SciFi Friday: Summer Reading; Doctor Who Specials; Babylon 5; Spidey Gets Lucky; and The Galaxy’s Hottest Star Wars Fan

Looking for something to read at the beach this summer? You might try the Lost Book Club. Often episodes of Lost have included reference to a book which was relevant to the theme of the episode. The Lost Book Club website includes books which have been featured in various episodes and an explanation of their relevance. Books include On the Road by Jack Kerouac, Valis by Philip K. Dick, Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein, The Fountainhed by Ayn Rand, Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, Lord of the Flies by William Golding, and Island by Aldous Huxley. Besides these well known books there were a number I’ve never heard of and I might order a few of them.

If you haven’t seen Lost from the beginning, The SciFi Channel will be replaying it in four hour  blocks each Monday starting on September 15.

With Doctor Who on a long hiatus we still have four specials to look forward to. It has been announced that this will include the Christmas 2008 and 2009 specials, and an episode around Easter. The date of the fourth has not been announced, with some speculating it will be for Halloween 2009. There are also rumors that one episode will take place in Egypt. The Christmas 2008 episode will feature the return of the Cybermen.

I was disappointed in the last made for DVD episode of Babylon 5, and  J. Michael Straczynsk agrees that such low budget formats fail to do justice to the series. He has announced that he will not put out any further low-budget Lost Tales and writes, “The only thing I would be interested in doing regarding Babylon 5 from this point on is a full-featured, big-budget feature film.”

Via IO9 I found this report that Peter Parker (Spider-Man) might finally get lucky with Mary Jane Watson. Reportedly it took a year to get the ok to proceed with this story.

And, finally, it looks from the above picture that Megan Fox’s interest in science fiction isn’t limited to her roles in the Transformer movies. Apparently she is also a Star Wars fan.

SciFi Friday (Sunday Edition): The Three Big Mysteries on Television

Lost went backwards again as opposed to a flash forward, providing more on Locke’s life. I suspect we will not see a flash forward on Locke as the fate of those who do not leave the island will remain a mystery for a while longer. We find that Richard Alpert has been watching Locke since he was a born, and seems to have never aged. Matthew Abaddon met Locke when he was in physical therapy and, posing as an orderly, gave Locke the idea of going on a walkabout in Australia. This still leaves the question of how they got Locke, and the other passengers of interest, to go at precisely the time that Desmond would inadvertently cause the plane to crash.

The time differences were demonstrated again as the doctor on the freighter, who has already washed up on the beach, had not yet been killed. There are also strange things going on beyond the time issue. Ben found Jacob’s cabin, only to find both Christian Shephard and Claire there. Does this mean that Claire is dead like Christian Shephard (father to both Jack and Claire) or less likely that Christian Shephard is not dead?

Fortunately we are not going to miss episodes of Lost due to the writer’s strike. Originally there were to be sixteen episodes during each of the three final seasons. This season will wind up being two episodes shorter, but the next two seasons will be extended to seventeen episodes each. There are also some comments on the future of the show from co-creator Damon Lindelof:

“The finale this year will not be as tricky as last year,” he said. “Hopefully, this year it’s a little bit more of a straightforward action-adventure narrative. But the ending of the episode will hopefully engage and intrigue people looking forward to the next season of the show.”

Lindelof declined to say whether the flash forwards will continue, but did leave open the possibility of the show’s main story line on the island catching up with the flash forwards that have taken place on the mainland this season.

“It’s very exciting that the audience is going to be wondering when is the present going to be (next season),” he said. “We’ve moved backward in time, now we’ve moved forward in time. The present of the show has always been on the island — that may not necessarily be the case in the future.”

When it comes time to air the series finale in 2010, Lindelof said he and Cuse plan to “go into hiding for many, many months” at an “undisclosed location.”

“David Chase set a great example when he went off to Paris after ‘The Sopranos’ ending, which is great because all these people are going to be asking, ‘What does it mean? What is it?’ ” he said. “The fact that there’s no one really around to answer that question, it forces people to come up with what they think it means. We can guarantee our show will not end with a cut to black, it will be more clear than that. But whenever anything you love ends … there’s a certain disappointment.”

