SciFi Weekend: Raggedy Man Goodnight–The Time of the Doctor

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The Time of the Doctor tried to do many things at once: be a Christmas episode, be an action story, tie up questions from the Matt Smith era, be a regeneration story, and be an homage to the Matt Smith era. It succeeded or failed to various degrees in each, but in the end managed to do enough to be a memorable chapter in Doctor Who, especially as a proper way to end the story of the eleventh Doctor.

After recent Christmas episodes which were more clearly based upon Christmas stories or themes, The Time of the Doctor resorted to naming the town where the Doctor spent centuries Christmas, along with brief scenes of Christmas dinner at Clara’s home. There were far too many other things to accomplish to get bogged down with a true Christmas story, but this sure gave a new meaning to the War on Christmas.

Sometimes if felt like he has been making new interpretations up as he went along, but Steven Moffat did try to tie up loose ends from not only the Matt Smith years but, in dealing with the Time Lords and the regeneration limit, the entire series. He handled the regeneration limit well, explaining the situation for those who have not already read about it on the blogs and without dwelling on it too long for those who have already heard the discussion. Matt Smith quickly explained to Clara that he was on his last regeneration once you counted the John Hurt Doctor:

CLARA: “But you don’t die. You change – you pop right back with a new face.”
THE DOCTOR: “Not forever. I can change 12 times. 13 versions of me. 13 silly Doctors.”
CLARA: “But you’re number eleven, so -”
THE DOCTOR: “Are we forgetting Captain Grumpy? I didn’t call myself the Doctor during the Time War, but it was still a regeneration.”

Explaining yet another previously uncounted regeneration, the Doctor pointed out that “Number Ten once regenerated and kept the same face – I had vanity issues at the time.”. Of course we knew that somehow he would not die at Tranzalor any more than he died at Lake Silencio, but instead would regenerate despite the previously established and easily broken regeneration limit.

Before nearly dying of old age, the Doctor spent over 300 years on Tranzalor fighting the Daleks and others at a standoff. Several other enemies were also thrown in, often quickly. The Weeping Angels were present only to briefly grab Clara’s ankle (without sending her back in time). The Cybermen had a cameo, with far more memorable scenes from Handles, a severed Cyberman head who chronologically  became the companion to spend the most time with the Doctor and was reminiscent of K-9. These cameos would have been pointless, and even distracting, in a normal story, but were present as part of the homage to the many events of the Matt Smith years.

After frequently throwing out the question, Doctor Who? into many stories, Moffat made the answer a key point of this story. Unfortunately the explanation makes little sense once you think about it. The Time Lords were hidden in a pocket universe and would not return until the Doctor said his real name. It doesn’t make much sense as to why this would be so important and why the Time Lords would even think that the Doctor would want them to return. Many events during the Matt Smith years have been revealed as being based upon attempts to prevent the Doctor from bringing back the Time Lords. Why would they think that the Doctor would do so after he was the one who made them disappear? Gallifrey was hidden behind the cracks in time which have been present in multiple episodes. Why didn’t the issue of the Doctor’s name or the return of the Time Lords come up around prior cracks.

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I fortunately downloaded the BBC broadcast as I hear that at least one key explanation was cut from the BBC America version for commercials. The Silents were revealed to have been genetically engineered priests. Once someone gave their confession, they would forget about the confession. A cool idea until you question why. The key line which I heard was cut from the US showing was that Madame Kovarian led a renegade offshoot of the Silents from the Papal Mainframe which was dedicated to killing the Doctor as the way to prevent him from speaking his name and allowing the Time Lords to return.

Moffat managed to tie in many previous events into this narrative, including the explosion of the TARDIS. River Song was created as a perfect psychopath to kill the Doctor (but he wound up marrying her instead). The Doctor’s greatest fear behind a door in The God Complex was revealed to be a crack in time. The episode included other references to earlier in this regeneration, such as eating fish fingers and custard before regenerating, as the Doctor did after regenerating from Ten to Eleven. There were also references to earlier regenerations, such as using “reverse the polarity to the neutron flow.” Eleven has now said this more often than the Third Doctor actually did. The Doctor also referred to The Five Doctors with use of the“Seal of the High Council of Gallifrey – nicked it off the Master in the Death Zone.”

Moffat created a memorable new character in Tasha Lem. She seems to have had a romantic history with the Doctor and can even fly the TARDIS. She explained to Clara,”Flying the TARDIS was always easy. It was flying the Doctor I never quite mastered.” Such dialog could easily come from River Song, the only person other than the Doctor who we previously saw fly the TARDIS. The Doctor told Tasha Lem, “You’ve been fighting the psychopath inside you all your life,” reminding us of how River Song was called a psychopath in the same episode. Perhaps the episode was written with thought of including River Song. There has been some speculation that Tasha Lem is yet another manifestation of River Song, possibly taking a new bodily form after leaving the library.

Moffat also has a habit of bringing up themes and then dropping them (but you never know if he will one day return to them). The Doctor faking his death at Lake Silencio had no long term meaning as subsequently everyone still seems aware that he is alive. Clara’s wiping of the Dalek memory of the Doctor in Asylum of the Daleks has been forgotten. Moffat played with the meme that the Doctor lies by putting him in a truth field in this episode. This was also forgotten. The Doctor lied to Clara when he said he told her he would not send her away and lied at the end about having a plan.

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Moffat even took advantage of Matt Smith having cut his hair for a movie role. The Doctor hid a spare key to the TARDIS under a wig. The scene only worked because of the knowledge that Matt Smith was actually wearing a wig during the filming of the episode. It also reminded me of when Sam Malone revealed he was wearing a wig on Cheers after word got out that Ted Danson actually wore one.

The episode might have been improved by making it longer than an hour and providing a more sensible conclusion. The Time Lords sat behind the crack and did nothing for years. Then Clara said, “His name is the Doctor. All the name he needs, all you need to know about him. And if you love him… help him.” This was enough to get the Time Lords to act. While questionable, it is at least consistent with the Doctor Who theme of often having the companions perform important actions to save the Doctor.In a way it also resolves the issue of the Doctor’s real name by pointing out that it doesn’t really matter.

The Time Lords gave the Doctor a new regeneration cycle. Previous episodes have established that this is very rare, but not without precedent. It remains to be seen whether twelve more regenerations will be enough to keep the Doctor alive as long as the show continues or if another way will need to be found to grant additional regenerations in the distant future. The regeneration energy was enough to enable the Doctor to easily shoot the Dalek ship out of the sky. If the Time Lord’s possess this much power, it is hard to believe that they were ever seriously threatened by the Daleks during the Time War.

Time has been rewritten and the Doctor did not die on Tranzalor. This would also mean that there is no tomb where Clara was fragmented into multiple copies to save the Doctor from The Great Intelligence. Yet another of those timey wimey paradoxes.

The regeneration was drawn out, enabling Matt Smith to appear yet again as a young man, eating custard. The episode showed growth for the Doctor. Ten didn’t want to go and Eleven hated endings. Finally Eleven was ready and accepted his fate as “times change, and so must I.” As he saw Amelia Pond, the first person he saw as the Eleventh, he said, “I will always remember when the Doctor was me.”

Time of the Doctor Amy Pond

Karen Gillan will always be the companion most closely thought of  with Matt Smith. Like David Tennant visiting Billie Piper for one last time before he regenerated, a vision of Amy Pond got to say to the Doctor, “Raggedy man. Goodnight.” Ironically both Karen Gillan and Matt Smith were wearing wigs in this picture, having cut their hair for movie roles.

Some fans have been disappointed because the regeneration scene did not show a prolonged transformation of the face from Matt Smith to Peter Capaldi. I suspect this might have been for budgetary reasons. I thought it was far more symbolic to have Matt Smith remove his bow tie just before changing. Bow ties and fez hats belong to the Eleventh. Others might wear them in his honor, but it will always be remembered that it was Matt Smith who said, “Bow ties are cool.”

As with previous regenerations, Twelve was observant of his bodily changes.”I’ve got new kidneys! I don’t like the color!” There are bigger concerns when the TARDIS alarms go off and he asks Clara, “Do you happen to know how to fly this thing?” It sounds like we might have another crash scene coming up, unless either he is either messing around with Clara or soon regains his memory.

Unfortunately we have to wait until next fall to find out.

Time of the Doctor Peter Capaldi

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SciFi Weekend: Gallifrey Falls No More, A Review of Day of the Doctor

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The Day of the Doctor accomplished Steven Moffat’s goal of presenting an homage to the past but primarily looking towards the future. Just as real life isn’t neatly divided into sixty minute episodes (or serials in the case of older Doctor Who), the 50th anniversary episode combined two different stories. Both had the common theme of the Doctor finding a way to defeat an invasion and prevent destruction to either London or Gallifrey. The episode  won a Guinness World Record award for the largest ever simulcast of a TV drama, being shown in ninety-four countries.

There were many tributes to the past beyond those I mention here. We saw the original opening, starting in black in white just as the series began. Clara was teaching at Coal School which Susan attended in the first episode. After several mentions of Queen Elizabeth I over the years, we saw the Doctor marry her, believing she was actually a Zygon shape shifter in disguise. (No word on what River Song thought of this). A UNIT agent (or her Zygon copy) wore Tom Baker’s scarf.  David Tennant repeated his classic line, “I don’t want to go” and John Hurt said “reverse the polarity” in a tribute to Jon Pertwee. The episode included all thirteen Doctors, including John Hurt and Peter Capaldi, even if some were primarily from old clips and CGI. The episode ended with an ambiguous appearance from Tom Baker as the Curator, who might be the form which the Doctor takes after he retires. Billie Piper returned, but as Bad Wolf Rose in order to allow for her presence without altering Rose’s story.

