SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, The Lie of the Land; Class Finale; Sense8 Cancelled; A Week of Apologies; Wonder Woman

The Monks trilogy on Doctor Who was an excellent two and a half or so episodes. The Lie of the Land did start out great with the earth under the control of the Monks. It had an extreme take on alternative facts and fake news with a propaganda piece showing the Monks as having been here since before humans evolved.

This episode did feel a lot like a remake of The Last Of The Time Lords with a companion having to rescue the Doctor and free the earth. The episode was fine until they got to the part where Bill shot the Doctor and everyone laughed at how they tricked Bill to test her. This also included a fake regeneration scene which, while perhaps exciting for the previews, doesn’t fit well into the series. Sure we did see one incomplete regeneration before in The Stolen Earth, but in general, unless there is a very good reason for the story, regeneration energy should be reserved for regeneration into the next Doctor, not recovery of the same Doctor from bullet wounds. This scene was partially redeemed when the Doctor asked Nardole if the regeneration was a touch too much.

From some comments from Steven Moffat, I believe he might have taken three different story ideas by different writers, and then combined them into a trilogy. It was a clever idea for the Monks to rule by convincing everyone they had always been there, preventing thought of repelling the invaders who actually had only been there for six months. However this, along with how easily the Monks were repelled, did not fit with what was established in the first two episodes. This would not be necessary if they really only took over planets which requested their assistance, but if this was the only contradiction I might forgive it as humans beyond Bill and the dead generals did not really agree. I think that it would have been better if we had two different stories about different aliens to use the main ideas used in each episode.

Among the other questions raised, despite building such a detailed simulation of the earth in Extremis, did the Monks not think of trying to predict what dangers they could have with their occupation? In The Pyramid At The End Of The World we saw that the Monks had no problem removing a plane from the sky and a submarine from the ocean, yet the Doctor had no problem taking control of the boat. From there it was way to simple to enter the pyramid and defeat them.

The Missy story did progress, with her becoming an actual part of the main story line. The best line of the show, which only makes sense in its context was her saying “awkward.” It also appears that she might be trying to keep her promise to learn to be good. Even if she does keep to this, which is questionable, it appears that her view of being good will be quite different from the Doctor’s.

There is both considerable continuity and lack of continuity in this trilogy. Besides combining three different stories into a trilogy (even if flawed), they used the Doctor’s blindness from Oxygen and the pictures the Doctor retrieved for Bill of her mother in Pilot. There is also the possibility that the Monks could still return this season. On the other hand, everyone has forgotten the Monks. (“The Monks have erased themselves. Humanity is doomed to never learn from their mistakes.”) But what of the family and friends of those who died during the occupation, and those who were in the forced labor camps? On the other hand, it would be hard to both set Doctor Who in our modern world, and have people actually remember all the alien invasions. It would no longer be like our world if we did have memories of all the events shown.

Class also had its finale this weekend. I have not discussed Class on a weekly basis as I downloaded it during the U.K run and watched it last fall. In general, I thought the show was entertaining and worked as a brief stand alone series, but it was hardly essential for those following the Doctor Who universe. Ratings were poor in the U.K. and the show was not expected to return, unless it should do remarkable well on BBC America. The chances of revival are even lower with writer Patrick Ness saying he will not return to the show even if it should be renewed.

Netflix announced the cancellation of Sense8. Sadly there will be no third season, no continuation of the story from where it left off at the end of season 2, and, worst of all, we don’t get to return to see all those people and the world the show created.

The New York Times reports:

“Sense8” was a globe-trotting sci-fi drama made by Lana and Lilly Wachowski, the filmmakers behind “The Matrix,” and J. Michael Straczynski, the creator of “Babylon 5.” It received generally positive reviews from critics.

“After 23 episodes, 16 cities and 13 countries, the story of the Sense8 cluster is coming to an end,” said Cindy Holland, the vice president for original content at Netflix.

She added, “Never has there been a more truly global show with an equally diverse and international cast and crew, which is only mirrored by the connected community of deeply passionate fans all around the world.”

There are attempts to bring it back but I fear that the cost to produce this is too high compared to the number of viewers.

In other entertainment news, this was a big week for apologies, first from Kathy Griffin, and then from Bill Maher. There was also the release of Wonder Women. I have not seen it yet, but the reviews have been excellent, and it sounds like it has corrected many of the mistakes of superhero movies, especially from DC.

SciFi Weekend: Continuum Series Finale; Doctor Who; Fargo & Manhattan Return; Defiance Canceled

Continuum Finale 2

Continuum had both a happy and sad ending but, even more remarkably, ended with a surprise which was totally consistent with what we have seen. With all the  questions among fans, and even some characters on the show, as to whether Kiera could return home, nobody I’m aware of predicted the ending. She was successful and returned home to a better world where the Corporate Congress never took control, and old Alec was much more like young Alec than a futuristic version of the evil cigarette smoking man. However, as in this future there was never a reason for her to be sent back in time, the future included another Kiera who was the mother to Sam. Kiera could see that her son would have a better future, but would not personally be a part of it. Plus Sam grew up with different versions of his parents and in a different culture and might not be anything like the Sam she left. She also has no real role in this timeline with another Kiera being there.

In retrospect, the ending was obvious. We already saw that when Alec went back in time to save Emily there were two Alecs. When Kiera crossed into the other timeline, there were two Kieras, even if one had been killed. If Kiera never went back in time in this timeline, of course there would be another Kiera there. This all assumes that the same people would be born. It is actually more likely that if the timeline was radically changed, there would not be the exact same people born in the future. This, like having all the action taking place in Vancouver, are just things we have to accept for the show.

