SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, Thin Ice; The Handmaid’s Tale; Catastrophe; American Gods

Thin Ice had the most complete story so far this season, but the highlight of the episode remained the relationship between Bill and The Doctor. The episode dealt serious matters including racism and class, but it was the meta discussion of time travel and the Doctor which was most interesting.

The Doctor and Bill continued in their rules of tutor and pupil with Bill asking questions throughout the episode, also providing an opportunity to give some comments on the show in Moffat’s final season. This was Bill’s first real trip into the past and, being well-aware of science fiction tropes, Bill asked what the “rules” are. “You travel into the past. There’s got to be rules. If I step on a butterfly it could send ripples through time that mean I’m not even born in the first place and I could just disappear.” Her concern was that, “Every choice I make in this moment here and now could change the whole future.” The Doctor replied with justification for the often careless manner in which he interacts with the past in pointing out that this is, “Exactly like every other day of your life. The only thing to do is to stop worrying about it.”

Except for poor Pete, written out of history, and even deleted from the memories of viewers and from recordings of the last two episodes. We haven’t seen anything like this since Cold Blood in which Rory was sucked into a crack in the universe and erased from history. Perhaps Pete will return, possibly as another Auton duplicate, as Rory later did.

There was also repetition of the Doctor being a bit of a thief, along with his his limited control over the TARDIS: “I told you, you don’t steer the TARDIS. You reason with it… and successfully most of the time… She’s a bad girl this one. Always looking for trouble.”

Bill had more serious questions and observations. She noted that “Regency England, a bit more black than they show in the movies.” The Doctor replied, “So was Jesus. History’s a whitewash.”

She realized that there was a lot more to the Doctor than a university professor after seeing his lack of a response to the death of a child. She asked him how many people he has seen die, and then how many he has killed. He had no specific answers. He did say, “I’m 2,000-years-old and I’ve never had the time for the luxury of outrage.” I wondered how long it would be until Bill saw through that lie, and it occurred later in the same episode.

The Doctor had fun with Bill beyond his reference to Pete. He allowed her to watch the lights because she was having fun, and then mentioned seeing lights as a side effect of time travel. Later he told her to let him do the talking because she has a temper. Moments later he slugged  Lord Sutcliffe (also showing his capacity for outrage).

Of course the Doctor wasn’t entirely cold about the death of the boy. He just has seen enough to know when he can and cannot do something. His overall view was more humane: “Human progress isn’t measured by industry. It’s measured by the value you place on a life. An unimportant life, a life without privilege. The boy who died on the river, that boy’s value is your value. That’s what defines an age. That’s what defines a species.”

The episode took place in the Frost Fair of 1814, the last in a series of actual events when the the River Thames froze over. Being 2000 years old (or actually older if the events of past seasons are taken into consideration), and prone to hanging out on earth, it is no surprise that the Doctor was there before. A Good Man Goes to War reveals that he was there with River Song, with Stevie Wonder performing:

River: It’s my birthday. The Doctor took me ice skating on the River Thames in 1814, the last of the great Frost Fairs. He got Stevie Wonder to sing for me under London Bridge.
Rory: Stevie Wonder sang in 1814?
River: Yes, he did, but you must never tell him.

(As a totally irrelevant aside, Stevie Wonder was once dining at the same restaurant I was at while traveling to Washington, D.C.)

There was an old Companion Chronicle audio story in which the first Doctor, Vicki and Steven visited the Frost Fair of 1814. The Doctor also promised to take Clara to the Frost Fair in The Caretaker (and actually did in a novel) The Doctor’s lack of interest in rules of time travel in his discussion with Bill is consistent with his lack of concern for returning to the same place–which would be forbidden in other time travel stories. This includes the breaking of time in the Legends of Tomorrow season two finale.

Bill did verify that her trip did not brake time, and Doctor Who has already established that humans have an incredible tendency to forget the extraordinary events depicted on the show. Bill used Search-wise.net for her research–a site which actually exists for television purposes.

The Doctor and Bill returned to the Doctor’s office in time for tea, but Nardole figured out that they had been traveling in time when he saw their change of clothing. He did not appear to figure out out that he had no chance to win the coin toss. For the sake of continuity, he did make reference to how he was reassembled between The Husbands Of River Song when he was decapitated and The Return Of Doctor Mysterio. He returned to the vault where we learned that someone or something inside was knocking, perhaps the Master, except that he knocks four times. Knocking also foreshadowed a past regeneration.

The Handmaid’s Tale premiered on Hulu, with the first three episodes being released. The show displayed a very bleak future in which Christian fundamentalists have established a dictatorship. This would be more plausible in a Muslim country, especially considering recent events in Turkey. It seems more plausible here, and  especially timely, after the election of Donald Trump, with the lack of respect for reproductive right’s and a woman’s right to control her own body taken to even more horrifying extremes. (To be objective and nonpartisan, Democrats cannot totally place the blame on Donald Trump and Republicans for rightward movement in this country considering their lack of concern in nominating a candidate such as Hillary Clinton who has a terrible history on First Amendment issues, including separation of church and state. While obviously Clinton would never support the mistreatment of women in this manner, her work with The Fellowship while in the Senate did help facilitate the goals of the religious right in increasing the role of religion in public policy.)

Elisabeth Moss does an excellent job as Offred (presumably given this name as she belongs to Fred), who is forced to conform outwardly. The totalitarian society shows how those without power being under constant surveillance, appearing to have no chance to rebel, or even safely be themselves with others. Inwardly it is a different story: “My name is Offred, and I intend to survive.” Her internal thoughts provide necessary relief from the overall story. There are also breaks from the main narrative to see how America went in that direction. Martial law was initiated, supposedly on a temporary nature in response to a terrorist attack, and later women were prohibited from having money or holding jobs.

The supporting cast also does an excellent job, especially Alexis Bledel (renamed Ofglen, following the same pattern), who managed to portray with her eyes alone the horrors of what she was exposed to in the third episode. Yvonne Strahovski is also excellent. 

Showrunner Bruce Miller discussed changes in the television show from the novel, including what happened to Ofglen (with spoilers for the third episode):

You take the character of Ofglen (Alexis Bledel) in a different direction very early on in the series. Can you talk about the decision to have Ofglen forcibly undergo genital mutilation surgery and how that changes things for her character moving forward?
Miller:
In the book, Ofglen just disappears and we hear that she killed herself. There’s no real way to confirm that. This was just one of those cases where you just follow your curiosity and you say, well, what happened to her? And I was fascinated by the idea, personally, of seeing how some of the institutions were being reproduced in Gilead. And the institution of the criminal justice system seemed fascinating in a world with institutionalized sexism and misogyny and biblical laws that were being taken literally. So that kind of lead us down a path of, OK, if I want to see how all of those things go, it would be very interesting to follow those things to the end. And making the decision about the female genital mutilation was really just kind of a practical discussion. A world that happened by accident is different than a world people created on purpose and here, Gilead is a world they created on purpose. There’s motive behind it, human motive. So what we’re trying to do is say, OK, what would they do to someone like Ofglen? They don’t want to kill her or send her away. They want to maintain her fertility as part of their reproductive system and their focus on that. So how would they try to control her?

And also taking into account, Margaret Atwood has said many times and we’ve certainly took on this adage, that nothing should happen in the show that doesn’t happen in the world. We don’t want to make up cruelties just for the sake of doing it. Then it turns into pornography. It turns into violence. It’s commentary and it helps you understand the world if you take things that happened in the world. Female genital mutilation is certainly something that happens all over the world. The difference here is that it doesn’t usually happen to white girls, but it does happen all over the world. We spoke to the U.N. and we spoke to the councils they sent us to about how it happens and why it happens and what it’s used for and how it’s done. We took it really seriously. We didn’t want to do it for shock value, even though it’s very shocking. You want to do it because it seems like the thing that Gilead would do. It’s a difference in the book, but it’s also something that takes place out of Offred’s point of view, at least in the show and also in the book. So we felt like we weren’t straying so far because it was something that could have happened in the world of the book and could have happened to somebody else. But anything we did that was not in the book or anything we changed, we were incredibly serious in those discussions about why to change things.

