SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, The Girl Who Waited; Torchwood Blood Lines; Shada Completed; Michigan Beats Notre Dame 35-31

It was a great weekend for television, with an excellent episode of Doctor Who, the season finale of Torchwood: Miracle Day, and a Michigan vs. Notre Dame football game which not only once again wound up being settled by four points scored in the last thirty seconds, but also had three touchdowns in the last seventy-two seconds. In the final second Notre Dame also lost the ball and I believe that if the Michigan player pushing it into the end zone had actual possession it would have been counted as a fourth touchdown in the last seventy-two seconds.

The Girl Who Waited was the economy episode of Doctor Who, having less of the Doctor and minimal use of other cast. While not as great as another Doctor-lite episode, Blink, it was an excellent episode with an interesting timey-whimey idea. A planet with a plague, which killed beings with two hearts, including Time Lords, in one day, set up a Two Stream facility. Those infected with the plague lived in one time stream where they could live out their entire life in one day, while family could watch them from the other time stream over twenty-four hours. After their arrival to the planet,  Amy ran back to the Tardis to get her phone. The Doctor, who so far thought they were just at a recreational facility, had the first of two great lines during the episode: “I bring you to a paradise planet two billion light years from Earth and you want to update… Twitter?”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ht6wBPidk4g&feature=player_embedded

When Amy caught up, she pushed the wrong button and wound up in the wrong time stream. She had to beware of being killed with kindness as medications from this planet would be fatal to her. There were certainly a number of holes in this setup, and a bit of timey-whimey technobabble to try to explain it, but that didn’t prevent enjoyment of the show. After all, as the Doctor explained, “Come on Rory, it’s hardly rocket science, it’s just quantam physics.”

This setup provided for an interesting look at the character dynamics, and gave Karen Gillan the opportunity to play an older version of herself.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bj9Dcrr4AJo&feature=player_embedded

It was not surprising to see Amy Pond become bitter about her raggedy man after being left behind for thirty-six years. It was logical for her to prevent the Doctor and Rory from saving the younger version of herself, making her disappear, but in the end there were stronger arguments to the contrary. There was never any doubt that Rory would choose the younger version of Amy over the older, but Rory did realize the cost as he told the Doctor, “You’re trying to turn me into you.” We also saw again that the Doctor lies. I bet that will be important when we see how the Doctor avoids his impending death.

The episode appeared to be totally stand-alone (with it continuing to be strange that Amy and Rory so easily gave up on the idea of rescuing Melody as an infant). I wonder if a show which dealt so strongly with the relationship between Amy, Rory, and the Doctor might wind up having ramifications to be seen later this season.

The Blood Line, the finale of Torchwood: Miracle Day, was a pretty good episode, but still it didn’t have enough payback for a ten-episode story. Considering that there is no real explanation, they did a fair job of explaining how the Miracle came about, using Jack’s immortal blood. I wasn’t clear on why this would make Jack (and cancer cells) mortal, or why they brought Oswald Danes along. The episode did leave a couple of plot threads open, including the tree families moving on to their next plan, with Jilly Kitzinger helping with public relations. A transfusion of Jack’s blood allowed Rex to recuperate as quickly as Jack. I hope that this is a temporary effect of the transfusion, possibly aided by occurring at the same time as the Blessing was reset. Otherwise it wouldn’t be realistic to have Torchwood continue with some many people close to Jack getting killed.

It was a good idea to take a  high concept and attempt to make a single-season arc. Children of Earth worked as a third-season story over five days, but ten episodes was too long this year. The writers tried to get around this problem by having a number of subplots. This did not work as the show was set up around solving a single problem, and the subplots often felt like needless distractions.

Sooner or later I also hope to see Torchwood reestablished as a real organization with additional characters. Torchwood might work better modeled somewhat after how Dexter or Fringe have been handled. I would like to see a fifth season in which Torchwood is reestablished. Episodes could deal with building a new team and solving some individual mysteries, while also having a “big-bad” to contend with all season. That way it is not necessary to come up with a monster of the week every week, but individual stories could be mixed with the season-long arc.