In this future timeline, Alec grew older and remained good. Kagame was alive, and his role primarily served as a means to momentarily make Kiera think that the future was worse than it actually was. There would presumably be versions of other members of Liber8 who never went back in time, possibly with both an old and a young Garza since she remained in the past.

It was no surprise that the Time Marines were lying about their goals, and their plans failed. Kiera had a mixed ending. The ending was not so good for Kellogg. He killed Vasquez with a corkscrew (fitting for Kellogg) but learned while she was dying that she was his daughter, and not the lover of his future self as assumed. He was momentarily safer, if not for the legal penalties he faced, when the current timeline was tethered to the timeline of the Time Marines. Now if anything happened to him, such as having both kidneys removed, his older self would undergo a 12 Monkeys style fate (movie version). Kellogg tried to go back in time to when everyone first came back to get rid of them (presumably including another version of himself) to try to make things turn out as he wanted, including taking control of that kid in the garage (Alec). Instead Alec outsmarted him, sending him to prehistoric times. I’m not sure if Kellogg will get killed, or manage to be treated as a god. Maybe he does have a happy ending.

Continuum Finale

The condensed six-episode season did wrap up the series well, but compromises had to be made. It was necessary to quickly have Kiera want to remain in the present at the end of last season and then want to go home this season. Kiera’s husband was totally ignored for the final season.

Presumably there were plans to do far more with The Traveler, but his story had to be wrapped up very quickly. Once Kellogg went back in time, the future with the Time Marines, along with a future with evil Alec and the Corporate Congress, never took place and The Traveler’s future was again present, allowing him to return home.

The flash-forwards of previous seasons were no longer used and until the finale we only saw old Alec in Zero Hour. I still have so many questions which will never be answered. The episode confirmed that Alec sent Liber8 back to prevent the future he created, and that Kiera was assigned to be at the fake execution because young Alec mentioned her name. However, young Alec never told old Alec that Kiera arrived with no idea what was going on. Knowing the little he did know, I would think that old Alec would have instead briefed Kiera and sent her back with a more concrete mission. If there was more time in future scenes, it might have convincingly be shown that Alec considered this but, in recognizing her views at the time, decided it was better to send her back without such a briefing.

It is also unfortunate that there was little time to get into the politics of the show in this condensed final season, especially with the series ending this year. Given more time, Continuum could have been partially a weekly promotion for the views of Bernie Sanders. Maybe there is a timeline where Bernie Sanders gets elected to prevent the corporate excesses shown on the show.

Simon Berry had said he envisioned the final scene from the beginning. This led to the show making more sense than shows which drifted like Lost and The X-Files. However, the other examples which come to mind of a television writer having the end in mind have not worked out as planned. J. Michael Straczynski got the ending he intended for Babylon 5, and then wound up having an extra year to kill. Amy Sherman-Palladino never got to end Gilmore Girls as she planned as she did not remain for the final season. The ending for How I Met Your Mother might have been clever at the time, but no longer was the best ending by the time the story was told.

Doctor Who The Girl Who Died2

The Girl Who Died was on one level a light episode of Doctor Who with Vikings versus aliens, but it also included a lot of references to the mythology of the show, and presumably leads into however the season ends. The Doctor was caught by Vikings and tried to pretend to be Odin. That did not work as there was already another alien pretending to be Odin. Plus it was the nearest thing we will probably see to Doctor Who meeting Game of Thrones.

The Doctor helped the Viking village defeat The Mire with clever but improbable strategy including electric eels, mind tricks to make the invaders think they were under attack by a giant serpent, and threats to ruin their reputation with a video of the events. Along the way there were references to previous Doctors along with some seen in videos. The Doctor used the phrase attributed to the third Doctor, even if not really used all that often: “I’m reversing the polarity of the neutron flow. I bet that means something, it sounds great.” The seventh Doctor was also recalled with “Time will tell – it always does.”

There was an explanation for the current Doctor looking so much like Marcus Aurelius from The Fires of Pompeii (beyond both being played by Peter Capaldi). Seeing this face was a reminder that he can sometimes change what might be fixed points in time.  In the episode, Donna Noble convinced the Doctor into saving a the volcano which destroyed Pompeii. This tells him: “I’m the Doctor and I save people!” (Will we later get an explanation for Peter Capaldi’s appearance in Torchwood: Children of Earth, or is it just better to pretend that one never existed?)

It is never clear what the rules of time are. Will they necessarily lead to problems, or are they just rules of the Time Lords which can be ignored when they are not around? We received a little guidance: “It’s OK to make ripples, but not tidal waves.”

This all mattered first to get the Doctor to save the village. It was saved but Maise Williams’ character, Ashildre, died during the battle. The Doctor not only made her “functionally immortal,” but also gave her a second dose of the revive-chip for “whoever she wants” so she will not be alone. It is strange that the Doctor did this for her, but never considered it for many other people he saw die, or to make sure he is never alone. I wonder if there will be tragic consequences of this violation of the rules to provide reason for him to never consider it again.

The Doctor did realize that he turned Ashildre into a hybrid. We heard mention of a hybrid earlier in the season in The Witch’s Familiar, but it sounded like a cross between a Time Lord and a Dalek. We will have to wait and see if this is all connected.

Another event of the season was to have the Doctor lose his sonic screwdriver and replace it with the sonic sunglasses. The Vikings broke them, but they also appear in a preview so presumably are returning.

