producers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman. One question dealt with the alternative timeline:

Zoe Saldana has been quoted in interviews as saying that the Uhura (Saldana)-Spock (Zachary Quinto) romance will not work in the long run because that’s not what ultimately happened inThe Original Series. Given the alternate timeline, can’t this relationship go anywhere? Can’t you do… anything, really, with any and all of the characters?

Roberto Orci talk about Star Trek Into Darkness

ORCI: If she says that, I think she’s wrong. We can do whatever we want. However, the rule that we have for ourselves is that it has to harmonize with canon. This is going to get way too geeky, and I apologize ahead of time… Quantum mechanics, which is how we based our time travel, is not just simple time travel. Leonard Nimoy didn’t just go back and change history (as Spock Prime in the 2009 film), and then everything is like Back to the Future. It’s using the rules of quantum mechanics, which means it’s an alternate universe where there is no going back. There is no fixing the timeline. There’s just another reality that is the latest and greatest of time travel that exist. So, on the one hand we’re free. On the other hand, these same rules of quantum mechanics tell us that the universes that exist, they exist because they are the most probable universe.

Star Trek actually dealt with alternative timelines in different ways. Frequently when something changed history, as in The City On The Edge of Forever, members of the Enterprise crew would go back in time and would fix the timeline. The mirror universe which featured in several episodes did continue on its own with major differences. In Parallels, Worf saw several parallel realities which varied in how different each was for his original reality. This came closest to the timelines of quantum mechanics which Orci discussed but the specific situation of one person changing history was more commonly treated as having a single timeline which can be changed and later repaired.

Now that we have the situation of Spock and Uhura having a romance, there is no reason it cannot continue despite this not occurring in the original timeline. The bigger question is why this romance ever could start at all. Saying the timeline has changed has been an easy way to keep what they want in Star Trek and change other things. We have a Spock who handles emotions differently, but it is not clear why that is the case. One of the advantages of a weekly television show over movies is that they could have episodes detailing how this Spock handles emotions as compared to the original Spock. The emotions and  humanity of Spock, Data, and the Voyager Holodeck Doctor were common themes of three of the series which would not work in the action movies.

My biggest fear in this new timeline is that nothing seems to have consequences and there are no limits. Vulcan was destroyed and now they are developing New Vulcan, as if an entire planet can be easily repopulated. If they have questions, future-Spock has the answers. There no real need for Starships as it is possible for Khan to transport himself from Earth to Kronos. If there are battles to be fought, the Entreprise is bigger than the one in the Roddenberry universe. If that isn’t enough, even bigger Starships can be built. Distance is not an issue in space as it takes no time to travel back from Kronsos to Earth, and Kirk has no difficulty communicating with Scotty from light years away. Kirk dies and is quickly brought back to life with blood from Khan, and there is a tremendous supply remaining with Khan and the others who are frozen. Theoretically there is  no limit to a cure synthesized from Khan’s blood. The television shows certainly took liberties with what is scientifically possible, and would show abilities in some episodes which were forgotten when they might have been used again, but not as flagrantly as this movie.

If they were not content with a series of action scenes they might have placed some limits to keep this and future stories more plausible. Perhaps the curative powers of the blood are not present immediately upon awakening from suspended animation, which would also explain why Khan needed to be captured as opposed to awakening another. We could also imagine the Federation, which has always had lots of restrictions (primarily to promote drama and limit easy solutions), banning the awakening of Khan and the others. Unfortunately such explanations would results in breaks in the action which would not be consistent with the all-action type of movie being produced, but which made the television shows far better.

Alex Kurtzman and Bob Orci discussed the various Easter eggs placed in Star Trek Into Darkness in this interview.

Bob: The biggest addition was Benedict Cumberbatch. He was so compelling on the set that the other actors brought extra energy and extra attention to their roles. He was a force of nature. In terms of his character, we wanted to make sure that the audience did not need any previous knowledge to understand him. So the big debate was: should he or shouldn’t he be Khan?

Alex: We agreed he can be Khan as long as the audience doesn’t have to know that back story. Our challenge was to define a story that doesn’t rely on previous knowledge, or love of Khan or “Star Trek 2.” We thought if we can do that, then we can think of using that great character Khan.