The Doctors stopped a Zygon invasion of earth by literally bringing about the concept of a veil of ignorance, as the shape-shifting Zygons and members of UNIT did not remember which they were, giving motivation to both sides to negotiate a fair deal. From there the three Doctors tackled an even bigger problem, saving Gallifrey from the Dalek attack during the Time Wars by some way other than destroying them all. This was ultimately accomplished due to Matt Smith and David Tennant’s version of the Doctor having had more time to work on the problem, and the joint effort of thirteen Doctors.

We have now seen all of the regenerations. The webisode (posted here) The Night of the Doctor, showed the regeneration of Paul McGann to John Hurt.  The regeneration of John Hurt was present near the end of The Day of The Doctor but unfortunately Christopher Eccleston declined to appear to complete the scene. Considering how little effort it would have taken to film the regeneration scene, his refusal to participate in the anniversary episode just makes him look more petty, regardless of what problems he had with the previous crew.

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Although Steven Moffat had said that the numbering of the Doctors would not change, it is hard to see justification for not including John Hurt. Moffat recently said:

“I’ve been really, really quite careful about the numbering of the Doctors. He’s very specific, the John Hurt Doctor, that he doesn’t take the name of the Doctor. He doesn’t call himself that. He’s the same Time Lord, the same being as the Doctors either side of him, but he’s the one who says, ‘I’m not the Doctor.’ So the Eleventh Doctor is still the Eleventh Doctor, the Tenth Doctor is still the Tenth…

He adds: “Technically, if you really counted it, the David Tennant Doctor is two Doctors, on account of the Meta-Crisis Doctor [in Journey's End]… It’s not a matter of counting the regenerations, but of counting the faces of the Time Lord that calls himself the Doctor. There’s an anomaly Doctor slotted in somewhere, that’s all. In the script to The Day of the Doctor, Matt’s Doctor was called the Eleventh, and David’s was called the Tenth, so the numbering stays exactly the same – and we call Peter Capaldi the Twelfth Doctor.”

Of course we know that Moffat lies, and  perhaps he said this to avoid giving away the ending to The Day Of The Doctor. Now that we have seen the full story of  John Hurt’s Doctor, it is harder to justify not counting him. Despite being called the Warrior, we have now seen rather standard regenerations both into him and into the subsequent Doctor. Taking a different name hardly makes sense as a way around the regeneration limit. Even if his story ended with being responsible for a heinous act, this should not change the numbering.  Now that this act was reversed, there is even less reason to exclude him. There was reference to “all thirteen” on Gallifrey. The Daleks recognized him as the Doctor. If we want to go meta and try to limit the official Doctors to those who had their own shows, this would contradict the convention of including Paul McGann who, before this month, appeared in only a single movie. Surely John Hurt’s appearance in the 50th anniversary episode, along with a brief scene in the previous episode, is as significant as an essentially stand-alone move.  The BBC even reposted the 50th anniversary promo picture with John Hurt included (above).

The episode has significant ramifications for the future. The Doctor now has a new goal, to find Gallifrey. I wonder if this will be a season-long McGuffin like was done previously with The Key To Time serials in the Tom Baker era. This could provide a new emphasis from the show now that Amy Pond is gone and the mystery of Clara has been resolved, getting away from the stand-alone episodes of last season. A limit of twelve regenerations, meaning thirteen versions of the Doctor, was previously established, and we have now seen reference to “all thirteen” Doctors. The search for Gallifrey opens up one of several possible solutions as it is a safe prediction that Doctor Who will not end with Peter Capaldi’s Doctor. Perhaps saving Gallilfrey will lead to the Doctor being given another set of regenerations solving this issue. There has been precedent for the Time Lords having this power.

Before we see how this rewriting of the mythology affects Peter Capaldi’s Doctor, there remains the Christmas Episode in which Silence will Fall and we return to Trenzalore (trailer above).

For those disappointed in not seeing cameos from more actors who have played the Doctor, we do have the video below which was written and directed by Peter Davison. “The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot” stars  Peter Davison,  Colin Baker,  Sylvester McCoy and Paul McGann attempting to make it into the 50th anniversary episode. In a way they have accomplished this. I think that this video, along with The Day of the Doctor,  and An Adventure in Space in Time should be counted as parts of a set honoring the 50th anniversary.

As I was working on my impressions of the episode, Blogator Who posted the official comments from Steven Moffat. Some portions of the interview follow:

I asked Steven for his thoughts on Peter Davison’s special The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot.
“I loved it. I love it, I’m in it! I’m the villain as far as I can see! [Laughs] Absolutely adorable. It was actually my idea to do that, I had bumped into Peter at a party and he said, ‘I’m going to do this little fan video about us all trying to get into the 50th. Do you mind and would you be in it?’ And I said I’ll give you a budget and a camera crew and some time and why don’t you make it for real? Make it for us? It solved a problem for me. I wanted all The Doctor’s properly involved, if they were willing, as best they could.

It maximises what you can do with Sylvester [McCoy] and Colin [Baker] and Peter because they’re not the same people were, all those years ago. You get to see Colin Baker playing Colin Baker which is much more fun that seeing him trying to do a performance that no longer suits him, frankly. And the same with Peter and the absolutely charming Sylvester McCoy, who is an absolute hero. It was brilliant, I love The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot, it was gorgeous.

Regarding Billie Piper in The Day of the Doctor Steven stated:
“I thought the story of Rose, which was beautiful, was done. I didn’t want to add to it, I didn’t feel qualified to add to it. That was always Russell’s [T Davies] story. The way Russell ended it in The End of Time was perfect. I didn’t want to stick another bit in. It would be wrong.

But we did want Billie Piper, one of the absolute heroes of Doctor Who, back in the show without interfering in the story of Rose Tyler. I think I might of spoiled something if I had done that.  Billie represents the rival of Doctor Who, more than anyone else. It’s all about Billie, it’s her show for two years. It’s really startling watching The Runaway Bride and you’re going, ‘Where is she? Where is she? Where is the star of the show?’

On the 2013 Christmas Special, Moffat commented, “It’s a proper finale to Matt Smith, it’s the story we’ve been telling since he put the bow tie on. A lot of stuff we’ve left hanging, we tie up there. And it’s Trenzalore!” At a panel at the Official Doctor Who Celebration, including Matt Smith, Jenna Coleman and Steven, they revealed that the world “bubbly” will appear in the finale for The Eleventh Doctor.

 

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SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who; Arrow; More Marvel on TV; Almost Human; S.; Batman vs. Superman; Better Call Saul; Downton Abbey

The BBC has released two trailers for The Day of the Doctor, with the longer version above. The 50th anniversary episode of Doctor Who will be simulcast internationally, starting at 2:50 EST in the United States on BBC America. (From my point of view, this is an awful time, interfering with both noon and 3:30 football games.) There is discussion of the trailers and images here and here. The official synopsis has also been released: “In 2013, something terrible is awakening in London’s National Gallery; in 1562, a murderous plot is afoot in Elizabethan England; and somewhere in space an ancient battle reaches its devastating conclusion. All of reality is at stake as the Doctor’s own dangerous past comes back to haunt him.”

The BBC America Trailer is above.

Steven Moffat has some major teases as to the meaning of the episode:

Moffat’s previous comments that the episode “will change the narrative in a big way” encouraged speculation that writers have found a solution to the fact that the Doctor can only regenerate twelve times. He has now further added to this by saying, “This should be the next step on the journey, guaranteeing the 100th anniversary”.

He said: “The story focuses on the most important thing that ever happened to the Doctor. We very rarely do that in Doctor Who as it’s usually about the people the Doctor meets or the companion that travels with him. This time it’s different.”

More from Moffat here.

McQ by Alexander McQueen

Jenna Coleman has been doing some modeling. The Guardian has more pictures.

Joanna Page (Stacey of the British sitcom Gavin and Stacey) will play Queen Elizabeth. She discussed kissing David Tennant.

BBC America has released their schedule of shows for the 50th anniversary (via TV Addict). Beyond Day of the Doctor, highlights include An Adventure in Space and Time about the initial development of Doctor Who. The cast includes Jessica Raine of Call the Midwife as producer Verity Lambert.

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 18
Doctor Who: The Doctors Revisited Marathon – 9:00am – 9:00pm ET
The First through Tenth Doctor

Doctor Who: Tales from the TARDIS – 9:00 –10:00pm ET
An all-new special, Doctor Who: Tales from the TARDIS, features the series’ actors and producers sharing their experiences and memories of the world’s longest-running sci-fi show. The special features exclusive interviews with principal cast members from the show’s 50-year history, including actors who have played the Doctor: Matt Smith, David Tennant, Tom Baker, and Peter Davison, actors who have played companions: Jenna Coleman, Karen Gillan, Freema Agyeman, and William Russell, as well as the current lead writer and executive producer Steven Moffat. The discussion includes how the actors got cast, how the roles changed their lives, how a ‘regeneration’ is recorded, and how filming the show in the 60′s compares to today.

