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.

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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

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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.

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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.

agents-of-shield-tv-show-teaser

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.

mulgrew

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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SciFi Weekend: Peter Capaldi To Play The 12th Doctor; Awards for Orphan Black and The Americans; Sherlock; Arrow; The Flash; Merlin Movie; Homeland

Peter Capaldi Fires of Pompeii

On a show simulcast in the U.K., the United States, Canada, and Australia, Peter Capaldi was announced as the 12th Doctor. Today’s announcement came as no surprise as the bookies were so certain of the choice that they stopped taking bets prior to the announcement. He has some preparation for the role. He previously appeared in a Doctor Who episode,  Fires of Pompeii, an episode which Karen Gillan also appeared in before playing Amy Pond. He also played the W.H.O. Doctor in World War Z. He appeared elsewhere in the Doctor Who universe playing John Frobisher in Torchwood: Children of Earth. Capaldi has appeared in multiple other roles but the one I’m most familiar with was his role on The Hour, a BBC show about a news program in the late 1950′s which is well worth viewing.

Tatiana x3

Tatiana Maslany deserved an Emmy nomination for her role on Orphan Black. She plays all three characters in the picture above, and more. She was snubbed for an Emmy but The Television Critics Association did recognize her work with an award for Individual Achievement in Drama. Actually she should have been nominated for Best Actress for playing Sarah Manning and three Best Supporting Actress nominations for playing Alison Hendrix, Cosima Niehaus, and Helena. There were three other clones played by Maslany who had briefer roles in the first season of Orphan BlackMore clones are promised for next season.  Tatiana Maslany also won the Critics Choice Award in June for Best Actress In A Drama Series.

There were three outstanding new series this season--Orphan Black, The Americans, and Hannibal. The Television Critics Association recognized two of these shows, giving the award for Outstanding New Series to The Americans.

Sherlock returns in the above trailer. Sherlock will face a new villain played by Lars Mikkelsen, brother of Mads Mikkelsen who plays the title role in Hannibal.

News on the next season of Arrow–including a Flash spin off. More on Flash here.

A movie version of Merlin is in the works but it has nothing to do with the recent television series.

TV Line has news on season 3 of Homeland.

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

Time Wars

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

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

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

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

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

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

Above is the Behind The Scenes video

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MAJOR SPOILERS ABOUT HOUSE OF CARDS FOLLOW.

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

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

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

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

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

END OF SPOILERS

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

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

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SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, Game of Thrones, The Americans, Mad Men

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This week’s episode of Doctor WhoRings of Akhaten, had a number of potential ideas but they didn’t gel into a coherent story. This was Clara’s first trip with The Doctor off of earth, returning to a place he says he once visited with his granddaughter. There is more on Clara’s back story, but not enough to tell yet how this plays into her mysterious past. I do suspect that the most important leaf in the world might have been guided when first hitting Clara’s father. We did find even more episodes where The Doctor observed Clara in her past. In a prequel the Doctor stumbled upon her while searching, not knowing who she was. It would make more sense if intentional episodes of observing Clara in her past were by the Doctor in the future after he actually met Clara.

The special effects staff saved up for years to make it look like they might step into the Star Wars Cantina at any moment.  There were “more aliens than  you can shake a cosmic screwdriver at.” The physics was more questionable with an implausible atmosphere and the whole story of a creature living off of memories and being sedated with a lullaby didn’t make terribly much sense. In last week’s episode, The Bells of St. John, the Doctor solved things too easily by reprogramming a Spoon Head. This week was far worse when the Cosmic Screwdriver could do everything from opening an unopenable door to fighting off monsters. Reportedly next week’s episode is much better.

Above is this week’s behind the scenes video.

I suspect that Moffat is up to some timey-whimey stuff with the Doctor and past visits to Clara. He also had some interesting plans if David Tennant had stayed on for another year:

I only had the roughest idea. Had David stayed for one final year, it would certainly have been his last, so my pitch was that it would start with the Tardis crashing in Amelia’s back garden – as now – and a terribly battered and bruised Tenth Doctor staggering out.

Amelia finds him, feeds him fish custard (no that was for Matt, it would have been something more Davidy) and generally helps him. But we, the audience, can see he’s in a truly bad way. Dying maybe. Eventually he heads back to his TARDIS, and flies off.

But when he returns – many years later for Amy – he seems perfectly fine, and indeed doesn’t remember any of those events…And of course over time, we realise what we saw was the Tenth Doctor at the end of his life, about to regenerate. Events that we return to in Episode 13…

Richard E. Grant, who has played several roles on Doctor Who including The Great Intelligence, will be appearing next season on Girls.

Christoper Eccleston has met with Steven Moffat but still could not be convinced to forget whatever caused him to leave and return for the 50th anniversary.

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Above is David Tennant and Matt Smith working on the 50th anniversary episode.  Joanna Page  of Gavin and Stacey reportedly will also appear in the Doctor Who 50th anniversary episode. There have been false rumors of Joanna Page appearing on Doctor Who in the past. This time it looks like it is true, with confirmation from BBC America.  Now they must bring back James Corbin and have a mini-Gavin & Stacey reunion.

Vulture shows how to remember the names of all the characters in Game of Thrones. BuzzFeed has all the stats you need on the sex scenes. Not surprisingly, most feature female nudity.

