SciFi Weekend: Arrow; The Flash; Doctor Who; The Fall; More Genre Novels Receiving TV Adapatations; Ascension; Community; Mrs. Wolowitz Dies; Porn Stars Explain Net Neutrality; Bill Cosby Rape Allegations

Arrow Black Canary Katie Cassidy

By now  most fans must have figured out that Katie Cassidy’s character is training to replace her sister Sara as the Black Canary, so there is no point in keeping this a secret. Publicity pictures have been released of Cassidy as the Black Canary. Marc Guggenheim has answered questions about when we will find out who killed Sara and has shot down another fan theory in a recent interview. The mystery over Sara’s killer won’t be dragged out over the entire season, but he is not telling exactly when we will find out.

The CW Network has released the synopsis of the cross over episodes of The Flash and Arrow, which will air on December 2 and 3.

Part 1: “Flash vs. Arrow”

“Barry is thrilled when Oliver, Felicity and Diggle come to Central City to investigate a case involving a deadly boomerang. Excited about teaming up with his friend, Barry asks Oliver if he’d like to help him stop Ray Bivolo (guest star Patrick Sabongui), the meta-human Barry is currently tracking. Bivolo causes people to lose control of their emotions and has been using that skill to rob banks. Unfortunately, the superhero partnership doesn’t go as smoothly as Barry expected. When Oliver tells Barry he still has a lot to learn, Barry sets out to prove him wrong by attempting to stop Bivolo alone. However, when Bivolo infects Barry and sets him on a rage rampage, everyone is in danger, and the only one who can stop him is the Arrow. Meanwhile, Iris is furious when Eddie tries to get a task force to stop The Flash, Joe and Dr. Wells agree the Arrow is a bad influence on Barry, and Caitlin and Cisco deal with a new team in S.T.A.R. Labs.”

Part 2: “The Brave and The Bold”

“Oliver, Arsenal and Diggle track down the location of a boomerang-wielding killer named Digger Harkness (guest star Nick Tarabay) but are surprised when they come face to face with an A.R.G.U.S. team. Diggle asks Lyla why A.R.G.U.S. is involved but she defers until Harkness attacks the building, killing several agents and targeting Lyla. The Arrow joins the fight and gets help from an old friend – The Flash. Harkness manages to get away and Oliver teams up with Barry again to find him before he can get to Lyla. When Harkness plants five bombs in the city that are timed to explode at the same time, both teams must come together to save the city.”

The above clip from this year’s upcoming Doctor Who Christmas special was played at Friday’s Children in Need special. Jenna Coleman is shown appearing again as Clara, and we do not know if this means whether Clara is continuing with the show next season or exiting the series as previously rumored.

Steven Moffat has discussed the past season of Doctor Who. With it uncertain as to whether there will be a new companion coming, there has been a lot of attention paid to his discussion of “changing it up with the companion.”

We actually have changed it up quite a lot, look how different those girls have been. Wait and see.

What we have is probably the most enduring form of the show and I think will always tend back to it for whatever reason, but there’s no reason you couldn’t tend away from it and there’s no diktat or special rule book left by Verity Lambert or something.

We absolutely could vary it. The times they’ve varied it, it makes them work hard – you can see them struggling with Leela. She was a great character but they had to civilize her fast because it was getting hard to fit her into stories – but it’s not a hard and fast rule at all.

Some of the bloggers at The Mary Sue disagree that they have changed it up all that much. Comments included, ” I know! Amy’s hair was red, and Clara’s was dark brown! So different“followed by, “And they were played by different women and it wasn’t the same actress in a wig so, right there.” Other comments included, ““And one wasn’t in love with the Doctor” followed by “Yes. One of them only flirted with the doctor. The others flirted and had feelings!” Maybe we’ll see “something really, really different” such as “curly hair.” On the other hand, the current formula works, so why be concerned about changing anything up?

The past season has received mixed reviews from fans, with more criticism of the plot holes in Moffat stories. What Culture has compiled a list of their top “face palm” moments in Doctor Who. While some fans are swearing that Moffat is destroying the show, to be fair to Moffat there were plenty of plot holes in stories before he took over. Examples can be found here, here, and here. Similarly, plot holes can be found during any typical evening of watching television. The nature of the show increases the risk of some plot holes on a show such as Doctor Who, but I also think the number is increased because Moffat often throws far too many clever ideas into some episodes, as he did in Death in Heaven. I feel he did a better job on episodes such as Blink in which he devoted the episode to just one clever idea and fully developed the story around it.

Michelle Gomez is hinting she will return to Doctor Who next season. She did too good a job as Missy to not consider using her again.

The Fall has started its second season, receiving excellent reviews, and Gillian Anderson hints there might be a third season. Netflix, which has the first season of this British series, will release all six episodes of the second season on January 16. The trailer is above.

There seems to be quite a few genre novels being turned into television series. Jonathan Nolan, creator of Person if Interest, is doing an adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series for HBO. I could see this working as either adaptations of the books or as stories set in the universe Asimov created. Amazon has announced their planned pilots for 2015 and the list includes a series based upon The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick. The alternative history creates a world twenty years after World War II in which the allies have lost. This could be another example of a series which might work by either adapting the novel or writing original stories in the universe created by the novel.

Ascension, a three night mini-series starting on Syfy on December 15 sounds like it could be awesome. Trailer above. From what I’ve read at various sources, the premise is that during the Kennedy years there were fears that humanity would not survive so an interstellar life boat was sent into space with a wide variety of people. The series takes place in the present, but the culture has not changed from the 1960’s, sort of giving us Mad Men in space. The mini-series reportedly deals with problems ranging from a murder to reaching the point of no return and having to decide whether to go on or to return to earth. Cast includes Tricia Helfer of Battlestar Galactica as the scheming wife of the Captain.

Paget Brewster

Community finally starts production next week and will be adding two new cast members following the loss of some regulars over the years. The new members of the cast will be Paget Brewster (above) and Keith David.

Carol Ann Susi, who provided the voice of Mrs. Wolowitz on The Big Bang Theory, died last Tuesday. No word yet as to how this will be handled on the show.

Glen A. Larson, creator of the original Battlestar Galactica, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century,  Magnum P.I., and multiple other shows has died.

Karen Gillan’s new series Selfie has apparently not received enough “likes” and has been canceled by ABC. CBS has canceled The Millers, which means that Margo Martindale might now have more time to reprise her role as Claudia on The Americans.

If you heard the rumors last week about Spider-Man’s Aunt May getting her own movie, they aren’t true. The biggest problem with the rumored concept was that the movie was going to take place when she was younger. If the concept had any chance of succeeding, they’d be better sticking with Sally Field, who just  might be able to pull it off.


Funny or Die used porn stars to explain net neutrality in the video above. Consumerist summarizes:

…three adult actresses — Alex Chance, Mercedes Carrera, and Nadia Styles — explain what it would mean if the FCC passes compromised neutrality rules.

“Without net neutrality, Internet service providers could create special fast lanes for content providers willing to pay more,” says Carrera.

Adds Chance, “That means slow streaming, slow social networking, and yes, slow porn.”

Ms. Styles slam neutrality critic, Sen. Ted Cruz from Texas, saying he “doesn’t want me to get naked for you.”

She also points out that the anti-neutrality drive is being led by wealthy older men and says that doesn’t make any sense since, “Old rich guys watch the weirdest porn.”

Ms. Chance compares the current, neutral state of the Internet to “a giant sex party where everyone gets to have sex with anyone they want,” but Ms. Carrera contends that, “Without net neutrality, that sex party is only for rich people.”

 Bill Cosby’s attorney has issued a statement regarding the recent rape allegations:

Over the last several weeks, decade-old, discredited allegations against Mr. Cosby have resurfaced. The fact that they are being repeated does not make them true. Mr. Cosby does not intend to dignify these allegations with any comment. He would like to thank all his fans for the outpouring of support and assure them that, at age 77, he is doing his best work. There will be no further statement from Mr. Cosby or any of his representatives.

Response from The Washington Monthly:

As I’ve previously noted, I certainly hope the allegations—some of which date back years—against Cosby turn out to be false; if true, every bigot who thinks African-American men, regardless of accomplishments, are sex fiends at heart will say, “See! I told you so!” However, as Boston Globe columnist Renee Graham notes, Cosby’s credibility appears to be compromised:

“Cosby settled a lawsuit in 2006 filed by a woman who claimed the comedian drugged and raped her in 2004, and he has never been charged with any crime connected to the allegations. Yet from comedian Hannibal Buress, who straight up called him “a rapist,” to countless slings and arrows on Twitter, there’s a sense that Cosby won’t emerge from this mess unscathed…

“Howard Bragman, a longtime celebrity public relations consultant, insisted on CNN that Cosby has “got to be willing to go on the air and go on the record, and say ‘These charges are not true, this is nothing I would do.’ ” So far, Cosby has done no such thing, perhaps already realizing his reputation is a lost cause.”

Cosby’s attorney says his client’s lips will remain sealed. We’ll see about that. Meanwhile, I don’t quite get why Rush Limbaugh is leaping to Cosby’s defense; does he think Cosby is a Republican? (By the way, remember when the right went after Cosby’s wife Camille in 1998 after she claimed that American racism played a role in the 1997 murder of their son Ennis?)

Again, I hope these allegations against Cosby turn out not to be true. However, if these allegations are meritorious, I think the lesson to be learned is: stop making celebrities out to be heroes.

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SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who Season Finale, Death In Heaven

Doctor Who Cybermen

Doctor Who followed up last week’s Black Water with an entirely satisfying conclusion in Death in Heaven. Steven Moffat has no qualms about putting in the big scenes with big ideas even if not entirely logical, but he did it well enough that only the most fanatic Moffat haters should object to this episode. Moffat certainly gave us quite a lot in this episode including The Master/Mistress, Cybermen, UNIT, reopening the question of the location of Gallifrey, and a conclusion to the Danny Pink storyline. Osgood returned, this time wearing a bow tie like Eleven (“Bow ties are cool”) in place of her Tom Baker scarf. Many episodes of Moffat’s stories have major scenes in a cemetery, and this happened once again.

As was expected after we found that Missy was the Master, or now regenerated as a woman and calling herself the Mistress, and that the Nethersphere was using Timelord technology to upload the minds of the dead, the claims about the dead on Black Water were all a ruse. It became necessary for the BBC to make this point clear before Death in Heaven was aired due receiving a lot of complaints about the claims about death in the previous episode. Instead of cremation really leading to pain felt after death, cremation just diminishes the size of the Cybermen army. What of those whose bodies had decayed over time? While they cleared up some issues from last week, are there now going to be complaints because of children believing grandma and grandpa were turned into Cybermen?

Doctor Who (series 8) ep 12

There was still more misdirection. Moffat lies, and he did it again in this episode, both with the teaser from last week and the words from the characters. He added to the mystery of Jenna Coleman saying there never has been a Clara Oswald in the previews by having her next claim to be the Doctor. They made this almost appear credible by giving her top billing, and using her eyes, in the opening credits. This  second time in which she claimed to be the Doctor (previously in Flatline) turned out to be a lie to fool the Cybermen, but it did create some momentary questions for viewers. This was not the only key lie of this episode.

People at UNIT did make some questionable decision. They did start out well, acting like tourists desiring selfies with the Cybermen in order to get close. Then they initiated their protocol in case of an alien invasion of earth and by drugging the Doctor before seeking his help, which is as nutty as Clara’s idea last week of threatening the Doctor to get him to help her after Danny’s death.