The Science of Doctor Who with Brian Cox – 10:00–11:00pm ET
A former rock star and Britain’s popular TV physicist, Professor Brian Cox explores the universe of the world’s favorite Time Lord when he takes the audience on a journey into the wonderful universe of Doctor Who, with the help of celebrity guests. In this exclusively recorded special from the lecture theatre of the Royal Institution of Great Britain, Brian reveals the science behind the spectacle and explains the physics that allows Doctor Who to travel through space and time. Fun, but filled with real science, it’s a special night for Who fans and anyone with a thirst for understanding.

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 19
Doctor Who – The Ninth Doctor Marathon – 10:00am –11:00pm ET

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 20
Doctor Who – The Tenth Doctor Marathon – 2:00am –11:00pm ET

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 21
Doctor Who – The Eleventh Doctor Marathon Part I – 9:00am – 11:00pm ET
The Eleventh Doctor – Matt Smith

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 22
Doctor Who – The Eleventh Doctor Marathon Part 2 – 9:00am – 8:00pm ET

Doctor Who Explained – 8:00pm – 9:00pm ET
An all-new special, Doctor Who Explained, explores the mysterious and two-hearted alien who is the Doctor. Through exclusive interviews with principal cast members from the show’s 50-year history, including actors who have played the Doctor: Matt Smith, David Tennant, Peter Davison, and Tom Baker as well as actors who have played companions: Jenna Coleman, Karen Gillan, and Freema Agyeman, viewers get an insight to what happens behind-the-scenes of the award-winning sci-fi show.

An Adventure in Space and Time – 9:00pm ET
What do you get when you mix C.S. Lewis with H.G. Wells, and sprinkle in a bit of Father Christmas? An alien Time Lord exploring space and time in a Police Box spaceship called the “TARDIS” (Time And Relative Dimension in Space). Written by Mark Gatiss, the BBC AMERICA co-production, the film stars David Bradley (the First Doctor, William Hartnell), Brian Cox (BBC Head of Drama, Sydney Newman), Jessica Raine (Producer, Verity Lambert) and Sacha Dhawan (Director, Waris Hussein). An unlikely trio of misfits set out to create a genre series that all ages would love. William ‘Bill’ Hartnell, displeased with his career, was presented with a chance to break out of the hard-man roles he’d become known for. And with the instincts of first time producer, Verity Lambert and first time director, Waris Hussein, the Doctor was born. As the success of the show grew, William went from unhappy curmudgeon to beloved television star who relished his career resurgence and found a new lease on life. But all good things come to an end. How will Bill face leaving behind the part that has made him a hero to millions of children? And can the show survive without him? Journey back fifty years through space and time to witness the exciting beginning and untimely end of the First Doctor in this touching drama.

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 23
Doctor Who – The Eleventh Doctor Marathon Part 3 – 1:00am – 2:00pm ET
The Eleventh Doctor – Matt Smith

Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor – Global Simulcast – 2:50pm ET
The centerpiece of BBC AMERICA’s celebrations is the global simulcast of Doctor Who’s 50th Anniversary special, Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor, written by Steven Moffat. The Doctors (Matt Smith and David Tennant) embark on their greatest adventure across space and time. In 2013, something terrible is awakening in London’s National Gallery; in 1562, a murderous plot is afoot in Elizabethan England; and somewhere in space an ancient battle reaches its devastating conclusion. All of reality is at stake as the Doctor’s own dangerous past comes back to haunt him. Starring Matt Smith, David Tennant, Jenna Coleman, with Billie Piper and John Hurt. Last seen as the Doctor on January 1, 2010, this will be the first time David Tennant has reprised his role as the Tenth Doctor. During his reign as the Time Lord, Tennant appeared in three seasons as well as several specials. He was first revealed as the Doctor in the 2005 season finale, The Parting of the Ways. Meanwhile Billie Piper, who played companion Rose Tyler for two seasons following the reboot in 2005, will appear in the show for the first time since featuring in David Tennant’s last episode, The End of Time in 2010. The special is directed by Nick Hurran, executive produced by Steven Moffat, Faith Penhale and produced by Marcus Wilson.

Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor encore primetime broadcast – 7:00pm ET.
BBC AMERICA will premiere exclusive Inside Look interviews with Matt Smith and David Tennant during the broadcast. The special will be followed by the premiere of new fantasy-adventure series Atlantis at 9:00pm ET.

The Graham Norton Show with guests Matt Smith and David Tennant – 10:00pm ET
Doctor Who stars Matt Smith and David Tennant make their first appearance together on BBC AMERICA’s hit talk show The Graham Norton Show. Emma Thompson, singer Robbie Williams and comedian Jimmy Carr will also be guests.

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 24
Doctor Who – Matt Smith Countdown – 9:00am – 8:00pm ET
BBC AMERICA counts down the top 11 episodes from the Eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith, as voted on by fans.

Doctor Who: The Doctors Revisited –The Eleventh Doctor – 8:00pm –10:30pm ET
BBC AMERICA celebrates the Eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith, in a new special of Doctor Who: The Doctors Revisited. Matt Smith first stepped into the TARDIS in 2010 and, after starring in the 50th Anniversary Special on November 23, will regenerate in the Christmas special. The Doctors Revisited begins with Matt Smith, Jenna Coleman (companion Clara Oswald), Karen Gillan (companion Amy Pond), Arthur Darvill (companion Rory Williams), lead writer and executive producer Steven Moffat, among others, examining the human side of this Doctor and taking a look at how his extraordinarily long life has affected him. The special is followed by the Eleventh Doctor two-part story, The Impossible Astronaut and Day of the Moon, in which a strange summons reunites the Doctor, Amy (Karen Gillan), Rory (Arthur Darvill) and River (Alex Kingston) in the middle of the Utah desert and unveils a terrible secret the Doctor’s friends must never reveal to him. These were the first Doctor Who episodes to be filmed in the U.S

 

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I’ve frequently said that Arrow is far better than SHIELD, regardless of any comparisons of the DC versus Marvel lines. After an especially strong episode this week, League of Assassins, I’ve seen reviews (including at The Hollywood Reporter) calling Arrow the best live action superhero television series ever. Considering the competition, and poor translation of superheroes to television, this is a fairly low bar. The question then is whether it is compared to Heroes season one, which was excellent, versus the entire run of Heroes.

There is criticism of the current story lines on Arrow which everyone seems to agree with. It is not plausible that Laurel would be involved in the prosecution considering the conflict of interest. We know we have to accept unrealistic sequences when a man with an bow and arrow can regularly win out against guns. We also must ignore how people do not see though secret identities of people they know well. While this is necessary for the show to exist, they should avoid unrealistic scenarios unnecessary for superhero shows such as Laurel being involved with the prosecution in this situation.

There is more Marvel coming to television (besides a second rumored show on ABC about Agent Carter). They are planning for a set of thirteen episode series on Netflix of Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, and Luke Cage. Just as the movies led to a joint movie in The Avengers, these Netflix individual series will be followed by a joint mini-series entitled The Defenders. Considering that they have not done all that great a job with Agents of SHIELD, I wonder if it is a good idea to go ahead with four more series. Maybe, not being limited by the constraints of a prime time network television series these could be better for genre fans.

SHIELD really teased viewers last week. How many others were hoping that Simmons was not rescued when she jumped off the plan, and Fitz would follow her?

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Spoiler TV has a lot of information on the upcoming television show, Almost Human in an interview with J.J. Abrams and J.H. Wyman:

The series is set in the year 2048 and stars Karl Urban as John Kennex, a cop who is forced to partner with an android (named Dorian) played by Michael Ealy after an increase in crime leads to all human law officers being accompanied by robots. J.J says that “The idea when Joel pitched it was that Dorian, who is a synthetic, was in some ways more human than his partner.” Wyman told reporters that Ealy heightened what was already on the page with “an incredible sense of thoughtfulness and compassion. He’s playing a character who is by design, literally, as brave and as knowledgeable and as strategic as you’d want your partner to be if you were riding along as a cop, but he’s also as sympathetic as you’d want. What Michael brings is that kind of depth and humanity.” His dubious partner, in turn, is “forced to kind of deal with the idea that his well-being now relies on this technology which he sort of holds in contempt.”

So what sets this latest series apart from the increasingly present action and sci-fi shows on networks today, let alone from the duo’s previous work in the genre? First of all, Wyman began, he wasn’t interested in presenting another dystopian vision of Earth’s future. “I hope that we’re not really in that territory and that we’re successful in that.” Often in the genre, the writer says, the outlook seems to be “‘Look what you humans have done!’ whereas what we’re talking about, I think, is a little more hopeful. There’s a sense of going forward. We’re resilient, we’re going to succeed.”

Abrams mentioned that unlike many of his past efforts this series has much less of an emphasis on mythology and will instead focus on a procedural case-of-the-week type format that will allow us to explore the characters as well as the unique complexities of navigating in an increasingly technology-reliant world. He also promised “a level of humor that is distinct from what we’ve done before” which backs up his partners talk of the series leaning towards a more ‘popcorn’ movie vibe than their previous collaboration. That’s not to say the show is all-action-all-the-time, as Wyman went on to explain his hopes to create a conversation about what these human-computers are at their core and how we should interact with them. “They’re thinking beings, so what are their rights? And where are those lines drawn? A lot of those things are sort of examined in our later stories: What is a robot? What is an android? What is a being?” Wyman, to be sure, did his homework. “J.J had set us up with some very brilliant people from MIT and one was a woman who studied robot ethics, which is pretty amazing, that they’re actually… real.”

The case also includes Minka Kelly of Friday Night Lights.