The episode had the second suggestion that Clara might be bisexual when she spoke of fighting the Doctor for Ashildre. In The Magician’s Apprentice she mentioned that Jane Austen is “a brilliant writer and, strictly between ourselves, a phenomenal kisser.”

A couple other memorable lines from the episode:

Doctor: “I’m not actually the police, that’s just what it says on the box.”

Clara: “The universe is full of testosterone. Trust me, it’s unbearable.”

Behind the scenes videos with Maisie Williams can be seen here.

fargo-season-2-header

Syfy has canceled Defiance after three seasons. I thought the third season was much better, but not enough people were watching.

Fargo and Manhattan returned for their second seasons. Fargo looks fantastic. I have not seen Manhattan yet but I hear it was also excellent. I would highly recommend watching the first season of each of these shows. Fargo is a different story with slight overlap in characters, and I doubt it will be necessary to have seen the first season to enjoy the second. It would be better to watch the first season of Manhattan before trying to jump in.

Fresh Off The Boat, also in its second season, has been picked up for a full twenty-two episodes.

Syfy has canceled Defiance after three seasons. I thought the third season was much better, but not enough people were watching. Please do not  let Manhattan suffer this fate–it is an excellent show despite being seen by so few people as it is only on WGN.

SciFi Weekend: Hannibal; Mr. Robot; Humans; Jonathan Strange; Sense8

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The third season of Hannibal was initially to be about Hannibal Lecter as a fugitive in Europe, mirroring the Hannibal novel. With Bryan Fuller realizing that this would probably be the final season of Hannibal on NBC, with its future after that still unknown, he reduced this to about half the season so he could move on to Red Dragon. That has probably worked out for the better as the first half of this season was the weakest in the show’s run, and I don’t know if they could have stretched this out for an entire season.

The Great Red Dragon skips ahead three years, and doesn’t have a recipe as its title. Hannibal is locked up in the  psychiatric hospital, which is seen as a sort of victory for him as, at least in the mythology of the show, Hannibal Lecter is not insane. He is a monster who operates under his own moral code. He is shown to be living in his mind-palace, continuing to share meals with those visiting him. He is even allowed to make desserts, although presumably without human ingredients. He is open about the meals he previously served, as in this exchange after Hannibal asked Alana if she still drinks beer.

Alana: “I stopped drinking been when I found out what you were putting in mine.”

Hannibal “Who.”

Hannibal “Who.”

Will now has a family, which is important as it was the manner in which the Tooth Fairy kills regular families, as Will now has, which led to Will rejoining the FBI. (And yes, I’m sure that Hannibal is right that he does not like to be called the Tooth Fairy). Once Will is back investigating the Tooth Fairy’s murders, the series feels much more like the first season, even with Hannibal having surrendered, and no longer fooling anyone.

HANNIBAL -- "The Great Red Dragon" Episode 308 -- Pictured: Richard Armitage as Francis Dolarhyde -- (Photo by: Brooke Palmer/NBC)

Richard Armitage was introduced as the Tooth Fairy, or Red Dragon. Unlike so many characters who were notable for their intellectual banter, the Tooth Fairy is capable of saying very little. Richard Armitage discussed the role with TV Line:

TVLINE | The first impression we get of Francis is someone who is completely tortured and conflicted. Even in the moment where he’s exiting the crime scene covered in blood, the horror in his own eyes is palpable. How did you come to play him in that way?
It was an organic process. We always had the novel to refer to, so everything that I found really came from Thomas Harris’ books, Bryan [Fuller] and my own interpretation. One of the things in my first episode that I found so interesting is that this man is so alone in the world, so isolated. There was a rejection in his childhood because of his disfigurement and because his character was orphaned; he was raised by his grandmother and abused by step-siblings.

But when we find him in this world, he works in a very isolated environment in the film-processing laboratory, and he lives alone. Thomas Harris describes him as having only set foot in two other people’s houses in his entire life — and certainly no one has ever come into his world. But for someone that is so alone, his mind is so busy and full of things. He has the subject matter of the films that he’s studying. He has voices in his head. He’s haunted by so many different things, like his mind is so far from silent, and that to me was something which was fascinating.

TVLINE | Your first episode is essentially wordless — which means much of what we learn about Dolarhyde is in the initial sequence of him doing physical exercises and contorting his body. There’s a sense he’s transforming into something else in that moment. Walk me through all that.
Yes, it’s really interesting the way it takes a long time before you hear Francis speak. He’s a man who is so uncomfortable in his skin, who is somehow at odds with his outer body and is almost outgrowing his physical form. So you see that conversation happening physically before you hear it verbally. And actually, for someone that has such trouble speaking and forming words, the first time we hear him speak is in Episode 9, and it’s a struggle. It’s really like baby steps when he speaks. And as an audience, we see him before we hear him, so we have a real sense of who he is or who he’s becoming and what it is that he’s pressing against or running away from.

TVLINE | What did you have to do to transform your own physique and your own way of moving your body to get in touch with the character?
Obviously, I read the book, and he’s described as a bodybuilder. So, before I got up to Toronto, I was in the gym doing intense workout sessions, since we needed to fill him out in the way that Harris wanted. But I also found something in the book where he’s described as moving in a very stylized way. Harris describes him as a Balinese dancer, so when he’s committing his crimes, I understood to be something of a performance for himself, that he’s trying to somehow be theatrical in his approach.

I couldn’t work out what that was, but then I stumbled on a Japanese form of a physical expression, an artistic art form called Butoh, which is sometimes called the Dance of Death. It’s a biological observation of the body in extremis, which I thought was perfect for this scenario. And so I used a lot of that. I also used some stress positions that I’d been working with previously on The Crucible, because I felt like the character was putting himself through something rather than changing himself for vanity sake. He’s wanting to torture his own body.