He also discussed how timely the series is:

A lot has been said about how timely the series is. Do you feel any concern that, given the current state of our society, The Handmaid’s Tale might hit a little too close to home for many viewers who would rather avoid facing these ideas head-on?
Miller:
I’m not worried. I hope it hits a little too close to home for viewers who are feeling anxious, because I think there are some great lessons to be learned, which is that the world can change in big ways and we should be very mindful of keeping an eye on our freedoms. As in the show, we see in the flashbacks, how in big and small ways the world can change and the things that we say and the things people say, they’re going to end up mattering in people’s personal lives and that we live in a country where we enjoy lots of freedoms and that those freedoms are not to be taken for granted.

The other thing is that if it does hit close to home, it also offers some really good examples of what to do. Offred is in an incredibly difficult circumstance, and yet she finds ways to express herself, she keeps her sanity, she keeps her heart alive. She also pulls levers of power. She manipulates the people around her to both increase her chances of survival, but also to build some sort of life. She makes connections with people even when they’re scary. I think in a way that’s inspiring. If Offred can do that in that situation, maybe we can do something in this situation. I think Margaret said it in the book, which is, “just do something.” And hopefully you walk away with that. And the other part is that there is a part of doe-eyed optimism on my part, when you look in the flashbacks, the world is so jarringly different. Our messy, noisy world where people are kissing in public and on their iPhones and stuff, you learn to appreciate it, or at least I did. Spending so much time in the fictional world of Gilead, you learn to appreciate how nice it is to have a messy, noisy world and what a pleasure that is. So if you walk out of there going boy, we actually have a good thing going even though it annoys us sometimes, that’s the nerve you want to hit, which is people saying, “Oh, actually there are some good things. Let’s fight to preserve them.” As opposed to, “Things are sh–ty, let’s just throw up our hands and abandon them.

While there were changes from the book, he also discussed how he consulted Margaret Atwood in an interview with Time:

The show definitely expands on what’s happened in the book. You get more backstory. You get to see what happens from the perspective of other characters. How did you decide what to expand and why, and did you discuss those decisions with Margaret Atwood at all?

Everything’s been a conversation with Margaret. It’s very unusual with something this iconic that you would have the author still living. Margaret is an expert in her own way of seeing this particular piece of work adapted: It’s been a play, opera, movie. So she had a lot of experience with what things need to change for different forms for this story. Where I might have had trepidation changing things because of my affection for the book, she certainly did not.

If we changed something, we did it thoughtfully and for a reason. We discussed the repercussions of each change with Margaret. It’s been a very active conversation back and forth. And I’ve been through the story a lot. We’ve picked it apart in the writers’ room. Elisabeth, in particular, has been through the book and educated herself to the nth degree. She’s memorized whole sections of it. So we took great care, and most of the changes we’ve made were actually extrapolations: Taking a thing that was a sentence in the book and turning it into a whole episode.

While Handmaid’s Tale is a must-see show this season, it is disturbing and bleak. My wife and I found that comic relief was necessary after watching three episodes. Fortunately Amazon has released the third season of Catastrophe. If  you haven’t seen this, I recommend going back to the start. Each season takes under three hours to watch. It is sort of like doing You’re The Worst with older, but still highly flawed people, and setting it in the U.K.

For the benefit of those who watched the second season, the events at the end of the final episode have considerable impact as the third season began. A similar formula was used, with an event at the tend of the final episode of the third season likely to have further ramifications in the fourth. Fortunately the series was renewed for both a third and fourth season at the same time, so we will see where this goes.

Sadly, the series has become of significance for science fiction. Carrie Fisher reprised her role as Rob’s mother in an episode which ironically dealt with death and loss. This was the role she was filming before flying from London to Los Angeles the day she had her fatal heart attack. A tribute to Carrie Fisher was attacked to the episode.

The highly anticipated premiere of American Gods is on tonight. (Gillian Anderson in the above picture.) Bryan Fuller and Michael Green discussed the show with Uproxx:

The novel tackles just about every Big Theme there is: politics, religion, modernity, sexuality. Do you two think about America in these grand terms as well?

Fuller: It’s hard not to think of America in grand terms in the current political climate because the country has shit the bad. We’re facing a violent time of great crisis, and that calls into question what we believe in, where we’ve placed our faith, how we navigate the secular and the search for something more meaningful. Then there are those who are not searching, because they’ve made up their minds that they’ve experienced the extent of the world that they need to, and have no cause to look further. That’s so limited and narrow of an approach to living, so you’ve got to challenge people on what they believe. Challenge the conservative Christians who don’t understand the concept of Christianity, or else they’d never pair those two words together.

Green: The book is sexual, and that’s nothing we’d ever shy away from, but we wanted to make sure our depiction of sexuality would be relevant to the show. Where nudity becomes dicy for me, as a viewer, is when it’s cuttable. That’s the definition of ‘gratuitous,’ when it doesn’t need to be there to enhance enjoyment of the show. And that’s not the show we set out to make. We wanted all the sexuality to be grounded in character, so you can’t tell Bilquis’ story without the scene. We wanted to do the scene between Salim and the djinn with fidelity to the book, but also give a graphic depiction of gay sex that no one could say wasn’t beautiful. We wanted to show the majesty of this religious experience mediated by sex, and put it beyond judgement from those viewers who usually feel uncomfortable with same-sex depiction.

American Gods is a finite work, but the nature of TV is that when something’s going well, people want more of it. What do you think about the future of this project? American Gods has an end; does the show have one as well?

Fuller: I think the show should have an end, but that does not mean the show cannot spawn other shows that live on beyond the scope of American Gods. If we were to secure the rights to Anansi Boys, that would be our first choice for a spinoff. We love Orlando Jones and what he brings to the mythology of this series, and we love the story of that book. We’d love to get our hooks into that and branch that off if this show ends up being successful.

Den of Geek also has an interview with Bryan Fuller which tied it into contemporary politics:

Thinking about Mr Wednesday, the figure of the con man has scarcely felt more relevant to US politics.

[Laughs. Loudly]

And to the US Media.

Well, you have a con man who is saying ‘let’s make the gods great again’.  There is a certain angle of that story that is much more resonant and relevant now than it was prior to the election in November. Being in post and watching those episodes as we’re cutting and putting them together was an interesting experience – to be watching the show before the election and then watching the show after the election and realising just how resonant it has the potential to be in that climate. Particularly as an immigration story, since both the Trump election and Brexit were platforms of anti-immigration and fear of the other and exploiting that fear in citizens, it feels like we are inadvertently tapping into a conversation that we need to have and continue to have as we figure out a way to celebrate differences and not condemn them.

This story is a ripe opportunity for social comment.

Absolutely.

In particular the idea of people being whipped up into a war whose only purpose is to further the power of a couple of individuals…

It’s tragic on one level and then on another level it’s an opportunity to take a look at where we are. Sometimes you have to take a step backwards to move forwards. It feels like with both Brexit and the Trump election, we’re two nations taking a step backwards. As disappointing as it was to see hatred and fear rule the day for both of us, it was a great disappointment to say the least, it makes it even more vital and important for us to encourage conversations and also to encourage the fundamentals of listening to somebody. That’s the biggest issue, certainly what’s happening in America, is the unwillingness to listen to somebody else’s point of view.

That’s something that I love to do, even if I violently disagree with somebody, I’m fascinated with how they’ve come to their decisions. Talking to people in the States who voted for Trump, and not wanting to shut them down, like, oh my gosh, you are supporting somebody who has bragged about sexual assaults and has a clear disdain for many groups of people, but instead wanting to find a common ground because what I think all of us found in both of our situations was that everybody made up their mind and there was nothing that was going to change them regardless.

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who; S.H.I.E.L.D.; Inspector Spacetime; Community; House of Cards and the White House Correspondents’ Dinner; The Americans

Time Wars

Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS was being hyped as the first blockbuster episode of the spring season of DoctorWho but failed to deliver. It’s not that I didn’t like it, but my exceptions were just too high for what turned out to be a bottle episode. One problem was that there were just too many plot contrivances. To start with the TARDIS was placed in basic mode so that it could be captured. Then how do we explain how the Doctor winds up outside and Clara is lost in the corridors? I might forgive these as necessary to set up the story, but similar problems plagued the entire episode.