I haven’t had a chance to read J.J. Abrams’ new book, S., yet, but it looks intriguing. Besides a conversation in margin notes going along with the narrative of the book, there are many postcards, maps, and letters at various points in the book. Librarians are not very happy about this.

Alan Alda will be going up against James Spader’s character on The Blacklist later this season. I’m hoping for a reunion with William Shatner.

Adam Driver of Girls is being considered for the role of Dick Grayson/Nightwing in the upcoming Batman vs. Superman movie. It is scheduled for release July 17, 2015.

When news came out about plans for Better Call Saul it was being called a prequel to Breaking Bad. There remains interest in what will happen to Saul after going to Nebraska, and now Bob Odenkirk says the show might be both a prequel and sequel.  There has been speculation that the show might be more of a comedy but Odenkirk says, “It’s going to be 70% drama and 30% comedy.” He also played down the speculation that characters from Breaking Bad will pay a major role in Better Call Saul. If it is a sequel, they should at least work in Gus and Mike. It is also feasible that Saul would cross path with a certain DEA agent, and a high school science teacher could briefly appear as long as any contact with Saul is minimal.

With the success of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and other books by Stieg Larsson in the United States, HBO is planning an hour-long series based upon the works of another Scandinavian author, Jo Nesbø. They are planning an adaptation of his 2008 novel, The Headhunters.

Dan Stevens of Downton Abbey will play Lancelot in Night at the Museum 3. It is hard to believe that the season finale already aired tonight on ITV. I haven’t watched today’s season finale yet, but as of last week there were several loose ends. I wonder how many were tied up tonight, and how many will be extended to the Christmas episode. Thanks to British television, Christmas has become a big television day with episodes of Downton Abbey, Doctor Who, and Call the Midwife. Update: News came in shortly after this was posted that Downton Abbey has been renewed for a fifth season.

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SciFi Weekend: Matt Smith Leaving Doctor Who–The Fall of the 11th on Trenzalore; Karen Gillan Gets Marvel Movie Role; Hannibal Renewed; Dan Harmon Returning To Community; Revolution Finale; Is Megan Draper Sharon Tate?; RIP (And Return Soon) Selena Kyle

Times Matt Smith

The big genre news of the week was also front page news on many newspapers. After months of rumors that this would be his last season, Matt Smith has announced that he will not be returning to Doctor Who after the upcoming 50th Anniversary episode and Christmas episode:

“Doctor Who has been the most brilliant experience for me as an actor and a bloke, and that largely is down to the cast, crew and fans of the show.

“I’m incredibly grateful to all the cast and crew who work tirelessly every day to realise all the elements of the show and deliver Doctor Who to the audience. Many of them have become good friends and I’m incredibly proud of what we have achieved over the last four years.

“Having Steven Moffat as show runner write such varied, funny, mind bending and brilliant scripts has been one of the greatest and most rewarding challenges of my career. It’s been a privilege and a treat to work with Steven – he’s a good friend and will continue to shape a brilliant world for the Doctor.

The fans of Doctor Who around the world are unlike any other; they dress up, shout louder, know more about the history of the show (and speculate more about the future of the show) in a way that I’ve never seen before.

“Your dedication is truly remarkable. Thank you so very much for supporting my incarnation of the Time Lord, number 11, who I might add is not done yet – I’m back for the 50th anniversary and the Christmas special.

“It’s been an honour to play this part, to follow the legacy of brilliant actors, and helm the Tardis for a spell with ‘the ginger, the nose and the impossible one’. But when ya gotta go, ya gotta go and Trenzalore calls. Thank you guys. Matt.”

This makes me wonder if we will really see how the fall of the Doctor plays out on Trenzalore and to what degree his final two episodes are a continuation of the story started in The Name of the Doctor. As Moffat has said that John Hurt will return in the eighth season, this episode might have long lasting ramifications.

Steven Moffat had this to say about Smith: “Great actors always know when it’s time for the curtain call, so this Christmas prepare for your hearts to break as we say goodbye to number 11. Thank you Matt – bow ties were never cooler.” Smith won several awards for his role:

Smith has been nominated for nine different awards over his time on “Doctor Who,” winning three of them — two SFX awards in 2011 and 2012, and a National Television Award in 2012. Smith was the first actor in “Doctor Who” to be nominated for a BAFTA, which he earned in 2011.

There has been immediate speculation as to the next actor to play the Doctor. Bookmakers are already setting odds. Per Steven Moffat: “A life is going to change, and Doctor Who will be born all over again. After 50 years, that’s still so exciting.”

The 11 Doctors

1. William Hartnell (1963-1966)

2. Patrick Troughton (1966-1969)

3. Jon Pertwee (1970-1974)

4. Tom Baker (1974-1981)

5. Peter Davison (1982-1984)

6. Colin Baker (1984-1986)

7. Sylvester McCoy (1987-1996)

8. Paul McGann (1996)

9. Christopher Eccleston (2005)

10. David Tennant (2005-2010)

11. Matt Smith (2010 – 2013)

While the most likely choice will be from one of many British actors, who may or may not be on lists of possibilities on various blogs, three less likely choices are the most interesting to consider:

Benedict Cumberbatch
Cumberbatch appeared like a potential lead on Doctor Who from his first appearance on Sherlock, also written by Steven Moffat. There is no doubt that he would be an excellent choice, but this is highly unlikely. I recall old interviews in which Cumberbatch said he was not interested in taking on a time-consuming commitment of this nature. The chances are far less now that he is a much bigger star.

David Tennant
Tennant is returning to the 50th anniversary episode and perhaps had so much fun in his old role that, while also unlikely, perhaps he would reconsider returning to the show. There are possible ways to make this happen, from a reverse generation following the fall of the Doctor on Trenzalore to something stemming from his reappearance in the 50th anniversary. One problem with continuing from his reappearance is that, as Billie Piper will also be present, this is apparently the Doctor from earlier in his time line. With the eleventh and Clara messing around in the Doctor’s time line anything might happen, including a revitalization of the tenth or perhaps even the next possibility:

Jenna-Louise Coleman
It has been common to speculate on having a female Doctor whenever there is a regeneration. Doing so now might create problems with the dynamics of the show as Coleman will be returning and they might not want to do a show with two female leads. One way around this would be to have Clara, perhaps as a consequence of having been intertwined in the Doctor’s time line, become the form taken when the Doctor next regenerates, perhaps merging with a Clara who is dying for the same reason the Doctor is at time of regeneration. The new Doctor could then add a male companion. Ironically I think that more female fans would be upset by this than male fans. One strength of Doctor Who as a science fiction show is that its viewers aren’t limited to nerdy males and the smaller number of female science fiction fans. Chicks Dig Time Lords (according to a Hugo-award winning book).  There is a large contingent of female viewers who watch and display a crush on the Doctor in many places on line. They might not like seeing a change to a female Doctor.

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Smith will have more time to spend on his film career, perhaps joining another recent costar who is having some success. Karen Gillan has been cast as the lead female villain in Guardians of the Galaxy.

Karen Gillan, who starred as Doctor Who’s companion for several seasons on the hit BBC show, is joining the cast of Marvel Studios’ Guardians of the Galaxy.

The movie is barreling towards a late-June shoot in the U.K. with James Gunn behind the camera.

The movie is in casting mode, with Glenn Close joining the roll call earlier this week. Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana and Dave Bautista lead the cast of Marvel’s space adventure movie, which has Lee Pace and Michael Rooker as villains.

Details for Gillan’s role were not revealed, although it is known she will play the film’s lead female villain.

The Scottish actress played companion Amy Pond in Doctor Who‘s fifth through the recently ended seventh series. The character was hugely popular and appeared in Doctor Who books, apps and video games. Gillan has several indies in the can, including Oculus, a horror flick with Katee Sackhoff.

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NBC has renewed Hannibal. The press release follows:

UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. — May 30, 2013 — NBC has given a 13-episode second-season renewal to its critically applauded drama “Hannibal.” The new season will air no earlier than midseason.

“Hannibal” is based on the characters from the novel “Red Dragon” by Thomas Harris and was developed for television by Bryan Fuller, who also serves as writer and executive producer.

The announcement was made by NBC Entertainment President Jennifer Salke.

“We’re so proud of Bryan’s vision for a show that is richly textured, psychologically complex, and very compelling,” Salke said. “There are many great stories still to be told.”

Critics have strongly embraced the series. Alan Sepinwall of Hitfix.com said “Hannibal” “is the last of this season’s serial killer shows. It’s also, by a very wide margin, the best.” Jeff Jensen of Entertainment Weekly called “Hannibal” “finely acted, visually scrumptious and deliciously subversive” while Matt Roush of TV Guide said the show is “feverishly twisted, fascinatingly macabre and visually remarkable.”

The series stars Hugh Dancy as expert criminal profiler Will Dancy, who has a unique ability to peer into the mind of serial killers. Mads Mikkelsen stars as Dr. Hannibal Lecter, a psychiatrist who is helping with the cases and, unbeknownst to Will, is also a serial killer himself.

Laurence Fishburne stars as Jack Crawford, the head of the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit. Caroline Dhavernas and Hettienne Park also co-star.

Through its eight original telecasts to date, “Hannibal” is averaging a 2.0 rating, 6 share in adults 18-49 and 4.7 million viewers overall in “most current” results from Nielsen Media Research. ”Hannibal” is the youngest drama on ABC, CBS and NBC, with a median age for its audience of 45.7. It’s also an upscale drama, indexing at a 111 among adults 18-49 living in homes with $100K+ incomes (with 100 indicating an average concentration of those homes).