Bob: Once we had that standalone story, we wondered: are there details from Khan’s history that fit? We returned to our Easter eggs at the back of the fridge: there were those seventy-two torpedoes that happened to house his crew. If we can use the details of Khan’s back story given our structure to make the movie more specific and more relevant, then that works.

Alex: We couldn’t use Khan just as a gimmick, as an excuse to get fans into the theaters. Once we developed the story, suddenly the details of Khan’s life became an even better way to tell it. Only when we decided that Khan really does fit here – and the fans know that Khan is to the series what The Joker is to “Batman” – that’s when we decided we earned it.

Bob: And that’s when we went for it. Khan is the ultimate Easter egg.

I saw them more as dropping a few lines to tie the movie into Star Trek’s past without really trying to do what made Star Trek great. Khan is hardly to the series what The Joker is to Batman. Khan appeared in exactly one episode of the original series and one movie. Plus each of these did a far better job of presenting Khan as a person with motives.

Cumberbatch Shower

While Star Trek fans might be concerned about the types of issues I raised, the media has paid more attention to controversy over the scene with Alice Eve in her underwear which I posted last week. In interviews, Alice Eve didn’t seem terribly concerned. After all, as Seth MacFarlane would put it, we saw her boobs in movies such as Crossing Over (pictures not safe for work). Putting aside the arguments of sexism, tamer scenes such as in Star Trek Into Darkness have been common throughout the history of Star Trek from Kirk’s conquests in the original show, Seven of Nine’s “Borg enhancements” on Voyager, and those scenes of T’Pol in the Decon Chamber on Enterprise. Hoshi Sato also had difficulty keeping her clothes intact on Enterprise. Scenes of sexual exploitation aren’t all one-sided. Kirk was seen with his shirt off and  J.J. Abrams showed a cut  scene had been filmed with Benedict Cumberbatch in the shower while on Conan.

Steven Moffat shows far more attention to plotting than in the new version of Star Trek. He will show little things in many episodes of Doctor Who which don’t become important to a later date. Unfortunately he also leaves some questions unanswered. Some of these questions actually do have answers but wind up on the cutting room floor. One of many questions from The Name of the Doctor is how Clarence came about the information which saved his life and directed his friends towards Trenazlore. This is explained in the deleted scene above.

Hannibal Family Dinner

I had previously called The Americans the best new show of the season, but must revise that view after watching the first several episodes of Hannibal. Here are seven reasons you should be watching.  Bryan Fuller was interviewed about the show he created based upon novels by Thomas Harris:

I want to ask about the level of gore and violence on Hannibal. Let’s start at the beginning when you first starting thinking about the show. How did you figure out its tone?

Bryan Fuller: What was always interesting about Thomas Harris’ books is they were a wonderful hybridization of a crime thriller and a horror movie. So I felt like we had to be true to that. Because Silence of the Lambs and Manhunter and Red Dragon have a certain pedigree of crime horror/thriller, in order to be true to that genre, we had to have a certain amount of graphic content to honor the source material, and also honor the expectations of the audience who are approaching the material realizing this is a horror icon. If we didn’t have certain ingredients for that dish, then it really wouldn’t be that dish.

What did you think were the keys there?

BF: Well, what was always fascinating with the villains of Thomas Harris’ books is they have this purple, operatic quality to them. They were also strikingly visual and cinematic. I think it was always our goal to honor the source material, because as a fan of the Thomas Harris books — I read Red Dragon in high school — I wanted to make sure that the loyalist in me and the loyalists out there were being delivered what they were being promised in calling the show Hannibal.

Fuller was later asked about network restrictions:

In terms of how you decided how to show the dead bodies in the pilot, was NBC fine with it? Did it get edited at all?

BF: The only restrictions were mostly nudity. Then other things would be a matter of frames and trimming: a concise method of delivering the imagery that didn’t rely on overt gore. There were times that were like, “OK, you can see the intestines, and you can see the abdominal wound, but you can’t see the intestines coming out of the abdominal wound.” Which, to me, felt perfectly reasonable! There were never any huge battles about gore. The conversations that we had were very much about, “These few frames here tip it, so can you remove those shots?” Or “Can you limit that shot?” They let us go a good distance at having striking visual imagery that wasn’t exploitive porn violence but actually had a great psychological impact to them.