It made no sense to drug the Doctor, and then put him in charge, as opposed to seeking his advice, when he lacked any detailed knowledge of the forces suddenly placed under his command. It is worth ignoring this, and the other plot holes, to enjoy learning that the internationally agreed upon protocol in case of alien invasion is put all earth forces under a single President, and that the Doctor would be the chief executive officer of the human race. With all the animosity expressed by the Doctor this season towards the military, he is now in charge of the military, as well as taking on the aristocratic role which Danny Pink attributed to him in The Caretaker.

Doctor Who Death in Heaven Missy Osgood

Once on their flying headquarters, there were more questionable moves by UNIT along with insanity on the part of Missy. Missy’s killing of Osgood, followed by stepping on her glasses, helped establish how insane and evil she is.  When Missy made her move, I would think that Osgood might have been smarter not to have fallen for the old trope of getting close to the villain to hear her plan, the guards might have done something, and Osgood might have gotten out of the room as soon as she heard the threat. Besides, this all could have been avoided if they used more than handcuffs to restrain Missy, or even kept her tranquilized. Once the plane was under attack by the Cybermen, everyone else on board  might have run to the TARDIS for safety.

Michelle Gomez created a fantastic variation on The Master, along with channeling both Mary Poppins and Marilyn Monroe (Happy Birthday, Mr. President). The Master has often had an insane streak, but probably never to the degree seen in this regeneration. Missy’s actions did seem contradictory with regards to her motives. At one point she seemed to be trying to kill the Doctor, or perhaps she had no doubts in watching him from back in the Nethersphere that he would find some way to escape death.  That move of making it into the TARDIS while in free fall must be something he picked up from River Song. We later found that Missy’s ultimate plan was far different from when the Master really wanted to rule the earth in The Sound of Drums. This time the plan was more personal, and more insane.

Doctor Who (series 8) ep 12

Missy had no real desire to conquer earth this time, and was more interested in trying to prove that deep down the Doctor is no better than she is. Perhaps blinded by her own insanity, she thought she could tempt the Doctor by giving him an army. The nature of the Doctor has been an ongoing question this season, beginning with Deep Breath when the Doctor asked Clara if he was a good man. The following week, on Into the Dalek, the Doctor was called a good Dalek. This week when offered such power, his answer was, ” I am not a good man. I am not a bad man. I am not  hero. I’m definitely not a president. And no, I’m not an officer. You know what I am? I am an idiot. With a box and a screwdriver. Passing through. Helping out. Learning. I don’t need an army. I never have.”

It was also verified that Missy was the one who gave Clara the Doctor’s phone number in The Bells of Saint John, again showing her obsession with the Doctor. Just as she found it amusing to see the Doctor with almost unlimited power, she also found it amusing to join “the control freak and the man who should never be controlled.” This was also an important part of her plan to get the Doctor to the Nethersphere: “You’d go to hell, if she asked, and she would.” If she knew this, does it mean that she had intentionally set up Danny’s death?

Doctor Who Cyber-Danny

It is convention on Doctor Who for a character, including the Master, to have some changes in personality with each regeneration. While not going through technical regenerations, Cybermen on Doctor Who have been different at different times in the history of the series. This time instead of using Cybermen to blur the difference between humans and machine, we had a zombie version, in which the dead were used. This technique of creating Cybermen was not completely effective as love allowed Danny Pink to resist Cybermen programing. This did provide an easy solution to the problem, but at least did turn seem more credible when it turned out that Danny was not the only one to resist this programming.

In an episode which did see the deaths of two characters, Danny and Osgood, it was easier to forgive them for sparing Kate after seeing her fall from a lane. Earlier she had spoken to the Doctor about saluting:

The Doctor : People keep saluting and I’m never gonna salute back.
Kate : That was always my Dad’s ambition, to get you to salute him back. Just once

Matt Smith, playing Eleven, had once saluted Kate in The Power Of Three, and in this episode Twelve did the same for Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, now another Cyberman who resisted their programming. Of course if Danny could resist Cybermen programming out of his love for Clara, there should be no doubt that the Brigadier could fight off any alien programming, and would be there to save his daughter. While some are complaining that this version of the Cybermen breaks from continuity, the episode did show tremendous respect for continuity with its multiple references to previous episodes.

The episode also concluded the story of the kid shot in Afghanistan, with Danny saving him instead of himself. It was somewhat contrived to stipulate he could only save one of them, reminiscent of inventing rules to prevent the Doctor from saving Amy in The Angels Take Manhattan.

Doctor Who Death in Heaven Cybermen Zombies

Both Clara and the Doctor lied to each other. Clara claimed she would be happy with Danny, and the Doctor claimed he found Gallifrey when there was nothing at the coordinates he received from Missy. This could be seen as a final episode with Clara as companion. I have seen some claims that Clara will be in the Christmas episode, in which the Doctor assists Santa in an attack at the North Pole. If so, this may or may not be her last appearance in light of the rumors she is leaving after the Christmas episode. Maybe she will join the Doctor more intermittently, as Amy and Rory did after they married.

Clara’s story might not be over, but it also might become more complicated for her to travel with the Doctor. What about Danny’s great-grandson Orson, seen in Listen, who will continue the family business of time travel? Maybe the death of Danny has rewritten time, or maybe Clara is now pregnant with Danny’s child. Whether or not Clara returns, it is a safe assumption that the Master, either played again by Michelle Gomez or in a new regeneration, will appear at some time. There is plenty of precedent for the Master surviving anything, including being incinerated by the Cyberman Brigadier.

With or without Clara, I also wonder if Gallifrey will be a factor next season after being teased yet again–either a search for Gallifrey or actual encounters with other Timelords. I was wrong with this prediction about the current season, but Moffat often plays a long game, and very well could have a payoff for such teases planned for a future season.

The Doctor Who Extra for Death in Heaven is above.

Steven Moffat has answered some questions at a screening of the episode. Here are some of his answers from Doctor Who Online:

What made you turn the Master in to a woman?

SM: I’d never written a Master story, and there had been a number of Masters in the show from the amazing Roger Delgado through to John Simm, and I could never think of a way to do it which was interesting.

And then I thought, if you could smuggle her in to the show in plain sight and then land that one… and then once and for all absolutely establish in plain sight, so nobody has any doubt about this whatsoever: yes, Time Lords can do that… it just expands the show a little bit.

You get old time fans saying ‘no! You’re not allowed to do that…!’

And what about Disney fans? She’s Mary Poppins!

SM: Mary Poppins has always been evil!

I don’t know why. To be honest, it was a gimmick at the start – there’s nothing wrong with a gimmick – and I was really fiddling with how on Earth I was going to write it.

Michelle Gomez was on the list for a different part, and she’d been offered another part but couldn’t do it. But then I thought ‘Oh my God, that’s it!’ Michelle is so genuinely barking… I thought there’s never going to be a dull moment on screen! I’ve known Michelle for a long time, because she was married to Jack Davenport who had done Coupling. So I’d known her, I’ve gotten drunk with her, and she actually is like [she is on screen]. That’s toning it down.

So is the Master gone now?

SM: Yes.

I was delighted back when the wonderful Anthony Ainley was the Master back with Peter Davison, and he would definitively get fried, or incinerated, or destroyed at the end of each story… and he’d turn up at the beginning of the next one and basically say ‘I escaped’. I had no problem with that!

So… observe how I’ve avoided your question! What are the chances?

This is the first time that the Master has worked with the Cybermen…

SM: Oh, but the Master has met the Cybermen before. Would you like me to list them?

But why the idea to team them up?

I’ve never written a Cyberman one, and when I was a kid, I absolutely loved the Cybermen. They were my favourite. I mean, the Daleks were really my favourite, but I pretended that the Cybermen were my favourite to make myself more interesting. Which absolutely doesn’t work.

I’d always wanted to make them creepy and scary. I was aware that there is kind of a problem that the Cybermen are brilliant at standing there, and brilliant at breaking out of tombs, fantastic at breaking out of tombs – they’ve been doing that since 1967 – but when they stand up and actually arrive… they’ve a monotone voice, no facial expressions, and no emotions. That can be tricky. You sort of want to put them with somebody who can be the interface. But I love Cybermen.

I don’t even know why they’re great. The absolutely indispensable part of the Cybermen is that they’ve got handles there… I mean the idea of removing them would be heresy… But what are they for?

But I do adore them. Especially an old show called The Tomb of the Cybermen, which I’ve ripped off many times, it’s just perfect Doctor Who. Glorious Doctor Who.

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SciFi Weekend: Tuesday Shows Go Dark (SHIELD and Person of Interest); Sleepy Hollow; Under The Dome (“Nothing But A Giant Suck Hole”); Doctor Who; Outlander; Arrow; Gotham; Shatner Star Trek Rumors; If Ayn Rand Wrote Buffy

Shield Go Dark

Tuesday night featured the return of two television shows which have both changed for the post-Snowden era, Agents of SHIELD and Person of Interest. On each show the heroes are now working in secret, or even greater secrecy than they had operated in the past.

The premiere of Agents of SHIELD was not as good as the final episodes of the first season following Captain America: The Winter Soldier but did show promise of setting up a far better second season than the first was.  A couple problems from the first season are now solved. No longer can the team theoretically call upon the vast resources of SHIELD. This group is also easier to root for in the post-Snowden era. There is no doubt that the old SHIELD would have been listening in on our phone calls, reading our email, and have no problem with extraordinary rendition or even torture. That SHIELD no longer exists. We can dislike General Talbot as the nominally good protagonist (wondering if Bruce Banner is also in the neighborhood) and root for SHIELD in opposing him.

The episode started with a flashback of Agent Carter, including a glimpse of a green being in a box, suggesting the alien which was used to save Coulson, and later Skye (who works far better as an agent rather than the outsider) along with connecting to Guardians of the Galaxy.The show now makes mention of multiple Marvel characters, and included a super-villain, which gives the show much more the feel of being in the Marvel universe than seen in the first season. Lucy Lawless made her appearance as Isabelle  Hartley and lost her arm if not her life. There is certainly the possibility of her return on a show where two characters have returned from death or near-death, and now we have Dr. Whitehall, who hasn’t aged since seen in 1945.

While we don’t know whether Lucy Lawless will return, there is news that Adrianne Palecki of Friday Night Lights (and who almost became Wonder Woman) will be guest starring as Mockingbird later this season.

There were additional consequences to the events of last season beyond the breakup of SHIELD. Fitz is more interesting than last season now that we found that he did not recover from the lack of oxygen to his brain, and is imagining that Simmons is with him after she left. I would anticipate some recovery on his part and probably a Fitzsimmons reunion down the road. Agent Ward is also a bit nuts compared to last season, and may or may not really know anything about Skye’s father. I suspect he really does, and we might be in store for some Hannibal/Clarice type scenes between Ward and Skye this season.

Person of Interest s04e01

Go Dark was the strategic order from Director Coulson on Agents of SHIELD, and also describes the strategy Root devised with the Machine to keep everyone alive and hidden from Samaritan on Person of Interest.  The increased concern over the dangers of the surveillance state has been fortuitous for the show. Initially the Machine’s surveillance was primarily a gimmick to get the heroes into the story of the week, but last season the show transitioned far more into a series about the dangers of government surveillance and artificial intelligence in the wrong hands. The show has largely been rebooted this season, and shows promise of being even better than previous seasons.

Series co-creator Greg Plageman compared artificial intelligence to the creation of the atomic bomb at San Diego Comic-Con:

I think when we started out this show we were answering a lot of questions about the Orwellian surveillance state and people asking us if that was science fiction and now, in a post-Snowden era, no one’s asking those questions anymore. So what does the show become now?

I think the most interesting question in terms of our show and technology that is emerging is artificial intelligence. We’re living in a world now where not just nation states—Israel, United States, the Russians, whoever—are trying to build an artificial intelligent. The thing closest to this was the Manhattan Project, the greatest existential risk the world has ever faced: the development of the atomic bomb, and the race to get it, and who was going to get it first and what that meant in terms of ending World War II.