What you see in the opening exercise sequence, though, I put a metronome on in the room and just worked for 20 to 30 minutes, distorting my body and doing these exercises, and the crew just kept on filming.

TVLINE | In this episode, we get to see Dolarhyde after his second murder, out in the snow, covered in blood splatter. And there’s also that twisted but sort of artful scene where your character gets wrapped up in a film reel and is in this intense state of panic. How much of those moments were actually filmed organically versus post-production manipulation?
The filming in the snow was actually one of my first shots in the entire series, and it was about 17 below outside, a very cold night shoot. Very little of that is post-production. They used a sugar blood that stains black and thankfully, they heated it beforehand.

The scene with the celluloid wrapped around Dolarhyde’s head is a combination of digital work and some practical stuff. They did create a fake head. And they also wrapped celluloid around my head and we filmed it again. It was a bit of an exploration of literally, physically getting tangled up in his world of celluloid. It’s Bryan’s imagination at work in the best way, you know.

TVLINE | Looking forward to the coming weeks, how freaky-scary should we expect this arc to get? And knowing Francis is about to embark on a romance of sorts with a character played by True Blood’s Rutina Wesley, how will that work? What can you tease?
You know what, we really do honor the book, and so you see the full extent of that tragic love story. To me, really, the crimes aside — and remember, I never actually had to portray any of the crimes, so I suppose I compartmentalized them — Dolarhyde and Reba represent a tragic, romantic love story, which really doesn’t end well and escalates into a Shakespearian opera of the proportions that Thomas Harris really explores in the novel.

MR. ROBOT -- "Pilot" Episode 101 -- Pictured: (l-r) Rami Malek as Elliot, Christian Slater as Mr. Robot -- (Photo by: David Giesbrecht/USA Network)

In other summer genre shows, Mr. Robot was better this week after its one-episode slide when it spent far too much time on Elliot’s drug trips last week. Remember, Mr. Robot is the show which has no robots–its entire cast is human. The other top new genre show of the summer, Humans, is about robots. This is by far has been the best of the genre shows of the summer (although Hannibal might compete now that it is moving onto the Red Dragon storyline).

Humans is highly recommended but I am not writing about the episodes to avoid any risk of spoiling the story. I am watching by downloading the episodes from the U.K. where the show is ahead of the US episodes. So much is revealed every week and I do not want to discuss episodes airing in the US with my knowledge of what is revealed in subsequent episodes.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is in the same situation as I completed the series a couple of weeks ago from downloading UK episodes. It is also recommended.

Sense8

The same issue is present for shows on Netflex, which different people watch at different times. I held off on starting Sense8 due to variable reviews of the early episodes, but I did begin to watch after reliable sources advised that the first couple of episodes start slowly to introduce the characters, but the show becomes much more interesting once you get into it. I am quite intrigued by the story, which reminds me of the early episodes of Orphan Black, when viewers initially did not know what was going on at all. As I still have several episodes to go, I still wonder if they will satisfactorily explain what is happening.

The show was created and written by The Wachowskis and J. Michael Straczynski. Both have created excellent work with the first Matrix movie and Babylon 5. However after the initial setup, the two sequels to The Matrix were awful, and the explanation behind Babylon 5 was not entirely satisfactory. Complicating matters further, the show has a planned five year arc, and it is not known if Netflix will continue the show that long. At least there is a far better chance that Netflix will continue the show as long as there is interest than a network would.

SciFi Weekend: Babylon 5 and Blake’s 7 Reboots; Doctor Who; Captain America; Agent Carter; Agents of SHIELD; Defiance; Big Bang Theory; Google Maps Adds The Moon and Mars

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J. Michael Straczynski has announced plans to reboot Babylon 5 as a movie. One reason for doing it his way is that Warner owns the television rights but Straczsynki retained the feature film rights:

Speaking at San Diego Comic Con last week, Straczsynki announced that he would soon be sitting down to write a Babylon 5 feature film, which is envisioned as a reboot of the iconic sci-fi series. JMS said that he plans to get the script locked down by the end of 2015 and the film would then enter production the following year in 2016.

Next to nothing is known about the plot for this Babylon 5 feature film, beyond the fact that it is a reboot of the concept seen in the series. That said, J. Michael Straczynski has stated that he would like to use cast members from the series, such as Bruce Boxleitner and Mira Furlan, in new roles in the feature film. “I’d love to see Bruce as the President of the Earth Alliance”, he said.

The hope is that Warner Bros, who produced the Babylon 5 television series, would step up and green-light a “big budget” feature film once the script has been completed. But owing to the nature of the deal that Straczysnki inked with the studio to produce Babylon 5 in the early 1990s, he, rather than Warner Bros, owns the feature film rights to the show. Should Warner Bros. choose not to greenlight a B5 movie, Straczynski would still proceed with the feature, which would then be funded and produced through his Studio JMS banner on a budget of $80 – $100 million.

Although Syfy passed on the show, there is still some hope for a remake of Blake’s 7.

The BBC has renewed Doctor Who for an eighth season since the show returned, again staring Peter Capaldi, with the shows to be presented in a continuous run. Steven Moffat said recently that there are no plans for either the return of the Master or for a tenth anniversary show (which would seem strange after doing a 50th).  Moffat has also expressed a willingness to do a Doctor Who/Sherlock cross over, but others involved are not interested. Would it look something like the video above, except with Peter Capaldi instead of Matt Smith?

