SciFi Weekend: True Blood Spoilers; Doctor Who; Batman; Star Trek; Continuum; Under The Dome; Agents of SHIELD; The Newsroom

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The sixth season of True Blood, while not without faults, was the best season in several years.  The biggest negative of the season was that Warlow, after starting as evil, then portrayed as good, all of a sudden is shown to be evil again.  Of course it is essential not to take True Blood too seriously if you are to enjoy it, and in that vein the highlight was seeing the vampires partying in the nude outside in the sun following their rescue. There has been some criticism for jumping ahead six months in the middle of the finale as opposed to the usual continuous nature of the show. I didn’t mind this at all. The show is in serious need of some change and I’d rather see them jump six months, basing it on things we have already seen, than having to go through episodes written purely to achieve the changes desired by the writers. It was also unusual to do this right in the middle of an episode but better this than stretching out the narrative for the sixth season even longer.

There were potential cliff hangers but there is considerable agreement on line regarding the outcomes. Although Eric (who created further attention with his full-frontal  nude scene) was seen to burn in the sun, he did not melt, leaving everyone pretty certain that he will survive. After all, he has all that snow around to put out the fire, and Pam is on her way to rescue him once darkness falls. I also think viewers will be surprised if it doesn’t turn out that Tara’s mother infected her with Hepatitis V when she had Tara feed on her.

If there was any doubt about Eric surviving, Brian Buckner, who replaced Alan Ball as show runner, revealed this and more about next season:

Was blowing up everything at the end of the season a chance for you to really start fresh next year?
Brian Buckner:
It is. I think we’ve had more success at the outsets of our seasons when we’ve done an adequate job setting the table for the following season. It’s a bit of a reset and it’s also establishing a story that is for every vampire, a human, for every human, a vampire. It’s to try to return to the show’s promise in Season 1, which is if vampires exist, let’s examine the relationships between humans and vampires. Now we get to do it with many different pairings rather than just Bill and Sookie. The hope is — and this is what I was hinting at Comic-Con — that by putting all of our characters essentially into one story, now it’s Bon Temps vs. the world, the characters people love will get more screen time because these stories don’t have separate demands. We just get to tell a simpler story and then experience them through our characters.

If vampires and humans are now working together, where does the tension come from?
Buckner:
I don’t mean to say there are not complications with those relationships. The driving force of the show is going to be the relationships. What does Alcide (Joe Manganiello) or Sookie having to take on a vampire feeding partner do to their relationship? Every relationship is complicated because it’s a three-way or four-way. That’s what we’re looking at. I don’t think it’s all going to be hunky-dory. It’s going to create tensions between makers and makees because, “You love that human, don’t you?!” It’s a bit of a shift back from plot-driven big bad to some of the soapy elements of the show. It’s the relationships that are interesting, not the plot that the bad guy is necessarily providing.

Can you talk about the threat of the mutated Hep-V?
Buckner:
That’s the work of next season. Specifically, viruses do mutate and that’s part of why we gave ourselves a six-month time passage. This is a disease that, as Dr. Overlark (John Fleck) explained when he was injecting Nora (Lucy Griffiths), can be spread in any number of ways. It has spread around the world very rapidly. Bon Temps is a microcosm of what’s happening out there in the world. The vampires who are infected, their appetite for human blood is increasing. They need to feed more often in order to survive this disease.

Have vampires essentially overrun the world at this point?
Buckner:
It’s a major outbreak. You see how people got upset about Bird Flu and no one really had it. The idea here was to isolate Bon Temps to make it the town we know vs. the world so we don’t have to leave Bon Temps in order to get story. They can only depend on one another; that’s what Sam is talking to Andy (Chris Bauer) about. Andy obviously has his own feelings about vampires right now and whether or not they can be trusted. Sam’s point is we don’t have a choice but to trust them. Without their help, we can’t protect ourselves. It’s a very uneasy alliance. I don’t want to suggest that it is conflict-free. Of course, we promised a pretty big payoff at the Bellefluer’s bar.

Presumably that means Season 7 picks up right where we left off?
Buckner:
That’s a fair presumption.

Turning to the biggest question after the finale: Is Eric really dead? What kind of role will Alexander Skarsgard have next season?
Buckner:
In the olden days, this was a fun tease for an audience [Laughs]. The actor Alex Skarsgard and the character of Eric Northman will be back on the show next year. He’ll be a series regular. We’ve obviously promised a “Where is Eric?” story and it would feel incredibly cheap to deliver the goods right away. We sent Pam (Kristin Bauer van Straten) off in search of him and if she were to find him right away, we would be doing a disservice to ourselves and to the audience. How we use him is going to be up to us, but we want people to rest assured that he will be back in their living rooms next year or wherever they watch. Boy do they love him! Wow!