We are now at a similar crossroads with artificial intelligence. The only difference is it’s not just DARPA. It’s not just nation states. It’s a bunch of billionaires in their 30s up in Silicon Valley who are buying up all the artificial intelligence companies. It’s fascinating. Look up ‘Deep Mind,’ see what’s going on. No one really knows.

Harold Finch built a machine, an artificial intelligence, that he supposed was sympathetic to humankind. But what if someone built one that didn’t take that into consideration at all? And I think we’re dealing with the next great existential risk to the world and I think that’s something our show can deal with in a really cool way.

The Blacklist was among other shows which returned, once again turning what would otherwise be a mediocre show into a hit due to the presence of James Spader. Mary Louise Parker makes an excellent addition as his ex-wife.

Sleepy Hollow also returned with a strong season premiere. This is a series which I am reluctant to write much about as any description of the show sounds absurd. They manage to pull off its absurdities very well (far better than Under the Dome does). It is always fun to see what they come up with to tie early American history into their mythology, such as revealing that they key used on Benjamin Franklin’s kite is used to unlock Purgatory. As I said, it sounds like it makes no sense, but the show is so much fun.

Under the Dome Season 2 Finale

Under the Dome ended and the series could be summed up by what Noreen said: “It’s nothing but a giant killer suck hole!” The giant suck hole appeared the previous week after Melanie, a character who came back from the dead, was apparently killed a second time. In other recent episodes there was a tunnel under the school in which people could jump off a cliff and appear in another city, until Big Jim messed that up. Recently it became cold and nobody in town had any warm clothes to put on. The Dome started contracting, and when they began to time the contractions I wondered if next they were going to say the Dome was pregnant.

In the second season, and hopefully series, finale, everyone in town who could make it went through a tunnel where the giant suck hole had appeared. The final moment showed Melanie once again back from the dead, saying “Follow me, we’re going home.”But isn’t Chester’s Mill their home? If the show returns next summer, we will presumably see where Melanie leads them. I wouldn’t be surprised if they follow her, perhaps to an intermediate destination, and they ultimately wind up back in Chester’s Mill, like Patrick McGoohan trying to leave The Village. I imagine that if it doesn’t return, we can just assume that they escape, possibly coming back to rescue those who didn’t make it.

Doctor Who The Caretaker

On Doctor Who, The Caretaker returned to its 1963 roots at Coal Hill School, and Gareth Roberts, writer of episodes such as The Lodger, once again showed the Doctor attempting to blend in with humans. The killer alien story was weak, and primarily existed as a vehicle to have the Doctor finally meet Danny Pink. Along the way the Doctor got mislead when seeing Clara speaking with a fellow school teacher wearing a bow tie, thinking that she had fallen for someone who looks like his previous regeneration. While we had long been led to believe we will have another couple in the TARDIS, with Clara and Danny replacing Amy and Rory, it now looks like there once again might be two schoolteachers and a student, with Courtney joining along, at least temporarily, despite being a disturbance:

Clara: “I would say, yes, I’m afraid Courtney is a disruptive influence.”

Response: “Yeah, but last year you said she was a very disruptive influence. So I suppose that counts as an improvement.”

Courtney discovered the TARDIS after ignoring the Doctor’s sign to keep out, or more precisely, “Go Away Humans.”

The meeting between the Doctor and Danny Pink didn’t go very well. The Doctor continues to object to soldiers, apparently forgetting all the time he spent with UNIT, along with many other individual soldiers over the centuries. Danny sees the Doctor as an arrogant aristocrat, concentrating on the Lord part of Time Lord. He also wondered about about Clara (“Are you a space woman?”).

The episode also introduced another gadget for the Doctor, an invisibility watch. This raises the question of why this was never used on many occasions when it could have come in handy in the past, and whether it will be used again. Another plot hole which we will just have to ignore.

Among other top lines of the episode:  “You’re running out of time.” “For what?” “Everything! Human beings have incredibly short lifespans. Frankly, you should all be in a constant state of panic. Tick tock, tick tock.”

After not seeing this in recent episodes, The Caretaker also showed a character who died in the episode wind up in the Nethersphere, or perhaps Heaven.

OUT_108-20140501-ND_0513.jpg

Saturday night’s other time travel series, Outlander, got deeper into time travel in the mid-season finale. Frank heard of the possibility of time travel at Craig na Dun, and by the end of the  episode was willing to accept it as a possibility. In addition to seeing a poster with a reward for information related to Claire, there was another poster in Frank’s era seeking information about someone who sure looks like Jaime, suggesting that he might also wind up traveling in time.

It was surprising that a spy like Frank would fall into such an obvious trap when seeking information about Claire, but he was quite well prepared to take care of himself. He seemed to enjoy beating up his attackers too much, perhaps intending to show a comparison between the violence of his evil ancestor and Frank. Are we to question which husband Claire is really best off with?

The episode had a tease that Claire might return home. At very least she did hear Frank calling out to her through time, but it was intentionally left ambiguous as to whether Frank could hear Claire calling back. Just before getting a chance to return, she fell into the hands of Black Jack once again, with her attempts to deceive him failing. We don’t know  how Jaime managed to get into his window, but he came to attempt to save Claire just before she might have received an involuntary mastectomy. We will see what happens next when Outlander returns in April.

Arrow Oliver and Felicity

Arrow returns October 8 and Marc Guggenheim has discussed the upcoming season:

“He is going to get some new toys to play with,” Guggenheim said. “One of them is a new bow that looks identical to the old bow, but it does something that you’ve never seen before.” Guggenheim disclosed that the explanation behind Oliver’s new equipment will be detailed in DC Comics‘ currently unfolding digital-first series “Arrow: Season 2.5,” taking place between the second and third seasons.

While “Arrow” has traditionally been more grounded, the show’s second season embraced superpowers a bit more, both in laying the groundwork for spinoff “The Flash” and in Slade Wilson and his Mirakuru-fueld army that served as primary antagonists. With “The Flash” now its own series on The CW, Guggenheim stated that “Arrow” will return to a more realistic direction.

“We’re not really planning on revisiting superpowers or enhanced abilities during season three,” Guggenheim told Weiland. “We are really returning to the show’s roots of a very grounded world where it’s very realistic. We may take occasional artistic license with things, but for the most part, everything is pretty well and truly grounded in real-life things and real-life science.”

Another DC comic-based series began with the premiere of Gotham. I think we will need to see more to determine if is worth watching a show with Bruce Wayne before he became Batman. While it includes the origins of several villains, I think we will have to view this as another version of the legend, not connected chronologically with other Batman stories. While we think of the murder of Bruce’s parents as occurring years ago, Gotham appears to take place in the present (or a parallel universe were cell phones have been around a lot longer).

Syfy has renewed both Defiance and Dominion.

CaptainKirkShatner_1

There have been a number of rumors, denials, and perhaps an admission that J.J. Abrams has spoken to William Shatner about doing a cameo for his third Star Trek movie. I have my doubts as to whether it is a good idea, but it is more plausible now than in the first Abrams movie in which Spock from the original time line went back in time. Kirk could not do that because in that time line he was dead. However this doesn’t prevent a future Kirk from being seen from the Abrams time line.

There is yet another rumor that the next Avengers movie will be split into two parts.

If Ayn Rand wrote Buffy The Vampire Slayer

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SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who; Interstellar; Star Trek 3; Star Wars VII; Sex in Game of Thrones, Outlander, and Batman; Robin Williams; 24; Cristin Milioti; The Amy Pond Show; Community; James Corden; Craig Ferguson

Doctor Who returns next week. Here is the official trailer for the first episode, Deep Breath, the first episode staring Peter Capaldi. A spoiler-free review can be read here (but avoid if you want to be totally surprised while viewing).

There is also an official synopsis for the second episode, Kill List:

A Dalek fleet surrounds a lone rebel ship, and only the Doctor can help them now… with the Doctor facing his greatest enemy, he needs Clara by his side.

Confronted with a decision that could change the Daleks forever, he is forced to examine his conscience. Will he find the answer to the question, am I a good man?

Interstellar

Entertainment Weekly has their movie preview issue out, including pictures from Christopher Nolan’s upcoming movie, Interstellar. From Indie Wire:

And that’s about the only new bit of info, with Nolan and co. continuing to stay silent about the plot, only confirming what we know: the Earth is running out of food, forcing everyman Matthew McConaughey to go to outer space to save mankind, read poetry and cry a lot. But John Lithgow (bet you forgot he was in the movie), offers up a pretty interesting quote about the thematic texture we can expect. “It’s a thrilling interaction between grand spectacle and intimate, intense relationships,” he said. “More so than many films of this genre, Chris found a way to make fantastic drama out of cosmic ideas and current human anxieties.”

Robert Orci will be directing Star Trek 3 with J.J. Abrams busy with Star Wars (a franchise which I think is a better fit for Abrams). It sounds like Star Trek fans might be happier with the next movie from this description from Screen Rant:

Star Trek 3 will take place during the Enterprise’s five-year mission (first depicted in the original Star Trek TV series), according to Orci. As a result, the film is expected to offer more of the philosophical elements (see: sci-fi allegories) that were lacking in the Abrams movies. Those films certainly offer their fair share of entertaining sci-fi action and adventure, but there’s not a whole lot of Kirk (Chris Pine) and his crew “trekking” across the galaxy – something that seems to have more to do with Abrams’ directing approach than Orci’s contributions, mind you.

The traditional Star Trek optimism and spirit of exploration is something Orci intends to resurrect with the next film installment, by the sound of it. For such reasons and those highlight by Pegg, Orci is arguably a fine choice to serve as the helmsman on Star Trek 3. Furthermore, Orci in part learned his directing trade on the Abrams Trek films, which means this could be the first Trek movie to have a modern blockbuster visual template and the traditional Star Trek thoughtful mindset.

And speaking of J.J. Abrams and Star Wars, here’s some of the rumors abut Star Wars VII.

Batman Harley Quinn

Sex sells, even in animated Batman movies:

Harley Quinn doesn’t get naked and have sex in any of the Batman video games that she’s appeared in. But the Joker’s psycho girlfriend does exactly that in the new animated movie tied to Arkham Asylum and Arkham Origins. It’s not the only surprise in there either..

Yet, because it’s villain-centric, this one goes saltier than most DC animated fare. Characters getting punched in the balls, cussing (the s-word) and two very gruesome deaths are some of the surprising events that happen. It’s much more fun in tone than the games it’s connected to. The grim emotional reticience that’s become part and parcel of today’s Batman execution gets loosened up. Batman even makes a joke in here. The film does noticeably stumble with its portrayal of its female characters. They’re props for the men to play off of, primarily. In particular, Assault on Arkham feels like a missed opportunity to add a few layers of complexity to Harley Quinn’s character. Instead, she remains the wacky moll to the Joker and attaches herself to another man without exhibiting any independence of her own.

George R.R. Martin says that women write him requesting more explicit sex scenes in Game of Thrones, including gay sex. He also says that some fans have guessed how his series ends.

Outlander

Oh No They Didn’t looked at a sex scene in Outlander:

The scene opens in 1945, just after World War II has ended. Claire Randall (Caitriona Balfe) and her husband Frank (Tobias Menzies) are busy trying to put their marriage back together. They both have scholarly backgrounds—she’s a botanist, he’s a historian and a former intelligence officer—and they’ve just endured a long wartime separation. They attempt to rekindle their romance by researching Frank’s ancestry together, visiting historical grounds in the Scottish highlands that might tell them more about his family. While exploring an abandoned castle, Claire jokes that “a troll or two” might’ve lived there, though Frank argues that trolls don’t live in pairs, because they’re solitary creatures. “Pity,” says Claire, smiling flirtatiously. “All this, and no one to share it with.” He looks at her, catching on. “You’re a bit dirty,” he says, in the most blatant double entendre ever. “You can give me a bath,” she replies.