Above is, perhaps, how Captain America: The Winter Soldier should have ended. Directors Joe and Anthony Russo discussed their upcoming projects, Agent Carter and the third Captain America movie:

Before turning their attention to the next feature, the Russos are directing several episodes of the spin-off TV series Agent Carter, debuting on ABC in January 2015. The miniseries follows the solo adventures of Peggy Carter, the love of Captain America’s life and founder of S.H.I.E.L.D. in the 1940s. From there, the brothers will tackle the third film, which picks up “a couple years” after Winter Soldier left off. Although the heart of the movie will be Steve Rogers’ complicated relationship with his childhood friend Bucky Barnes, the themes of politics and power will still be in play. “The character was invented for an explicitly political purpose. So it’s hard to get away from that nature,” Anthony tells Yahoo. It’s also important to the directors that Captain America doesn’t become another disillusioned antihero. As Joe sees it, “his morality is part of his superpower.”

While they’re not leaking any major details from the 2016 film, the Russo brothers promise that they’re “bringing some new elements to the table that will give us a twist on Winter Soldier.” Does this mean that Steve Rogers will pass the Captain America shield to Bucky Barnes (aka the Winter Soldier) or Sam Wilson (aka the Falcon), both of whom have donned the stars-and-stripes in the comics? With actor Chris Evans shifting his focus to directing, and Sebastian Stan and Anthony Mackie already in place as the Winter Soldier and the Falcon respectively, the next film could allow a new hero to step in.

Elsewhere in the Marvel universe, FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper (Twin Peaks) will be meeting SHIELD. Kyle MacLachlan  has been cast to play Skye’s father on Agents of SHIELD. Chloe Bennet said at Comic-Con that next season will also involve more hair. Skye will have bangs and Brett Dalton will do the evil-Spock thing of the mirror universe and have a beard as the evil Grant Ward.

Defiance Cast

Defiance has done a good job of creating a world with numerous well-developed characters and alien races, but often while watching I wonder if there is any point to it all. It lacks the big story ideas of a Babylon 5 or Battlestar Galactica. The showrunner, Kevin Murphy, did work on BSG and I am glad that he got away from the idea of doing the show as a “science-fiction crime of the week.”

AX: How did DEFIANCE started and how did it change when you came onto the project during its development?

KEVIN MURPHY: The original version was a little more of a closed-ended procedural, it was kind of more of a science-fiction crime of the week, and we were in the process of changing that when CULT got picked up and [original DEFIANCE co-creator/show runner] Rockne O’Bannon left. I then had a choice that I wasn’t sure that the show was going to work in the incarnation that it currently was in, and I didn’t want to have responsibility for something that didn’t work. So I gave Syfy a choice. I said, “I’ll transition you into your next show runner, and I’ll make sure that casting continues and produce the pilot, but I’m not going to stay on for the series unless I believe in the show.” And they were like, “Well, what would you want to do to it?” And it was basically, “Well, it involves getting rid of pretty much all the scripts, and let me give you my pitch.”

So I did the pitch, worked it out with the writing staff, and at this point, it was Rockne’s last day, and he was helping us to kind of reconceive it, and Scott Stewart, the director, was very involved in the process, and so was Michael Taylor, who had worked on BATTLESTAR GALACTICA and was a member of staff under me. And we pitched the whole thing to [then-Syfy Channel president] Mark Stern while he was driving in his car on vacation with his family in Palm Springs. And he had his wife and kid in the vehicle with him, and the pitch lasted about ninety minutes, because we pitched the entire story from beginning to end, every single beat, and by the time he pulled into the hotel in Palm Springs, we had finished our pitch and he was like, “Okay, I love it. Go write it.”

AX: Did you make major changes to the characters?

MURPHY: The PAPER MOON thing I added, the idea that Nolan [the town’s new law officer, played by Grant Bowler] came in from the outside and that he was a con man and a drifter and a huckster and a criminal. That was all stuff that I added. The idea that Amanda has only been mayor for six weeks and she’s the former mayor’s assistant and no one takes her seriously, that was an addition; the idea that Irisa [Nolan’s adopted Irathient daughter, played by Stephanie Leonidas] uses knives and Irisa being sort of the feral badass was an invention of mine. And Michael. When I say “me,” I’m including Michael Taylor, who was definitely my partner in crime. We would not have gotten that script in the shape it needed to be in without Michael at my side.

The Werewolf Transformation

In follow-up of an item from last week, the cast of The Big Bang Theory did settle on a new contract. The top three stars, Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki and Kaley Cuoco, will each  earn $1 million per episode for the planned upcoming three seasons, and there is talk of potentially adding an eleventh season.

Google Maps has added maps of the moon and Mars. I imagine that going off the earth was inevitable once they added the TARDIS to their maps.

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.

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.

SciFi Weekend: Cliff Hangers, Old and New

Locutus of Borg Jon Luc Picarddde

iO9 has compiled a list of the top science fiction cliff hangers on television. I don’t think there will be much controversy over choosing Best of Both Worlds Part 1 (Star Trek: The Next Generation) as the best of all time. Discussion of how the  Borg could be defeated, how Jon Luc Picard would be saved after being turned into a Borg, and whether Ryker would really fire on Picard dominated the CompuServe forums over the summer in those days before the internet replaced it. The hype from this episode also was responsible for turning what had been a so-so remake into a major science fiction series.

A recent episode of Doctor Who, The Pandorica Opens made the list. While some object to the manner in which the Doctor got out of the Pandorica, what bigger cliff hanger can you have than the end of the universe?