While some ambiguity about the future of the characters is to be expected, Lost better not go out with everything left a total mystery. Fading to black won’t work as well with a show of this type as with The Sopranos.

For those who watch on the SciFi Channel, Doctor Who has just revealed the back story on the Ood. There is yet another reference to a missing planet, which many speculate is a consequence of Rose jumping between dimensions. Once again The Doctor is portrayed as a heroic character who will be remembered, making the stories this season different from most in the past.

The SciFi Channel remains three episodes behind the BBC. I’ll avoid real spoilers, but this paragraph will give away a little of what comes next. First there is a two parter in which Martha Jones, now working with UNIT, brings The Doctor back to earth to fight an enemy from the original series, the Sontarans. The previews for the episode which aired yesterday reveal a real shocker: The Doctor’s Daughter. The daughter (picture above) is played by Georgia Moffett, daughter of previous Doctor Who star Peter Davison. Davison, the fifth Doctor also appeared in a brief video with the current Doctor, David Tennant in a video I previously posted here. Moffett has also been cast to play Jenna Stannis in the planned reboot of Blake’s 7.

Battlestar Galactica featured a guest appearance by Nana Visitor of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. There’s also a predictable killing of a red shirt and further movement towards humans and one faction of Cylons working together. Visitor is far from the only character in one science fiction show to appear on another. This week we also learned that Bruce Boxleitner of Babylon 5 will be appearing on Heroes next season.

The New York Post reveals the changes to take place on the next season of Weeds. Little Boxes will be played one final time in the first episode but now that Agrestic was burnt down the show will be moving to a seedy seaside town by the Mexican border (actually shot in Manhattan Beach, California). Nancy (Mary Louise Parker) has progressed from a suburban house wife who started selling marijuana to get by following the death of her husband to a big time drug dealer.

There are three major ongoing mysteries on television: the meaning of Lost, the fate of the humans and Cylons on Battlestar Galactica (including the final unrevealed Cylon), and the identity of Ted Mosby’s future wife on How I Met Your Mother. One blogger believes he found a clue in the pictures above. The letter in Stella’s (Sarah Chalke) apartment (right) appears to be the same letter in the background behind the kids (left).

This is far from conclusive. Possibly the props department just happened to use the same prop in both scenes. If Ted is really telling his children the same stories he is telling us, the kids would already know that this is their mother once he began talking about Stella by name. As with Lost and Battlestar Galactica we will have to wait and see how the mystery turns out.

SciFi Friday: Somethings New

For the beginning of August there is a surprising amount of new material. Masters of Science Fiction premiered last week, but it is hard to see a show aired on Saturday night during midsummer surviving. The concept is certainly worthwhile as four short stories by established science fiction writers will be presented. The first episode, A Clean Escape, was mixed. The story centers around a psychiatrist and a patient who has blocked out his past. We learn a little at a time, and the final result certainly has relevance in a world with an out of control president who endangers our national security.

The problem I had with the episode was that the ultimate revelation was dramatic but left me wondering if it was really worth all the effort the psychiatrist put into such a transient victory. Even more puzzling was the suggestion at the end that they were repeating this. I also might have been a little disappointed in the episode as recently I’ve been reading some novels by Richard Powers who uses his background in neuropsychology to do far more than what can be done in a one hour television show.

I also picked up the direct to DVD Lost Tales from Babylon 5. It was nice to see the old station again, with the stories taking place after the events of the major arc but before its destruction. Unfortunately the stories could have remained lost. If they were shown as part of the regular series, both stories on the DVD would have been seen as below average episodes.

The latest remake of Flash Gordon premiers on SciFi Channel tonght. Reviews have not been very good, but at least I’ll record it and see how the buzz about the show is tomorrow. Weeds returns on Monday, followed by the premier of Californication, staring David Duchovny, on Showtime.