Other than for the absence of nudity, Hannibal does feel much more like a cable show than a network television show. It does follow the pattern used successfully by many other shows in both having a continuing storyline and having each episode deal with a monster/crime of the week. Fuller begins with characters from Thomas Harris’s book  Red Dragon, making significant changes in some of the characters for the television series.  Besides Hannibal, the other major figure is Will Graham, who has the ability to see crimes from the killer’s point of view. So far they have used this to provide information to propel episodes without giving away too much to make investigation unnecessary.

Fuller has planned stories taking place over seven thirteen-episode seasons, taking Hannibal from a psychiatrist who is helping solve murders (while commuting some of his own) to the incarcerated mad genius of Silence of the Lambs. It is questionable if the show can last for seven years on network television, and Fuller’s track record is not very good in terms of getting his series renewed.  The show is receiving excellent reviews from the critics but not spectacular ratings. If NBC decides not to renew the show, both cable channels and Amazon have expressed interest in continuing it. Amazon has already purchased exclusive rights to reshow first season episodes. They might find it beneficial to add new episodes to those of the first season, as Netflix is doing with Arrested Development.

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Netflix just released fifteen new episodes of Arrested Development. It has been seven years since the third season ended (with many of us watching a little more recently on DVD, and others even more recently on Netflix). Den of Geek brings us up to date on the story lines. Popwatch recommended five episodes to rewatch to prepare for the new episodes.  Watch With Kristen tells us a little bit about what we will be seeing. More interviews here and here.

Game of Thrones producer Frank Doelger is also looking at a seven year series:

Speaking backstage at the Baftas – where Game of Thrones was also nominated in the International category – Doelger said: “[The number of series] is being discussed as we speak. The third season was the first half of book three, season four will be the second part of book three. George RR Martin has written books four and five; six and seven are pending.

“I would hope that, if we all survive, and if the audience stays with us we’ll probably get through to seven seasons.”

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The second episode of season three of Sherlock. The Sign of Three, has completed filming:

Filming has completed today on the second block of Sherlock filming – largely comprising Sherlock S3E2: The Sign of Three – after four weeks of work which began on Monday April 22 2013. The second episode of the third series is written by Stephen Thompson and directed by Colm McCarthy.

Filming of The Sign of Three has taken place in cities in England and Wales familiar to the Sherlock production team, including an extensive period of work in Bristol at the beginning of the schedule. London also once again paid host to the series towards the end of the shoot, while filming itself wrapped on stage in Cardiff just before 20:00BST this evening.

Additional material for S3E1: The Empty Hearse was also shot during the latter stages of this second block of filming, under the direction of Jeremy Lovering.

Production on Sherlock Series Three will now take a scheduled break, to allow cast and crew to fulfil other long planned obligations.

Cast and crew are due to fully reconvene in late July 2013 for filming on the third episode of the series, written by Steven Moffat.

I included the full text of the post primarily to give the feeling of how much time and effort goes into each episode of Sherlock, as compared to an American network television series. I stopped watching CBS’s Fake Sherlock series early in the season, feeling that Elementary, as they call it, was simply an average network crime of the week series which applied the names of Holmes and Watson. After reading that Natalie Dormer would be playing Irene Adler and the final episodes would include Moriarty I decided to watch the last few episodes of the season. The back story, for those who have not been watching, is that Sherlock Holmes fell in love with Irene Adler, who was apparently captured and killed by Moriarty. Sherlock got hooked on drugs. He received treatment, moved to New York where he was quickly trusted by the NYPD, and a female version of Watson became his caregiver. Over the course of the season it appears that Watson moved on to become a detective as opposed to caregiver, and Moriarty was behind some of the criminals they apprehended.

The final episodes of the season dealt with Moriarty having Sherlock work on a case, with information to be provided in return. This led to Sherlock finding Irene Adler alive, and their story was told in flashbacks. There were more twists involving Moriarty but I will not spoil those in case others decide to watch these now that most network shows have concluded. The twist would not be acceptable if this was a more definitive retelling of the Sherlock Holmes stories in modern times, as with the BBC version, but for a series which is only loosely based upon Sherlock Holmes this provided an interesting new story. Needless to say, the quality was what we would expect from most network television shows (not up to that of Hannibal) and far below that of Sherlock.

Daleks Trespassing

This sign should keep trespassers out.

Great Gatsby

And finally, in honor of the release of a new movie adaptation of The Great Gatsby, E! has recipes for ten top roaring ’20s cocktails.

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