What happens next? Frank hikes up Claire’s skirt, teasing, “Why, Mrs. Randall, I do believe you’ve left your undergarments at home.” And then, let’s just say that, as the New York Times so tactfully put it, they engage in a sex act that’s “not necessarily the one you’d expect in a scene set just after World War II.” (You can watch it here, by fast-forwarding to somewhere around 18:33.) According to the Times, the women are loving it: At a preview screening in New York, Mike Hale writes, “the women in the audience loudly expressed their approval.”

Outlander‘s writer and producer, Ron D. Moore, knew what he was doing with the scene. “I’m guessing that I wanted to show Claire as empowered sexually as a person and having her own appetites and desires,” he told Zap2It. Which makes sense: she’s the one who makes the first move, telling Frank what she wants (even removing her own underwear ahead of time!) so she’s also the one we get to see enjoying it.

Obviously, sex scenes that focus on women getting off are still generally seen as taboo. In the documentary This Film is Not Yet Rated, Kimberly Pierce, who directed Boys Don’t Cry, reveals that the MPAA pressured her to cut a similar sex act from her film to prevent it from earning an NC-17 rating, even though the brutal murder at the film’s end was acceptable under an “R” rating. Pierce believes the MPAA was particularly uncomfortable with a shot that featured no nudity at all—it was a close-up that lingered on Brandon Teena’s ecstatic expression—because it was such a clear departure from more traditional sex scenes, which have a clear endpoint as their goal, and tend to finish whenever the guys involved do. Maybe that’s why it feels somewhat radical that the camera pans upward during the Outlander sex scene so that we can see Claire’s face.

Consideration of this sex scene leads to the even more extreme question asked by Damon Linker, What if your daughter was a porn star?

We’re living through a libertarian moment.

No, libertarianism hasn’t consistently changed how Americans think about taxation, government regulation, or foreign policy. But it is transforming how we think about morality. We can see it in rapidly changing views about gay marriage, in the growing acceptance of recreational marijuana usage, and in the rise of a non-judgmental outlook on sex and pleasure more generally…

This moral libertarianism even extends to pornography — not just watching it, but “acting” in it, too. That’s the subtext of discussions surrounding Miriam Weeks (stage name: Belle Knox), the Duke University undergraduate who has chosen to pay her way through college by performing in porn videos. At first she was subjected to harsh attacks on campus, but since her story went national, she’s become a breakout celebrity and folk hero to some libertarians and feminists who see her choice as an act of empowerment for women and sex workers.

There’s just one complication to this happy story: no one, or almost no one, actually believes it. People may say they see nothing wrong with or even admire Weeks’ decision to become a porn actress, but it isn’t unambiguously true. And our ease of self-deception on the matter tells us something important about the superficiality of the moral libertarianism sweeping the nation.

How do I know that nearly everyone who claims moral indifference or admiration for Weeks is engaging in self-deception? Because I conducted a little thought experiment. I urge you to try it. Ask yourself how you would feel if Weeks — porn star Belle Knox — was your daughter.

I submit that virtually every honest person — those with children of their own, as well as those who merely possess a functional moral imagination — will admit to being appalled at the thought.

I don’t really see this concept of the libertarian moment and being appalled by this situation to be contradictory. There are a lot of things which I believe should be legal which I wouldn’t want my daughter doing.

Getting back on topic, Starz has already  decided to renew Outlander for a second season. It took a while, but HBO has decided to have us go through a second season of The Leftovers with no explanation as to what happened.

Giant Freakin Robot has a tribute to Robin Williams’ contributions to science fiction. Fourth-day Universe has a listing of his best science fiction roles.

It is hard to believe 24 won’t be back now that they are no longer confined to the series per year schedule. Kiefer Sutherland is keeping talk of this alive:

Despite prominent rumours that the most recent season of ‘24’ would be the huge show’s last, star Kiefer Sutherland is now hinting that there could very well be another series to come.

In a recent interview with the Daily Star, Sutherland, who plays Counter Terrorist Unit agent Jack Bauer on the hit, said “I’m missing Jack already, I love playing him. I can never say never, the role is in my blood.”

A_to_Z_a_l

We lost Cristin Milioti too soon on How I Met Your Mother, but she will be back this fall in an new romantic comedy sit-com, A to Z. It isn’t necessary to wait until October to see her again. The pilot is widely available on line and on demand. Please tell us the series doesn’t end with her dying.

TV Line has a their first impressions of The Amy Pond Show (or, as it is officially called, Selfie).


Yahoo! has release a teaser trailer for season six of Community.

If we had to lose Craig Feguson, I was at least happy when I heard that James Corden was replacing him. Besides his work on Gavin and Stacey, Corden will preserve the show’s interest in Doctor Who after Ferguson leaves. Corden appeared twice in Doctor Who, playing Craig Owens on The Lodger and Closing Time. Now it turns out that television doesn’t have to lose Craig Ferguson as he is close to a deal for a syndicated talk show.

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SciFi Weekend: Valentine’s Day and Girls SciFi Geeks Love (About Time; Karen Gillan; Scarlett Johansson; Arrow; Almost Human)

SciFi Weekend is a weekly feature at Liberal Values, and is now being cross posted at The Moderate Voice. To introduce the feature to new readers, every week  this post generally deals with Science Fiction along with other topics. Sometimes, like last week, it is about a single topic (Sherlock Season 3). More often a variety of topics are discussed, typically starting with science fiction and genre television, but often including other topics in pop culture. Some weeks there is a theme. The theme this week is Valentine’s Day and Girls SciFi Geeks Love. Beware that there are frequently spoilers, especially for television shows which have aired in the United States. I do frequently leave out some details or only refer to them obliquely to limit this, and try to warn about spoilers when discussing movies or shows which have not aired yet in the U.S.

About TIme

This year we had not one but two major movies combining science fiction and romantic comedy. As I had already watched and blogged about Her, this left About Time to watch with my wife after we returned from dinner last night. About Time uses time travel much more like Groundhog Day than Doctor Who, except unlike Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, the protagonist of About Time can control which portions of his life he relives. The review does include spoilers.

On his twenty-first birthday Tim (Domhnall Gleeson)was told by his father (Bill Nighy) that the men in his family all have the ability to travel in time. There are limitations. You can only go back and revisit portions of your own life. As his father put it, you can’t kill Hitler or shag Helen of Troy. Tim asked about the butterfly effect and his father told him he hadn’t run into it. To add some drama later in the movie, it turns out he wasn’t entirely correct here.

There are other limitations, including one standing in the way of Tim’s number one interest, getting a girlfriend. You can’t make someone love you. He failed in his first attempt with a girl spending the summer with his sister. He did later manage to meet Mary (Rachel McAdams) but the meeting was erased from time when he went back in time to help out a crabby playwright who he was briefly living with. There was no butterfly effect which destroyed civilization as we know it, but it is possible to change one’s past. It should surprise nobody that he did manage to meet Mary again, but had to go back in time to dispense with the boyfriend she met because of not meeting Tim.

From there time travel continued to come in handy. No more awkward first times in bed when for Tim it became the second and then third time after going back in time. It wasn’t even necessary to keep his first awkward attempts at removing Mary’s bra or meeting her parents. Minor mistakes later in their life, such as choosing the wrong best man, were also easily fixed.

Some problems were not so easily fixed. Tim found a serious problem in going too far back in time to help reverse a poor decision made by his sister, Kit Kat. Fortunately for Tim, his mistake was easily reversed, but he had to find another way to help his sister. Tim learned that time travel cannot fix all problems. Sometimes something terrible in life must occur to get people to change. If he was truly trying to help Kit Kat, he might have also bought her a comb.

The relationship between Tim and his father became as important to the movie as the relationship between Tim and Mary, even leading the two to once again break the rules, but this time with no dire consequences. Over time, Tim preferred a simpler form of time travel, moving forward in time day to day and fully appreciating every day. “The truth is, now I don’t travel back at all, not even for the day. I just try to live everyday as if I’ve deliberately come back to this one day. To enjoy it. As if it was the full final day. Of my extraordinary, ordinary life.” About Time is far from a hard science fiction look at time travel, but it was an enjoyable movie.

Karen Gillan’s romantic comedy, Not Another Happy Ending, is being released in the U.K. on DVD this week but there are no current plans for a U.S. release. Trailer above.  Iain De Caestecker of Agents of SHIELD (Fitz) is also in the movie. The actress who formerly played Amy Pond does not do any time traveling during the movie, but she does write and bake in the nude (more of that scene here). Update: Not Another Happy Ending will be shown at the Cleveland International Film Festival on March 19.

Scarlett Johansson is becoming the go to girl for sexy female leads when she is not in The Avengers movies. When they needed an actress to make it seem realistic for a voice alone to seduce the male lead, it was Scarlett Johansson’s voice used in Her. She is also the female lead in Under The Skin, playing an alien female who seduces men for sexual experimentation. Trailer above. It reminds me a bit of an early episode of Torchwood, back before the show got to be too big and they messed it up.

Doctor Who Both Hearts

If you missed buying a card for Valentine’s Day you might have to use Tim’s trick from About Time to go back and fix that. Or you can go back in your TARDIS, perhaps to use one of these cards.  For the last four years I have posted Doctor Who Valentine’s Day cards, with the latest set posted here.  Cards from 2013 can be seen here. Older ones also available from  2012 and 2011.

Heir to the Demon

I had not initially watched Arrow during its first season believing it would just be more CW fluff with attractive people in glitzy backdrops. At times it is, but as I later found out, it is far more. With a rich playboy crime fighter, and now the League of Assassins, in many ways it is one of the best live action adaptations of Batman ever made. Plus there are flashbacks to an island which might remind viewers of Lost. Still, it is on CW, so there is plenty of romance and love triangles in this superhero soap opera.

Before going on a brief hiatus for the Olympics, Arrow looked back at the triangle Oliver had with Sara and Laurel Lance, but things became even more complicated. In Heir to the Demon, Ra’s al Ghul’s daughter managed to incapacitate airport security agents without any of the publicity and follow through which such an event would generate in our world. Her mission was to return Sara to the League of Assassins or to kill her, but it became clear that her mission would be more complicated when the two kissed upon first seeing each other. A discussion with the show’s producer over this turn of events can be read here:

With the introduction of Nyssa al Ghul (Katrina Law) — Ra’s al Ghul’s daughter — hunting down Sara Lance (Caity Lotz) to bring her back to the League of Assassins, the stakes would have been high enough. But the show added another, more emotional level to Nyssa’s journey: She was Sara’s ex and wanted to win her heart again.

Of course, Nyssa ended up releasing Sara from her duty to the League when it became clear Sara would rather die than leave her family again. But watching Nyssa deal with the pain of that revelation was what made her one of the series’ best villains so far — a fact with which executive producer Andrew Kreisberg wholeheartedly agrees.

“It’s been pointed out that sometimes our villains get short shrift and we don’t always do right by the villains,” Kreisberg tells Zap2it and a handful of other reporters. “We just don’t have enough time for them because our show is just so dense. We’ve gotten away with casting really cool people in the parts and asking our audience to just fill in the rest.”

Kreisberg and fellow showrunner Marc Guggenheim are glad that they were able to give Nyssa enough of a backstory to make her a sympathetic villain. “I actually feel bad for her. She really does seem like this broken-hearted person who got the shaft,” Kreisberg says. “She has the advantage of having an emotional and personal tie to one of our characters. She goes on a complete journey from start to end as opposed to someone who just wants to rob a bank.”