The Doctor said not to touch anyone or else time will reassert itself. I have no idea what that means, and feel they are going too far in making up rules for time as they go along. I can forgive contradictions as to whether the Doctor can change events or meet up with his former selves on rare occasions in order to provide for a good story. I didn’t buy Moffat’s explanation as to why the Doctor couldn’t travel back in time to somewhere other than New York and meet up with Amy and Rory, but I’ll let that pass as we know the real point was a farewell episode for the two. Throwing out a new concept of time asserting itself based upon who is touched seemed like pointless and arbitrary timey whimey stuff.  I might have accepted a cosmic reset button to resolve the episode  if the explanation and story were executed better but entire existence of the  Big Friendly Button was rather weak. There were so many other questions, such as why did future burnt Clara attack everyone, and how did getting burnt make little Clara strong enough to take on larger men?

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The highlight of the episode was Clara running through the TARDIS. The scene of the TARDIS swimming pool would have been more exciting if we didn’t already know it was coming. This created expectations of more than a quick glimpse. I did like the TARDIS library but The History Of The Time War with The Doctor’s real name sitting out makes it implausible that none of the previous companions other that River Song knew this. This did serve to foreshadow the mystery of the season finale, The Name of the Doctor: “You call yourself ‘Doctor? Why do you do that? You have a name. I’ve seen it.”

I also wonder who would have the knowledge to write this book.  Besides reading this secret, Clara also heard the story of her two other deaths. The memory should be gone after the cosmic reset, but we also saw that from the Van Baalen brothers that not all memories were extinguished. I won’t even get into the nonsense of convincing one of the brothers that he is an android.

As has been common in episodes leading up to the 50th Anniversary, there were references to previous episodes. This included past sounds echoing through the TARDIS. Clara also found the Doctor’s cot from A Good Man Goes To War and the model TARDIS Amy and Mel were playing with in Let’s Kill Hitler. There were other things we have seen before, including a crack in time and (almost) an exploding TARDIS.

Quote of the Episode: “Don’t get into a spaceship with a madman: didn’t anyone teach you that?”

Above is the Behind The Scenes video

Next week, Strax, Vastra and Jenny return in The Crimson Horror. Dianna Rigg, whose roles range from The Avengers ( 1960’s BBC series) to Game of Thrones, guest stars. Here is an interview with her. A spoiler-free review is posted here.

The BBC has released the official synopsis for Neil Gaiman’s upcoming episode, Nightmare in Silver:

Hedgewick’s World of Wonders was once the greatest theme park in the galaxy, but it’s now the dilapidated home to a shabby showman, a chess-playing dwarf and a dysfunctional army platoon. When the Doctor, Clara, Artie and Angie arrive, the last thing they expect is the re-emergence of one of the Doctor’s oldest foes. The Cybermen are back!

Gaiman also did a far better job of revealing TARDIS secrets back in The Doctor’s Wife.

Clark Gregg has revealed how Agent Coulson will be brought back in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

“In the pilot, it’s revealed Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), the ultimate super spy, faked Agent Coulson’s death on purpose to motivate The Avengers. Some S.H.I.E.L.D. members were in on it (including, possibly, Maria Hill played by Cobie Smulders) but The Avengers were not. Their security clearance wasn’t high enough. Coulson was forced to hold his breath as part of the ruse and that’s a point of contention among his colleagues After the fact, Fury moved him to a remote location until things died down, and then he was reinserted into duty at the time of the show.”

I was hoping that we’d see Black Widow get in the shower and find Agent Coulson there, Bobby Ewing style.

Mayim Bialik of The Big Bang Theory will be joining the cast of the Untitled Web Series About A Space Traveler Who Can Also Travel Through Time. This is the web version of Inspector Spacetime with name removed to avoid copyright infringement against Community. Incidentally, Community had its best post-Dan Harmon episode this week with a Freaky Friday storyline. The episode was written by Jim Rash, who plays the Dean and shows he picked up a few things about how the show should be done during the time he has spent appearing on it. Rash is interviewed about writing the episode here.

The White House Correspondents’ Dinner showed the above parody of House of Cards, coincidentally the same week in which I completed watching the series on Netflix. The release of all thirteen episodes of the first season provided the advantage of allowing for binge watching. The disadvantage was the inability for blogs to discuss this on a weekly basis coinciding with most people watching as is the case with most television shows. Events became far more compelling in the final several episodes and I did wind up binging on the show this Friday night. Events in the slower-moving earlier episodes do become much more important. On the other hand, the shows leaves open much to talk about and it would have been interesting to read the views of others as the events unfolded.

MAJOR SPOILERS ABOUT HOUSE OF CARDS FOLLOW.

DO NOT READ THE NEXT SECTION UNTIL YOU COMPLETE THE FIRST 13 EPISODES

House of Cards might be seen as a completed story if seen as Frank Underwood going from being bypassed for the Secretary of State appointment to being chosen to become the next Vice President, which Frank wants to use as a stepping stone to the presidency. With filming beginning on a second set of thirteen, many things are still hanging which could jeopardize Frank’s appointment and perhaps lead to even worse consequences. The most serious would be revelations as to how he manipulated Peter, especially if the murder is revealed. Claire’s  legal problems could also create enough of a problem to prevent the appointment, even if the complaint was fabricated. I suspect that ultimately the season will seem more like the first half of a novel.

Initially the series seemed like a more cerebral, political version of Revenge. Later Underwood’s real plan becomes clear. When Underwood first set up Russo’s fall, I assumed it was in retaliation for Peter acting independent of Underwood, threatening to expose past manipulations. Presumably Underwood had planned this from the start, with Peter’s disloyalty  just providing the reason to put the final stages into motion at the time. When Underwood started to wipe his fingerprints off of Peter’s steering wheel I predicted what he would do next, but did it really make sense to murder Peter where security cameras might have shown him come in? Having Peter permanently silenced would be of benefit, but Peter no longer had the same ability to cause harm to Underwood.

My biggest nitpick about the show was the manner in which alliances changed so easily. Frank’s wife betrayed him and then quickly became loyal to their joint goals after returning home (a second way in which Peter’s death was of benefit to Underwood as long as everyone continues to consider it a suicide). More implausible was the degree of loyalty to Underwood showed by the President’s chief of staff in later episodes. I could easily see her performing a few favors for Underwood, even floating his name as Vice President, in return for his favor. It went too far with her actually scheming with Underwood and allowing the release of the secret schedule.

Other changes in loyalties were easier to accept. Backstabbing by underlings such as Remy didn’t come as much of a surprise. Zoe is far more interesting as a reporter digging into what happened as opposed to the slut who got her stories by sleeping with sources. Best of all was seeing Zoe convince Christina to help find out what really drove Peter to suicide. There is no doubt that this House of Cards will start to collapse around Frank Underwood when the series returns now that his earlier actions are becoming uncovered.

END OF SPOILERS

The Americans started in a more conventional, weekly format on FX at about the same time as  House of Cards was placed on Netflix. The finale airs this Wednesday, with a preview of the episode here.  It is my favorite new series of this season, centering around two Russian spies who pose as as a married couple during the Reagan era. Their neighbor across the street happens to be an FBI agent. I won’t say more, recommending that those who have not seen the series pick it up from the beginning.

Finally, here are Conan O’Brien and Barack Obama at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner:

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who; Star Trek Into Darkness; Revolution; Superman; Thor; Captain America; Elementary; Sherlock; New SciFi Series; The Newsroom; Veronica Mars

Doctor Who Ice Warriors

Doctor Who brought us to the Cold War and the return, after forty years of the Ice Warriors. The episode provided a good, suspenseful submarine/Aliens drama until the problems got wrapped up too easily. At least this time the Doctor didn’t solve everything with the Sonic Screwdriver alone. He also gave a speech like many that James T. Kirk used to convince aliens to play nice on Star Trek. The cold war backdrop and idea of mutually assured destruction did provide a good backdrop for the discussions with Grand Marshall Skaldac over whether he would destroy the earth. (Spoiler: Earth was spared.) Professor Grisenko provided a second surrogate Doctor.

