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.

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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.

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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: Continuum Season Finale (Major Spoilers); Broadchurch–Looking at Season 2 Without Spoiling Season 1; Hugo Awards; Benedict Cumberbatch; Star Trek Science

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For the last few days I felt a little like a time traveler with information about the future which should not be spread. I binged on both seasons of Continuum over one week, watching the season finale on a download from the original Showcase broadcast last Tuesday. Of course all the Canadian viewers must have felt like this for a few weeks.  This is a Canadian show on a network required to include some Canadian shows, so I immediately put aside any skepticism as to Vancouver being the key North American city in 2077. Now that SyFy has also broadcast the finale in the United States, I feel I can to on to discuss the show with some major spoilers.

Until I began watching, I had fears that Continuum might be a police procedural with the gimmick of a future cop and terrorists from the future. It was clear early that the show is much more complex, moving into new territory in the second season, and setting up the show to move in yet more new directions in the upcoming third season. Rachel Nichols plays future City Protective Services (CPS) Protector Kiera Cameron who was sent back in time from 2077 to our present along with a group of terrorists (Liber8) who escaped their death sentence with time travel The world of 2077 is, on the surface, the dream of several libertarian fantasies as governments have collapsed and corporations have taken over. It doesn’t turn out the way in which libertarians fantasize as the corporations have no respect for our concepts of individual liberty or restrictions on the power of the state.

Seeing the future which Liber8 is trying to prevent makes it very hard to decide who to root for in the series, and a factor which keeps the show so interesting. In the season two finale, Liber8 leader Travis claims that he, and not Kiera, is the good guy in this story. Many viewers would probably agree if not for the excessive violence utilized by Travis and others in Liber8. There have also been differences of opinion, and even a civil war, within Liber8, with some taking a less violent approach. Kiera is the protagonist of the story and does what she believes is right based upon her knowledge, but at least so far lacks the knowledge provided to the viewers about the system she defends.

Another major player is Alec Sadler, who as a young man assists Kiera and as an old man in 2077 (played by William B. Davies, the cigarette-smoking man of X-Files), runs the most powerful tech company in the world). Young Sadler connects with Kiera early because her CMR (an implant which, among other things, provides communication for Protectors) works on a frequency which Alec was experimenting on in the lab in his garage. Alec’s step-brother Julian is originally portrayed as being a messed up kid fated to become a mass murderer but by later in the second season it appears he becomes one of the most heroic characters of the series, with far more to the stories of mass murder by his future self than Kiera understands.

While doing repairs, Alec found messages from his future self placed in Kiera’s super-powered body suit which revealed that Liber8 and Kiera were intentionally sent back in time by his future self. This means that old Alec has developed reservations about the system which he was involved in creating as he sent Liber8 back in time to change the future, with Kiera possibly sent along to keep their violence in check. Even after two seasons, all the details of Alec’s plans are not yet clear. The members of Liber8 appear to be successful in creating the roots of a rebellion against Corporate control but cause and effect create a number of questions in this series. The anti-terror task force in the police department becomes CPS with corporate sponsorship in response to the threat from Liber8, being just one situation seen where we question whether the time travelers are actually creating the future of 2077. In an analogous situation, it is Kiera who wound up radicalizing Julian with her threat to kill him.

The ability to change the future on this show is quite unclear and I will return to this question later. In one episode Kiera captures a mass murderer who in her time was known for never having been caught. We do not know which events, if any, would actually change things in her future. A character believed to be another character’s grandmother is even killed, with the character not showing any change.

Not everyone sets out to change the future. Matthew Kelog was a reluctant member of the group all along, dragged into illegal activity by his sister.  After arriving in his past he left the terrorists and made a fortune with his knowledge of the future. One nit pick is that he made this fortune far too quickly. Knowledge of which businesses succeeded and other events will certainly help build a successful portfolio but this would take time. It is unrealistic that he would know enough winners of major sporting events from that far back in the past to amass a huge fortune from gambling so quickly either. It would be more plausible if he knew his destination and had time to do research before being sent back.

If time travel is possible, it only makes sense that there might be other time travelers around. Two characters, including one named Jason who happens to share DNA with Alec, were sent back in time from the original breakout but wound up in an earlier time. Jason is kind of nuts. Is this the result of being in the past so long? I suspect it was more  the result of being thrown into a mental institution when he went back in time and claimed to be from the future. It is hard to judge this based upon other characters as one other showed signs of mental imbalance but others did not.

Complicating matters further are the Freelancers who are from a different time.

The second season finale answered some question but also set up potential major changes in the show. We learned that one recurring character whose goals were unclear, Escher, is a former Freelancer and Alec’s father while Jason shares his DNA as he is Alec’s son. There already had been the question as to what degree future technology developed by Alec was based upon knowledge he learned of the future as opposed to being his own inventions. Now that we learn that time travel is the family business, we don’t even know if Alec would even be in this time line without time travel.

If the revelation from Escher that he was Alec’s father reminded viewers of Darth Vader telling the same to Luke, the scene with both Kiera and Travis suited up was reminiscent of a fight scene from The Matrix.

With the police being turned into a corporate-controlled unit which violates civil liberties (also presenting a change in the portrayal of Inspector Dillon of the Vancouver Police), Kiera’s partner Carlos left the police and wound up with Julian, who had been an enemy in prior episodes. It is possible that Carlos is going undercover, but I suspect that he really was fleeing from the newly founded City Protective Services, who are now planning to arrest Kiera as a terrorist.

At different times in the finale Alec appeared to be using and double crossing both Escher and Kiera, going for his own trip through time in the finale. Most likely he is going back to save his girlfriend Emily, who was killed during the second season. Emily’s motives were also unclear earlier in the season as it was clear to everyone but Alec that her goal was to get into his lab, and she also turned out to be working for Escher. Will Alec succeed in saving Emily, and if so will this create a cosmic reset making the other events of the last couple of episodes not occur, or will it create a new time line with a living Emily parallel to the one where she was killed? Is Emily Jason’s mother?  It is also possible that Alec might wind up at a different time, such as when the characters were first sent back in time, or maybe just a few minutes before the Freelancers attacked.

The show often shifts back between the present and 2077, and key information is often not revealed until subsequent episodes (if at all so far). The second season began with a scene of Kiera being captured and put in a glass cage along with members of Liber8, including one who was  brought back from the dead or from a different point in time. Kiera then awoke from a dream (when some of her memories were wiped)in 2077 and it wasn’t clear if this was part of her dream in 2077 or an event from some other point in time. In the second season finale, Kiera is captured by the Freelancers, who claim a goal of defending the time line from time travelers and are as violent as Liber8.While t is hard to trust the motives of the Freelancers, are we actually seeing something like the Temporal Cold War from Star Trek: Enterprise? The season ends with a repeat of the scene with her being placed in the glass cage.