Guggenheim is quick to point out, however, that “Arrow” can’t have every villain be like that. “If every episode had a Nyssa, and didn’t have let’s say a Clock King, when the Nyssas of the world showed up it wouldn’t have any import,” Guggenheim says. “It would lack the weight that this kind of episode has. Because some episodes, yes, it’s just a guy bombing the city, but there’s other stuff in that episode that makes it worthwhile and worth watching. If everything becomes special, then nothing becomes special.”

Law was excited to portray Nyssa, but she wasn’t expecting her to have such a rich history with Sara. “I was surprised that I was going to be a lesbian,” Law says with a laugh. “When we did the chemistry read, I wasn’t quite understanding why I was [with Lotz].”

According to Kreisberg and Guggenheim, the decision to make Nyssa a lesbian came from the idea of what it could do for Sara. “We thought of this at the beginning of the season,” Kreisberg says. “If you watch [episode] 205 there’s a reference to ‘the beloved,’ and ‘You think that’s going to keep you safe.’ We talked about, ‘Well, does Ra’s al Ghul have a son?’ And then we were like, ‘Well, can it be Talia?'”

Since Talia al Ghul was portrayed recently in “The Dark Knight Rises,” the writers decided to go with the lesser-known story of Nyssa al Ghul.

“It just felt like something new and different,” Kreisberg says. “At the same time, we didn’t do it to be salacious, because it’s a pretty chaste relationship from what you see onscreen. It just touched on a couple interesting things, like the idea that Sara found one person who treated her with love and kindness. And then for Lance to be this hardened, tough cop and probably not the most progressive guy, even he was just like, ‘I’m glad you had someone who loved you and took care of you during those nightmare years.'”

Nyssa wasn’t the only one getting action with Sara in the episode though, as it ended with her and Oliver (Stephen Amell) hooking up in the Arrow lair.

“We were anxious to have in the same episode where we reveal that Sara had had this lesbian relationship, she was also sleeping with Oliver again,” Guggenheim says. “We wanted to be sensitive and realistic. We specifically avoid using the term ‘bisexual’ because we didn’t want to label her at all. Let her be her own person, and if the audience wants to label, fine. We didn’t want to do something just to shock

Before this was all resolved, Nyssa kidnapped Sara and Laurel’s mother, played by Alex Kingston. I had half expected the Doctor to save River Song. It now appears that Amy Pond is the Black Canary’s grandmother. There is yet another triangle, as Sara joined Team Arrow and Felicity can wonder once again about what was going on over on that island between Oliver and all those women.

almost-human-season-1-episode-10-dorian-kennex

During most of the first season, Almost Human‘s best moments were its humor and the buddy cop relationship between the two male leads (one being an android). Unfortunately the last two episodes before its Olympic hiatus lacked the humor of previous episodes, but both episodes (Unbound and Perception) did more to flesh out the world the show takes place in. Perception returned to the events of the pilot and the relationship between Kennex and his probably-evil ex-girlfriend. Now that we now she is still tracking Kennex, there is the increased likelihood this will be used to find her and shed more light on what happened.

The episode also expanded upon the back story of Stahl, who turns out to be a genetically enhanced Chrome. Minka Kelley seemed almost too perfect on Friday Night Lights. She seems more plausible on Almost Human as being more than human, a character whose intelligence and beauty are the product of genetic enhancement.

Amelia Clarke of Game of Thrones was voted the Most Desirable Woman by Ask Men magazine. Alison Brie of Community and Mad Men came in second, with many other women in genre roles also on the  list.

continuum02

Two recent Canadian science fiction shows feature strong female leads. Syfy has announced that  Continuum, staring Rachel Nichols will return in the United States on April 4. Unfortunately this is after it returns on Showcase in Canada on March 16, making it harder to cover on line as I will definitely get a hold of each episode as soon as possible rather than waiting for it to air on Syfy.

Tatiana Maslany does an amazing job playing multiple roles on Orphan Black. Maria Doyle Kennedy told Entertainment Weekly that season two is like season one on crack:

That was just one of the tidbits Kennedy dropped when she stopped by Entertainment Weekly Radio (SiriusXM, channel 105) to chat about the show as well as her music career. Another tidbit? Looks like we can expect more Mrs. S in season 2. “You’re going to see more of her,” says Kennedy. “I had a great time in season 1 and there were some great scenes, but there was also a lot of hovering. They just really liked me so wrote me more this time, so that’s great.”

But on which side will Mrs. S. land in the war between Sarah and Rachel (both played by Tatiana Maslany)? Kennedy says her character’s ultimate objective is protecting Sarah’s daughter, Kira, whose whereabouts are currently unknown. “In the war between Rachel and Sarah and the whole idea about the clones trying to find out about themselves, she keeps going through that and beyond it and goes, ‘Where does Kira land in all this? What’s happening with her? How safe is she? Are they close to her? Can they get her?’”

Okay, but we still don’t quite know where Mrs. S stands and her connection to the clone conspiracy. Is she good, bad, or somewhere in between? “She is an incredibly pragmatic woman with a strong moral compass,” says Kennedy. “That’s how I feel about her. She has definitely done bad things in the past. She came through an era of protest and squatting, so she’s not afraid to be anarchic or against the law, but she always has a strong proper reason for doing what she does.”

Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Cover 2014

Nina Agdal, Lily Aldridge, and Chrissy Teigen appear on the cover of this year’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. Three girls would normally mean six bikini pieces, but apparently that would have put them above budget, forcing the models to pose topless. The theme is The Past, The Present and The Future. Is this another time travel magazine?

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SciFi Weekend: Raggedy Man Goodnight–The Time of the Doctor

Time of the Doctor1

The Time of the Doctor tried to do many things at once: be a Christmas episode, be an action story, tie up questions from the Matt Smith era, be a regeneration story, and be an homage to the Matt Smith era. It succeeded or failed to various degrees in each, but in the end managed to do enough to be a memorable chapter in Doctor Who, especially as a proper way to end the story of the eleventh Doctor.

After recent Christmas episodes which were more clearly based upon Christmas stories or themes, The Time of the Doctor resorted to naming the town where the Doctor spent centuries Christmas, along with brief scenes of Christmas dinner at Clara’s home. There were far too many other things to accomplish to get bogged down with a true Christmas story, but this sure gave a new meaning to the War on Christmas.

Sometimes if felt like he has been making new interpretations up as he went along, but Steven Moffat did try to tie up loose ends from not only the Matt Smith years but, in dealing with the Time Lords and the regeneration limit, the entire series. He handled the regeneration limit well, explaining the situation for those who have not already read about it on the blogs and without dwelling on it too long for those who have already heard the discussion. Matt Smith quickly explained to Clara that he was on his last regeneration once you counted the John Hurt Doctor:

CLARA: “But you don’t die. You change – you pop right back with a new face.”
THE DOCTOR: “Not forever. I can change 12 times. 13 versions of me. 13 silly Doctors.”
CLARA: “But you’re number eleven, so -”
THE DOCTOR: “Are we forgetting Captain Grumpy? I didn’t call myself the Doctor during the Time War, but it was still a regeneration.”

Explaining yet another previously uncounted regeneration, the Doctor pointed out that “Number Ten once regenerated and kept the same face – I had vanity issues at the time.”. Of course we knew that somehow he would not die at Tranzalor any more than he died at Lake Silencio, but instead would regenerate despite the previously established and easily broken regeneration limit.

Before nearly dying of old age, the Doctor spent over 300 years on Tranzalor fighting the Daleks and others at a standoff. Several other enemies were also thrown in, often quickly. The Weeping Angels were present only to briefly grab Clara’s ankle (without sending her back in time). The Cybermen had a cameo, with far more memorable scenes from Handles, a severed Cyberman head who chronologically  became the companion to spend the most time with the Doctor and was reminiscent of K-9. These cameos would have been pointless, and even distracting, in a normal story, but were present as part of the homage to the many events of the Matt Smith years.

After frequently throwing out the question, Doctor Who? into many stories, Moffat made the answer a key point of this story. Unfortunately the explanation makes little sense once you think about it. The Time Lords were hidden in a pocket universe and would not return until the Doctor said his real name. It doesn’t make much sense as to why this would be so important and why the Time Lords would even think that the Doctor would want them to return. Many events during the Matt Smith years have been revealed as being based upon attempts to prevent the Doctor from bringing back the Time Lords. Why would they think that the Doctor would do so after he was the one who made them disappear? Gallifrey was hidden behind the cracks in time which have been present in multiple episodes. Why didn’t the issue of the Doctor’s name or the return of the Time Lords come up around prior cracks.

Time of the Doctor2

I fortunately downloaded the BBC broadcast as I hear that at least one key explanation was cut from the BBC America version for commercials. The Silents were revealed to have been genetically engineered priests. Once someone gave their confession, they would forget about the confession. A cool idea until you question why. The key line which I heard was cut from the US showing was that Madame Kovarian led a renegade offshoot of the Silents from the Papal Mainframe which was dedicated to killing the Doctor as the way to prevent him from speaking his name and allowing the Time Lords to return.

Moffat managed to tie in many previous events into this narrative, including the explosion of the TARDIS. River Song was created as a perfect psychopath to kill the Doctor (but he wound up marrying her instead). The Doctor’s greatest fear behind a door in The God Complex was revealed to be a crack in time. The episode included other references to earlier in this regeneration, such as eating fish fingers and custard before regenerating, as the Doctor did after regenerating from Ten to Eleven. There were also references to earlier regenerations, such as using “reverse the polarity to the neutron flow.” Eleven has now said this more often than the Third Doctor actually did. The Doctor also referred to The Five Doctors with use of the“Seal of the High Council of Gallifrey – nicked it off the Master in the Death Zone.”

Moffat created a memorable new character in Tasha Lem. She seems to have had a romantic history with the Doctor and can even fly the TARDIS. She explained to Clara,”Flying the TARDIS was always easy. It was flying the Doctor I never quite mastered.” Such dialog could easily come from River Song, the only person other than the Doctor who we previously saw fly the TARDIS. The Doctor told Tasha Lem, “You’ve been fighting the psychopath inside you all your life,” reminding us of how River Song was called a psychopath in the same episode. Perhaps the episode was written with thought of including River Song. There has been some speculation that Tasha Lem is yet another manifestation of River Song, possibly taking a new bodily form after leaving the library.

Moffat also has a habit of bringing up themes and then dropping them (but you never know if he will one day return to them). The Doctor faking his death at Lake Silencio had no long term meaning as subsequently everyone still seems aware that he is alive. Clara’s wiping of the Dalek memory of the Doctor in Asylum of the Daleks has been forgotten. Moffat played with the meme that the Doctor lies by putting him in a truth field in this episode. This was also forgotten. The Doctor lied to Clara when he said he told her he would not send her away and lied at the end about having a plan.

Time of the Doctor Wig

Moffat even took advantage of Matt Smith having cut his hair for a movie role. The Doctor hid a spare key to the TARDIS under a wig. The scene only worked because of the knowledge that Matt Smith was actually wearing a wig during the filming of the episode. It also reminded me of when Sam Malone revealed he was wearing a wig on Cheers after word got out that Ted Danson actually wore one.

The episode might have been improved by making it longer than an hour and providing a more sensible conclusion. The Time Lords sat behind the crack and did nothing for years. Then Clara said, “His name is the Doctor. All the name he needs, all you need to know about him. And if you love him… help him.” This was enough to get the Time Lords to act. While questionable, it is at least consistent with the Doctor Who theme of often having the companions perform important actions to save the Doctor.In a way it also resolves the issue of the Doctor’s real name by pointing out that it doesn’t really matter.