Mark Gatiss showed us what is inside of the Ice Warrior’s suit and solved the perpetual problem which is present in many episodes of why the Doctor doesn’t use the TARDIS during a crisis to overcome a problem. There was some mumbo jumbo about the TARDIS’s Hostile Action Displacement System (not seen since the Patrick Troughton) has been reactivated to take the TARDIS elsewhere to remain safe. This raises two other problems. How does the TARDIS’s translation matrix continue to work after the TARDIS is gone and  how does the Doctor get to the South Pole, where the TARDIS rematerialized? Will there be reference to their adventures getting to the South Pole next week?  (I’m still wondering how Amy and Rory got back to earth after the Doctor left them behind at the end of A Good Man Goes to War.)

There were no clear clues to the Clara mystery but one exchange might be significant. When faced with the threat of World War III being set off Clara pointed out, “The world didn’t end in 1983, or I wouldn’t be here?” The Doctor responded, “History’s in flux, it can be unwritten.” Does that apply to the fate of the girl who died twice?

This week’s behind the scene video is available here.

Jenna-Louise Coleman had some hints on the Clara mystery in an interview with TV Guide:

In a way, Clara is connected with the 50th anniversary. We saw in the Christmas episode that her birthday is Nov. 23, the same date that Doctor Who first aired.
Coleman:
  In the Christmas episode, I didn’t know why that was the case. But again, we will find out by the end of this series. But it’s really exciting — [the season finale] is phenomenal.  My spine was tingling when I read it. Again, I’m teasing your so badly here, but there’s the beginning opening sequence, which [is]  kind of building up into the 50th. It’s just huge.

She also discussed her relationship with the TARDIS:

You get to pilot that TARDIS in one episode. What does driving it entail?

Coleman: There’s a certain part of the TARDIS you go to, that liftoff thing. But you know, the TARDIS and Clara have a relationship. Actually I don’t think we’ve talked about this in interviews before. It’s something that’s running through the series. Instead of it being like, “Does so-and-so like Clara?” The TARDIS and Clara have a bit of a face-off. So, the Doctor is obviously bringing back somebody new. I think we’ve done a whole additional content scene of me talking to the TARDIS, and the TARDIS is making fun of Clara. They kind of have an argument. They’ve got a relationship individual to the Doctor where they have a dialogue.

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Doctor Who is filming the 50th Anniversary episode in Trafalgar Square as pictured above. Another cast member  has been announced:

Jemma Redgrave will be returning to Doctor Who for the show’s fiftieth anniversary special. She previously appeared in 2012’s The Power of Three playing Kate Stewart, daughter of the legendary Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart.

Jemma is part of a brilliant cast that is already known to include Matt Smith and Jenna-Louise Coleman who are joined by the returning David Tennant and Billie Piper plus screen legend John Hurt and Joanna Page. Filming is underway on the special which will be a 3D spectacular shown later this year.

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There’s a new poster for Star Trek Into Darkness and a new trailer will be out on Tuesday. There are still rumors that, while named John Harrison, Benedict Cumberbatch’s character will turn out to be Khan. Cumberbatch won’t respond to the rumors saying, “Umm, I play a character called John Harrison. I can’t say more.” Some fans who believe this will be a re-imagining of the Khan story are upset since the change in the timeline in the first J.J. Abram’s Star Trek movie wouldn’t account for a different version of the Khan story. Of course the same might be argued about many other changes from the Roddenberry universe.

On last week’s Revolution, after lots of hype, Juliet finally told Google Guy what was going on. Something about how they all died on the island and are in purgatory, with no explanation of the flash forward. Actually there was something about viruses which only eat electricity and reproduce, sort of like Tribbles. I’m not very hopeful about the show, seeing it take a trajectory closer to that of FlashForward than Lost.  I do wonder what type of genre show Elizabeth Mitchell will be in next and what type of doctor or scientist she will play.

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Man of Steel is featured on the cover of Entertainment Weekly, along with mention of other genre (and non-genre) movies:

This week’s cover story reveals how the new film (out June 14) attempts to humanize the superhuman by finding new flaws and vulnerabilities. The most common one, however, was off the table: “I’ll be honest with you, there’s no Kryptonite in the movie,” says director Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen) Those glowing green space rocks – Superman’s only crippling weakness – have turned up so often as a plot point in movies, the only fresh option was not to use it. Anyway, if you want to make an audience relate to a character, a galactic allergy isn’t the way to do it.

Henry Cavill (Immortals), the latest star to wear the red cape, instead plays a Superman who isn’t fully comfortable with that god-like title. This film reveals that even on Krypton, young Kal-El was a special child, whose birth was cause for alarm on his home planet. (More on that in the magazine) And once on Earth, his adoptive parents, Ma and Pa Kent (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane), urge him not to use his immense strength – even in dire emergencies — warning that not every human would be as accepting of him as they are. So Clark Kent grows up feeling isolated, longing for a connection to others, and constantly hiding who he is. As a result, Man of Steel presents the frustrated Superman, the angry Superman, the lost Superman. “Although he is not susceptible to the frailties of mankind, he is definitely susceptible to the emotional frailties,” Cavill says.

That’s just the set-up. Once the Kryptonian villain General Zod (Boardwalk Empire’s Michael Shannon) arrives to threaten the Earth, eventually the passionate Superman steps forward, too. It helps that he has a reason to care about the home he’s defending, and we can all thank Amy Adams’ Lois Lane for that. “I think she’s very transient. She’s ready to pick up and go at a moment’s notice,” Adams says of the hard-bitten journalist. “I think that definitely could be part of what she sees in Superman — not really laying down roots, not developing trust.”

Iron Man 3 will include a trailer for Thor: The Dark World. Screenrant has some information on Thor 2 along with Captain America 2.

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I gave up on watching Elementary earlier this season but might return to it after reading that Natalie Dormer of The Tudors and Game of Thrones will be playing Irene Adler in a three episode arc which begins May 9. It will be interesting to see how she compares to Lara Pulver’s (often nude) portrayal of her in Sherlock. Dormer has shown in The Tudors that she would have no qualms in topping Adler’s scenes if allowed on broadcast television. Henry Cavill, who is staring in Superman, also had a major role on The Tudors.

It was previously announced that the first episode of season 3 of Sherlock will be entitled The Empty Hearse. It has now been announced that the second episode will be entitled The Sign of Three.

Syfy has seven new series being considered, some of which are hard science fiction. These are in addition to Ron Moore’s upcoming series about a disease outbreak entitled Helix.

Orion
The space opera centers on Orion, an adventurous female relic hunter who tracks down valuable artifacts while trying to piece together her past. Set amid an intergalactic war pitting humans against a terrifying alien race, Orion must decide whether to use her abilities to save herself or commit to the cause and unearth long hidden artifacts that could free all of humanity from a horrible fate. Ron Milbauer and Terri Hughes Burton (Alphas) will write and executive produce, with George Krstic and Ryuhei Kitamura on board as co-executive producers. F.J. Desanto will serve as a supervising producer on the UCP project.

Sojourn
The first detective ever in space is tasked with investigating a murder on a starship — headed to colonize another planet –­ and instead becomes embroiled in a vast conspiracy involving a mysterious terrible crime dating back to the original launch of the ship 50 years ago. Phil Levens (Smallville) will write, with Blum (Paranormal Activity) on board to produce the Lionsgate entry.

Clandestine
After a clan of bandits are nearly destroyed and left for dead by Coalition forces, they take refuge in the nearest safe haven, a derelict Coalition starship floating in space. Once onboard, they masquerade as Coalition officers while continuing their criminal ways ­– until they stumble upon a shocking realization about the true nature of the Coalition. Todd Stashwick and Dennis Calero will write, with Hurd (The Walking Dead) and John Shiban (Hell on Wheels) attached to executive produce the UCP project.

Infinity
When an alien armada is sighted in the region of Pluto, the Earth government turns to a young billionaire industrialist — who has the only ship ready for interstellar travel — to greet the aliens and avoid a catastrophe. Powered by secret alien technology discovered on Earth in the 1960s, the ship engages in a firefight that sends them spinning through a wormhole into an uncharted region of space. Lost in the universe, the team struggles to survive as they encounter new planets and alien species, searching for a way back home. Javier Grillo-Marxuach (Lost) will write the Berman/Braun produced entry from Universal Television.