Additionally, “Hannibal” is heavily time-shifted, with its 18-49 rating growing by 75% going from next-day “live plus same day” ratings to “live plus seven day” results.

In addition to Fuller, Martha De Laurentiis, Jesse Alexander, Chris Brancato, Sara Colleton, Katie O’Connell, Elisa Roth, Sidonie Dumas and Christophe Riandee also serve as executive producers.

The series is produced by Gaumont International Television, Dino De Laurentiis Company and Living Dead Guy Productions, and co-commissioned internationally by Sony Pictures Television Networks.

I have my doubts that the show will survive on network television for Bryan Fuller’s full seven year plan, but hopefully it will either last long enough to tell enough of the story and receive a proper ending or move onto cable in the future. I will avoid any significant spoilers in the hopes that others are starting to watch the show from the beginning, but to comment briefly on this week’s episode, it is clearer than ever that Hannibal is playing games with Will. This should come as no surprise as Hannibal must realize that Will is capable of figuring out Hannibal’s secret and exposing him. If not for the needs of an ongoing story, it is questionable why Hannibal hasn’t just killed him already or ensured that Will was removed from the FBI (which I believe he is still planning to attempt this season). As a relatively minor spoiler, we also found that when Hannibal was sniffing Will in a previous episode, it wasn’t  to try to decide what type of sauce to serve him with.

Community

In yet a second move to enhance quality television, NBC has also brought back both Dan Harmon and writer Chris McKenna to Community after the failed experiment of turning it over to others last season. Harmon has given some credit for his return to series star Joel McCale. I wonder how Harmon will handle last season’s finale with Jeff graduating. While last year’s show runners might have had a plan, having him out of the study room with the others does seem like a mistake. Perhaps something will come up forcing Jeff to take one more class, possibly even a decision that he no longer wants to be a sleazy lawyer and he returns to school to later move on to a new field. There are other ways he could still interact with the others, from social visits to being hired to teach a pre-law class at Greendale. These could work, but his interactions are the best with the rest of the cast when he is “studying” with them in the library.

Revolution - Season 1

Revolution will be airing its season finale tomorrow and remarkably it has been renewed. The one good thing I can say about Revolution is that it does have an ongoing storyline which does receive a conclusion. The first half of the season dealt with the rescue of the son. The second half dealt with going to the tower, and they have now reached it. However reaching a conclusion and reaching a satisfactory conclusion are two different things. It is really not worth the space to itemize all the unrealistic things about the storyline. Among the questionable discoveries, there are people living in the tower who have dedicated their lives to prevent anyone from getting to the twelfth level, where the electricity can be restored (with a contrived risk of burning up the planet). They have never been outside, which makes little sense since they could easily retreat inside as needed, and it is questionable that their food supply would have lasted this long even if this is where Dick Cheney supposedly hid out. They also feel more secure guarding the twelfth level than making it impossible to reach it or destroying the controls. While all electricity on earth is stopped (not counting that needed for operation of nervous systems in living things), somehow satellites remain functioning in orbit well beyond their normal life spans.

It appears from the previews that power will be restored, but we don’t know if this is temporary or whether it will extend into next season. At least it is likely that the storyline will move onto a new quest for next year avoiding a complete repeat of what we have already seen. It does seem safe to predict that we will be dealing with the same characters but new destination. Hopefully the quality is improved.

Renewing Hannibal, having Dan Harmon return, and renewing Revolution might partially be due to a shortage of hits to fill the prime time spots at NBC, complicated by The Office and 30 Rock concluding. Regardless, the first two at least are great moves for providing quality prime time shows.

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It is risky to try to predict where Mathew Weiner is going with Mad Men. There is a compelling theory making its rounds on line that Megan Draper’s storyline is a parallel to that of another aspiring actress, Sharon Tate. We have already seen signs of violence this season including an attempted robbery in Don Draper’s apartment and the Peggy accidentally stabbing Abe.  A review of the evidence for this theory can be found here and here.

Bruce Wayne Selina Kyle

RIP Selina Kyle (Catwoman). Fortunately death is not necessarily a permanent condition in the comics, and cats do have nine lives. I prefer to think of her eating in an outdoor bistro with Bruce Wayne as in the end of Dark Knight Rises.

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SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who; Star Trek Into Darkness; Revolution; Superman; Thor; Captain America; Elementary; Sherlock; New SciFi Series; The Newsroom; Veronica Mars

Doctor Who Ice Warriors

Doctor Who brought us to the Cold War and the return, after forty years of the Ice Warriors. The episode provided a good, suspenseful submarine/Aliens drama until the problems got wrapped up too easily. At least this time the Doctor didn’t solve everything with the Sonic Screwdriver alone. He also gave a speech like many that James T. Kirk used to convince aliens to play nice on Star Trek. The cold war backdrop and idea of mutually assured destruction did provide a good backdrop for the discussions with Grand Marshall Skaldac over whether he would destroy the earth. (Spoiler: Earth was spared.) Professor Grisenko provided a second surrogate Doctor.

Mark Gatiss showed us what is inside of the Ice Warrior’s suit and solved the perpetual problem which is present in many episodes of why the Doctor doesn’t use the TARDIS during a crisis to overcome a problem. There was some mumbo jumbo about the TARDIS’s Hostile Action Displacement System (not seen since the Patrick Troughton) has been reactivated to take the TARDIS elsewhere to remain safe. This raises two other problems. How does the TARDIS’s translation matrix continue to work after the TARDIS is gone and  how does the Doctor get to the South Pole, where the TARDIS rematerialized? Will there be reference to their adventures getting to the South Pole next week?  (I’m still wondering how Amy and Rory got back to earth after the Doctor left them behind at the end of A Good Man Goes to War.)

There were no clear clues to the Clara mystery but one exchange might be significant. When faced with the threat of World War III being set off Clara pointed out, “The world didn’t end in 1983, or I wouldn’t be here?” The Doctor responded, “History’s in flux, it can be unwritten.” Does that apply to the fate of the girl who died twice?

This week’s behind the scene video is available here.

Jenna-Louise Coleman had some hints on the Clara mystery in an interview with TV Guide:

In a way, Clara is connected with the 50th anniversary. We saw in the Christmas episode that her birthday is Nov. 23, the same date that Doctor Who first aired.
Coleman:
  In the Christmas episode, I didn’t know why that was the case. But again, we will find out by the end of this series. But it’s really exciting — [the season finale] is phenomenal.  My spine was tingling when I read it. Again, I’m teasing your so badly here, but there’s the beginning opening sequence, which [is]  kind of building up into the 50th. It’s just huge.

She also discussed her relationship with the TARDIS:

You get to pilot that TARDIS in one episode. What does driving it entail?

Coleman: There’s a certain part of the TARDIS you go to, that liftoff thing. But you know, the TARDIS and Clara have a relationship. Actually I don’t think we’ve talked about this in interviews before. It’s something that’s running through the series. Instead of it being like, “Does so-and-so like Clara?” The TARDIS and Clara have a bit of a face-off. So, the Doctor is obviously bringing back somebody new. I think we’ve done a whole additional content scene of me talking to the TARDIS, and the TARDIS is making fun of Clara. They kind of have an argument. They’ve got a relationship individual to the Doctor where they have a dialogue.

nF7Metg

Doctor Who is filming the 50th Anniversary episode in Trafalgar Square as pictured above. Another cast member  has been announced:

Jemma Redgrave will be returning to Doctor Who for the show’s fiftieth anniversary special. She previously appeared in 2012’s The Power of Three playing Kate Stewart, daughter of the legendary Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart.

Jemma is part of a brilliant cast that is already known to include Matt Smith and Jenna-Louise Coleman who are joined by the returning David Tennant and Billie Piper plus screen legend John Hurt and Joanna Page. Filming is underway on the special which will be a 3D spectacular shown later this year.

startrekintopostersmallnew

There’s a new poster for Star Trek Into Darkness and a new trailer will be out on Tuesday. There are still rumors that, while named John Harrison, Benedict Cumberbatch’s character will turn out to be Khan. Cumberbatch won’t respond to the rumors saying, “Umm, I play a character called John Harrison. I can’t say more.” Some fans who believe this will be a re-imagining of the Khan story are upset since the change in the timeline in the first J.J. Abram’s Star Trek movie wouldn’t account for a different version of the Khan story. Of course the same might be argued about many other changes from the Roddenberry universe.

On last week’s Revolution, after lots of hype, Juliet finally told Google Guy what was going on. Something about how they all died on the island and are in purgatory, with no explanation of the flash forward. Actually there was something about viruses which only eat electricity and reproduce, sort of like Tribbles. I’m not very hopeful about the show, seeing it take a trajectory closer to that of FlashForward than Lost.  I do wonder what type of genre show Elizabeth Mitchell will be in next and what type of doctor or scientist she will play.

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Man of Steel is featured on the cover of Entertainment Weekly, along with mention of other genre (and non-genre) movies:

This week’s cover story reveals how the new film (out June 14) attempts to humanize the superhuman by finding new flaws and vulnerabilities. The most common one, however, was off the table: “I’ll be honest with you, there’s no Kryptonite in the movie,” says director Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen) Those glowing green space rocks – Superman’s only crippling weakness – have turned up so often as a plot point in movies, the only fresh option was not to use it. Anyway, if you want to make an audience relate to a character, a galactic allergy isn’t the way to do it.