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Presumably this imprisonment occurs immediately after what appeared to be her capture, but this is far from certain. If she had been dreaming this in 2077 before she was sent back in time, it could be a suppressed memory from earlier, especially if she has wound up in a temporal loop due to changes in the time line which are not yet clear. It is also possible that she actually escaped at the end of the episode and the imprisonment scene occurs at some other point in time. Alec’s trip through time might wipe out everything we are seeing, or create a new time line in which this does not occur. If the third season does start with her in the glass cage, then what? The cages look more like short term holding cells than a permanent prison. Do the Freelancers plan to move them elsewhere or perhaps take them back to their own time? Does Alec and/or Escher save them, or do still more time travelers get involved?

One of the Freelancers did make a reference to different time lines in the finale, and this might be where the show is headed. It remains unanswered as to whether those sent back in time can change the future for old Alec or, as some incidents suggest, at most can create a different time line where things turn out different. Physics Today did look at the science of time travel in Continuum, but as 1) time travel is not real and 2) this is fiction and the show is going to follow whatever rules are made by its creators. We got some hints as from Simon Berry in this interview with some questions posted below:

The core of the show’s storytelling has always seemed to be the struggle between corporate dominance and the anarchy of Liber8. How do the Freelancers fit into that theme?

You will find out in the first episode of Season 3.

When did you guys decide that the show needed another group of time travelers in the mix?

The notion of Freelancers was introduced early in the writing room of season 1. We were going to bring it in then, but decided to hold back until Season 2.

In one episode, someone shoots Kellog’s grandmother and he’s unharmed. In another episode, Kiera solves a serial killer case that was never solved in her original timeline — and she still remembers seeing it as an unsolved case, back in 2077. Also, in one episode Old Alec tells Young Alec that he’s not Young Alec’s future self, but just a version of Alec that shares some experiences. So is it basically confirmed that you can change the past, but you’ll just create a brand new alternate timeline? Is that definite now?

The final episode of season 2 certainly points to that, but ‘definite’ is a dangerous word. Don’t get too hung up on the defining “multiverse versus closed loop” debate just yet.

We like to think of time in the context of our story: two points, 65 years apart. The belief that one can make small changes to the timeline now and that will upset 100% of the events in 65 years, is too simplistic. We’ve used the Tsunami metaphor in the show and I think it’s an appropriate one in this case. Small changes to that wave are certainly going to have an impact on the damage it does, but that doesn’t mean the wave doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do.

I think because the stories are Kiera-centric, we are tempted to believe that the changes to the timeline will affect her life more than others, but there’s no reason to think this way. Unless Kiera or Liber8 makes changes that are directly related to her family and Greg’s family, then there is still a good chance that she will be born and Greg will be born and they will meet.

The idea of multiple timelines in itself opens the door to connected timelines that could split like tree branches but then wrap around each other like vines, eventually merging again. That’s one of the amazing things about time travel; because it’s not a pure science, there is room for interpretation and the introduction of larger forces at work, be they natural or un-natural.

Even if Kiera is on an alternate timeline, she could theoretically return to a version of 2077 where her life played out 99% as it did. Now it’s true she would run into a version of herself that never went back in time and that would be complicated… But it would be deliciously complicated.

If so, then what does Old Alec have to gain by sending Kiera and the Liber8 gang back in time? Won’t he just create a different timeline that he can’t ever visit? From his viewpoint, how can Old Alec even know what changes happen as a result of that time travel?

Perhaps Old Alec understands more about what’s at stake than we’ve revealed to date. The final episode of season 2 will introduce the first threads of this larger storyline.

One of the big shifts in season two was the Vancouver Police Department coming under the control of Piron, or at least a big part of it. Do the police basically just become another gang in the city’s gang war at some point, and lose their legitimacy as cops? Have the police already crossed too many lines to be able to claim they’re upholding the law?

Well the Piron deal is really only with Dillon’s Liber8 task force so it was never meant to be a complete take-over (yet!) – What we are setting up is the very small moves that might lead towards an eventual corporate controlled police department a-la Robo-cop OCP scenario.

It seems as though the driving force behind the corporate takeover of the police was the arrival of Liber8. Are the Liber8 terrorists basically causing the corporate-controlled future they were trying to prevent, only ahead of schedule?

There’s a timely irony in that, and it’s not an accident.

And finally, it’s seemed as though Kiera isn’t sure what her goal is any more. At times she wants to preserve the timeline she comes from, but at other times, she’s willing to make some pretty big changes. (For example, being willing to shoot Julian, which would cause a pretty big change.) Are we going to see her regaining more of a clear sense of purpose in season three? Is her evolution as a character taking her someplace? And will we be learning more about Alec’s “purpose” for her?

It’s interesting that many comments pop up from time to time about Kiera not doing the ‘right’ thing or the ‘smart’ thing regarding time travel. This suggests she has the knowledge the audience has.

One of the unique aspects of Kiera Cameron in the Time Travel tradition is that she is one of the few characters in the genre who are not travelling by choice. Most Time Travel is driven by a character who understands the stakes and science of Time Travel, therefore their actions are determined based on their self aware role within the time continuum. They are willing adventurers who know the rules and usually have a goal and understanding of how to achieve it in context of their situation.

That is not the story of Continuum.

Kiera is an average person in 2077. She’s not a scientist or engineer. She’s not a theoretical physicist or even a fan of Science Fiction (unlike many of our fans who I believe would know what to do, and what not to do, if they found themselves in her shoes). Kiera is an unwilling victim of another person’s designs… She is us.

Kiera is fumbling her way through this experience using her humanity and experience as a guide, not a set of time travel rules or knowledge of paradoxes and wormholes. On occasion Alec will remind her of the possibilities and pitfalls, but without proof of anything, who’s to say what’s right or wrong. As Kiera evolves, so will her decisions.

For Kiera, this entire adventure is also a learning experience, and the lessons will form a critical path towards her becoming the person she needs to become in this mythology, and illuminate the “purpose” Alec had in mind for her.

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This weekend I binged on the entire season of Broadchurch. The story is about the murder of an eleven year old boy and the effects on the town. It stars David Tennant and its excellent cast includes a second actor who has starred on Doctor Who, Arthur Darvill. The third character in this scene, Olivia Coleman, also appeared in an episode of Doctor Who, The Eleventh Hour. As only four of eight episodes have shown so far in the United States on BBC America, I will avoid any meaningful spoilers. Those who want to know absolutely nothing (such as whether Danny’s killer is found) might want to skip the following.

Then I heard that the show had been renewed for a second season before completing the first, I was concerned that maybe they would leave things hanging, as occurs to some degree on another recent British crime drama, The Fall (staring Gillian Anderson). Broadchurch does have a very satisfying ending, showing not only the identity of the killer but answering many questions about other characters raised during the series. The killer might be guessed after a lot of information is provided in the seventh episode, but a big clue is held until the start of the eighth. With the killer apprehended, Broadchurch doesn’t appear to leave much room for a second season like the first, considering it would not be as realistic to have a second murder in the same place. Some of those involved in the show have said that the second season might be completely different:

Speaking at the Edinburgh Television Festival the network’s director of TV Peter Fincham said that viewers would not be subject to ‘a formulaic repeat of series one’ when the show returns in 2014.