The Time Lords gave the Doctor a new regeneration cycle. Previous episodes have established that this is very rare, but not without precedent. It remains to be seen whether twelve more regenerations will be enough to keep the Doctor alive as long as the show continues or if another way will need to be found to grant additional regenerations in the distant future. The regeneration energy was enough to enable the Doctor to easily shoot the Dalek ship out of the sky. If the Time Lord’s possess this much power, it is hard to believe that they were ever seriously threatened by the Daleks during the Time War.

Time has been rewritten and the Doctor did not die on Tranzalor. This would also mean that there is no tomb where Clara was fragmented into multiple copies to save the Doctor from The Great Intelligence. Yet another of those timey wimey paradoxes.

The regeneration was drawn out, enabling Matt Smith to appear yet again as a young man, eating custard. The episode showed growth for the Doctor. Ten didn’t want to go and Eleven hated endings. Finally Eleven was ready and accepted his fate as “times change, and so must I.” As he saw Amelia Pond, the first person he saw as the Eleventh, he said, “I will always remember when the Doctor was me.”

Time of the Doctor Amy Pond

Karen Gillan will always be the companion most closely thought of  with Matt Smith. Like David Tennant visiting Billie Piper for one last time before he regenerated, a vision of Amy Pond got to say to the Doctor, “Raggedy man. Goodnight.” Ironically both Karen Gillan and Matt Smith were wearing wigs in this picture, having cut their hair for movie roles.

Some fans have been disappointed because the regeneration scene did not show a prolonged transformation of the face from Matt Smith to Peter Capaldi. I suspect this might have been for budgetary reasons. I thought it was far more symbolic to have Matt Smith remove his bow tie just before changing. Bow ties and fez hats belong to the Eleventh. Others might wear them in his honor, but it will always be remembered that it was Matt Smith who said, “Bow ties are cool.”

As with previous regenerations, Twelve was observant of his bodily changes.”I’ve got new kidneys! I don’t like the color!” There are bigger concerns when the TARDIS alarms go off and he asks Clara, “Do you happen to know how to fly this thing?” It sounds like we might have another crash scene coming up, unless either he is either messing around with Clara or soon regains his memory.

Unfortunately we have to wait until next fall to find out.

Time of the Doctor Peter Capaldi

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SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who; Sherlock; Orphan Black; Almost Human; Arrow; The Doctor Meets Superman & Batman For Coffee

timeofthedoctor

Pictures, such as the one above, and an official synopsis have been released for the Christmas episode of Doctor Who, The Time of the Doctor:

Orbiting a quiet backwater planet, the massed forces of the universe’s deadliest species gather, drawn to a mysterious message that echoes out to the stars. And amongst them – the Doctor. Rescuing Clara from a family Christmas dinner, the Time Lord and his best friend must learn what this enigmatic signal means for his own fate and that of the universe.

Could this also involve saving Gallifrey after the events of The Day of the Doctor?

Despite the revelation of John Hurt as the War Doctor, Steven Moffat is sticking with the current numbering:

“He’s just The Doctor, Matt Smith’s Doctor is the 11th Doctor, however there is no such character as the 11th Doctor – he’s just the Doctor – that’s what he calls himself. The numbering doesn’t matter, except for those lists that you and I have been making for many years. So I’ve given you the option of not counting John Hurt numerically – he’s the War Doctor.”

If the numbering was only being done by fans it wouldn’t matter, but the numbering has appeared during the shows. On the one hand there has been talk of “the fall of the eleventh”, while on the other hand there was reference to “all thirteen” Doctors during The Day of the Doctor. The number of Doctors, if not how they are referred to, is important if there is a regeneration limit, and in this context we cannot leave out a regeneration. Moffat is separating the reference of number to Doctors from actual regenerations–sort of like the Big 10 having twelve teams and expanding to fourteen.

I previously had thought that the regeneration from Matt Smith’s Doctor to Peter Capaldi’s would be the twelfth and final regeneration, speculating that the limit might be exceeded by having the next Doctor find Gallifrey and be rewarded with a new set of regenerations. Steven Moffat has made matters even more complicated in an interview with Radio Times:

As Whovians will know, ever since the 1976 episode The Deadly Assassin it has been taken as fact that a Doctor can only regenerate twelve times in a cycle, allowing thirteen incarnations.

Officially until now, Matt Smith has been the 11th Doctor, meaning fans have started to wonder what will happen in 5-10 years time when we reach 13 after Peter Capaldi.

But Moffat has moved the goalposts, or perhaps more aptly stuck his own sonic screwdriver into the history of the show and given it a big twist.

On Saturday he told me Matt is actually the 13th and final doctor. John Hurt is officially now a doctor and David Tennant used up an extra regeneration during his stay.

In essence, the end of Matt at Christmas should mean the end of Doctor Who.

Where this leaves Peter Capaldi is unclear. But what Moffat would say is: “The 12 regenerations limit is a central part of Doctor Who mythology – science fiction is all about rules, you can’t just casually break them.

Everything changes if we consider the events of Journey’s End as showing David Tennant’s Doctor using up a regeneration (and ignoring the regeneration energy given to the Doctor by River Song in Let’s Kill Hitler). While we know that Moffat lies, or at least loves to cause misdirection with regards to speculations on future events on the show, this does force an update to previous predictions. The issue becomes more urgent to prevent Matt Smith from playing the last Doctor, which we know will not occur. Now it appears possible that Matt Smith’s Doctor might find Gallifrey and receive extra regenerations in The Time of the Doctor. Reportedly the episode will also tie up several of the loose ends Moffat has left since taking over regarding predictions of the fall of the eleventh, The Silence, The crack in time, and the Weeping Angels. There are also rumors that the Doctor will lose a limb before being regenerated.

During the above interview, Steven Moffat discussed further minisodes following the success of The Night Of The Doctor (posted here).

“I think this will usher in not so much a Paul McGann mini-series but usher in more minisodes, and I think we should take them more seriously than we used to. Night was the first one we’ve actually said, ‘Let’s make a high production value belter and let’s give them a surprise!’”

He teased: “You can count on us doing something like that again, but we won’t tell you when! I’ve actually told the BBC, ‘if we do it again we’re doing it in Cardiff and we’re not even telling you what we’re doing and we’ll give you it on the day…’

With Doctor Who Confidential no longer on the air, the BBC has released a series of brief videos giving an Inside Look on the 50th anniversary and the making of The Day of The Doctor, such as the video above. More of these videos have been  posted at Geeks of Doom.

We have a long wait after the Christmas episode. Doctor Who begins filming in January but the next season will not be aired until fall. There have been reports that the full season will air in the fall instead of being split but I’m not sure how official this is.

A new source for Doctor Who news–The Doctor Who Cuttings Archive

Sherlock Lives

Sherlock resumes on January 19 in the United States but many of us will be downloading copies earlier now that it has been announced that season 3 will begin on January 1. The BBC spread news of  the date for the first episode, The Empty Hearse, by having the above hearse drive around London.  The Sign of Three airs on January 5 and the finale, His Last Vow is on January 12. For those in other countries, Sherlockology has a lengthy list of broadcast dates. It also appears that there will be sort of a triangle.Martin Freeman’s real-life wife Amanda Abbington will also star as John Watson’s love interest Mary Morstan.

The Weinsteins are looking into several television projects, including some genre shows. This includes a television version of Sin City and an adaptation of the movie version of Steven King’s The Mist. Hopefully this works out better than Under the Dome (and there is no reason to believe that different people will make the same mistakes with a different story).

Orphan Black‘s second season will begin on April 19 in the United States on BBC America and in Canada on Space. I have not heard of a date being set in the UK but last year the show aired well after it aired in the United States. The season 2 trailer is above, which unfortunately contains no new footage even though the series has been filming for a while.

almost-human-minka-kelly

I watched the first three episodes of Almost Human over the holiday weekend. It does have promise. The premise appears to be that male cops are teamed with androids while hot female cops (as played by Minka Kelly) wear loose, low-cut shirts (which looks better on the show than in the picture above).

Ronald D. Moore’s new show Helix will begin on January 10. More premiere dates from SyFy here.

Barry Allen (The Flash) will appear on the next episode of Arrow. Initially the appearances on Arrow were to be a back-door pilot for a new show, but now CW has decided to film a conventional pilot for The Flash. There has been a lot of speculation as to whether the DC universe being created around Arrow will tie into the Justice League movie which will be developed out of the upcoming Superman vs. Batman movie. Arrow showrunner Greg Berlanti says the two universes will not be connected as Agents of SHIELD is connected to the Marvel cinematic universe.

Oliver will also be getting a mask like the one worn by the Green Arrow in the comics. I’m not sure that it is needed. If Laurel hasn’t figured out that Oliver is the vigilante yet, wearing the hood has been unrealistically sufficient.  (It was a more realistic change from the old comics to have Lois Lane quickly figure out who Clark Kent was in Man of Steel.)

Nothing has spoiled True Blood more than bad writing, too many characters who nobody cares about, and weak plot lines. Compared to these problems, the season seven spoilers posted here are rather trivial.

And, finally, the Doctor is sort of like a superhero, so there’s no reason why he shouldn’t go out for coffee with Superman and Batman (unless he’s afraid of their tough questions).

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SciFi Weekend: Gallifrey Falls No More, A Review of Day of the Doctor

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The Day of the Doctor accomplished Steven Moffat’s goal of presenting an homage to the past but primarily looking towards the future. Just as real life isn’t neatly divided into sixty minute episodes (or serials in the case of older Doctor Who), the 50th anniversary episode combined two different stories. Both had the common theme of the Doctor finding a way to defeat an invasion and prevent destruction to either London or Gallifrey. The episode  won a Guinness World Record award for the largest ever simulcast of a TV drama, being shown in ninety-four countries.

There were many tributes to the past beyond those I mention here. We saw the original opening, starting in black in white just as the series began. Clara was teaching at Coal School which Susan attended in the first episode. After several mentions of Queen Elizabeth I over the years, we saw the Doctor marry her, believing she was actually a Zygon shape shifter in disguise. (No word on what River Song thought of this). A UNIT agent (or her Zygon copy) wore Tom Baker’s scarf.  David Tennant repeated his classic line, “I don’t want to go” and John Hurt said “reverse the polarity” in a tribute to Jon Pertwee. The episode included all thirteen Doctors, including John Hurt and Peter Capaldi, even if some were primarily from old clips and CGI. The episode ended with an ambiguous appearance from Tom Baker as the Curator, who might be the form which the Doctor takes after he retires. Billie Piper returned, but as Bad Wolf Rose in order to allow for her presence without altering Rose’s story.

The Doctors stopped a Zygon invasion of earth by literally bringing about the concept of a veil of ignorance, as the shape-shifting Zygons and members of UNIT did not remember which they were, giving motivation to both sides to negotiate a fair deal. From there the three Doctors tackled an even bigger problem, saving Gallifrey from the Dalek attack during the Time Wars by some way other than destroying them all. This was ultimately accomplished due to Matt Smith and David Tennant’s version of the Doctor having had more time to work on the problem, and the joint effort of thirteen Doctors.