Silver Shields
When his father is slain by assassins connected to the government of the large nearby city of Pont Royal, farm boy Caymer journeys there to continue his father’s legacy as a member of the local police force — and to solve the mystery of his father¹s death. He discovers that his simple country view on life is at odds with the big city, filled with orcs and other magical creatures. Robert Hewitt Wolfe (Alphas) will write and executive produce the UCP effort alongside producer Aaron Kaplan.

Shelter  
A massive meteorite is headed toward Earth, forcing 30,000 hand-picked humans to live underground in a government-funded shelter in order to start a new society. What begins as a Utopia quickly succumbs to the old human faults and jealousies as certain members of society create alliances to gain favor and power. Meanwhile, things on the surface are not what they seem. Humans slowly realize that this event may have been fated and the survivors meant for a greater purpose in rebooting life on Earth. Bruce Joel Rubin (Deep Impact) will write and executive produce the UCP project with writer/co-executive producer/writer Ari Rubin.

Dominion (working title, formerly known as Legion)
The effort, based on the feature film Legion produced by Bold Films, is set 20 years after evil angels have descended from heaven to lay waste to the human souls they felt God had favored over them. A reluctant “savior” must arise to protect Vega, the last remaining stronghold of humanity. The savior has more to fear than just angels, as the elites of this new society conspire to gain power for themselves. Vaun Wilmott (Sons ofAnarchy) will write and co-executive the Sony Pictures TV project, with ScottStewart (Defiance) attached to direct and executive produce. David Lancaster will EP as well.

The reboot of Blake’s 7 has also been received a thirteen episode order. I’m surprised that it has taken this long to bring this classic back. A reboot does make more sense than continuing the original but I would have loved to see how they might have managed to continue after the events of the original show’s finale.

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Yvonne Strahovski will be reprising her role as Hannah McKay on the final season of Dexter. We can expect lots of flowers and murder.

HBO has announced that Aaron Sorkin’s show The Newsroom will return on July 14.

Last month I mentioned contributing to the Kickstart campaign to finance a Veronica Mars movie. They wound up raising 5.7 million. The bulk of this came from people other than myself.

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who News; Dinosaurs on a Spaceship; Jenna-Louise Coleman; Star Trek; SHIELD; Scarlett Johansson at Democratic Convention

This week’s episode of Doctor Who, Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, was a lighter episode which delivered exactly what was promised: dinosaurs on a spaceship. It was not a major episode, but the idea of having dinosaurs on a spaceship sure does appeal to the inner Leonard Hofstadter of every genre fan. There was another bonus: the Doctor got a gang. He actually did the same for A Good Man Goes To War, but at least the Doctor seemed to think he was having fun doing something new.

The show was not intended to be a major episode in the (not entirely consistent) continuity of Doctor Who, but it did raise some questions in my mind. What does it mean for a time traveler to have died–or in this case appeared to have died? When Commissioner Gordon wants to summon Batman, there are no timey-whimey matters to be concerned about. Both Commissioner Gordon and Batman are on the same time line and the dates of the attempt to contact Batman and Batman’s calendar totally coincide. When the people of 2367 AD sent a request for help to the Doctor, why did it happen to reach the Doctor at some point following his adventures in Asylum of Daleks as opposed to another time in his life–especially as the Doctor was now thought to be dead? On the other hand, while they apparently knew the Doctor lived, a computer in this episode was unable to find information on the value of the Doctor because of the belief that he was dead.

There’s also the question of the Doctor’s changing attitude towards the villains he encounters. The Doctor witched the signals of the Silurian ship and Solomon’s ship, causing the missiles to target and certainly kill Solomon. There have been clear differences between different regenerations of the Doctor in his attitude towards killing, considering previous episodes in which the Doctor tried to save Davros and the Master.

I also have my doubts about the possibility of a beach on a spaceship, but who are we to question advanced technology?

Perhaps it is nitpicking such as this which is directed towards Steven Moffat on his Twitter account (as opposed to generally supportive blogs) which led Moffat to close his Twitter page.

Some of the blog criticism this week went beyond nitpicking of this nature. S.E. Smith objected to how women are handled by Moffat over at Think Progress. I think she is confusing the subservient roles inherent to supportive characters with Moffat’s view of women. I don’t see Amy Pond playing second fiddle to the Doctor as making her weak. We don’t see most of her family because of the nature of her back story. Instead her life beyond the Doctor primarily consists of her relationship with Rory. If you want to see how Moffat is capable of writing strong women, check out Coupling, one of the best sit-coms ever written. (Definitely watch the U.K. version as opposed to the attempt of a US network to handle Moffat’s creation.) The character Steve Taylor was largely based upon Moffat himself. Steve’s girlfriend, Susan Walker, was neither weak nor subservient to Steve. Anyone now want to accuse Moffat of writing weak male characters?

We all know about the big event to take place this year–so big that the ancient Mayan calendar chose this for the end date. Moffat provided SFX with some hits as to what it will mean for the Doctor to change companions this season:

“We are going to do the story properly of the Doctor having lost a friend and making a new one. We’re not taking that lightly. It’s not in one door out the other. It’s the story of how all that affects him, why he engages with somebody else and what’s going on with that – that’s all important.

“What does Jenna bring to it? It’s surprising just how much the show changes with a new co-star. The Doctor is quite different with her, and the way you watch them is quite different. You watched the Eleventh Doctor and Amy arrive together. It’s like they grew up in the same sandpit, playing. They felt not quite like equals – the Doctor never feels like an equal to his companion – but you knew them equally well and they were equally important to each other. They formed around each other. And one of the interesting things about writing the Doctor is that he’s so responsive to the people around him. It’s almost like left on his own his personality would slowly disintegrate. He becomes what people want him to be, a little bit. So he’s Amy’s Raggedy Doctor.

“With a different companion he becomes a slightly different man. He dresses differently. The mere fact that he’s so much taller than her suddenly reveals that Matt Smith is very tall, not, as people assume, about average height, because he was about the same height as Karen. He’s the senior man, not in the sense that he’s more important but he’s the one you know already, and he’s training up a new one, as it were. In these five episodes the Doctor is practically the adopted son of Amy and Rory. He’s gone from being the wonderful man from space – Space Gandalf, as he wants to be – to being that troublesome kid that they try and keep under control. They even talked about getting babysitters for him in one unfortunately cut scene. They love him, but they know he’s a big kid, they know they have to look out for him, check he eats and all that. Whereas with the new companion he’s back to being the mysterious spacefarer…”

We have also learned this week that Coleman is 5’2″ and stands on a phone book when filming close up scenes next to Matt Smith. Recent interviews have also suggested that Jenna-Louise Coleman will play the same Oswin Oswald seen in Asylum of the Daleks, and we will learn in the future how she wound up in that situation. If so, I suspect that the Doctor might come up with a way to get her out of that, as opposed to having already shown us the death of the character. Something close to that was already done with River Song.

The title for J.J. Abram’s Star Trek sequel might have leaked out, based upon domain names registered by Paramount. The suspected title is Star Trek Into Darkness. Meanwhile I09 looked back to the original series this week, presenting a list of 10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Star Trek: The Original Series.

Fox has ordered a science fiction pilot about LAPD officers with android partners. I am far more interested in a show of this description after finding it is coming from J.J. Abrams and J.H. Wyman.

ABC, which now has Joss Whedon ruling the Marvel universe, has ordered a pilot for a show based upon SHIELD. This does make the most sense as an answer for the desire of ABC to have a television show based in the universe of The Avengers. One cast member from the Avengers universe even spoke to the Democratic Convention.  Scarlett Johansson urged young people to get out to vote:

SciFi Weekend: Diana Rigg on Doctor Who; Elementary; Fringe; Star Trek; Batman

Diana Rigg, who played Emma Peal on The Avengers, and her daughter Rachael Stirling, are currently filming a historical episode of Doctor Who which will be airing in the second half of the season in 2013. They play a mother and daughter with a secret. More set pictures can be found here which contain some spoilers tying this story into previous Moffat story lines–an appearance by Jenny from A Good Man Goes To War. The Doctor is also noted to be wearing a bowler hat. No word if he thinks this is as cool as a stetson.