Doctor Who will be new to many in the United States tonight. Tonight’s episode, The Lazarus Experiment, is average but does contain elements which are important in the three part season finale. There are also some reports regarding next season. Catherine Tate, returning in her role of Donna from the Christmas episode, searches out The Doctor following an alien threat to London, and remains with him for the season. During the season they will meet Agatha Christie, and will go to the home planet of the Ood from the second season.

Freema Agyeman returns to Doctor Who midseason as Martha Jones, but first appears on a few episodes of the Doctor Who spin off Torchwood. The more mature nature of the show required some rewrites to clean it up for children who follow Doctor Who should they turn on Torchwood when Agyeman is on. Previously there were plans to air Torchwood on BBC America later this year and sell it on DVD in January. There was some great news this week from Mark Cuban as he’s going to pick up the show on HDNet starting September 17.

SciFi Friday: Finales For Doctor Who and Studio 60; Best Genre Shows of All Time

The major event in science fiction this weekend is the finale of the third season of Doctor Who, with this weeks episode running an extra six to eight minutes. My review of the previous episode, The Sound of Drums, along with a video clip, is here. Of course those planning to watch the season starting in July on the SciFi Channel might want to avoid these spoilers.

Many questions remain going into the finale, including the nature of the droids which are literally decimating the earth. I say literally as their instructions are to kill one tenth of all humans. We do know that The Master has converted the Tardis into a Paradox Machine to bring them to earth. He calls them Toclafane, which The Doctor says is really a fairy tale villain, not a real alien race. The Master also warned The Doctor that their identity will break his heart. One theory is that The Master is using The Paradox Machine to bring Cybermen in a new form back to our dimension, with Rose somehow involved, explaining the part about breaking The Doctor’s heart. (Fortunately The Doctor has two hearts). Another possibility is that The Paradox Machine brings fairy tales to life.

While Doctor Who has more episodes of any genre show, TV Guide didn’t give it the respect it deserves. They have released an updated list of the top thirty genre shows as follows:

30) Strangers with Candy (1999-2000)*
29) Absolutely Fabulous (1994-2003)
28) Stargate SG-1 (1997-2007)*
27) H.R. Pufnstuf (1969-1971)
26) Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman (1975-1978)
25) Firefly (2002-2003)*
24) Twin Peaks (1990-1991)
23) Dark Shadows (1966-1971)
22) Doctor Who (1963-present)
21) Freaks and Geeks (1999-2000)

20) The Avengers (1966-1969)
19) Quantum Leap (1989-1993)
18) Veronica Mars (2004-2007)*
17) Beauty and the Beast (1987-1990)
16) Babylon 5 (1994-1998)
15) Family Guy (1999-present)
14) Battlestar Galactica (2003-present)*
13) Mystery Science Theater 3000 (1989-1999)
12) Pee-Wee’s Playhouse (1986-1991)
11) Jericho (2006-present)*

10) Xena: Warrior Princess (1995-2001)
9 ) Twilight Zone (1959-1964)
8 ) The Simpsons (1989-present)
7 ) The Prisoner (1967-1968)
6 ) Monty Python’s Flying Circus (1969-1974)
5 ) Lost (2004-present)*
4 ) Farscape (1999-2003)
3 ) Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003)
2 ) The X-Files (1993-2002)
1 ) Star Trek (1966-1969)

Shows marked with an asterisk are new to the list. I can’t see placing Doctor Who, which has more episodes than any show on the list (even if we add on all the spin offs to Star Trek) and is far better than many of the shows, at only 22. Firefly is ranked at 25. While I might place it a little higher, I do agree that it doesn’t deserve as high a ranking as some would give it. For example, recently I posted a list of top science fiction movies which listed Serenity (which was based on Firefly) as the top movie. They might also be overly influenced by the reaction to the cancellation and subsequent saving of Jericho. While a good show, it is over ranked here. I have no disagreement with the two two spots, Star Trek and The X-Files. While I’ve never seen Buffy, it has a tremendous following and I can also see ranking it highly. A few shows which have been left out, Heroes, 24, Lost in Space, and Dark Angel, are far more significant than several of the shows on the list.