We 

We know that Doctor Who will have another thirteen-episode season, but it won’t start until next fall. The future of Torchwood is unknown, despite a tag at the end of the final episode in Australia saying Jack will be back in four months. There is, however, hope of seeing another Tom Baker episode of Doctor Who.  Shada, the 1980 Tom Baker episode of Doctor Who written by Douglas Adams, has finally been completed, with a couple of twists:

Given that it has been three decades since the cameras last rolled on the story, the actors involved would never have been able to convincingly play the same age, so Shada has been completed via animation, using only their voices.

The other twist is that this hasn’t been paid for by the BBC, nor even their commercial arm 2|entertain (responsible for the Doctor Who DVD releases). The animation has been privately funded by record producer and fan Ian Levine, and as things stand, the wider public might never get to see it.

Which isn’t Levine’s intention, of course; now that Shada has been finished, he’s hopeful an agreement can be reached with 2|entertain and the story released into the public domain.

Wait a minute. The Doctor and Romana are Time Lords and would hot have aged. The real problem is that they have regenerated into different forms.

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SciFi Weekend: Caprica Returning Next Month; Awards for Doctor Who; New Use For The Tardis; Best Television Episodes Ever Aired; No More Heroes; Replacing Michael Scott

SyFy divided up the first season of Caprica into two parts, ending the first half with major cliff hangers. The show was originally to air this fall but was then moved back to January. This week they announced plans to move it back up to start on October 5. No decision has been made on whether to film a second season, with the actors’ contracts extended until November. Moving up the start of the second half of the series provides an opportunity to see how the show does before the decision is made.  Hopefully ratings will be up.

Ron Moore might also be getting a new show on network television. As part of Moore’s development deal with Sony, there is consideration for developing a show described as “a police procedural that heavily involves the use of magic” for NBC. Airlock Alpha has more information.

Doctor Who won as Best Family Drama at the the TV Choice Awards 2010 in London, taking place a day after the show won a Hugo award.  The current series’ lead character Matt Smith has won as Best Actor in GQ’s Men of the Year Awards. Above is Smith with his girl friend, model Daisy Lowe. There have been rumors this week that Smith is proposing to Lowe.

While signing boxes for her action figure, Karen Gillan discussed the growth of her character:

Karen Gillan has described filming Doctor Who as an “emotionally draining” experience.

The Scottish actress, who shot to fame as the Doctor’s assistant Amy Pond, said she was looking forward to changing her character in the next series of the BBC sci-fi show.

She said: “I think that she’s a completely different person at the end of the series to when we meet her, when she’s really quite odd and a bit messed up in the first episode.”

The 22-year-old added: “I think she’s much more kind of in tune with what she understands about herself mostly and the Doctor by the end of the series. And she’s been through a lot in the series.

“It’s been pretty emotionally draining. Just all the stuff when she was crying and she doesn’t know why she’s crying – that was quite a challenge. But I think there’s a lot more to come in the next series. I really want to just keep on developing her character and I want her to evolve and change lots.”

We know that the Tardis has far more room inside than it appears to have from the outside. This would make the Tardis great for storage. In the picture above a 1 TB drive has been crammed into the model Tardis, showing it really can store a tremendous amount of material. That’s more than enough space for DivX downloads of all the episodes of Doctor Who and its spin offs which remain available.

SyFy has compiled a list of ten of the best science fiction television episodes that ever aired. The list is limited to one episode from any given show.  Blink from Doctor Who made the list. Some of the other notable episodes include City on the Edge of Forever, often considered the best episode of Star Trek: The Original Series. Yesterday’s Enterprise was a good choice from Star Trek: The Next Generation. X-Files was represented by Home, Battlestar Galactica by 33, and Lost by The Constant.

Heroes didn’t have any episodes make the list, and won’t get an opportunity to resolve the series-ending cliff hanger. NBC has decided against going ahead with a television movie to wrap it up.

It might be a long time before we find out about the succession plans for when Steve Carrell leaves The Office after this season. The second half of the season will deal with Michael Scott leaving but his replacement in the season finale might not become the show’s new star:

By season’s end, one character will have Scott’s job — but that person is not necessarily Carell’s replacement as the show’s star. Sources say writers are tempted to have the character who becomes the Scranton branch’s new boss fail in some spectacular manner, leaving the seat open again for another successor during Season 8.