Pretty sure he broke the internet after going full-frontal.
Buckner:
It was crazy. I got a question about the discussion on that and said, “He’s Swedish. There was no discussion whatsoever.” I even called him to say, “Are you sure this is OK?” and he said, “No problemo.”

People thought it might be a body double.
Buckner:
Nope! One day the tell-all will come out that that guy is as cool as Eric Northman. He doesn’t sweat the small stuff.

Because you jumped ahead six months, we missed Sookie and Alcide’s courtship. Will we see some flashbacks to that?
Buckner:
Whether or not there will be flashbacks, we don’t know at this point. The writers will be back in the room starting September 3 and we’ll start to figure this all out. I think there is fun in, “How did this happen?” but you will see what sparks flew. It’s not like we’re going to skip over all the Sookie-Alcide fun. In terms of going back and filling in those six months, that I don’t think we’ll be doing, but the audience will see what they want to see.

The final scene did have a definite zombie feel but Buchner does say that these are not really vampire zombies:

TVLINE | How do you explain the fact that some of those infected  — Nora, for example — died quickly, yet others are wandering around.
We did say that the virus had mutated, and we get to decide what those mutations are. Perhaps the demand for human blood goes up and that’s the only thing that keeps vampires with Hep V alive. In seasons past – I’m not going to point to any one of them – we took some massive swings, not knowing where we were going. That’s the nature of what we do. In this case, I don’t believe we bit off more than we can chew. I’m not going to give answers to all these things, but the virus has mutated. That’s another reason for the time passage. Just like bacteria mutates and that’s why there are antibiotic-resistant strains. So what applied to Nora doesn’t necessarily apply to this gang. And they’re not zombies.

TVLINE | What are they? Is there a name for them?
In my somewhat limited zombie-genre experience, zombies are not organized. They’re just hunting-killing machines. So what was meant to come across there was that they’re organized, they’re in a formation, they’re hunting, they’re sentient, they can talk. They still have intellect.

I’ll accept this premise as the show is in need of change, but I do have a problem with the idea that survival depends upon humans agree to allowing a vampire to feed on them for protection. All the new anti-vampire weapons which the governor stock piled in Louisiana might no longer be available, but there should have been some other source of these weapons made available over the past six months.

In other True Blood news, Amelia Rose Blair, who played the governor’s daughter who was turned into a vampire, will be a series regular.

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This low-resolution picture of three Doctors, (Tennant, Smith, and Hurt) has leaked out from the 50th anniversary episode of Doctor Who. TV Drama interviewed Steven Moffat. Here are some excerpts about writing Doctor Who, Sherlock, and Coupling

WS: When you succeeded Russell T Davies as head writer of Doctor Who, what did you want to do with the show?
MOFFAT: I just wanted it to be good. People always want me to have some form of agenda. Sometimes in desperation I say I want it to be a fairy tale or I want it to be this or that. I just wanted it to be a good Doctor Who. The thing about Doctor Who is it’s a different show every week. It speaks with a different voice on a weekly basis. It must be fast moving. It must be funny and exciting. Those were all present in Russell’s era and I hope they are all present in mine. I serve at the pleasure of the TARDIS [the time machine in Doctor Who].

WS: Was it ever intimidating, being responsible for such an iconic television franchise?
MOFFAT: You don’t really feel much pressure at the beginning of a TV series because you’re just making a home movie in a big shed! You don’t really think anyone is ever going to watch it. Towards April 3, 2010, [the British premiere date for Moffat’s first season as head writer] I started to feel the pressure a little bit. We were doing Sherlock at the time as well and Matt Smith’s Doctor for the first time, so Benedict [Cumberbatch] and Matt were waiting in the wings of fame. I remember thinking, if these two things screw up, I’m finished! I just thought, what if they’re rubbish? [Laughs] This could be a really terrible year. I could crash Doctor Who and screw up Sherlock Holmes and if I’d just shot Daniel Craig in the face I’d have ended all of British culture. But it didn’t work out that way [Laughs]. It was a very, very good year and they’ve been very good years ever since.

WS: You’ve had such a broad career in British television. Does writing sci-fi or fantasy flex different creative muscles than mystery or comedy or any other genre?
MOFFAT: I never feel as though it does. I never feel as though the job is any different. Comedy is good training for writing anything. It’s a very clear-cut proposition—you must be funny several times a page. Comedy writers, by instinct, are very severe on themselves. If there aren’t sufficient gags, in a wider sense of the word “gag,” in the scene then I’m not keeping it. It has to do something to the audience. But writing Coupling doesn’t feel different from writing Doctor Who.