According to Doctor Who TV the episode was written by Mark Gattis and a little information was overheard involving Rigg’s character, Mrs. Gillyflower:

A line of overheard dialogue: “There is something very odd about that factory – nobody who goes in seems to come back out. And there’s never any smoke.”

Clara is kidnapped by Mrs Gillyflower, who takes people to her factory and does some sort of “process” to them.

Fortunately the Doctor believes he can reverse this.

TV Line has a first look at Elementary:

With Sherlock currently wowing the crowds on BBC One (and Stateside via PBS), the challenge for CBS was to cook up its own take on the iconic sleuth, ergo the NYC trappings and the gender switch for his No. 1. And while Miller’s Sherlock is every bit as cocksure and brusque as the one played by Benedict Cumberbatch across the pond (or Robert Downey Jr.’s big-screen incarnation), that doesn’t make his performance any less entertaining. (That said, while plenty colorful — and plentifully tattooed — he comes off as perhaps 20 percent less “alien” than Sherlock‘s Holmes.) Though Liu is in most every scene with Miller, Watson is required to spend the pilot being taken aback by her ward’s eccentricities and prowess and having her own inner demons sussed out by his hyper-observational skills; as such, she is only allowed an instance or two to “pop” in her own right. (And while I won’t judge her New York Mets fandom, I will choose to look sideways at her matter-of-factly receiving a cell phone call in an underground subway car. Possible? Sure. But rare.)

Nonetheless, Liu shows signs of proving a good match for Miller; surely her character will be fleshed out now that the initial groundwork has been laid.

To those proactively cringing at the idea of Elementary playing a Will They/Won’t They thing ‘tween Holmes and Watson, you will find zero indication of that being on the books; the “warm” closing exchange of the trailer posted below is not an accurate edit. We can only hope the inevitable cadre of ‘shippers don’t get carried away.

Any modern adaptation of Sherlock  Holmes now must be compared to Steven Moffat’s version (Sherlock) staring Benedict Cumberbatch. Benedict Cumberbatch will be guest staring on The  Simpsons.

Entertainment Weekly has a sneak peak at a poster for the upcoming season of Fringe, confirming what has already been said that the season will deal with the Observers’ invasion of earth. We don’t know if the Fringe Unit prevents this future from happening or defeats them in the future. Wyman  isn’t elaborating: “If I give you any spoilers, it will just force me to go back in time and prevent myself from answering this question. So if you wouldn’t mind, I should probably save us all the trouble and the potential paradoxes.”

Chris Pine on the Enterprise crew in the upcoming Star Trek movie:

“What I’m more excited about and what I think they did so well is that really the story is that much better,” Pine said, “and the journey that these guys go on is that much more.

“What they always talked about is that even though they’re a crew from what we know about the original team, the fun of getting there is following that journey to where they become that tight-knit crew.

“It’s no fun if they’re already a tight-knit crew,” he continued. “So suffice it to say, they’re still learning how to get along.”

SuperHeroHype has a lot of  information on The Dark Knight Rises including these items:

Director Chris Nolan on the time lapse between films:

Our story picks up eight years later, when it seems that Batman and Commissioner Gordon have succeeded—the Dark Knight is no longer needed in Gotham.  In that regard, Bruce Wayne has won the battle, but he is traumatized by what happened and doesn’t know how to move on from being the figure of Batman.  ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ very much deals with the consequences of his and other characters’ actions in the previous films.

Christian Bale on Bruce Wayne’s journey throughout the series:

In ‘Batman Begins,’ you see the tragedy and the pain that motivates this angry young man, who feels useless and is searching for a path—who wants to find out who he is and what he can become.  Then in ‘The Dark Knight,’ he’s discovered that path.  He is useful; he is doing what he imagines is the best thing for him to be doing in his life.  Now, we are eight years on and he has lost the one thing that gave him a purpose…until he is forced to deal with a new threat to the city and to himself.

 

SciFi Weekend: Casting Jenna-Louise Coleman; Amy and Rory; The Easter Dalek; Enterprise in Los Vegas; Hugo Nominees; Captain America; Titanic; Downton Abbey; Upstairs Downstairs

People who interpret the Mayan calendar as indicating the end of the world in December 2012 are mistaken. It is now clear that  the Mayans were just noting the transition from Karen Gillan to Jenna-Louise Coleman on Doctor Who. We have some more information about the process of casting Jenna. Material has been posted on line from part of the audition of Jenna-Louise Coleman for her role as the new companion. The material, taken from Doctor Who Magazine, appears to be Jenna acting out a scene with Matt Smith:

The Doctor and Jasmine are investigating a haunted house.

DOCTOR: So you saw it coming in here? What did it look like?

JASMINE: Grey. Sort of dusty. Like it was made of spider webs.

D: And it came through the wall.

J: Yeah, that wall there.

D: But you don’t think it was a ghost. Why not?

J: Because there’s no such thing as ghosts.

D: You know, a lot of people who saw what you saw wouldn’t still think that.

J: Obviously. Otherwise there wouldn’t be idiots who believe in ghosts.

D: What were you doing here?

J: I love this place. It’s… beautiful.

D: It’s falling apart.

J: It’s old. I love old things, they make me feel sad.

D: What’s good about sad?

J: It’s happy for deep people. You’d know.

D: I’m not sad.

J: Oh, you are though. Under all that talking and leaping about. Takes one to know one.

D: So you come here for… recreational sadness?

J: Yeah. In a way. Okay, why are you looking at me like that?

D: You remind me of an old friend of mine. Someone I lost a long time ago.

J: Down boy. I’m not her.

D: Oh, I know you’re not – I don’t believe in ghosts either.

J: Oh my God, what’s that?

D: Okay, just stay calm.

J: But that’s the thing I saw before.

D: Yep, and it’s coming towards us. I expect you noticed that. Say it with me – I don’t believe in ghosts!

J: I don’t believe in ghosts!

D: Louder! I don’t believe in ghosts!

J: I don’t believe in ghosts!! Will this work?

D: No idea, never met a ghost before.

Whatever this is, Moffat has said that Jasmine won’t be the character’s actual name on the show:

“Two things before you read it. Her name is NOT Jasmine. I don’t like the name Jasmine (sorry all Jasmines, I didn’t mean you) so I knew I’d never use it for real. And also, you might notice there’s a line snuck in from Blink. One of those self-consciously clever, writer-showing-off lines that anyone stuck working with me better get used to.

“So here’s a spoiler from a future that is never going to happen. This is the scene we saw Matt and Jenna perform in a dull little room in the basement of the BBC, which changed the future of Doctor Who. Now remember, this is nonsense, none of this is going to happen, no clues or hints. Think of it as series of hurdles we placed in front of an actress to check her jumping skills.”

After months of rumors (spread by Steven Moffat and Sophia Myles via Twitter), Sophia Myles now says she is not returning to Doctor Who, at least in the near future:

“Steven [Moffat] and I did talk about Doctor Who and I honestly feel – and I think he feels the same – that The Girl in the Fireplace was so special, I really doubt we could do something better together on that show. It was just so perfect and I would rather leave it at that, ” she explains in the latest Doctor Who Magazine.

“If I was to come back to Doctor Who, I don’t think it should be as [Madame de Pompadour]… but it would just ruin it to come back as anything else.”

However, Myles doesn’t completely rule out another role.

“Maybe when I’m old and don’t look anything like her. I’d like to come back in 20 or 30 years’ time as a baddy, and cause some trouble! But as for anything imminently? No. I think that would be inappropriate.

This might be a major spoiler (or perhaps major misdirection) from the first episode of the next season of Doctor Who: Reportedly a prop was seen of divorce papers for Amy and Rory. There are also reports of them getting along well in scenes from episode 3, so if true early-season conflict between the two might get resolved.

Via the TARDIS Newsroom, here’s the Easter Dalek.

The big thing we learned about the alternate universe on Fringe is that they have different superheroes, and no Batman. It was obvious that Agent Lee was interested in Olivia in our universe. Now that she is reunited with Peter, is he heading into a relationship with Fauxlivia?