One radical notion being explored is the possibility of subtly shifting the show’s point of view so that a current character is the star instead of the boss.

As for replacing Scott with a new manager, sources say the network and producers are on the same page.

“You’re looking for someone who can start stories,” a source said. “Someone whose judgment isn’t necessarily one where when an issue comes up and a boss with a correct judgment would quickly settle it and then you have no episode. You’re also looking for somebody who considers the rest of the office his family.”

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SciFi Weekend: Another Hugo For Doctor Who; Jane Espenson on Torchwood; Guests Appearances on Big Bang Theory

Waters of Mars Hugo Winner

The Hugo Awards were announced this weekend. There was a tie for best novel between The City & The City by China Miéville and The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi. Moon won for Best Dramatic Presentation–Long Form. Moon won in a strong field which included Star Trek, Avatar, District 9, and Up.  As has been occurring quite frequently in recent years, an episode of Doctor Who won the award for Best Dramatic Presentation–Short Form.

Doctor Who has previously won three Hugo awards, all by current show runner Steven Moffat before he took his current position. In 2006  Moffat won for The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances. In 2007 he won with The Girl in the Fireplace and in 2008 for Blink. His two parter Silence in the Library Forest of the Dead received a Hugo nomination in 2008.

Last year Moffat didn’t write any episodes and instead of a regular season there were a handful of special episodes written by Russel T. Davies. Davies won with The Waters of Mars, which beat two of his other special episodes, The Next Doctor and Planet of the Dead. Epitaph 1 (Dollhouse) and No More Good Days (FlashForward) were also nominated in this category.

David Tennant Single Father

David Tennant, who played the Doctor in The Waters of Mars, will be appearing in a four-part drama entitled Single Father along with Suranne Jones. The show will air in October on BBC1.

Jane Espenson on Torchwood

Jane Espenson, who has worked on shows including Battlestar Galactica, Caprica, and Dollhouse, will be writing three episodes of next season’s ten episode arc. She was interviewed about her work:

How did you end up getting the writing gig? And exactly how involved are you going to be?

I’m thrilled to say I was invited. My agent told me about it very casually; I was already busy at the time, and he thought I’d want to decline, but I jumped in fast to say I absolutely wanted to participate. I will be writing three episodes of the 10-episode arc.

What’s got you most excited about it?

Working with Russell T. Davies and Julie Gardner and the others. Writing for a show I already adore, for characters and actors I already respect. Writing for a show with roots in another country—this is a new experience for me, and I’m loving it.

And is there something you’re just DYING to do or try on the show? Or something you can only do because it’s Torchwood?

I love blending tones—mixing the broadly comedic moment in with the darkly dramatic one can heighten both. Torchwood is a show that welcomes that kind of moment. I’m also really eager to play with all the culture-clash material that comes naturally out of the show’s pedigree. And I’m especially eager to write material that pushes the boundaries of what can ordinarily be done on television.

So how do you approach a show like Torchwood vs. your work on, say, Buffy or Caprica?

Because of the length of our season and the lead time before production begins, we’re actually approaching Torchwood in a very unusual way—all the episodes will be written before any of them begin shooting. This is allowing us to “break” all the episodes at once, with the entire writing staff working together in a very concentrated one-month work session. This is making for a very intense and collaborative process, all guided by Russell’s very precise vision. The final product is going to be tightly plotted and lovingly crafted.

Can you give us any juicy details? Or maybe just some slightly moist
ones? Or anything at all?

We’ve already changed the name of at least one character that was announced in the press. And there’s nothing to stop us from changing more—so if you hear anything, even if it was true at some point, it probably isn’t anymore. So the more you learn about Torchwood, the less you know.

There remains no word as to whether there will be a second episode of Caprica (beyond the second half of the first season which airs in starting in January). Contracts with the cast have been extended and there is speculation that they are waiting to see how DVD sales are since ratings were lower than anticipated.