We have now seen all of the regenerations. The webisode (posted here) The Night of the Doctor, showed the regeneration of Paul McGann to John Hurt.  The regeneration of John Hurt was present near the end of The Day of The Doctor but unfortunately Christopher Eccleston declined to appear to complete the scene. Considering how little effort it would have taken to film the regeneration scene, his refusal to participate in the anniversary episode just makes him look more petty, regardless of what problems he had with the previous crew.

all-doctors-day-of-the-doctor-570x319

Although Steven Moffat had said that the numbering of the Doctors would not change, it is hard to see justification for not including John Hurt. Moffat recently said:

“I’ve been really, really quite careful about the numbering of the Doctors. He’s very specific, the John Hurt Doctor, that he doesn’t take the name of the Doctor. He doesn’t call himself that. He’s the same Time Lord, the same being as the Doctors either side of him, but he’s the one who says, ‘I’m not the Doctor.’ So the Eleventh Doctor is still the Eleventh Doctor, the Tenth Doctor is still the Tenth…

He adds: “Technically, if you really counted it, the David Tennant Doctor is two Doctors, on account of the Meta-Crisis Doctor [in Journey’s End]… It’s not a matter of counting the regenerations, but of counting the faces of the Time Lord that calls himself the Doctor. There’s an anomaly Doctor slotted in somewhere, that’s all. In the script to The Day of the Doctor, Matt’s Doctor was called the Eleventh, and David’s was called the Tenth, so the numbering stays exactly the same – and we call Peter Capaldi the Twelfth Doctor.”

Of course we know that Moffat lies, and  perhaps he said this to avoid giving away the ending to The Day Of The Doctor. Now that we have seen the full story of  John Hurt’s Doctor, it is harder to justify not counting him. Despite being called the Warrior, we have now seen rather standard regenerations both into him and into the subsequent Doctor. Taking a different name hardly makes sense as a way around the regeneration limit. Even if his story ended with being responsible for a heinous act, this should not change the numbering.  Now that this act was reversed, there is even less reason to exclude him. There was reference to “all thirteen” on Gallifrey. The Daleks recognized him as the Doctor. If we want to go meta and try to limit the official Doctors to those who had their own shows, this would contradict the convention of including Paul McGann who, before this month, appeared in only a single movie. Surely John Hurt’s appearance in the 50th anniversary episode, along with a brief scene in the previous episode, is as significant as an essentially stand-alone move.  The BBC even reposted the 50th anniversary promo picture with John Hurt included (above).

The episode has significant ramifications for the future. The Doctor now has a new goal, to find Gallifrey. I wonder if this will be a season-long McGuffin like was done previously with The Key To Time serials in the Tom Baker era. This could provide a new emphasis from the show now that Amy Pond is gone and the mystery of Clara has been resolved, getting away from the stand-alone episodes of last season. A limit of twelve regenerations, meaning thirteen versions of the Doctor, was previously established, and we have now seen reference to “all thirteen” Doctors. The search for Gallifrey opens up one of several possible solutions as it is a safe prediction that Doctor Who will not end with Peter Capaldi’s Doctor. Perhaps saving Gallilfrey will lead to the Doctor being given another set of regenerations solving this issue. There has been precedent for the Time Lords having this power.

Before we see how this rewriting of the mythology affects Peter Capaldi’s Doctor, there remains the Christmas Episode in which Silence will Fall and we return to Trenzalore (trailer above).

For those disappointed in not seeing cameos from more actors who have played the Doctor, we do have the video below which was written and directed by Peter Davison. “The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot” stars  Peter Davison,  Colin Baker,  Sylvester McCoy and Paul McGann attempting to make it into the 50th anniversary episode. In a way they have accomplished this. I think that this video, along with The Day of the Doctor,  and An Adventure in Space in Time should be counted as parts of a set honoring the 50th anniversary.

As I was working on my impressions of the episode, Blogator Who posted the official comments from Steven Moffat. Some portions of the interview follow:

I asked Steven for his thoughts on Peter Davison’s special The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot.
“I loved it. I love it, I’m in it! I’m the villain as far as I can see! [Laughs] Absolutely adorable. It was actually my idea to do that, I had bumped into Peter at a party and he said, ‘I’m going to do this little fan video about us all trying to get into the 50th. Do you mind and would you be in it?’ And I said I’ll give you a budget and a camera crew and some time and why don’t you make it for real? Make it for us? It solved a problem for me. I wanted all The Doctor’s properly involved, if they were willing, as best they could.

It maximises what you can do with Sylvester [McCoy] and Colin [Baker] and Peter because they’re not the same people were, all those years ago. You get to see Colin Baker playing Colin Baker which is much more fun that seeing him trying to do a performance that no longer suits him, frankly. And the same with Peter and the absolutely charming Sylvester McCoy, who is an absolute hero. It was brilliant, I love The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot, it was gorgeous.

Regarding Billie Piper in The Day of the Doctor Steven stated:
“I thought the story of Rose, which was beautiful, was done. I didn’t want to add to it, I didn’t feel qualified to add to it. That was always Russell’s [T Davies] story. The way Russell ended it in The End of Time was perfect. I didn’t want to stick another bit in. It would be wrong.

But we did want Billie Piper, one of the absolute heroes of Doctor Who, back in the show without interfering in the story of Rose Tyler. I think I might of spoiled something if I had done that.  Billie represents the rival of Doctor Who, more than anyone else. It’s all about Billie, it’s her show for two years. It’s really startling watching The Runaway Bride and you’re going, ‘Where is she? Where is she? Where is the star of the show?’

On the 2013 Christmas Special, Moffat commented, “It’s a proper finale to Matt Smith, it’s the story we’ve been telling since he put the bow tie on. A lot of stuff we’ve left hanging, we tie up there. And it’s Trenzalore!” At a panel at the Official Doctor Who Celebration, including Matt Smith, Jenna Coleman and Steven, they revealed that the world “bubbly” will appear in the finale for The Eleventh Doctor.

 

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SciFi Weekend: Breaking Bad; Dexter; Hannibal; The Blacklist; Sleepy Hollow; The Americans; Community; True Blood; Broadchurch; Doctor Who

Breaking Bad Series Finale Elliot and Gretchen 1

Vince Gilligan ended Breaking Bad just as most would have predicted if not for feeling that this was too obvious and trying to throw in a twist. In the end, Walt killed the Nazis, rescued Jesse and then died. Jesse escaped, Lydia was killed, and plans were made to get money to Walt’s family. Realistically Walt’s death was the most probable end-point for the series since the first episode. Initially it might have been from the cancer. Events since then changed how it most likely to occur. It became inevitable that he would face a violent death, but also achieve some measure of victory.

The only surprises in the finale were the details in how everything would be accomplished, such as threatening Elliott and Gretchen with assassination by “the two best hitmen west of the Mississippi” who were really Skinny Pete and Badger armed only with laser pointers. There was no need for a surprise ending, and certainly not a gimmick such as a dream or fading to black. Breaking Bad feels more like a continuous story in a novel, leading to the most likely conclusion. The finale has received universal praise, showing that no gimmicks were needed. Hopefully writers of future series will learn from this.

The success of the finale of Breaking Bad led to inevitable comparisons to other finales. To be fair to other show runners who fell short, the structure of Breaking Bad lent itself to coming to such a definite and obvious conclusion. While I was not satisfied with the ending to The Sopranos, an ambiguous ending was more in line with that show than Breaking Bad. After the full run of the series, it was realistic that Tony Soprano had made enough enemies that one would just walk up to him and shoot him in a diner. It would similarly be realistic to interpret this otherwise and see Tony Soprano continuing as he had for years, as with Sam Malone on Cheers. Breaking Bad had a clear storyline leading to an inevitable conclusion.

Damon Lindelof was blasted on Twitter during the Breaking Bad finale for not providing such a satisfactory conclusion to Lost. While I think they could have done better with Lost, a key difference here is that Lost had developed such a complex mythology that there was no realistic way to end the series. Lindelof defended his ending in The Hollywood Reporter, which was more a plea for everyone to stop talking about it.

The remaining questions are trivial compared to the questions raised by Lost. There was no question to the motivations of the main character. Walt revealed to Skyler that he was doing this all for himself. Did Walt initially plan to kill Jesse, and then change his mind when he saw how he was enslaved? That change in motivation is suggested in several interviews where Vince Gilligan compared the ending to The Searchers:

On the story inspiration for Walt, who was hellbent on killing Jesse, saving his ex-partner out of sudden instinct 
“A lot of astute viewers who know their film history are going to say, ‘It’s the ending to The Searchers.’ And indeed it is. The wonderful western The Searchers has John Wayne looking for Natalie Wood for the entire three-hour length of the movie. She’s been kidnapped by Indians and raised as one of their own, and throughout the whole movie, John Wayne says, ‘I need to put her out of her misery. As soon as I find her, I’m going to kill her.’ The whole movie Jeffrey Hunter is saying, ‘No, we’re not — she’s my blood kin, we’re saving her,’ and he says, ‘We’re killing her.’ And you’re like, ‘Oh my god, John Wayne is a monster and he’s going to do it. You know for the whole movie that this is the major drama between these two characters looking for Natalie Wood. And then at the end of the movie, on impulse, you think he’s riding toward her to shoot her, and instead he sweeps her up off her feet and he carries her away and he says, ‘Let’s go home.’ It just gets me every time — the ending of that movie just chokes you up, it’s wonderful. In the writers room, we said, ‘Hey, what about the Searchers ending?’ So, it’s always a matter of stealing from the best. [Laughs]“

Did Walt have any plan for after he killed the neo-Nazis if he survived? It did not appear that he did. If not for the last-second decision to save Jesse, I wonder if he had planned to jump to the floor, or remain standing and die with everyone else in the room.

We know Jesse is free but from there it is all speculation:

“We always felt like the viewers desired Jesse to get away. And it’s up to the individual viewer to decide what happens next for Jesse. Some people might think, ‘Well, he probably got two miles down the road before the cops nailed him.’ But I prefer to believe that he got away, and he’s got a long road to recovery ahead, in a sense of being held prisoner in a dungeon for the last six months and being beaten to within an inch of his life and watching Andrea be shot. All these terrible things he’s witnessed are going to scar him as well, but the romantic in me wants to believe that he gets away with it and moves to Alaska and has a peaceful life communing with nature.”

Unfortunately it wasn’t realistic to have Jesse wind up raising Brock, providing him with a true happy ending.

What was going through Jesse’s mind when he didn’t shoot Walt? Was this the outcome of Jesse previously saying he would never do what Walt told him to do again, a desire to be done with killing, or did a remnant of his old respect for Walt prevent him from pulling the trigger? Would he have shot Walt if he didn’t see that Walt already had a gunshot wound?

Will Walt’s scheme work and will Gretchen and Elliott really get the money to Walt, Jr.? There’s no way to know. On this show many elaborate schemes have worked well. It was quite fortunate for Walt that Lydia kept to her old schedule and was the one to take the pack of poisoned Stevia. Everything also had to go right for his plan to kill the neo-Nazis to succeed. While throughout the series many elaborate plans were successful, not everything went right for Walt. Most notably, Walt ruined his plans by leaving the Walt Whitman book out in his bathroom, and easily fell for Jesse’s plan to lead the DEA to the money. We also do not know if his plan for Skyler to negotiate with the coordinates of  Hank and Gomez’s bodies will save her, with his previous phone call not appearing to have helped her very much.

In comparing the recent finales of Breaking Bad and Dexter, it seems like the Breaking Bad finale was planned from the start while Dexter‘s finale decided late in the series. The opposite turns out to be true. Vince Gilligan had no idea about some major aspects of the ending, and has revealed other endings under consideration.

Dexter and Hannah

It was the opposite for Dexter. While Clyde Phillips, the original show runner, had a different idea, current show runner Scott Buck and longtime executive producer Sara Colleton told Entertainment Weekly that this ending had been planned for years:

Before the season started, you said the core idea behind this finale has been in the works for years. What was the original concept?
BUCK: The kernel idea were the last few scenes. They were what I pitched a few years ago. The main idea was Dexter is forced to kill Debra. And there are many ways that could happen. But those final scenes were pretty much unchanged.
SARA COLLETON: From the very beginning the paradox was here’s a guy who doesn’t feel he’s a human being, who has to fake it. But in faking it, he’s a better brother, boyfriend, colleague that most real people. People think of him as a monster, but he yearns to be human. We’ve seen him go forward on this journey every year. Now we found out what the final price was. What sums up the entire journey was the scene on balcony of his apartment before going on the boat to put Deb down — that’s horrible to say aloud. The voiceover: “For so long all I wanted was to feel like other people … now that I do just want it to stop.” It’s the horrible awareness of what it was to be a human being and how overwhelming that is for him. His punishment is banishment. He sends himself into exile. Killing himself is too easy. When he turns and looks into the camera at the end he’s stripped everything away.