Henry Cavill (Immortals), the latest star to wear the red cape, instead plays a Superman who isn’t fully comfortable with that god-like title. This film reveals that even on Krypton, young Kal-El was a special child, whose birth was cause for alarm on his home planet. (More on that in the magazine) And once on Earth, his adoptive parents, Ma and Pa Kent (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane), urge him not to use his immense strength – even in dire emergencies — warning that not every human would be as accepting of him as they are. So Clark Kent grows up feeling isolated, longing for a connection to others, and constantly hiding who he is. As a result, Man of Steel presents the frustrated Superman, the angry Superman, the lost Superman. “Although he is not susceptible to the frailties of mankind, he is definitely susceptible to the emotional frailties,” Cavill says.

That’s just the set-up. Once the Kryptonian villain General Zod (Boardwalk Empire’s Michael Shannon) arrives to threaten the Earth, eventually the passionate Superman steps forward, too. It helps that he has a reason to care about the home he’s defending, and we can all thank Amy Adams’ Lois Lane for that. “I think she’s very transient. She’s ready to pick up and go at a moment’s notice,” Adams says of the hard-bitten journalist. “I think that definitely could be part of what she sees in Superman — not really laying down roots, not developing trust.”

Iron Man 3 will include a trailer for Thor: The Dark World. Screenrant has some information on Thor 2 along with Captain America 2.

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I gave up on watching Elementary earlier this season but might return to it after reading that Natalie Dormer of The Tudors and Game of Thrones will be playing Irene Adler in a three episode arc which begins May 9. It will be interesting to see how she compares to Lara Pulver’s (often nude) portrayal of her in Sherlock. Dormer has shown in The Tudors that she would have no qualms in topping Adler’s scenes if allowed on broadcast television. Henry Cavill, who is staring in Superman, also had a major role on The Tudors.

It was previously announced that the first episode of season 3 of Sherlock will be entitled The Empty Hearse. It has now been announced that the second episode will be entitled The Sign of Three.

Syfy has seven new series being considered, some of which are hard science fiction. These are in addition to Ron Moore’s upcoming series about a disease outbreak entitled Helix.

Orion
The space opera centers on Orion, an adventurous female relic hunter who tracks down valuable artifacts while trying to piece together her past. Set amid an intergalactic war pitting humans against a terrifying alien race, Orion must decide whether to use her abilities to save herself or commit to the cause and unearth long hidden artifacts that could free all of humanity from a horrible fate. Ron Milbauer and Terri Hughes Burton (Alphas) will write and executive produce, with George Krstic and Ryuhei Kitamura on board as co-executive producers. F.J. Desanto will serve as a supervising producer on the UCP project.

Sojourn
The first detective ever in space is tasked with investigating a murder on a starship — headed to colonize another planet –­ and instead becomes embroiled in a vast conspiracy involving a mysterious terrible crime dating back to the original launch of the ship 50 years ago. Phil Levens (Smallville) will write, with Blum (Paranormal Activity) on board to produce the Lionsgate entry.

Clandestine
After a clan of bandits are nearly destroyed and left for dead by Coalition forces, they take refuge in the nearest safe haven, a derelict Coalition starship floating in space. Once onboard, they masquerade as Coalition officers while continuing their criminal ways ­– until they stumble upon a shocking realization about the true nature of the Coalition. Todd Stashwick and Dennis Calero will write, with Hurd (The Walking Dead) and John Shiban (Hell on Wheels) attached to executive produce the UCP project.

Infinity
When an alien armada is sighted in the region of Pluto, the Earth government turns to a young billionaire industrialist — who has the only ship ready for interstellar travel — to greet the aliens and avoid a catastrophe. Powered by secret alien technology discovered on Earth in the 1960s, the ship engages in a firefight that sends them spinning through a wormhole into an uncharted region of space. Lost in the universe, the team struggles to survive as they encounter new planets and alien species, searching for a way back home. Javier Grillo-Marxuach (Lost) will write the Berman/Braun produced entry from Universal Television.

Silver Shields
When his father is slain by assassins connected to the government of the large nearby city of Pont Royal, farm boy Caymer journeys there to continue his father’s legacy as a member of the local police force — and to solve the mystery of his father¹s death. He discovers that his simple country view on life is at odds with the big city, filled with orcs and other magical creatures. Robert Hewitt Wolfe (Alphas) will write and executive produce the UCP effort alongside producer Aaron Kaplan.

Shelter  
A massive meteorite is headed toward Earth, forcing 30,000 hand-picked humans to live underground in a government-funded shelter in order to start a new society. What begins as a Utopia quickly succumbs to the old human faults and jealousies as certain members of society create alliances to gain favor and power. Meanwhile, things on the surface are not what they seem. Humans slowly realize that this event may have been fated and the survivors meant for a greater purpose in rebooting life on Earth. Bruce Joel Rubin (Deep Impact) will write and executive produce the UCP project with writer/co-executive producer/writer Ari Rubin.

Dominion (working title, formerly known as Legion)
The effort, based on the feature film Legion produced by Bold Films, is set 20 years after evil angels have descended from heaven to lay waste to the human souls they felt God had favored over them. A reluctant “savior” must arise to protect Vega, the last remaining stronghold of humanity. The savior has more to fear than just angels, as the elites of this new society conspire to gain power for themselves. Vaun Wilmott (Sons ofAnarchy) will write and co-executive the Sony Pictures TV project, with ScottStewart (Defiance) attached to direct and executive produce. David Lancaster will EP as well.

The reboot of Blake’s 7 has also been received a thirteen episode order. I’m surprised that it has taken this long to bring this classic back. A reboot does make more sense than continuing the original but I would have loved to see how they might have managed to continue after the events of the original show’s finale.

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Yvonne Strahovski will be reprising her role as Hannah McKay on the final season of Dexter. We can expect lots of flowers and murder.

HBO has announced that Aaron Sorkin’s show The Newsroom will return on July 14.

Last month I mentioned contributing to the Kickstart campaign to finance a Veronica Mars movie. They wound up raising 5.7 million. The bulk of this came from people other than myself.

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

DOCTOR WHO SERIES 7B EPISODE 1

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

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

DOCTOR WHO SERIES 7B SERIES PREVIEW IMAGES

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

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

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

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

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

Doctor Who was also nominated for two BAFTA Awards:

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

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

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

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

Three episodes were nominated for Hugo Awards:

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

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

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

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

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

 

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SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who; Merlin; Benedict Cumberbatch; Person of Interest; Thor; Building the Starship Enterprise

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Doctor Who TV has summarized many of the reports to date on the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who:

The format of the anniversary is still to be confirmed. Steven Moffat originally said: “Why talk in the singular?” Matt Smith also hinted at multiple episodes, but more recent rumours seem to suggest a feature-length outing.

In another interview Moffat said: “I’ve got various plans, but all I can say emphatically is it will be huge. It won’t be just one thing…. We’ll be doing lots of stuff. The plans are quite extensive, and changing all the time. Oh my God, we will hit that year very, very hard indeed.”

Moffat on multi-Doctor stories:

“It’s slightly difficult to do them all now. I’m not against it but I think as a gimmick it outlives its usefulness quite fast. “Doing Time Crash with 8 minutes of Peter [Davidson] and David [Tennant] was about right. If you have a really good story that motors on the fact that this is one man experiencing the same adventure at several different points of his life, that would be worth doing. But you can’t do a special or an episode as a reunion party. That’s not a story, that’s a party. Nothing wrong with parties but they’re not great fun to watch. But with a really good story, then yes.”

And in a later interview: “Possibly…. It’s so far in the future, it’s only a set of notions.”

Neil Gaiman wants The Eleven Doctors:

“The real dream story is the one you cannot do because technology is not there and people have died — It would be The Eleven Doctors,” he explained. They made The Three Doctors. They made The Five Doctors. It’s the 50th Anniversary, you’d make The Eleven Doctors and you’d have William Hartnell in it. The trouble is do you have actors playing these people? Do you have someone doing a Tom Baker? How do you do that? I trust in Moffat enough to think that whatever he’s going to give us, it will be worth it.”

A live episode?

Matt Smith: “It won’t just be a televised event, I think it will be a live event. The way it’s transmitted on TV will hopefully be an inventive thing–something different.”

More in the full post.

The BBC has announced a set of short stories will be written about the eleven Doctors.

The 11 tales, known as “eshorts”, will each be written by a well-known children’s author.

Each story will feature one of the various regenerations of the Doctor, starting with William Hartnell, who played the character from 1963-1966.

A paperback of the stories will be published by Puffin in November.

The first children’s author will be revealed on the BBC Worldwide Doctor Who Facebook page on Monday 7 January, followed by the first story on Wednesday 23 January.

A promotional video of each author will also be available each month on the BBC Worldwide YouTube channel starting on Friday 11 January.

There has been speculation that J.K. Rowling is one of these authors.

Billie Piper discussed the 50th anniversary on the Graham Norton Show (video available here). She denies rumors that she will be appearing: “No. I’ve not been asked. I think Matt Smith said something in passing or in jest like, ‘That would be nice,’ and it became something, but no.”

In an interview last night, David Tennant said he knew nothing about the 50th anniversary plans.

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It seems like Merlin and Downton Abbey just ended, and now they are starting up again in the United States.

TV Addict has an interview with the cast. This selection helps set up the final season:

Is there anything you can share about what’s upcoming in the 5th season?  Maybe just a few teasers?
BRADLEY:  Mordred’s back – I’m not sure what I can tell you without telling you what happens in the show!