There will be two Star Trek actors appearing on The Big Bang Theory next season. In addition to a return visit from Katee Sackhoff. George Takei will be playing himself:

In an interview, Prady explained that Wolowitz is thinking about getting back together with his ex-girlfriend Bernadette (Melissa Rauch), and it sounds as though Sackhoff and Takei will represent opposing points of view.

“George Takei plays himself, and he’s the other person guiding Wolowitz in his thoughts as he tries to figure out what to do about Bernadette,” Prady said.

Prady won’t disclose the venue for this conversation, but he ruled out a return to Wolowitz’s bathtub, where Sackhoff famously appeared last season. But Sackhoff and Takei do share some dialogue, Prady noted.

“I think they do discuss being typecast in science-fiction shows,” Prady said.

I can forgive Wil Wheaton for Wesley Crusher. After all, he was just a teenage actor reading his lines. If we weren’t told that he’s the evil Wil Wheaton from the Mirror Universe, it would be harder to forgive Wheaton for what he has done to Sheldon and, even worse, breaking up Leonard and Penny. Michael Ausiello has this news on a repeat appearance from the Evil Wil Wheaton.

It looks like Sheldon is climbing back in the ring with his longtime rival, Evil Wil Wheaton.

Big Bang Theory executive producer Bill Prady confirms to me exclusively that he wants to revive the ugly feud this season—possibly in time for November sweeps.

“We started talking about the idea of minor celebrities cutting in line,” Prady says, “and we thought it might be funny to have our [Big Bang] guys waiting in line for a one-time-only midnight screening of something like Raiders of the Lost Ark with restored footage, and Wil Wheaton and his three friends cut the line. When it comes time for our guys to get in, the line stops; Wil took the last four seats and Sheldon is just furious. Because it doesn’t make sense to him. Wil’s celebrity is not applicable here. This is not Star Trek. It’s just wrong.”

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SciFi Weekend: The Big Bang–Doctor Who Reboots The Entire Universe

Amy in the Pandorica, Doctor Who: The Big Bang

It feels like we have learned all the secrets of the universe in the last year or so. We know all about the Cylon final five. We saw how the scenario from the Epitaph One episode of Dollhouse played out in Epitaph Two. We know why the passengers of Oceanic 815 were brought to the island and what the sideways stories meant. We know a little more about FlashForward is about, but might never get a full explanation unless someone else picks up the show. Now we know who was in the Pandorica, and how The Doctor got out. This contains major spoilers in case anyone who plans to has not done so yet.

Like The Pandorica Opens, The Big Bang began with a spectacular introductory segment. The Pandorica was opened in modern times (in an alternative time line where the stars had gone out) but we were surprised to find Amy Pond, and not the Doctor inside. Amy was released by a younger version of herself from the time line without stars (although Amy believed in them as she believed in the Doctor in the original time line). Then things really got complicated.

The Doctor had long ago been released from The Pandorica by Rory and placed a dying Amy inside to help her recover. The manner in which the Doctor escaped is rather controversial, even without consideration of whether or not fez hats are cool. The Doctor simply went back in time to ask Rory to let him out. Since Rory had let him out, he was free in the future to go back in time to ask Rory to let him out. Fortunately for the Doctor the universe has been greatly condensed, allowing the Vortex Manipulator to work much better than in the full universe.

Sure, this is cheating. Time travel stories often cheat. The question is whether the viewer comes out feeling cheated or intrigued by such solutions. When Steven Moffat used a similar device in Blink there were no complaints. A big difference here is that we didn’t know until late in Blink that the timey wimey stuf was a device being used by The Doctor to get out of a predicament. It is a different matter when the season-ending two parter uses a cliff hanger with the Doctor being locked in an inescapable prison and then uses such a trick to get out so easily.

Moffat handled selling this to the audience in a different way than in Blink. A series of quick and amusing moves through time, along with the fez hat, made the sequence so much fun that it is easy to allow Moffat to get away with this. The problem remains that repeated use of such plot devices means that the Doctor is never really in danger as a future version can always come to save him. Making matters worse, that sonic screwdriver is turning into a magic wand which can do almost everything. It might become necessary to retire the sonic screwdriver, similar to how it became necessary to remove K-9 from the original series after he became too powerful.