He also did not confirm which members of the cast from the first series might – or might not – appear.

The comments mirror those of series creator Chris Chibnall, who confirmed earlier this year he was working on Broadchurch round two – but also stayed silent on whether Tennant and Colman would be back.

‘I would take nothing for granted, I would just wait and see!’ he commented.

Will Mellor, who played psychic phone engineer Steve Connolly, has also hinted that the next series could be a prequel – and may not even feature a whodunnit.

‘I can’t see it being about another murder because it will be a bit too coincidental. All I know is it’s going to be a surprise because the writer always catches you out,’ he said.

‘Maybe it’ll be a prequel, it might go back to the old case that David Tennant’s character [DI Alec Hardy] didn’t finish. Whatever it’ll be, it’ll be fantastic.’

red shirts

Redshirts by John Scalzi won the 2013 Hugo Award for Best Novel. The novel is an  homage to Star Trek, along with a look at what doesn’t completely work in television science fiction, and, continuing with the lead story today, even has some time travel.

The Avengers won for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form.

Blackwater, an episode of Game of Thrones won for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form. Three episodes of Doctor Who were also nominated in the category: The Angels Take Manhattan, Asylum of the Daleks, and The Snowmen. I wondered whether dividing the vote with three episodes might have prevented Doctor Who from winning again this year but looking at the total numbers Blackwater had more votes than all three episodes of Doctor Who combined.  The final nominee in this category was an episode of Fringe, Letters of Transit.

In the entertainment industry in 2077, Benedict Cumberbatch will be famous for being a part of every major movie franchise. Now there are reports that he will have a role in Star Wars VII. It looks like he should have some free time. Filming has completed on the third season of Sherlock.

James Spader has been cast to play Ultron in Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Yet another story on Star Trek science maybe becoming fact. This time, a report on experiments at NASA which might make warp drive a reality. Maybe. Fareed Zacharia also had a segment on Sunday’s show on technologies which are similar to the replicator.

 Update: News came in later tonight that Frederik Pohl died over this past weekend.

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SciFi Weekend: The Name of the Doctor and Star Trek Into Darkness

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This was a weekend steeped in tradition with the two oldest science fiction franchises both having a major event. The season of Doctor Who concluded with The Name of The Doctor, which leads directly into the 50th anniversary episode, and a new Star Trek movie was released. As usual, the review of Doctor Who contains spoilers but it is posted a day after the episode aired.  Fortunately those who received the episode early in error kept quiet. Movies are harder to deal with as people view them at different times. There are also major spoilers for Star Trek Into Darkness, many of which have been revealed in other reviews.

After a season of near-misses, especially in the second half, Moffat really delivered with The Name of the Doctor. The episode dealt with the entire history of the Doctor and events in recent episodes were important in making the episode work. Now that we have seen where Moffat was headed, the season as a whole looks much better as a long story arc in retrospect, even if each chapter was not perfect. Obviously Asylum of the Daleks and The Snowmen were necessary to see Clara die while saving the Doctor.  It was important to show Vastra, Jennie, and Strax as friends of the Doctor in The Snowmen and The Crimson Horror to believe the Doctor would take such a great risk to try to save them. It was part of her story for Clara to learn of her significance and then lose the memory in  Journey To The Center Of The TARDIS.

The introductory sequence might be the best ever seen on Doctor Who. It begins on Gallifrey with the question, “What kind of idiot would try to steal a faulty TARDIS?” Clara appears telling the first Doctor, accompanied by Susan, “Doctor, sorry, but you’re about to make a big mistake.”  The episode also includes glimpses of the other Doctors. There was the return of The Great Intelligence along with a new monster, The Whispermen.

Clara Letter

The story initially centers around leading the Doctor to Trenzalore, including a clever way to have Vastra, Jenna, Strax, Clara, and River Pond communicate over time. “Time travel has always been possible in dreams” makes no sense, but is accepted to propel the story.

We already knew that Trenazlore was connected to the fall of the eleventh, but it also turns out to be the site of the Doctor’s tomb and apparently the fall of Doctors beyond the eleventh. As the TARDIS resisted taking the Doctor to this one place in the universe where he should never go, there was also a literal fall to the surface.

We saw both what happens to a TARDIS and to a Time Lord following their death. The Doctor’s real name was necessary to open his tomb, but was spoken by River Song without the viewer hearing it. It was no surprise that we did not learn the name and the title of the episode was mild misdirection on Moffat’s part. Moffat also deceived us in other interviews about the episode, but Moffat’s lies are always forgiven when he delivers a great show. A character did die, but was also restored to life. Or perhaps he was referring to River Song. The episode appears intended to her final meeting with the Doctor, but does not prevent her from returning, especially from an earlier point in her time line. The very nature of her appearance in this episode raises questions which may or may not be answered beyond the simple explanations provided.

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The claim that this would be a season of stand alone episodes was also not completely true. Besides the finale being largely a chapter in a story which must include prior episodes of this season, The Name of the Doctor ends on a cliff hanger.

By the end we did learn both the explanation for Clara Oswald and the Doctor’s greatest secret. Nobody would have figured out Clara’s explanation without the events of The Name of the Doctor as she was fragmented over time after entering the Doctor’s time stream. I do have a couple of nitpicks with what we learned here.

Echoes of Clara were with the Doctor throughout his life, often saving him from the changes to the Doctor’s time stream created by The Great Intelligence. When Clara told the Doctor he was making a mistake when first stealing a TARDIS, the mistake was merely in the TARDIS he planned to take and she directed him to another in which “the navigation system’s knackered” and he will have more fun.  This conflicts with The Doctor’s Wife in which it was the TARDIS who influenced the Doctor to steal her. The scene would have worked better if the Doctor went on to take the TARDIS he first tried to steal despite Clara’s warning. This would have also provided an explanation for the TARDIS disliking Clara earlier in the season. Maybe this was even intended and it is just not clear that he ignored Clara’s advice but I do believe he took the one which Clara recommended.

Clara Time Stream

My other complaint is that Clara spoke of seeing all eleven  Doctors, but if this was the remnant of his entire time stream after he died she should have seen versions of the Doctor beyond the eleventh. They could have shown glimpses of others without faces and refrain from having Clara specify eleven. Ultimately one other version is shown with a contradiction present. He is presented as a version which does not deserve to be the Doctor for his actions but the episode ends with the caption, “Introducing John Hurt as The Doctor.”

We have until November 23 to find out what this means. There was mention of the Valeyard, the evil version of the Doctor from between the twelfth and final regeneration, during the episode, yet more evidence of Moffat’s respect for the entire history of the show. While John Hurt could be playing him, interviews so far suggest he is a regeneration from between the eighth and ninth Doctors (added when Christoper Eccleston declined to appear in the 50th anniversary episode). He is apparently the Doctor’s greatest secret for what he did. So far we only know that “broke the promise” which comes from choosing the name of the Doctor. This might be referring to actions during the Time Wars, or perhaps to events we are not yet aware of.

However this ends, Moffat has given us a tremendous season and appears to be on the way to making a major addition to the Doctor’s history and mythology.