Finally, a farewell to Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip. Fans of the show took out the above ad in the Hollywood Reporter thanking Studio 60 and encouraging donations to the Tipitina’s Foundation of New Orleans.

The problem with the show, which led to its demise, was that it was composed of Aaron Sorkin characters engaging in Aaron Sorkin dialog about Aaaron Sorkin’s favorite issues, transferred from the West Wing to the set of a television show. On the other hand, the great thing about the show was that it was composed of Aaron Sorkin characters engaging in Aaron Sorkin dialog about Aaaron Sorkin’s favorite issues, transferred from the West Wing to the set of a television show.

Prior to the finale, the show had a three part episode which ranks with the best of television. The finale tied up the loose ends, giving everyone a happy ending, even if not always realistically. Personally I don’t ever recall pulling a patient’s family aside with the words “I need to talk to you” to deliver good news! On the other hand, I’m glad to see that Jordan not only survived, but had already thought to draw up papers for Danny to adopt her newborn daughter. It was predictable all season that Matt and Harriet would follow the Ross and Rachel route and get back together. The best Harriett scene in the final four episodes, however, was not with Matt and Harriet but between Harriet and Danny. When things were looking bleak for Jordan, Harriet came up with,”Let me teach you how to pray.” If it was anyone but Aaron Sorkin, I’d start worrying–this is Studio 60, not Seventh Heaven after all. Fortunately it turns out that it was Danny who had something to teach Harriet, placing a few questions in her mind.

Sorkin ended Sports Night with a jab at ABC when he had a character say, “Anybody who can’t make money off of Sports Night should get out of the money-making business.” That left me wondering if he would end Studio 60 with a similar message to NBC. With all the happy endings in the finale, my suspicion was that Aaron Sorkin might have been thinking, “so this stuff is too complex for you. Here, have a nice happy television ending if that will make you happy.” While there were perhaps too many happy endings for all, it was preferable to shows such as Veronica Mars which ended without a resolution in the hopes of being renewed. For better or for worse, it was also as different from the ending of The Sopranos as an ending could be.

SciFi Friday: Plans for the Future


Normally at this time of year we hear about the fate of shows being renewed or cancelled for the current season, but this year we are getting more significant news on the fates of two shows that are returning. End dates for both Lost and Battlestar Galactica have been announced. Lost will return for three sixteen episode seasons, while Battlestar Galactica will end after next season.

I am very happy to see these dates set in advance. Shows with ongoing mysteries have historically run into problems when the end date was not clear. X-Files dragged out the alien mythology plot beyond the point where it made much sense. Babylon 5 wrapped up the war a year before the end, and then didn’t have a good idea as to what to do with the final season. By knowing exactly how many episodes they have left, the writers of Lost and BSG can pace out how their continuing stories play out. BSG had the problem that they were searching for Earth, but everyone knew they could not find it while the series was running. Now that the season ends next year, they can actually reach Earth if that is what the writers desire, but viewers cannot be certain as to what will happen.

The decision to only air sixteen episodes of Lost per year has met with some controversy. I have conflicting interests on this one. As a Disney stockholder, I support the idea of the network receiving income from the show for an additional year. As a fan I have mixed emotions. If having less episodes can result in greater quality, then I am for it. While there are many other factors which result in the greater quality of shows on HBO and the BBC over the major American networks, not being stuck in the twenty-two or so episodes per year format may one of their advantages. While some Lost fans are complaining on line of having to stick it out for three years to get a normal two years worth of shows, Soprano fans sure won’t feel very sorry for them.

This week’s episode of Lost answered some questions and left many others open. Big questions are why Ben wound up the leader of the island’s “original inhabitants,” their connection to the outside world, and whether having the opening scene occur near Portland is coincidence. Is there more going on between DHARMA and the phoney location of where Juliette was first recruited to work? Speaking of Juliette, it looks like I was wrong in mistrusting her, but was right in predicting things would not turn out well for Locke by hanging around The Others. I doubt that Locke is really dead as the conflict between his and Jack’s philosophies seems to be too central to the show. Locke must return to face Jack. I wouldn’t be surprised if they really do kill Charlie off. His major role now seems to be his role in Desmond’s predictions of his death. This cannot continue forever. Either they have to find something else for Charlie to do, or actually kill him.