There were other memorable cliff hangers listed. This included Zha’dum (Babylon 5) when Sheridan obeyed Kosh’s voice telling him to jump, Lay Down Your Burdens, Part 2 (Battlestar Galactica) which jumped the series ahead a year when unprepared humans living on New Caprica were conquered by Cylons, and The Incident (Lost) in which Julia detonated the bomb in hopes of changing history.

There are some cliff hangers from last season I’m looking forward to seeing the conclusion of. The mid-season cliff hanger episode of Caprica contained several cliff-hangers. Last season’s cliff hanger from Fringe made the list. And, while not science fiction, I’m sure curious to find out how Jeff responds to both Britta and Professor Slater declaring his love for him followed by the ending with Jeff kissing Annie on Community. Personally I’d like to see him date Annie while Britta goes crazy with jealousy. Besides, I’d much rather see Alison Brie with Jeff on Community than as Pete Campbell’s wife Trudy on Mad Men.

Dexter also ended with a significant cliff hanger last season. Blogcritics reviews the first few episodes of the upcoming season, including this bit of news:

According to executive producer, Sara Colleton, this will be the year to “take a break from having a one season-long adversary. So as Dexter’s grief goes through different stages, different characters will play their part and yet eventually, these characters interlock to form a a worthy adversary for Dexter.”

In the final scene of the third episode, there is a stunning moment: a twist so totally unexpected, you’ll curse the fact you’ll have to wait a week to see what happens next.

Disney Fantasmic Mickey Mouse

We’ve seen many characters reimagined, including Superman, Batman, and Iron-Man. Next we will get Epic Mickey, coming in a game  for the Nintendo Wii:

Disney has hinted that Epic Mickey is kind of a reboot for the beloved character – one that takes him from cute and cuddly cartoon icon to brave and embattled warrior. The questions now are manifold: Will Disney turn off potential gamers who prefer the Mickey of old? Will the game be dark and intriguing enough to appeal to “core” gaming audiences? And, perhaps most importantly, given flagging interest in the mouse, does Disney have a choice?

That’s nothing all that radical–just go to Fantasmic at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. On a related note, there are rumors that Jon Hamm will star in the next reboot of Superman.

Cliff hangers sometimes lead to the death of characters. In case that happens Eternal Image sells urns fit for a true Star Trek fan. It comes in two models– one says “To Boldly Go” and the other that says “The Voyage Continues.”

SciFi Weekend: Star Trek; The End of Time; Forbidden Planet; And Howard Wolowitz’s Bath With Kattee Sackhoff

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Movieweb has interviewed J.J. Abrams about his Star Trek movie and the upcoming sequel:

“I think that the challenge, the advantage and the opportunity of this world is just how unlimited it is in terms of what we can do,” continued Abrams. “Having said that, I think the first movie was very much just about the characters meeting, so you can only go so far in terms of the depth of experience and it’s all pretty urgent. Now that they’ve gotten to be together for a period of time, whether it be a day, weeks, months, or years, that next chapter feels sort of like there are some roots that have grown. So it won’t be meeting new people as you go it will be going on this adventure with this pre-established family. So that just means a different set of challenges. So I’m very excited to play that out,” he concluded

One aspect of the film that surprised new and old fans alike was the love triangle between Kirk, Spock and Uhura, something that had never been explored before in any of the previous films or TV series. “I think it was that Kirk was so clearly the romantic lead and the fun of it was to play with the expectations of where it was going to go,” said Abrams. “I think now that we’ve done that you can’t play that same joke again so it’s got to be about what is their relationship and who are these people? That’s why I think the next one, hopefully while still having the sense of fun and adventure, can go a little deeper in terms of the story,” he added regarding the love triangle appearing in future films.

The Blu-ray version of the Abrams Star Trek movie was released. SciFi Squad offers a review, including a listing of the special features included.

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The BBC has released the synopsis of the two part Doctor Who special, The End of Time which will air on Christmas and New Year’s.

It’s the Tenth Doctor’s final journey – but his psychotic nemesis the Master has been reborn, on Christmas Eve. With both determined to cheat death, the battle ranges from the wastelands of London to the mysterious Immortality Gate, while the alien Ood warn of an even greater danger approaching, as a terrible shadow falls across the entire Universe.

Part Two:

The Doctor faces the end of his life as the Master’s plans hurtle out of control. With the sound of drums growing louder, and an ancient trap closing around the Earth, the Doctor and Wilf must fight alone. But sacrifices must be made, and the deadly prophecy warns: “He will knock four times.”

\<i\>Babylon 5\<\/i\> creator reboots a sci-fi classic ... and a sequel?

J. Michael Straczynski, creator of Babylon 5, discussed his upcoming rebooting of Forbidden Planet with Sci Fi Wire:

The 1956 original, which was loosely based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest, is famous for its Oscar-nominated and groundbreaking visual effects, as well as for the introduction of Robby the Robot, and told the story of a shuttle crew (led by a then-serious Leslie Nielsen) that lands on the planet Altair IV to investigate a missing colony that landed there decades earlier.

“We’ve actually decided to show more of the first ship when it first arrived 20 years earlier to sort of counterpoint what’s happening in the present story,” Straczynski said in a group interview Saturday in Hollywood. “If you’re a fan of the original, as I am, and have always been, I think it’s very faithful to that.” Warner Brothers owns the rights.