Escaping from The Pandorica was a trivial manner compared to the real dilemma. The universe was coming to and end. Fortunately, due to proximity to the crack throughout her life, Amy’s subconscious was filled with all the information about the universe, allowing the universe to be recreated after the Tardis created a second big bang. Sure it is hard to believe, but is this really any worse than having the Tardis tow the earth through like in a Russel T. Davies season finale?

Along the way we saw the Doctor’s life be rewound. This included returning to the events of Flesh and Stone, showing that the scene with the Doctor dressed differently was intentional as opposed to a continuity error. Actually Moffat has largely saved himself from being accused of any continuity errors with previous shows by rebooting the entire universe in this manner. If Amy could bring back Rory and her parents in the new universe, other changes could also be present. I am assuming here that the Rory who Amy married is a recreation of the human Rory and not the plastic one.

Amy and Rory Pond Wedding

Amy ultimately was able to bring back the Doctor as the Tardis turned out to be something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue at her wedding. Despite all the implausible aspects of the episode I have accepted, I cannot resist one nitpick on the wedding scene. If, in this recreated universe, Amy had no memory of the Doctor, she wouldn’t have spent her life speaking of what others thought was her imaginary friend. Therefore when she first mentioned wanting him at the wedding, others would not have responded by questioning Amy bringing him up again as presumably she had no reason to do so yet in this time line.

Many questions remain. River Song remains as big a mystery as she was going into the season, with warnings that the relationship between her and the Doctor might change for the worse in their next meeting. Could this be because she kills the Doctor (or gives the appearance of doing so), leading to her imprisonment? We don’t know who was behind the events of the season finale, including the explosion of the Tardis, the destruction of all the stars, and the warning that “silence will fall.” I suspect that the story of who was behind all of this, along with River Song’s story, is being continued into next season.

Amy Pond Rory Wedding Doctor Who The Big Bang

One change from the episode which definitely will carry into the Christmas special and next season is that for the first time ever the Doctor will have a married couple as his companions. The BBC has posted this wedding album, with some examples on this page. The Christmas special is rumored to include their honeymoon, monsters, and a new take on A Christmas Carol, and guest stars including Michael Gambon (Dumbledore) and Katherine Jenkins. Steven Moffat had these comments on the special:

Oh, we’re going for broke with this one. It’s all your favorite Christmas movies at once, in an hour, with monsters. And the Doctor. And a honeymoon. And … oh, you’ll see. I’ve honestly never been so excited about writing anything. I was laughing madly as I typed along to Christmas songs in April. My neighbors loved it so much they all moved away and set up a website demanding my execution. But I’m fairly sure they did it ironically!”

Between the other news which got squeezed out from Doctor Who dominating SciFi Weekend and all the reports out of San Diego Comic-Con, I will post more science fiction news without waiting for next weekend’s installment. This includes updates on the upcoming season of Torchwood.

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SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, Canceled Series, The Fringe Alternative Universe, New Star Wars Rides, & RIP Frank Frazetta

BBC America concluded the two part Doctor Who story The Time of Angels and Flesh and Stone. This post will include major spoilers for the episodes which have now aired in the United States with some limited information on future episodes.

Steven Moffat used major components of two of his top stories from past years along with the crack in time from this season. The story began with River Song using an ingenious method to summon The Doctor to rescue her. The two episodes teased us with both the possibilities that River will wind up marrying The Doctor and/or that she winds up being imprisoned for killing him. At least this is the speculation after we found that she was in prison for killing “the best man she ever knew.” As the time lines of the two are crossing in different orders The Doctor does not know what to expect from her.

The episode also had the return of the Weeping Angels from Blink but they were quite different from the Angels in that story. The crack in time is shown to be able to rewrite time, most likely explaining why Amy did not recall the Daleks in Victory of the Daleks. The Angels suggest that The Doctor should know more about the crack in time, and it appears we might learn more when River Song next meets The Doctor when the Pandorica opens–which Prisoner Zero also mentioned earlier this season. This is presumably related to June 26–the wedding date on the alarm clock in Amy’s room and the date the episode is scheduled to air in the U.K.