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We will be anxiously awaiting the 50th anniversary episode, and the eight season since the reboot has been officially announced.

The Behind the Scenes video is above.

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Star Trek Into Darkness is an entertaining movie well worth seeing but it is not great Star Trek. J.J. Abrams knows how to make a great action movie (even if there is too much lens-flare) but he does not really understand Star Trek. The plot is a series of contrivances for a series of action scenes, lacking Gene Roddenbery’s vision which made Star Trek great. Wil Wheaton has already responded to Abrams’ failing to understand the importance of philosophy to Star Trek. This was far more Star Wars than true Star Trek.

Partially in Abrams’ defense, Star Trek should be a television series, not movie. It takes a weekly television series to develop the characters and show the philosophy of Star Trek in a series of smaller stories as opposed to big action scenes. Unfortunately the movies thrive on big action scenes, and the original movie series also failed to live up to the quality of the television shows. A movie which was true to Star Trek would have to be directed more towards Star Trek fans than a mass audience. Star Trek The Motion Picture did avoid the big action scenes and was not a great success, but it also had other flaws.

Abrams depends even more on the big action scenes than the original movie series, moving from one to the other at the expense of a logical plot or really dealing with issues. Thus we have a few lines of explanation for Khan’s motivations (including a reference to Section 31 which I did enjoy) but Abrams did not develop the character as well as in either Space Seed or Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Benedict Cumberbatch did play an excellent villain with the material available.

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Admiral Marcus turned out to be a second villain but his motivations did not seem realistic. It s one thing to bend the rules to get Star Fleet to prepare for a war you feel is coming. It is another thing to attempt to destroy the Enterprise or to directly try to provoke war with the Klingons. The movie also had one thing in common with the other recent blockbuster, Iron Man 3. Both include a character who is influenced into betraying others to help their child.

There is some degree of political controversy and references to current events in the movie. Khan was the terrorist on Kronos in an analogy to today’s terrorists in countries such as Afghanistan and Pakistan. The morality of using drones to kill a terrorist versus taking the terrorist into custody for a fair trial was raised. This was dealt with too simply with Khan being in an unpopulated area where capturing him seemed to be a more realistic option.

I do wish the timeline could be fixed as it was on The Name of the Doctor, but we must deal with the J.J. Abrams alternative timeline for now. I did not object, as some fans did in response to rumors of Khan’s appearance, to this retelling of the story. It was plausible that Admiral Marcus might have found the Botany Bay at an earlier point in history, and after the destruction of Vulcan might tried to make use of Khan.

There were other changes in this timeline compared to the original timeline. For example, they actually thought to put seat belts on the bridge.

Carol Marcus

While obviously it relates to changes in our culture as opposed to Nero’s changes in the timeline, sexual attitudes are different. On one hand, Kirk is still the womanizer, and they added a young, beautiful, and scantily clad Carol Marcus (Alice Eve) to the movie and trailer to increase interest in the movie. In other ways things were different. Kirk started on his five year mission to go “where on one has gone before.” It took us from the original series to Star Trek The Next Generation to update from “where no man has gone before.” Uhura had a far more active role. For the most part I liked this, except in the scene where Uhura was beamed down to join Spock in fighting Khan. This should have been a big guy whose primary job involved fighting, not a communications officer. Of course the original Star Trek would have been unrealistic in its own way. Captain Kirk would have been the one to beam down, simultaneously placing the Captain and First Officer in danger.

A surprise in this movie which is an obvious consequence from the previous movie was how  Spock took advantage of his counterpart from the original timeline to obtain information about Khan. This did allow Spock to figure out that Khan could not be trusted, but there were plenty of other clues even without contacting New Vulcan. This does present the danger of providing an easy way to get answers in further adventures, which might be avoided by facing different dangers or by being too far out into deep space to contact the original Spock. It was a surprise to see Leonard Nimoy in this movie, and it is questionable as to how much longer he will be able or willing to put on those Vulcan ears and appear on screen. They also met up with Tribbles earlier in this timeline and a Tribble played a key role.

Compared to The Wrath of Khan, this movie reversed Kirk and Spock making the sacrifice and screaming out the name of Khan. For a moment I feared they might be leaving the resurrection of James Kirk to the next movie as was done with Spock in the original series. Thankfully everything was resolved in this installment.

Spock Uhura

I did not like some of the changes in technology from the original timeline.  I did not like having Khan being able to easily transport himself from earth to Kronos. This is not Doctor Who. I disliked even more having Star Fleet build bigger ships for battle. The Enterprise is already much larger. While the Enterprise was built primarily for exploration, it is still the flagship for Star Fleet. Military threats should be handled by the Enterprise and other similar star ships, and there should not be bigger, more powerful ships to rely on.

Ultimately The Name of the Doctor will be remembered as significant and rewatched by fans. Star Trek Into Darkness provided a very entertaining night at the movies, which isn’t all bad, but it was a one-shot affair without much significance to Star Trek history. I just hope it is successful enough to eventually lead to a new television series. A cable television show does not need the mass audience of a blockbuster movie to succeed.

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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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Christmas Episodes: Doctor Who, Merlin, and Downton Abbey

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Three British cult television shows, Doctor Who, Merlin, and Downton Abbey, had special episodes for the holidays. Doctor Who: The Snowmen aired in the United States later the same day, but the fifth season of Merlin and third season of Downton Abbey have not and therefore this post will contain major spoilers. I will precede the discussion with the later two with a picture from the series to allow those who do not want to see these spoilers to turn away. I will discuss Merlin second as the spoilers will not be as shocking to those who can predict where the story is heading based upon the Arthur legends. The events of Downton Abbey would be more of a surprise. By now I wonder if there are there any Downton Abbey fans who are waiting for the US airing who have avoided hearing about the two shocking events of the regular season and Christmas episode? If so, they should either download the season now and watch it quickly or stay off the internet and stop reading newspapers and magazines until they  see the entire third season.

Doctor Who: The Snowmen contained two main story lines. The main plot of the story dealing with the Snowmen and the villain of the episode were not all that significant, unless the reference to the Great Intelligence foreshadows a future aspect of the storyline as opposed to references to a couple of old episodes from the 1960′s (which did include havoc in the London underground).  The Snowmen‘s real importance was in reintroducing Clara (Jenna-Louise Coleman), first seen as Oswin Oswald in Asylum of the Daleks. Not surprisingly, there was some misdirection from Steven Moffat and Jenna-Louise Coleman, who did not answer questions about her role with the full truth in recent interviews.

One highlight of the episode was Clara’s first view of the inside of the TARDIS, after climbing up stairs into a cloud for a second time. Her response was a first: “It’s smaller on the outside!” Her next question was also a first, and confirmed her connection to Oswin Oswald, when she asked if there was a kitchen inside because she likes to make souffles. Clara earlier had the right word (Pond) to get the Doctor’s attention. Most likely this was thrown in for the viewers, but perhaps knowing to say this is another sign that Clara is not what she seems.