The biggest worry about the Forbidden Planet remake could be that the studio would turn it into a straight-up action movie. The original was carried by dialogue as Dr. Edward Morbius (Walter Pidgeon), one of the planet’s two survivors, explained scientific theory to the visiting astronauts. Tension between the astronauts and Dr. Morbius’ daughter, Altaira (Anne Francis), filled in the rest.

Straczynski says not to worry. “There’s a little more action, but it’s still a strong character piece, because it’s based on The Tempest and the idea of a father whose daughter is being courted by, in the original play, sailors that are washed up on shore,” Straczynski said. “You need to have that dynamic still in place to respect the original and the source material. So there’s a fair amount of talking, but there’s some really cool action pieces in it as well.”

It is possible Warner has eyes for more Forbidden Planet adventures beyond one remake, said Straczynski. “Warners is very excited about it, thinks it’s a big franchise for them and a huge budget, so they’re very much oriented toward getting it done.”

THE BIG BANG THEORY

TV Guide has interviewed Simon Helberg, who plays Howard Wolowitz on The Big Bang Theory, following his bath tub scene with Kattee Sackhoff:

TVGuide.com: Katee is your dream sci-fi woman and she gives you some relationship advice in your fantasy.
Simon Helberg:
Yeah, she’s almost like my conscience. She’s much prettier than Jiminy Crickett. She just basically says, “C’mon, you’re not going to get me! You have this great girl and you’re dropping her for a fantasy.” I get disillusioned and I know what’s the wrong thing to do.

TVGuide.com: Since Katee is your conscience, that means she can come back, right?
Helberg:
There’s definitely a possibility that she could continue to be his conscience. I don’t know how much they plan for, say, the entire arc of the season. Who knows? Maybe next time they’ll be in a Jacuzzi, maybe even the shower. I don’t know if I have to be wet and naked. Maybe he always has to be in a compromising position. It is his fantasy!

SciFi Weekend: The Battlestar Galactica Series Finale

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Battlestar Galactica concluded on Friday. (Caution, this review has a tremendous number of spoilers if anyone interested is not up to the finale.) The finale could not be expected to be one hundred percent satisfying as science fiction shows of this nature tend to throw out far more than can ever have an entirely satisfactory explanation. While far from perfect, the conclusion of Battlestar Galactica holds up quite well next to explanations of the mythology behind shows such as Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Babylon 5, and The X-Files.

It came as no surprise, with all the talk of things happening before and happening again, that Galactica wound up on  Earth in our distant past. Once we saw them cross the moon and land on our Earth I quickly guessed that they would name this planet Earth based upon their dream, and after the original Earth that we had seen after its destruction.

Having them arrive on Earth  in our distant past and become part of our heritage made more sense than to have them arrive in our present or future.  The show frequently foreshadowed the importance of Hera for the survival of both humans and Cylons and this became evident during the finale. Hera was revealed to be the Mitochondrial Eve, the ancestor of all humans, with Ron Moore doing a cameo as a man reading an article on the topic (pictured above). This suggests that only the descendants of Hera survived, despite  the talk of interbreeding with the indigenous population. Presumably Hera or her descendants did interbreed with the indigenous population but what of the rest? With some, such as Adama and Tyrol, living on their own it makes sense but there were also many others. Perhaps the mitochondria from Hera came from her mixed Human/Cylon heritage and descendants of others appeared the same to contemporary human biologists.

The original show had the simplistic concept of the evil Cylons attacking the good humans. Instead Moore desired a more complicated message which blurred the lines between the two. The finale does answer the question of whether we are all Cylons.  The finding of the original Earth which had been populated by human-like Cylons suggested that, assuming that this was our Earth, we are all Cylons. The ending, with Hera as the Mitochondrial Eve, instead makes us all part human and part Cylon.

Having everyone agree to give up their technology so easily was  questionable  but necessary for the overall idea of them being our ancestors. Once the decision was made, it is certainly plausible that knowledge of advanced technology quickly died out as they had to concentrate on basic survival. They did perhaps manage to preserve enough of their ideas to lead to the redevelopment of a technological society with many of the same cultural ideas.

Having them be our ancestors with a form of species memory explains the many similarities between colonial culture and our own culture. This even included the music such as All Along the Watchtower which was ultimately reinvented by Bob Dylan.

There were other possible paths other than to have them voluntarily give up their technology. One possibility, which would have been more plausible but which would have led to a far longer story, would have been a catastrophe which led to the destruction of any civilization they attempted to build.

There is yet another possible way to have written this. Ron Moore could have written an ending in which Adama insisted they could not contaminate the indigenous population with their technology as this would violate the Prime Directive. This, of course, would have been the wrong show.

Ultimately we must accept the decision as necessary to complete the mythology of the show. We must also suspend disbelief and simply accept the fact that there were humans which they were genetically compatible with on this second Earth. While this was common place in the Star Trek universe, the universe of Battlestar Galactica did not previously include life independent of the descendants of Kobol.

There are still many mysteries. Some might be answered in The Plan, a made for television movie to air this fall which shows the events from the Cylon perspective.  Perhaps we will also learn more when the pilot to Caprica is released on DVD next month.

There are two major mysteries which still concern me. The first is the nature of Starbuck, both before and after her death. As a child she somehow learned the music which would lead her to taking the fleet to the new Earth. She later died on the original Earth and was resurrected to complete this task. This was an important part of the overall story, and I assume this remained unexplained as there is probably no satisfactory explanation other that that there are beings (or angels) which are important but unexplained. If there were higher powers guiding what was occurring, why didn’t they prevent the near annihilation  of all humans?