WS: Why did you want to put Sherlock Holmes in a modern-day setting?
MOFFAT: [British actor and screenwriter] Mark Gatiss and myself are huge Sherlock Holmes fans. We adore and worship those stories above all literature. Going back and forth from [filming] Doctor Who—we were both writers on it when Russell was running it—we were talking on the train about Sherlock Holmes. We got to talking about the many wonderful movies and the many terrible movies, which are almost more entertaining. We admitted shyly to each other that our favorites were the updated Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce movies [produced in the U.S. in the 1940s]. Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce did two Victorian-set adventures and then they did 12 updated ones. At the time people criticized them terribly—How dare you update Sherlock Holmes? The fact is, those cheaply made updated adventures are just a bit more fun. They somehow seemed to capture more of the pulpy fun of the original stories. So what we said to each other was, “Some day someone is going to think of doing that again. And when they do they’ll have a huge hit. And when they have that huge hit we’ll be very, very cross because we should have done it.” And then we’d leave the conversation! My wife, Sue, who is also a television producer, said, Why don’t you just do it? So she made us sit down and explain Sherlock Holmes to her. She knows nothing of the Sherlock books but she was instantly interested. She literally got us in a room in London, where Mark and I sat and said, What would it be? Basic conversations like, What do they call each other? In the original they call each other Holmes and Watson. That would make them like a couple of public-school boys these days! So they call each other Sherlock and John. It became exciting for us when we realized how easily and properly it updates. In the original stories Dr. Watson comes home from a war in Afghanistan and is looking for cheap digs, so he moves in with Sherlock Holmes. He can come back from the same place now. In the original stories he wrote a journal, which fell out of fashion for a very long while until it was reinvented as a blog. Sherlock Holmes always sent telegrams in the original stories because he preferred the brevity of that communication. We’re back at telegrams—we call them texts.

Most of the adaptations have become about the Victoriana, but the original stories, there’s nothing in them that’s particularly Victorian. They are stories that are mysteries. The setting is just the world that Arthur Conan Doyle could see outside his window. I think by updating it you move the character closer to the audience. You move all the sepia-toned dusty Victoriana out of the way and you see him clearly again.

Coupling, which Moffat mentioned in passing, was one of the greatest sit-coms of all time. It sort of was a combination of Friends, Seinfeld, Sex and the City, and occasionally Big Bang Theory.

Some quicker questions for Moffat:

Rumour that JK Rowling is writing a short story for the 50th Anniversary.
“I can’t confirm that…, right now.”
A return for the Doctor’s daughter, Jenny?
“The door is open, it’s entirely possible.”Similarly, a return for Romana?
“I have actually given no thought at all to Romana. The Time Lords are dead in my mind. They died.”
Will Peter Capaldi’s Doctor have a Scottish accent?
“I’d be very surprised if he didn’t”
Moffat has also acknowledged that it has been established that the Doctor can only regenerate twelve times. Obviously they will not end the show when this limit comes. There was a throw away line when David Tennant was in an episode of Sarah Jane Adventures claiming 507 but the line wasn’t meant to be taken seriously. They already have had two events in the new episodes which could alter the original limit. As the Time Lords have been overthrown, nobody knows if the old rules apply. There is also the possibility that the Doctor obtained additional regenerations when River Song gave up her future regenerations to save the Doctor’s life in Let’s Kill Hitler. There is plenty of precedent for transfer of regenerative powers in Doctor Who, giving Moffat a number of possible routes around this. If there are only twelve regenerations, then Peter Capaldi’s Doctor would be the last with the ability to regenerate, and if the John Hurt Doctor is an actual regeneration, it would mean Capaldi is the last until the rules are changed.

There has also been speculation that the regeneration will occur in the 50th Anniversary episode as opposed to the Christmas episode. Much of this is based upon rather circumstantial evidence, but I could see Moffat going for such a surprise during an episode which is being broadcast at the same time internationally. Matt Smith’s hair was cut before the Christmas episode was filmed, but he might also grow it back or grow a wig. There are some on line references to Peter Capaldi starting on Doctor Who in November but such references for future shows are often inaccurate. One of the faults I cited in my review of The Name of The Doctor was that if Clara was seeing remnants of his entire time stream after the Doctor died she should have seen versions of the Doctor beyond the eleventh. If the anniversary episode begins in the Doctor’s tomb, there could be reason for showing the 12th Doctor’s face other than a regeneration.

Christopher Eccleston has declined to participate in the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who after he did not leave the show on good terms. He has offered to appear in the 100th when speaking at the British Film Institute:

“I love the BFI. I love the Doctor and hope you enjoy this presentation. Joe Ahearne directed five of the 13 episodes of the first series. He understood the tone the show needed completely – strong, bold, pacy visuals coupled with wit, warmth and a twinkle in the performances, missus.“If Joe agrees to direct the 100th anniversary special, I will bring my sonic and a stair-lift and – providing the Daleks don’t bring theirs – I, the ninth Doctor, vow to save the universe and all you apes in it.”