The episode, written by Steven Moffat, who also writes the modern BBC version of Sherlock, contains two homages to Sherlock Holmes. Vastra and  Jenny (with the help of Strax) solved Victorian mysteries,providing the inspiration to Arthur Conan Doyle. This lesbian detective pair were different from the detectives portrayed by Doyle: “Good evening, I am a lizard woman from the dawn of time, and this is my wife.” The Doctor also portrayed Sherlock Holmes: “Shut up! I’m making deductions! It’s very exciting!”

If there was any doubt from the souffle line that both of Coleman’s characters were connected, this was answered at the end. The souffle girl died a second time, still leaving her well behind Rory in number of deaths for a companion. Her tombstone read Clara Oswin Oswald. Her final words to the Doctor were the same in both The Snowmen and Asylum of the Daleks: “Run, you clever boy… And remember.” The Doctor showed he planned to do just this, seeming to give Clara Oswin Oswald as the destination to the TARDIS. The episode ended with a girl also played by Jenna-Louise Coleman in modern times visiting Clara’s grave. Moffat has launched another mystery with this girl who,  somewhat like Timelords, can die and yet remain alive, except in her case still look the same.

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The final season of Merlin was mixed in quality, but the final three episodes, including the two-part story Diamond of the Day, were excellent.  Merlin concluded as the Arthur stories conclude–with Mordred delivering a mortal blow to Arthur. Like Morgana, who was not shown to be evil until the third season, Mordred was not portrayed as a threat to Arthur until he was given reason to turn against Arthur in the final episodes. Diamond of the Day Part I concentrated on the final battle, which concluded early in Part II. The final episode showed the deaths of Mordred and Morgana, but primarily dealt with Merlin and Arthur in what turned out to be the final hours of Arthur’s life.

Merlin and Arthur had the conversation which would have been expected to occur long before as Merlin revealed that he is a sorcerer. Fortunately for the legend of Merlin, Gwen figured out the identity of the sorcerer who led them to victory, presumably leading to the legend of the bearded wizard who aided Arthur as opposed to stories of a young servant. Before it became clear that Merlin was to tell Arthur’s story until its conclusion, I wondered if the entire series was to be about Merlin and Arthur in their youth, taking place before the greatness of Camelot. Seeing how the series did end, I do wish that during the final season they had done more to show why Arthur was a great king, worthy of being remembered in legend. The final season, which was the only one to show Arthur as King, just didn’t show Arthur’s life to be as significant as it was foretold to be in earlier seasons.  Regardless, it was sad to see Arthur die, but we were promised that Arthur would return when needed. For now, Long Live the Queen, as Guinevere took over for Arthur. I would assume that Merlin would remain to assist her, and we saw at the end of the episode that he remains alive today.

Just Desserts

The deaths this season on Downton Abbey were more shocking than the deaths of Clara (which may not be permanent) and of Arthur (which was anticipated). This is a reminder that major spoilers are coming for those who have not seen the third season yet. The news media stories that Dan Stevens (Matthew) would not be returning for the fourth season were true but the reports that he would return for the first episode only appear to be misdirection. Maggie Smith, in the scene pictured above, foreshadowed Matthew’s death when she said “we don’t always get our just desserts. The scene was  interspersed with scenes of Matthew driving (and looking careless) following the birth of his son.

It turns out that Dan Stevens had decided not to return for a fourth season even before filming began for the third season. Stevens said, “We were always optioned for three years.” At that time it is doubtful anyone would have predicted how successful the show would have become, leading to a fourth season. He If he had to leave the show, the season did wrap up Matthew’s story line well. Matthew saved Downton financially earlier in the season, and the importance of his actions was emphasized in the Christmas episode. There were also happy moments in the episode, as Mary and Matthew had a son. In retrospect we were also told that Matthew’s role in the series had ended as Mary described this as the two completing their jobs, providing a heir for Downton. There will now be two children at Downton lacking a parent. Tom Branson still isn’t completely comfortable in his role, but he has become part of the upstairs cast following the death of Lady Sybil earlier in the season. Branson, and a new maid, did learn the social implication of his new role in this episode.

It does appear that one new character might be added to the cast. Like the original Upstairs, Downstairs, a young and wilder niece (who already visited earlier in the season) is coming to live with the family, and might open up potential new story lines. With Downton Abbey you can’t predict if this will be a permanent edition, or just a brief visit from someone who will soon be forgotten as with Shirley MacLain’s character in the third season.

Downton Abbey Birth

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SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who Christmas Special; Merlin To End; Sherlock Delayed; Revolution; Star Trek; Downton Abbey; Into The Darkness

The BBC has released the poster for The Snowmen, this year’s Doctor Who Christmas Special. The official synopsis:

Christmas Eve 1892 and the falling snow is the stuff of fairy-tales. When the fairy-tale becomes a nightmare and a chilling menace threatens Earth, an unorthodox young governess, Clara, calls on the Doctor for help. But the Doctor is in mourning, reclusive and determined not to engage in the problems of the universe. As old friends return, will the Doctor really abandon humankind or will he fight to save the world – and Christmas – from the icy clutches of this mysterious menace.

Radio Times has The Snowmen on their cover. Blogtor Who reports that the article quotes Jenna-Louise Coleman as saying, “I’m not Oswin: I’m a different person who looks and sounds like Oswin.” Could it be that there is no connection, or is Moffat dragging out an explanation? If at some point we find out that Clara gets duplicated, don’t get too attached to the copy. Same goes if we meet a descendent of Clara’s who looks a lot like her.

Entertainment Weekly interviewed Jenna-Louise Coleman about her role as Clara, the Doctor’s new companion. She had no further information to reveal about how she appears after having been blown up as a Dalek in Asylum of the Daleks:

So, you played an ultimately deceased Dalek on that show and now you are about to debut (again!) on the special Christmas show as the Doctor’s assistant. All of which obviously raises about a thousand questions. Is this a subject that is going to be addressed in the Christmas episode?
Uh… mmm… no. We’re going to have what has been referred to as a “soft mystery.” For me, filming, I’ve been totally oblivious to Oswin and the “Asylum of the Daleks.” I really have had to erase it from my memory. Yeah, Christmas is it’s own episode.

Oswin was a Dalek. Can you tell us whether your companion is human? Not all of the Doctor’s companions have been.
That’s why it’s so difficult [to talk about it]. Because of the way it started with Oswin, it’s really difficult to say much: where she’s from, what period she’s from, what planet she’s from, even.

It’s not often an actor can’t even reveal what planet their character is from.
Exactly, yeah. I know. Doctor Who’s the worst for it, isn’t it?

The BBC has announced that Merlin will end after the fifth season, which is currently being aired in the U.K. I will try to avoid giving away too much for those waiting for the season to air in the United States but there will be some spoilers here. I had thought that the entire series was to be about younger versions of Merlin and Arthur, taking place before the major occurrences of the legends. Now it appears the series might include the entire Arthur story.  The final season is in some ways more like the King Arthur legends except that this still seems earlier in the legends than might be expected at the conclusion of the story. Mordred plays a part in the final series and based upon released synopses of upcoming episodes we do appear to be heading towards their final confrontation.

