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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SciFi Weekend: 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”

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who; Sherlock (Rat, Wedding, Bow); Merlin; Blake’s 7; Person of Interest; New Show From JMS; Neil Armstrong; Batman Played By Cookie Monster

Doctor Who returns with Asylum of the Daleks on September 1, trailer above. While waiting there will be a daily web series starting on Monday showing what the Ponds have been up to between seasons.

The Guardian discussed the new season with Steven Moffat:

Moffat, the BBC1 show’s executive producer and head writer, said the new series which returns on Saturday 3 September with Asylum of the Daleks, would be a season of “blockbuster” episodes.

Asked about his budget for the Saturday teatime show, Moffat said: “I”m never going to say I’ve got enough. That’s like asking would you like to be more happy, of course I’m going to say yes I want more money.

“They don’t starve us, Doctor Who is incredibly well looked after by the BBC. I truly believe it could be a show that outlives everybody in this room, it doesn’t just make money now it could make money forever,” Moffat told the MediaGuardian Edinburgh International Television Festival on Saturday morning.

He said the new series would be a “blockbuster every single week, let’s not have a cheap episode, let’s make them all huge”.

“Last year we did an arc [storyline] next year we will do something else, every year we have to go in a particular direction. It shouldn’t feel like good old cosy Doctor Who.”

On the long-mooted possibility of a film version of Doctor Who, Moffat said: “There’s often been talk about a movie, I’m sure we should do one. What I keep saying is it can’t ever be allowed to interfere with the television show, that’s the mothership, that’s the thing that will go on forever.

Moffat also kept open the possibility of a female Doctor:

“It is a part of Time Lord lore, it can happen. I don’t know, who knows? The more often it’s talked about, the more likely it’s going to happen.”

Moffat answers more questions here.


Steven Moffat is again teasing the upcoming season of Sherlock. Woman/Hound/Fall were the keywords for Season 2, and their meaning is now obvious. The keywords for the upcoming season are revealed in the above video–an interview with Steven Moffat,  Mark Gatiss, and Moriarty actor Andrew Scott. The keywords for the third series are:  Rat/Wedding/Bow. The season is filming in January but will not air until fall 2013. There is speculation as to the meaning of these three words at Den of Geek and Screen Rant.  They speculate that Bow refers to His Last Bow, after which Sherlock Holmes retired. Considering that Sherlock was only shown as dead for two minutes after the Fall, there is no reason that Moffat might not make Sherlock’s retirement very brief. Reportedly Moriarty is really dead, but I’m not convinced he will remain dead.

More information on Merlin Season 5 here. In a show centered around magic, it is not all that surprising that Uther will return for one episode:

“Uther returns in a very unexpected way.  He returns at a point in Arthur’s life where he’s absolutely missing his father — at a moment when Arthur is having a wobble as king and needs some advice – and at a moment of weakness is some how able to contact Uther.”

There are now negotiation in progress to both add a sixth season and to have a movie trilogy filling in gaps from earlier in the story.

There is speculation that SyFy’s planned rebooting of Blake’s 7 will be darker than the original. The rights were initially purchased with plans to do a continuation of the original. Now that so much time has passed it does make more sense to start over with a reboot, but I sure would have like to see how they would have continued the original after the main characters were killed in the original series finale.

Trailer for Person of Interest above.

ABC is working on a show produced J. Michael Straczynski, creator of Babylon 5 about a pandemic. “The untitled project is described as a high-octane pandemic thriller that combines closed-ended procedural and serialized elements.”

Neil Armstrong died yesterday. Above is a BBC interview with Armstrong from 1970 months after he landed on the moon.

What if Batman was played by Cookie Monster? See the video above.