Were there any other versions of the ending that you rejected?
BUCK: The only real variation was what he would be doing. I knew he would be in a self-imposed prison that would be as far from Miami as possible. We’d find him working in some solitary environment where even if other people were around he would make no contact and not talk to anyone. We would follow him home and he would have no human contact.

In a way that’s his new code — avoiding human contact.
BUCK: Yes. For us, that’s the tragedy. The one thing we felt Dexter wanted more than anything was human connections. Even in the first season we see him trying to get with Rudy. Now that he’s finally made that journey and he’s almost poised to have a real human life, he has to give all that up to save Harrison and Hannah.
COLLETON: He went into an absolute shutdown. He no longer has even his voiceover.

 Hannibal Season 2

The above poster was released for the second season of Hannibal. Bryan Fuller explains: “After a horrifying descent into madness in season 1, this image ironically represents the perspective of a scrappier, clearer-minded Will Graham in season 2.  The scales have fallen from his eyes and he finally sees Hannibal Lecter for the monster he is.”

The Blacklist remains the best new network show so far, and has become the first to receive a full 22-episode pick-up.

Sleepy Hollow will remain with a thirteen episode run this year, and has been renewed for a second 13-episode season.

The Americans was one of the best new shows last year. Creator/executive Joe Weisberg and executive producer Joel Fields discussed the show at PaleyFest.

Nathan Fillion will guest star on Community, making Firefly references inevitable.

Rob Kazinsky says True Blood “kind of ran out of ideas and now they’ve got an idea again and they’re trying to finish stronger than ever… which they’re going to do next season!”

David Tennant will reprise his role as star of Broadchurch for a US adaptation from Fox. It was an excellent show, but I’m not sure why we need a second version. I imagine that many US viewers neither have a way to  pick up British shows and don’t watch BBC America, leaving an untapped audience for Fox.

David Tennant will also be staring in Day of the Doctor, the 50th Anniversary episode of Doctor Who. Current plans include simulcasting the show in 75 countries.  Steven Moffat has also discussed the upcoming regeneration from Matt Smith to Peter Capaldi:

If you haven’t seen it, there is a particularly fine interview Steven Moffat has given to Nerd3 in which he discusses, well, a lot of things you don’t often hear Steven Moffat discuss.

One section is devoted to regeneration, and the fact that it would not be a break with Whovian tradition for the Twelfth Doctor to look a lot like someone the Doctor has already met. In fact Peter Capaldi has been in Doctor Who (as Lucius Caecilius Iucundus in “The Fires of Pompeii”) and Torchwood: Children of Earth, and Steven has already had a chat with Russell T Davies over how this will all work.

He said: “We are aware that Peter Capaldi’s played a part in Doctor Who before and we’re not going to ignore the fact. I’ll let you in on this. I remember Russell told me he had a big old plan as to why there were two Peter Capaldis in the Who universe, one in Pompeii and one in Torchwood. When I cast Peter, [Russell] got in touch to say how pleased he was, I said ‘Okay, what was your theory and does it still work?’ and he said ‘Yes it does, here it is’. So I don’t know if we’ll get to it… we’ll play that one out over time. It’s actually quite neat.”

If they try to be too clever I  suspect they might run into problems analogous to explaining why the Klingons look different in different versions of Star Trek. There’s a simple explanation–the same actor played three different roles. Sure, you could come up with an explanation which includes the Doctor taking the form of people he encountered in the past when regenerating. Then how do we explain Karen Gillan’s appearance, as she also appeared in The Fires of Pompeii as a different character before playing Amy Pond?

J.J. Abrams has apologized for all the lens flairs in Star Trek Into Darkness.

And finally, this video on the finale and a farewell video from the cast of Breaking Bad:

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SciFi Weekend: The 12th Doctor; The Next Batman; SHIELD And The Avengers; Captain America; Star Wars; Star Trek; Homeland; Dexter; The White Queen; Piracy

Last week white smoke emerged from the BBC and soon afterwards Peter Capaldi was introduced as the 12th Doctor on a show simulcast in the U.K., the United States, Canada, and Australia (video above). BBC America has a run down on the news coverage. The Guardian introduces Capaldi to non-Brits.

Every time there is a regeneration, there is speculation that the next Doctor might not someone other than a white male. Neil Gaiman claims that a black actor has turned down the role. Steven Moffat, Matt Smith, and Jenna Coleman discussed the transition in this interview. An excerpt:

Is writing that final story for Matt Smith’s Doctor the biggest pressure you’ve faced, in doing this show?

MOFFAT:  The biggest pressure will always be introducing a new Doctor.  And I can’t imagine it will ever be tougher than with “The Eleventh Hour” because everything changed.  It’s not an ideal way to run television.  It really isn’t.  That was mad.  All the execs left, the producer left, and all the stars left.  You think, “Christ, how do you get away with that?!”  We’re not in that situation this time, and it’s good that we’re not.  People say, “It must have been great and exciting and marvelous that you had all that new stuff,” but not really.  But, we got away with it.  I just remember thinking, “Are people going to buy that this is the same show, when it clearly is not?”

Do you wish that you could just introduce the new Doctor via the show, when he finally shows up?

MOFFAT:  I’d love to, but that’s physically impossible.  It was Russell’s plan not to tell anyone that Chris [Eccleston] was going to change in the last episode, but it leaked after one week.  I wish it were possible.   The fact is that those actors’ agents have to say that they’re available.  They have to take jobs.  It’s going to leak, so you have to take command of that story.  It’s annoying.  I’d far rather not tell anybody anything, seriously.  If you’re telling a joke, you don’t want anybody telling the punchline before you get to the end.  Sadly, I don’t think it’s possible now.  Everybody wanders around with cameras now.  A few years ago, no one had a camera on them.  Now, every little human being goes around with a camera on their phone.  How am I going to keep secrets with that?!  It’s tough.  It can be irritating, but what can you do?

Moffat started with a new cast with both Matt Smith and Karen Gillan. With Jenna Coleman still being relatively new to the series, the show with Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman will have a different feel than during most of Moffat’s tenure with Matt Smith and the Ponds.

Now that we know who will play the next Doctor, the next major succession is who will play Batman when he appears in the next Superman movie. Rumor has it that Orlando Bloom is the leading contender.

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Joss Whedon discussed synergy between Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the universe of The Avengers:

Speaking at the recent TCAs, Whedon said fans will spot some synergy in the run-up to Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Thor: The Dark World. “There will be as much as we can allow,” he said. “We’re still working that out. It’s a fun opportunity, but it’s not the reason for the show. It’s not an Easter egg farm, we want people to come back.”

The pilot kicks off with Angel alumnus J August Richards as an “unregistered gifted” that the SHIELD agents must track down. Don’t expect a superhero-of-the-week show, though, “There could be a device, a mystery,” Whedon continued.

“There’s so many aspects as to what’s happened since everybody in the world found out there’s a superhero team and aliens invaded New York. We want to be able to change it up every week: spy stuff, hero stuff, heartfelt stuff. We want to make sure the humor is there, but every week, you get something that feels a little bit different.”

Disney has also released a full synopsis for Captain America: The Winter Soldier

After the cataclysmic events in New York with The Avengers, Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier finds Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, living quietly in Washington, D.C. and trying to adjust to the modern world. But when a S.H.I.E.L.D. colleague comes under attack, Steve becomes embroiled in a web of intrigue that threatens to put the world at risk.

Joining forces with the Black Widow, Captain America struggles to expose the ever-widening conspiracy while fighting off professional assassins sent to silence him at every turn. When the full scope of the villainous plot is revealed, Captain America and the Black Widow enlist the help of a new ally, the Falcon. However, they soon find themselves up against an unexpected and formidable enemy—the Winter Soldier.

These Avengers-themed sex toys will definitely never be sold at the many stores around the Disney theme parks, even should the Avengers characters be moved from Universal to WDW in the future.

ABC is in talks to bring another genre show to television–a live action Star Wars show. I really hope this happens, not because I care whether there is a weekly Star Wars show but because maybe this would lead CBS (who appears to own the rights, but it is somewhat murky) to counter by returning Star Trek to television. Star Trek worked far better as a weekly series than intermittent movies which are forced by market demands to be big action movies.

After Disney purchased the rights to Star Wars, there was talk of expanding the Star Wars presence at the Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park. I expressed skepticism over speculation that they would  get rid of Muppet Vision 3D and the Honey I Shrunk the Kids Playground for this expansion. Earlier in the week I was looking at the refurbishment schedule at Walt Disney World and noticed that Muppet Vision 3D is closed August 6 through September 2 for refurbishment. In addition, the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Playground will be closed September 3 through November 19 for refurbishment. They might not be around forever, but it doesn’t appear likely that they plan to remove them in the near future. As is usually the case at WDW, other areas will also be closed during these times. The most significant is that Spaceship Earth will be closed August 18-24.

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On Orange is the New Black, Kate Mulgrew ran the prison kitchen instead of the Starship Voyager. She was interviewed by Vulture, and told about one Star Trek reference thrown into the show:

At one point Natasha Lyonne has a line, “I thought I was your Spock.”
Yes, they threw that in. I’m sure they’ll do some more of that. I think that was intentional and very clever!

Speaking of Star Trek, Blastr describes how the show was saved by Lucille Ball.

In 1965, Roddenberry got a pilot order from NBC and produced the original Star Trek pilot “The Cage.” It was rejected by the network, reportedly because it was “too cerebral,” and for most shows that’s where the story would have ended. Luckily for Roddenberry, he had Ball on his side. The story goes that she still thought the Star Trek idea had legs, and used her considerable influence in television to push for NBC to give Roddenberry a second chance. The network made the exceedingly rare move of ordering a second pilot from Roddenberry, who overhauled almost the entire cast of characters from “The Cage” and eventually produced “Where No Man Has Gone Before.” That pilot was accepted, the show was given a series order, and the rest is history.

Damian Louis interviewed about his role on Homeland in the video above.

Anna Torv returns to television following Fringe in a show expected to air on HBO next year. Torv will play a lesbian yoga instructor.

Yvonne Strahovski as Hannah McKay (Season 7, episode 6) - Photo: Randy Tepper/Showtime - Photo ID: dexter_706_0087

We don’t know yet how Dexter will end but executive producer Sara Colleton realizes that she can’t make everyone happy.

“This has been the ending that we have talked about for years,” she said. “So to us, it feels right for our show and how we feel about it. I hope fans will think it’s right [too].”

The exec conceded that there is no way to make “everybody happy” with the conclusion of the Michael C Hall series.

“At the end of the day, we know that you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t,” she said. “There will be people who hate it, but we can’t try to anticipate that or put it through the lens of any other show’s finale – because that was another show.

“This is our show. This is Dexter.”

It is hard to believe that things will end well for Dexter Morgan. Multiple routes to doom have arisen this season. So far this has included Dr. Vogel and Deb when she is in a crazy mood. Last week episode showed two additional threats. He has decided he wants to be a mentor to Zach Hamilton, but Zach appears unhinged enough to turn on Dexter. Then there was the return of Hannah McKay.

Having a hard time waiting until Game of Thrones returns? The White Queen on Starz might help.

Piracy drops when there are legal ways to view shows. It comes as no surprise that piracy has spiked in response to the Time Warner cable blackout of CBS.
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