I will be looking forward to watching this in another 50 years.

Doctor Who makes it was to recast the lead due to regeneration but other franchises such as Batman periodically reboot with a new star. There has been considerable amount of objection to the choice of Ben Affleck, to some degree in response to how he flopped as Daredevil.  Twitter responses to the choice here and here.

Last week we looked at a few of the Star Trek technological advancements which are now a reality. There is a $10,000 prize for developing a Tricorder.

The above “honest trailer” is a hilarious and brutal look at Star Trek Into Darkness. It does include a lot of legitimate criticism of the movie. The segment in the second half on the problems with having brought Spock back from the future is a serious problem whenever there are variations on old episodes.

The implications of knowledge of the future has also been on my mind this week as I got to watching Continuum, knocking off the first season and starting the second season this week. Besides questions of time travel, contemporary political issues are raised (as Star Trek often did in the past). There is a future in which corporations have “bailed out” failing governments and taken over. Many questions arise while watching which would have been worthy of discussion in this blog while the show was airing, and I’m sure I will have more to say about the show when I complete it. For those looking for shows to watch during the summer when there are fewer new shows being aired, I would definitely add Continuum to the list of great shows from 2013.

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Who will be the monarch on Under the Dome? From SpoilerTV:

So, who is the Monarch? The obvious choice would be Angie, who became the latest person to suffer from seizures. Joe seemed to quash that theory, pointing out to Norrie that Angie’s butterfly tattoo is not a Monarch. But Angie could actually still be a candidate. “Of course,” executive producer Neal Baer tells. “She has seizures, she’s marked in a way that separates her from everyone else. She’s intrepid, smart and strong.”Unfortunately, that means Junior could be the king to her queen, or rather, the fourth hand. “There’s much more to come in the Angie-Junior relationship, especially when, in an upcoming episode, they’re brought together in a stunning way,” Baer teases.Though Junior seemed crazy at first — he claimed he locked Angie up in the fallout shelter because she was “sick” — now it appears he predicted this would happen. “Junior is sensitive to dome-ish things,” Baer says. “His mother painted pink stars falling in lines around him when he was a little boy, a precursor to all that’s happening now. Angie’s seizure confirmed what Junior felt — that she was different, like himself — though he didn’t know exactly why until she had her seizure, which confirmed what he felt all along: That Angie was ‘sick’ too; that she was somehow ‘touched’ by the dome.”

The show also introduced Natalie Zea playing a character from out of town who has been hiding out since the dome appeared. I can accept this once, but only once. The town is cut off. I hope they don’t go the Gilligan’s Island route and have people from outside repeatedly appear.

Natalie Dormer of Game of Thrones and Tudors has been cast in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 and 2.

New trailer for Agents of SHIELD above.

Tatiana Maslany of Orphan Black has be cast for a guest appearance on Parks and Recreation. I wonder how many roles she will play.

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All season we have seen staffers at ACN on The Newsroom being prepared for a trial which came after the Genoa story fell apart. We are finally seeing what the actual case is about. Last week a situation was set up in which Jerry Dantana was all alone in an interview with a general. He committed a major breach of journalistic ethics when he edited a tape to remove the key use of the word if, failing to appreciate the hypothetical nature of the general’s answers. Dantana, played by Hamish Linklater, will be fired and file a wrongful termination suit. Linklater doesn’t see Dantana as being totally wrong:

“He believes the story is true,” Linklater says. “He just needs to get rid of one word from this interview in order for him to have enough evidence to get the story on the air. … He knows he’s done something that’s wrong. He knows that he’s breached ethics, but he believes that, for this story, it was worth it.”Linklater insists that his character’s decisions are not motivated by ambition, but rather his ideals. “He’s trying to tell news stories that the audience doesn’t seem to have much of an appetite for and the network doesn’t have much of an appetite for broadcasting,” he says. “His beef is with this sort of lazy liberalism that he feels is in the staff and that kind of knee-jerk Obama fandom that he finds around him. He feels [they’re] apologizing for too many mistakes.”But indeed it’s Jerry’s mistakes that will bring the “News Night” team under fire. On Sunday’s episode, the “Genoa” story will air, and the wheels start to come off the train almost immediately after the broadcast ends. But it isn’t just Jerry’s fudged interview footage that is problematic. The episode will also slowly reveal the many other ways the story turned out to be false, which gives Jerry ammunition for his wrongful termination lawsuit.

“Once he’s found out… he knows the ax is going to fall,” Linklater says. “But he just sticks to his guns. He thinks that everybody was doing a sloppy job and that he’s been made the fall guy for it. It’s not fair.”

Related television and political comments yesterday on realistic versus unrealistic aspects of House of Cards, The West Wing, and Orange is the New Black.

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