There is yet another type of being or angel (or demon) besides Starbuck. It became clear that Head Six and Head Baltar are real and not figments of Baltar and Six’s respective imaginations. Their existence even transcended those of the real Baltar and Six and the series ended with the two walking in modern Times Square (as earlier spoilers hinted at) as there were signs of humanity again developing robots.

This ending suggests that what happened before may or may not happen again, depending upon what we do. This does raise a certain question about the wisdom of the decision to destroy their technology in hopes of breaking the cycle. All this might have done was to stop the cycle for 150,000 years. This is a long time, and if the cycle couldn’t be stopped this could be said to be of value. The question is whether other plans would have done more to break the cycle (along with leaving defenses if the toasters had ever returned).

The humanoid Cylons from the original Earth traveled to the Colonies with the hope of breaking the cycle by warning the humans against mistreatment of artificial intelligence. They arrived too late, after the toaster Cylons had begun their rebellion. Perhaps it would have been wiser to maintain their technology and culture which would have included history of what happened including warnings against repeating the same mistakes. Instead the present people of new Earth have no knowledge of these warnings–unless perhaps Ron Moore wrote Battlestar Galactica out of a species memory which was to protect us against this.

Of course rebuilding their culture along with knowledge of history to prevent the reocurrence of this cycle might not have worked. The Cylons of the original Earth also created their own culture and ultimately forgot their history. They wound up repeating the cycle and created their own Cylons which led to their destruction. This could have been used as an argument for the route they did take, but the ending might have been more satisfying if these matters had been discussed. Fortunately the show did end with plenty for us to still think about and discuss.

SciFi Weekend: David Tennant Leaving Doctor Who; Liz Lemon to Date Don Draper; Weak Economy Helps Weak Shows; Lorelei Gilmore Becomes a Doll; and The Planet Vulcan Discovered

After months of speculation, David Tennant has announced he will leave the role of The Doctor after the upcoming series of four Doctor Who specials are completed. BBC News reports:

Tennant stepped into the Tardis in 2005, and will leave the role after four special episodes are broadcast next year.

He made the announcement after winning the outstanding drama performance prize at the National Television Awards.

“When Doctor Who returns in 2010 it won’t be with me,” he said.

“Now don’t make me cry,” he added. “I love this part, and I love this show so much that if I don’t take a deep breath and move on now I never will, and you’ll be wheeling me out of the Tardis in my bath chair.”

‘I’ll miss it’

Three years was “about the right time” to play the role, he told the BBC in an exclusive interview.

“I think it’s better to go when there’s a chance that people might miss you, rather than to hang around and outstay your welcome,” he said.

His stint in the show had been “the most extraordinary time, it’s been bewildering, life changing, very exciting”, he said.

“And just so much fun, such a great show to work on.

“That’s one of the reasons I think it’s right to take a deep breath and bow out when it’s still fun, when it’s a novelty.

“I don’t ever want it to feel like a job, so I want to move on when it still feels exciting and fresh and that means I’ll miss it.”

Liz Lemon to date Don Draper? Tina Fey and Jon Hamm will have something in common besides both appearing on Saturday Night Live recently. Jon Hamm of Mad Men might appear in a multi-episode arc of 30 Rock as Liz Lemon’s new love interest.Video of two of Hamm’s skits on SNL were posted here.

With all the subplots on Heroes, a lot has happened, including the return of Kristen Bell as Elle. Perhaps the most interesting development was seeing Sylar’s role get even more complex as his father got him to turn on his mother, but he still decided to save  his brother Peter’s life. His character is certainly different from previous years when he was motivated by little more than killing others with super powers in order to obtain their powers. Ultimately we saw him as a pure family man in a possible future shown earlier in the season.

There might be an unexpected benefit from the bad economy. I’ve often felt that, compared to several years ago, television shows are canceled too quickly if they are not doing well in the ratings, not giving them a chance to build an audience. The Hollywood Reporter believes that the bad economy might be responsible for some shows such as Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles being renewed:

Industry observers say the recent cluster of low-rated shows granted full-season orders might have something to do with network executives watching the plunging Dow rather than their shows’ falling Nielsens.

No execs would talk on the record, but the economic crisis, combined with the cost of marketing a new series, the lack of new programming inventory because of the WGA strike and the anticipated difficulty of locking down new advertiser commitments, has networks inclined to play it safe.

“Most years there would be more cancellations than there have been to date,” said John Rash, senior vp/director of media negotiations at Campbell Mithun. “But the dual dynamics of schedule stability keeping ad dollars in place is combining with delayed programming development from last season’s writers strike.”

NBC’s “Knight Rider,” ABC’s “Private Practice” and Fox’s “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” recently received orders for an additional nine episodes apiece. Such a move typically indicates a network’s confidence in a show’s performance and signals the inclination to keep a series on the air for the duration of the season.

Life on Mars at least has received well deserved improvements in the ratings. Last week Sam came to the assistance of his mother, learning far more about her than he probably wants to know, and also got the opportunity to meet Jim Croce and Joe Namath (Joe the Quarterback?). In upcoming episodes he gets involved in his father as well as someone who was/will become his mentor.

Bradley Whitford of The West Wing and Studio 60 on The Sunset Strip is producing and staring in a sitcom for NBC named Off Duty about a once-legendary police detective (Whitford) on his way down who complicates the life of his new partner, both on duty and off.

Lauren Graham of Gilmore Girls will be appearong on Broadway as the female lead in a new revival of Guys and Dolls.

J. Michael Straczynski, creator of Babylon 5, is working on a script for a remake of the 1956 classic Forbidden Planet.

And finally, the planet Vulcan might have been discovered.