FX had another excellent episode of The Americans on last week but the episode ran seven minutes over, without including this in the listings, causing many recording the episode on a DVR to miss a key event in the final minutes. FX has the entire episode on line here. This week’s episode is scheduled to run until 11:03 (and this will hopefully be handled correctly in the program guides).

Channel 4 has announced that Misfits will end after its current fifth season.

Robert Redford will play the head of S.H.I.E.L.D in Captain America 2.

Don and Megan Dinner

Mad Men returns tonight. Here are Mad Men’s most memorable moments. Check out The Hollywood Reporter if you are having difficulty recalling where things left off last season. BuzzFeed gives eleven reasons to love Megan.   Inside TV looks at Megan’s independence.

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SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who Returns in The Bells of St. John; Hugo and Other Award Nominations for Doctor Who

DOCTOR WHO SERIES 7B EPISODE 1

Doctor Who returned with The Bells of St. John, picking up with the Doctor having gone to a quiet place as advised by a young Clara Oswald as seen in a web-episode prequel. The bells turn out be from the phone on the TARDIS with Clara having received the Doctor’s number from an unidentified person, saying it was  for tech support. I wonder if this is another explained event which sometimes pop up in Moffat’s stories, or if we will find that someone significant (perhaps River Song or another version of Clara) gave it to her.

The plot, as is often the case on Doctor Who, was not terribly compelling but the character interaction more than made up for it. The danger in Moffat’s stories often comes from unexpected, or everyday items. In this case the danger struck over WiFi, so be careful of what you click on. The episode took advantage of the London background to provide a more realistic setting than usual, and a trip in the TARDIS to an out control airplane was more exciting than many of the trips to alien planets in other episodes. It is necessary to watch closely to pick up the many subtle references to other aspects of Doctor Who, such as an old book written by Amelia Williams. Others were more obvious, such as the scene with UNIT.

DOCTOR WHO SERIES 7B SERIES PREVIEW IMAGES

While this season is primarily made up of stand-alone episodes, The Bells of St. John can be seen as part of at least two arcs: the mystery of Clara Oswald and another attempt by the Great Intelligence to fight the Doctor. We learned very little about Clara, but she did have some similarity to the Clara of The Snowmen as she once again was a governess. She also acquired considerable computer skills in this episode, perhaps foreshadowing her abilities in Asylum of the Daleks. We also saw how the Doctor comes up with money and Moffat got in a dig at Twitter.

There is no longer a Doctor Who Confidential, but the BBC did release this behind the scenes video.

Steven Moffat says we will learn who Clara is this season. More from Moffat in the text of a press conference posted here. Other major news from the past week is that David Tennant and Billie Piper will be returning for the 50th anniversary episode. John Hurt will also be appearing in the episode.

Cult Box has a spoiler-free review of next week’s episode, The Rings of Akhaten.

The week of Doctor Who‘s return was also a big week for awards and nominations, including receiving a Peabody Award: “Doctor Who,” the ever-evolving, ever-clever BBC science fiction series now entering its second half century, was awarded an Institutional Peabody.

Doctor Who was also nominated for two BAFTA Awards:

Musical composer Murray Gold was nominated in the Original Television Music category for his, as the ninth Doctor would say, ”fantastic” music score featured in the Series 7 episode, Asylum of the Daleks. This is the second time Murray Gold has been nominated for a BAFTA award.

The show was also nominated for a BAFTA in the Visual Effects and Graphic Design category. The Mill, which has recently announced it will be closing, was nominated for the wonderful Craft Visual Effects it has created in their recent episodes.

The Mill has been nominated for a BAFTA every year since 2007. They received a BAFTA in 2009 for their work in The Fires of Pompeii.

Other Doctor Who related BAFTA awards include the Editing Fiction award in 2008, The Television Drama Series in 2005, and the Craft Writer award went to Steven Moffat in 2007.

Three episodes were nominated for Hugo Awards:

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form (597 nominating ballots cast)

  • Doctor Who, “The Angels Take Manhattan”, Written by Steven Moffat, Directed by Nick Hurran (BBC Wales)
  • Doctor Who, “Asylum of the Daleks”, Written by Steven Moffat; Directed by Nick Hurran (BBC Wales)
  • Doctor Who, “The Snowmen”, written by Steven Moffat; directed by Saul Metzstein (BBC Wales)
  • Fringe, “Letters of Transit”, Written by J.J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Akiva Goldsman, J.H.Wyman, Jeff Pinkner. Directed by Joe Chappelle (Fox)
  • Game of Thrones, “Blackwater”, Written by George R.R. Martin, Directed by Neil Marshall. Created by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss (HBO)

The Avengers were among the nominees for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form:

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form (787 nominating ballots cast)

  • The Avengers, Screenplay & Directed by Joss Whedon (Marvel Studios, Disney, Paramount)
  • The Cabin in the Woods, Screenplay by Drew Goddard & Joss Whedon; Directed by Drew Goddard (Mutant Enemy, Lionsgate)
  • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Screenplay by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson and Guillermo del Toro, Directed by Peter Jackson (WingNut Films, New Line Cinema, MGM, Warner Bros)
  • The Hunger Games, Screenplay by Gary Ross & Suzanne Collins, Directed by Gary Ross (Lionsgate, Color Force)
  • Looper, Screenplay and Directed by Rian Johnson (FilmDistrict, EndGame Entertainment)

 

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