The video above contains an interview with Colin Morgan. There is also talk of a spin off series taking place in this time period.

Production on Sherlock has been delayed so we will have to wait until late 2013 to see how the cliff hanger is resolved, with the third season not airing in the United States until late 2013 or 2014.

Revolution wrapped up the first half of the season. The mid-season finale was disappointing, but this came as no surprise based upon how the series has been written to date. The entire first half of the season consisted of an arc in which Rachel’s son was captured and it came as no surprise that the arc ended by freeing him. The contrived suspense of whether Miles would rejoin the militia, which began in a flashback the previous week, ended as expected. What could have been a surprise at the end of the episode, a helicopter in the air, had been given away by scenes of the helicopters in the preview. Even if Rachel had really built a working amplifier, could this really support helicopters going an distance? I suppose they also quickly invented some sort of receivers for the helicopters so that they would have power but there wouldn’t be electricity for everyone else around.

Entertainment Weekly interviewed series creator Eric Kripke about the finale. Here are some of the questions and answers:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Was there ever a version in your head where Miles goes, “Yeah, I’m re-joining Monroe”?
Eric Kripke: What we love about Miles is half of him is light and half is shadow. If this story was set a couple years ago he would be the bad guy. You never want to lose sight of that. Just because Miles was able to face-off with Monroe in this particular encounter and maintain the heroic side of his personality doesn’t mean it’s going to happen again. So even though he was able to resist the temptation, that temptation is still there. Even moreso when he starts to fulfill his destiny and becomes a leader for the rebels [in the second half of the season]; he starts to fall into his old bloodthirsty patterns again. … There’s also a lot of important pieces in last night’s episode that move the story forward. We’re setting up how pissed Monroe is going to be in the second half of the season; how personal Neville is going to take Miles’ assault on his wife. And [we hinted that] Rachel and Miles have a very secret history.

I gotta ask, since I’m seeing this comment on the boards: How could Rachel forget to grab the pendant on the way out of the room?
Kripke: We shot a scene where Rachel goes, “We have to go back and get the pendant,” and Miles says, “We can’t go back, they’re shooting machine guns at us!” We ended up cutting it for time because we thought, maybe wrongly, that when there’s a room full of five people shooting machine guns in your direction that you can’t run toward those machine guns.

You mentioned the learning curve, what more have you figured out since the last time we spoke?
Kripke: The biggest lesson we learned is we need to move this story forward a little faster. We’re still going to have the same format where each episode is centered around a single event so it has certain self-enclosed elements to the storytelling. But sometimes in the emotional arcs and serialized arcs we treaded water maybe a little too much without revealing either new character moves or emotional revelations. We went a couple episodes too many where we didn’t move the ball forward significantly. We’re trying to correct that so that every time somebody tunes in they get a satisfying story and also a big “what the hell” moment

Staging a revolution is a pretty big venture. Can you give us an idea of what specific characters will be focused on?
Kripke: Charlie and Miles are really going to be focused on the war against Monroe. Miles leading the rebels gives them a fighting chance and Charlie is right beside him. Rachel and Aaron will focus the ongoing mythology in terms of revealing why the lights go out. I can reveal now that we do reveal it, now that we’ve written that scene. And reveal how to turn them back on.

You’re not that deep into production on the second half of the season, so can we assume that revelation comes fairly early?
Yeah in the second half it happens sooner than anyone is thinking it will happen.

Revolution has been mediocre but has managed to keep me hooked by wondering about its back story. Knowing that their will be a revelation early has me hooked into starting the second half of the season, and once I start watching I’m likely to continue through the first season. Will they come up with enough to advance this story into a second year?

An official synopsis has been released for Star Trek Into Darkness, scheduled for release on May 17, 2013:

In Summer 2013, pioneering director J.J. Abrams will deliver an explosive action thriller that takes “Star Trek Into Darkness.”

When the crew of the Enterprise is called back home, they find an unstoppable force of terror from within their own organization has detonated the fleet and everything it stands for, leaving our world in a state of crisis.

With a personal score to settle, Captain Kirk leads a manhunt to a war-zone world to capture a one man weapon of mass destruction.

As our heroes are propelled into an epic chess game of life and death, love will be challenged, friendships will be torn apart, and sacrifices must be made for the only family Kirk has left: his crew.

My immediate thought on this: Gary Mitchell (Where No Man Has Gone Before). The above video is obviously  from the original show and not the upcoming movie.

Last week’s installment of SciFi Weekend had some cases of shows having to carry on with the loss of characters. Now there are reports that Dan Stevens will only return for the first episode of the fourth season of Downton Abbey. His character, Matthew, takes on a prominent role at Downton in the third season (which has not yet aired in the United States) and I wonder if it will require a major change in direction for the fourth season if it is necessary to write him out. Perhaps more money will encourage him to stay, or at least make occasional appearances so that they can just say he is working in London for parts of the season.

Julian Fellowes is going to be writing and producing a series on The Gilded Age for NBC:

UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. – November 27, 2012 – NBC and Universal Television have entered into a deal with Oscar, Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning writer-producer Julian Fellowes (“Downton Abbey,” “Gosford Park”) to create and produce his next dramatic television series, it was jointly announced today by Jennifer Salke, President, NBC Entertainment, and Bela Bajaria, Executive Vice President, Universal Television.

Fellowes, creator of “Downton Abbey,” will write and produce “The Gilded Age,” an epic tale of the princes of the American Renaissance, and the vast fortunes they made — and spent — in late nineteenth-century New York. “This was a vivid time,” says Fellowes, “with dizzying, brilliant ascents and calamitous falls, of record-breaking ostentation and savage rivalry; a time when money was king.”

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SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, The Angels Take Manhattan (plus Amy and Rory) Plus Other New and Returning Shows

We knew that the ending was coming even before the point early in The Angels Take Manhattan when the Doctor said he hated endings, Despite the few moments of hope after everyone returned safely to the present, we knew that this episode would mark the end of Amy and Rory on Doctor Who. Rory died three more times and Amy died twice, but the two ended the episode to live out their lives together in the past.

Having the episode take place around landmarks which are familiar to me made the episode even more meaningful. On future visits I will be much more cautious when running out for coffee, and have always thought there was something odd about seeing a Starbucks on virtually every block in much of Manhattan. (Perhaps the Doctor will investigate that in the future.) I will certainly be more suspicious of any statues on future visits to New York, and will be certain not to blink around that fountain in Central Park which I have passed several times in the past.

In other ways this was an alien world to me, stranger than any of the alternate worlds seen on Fringe. I can’t imagine The New York Times having a headline saying the Detroit Lions Win Superbowl. New York also seemed quite warm for that time of year.

Once the decision was made to have the statues in New York become Weeping Angels, it was obviously far too tempting for Moffat to resist making the Statue of Liberty an Angel. Until the time paradox which wiped out the Angels occurred, I couldn’t imagine that there would be no historical record of the statue moving across Manhattan on at least two nights in the city which never sleeps. When all the Angels were removed from New York, why was the Statue of Liberty still standing? Perhaps the Angels were inhabiting pre-existing statues, and the statues returned to their previous inanimate forms. Of course if Angels take over other statues, there might not be the need for those babies in the basement.