Kattee Sackhoff has other work lined up besides Battlestar Galactica. She will costar with Michelle Ryan in the reimagined remake of The Bionic Woman. Sackhoff says she will have a different type of role than Starbuck:

“My biggest fear was that Sarah Corvus was going to turn out like Starbuck. But she didn’t. She turned out a little like Number Six [laughs]. She’s the femme fatale. She’s dangerous. She’s sexy. She knows it, and she uses it. She walks with a purpose, and Starbuck really doesn’t. It’s … two different sides of the coin, but both misunderstood.”

While unofficial, the word is that Jericho will be back. They gave a strong indication of how the cliff hander will be resolved as the military is preparing to break up the war with New Bern, thanks to Heather, who is very much still alive. This leaves questions as to the fate of Hawkins, and the status of those behind this military force.

The surprise of the episode was the death of Johnston Green. I don’t think anyone saw this coming, considering how important Green was to the town, and the show. Perhaps the thought was that a strong central character such as Green was necessary to get the show established, but now we know enough about the other characters for them to continue to drive the story.

Another puzzle was the revised American flag. Maybe it was done more for the effect on viewers (as well as Heather) than for any logical reason. Any force trying to establish itself as the legitimate government of the United States would want to stick with the conventional flag. The new flag, complete with vertical stripes and only about half the stars, points out to viewers that this isn’t the United States government we know, but that isn’t something they would want surviving Americans to realize. Perhaps there is another force which is still using the conventional flag which will make an appearance at a later date.

Doctor Who will not be on the BBC this weekend, with the scheduled episode postponed until next week. It will hardly seem like Saturday night if I’m not hunting down a torrent with sufficient seeds to get the week’s episode by morning.
Superman Returns led the Saturn Awards, with both Battlestar Galactica and Heroes being able to win as best television series due to the nature of the categories. Some of the major winners include:

Best Science Fiction Film: Children of Men

Best Fantasy Film: Superman Returns

Best Horror Film: The Descent

Best Action/Adventure/Thriller Film: Casino Royale

Best Animated Film: Cars

Best International Film: Pan’s Labyrinth

Best Actor: Brandon Routh (Superman Returns)

Best Actress: Natalie Portman (V for Vendetta)

Best Network Television Series: Heroes

Best Syndicated/Cable Television Series: Battlestar Galactica

Gilmore Girls: Unto the Breach
The major televison event beyond SF was Rory Gilmore’s graduation from Yale, and the end of her relationship with Logan. Beyond that, Rory’s plans remain unclear. TV Guide has one of the best reports on the ending of Gilmore Girls with an interview with Lauren Graham.

With most shows ending for the season, there are a few to look forward to. Big Love returns on June 11, perhaps with increased interest in Mormonism in light of Mitt Romney’s candidacy. HBO On Demand will also have three prequel episodes starting on May 28 showing events prior to season one.

SciFi Friday: Save the Cheerleader, Save the World


“Save the Cheerleader, Save the World” is the unlikely tag line to this season’s newest television SF hit. This week I finally got around to watching two of the shows I’ve been recording until I could determine whether they are worth watching, Heroes and Brothers and Sisters. Heroes is reminiscent of X-Men except the mutants with super powers are living among us rather than separately in a school. It even has an intentional comic book feel which makes for an entertaining hour. It will never have the serious social commentary of Star Trek or Babylon 5, but that is not its goal.

Heroes starts out with the individual stories of people who find they have super powers, as well as the son of a genetics professor who discovered their existence. Ultimately they get together, and the paths of some of them cross in Las Vegas. It is probably inevitable that the politician and the stripper were among the first to meet. Also in Las Vegas we see the almost-perfect way to cheat and win. Once united, the heroes must prevent a nuclear explosion in Manhattan, but it appears that first they must save the cheerleader.