On Awake, Britten wound up working with Dr. Lee on a police case (although part of their contact was real, and part induced by a drug–or  was Britten  having hallucinations and losing his mind?). It might have been more interesting if they had Britten run into Dr. Lee in the time line where he sees the other psychiatrist and Dr. Lee doesn’t know that Britten knows him. Of course we’ve seen that sometimes things are quite closely the same in both time lines, and sometimes individual’s lives are quite different, so Dr. Lee may or may not be around as a police psychiatrist in the other time line. From the previews, it looks like next week gets back to the conspiracy around the auto accident which precipitated events.

Las Vegas considered building a full sized replica of the Enterprise in 1992. The story came out last week and can be seen here.

The Hugo Award nominees have been announced. Nominees for Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) include three episodes of Doctor Who and one episode of Community.

Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) (512 ballots)
“The Doctor’s Wife” (Doctor Who), written by Neil Gaiman; directed by Richard Clark (BBC Wales)
The Drink Tank‘s Hugo Acceptance Speech,” Christopher J Garcia and James Bacon (Renovation)
“The Girl Who Waited” (Doctor Who), written by Tom MacRae; directed by Nick Hurran (BBC Wales)
“A Good Man Goes to War” (Doctor Who), written by Steven Moffat; directed by Peter Hoar (BBC Wales)
“Remedial Chaos Theory” (Community), written by Dan Harmon and Chris McKenna; directed by Jeff Melman (NBC)

Television shows typically are recognized by the Hugo Awards based upon individual episode. Game of Thrones misses out under that criteria. The entire first season was actually one long story, but it is hard to pick an individual episode. Instead the first season was nominated under Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form):

Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) (592 ballots)
Captain America: The First Avenger, screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephan McFeely, directed by Joe Johnston (Marvel)
Game of Thrones (Season 1), created by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss; written by David Benioff, D. B. Weiss, Bryan Cogman, Jane Espenson, and George R. R. Martin; directed by Brian Kirk, Daniel Minahan, Tim van Patten, and Alan Taylor (HBO)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, screenplay by Steve Kloves; directed by David Yates (Warner Bros.)
Hugo, screenplay by John Logan; directed by Martin Scorsese (Paramount)
Source Code, screenplay by Ben Ripley; directed by Duncan Jones (Vendome Pictures)

It is difficult to compare an entire season of a television show to a single movie. Perhaps they should divide into three categories, one for individual episodes of television shows and other short form presentations, one for movies, and a new category for genre television shows.

A sequel to Captain America has been announced for release in April 20124:

Marvel Studios isn’t waiting to see how “The Avengers” does in theaters later this year. Following in the footsteps of “Thor,” the studio Friday announced it’s moving forward with a sequel to its 2011 hit “Captain America,” prepping it for a 2014 release.

Keeping the film canon with “The Avengers,” Chris Evans will take on the title role in the present, and not during World War II like the previous film. The events at the end of the first “Captain America” film, along with some storyline in the upcoming “Avengers” movie, bring super soldier Steve Rogers to the present.

The first Captain America film is of increased interest being the film debut of Jenna-Louise Coleman. A picture of her in the movie was previously posted here.

Although not airing in the United States until next weekend, I did get a hold the first two episodes of Titanic. Some of the information posted about the mini-series on line was incorrect. Some reports claimed that Jenna-Louise Coleman doesn’t appear until the third episode but actually she was present in the first two. Perhaps she has a larger role in the third. Some early reviews also described the mini-series as each episode involving  different characters, leading up to the ship sinking at the end of each hour. It is correct that each episode leads up to the Titanic sinking, but there is tremendous overlap between the characters. The second episode introduced new characters and didn’t include all the characters from the first episode, but it did provide more information about some of the major characters from the first episode.

The mini-series, written by Julian Fellowes, does have much of the same style as Fellowes’ show Downton Abbey. One difference is that the some among the wealthy are far less sympathetic characters–and in some cases their servants are even nastier.

As for Downton Abbey, there are spoilers for the third season:

What can “Downton Abbey” fans expect when the PBS series starts its third season in January?

“Matthew and Mary do get married,” ”Masterpiece” executive producer Rebecca Eaton said Wednesday at a Winter Park party. She previewed the British drama, which is in production, for supporters of WUCF TV, Central Florida’s new PBS station.

In the new “Downton” season, everyone is waiting for the arrival of the mother of Cora (Elizabeth McGovern), a character played by Oscar-winner Shirley MacLaine. They’re waiting for MacLaine’s character because the British family, especially Violet (Oscar-winner Maggie Smith), needs money again, Eaton said.

“There are some wonderful scenes between Maggie and Shirley MacLaine — Shirley MacLaine being as ditsy as ever,” Eaton said. “And Maggie barely restraining her sneer in having to deal with this American. Maggie Smith is a handful, it’s true. She’s very difficult. She knows her worth, and she’s tricky on the set, but she delivers when the time comes.”

Eaton supplied more teases: “Somebody will be born, and somebody will die, somebody pretty key in the cast, unfortunately not going to make it. It’s the 1920s now.”

The obvious speculation is that the birth will be a child for Matthew and Mary, especially as it is confirmed that they will marry. There are other possibilities. Perhaps Bates makes it out of prison and starts a family with Anna. It is also possible that Lady Sybel might be having a child. Those interested in seeing Jessica Brown Findley in other roles might click here to see her in Albatros. (Beware, the scene is not safe for work, and the Crawley family would really be shocked to see her flashing in this scene).

The cast of Downton Abbey includes Hugh Bonneville, who has appeared on Doctor Who. Alex Kingston has a role on the second season of the remake of Upstairs, Downstairs (coincidentally also playing an archeologist). I was aware that Jean Marsh, who has been on the original and remake of Upstairs, Downstairs, has appeared in Doctor Who and was curious as to whether many other actors have appeared on both shows. I was surprised by the length of the list, which can be seen here.

The second season of Upstairs, Downstairs won’t air in the United States until 2013 and is well worth watching. The season takes place as conflict escalates between Germany and Great Britain just before World War II, giving it a much more modern feel compared to the original, or compared to Downton Abbey.

SciFi Weekend: Karen Gillan on Graham Norton; Star Trek 2 Casting; Benedict Cumberbatch; Sherlock; Kristen Bell

Karen Gillan appeared on the Graham Norton show last week. She discussed leaving Doctor Who in the clip above. The full show can be seen here.

Star Trek 2 is going into production this week after conversion to 3-D. J. J. Abrams discussed the movie in an interview posted here. There have been many news reports regarding casting lately, including Peter Weller of Robocop, Noel Clark, who played Mickey Smith, Rose Tyler’s boyfriend on Doctor Who, and Benedict Cumberbatch who stars in the BBC  version of Sherlock written by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss. MTV interviewed Cumberbatch about this role, but unfortunately he was rather vague:

“There’s a lawyer standing here saying that I can’t say anything,” he joked. “I’m hugely, hugely excited and I’m very, very flattered. I’m very, very excited, but obviously I’m not here to talk about that. I will, in the future, I’m sure. I’m just getting my head around the fact that it’s happened. If you’ll forgive me, I’ll pass on that. But my headline is that I’m over the moon.”

Cumberbatch will take on an unknown villainous role in the sequel, for which director J.J. Abrams reportedly pursued Benicio Del Toro and later Édgar Ramirez. Although Abrams has refused to comment on exactly what villain will be in “Trek 2,” plenty of speculators remain convinced that the British actor will portray the genetically engineered superhuman Khan, originally played and made famous by Ricardo Montalbán in “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.”

While that speculation is common, other reports suggest that the Khan story will not be repeated in the second Star Trek movie by Abrams so we will have to wait and see.

Sherlock won’t air in the United States until May but the first two episodes have been broadcast on the BBC. So far I’ve seen the first, which is a lot of fun but in many ways more Steven Moffat than Arthur Conan Doyle. I don’t want to present any significant spoilers, but the picture above gives an example of what viewers have to look forward to in the first episode, A Scandal in Belgravia. For those who did see the episode and want Irene Adler’s ring tone, it is available here:

George Takei will be on Celebrity Apprentice this season. I still won’t watch Donald Trump’s show.