The bigger question is why Amy and Rory cannot ever return. Clearly this is more a matter of whether the actors and producers should decide to have them back for an episode as there are numerous weaknesses to the reasons presented in the episode. This notion of fixed points in time has been rather ambiguous and hardly something the Doctor couldn’t work around. Perhaps the TARDIS could not return to that precise spot in 1938 but what about having Amy and Rory meet him elsewhere and at a different time? We know that River could go back and give Amy the manuscript and a message, presumably with the contraption on her wrist. Besides, why not use those instead of the TARDIS to save them?

If it is simply a case that time has been written, and cannot be rewritten here, there are still loopholes which are far larger than ones the Doctor has used in the past. The tombstone changed once to add Amy. Even if it could not be changed again, there were many years between 1938 and their eventual deaths. Why couldn’t some of those years again be with the Doctor, as long if the wound up returning to die as in the rewritten version of history? Why not have Melody Malone’s book include a series of mysterious absences by Amy and Rory after the events already written?

While Amy and Rory are gone, River Song will be traveling with the Doctor, at least for a short time longer. We found that she was released from prison because it turned out that the man she was accused of killing never existed, as evidence of the Doctor was wiped out. I had expected that she would ultimately get released for the opposite reason as people realized that the Doctor was still alive. The elimination of knowledge of the Doctor is one recurring storyline from this season. The Angels Take Manhattan also continued this season’s use of light bulbs, as the bulbs blinked on and off in the corridors of the Winter Quay.

Relive The Last Days of the Ponds in the video above.

In this video, Steven Moffat and the crew of Doctor Who discuss the making of The Angels Take Manhattan.

We know Doctor Who will be returning on Christmas, with a new companion played by Jenna-Louise Coleman. How does her character tie in with her role on Asylum of the Daleks? Is she the same person? How important will her character be in the ongoing theme of the removal of knowledge of the Doctor? There’s no doubt there will be Christmas lights. Will light bulbs become even more important as the season goes on?

Doctor Who was about separation, but also about Amy’s decision to remain together with Rory. Fringe returned with the reunion of another family. There was not only the reunion of Etta with Olivia, but we also found that Olivia and Peter had split after Etta was taken. The episode has yet another case in which Walter’s memories fail him. This time his memories of how to fight the Observers received from September were destroyed.

I am a bit confused as to how the Observers could be said to have evolved from humans yet come from 2609. That would hardly be enough time for such evolution, but Fringe has often invented ways to get around conventional science. Apparently after destroying the planet once before, they are working towards doing so again, even if just for humans and presumably not themselves.

Person of Interest showed that the machine did have a contingency to work on after Finch was captured, but it was limited to having someone else take over saving people of interest and not saving Finch. I won’t mind if Finch remains a captive if this keeps Amy Acker on the show longer. I am also curious as to what her character means by setting the machine free.

Revolution is setting up for a family reunion. As I (and probably most viewers) predicted, Elizabeth Mitchell’s character remains alive. This raises questions as to why things weren’t handled differently in the first episode’s attempt to capture her husband. I will give Revolution a little longer but so far this looks like it might join the long list of other recent genre shows to die in its first season.

There are several shows returning tonight. There is a new world situation to deal with on Homeland. Dexter returns with Deb knowing about her brother’s dark secret. The curse is broken but magic has returned on Once Upon A Time with a more intense season promised. Revenge returns with an expanded world and more family. There is also one new genre series as 666 Park Avenue premieres tonight.

Earlier this week Michael O’Hare, who played Commander Jeffrey Sinclair in the first season of Babylon 5, died following a heart attack at age 60.

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SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, A Town Called Mercy and other News

A Town Called Mercy brought Doctor Who to the old American west (even if filmed in Spain) for the first time since 1966. The Doctor once again got to wear a Stetson. Another alien doctor, played by Adrian Scarborough of Gavin and Stacy and the recent remake of Upstairs, Downstairs. His character on this episode, Kahler Jex, turned out to be rather morally ambiguous, a situation which Scarborough has experience with in his role of Mr. Pritchard on Upstairs, Downstairs. The ambiguity with regards to who was good and who was evil saved the show from being simply a story of fighting an evil cyborg killing machine. In contrast to the other more ambiguous guest stars, Ben Browder’s character was unambiguously good, although less fun than his character on Farscape.

We are now three episodes into the five episode run scheduled for the fall. There have been some continuing themes. Light bulbs have played a recurrent role in each episode as with Rory’s father changing the bulbs in Dinosaurs On A Spaceship and with the flickering light bulbs at Amy’s photo shoot in Asylum of the Daleks.   The theme of memory was seen with a girl looking back on the story at the beginning and end but, at least at this point, there is no known connection between this and other events of the season. The Doctor’s increased willingness to kill was seen again, until Amy stopped him.

Some memorable lines and dialogue from the episode:

Rory: “The sign does say ‘Keep Out.’”
> The Doctor: “I see ‘Keep Out’ signs as suggestions more than actual orders. Like ‘Dry Clean Only’!”

***

The Doctor: “Anachronistic electricity. ‘Keep Out’ signs. Aggressive stares. Has someone been peeking at my Christmas list?”

***

Jex: “That wasn’t the plan. He’s not following the plan.”
Amy: “Welcome to my world.”

***

And, with regards to the horse: “No, his name’s Susan and he wants you to respect his life choices.

Next week we see an alien invasion and the return of UNIT in The Power of Three. From Radio Times:

“The day the Earth got cubed. The year of the slow invasion. The time the Doctor came to stay.”

There have been many ways to invade the Earth, and the Doctor has seen them all. Or so he always thought – and then the human race wakes up one morning and discovers the world has been overrun by… small black cubes. Which then proceed to… do nothing much at all. A plan is afoot, humanity is endangered – but by what and how and, above all, when? For the first time in his world-saving career the Doctor has to call upon the least of his virtues: patience. And the Ponds face something possibly more terrifying than any world-ending apocalypse – the Doctor is moving in!

Not just a tale of alien intervention, this is also the story of a nice young couple who happen to have a bow-tied lunatic from space staying in their spare room. It’s halfway between an alien invasion movie and The Man Who Came to Dinner.


Steven Moffat and Matt Smith have commented on the return of UNIT:

Moffat told the BBC: “When I was a kid, and just getting obsessed about the Doctor (still not recovered) it was the Jon Pertwee era, and UNIT was as big a part of the show as the TARDIS itself. So when Chris asked if he could bring them back I couldn’t say yes fast enough. And being Chris, he gave it a clever little twist which I know the fans are going to love.”

Matt Smith also spoke about working with Jemma Redgrave, who plays UNIT’s new leader Kate Stewart.

“I loved Jemma Redgrave! She was graceful, funny and charming and an absolute delight. UNIT’s return is one for the fans. I think they like cyclical things and we have a good story. It was great to do an episode with UNIT and I hope the true fans like it.”