We know there’s the 3-year gap.  You can surely talk about what happened during that time period for our heroes?
BRADLEY:  Yes, three years have gone by.  That’s what I can tell you.
KATIE:  I can tell you what happens with Morgana.  For two years of that period, Morgana has been held captive because of her magic and it is a very important storyline for her in season five is that everything she has feared her whole life about being persecuted for having magic has all come true.  She has been persecuted.  She has been tortured.  She’s been kept locked up.  I think that the fact that her fears have actually happened means that she feels vindicated in removing Arthur from power and in taking over because she’s protecting people like herself.

More from the cast at The Los Angeles Times and Blastr.

Parades End

Benedict Cumberbatch seems to be in everything these days. Besides Sherlock, The Hobbit, and Star Trek Into Darkness, Cumberbatch will be staring in Parade’s End, a five part mini-series on HBO in February:

From the reliable comforts of Edwardian England to the chaos and destruction of the First World War, the early 20th century was a defining era in history, a time of unprecedented change, when old certainties were being torn down. The long golden afternoons of the pre-war years would be shattered by the most destructive war the world had ever known, and countless lives would be changed forever.

Set against this backdrop of impending catastrophe is the story of English aristocrat Christopher Tietjens, trapped in a marriage to an unfaithful wife, and caught between his commitment to the values of Toryism and his unspoken love for a fearless young suffragette.

Spanning the glittering, shallow world of London high society, the trench-scarred battlefields of France, and the breathtaking English countryside, the sweeping five-part HBO Miniseries presentation PARADE’S END debuts TUESDAY, FEB. 26 (9:00-11:05 p.m. ET/PT), WEDNESDAY, FEB. 27 (9:00-11:05 p.m.) and THURSDAY, FEB. 28 (9:00-10:00 p.m.), exclusively on HBO. Adapted from Ford Madox Ford’s groundbreaking novels by Sir Tom Stoppard (Oscar®-winner for “Shakespeare in Love”), the drama was directed by Susanna White (HBO’s Emmy®-winning “Generation Kill”).

Benedict Cumberbatch (“Sherlock,” “War Horse”), Rebecca Hall (“Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” “The Town”) and Adelaide Clemens (“The Great Gatsby”) star in PARADE’S END, a Mammoth Screen production for the BBC in association with HBO Miniseries and Trademark Films and BBC Worldwide and Lookout Point; co-produced with BNP Paribas Fortis Film Fund and Anchorage Entertainment; filmed with the support of the Belgian federal government’s Tax Shelter Scheme. The executive producers areMichele Buck and Damien Timmer for Mammoth Screen, Ben Donald for BBC Worldwide, Simon Vaughan for Lookout Point TV, Judith Louis for ARTE France and Tom Stoppard. David Parfitt and Selwyn Roberts produce.

A spoiler-free review can be found here.

Firewall

Person of Interest returned with Reese in custody, but with a four-way complication for the FBI. Here is a portion of a press conference with executive producers Jonah Nolan and Greg Plageman, posted prior to Friday’s episode:

Do you ever come up with a storyline and then think, “No, we can’t go that far”?
JONAH:  Every day.  Our writers come up with incredibly bold and great and sometimes subversive and odd pitches.  There’s a heightened aspect to the show.  I talked a lot about THE X-FILES, in developing the pilot, and Greg and I have referred back to it frequently, because it had a great balance between the case-of-the-week and a serialized, larger mythology that they were telling.  But, what they also had was this great dove-tailing connectiveness between the case of the week and that mythology, in the way they interacted with each other.  So, we always want the show to reach out as far as it can, as far as jumping from one unexpected world to the next, but with a common thread that emerges from that and giving the sense of a larger, corrupt, weirder universe around them.  I was a huge fan of James Ellroy’s books, “American Tabloid” being one of them.  There’s a sense that you get from Ellroy’s universe that there are weird machinations at play underneath everything, with his dark gaze on the CIA, on the events of the 1960′s, and on the connection with heroin out of Vietnam.  The darker lens that our show takes, looking towards government surveillance and all those sorts of things, is not all that different from THE X-FILES.  THE X-FILES universe was a very dark one, in the direction of alien conspiracies.  Ours is really about surveillance technologies and the pending odd moment when a number of different entities know more about your life than you do, and I think we’re kind of there.  We keep being interested in the larger universe of that, and what impact that has upon our relationship to our government.
GREG:  A perfect case in point is that one of our writers saw an article about the massive new surveillance program uncovered by the Wall Street Journal, in terms of predictive pattern matching.  It’s a constant steady drumbeat of these types of stories.

Are you going to be returning to the issues with the machine’s growing artificial intelligence?
JONAH:  One of the problems we have with the show is that our incredible writers have come up with so many compelling storylines and villains, at least to me.  From the beginning, one of the ideas with the show was compelling villains.  I love writing villains, and we’ve embraced that.  It was one of the first questions J.J. [Abrams] had about the show because he wanted to have that tapestry of villains.  They’re so fun, in the way that they drive the plot forward.  We have an absolute wealth of them, at this point, with some amazing actors, like Enrico Colantoni, Robert John Burke, Clarke Peters and Amy Acker.  I want to keep exploring, and I know our writers want to keep exploring, all of those different storylines, to the degree that we can and to the degree that the audience is willing to go along for the ride.  We tend to tell our stories in chapters.  Not explicitly because we don’t draw attention to it, but the story keeps a steady simmer going, on some elements.  At this point, the A.I. of it all is poised to erupt back into view.  But, when you have fantastic actors playing great characters, you want to go back and service those storylines again.  None of our villains are ever too far from surfacing, but we like to keep the audience guessing, as to how all these storylines connect together.

For the first time, the characters were following their own divergent interests, even if it was to their own detriment.  Is that something that will continue to happen, in the second half of the season? 
JONAH:  It’s all falling apart.
GREG:  I think it’s fantastic that we have two characters who are largely cognizant of the machine and its capabilities, but more so Finch than Reese, obviously.  Carter and Fusco are a little bit on a need-to-know basis, and the collision that they have encountered, up to this point, has been more on a municipal level, with HR, Quinn and Simmons.  And then, there is the larger nemesis of Root (Amy Acker), who is interested in freeing the machine.  When we last saw her, she got away, but we will hear from her again.  The great part of all these characters is that they come and they coalesce in interesting ways, on our show, and bump up against each other, all in the fine city of New York.  It gives each of our characters their own dilemmas, but they often bump up against each other and need each other’s help.

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Jaimie Alexander discussed Thor: The Dark World.

“It’s going to be a bit of a darker feel, and obviously a lot more action. We get to explore the different Realms a lot more and you see a lot more Asgard, and you get to know the people of Asgard. We sort of explore the Thor-Sif relationship a little bit. It’s more like getting a feel of who these people are, and the way they are with each other. It was fun for me and fun for Chris. Again, he and I are almost like brother/sister types too, so I was like ‘maybe that translates into ooh they love each other on camera.’ [laughs] We had a good time making that movie.”

Many genre shows have started in the U.K. and later received followings in the United States. It sounds like Utopia might be a new show worth watching for.

Last month their was the petition to the White House to build the Death Star. Now there is a petition to build the Starship Enterprise:

An engineer is petitioning the White House to study the possibility of building a real-life starship Enterprise like the fictional vessel in television’s “Star Trek.”

The proposal was submitted through the White House’s official “We the People” channel, which promises an administration response to any petition that gathers at least 25,000 signatures. Just last month, a petition to build a Death Star like the spherical spaceship in the movie “Star Wars” garnered that critical mass, and is currently awaiting its official response.

The Enterprise proposal comes from an engineer who goes by the name BTE Dan, who detailed plans for constructing a life-size, flyable starship Enterprise on his website last year.

“We have within our technological reach the ability to build the 1st generation of the USS Enterprise,” BTE Dan wrote in the petition, viewable here.

As of this writing, the petition had 3,335 signatures, with more than 21,000 to go.

The project, BTE Dan maintains, wouldn’t be a vanity exercise, but rather a practical step forward for space exploration. [The Top 10 Star Trek Technologies]

“It ends up that this ship’s inspiring form is quite functional,” he wrote. “This will be Earth’s first gigawatt-class interplanetary spaceship with artificial gravity. The ship can serve as a spaceship, space station, and space port all in one. In total, one thousand crew members & visitors can be on board at once.”

Make it so.

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Jenna-Louise Coleman To Play Next Companion On Doctor Who

Jenna-Louise Coleman has been chosen to play the next companion on Doctor Who after Karen Gillan leaves the TARDIS during the upcoming season. The BBC confirmed the story this morning after British tabloids ran stories on the choice. There are unconfirmed rumors that her character will not be from earth.

Coleman will make her first appearance in the 2012 Christmas episode.

“I want to get started already,” says Jenna. “I’m a huge fan of the show”.

“Matt Smith did my audition with me. It was fun and I felt like we were in it together.”

Steven Moffat said: “We saw a lot of brilliant actresses. But Jenna was the only person going faster than Matt – he had to keep up!”

On her favourite companion: “Between Billie Piper and Karen Gillan”

Coleman was born in Blackpool, Lancashire, England on April 27, 1986. She played the role of  lesbian Jasmine Thomas on an  ITV soap, Emmerdale in 2005. She joined the cast of the BBC’s Waterloo Road in 2009. Coleman had a small role in Captain America: The First Avenger and appears in an upcoming ITV mini-series Titanic (picture below). Coleman has been nominated twice for ‘Sexiest Female’ at the British Soap Awards

Steven Moffat had been tweeting about Sophia Myles, who previously appeared in the Doctor Who episode The Girl in the Fireplace, creating speculation that she would play the next companion. Perhaps she will have another role in the upcoming season. While her character did die, others (including Karen Gillan who appeared in The Fires of Pompeii prior to playing Amy Pond) have returned to the show in different roles.