For those who have missed Heroes, NBC is running a three episode marathon on Sunday night.

The other recorded show I started catching up on, Brothers and Sisters, doesn’t fit into SciFi Friday, but any show staring Rachel Griffiths (Brenda on Six Feet Under) along with Callista Flockhart (Allie McBeal), Sally Fields (Gidget and The Flying Nun before many far more substantial roles), Ron Rifkin (the perfect villain on Alias), and Patricia Wettig (Thirtysomething) is worth mentioning. Ken Olin (Thirtysomething and Alias) is also executive producer.

Despite my irresistable urge to give Rachel Griffiths top billing above, the actual star is Callista Flockhart who plays a right wing television pundit, but do not fear being forced to listen to right wing drivel. Her professional life is only a small part of the show, and she is outnumbered by liberal members of her family. Reviews of the first episode were mediocre as it attempted to introduce several family members, but the show has improved tremendously from there. Perhaps the deciding factor, beyond the cast, which led to me watching rather than deleting these recordings was a review which said this was a show which could have been done for HBO. So far I’d rank it below Studio 60 and The Nine, but it is still among the top new shows of the season.

Newsweek reports on a new battle on Battlestar Galactica. Ron Moore and NBC Universal are fighting over the residuals for the web episodes.

Last week’s SF television highlight was on Doctor Who as Sarah Jane Smith got a chance to see The Doctor once again, and to properly say goodbye to him. Seeing her brief relationship with Rose will also remain a classic moment in Doctor Who history. K-9 Mark III, always the good dog, sacrificed himself but was rebuilt to be ready for the proposed new BBC television show featuring Sarah Jane. Next week, The Cybermen!

Doctor Who has also entered the Guinness Book of World Records. With over 700 episodes since it started in 1963 it is the longest running SF show. There have already been ten versions of the timelord, and The Sun reports we may be getting another. David Tennant is considering leaving after the third season of the remake, despite an offer of one million pounds from the BBC to remain.

Sci Fi Friday: Star Trek’s George Takai on the Political Climate

Star Trek was started in the 1960’s as a way for Gene Roddenberry to sneak discussions of political issues past the networks. Fortunately political issues are discussed more openly now. TrekToday reports on a recent interview with George Takai (Mr. Sulu). Takai has been in the news recently after revealling that he is gay, but he also has some comments on today’s political climate:

“I’m a Japanese-American. I grew up behind US barbed-wire fences,” Takei told Foley. “We were first taken to the horse stables of Santa Anita Race Track, because the camps weren’t built yet. And then when the camps were built, they transported us two-thirds of the way across the county to the swamps of Arkansas…and why were we incarcerated? There were no trials. There were no attorneys. There was no due process. Simply because we happened to look like the people who bombed Pearl Harbor. Yes, I know about racial profiling. And this administration has used fear to terrorize America. Yes, they are the ones who are terrorizing America. There are decent people who just happened to look like the ones who committed that terrible act on September 11, 2001, and they are being profiled and subjected to all these indignities.”

“You know, this administration came out with what they call the ‘Patriot Act’ which is the most disgusting name for an ‘Act’ that is so un-American,” the actor added. “I mean, due process and civil liberties have gone out the window. And this administration continues to tell us that we are terrorized. There are better ways do deal with this. Look at Britain. They caught the people before it happened. Intelligence is what’s really important.”

“And do you know what they are doing in this country? [The Military] are kicking out Arabic-speaking gay intelligence workers, just because they are gay! What is more important? National security or homophobia? In this administration, it’s clearly homophobia and not national security. This administration has it all wrong.”

A Fox News reporter noted that Takei seemed very passionate about this subject and asked him what he thought was the answer. “Britain has demonstrated that they can do it. Have good intelligence! By firing Arabic speaking intelligence officers, that is not the way to do it…look at the failure we have in Iraq. It is a disaster. Look at the incompetence we had in dealing with Katrina. In case after case, this administration has been the greatest threat to America.”

A recent post has another story on Takai under the fold. Additional Star Trek stories are reposted below.
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