It is just two more weeks until the final episode with Amy and Rory. Steven Moffat discussed The Angels Take Manahttan with Digital Spy:

“All stories have to end, and painful though that is, the most important thing about a story is how it finished,” said Moffat. “I had over a year’s warning to get this sorted out, and I’m very proud of what we’ve done. A fitting end to the mighty era of the Ponds!”

Head writer and showrunner Moffat explained that he had devised the characters’ exit while in New York, which influenced the episode’s setting.

“There was something about [returning monsters] the Weeping Angels and New York that just seemed to make sense to me,” he revealed. “And I thought of the story for this episode while in New York.

“It’s always good to find a new form for [the Angels] and we’ve got little cherubs this time. I had loads of ideas for the Weeping Angels on both the previous stories that I never got anywhere close to using, so it was good to find the opportunity.”

Moffat previously revealed to Digital Spy that he “completely” rewrote Amy and Rory’s final scenes after completing his first draft.

“I completely changed the ending as I was writing it, thinking ‘No, I’ve got it wrong… I’m on the wrong emphasis’ – but it’s a good one and it’s properly emotional,” he insisted.

This week marks the start of another heavily hyped J.J. Abrams genre show, Revolution (promo above). The big mysteries are why there is no electricity and whether this genre show can survive. You can find out more about the show here, here, and here.

This was a big week for topless pictures on the internet. Besides the highly publicized  pictures taken of Kate Middleton, Alison Pill of The Newsroom accidentally sent out a topless picture of herself on Twitter. So far the show has referred to Anthony Weiner tweeting pictures and had an episode in which a character accidental sent out email to everyone. Being that it is on HBO, there’s nothing to keep Aaron Sorkin from working this nude pic tweet into the show. He might receive even higher ratings if he has Oliva Munn’s character do this. As for Kate Middleton, I guess I was wrong when I wrote that these nude pictures of Camilla Luddington, who played Kate on the television movie William and Kate, were the closest we would get to seeing Kate Middleton nude.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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SciFi Weekend: A Big Surprise on Doctor Who (Asylum of the Daleks)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Q1r2dQkB1fY

Doctor Who returned this weekend with Asylum of the Daleks. It as preceded by two prequels, the video above from iTunes and Pond Life, with the collected episodes below:

Asylum of the Daleks  featured lots and lots of Daleks. The Daleks now are somewhat like the Borg, using nanotechnology to convert people into Daleks and into humans with Dalek weapons popping out of their foreheads. There’s also a game changing ending, and a huge surprise (Spoilers ahead).

We were told that each episode would be a stand-alone story without the big arc of last season.  Asylum of the Daleks could certainly be enjoyed by the casual viewer as a stand-alone episode, but Doctor Who fans were likely to be surprised to find that a character named Oswin, played by Jenna-Louise Coleman, was the highlight of the episode. For the benefit of any Doctor Who fans who might have been trapped in the Pandorica since last spring, Jenna-Louise Coleman will be playing the Doctor’s next companion beginning with the Christmas episode. Rumors are that her name will be Clara Oswin and she will be a computer genius, but seeing how Moffat played with us by having Jenna appear months early, it is possible that we also might have been fed some false information.

There are many possible explanation. Some companions, including Karen Gillan, appeared on the show as different characters prior to being hired to play the companion. Perhaps Moffat is using a variation on this, inserting the new companion into a different role after hiring Jenna. At least one interview I’ve heard does suggest this was the explanation, but I cannot give up on the idea that there is a stronger connection.

There’s also Donna Noble who appeared in a Christmas episode, and then returned in a future season to be the Doctor’s companion. It would be a little more difficult for Jenna to return as Oswin had both been turned into a Dalek and the planet she was on was blown up. Of course this is Science Fiction, and perhaps either Oswin found a way to save herself or the Doctor found a way to save her. This might explain all the references in the episode to being remembered. The Doctor told Amy to make the Daleks remember her, but for a moment Amy’s mind was somewhere else, seeing Daleks as dancers. Rory forgot his own name for a moment. Oswin told the Doctor to remember her. There’s also the ending of the episode which I will get to later, plus memory has been a common theme in Moffat’s stories.

If Oswin somehow escaped on her own, it might be significant that she has seen the Doctor while he does not knowwhat she looks like. That might explain reports of Clara chasing after the Doctor (who would not recognize her) in the Christmas Episode. If Oswin did survive, this be somewhat similar to Sherlock, where Holmes did survive a situation in which it appeared he had died.

If Oswin really is dead as it appears, there is always the River Song scenario. The Doctor might meet Oswin at some point earlier in her timeline, but would Moffat do the same thing twice? Maybe the Doctor rewrites time to prevent her from becoming a Dalek. Those rules about time are quite ambiguous to those of us who are not Time Lords. However that might create problems if Oswin was not around to help them in the asylum.

Perhaps Jenna does not play this Oswin but instead someone who looks identical to her. That could be a twin, an ancestor, or perhaps even a clone if the Doctor not only remembers her but somehow saved some of her genetic material. I could easily seen Clara Oswin being an ancestor of Oswin’s, assuming we aren’t being misled about the Clara Oswin name.

The Doctor also ended last season with most people believing he was dead. Oswin extended this to the Daleks, who share a long history with the Doctor. Moffat has often worked in the question, Doctor Who? but it was a surprise to hear it from the Daleks. It will totally change the completion of their next meeting if they do not know who the Doctor is. The episode also showed why Amy and Rory separated and brought the two back together, perhaps only for a short time.

Another amazing aspect of the surprise in this episode is that it remained a secret after four screenings. Steven Moffat expressed his appreciation:

“I hope you all got a nice surprise when Jenna popped up in Doctor Who several months early. If so, that surprise came to you courtesy of the frankly magnificent ladies and gentlemen of the press, and of the many Doctor Who forums and blogs too. This show has been seen at four separate screenings, across four different countries and yet not one person gave one spoiler. From all of us on Doctor Who, a heartfelt thank you for helping us tell our story.”

The 2012 Hugo Awards are out. The complete list is here and some of the winners include:

BEST NOVEL: Among Others by Jo Walton (Tor)

BEST NOVELLA: “The Man Who Bridged the Mist” by Kij Johnson (Asimov’s, September/October 2011)

BEST NOVELETTE: “Six Months, Three Days” by Charlie Jane Anders (Tor.com)

BEST SHORT STORY: “The Paper Menagerie” by Ken Liu (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, March/April 2011)

BEST RELATED WORK: The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, Third Edition edited by John Clute, David Langford, Peter Nicholls, and Graham Sleight (Gollancz)

BEST GRAPHIC STORY: Digger by Ursula Vernon (Sofawolf Press)

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION, LONG FORM: Game of Thrones (Season 1) (HBO)

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION, SHORT FORM: “The Doctor’s Wife” (Doctor Who) (BBC Wales)

Neil Gaiman conformed that he is working on another script for Doctor Who: “Only a fool or a madman would try to do it again… so I’m on the third draft”

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