Update: More news on the upcoming season

The BBC has confirmed rumours that Doctor Who Series 7 will be split over two years. They will only air six episodes in 2012.

“There will be 6 episodes this year, including the Xmas Special. Then 8 next year,” says the BBC.

Amy and Rory will leave after five episodes. Steven Moffat revealed: “Amy and Rory will leave in a final encounter with the Weeping Angels in episode 5.”

Adding: “Not everyone gets out alive. And I mean it this time!”

The Daleks have also been confirmed to appear in the Autumn run.

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SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who Star Trek Cross Over; Lost’s Emilie de Raven as Belle; Olivia’s Memories on Fringe; Space 1999 Remake

Among the unusual items in my library is a fan published book from 1982, The Doctor and the Enterprise, featuring a cross over between the Doctor as played by Tom Baker and  Star Trek: The Original Show. Since then there have been other fan crossovers between Doctor Who and Star Trek, but the first officially sanctioned cross over will be coming out the May, in comic form. This will feature the current Doctor, along with Amy and Rory, on the Enterprise of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

If you are not interested in this cross over, how about Doctor Who and Peanuts? Teefury had a one day limited edition shit yesterday featuring the eleven Doctors as Peanuts characters.

Matt Smith said in a recent interview that he is willing to do nude scenes. We can be certain that will not occur on Doctor Who. Knowing what is in the mind of many readers, I’m not aware if Karen Gillan has ever answered the same question, but Billie Piper has done lots of nude scenes since leaving the show.

Once Upon A Time has a guest appearance from Emilie de Ravin of Lost. She plays Belle of the Beauty and the Beast, with a video preview above . The Hollywood Reporter interviewed deRavin about her role:

“There are obviously a lot of similarities,” de Ravin tells The Hollywood Reporter about the show’s take on the well-known character. “Obviously, she’s quite a bit more, shall we say ballsy, than I suppose in the past versions, but she’s really brave and really forthright with her opinions and all she wants to do.”

In the world of the ABC series, Rumpelstiltskin (Robert Carlyle) steps into the role of the “beast” when he helps Belle’s father in a raging war with ogres. But, there’s always the payback. In this case, it’s Belle or her father’s life.

“She would do anything basically for her father, but also her friends and family in general, and that’s what she does,” the Australian actress says. “She has this chance where she’s always wanted to be brave and make a change and do something different and not just sit around in the confinement of her castle and her simple life.”

Of course, Rumpelstiltskin may prove a harder challenge than what we’ve seen on Disney movies.

“There’s a point where Belle is a very giving, caring, passionate, nonjudgmental person,” de Ravin, 30, tells THR. “But, there’s also a breaking point, and sometimes enough is enough. And as much beauty as she can see in anyone, you know in Rumpelstiltskin slash the beast, if it can’t be believed by the other person or accepted, then you know, you can’t force somebody to feel something.”

“There’s possibly the opportunity for him to lose power and to gain love, and so does the old question of what will you choose?” she continues. “Love over power or power over love? And that’s a big struggle for him because it’s been so long of him being such a powerful, cruel person, that you know it’s almost, it’s completely hard to fathom that A, somebody would be able to care for him and B, that would be better than power.”

Emilie de Ravin will be returning later this season to continue this storyline.

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Fringe is getting more interesting as the season progresses. Olivia’s memories from the original time line are now bleeding over into the show’s current time line.  This week’s episode, Welcome to Westfield began with the above dream sequence. It was one of the better episodes of the season, with Olivia, Walter, and Peter once again acting as a team in an episode in which both universes were mixed together. Olivia also displayed memories of cases which occurred in our time line. The episode concluded with Olivia kissing Peter and making dinner for him as she would normally do in the original time line. I will be very disappointed in Peter if he doesn’t make Olivia’s dream at the beginning of the episode come true.

An updated version of Space 1999 is being planned. Space 1999 was a flawed science fiction show of the 1970′s making me wonder why someone would want to do a remake, until I thought that the same could have been said about Battlestar Galactica before its excellent remake. The new series, Space 2099, re-imagines the original series and takes place a hundred years later.

Doc Soto has a second tour of Alcatraz.

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So Long, Sarah Jane–Elisabeth Sladen Dies Of Cancer

Time Lords might live forever but their companions eventually die. The news came earlier today from the BBC:  “It is with much sadness that we can announce Elisabeth Sladen, the much-loved actress best known for her role as Sarah Jane Smith in Doctor Who and CBBC’s The Sarah Jane Adventures, passed away this morning. She was 63.”

Sladen, pictured above before taking on the Daleks in 1974, played Sarah Jane Smith, companion to the third Doctor, played by Jon Pertwee, and the fourth, played by the legendary Tom Baker. Despite strong competition from more recent actresses such as Billie Piper and Karen Gillan, Elisabeth Sladen is widely considered to be the best actress to  have played the Doctor’s companion.

Sladen was first seen as Sarah Jane Smith in this scene in 1973:

She remained on the show for three of the best years in its history, ultimately leaving the Doctor (who had regenerated since she first met him). Here is Sarah Jane’s last scene  with Tom Baker before leaving as a regular on the show:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=thjWMWzUa30&feature=player_embedded

While sadly Elisabeth Sladen will not be here for Doctor Who’s fiftieth anniversary in 2013, she did return to appear on the twentieth anniversary show in 1983, The Five Doctors.  She also appeared in a 1993 Children in Need special and in a 1995 independent film.

Sarah Jane returned to Doctor Who in  the 2006 episode, School Reunion. David Tennant greeted her with the simple but memorable,” Hello Sarah Jane.” Here is a report from Doctor Who Confidential which includes clips from the episode:

Elisabeth Sladen appeared opposite David Tennant in three more episodes. She had a major part in the two-part season finale for the fourth season, The Stolen Earth and Journey’s End. She also appeared briefly in David Tennant’s final episode, The End of Time. Sladen  stared in a recent spin-off, The Sarah Jane Adventures where she also had the opportunity to appear with the current Doctor, Matt Smith. This makes seven Doctors who have had at least one appearance with Sarah Jane. Four seasons of The Sarah Jane Adventures have aired and a fifth was in production. There is no word yet as to what will happen with the fifth series.

Digital Spy has some reactions to Sladen’s death:

Steven Moffat, Doctor Who executive producer::
“There are a blessed few who can carry a whole television show on their talent and charisma – but I can’t think of one other who’s done it quite so politely. I once showed my son Joshua an old episode of Doctor Who, in which Lis appeared. “But that’s Sarah Jane,” he said, confused “In old Doctor Who. From years ago. How come she always look exactly the same?” It’s not a comfort today, of course, but children will still be saying that 50 years from now.”

John Barrowman, actor:
“Elisabeth Sladen Matriarch of Dr Who – I loved my time on the Tardis with her. I am proud to have worked with such an icon of the sci fi world. Your Dr Who family are very sad and will miss you and your beautiful smile. RTD (Russell T. Davies) called me this morning when I woke up. She lived in my flat in Cardiff when she was filming SJA. She was a delight. Can’t tell you how sad I am. I wanted to let you know I got the news as a lot of you were concerned. I’m off to chill, I hope you understand. Will tweet this weekend in PS. jb.”

Mark Gatiss, writer:
“‘A tear, Sarah Jane?’ Farewell to the wonderful, irreplaceable Lis Sladen. The best.”

Nicola Bryant, Doctor Who companion Perpugilliam “Peri” Brown:
“I’m so sorry to have to say I’ve just had a call to say Liz Sladen has died. It’s too much to take in, but it’s true. How tragically young.”

Neil Gaiman, writer:
“Lots of reports that Lis Sladen, Sarah Jane Smith, has passed away. It looks like the Lis Sladen news is official. Big sadness. Rest in Peace.”

Alexander Armstrong, actor and comedian, voice of ‘Mr Smith’:
“Just heard news of Elisabeth Sladen’s death. A wonderful actress – devastating news for all Doctor Who and Sarah Jane fans. Sad for Mr Smith too.”

Noel Clarke, actor:
“Not the best news to come home to, But I hope that Elisabeth will RIP. As someone who knew her, I always found her lovely. she’ll be missed. #SARAHJANESMITHLIVES because Elisabeth Sladen made her Great. -Liz, you were awesome and will be missed. (no more to be said tonight) NC.”

Paul Cornell, writer:
“Very sorry to hear about Elisabeth Sladen, a great actor, special to everyone of my generation and a whole new one.”

Tracy-Ann Oberman, actress:
“Oh no! Just on Twitter and saw sad news about Liz Sladen. I knew she was ill, but what happened. Rip Sarah Jane. You were THE assistant. #dw”

Stephen Fry, actor/writer:
“What terribly sad news about Elisabeth Sladen – her Sarah Jane was part of my childhood. Deepest sympathy to her family.”

Jonathan Ross, broadcaster:
“RIP Elisabeth Sladen aka Sarah Jane . Sad news.”

Finn Jones, actor (Santiago Jones in Sarah Jane Adventures):
“Saddened to hear Elisabeth Sladen has passed away. A truly beautiful, talented and wonderful woman – a pleasure and honor to work with.”

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