Kristen Bell returns to television tonight on Showtime’s House of Lies. From the promotional pictures, it appears that the movie has a low budget for clothing.  Talk of a Veronica Mars movie also continues.

 

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who– Petrichor, For The Girl Who’s Tired of Waiting; The Wedding of River Song; Upstairs Downstairs; Community; Inspector Spacetime; Fringe; Terra Nova

Petrichor, while not used as frequently as Bad Wolf in a previous season, has become the word of the season on Doctor Who. Before its use in Closing Time,  Petrichor was mentioned in The Doctor’s Wife, first by Idris, and later Amy Pond used it as a telepathic password to enter one of the TARDIS’s old control rooms.

Idris: It means “the smell of dust after rain.”
Rory: What does?
Idris: Petrichor.
Rory: But I didn’t ask.
Idris: Not yet. But you will.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R7Fl6Jwabwo&feature=related

Closing Time was primarily, but not exclusively, a light show in which the Doctor visited his old friend Craig from The Lodger. Craig is played by James Corben, who co-wrote and acted in the fantastic BBC sit-com Gavin and Stacey. The episode also included Cybermen along with a view of Amy Pond’s perfume for the girl who’s tired of waiting (video above). Ultimately the story really didn’t matter. Corben’s role wasn’t as good as in The Lodger, but I’m always happy to see Craig/Smithy.

Near the end of the episode, the Doctor, wearing a stetson, was preparing to meet his fate. He spoke to some children before entering the TARDIS, and then the scene shifted to River Song reviewing interviews with the children about what they saw. The final moments (major spoilers ahead) confirmed what most suspected ever since Flesh and Stone. River Song kills the greatest man she ever knew, and this could only be the Doctor. The episode ended with an adult Dr. Song/Melody Pond being forced into the astronaut suit and is next seen under water, presumably at Lake Silencio.Here is the final scene and commentary from Steven Moffat:

Next week, The Wedding of River Song. The BBC has released this above prequel scene:

The BBC reports that Alex Kingston is also joining the cast of Upstairs Downstairs.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kRPeqaZiQ-M

There was a second type of connection between Doctor Who and the Upstairs Downstairs genre of British television shows. On Community, it was claimed that Cougar Town was based upon the British television show Cougarton Abbey. This was intended to distract Abed until Cougar Town returns but Cougarton Abbey, like many British shows, wrapped up in a very short time. This led to Britta showing Abed another British show, Inspector Spacetime, seen in the video above. Who knew that there was a British time travel show a year before Doctor Who began?

Community managed to beat out the other Thursday night genre comedy, The Big Bang Theory, at least in terms of genre references. Besides including references to Cougar Town, Downton Abbey, and Doctor Who, the episode also had an  homage to the ending of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Last week Fringe returned. Not only don’t we know where Peter Bishop is, everything else we knew could be changed in this timeline where adult Peter never existed. We already saw that Walter is somewhat different, never leaving his lab. There could be even bigger differences, such as perhaps characters who died in past seasons such as alt-Broyles still being alive.

Steven Spielberg’s latest television genre show, Terra Nova, starts tomorrow. The New York Times has a review. I’m glad that the show takes place in a different timeline, denying Sarah Palin the opportunity to use this as evidence that humans and dinosaurs co-existed.

SciFi Weekend: Torchwood: Miracle Day & Doctor Who: Let’s Kill Hitler

 

Torchwood: Miracle Day has now aired in the United States, Canada, and Australia, but will not be airing until Thursday in the U.K. This post does contain Spoilers, although virtually all of the major events in the fist episode where those revealed in reports prior to airing. Far less is known about the following episodes. The first episode primarily served to introduce Torchwood to American audiences who were not familiar with it, introduce some of the new characters known to appear this season, and set up the situation which the story is about. Miracle Day was the first day in which nobody dies, setting up a catastrophe for the planet as the population will explode beyond the numbers we can support. Length of stay will also increase dramatically in critical care units, creating a crisis for the insurance industry.

As with many science fiction stories, it is necessary to accept something which might not appear possible, and this is acceptable as long as the story remains plausible given the acceptance of the facts established in the story. I found it easier to accept the implausibility of a story where nobody dies when characters within the story also discussed how implausible this is, considering the wide variety of situations which might lead to death. Once the premise of the show was accepted, I had more difficulty believing another aspect– that Oswald Danes would be released because of not dying during his scheduled execution. While in a sense he did serve out his sentence, he was also a convicted child killer. Even if a governor was susceptible to bullying by someone such as Danes. any real governor would be far more concerned about the public’s response to releasing someone who killed a twelve year-old and then said, “She shoulda run faster.”

It was not necessary to know anything about Torchwood going into this episode as viewers learned about the organization as the CIA did. Viewers of the previous seasons would appreciate the references to previous seasons such as Jack going by the  name of Dr. Owen Harper, a character from the first two seasons. Seeing how Jack retconned Esther was reminiscent of when Jack once did the same to Gwen in the first episode. The return of PC Andy also provided a little more continuity with the past. Is there a connection between the the 456 regulations mentioned in this episode and the aliens in Children of Earth being known as the 456?

There are many mysteries to be solved beyond the obvious ones of who is preventing people from dying and how they are doing it. Were they the ones who sent out the email message saying “Torchwood” and why was this done? Jack quickly shut this down with malware destroying all mention of Torchwood, but if he really had this capability I would have expected him to use it after Torchwood was destroyed and Gwen went into hiding. While presumably there is some connection between all of this and Torchwood, it is less clear if Oswald Danes’ survival was coincidental or if triggering Miracle Day on the date of his scheduled execution was intentional. While I suspect that Rex Matheson’s automobile accident was no accident, it would have made more sense to try to harm him on a day when he would have stayed dead. It would have also made more sense to fire upon Gwen’s home prior to Miracle Day, but perhaps they thought she would have turned into a blown up blob who could not have gone after them despite remaining alive.

While nobody dies, they can be injured. The immortal Captain Jack Harkness was surprised to find he could now be injured, with the possibility of his death being one twist in the series which was revealed before the first episode aired. Seeing that he could be inured does not necessarily mean he could be killed. A plausible interpretation might be that Jack has become like everyone else, who can be injured but not die. The preview for the second episode shows that this question might be answered next week (video below):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KznzaL_wCLE&feature=player_embedded

Rex Matheson has some bizarre ideas in this episode, from obsessing over the charges for crossing a bridge to handling the situation by trying to take Jack and Gwen back to the United States by force. If there was reason to believe that there was a connection between Torchwood and the Miracle, it would make more sense to begin investigating this around Cardiff (even without knowing about the rift). It might also have made more sense to try to recruit them to voluntarily work with the CIA unless there was more reason to mistrust the two surviving members of Torchwood.

We saw with Children of Earth that a continuing story has advantages over trying to come up with a new threat to fight every week. We will have to watch over the course of this season how well they continue with this single storyline. Besides answering the basic questions raised, and solving other problems which come up over the next several weeks, I wonder what this will mean for Torchwood in the long run. Will the organization be reestablished in the U.K. or will next season again have Jack and Gwen interacting with others as free agents? Hopefully we will see the return of Torchwood. It makes much less sense to have an ongoing series named Torchwood about survivors of an organization which no longer exists. I also wonder if some of the characters introduced this season will become regulars for future seasons. In the case of Rex Matheson, this might depend upon whether those who are still living because of Miracle Day remain alive at the end. I would expect that those who would have died due to chronic diseases and aging will remain dead, as well as those who remain severely injured when death returns. Rex Matheson could conceivably survive, with Miracle Day having provided him a chance to heal from his wounds in a way which would not normally have been possible.

The cliff hanger after the first half of the season of Doctor Who, set up in A Good Man Goes To War, is to be continued in an episode named Let’s Kill Hitler. A synopsis for the episode has been released: “In the desperate search for Melody Pond, the TARDIS crash lands in 1930s Berlin, bringing the Doctor face to face with the greatest war criminal in the Universe. And Hitler. The Doctor must teach his adversaries that time travel has responsibilities – and in so doing, learns a harsh lesson in the cruellest warfare of all.”

Alex Kingston discussed her role as River Song on BBC Breakfast last week in the video above.