It appears that the episode will be a major event with the climax of the crack in time story arc from this season. It is also possible that The Doctor goes back in time to the events of Flesh and Stone. At one point in the episode The Doctor is dressed and acts a little differently, raising suspicion it is a future version of him. Playing with time travel in such a manner would be the type of thing Steven Moffat is likely to come up with. There’s also been rumors that the episode will include the return of the younger version of Amelia Pond.

The episode ends with Amy having The Doctor return to earth where she makes a pass at him. This leads into the following two episodes which have aired on the BBC which both lead to Amy choosing between Rory and The Doctor.

There was a lot of news this week regarding the upcoming television season. V and Chuck were both renewed. FlashForward, as expected, was canceled. The show began strong and has been excellent in its closing episodes but did go through a weak mid-season stage when it turned into an overly complex FBI investigation instead of concentrating on the characters involved. Reportedly the final episode was edited so it won’t end with a cliff hanger but the story is not likely to be satisfactorily wrapped up. Originally the producers suggested that it would take two seasons to complete the story behind why the flash forward occurred.

Heroes was also canceled, also coming as no surprise. The show started out strong  first season but in subsequent seasons fell in both quality and ratings. There continues to be talk of a two hour show to conclude the series, which I think is a good idea. The last season ended with Claire revealing the existence of the heroes. Concluding this would provide a different story from past seasons (and hopefully one different from the X Men). I also suspect that many viewers who have abandoned the show after the first season would watch a two or four hour event to definitively conclude the story.

Added to Dollhouse , 24, and Lost this means a large number of genre shows are not returning.  However there are many new ones planned. IO9 presents a run down of seven new genre shows including The Cape staring Summer Glau.

During my reviews of Fringe last year I had mixed feelings about the show. I am certainly happy I stuck with it. An excellent season is ending extremely strong with a two part episode in the alternative universe. This will also probably be the last we see of Leonard Nimoy who says he is retiring and will not return to Fringe or the Star Trek movies. Of course we’ve seen many actors say this but get lured back. Nimoy has also said that when J.J. Abrams calls he does answer the phone.

We know that disastrous things may happen as a result of contact between the two universes but I cannot help but be intrigued by the alternative universe. So far we learned earlier in the season that they had digital cell phones years before us. This week we found that the alternative Olivia is hotter than ours, Peter’s parents appear more sane, and that The West Wing remains on television. On the other hand, the Fringe unit seems paramilitary and I fear we will find other unpleasant things about that universe.

Also this week we learned much more about Jacob and his brother on Lost but the island still feels like a big mystery regardless of how many answers we receive.

TrekMovie.com has pictures of this years Star Trek themed ornaments from Hallmark, including the above which is the first based upon the 2009 movie. Other ornaments include a scene of Kirk and Spock fighting from Amok Time.

Walt Disney World and Disneyland will be having their last trips to the planet Endor as the Star Wars rides are reimagined. The new Star Tours will be a 3-D ride with a  high-speed pod race on Tatooine. It is expected to re-open at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland in May 2011.

The sad news of the week is that legendary comic and pulp fiction artist Frank Frazetta died at age 82.

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SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, Moral Choices, And Politics (Real Present and Fictional Future)

On Saturday night the BBC aired what very well might turn out to be the first part of this year’s Steven Moffat story to win the Hugo award while in the United States BBC America aired Doctor Who’s second episode of the season. Spoilers will be limited to discussion through the second episode, with comments on the third and fourth episodes limited to general comments which have been widely publicized.

Steven Moffat seemed to use The Beast Below to make as statement that he was not going to radically change Doctor Who. The premise was far more like one Russell T. Davies would have used than what we have seen in the Moffat episodes. The episode had many good ideas but the story did not entirely work. The show is far better enjoyed for the advancement of the relationship between The Doctor and his new companion, Amy Pond. Both Matt Smith and Karen Gillan did an excellent job of supporting the episode regardless of its flaws.

The episode began with The Doctor lecturing Amy about observing everything around her and ended with Amy, instead of The Doctor, figuring out the solution by seeing something which even The Doctor missed. Along the way The Doctor even threatened to take Amy back home. Meanwhile Amy was surprised to see herself listed in the computer (now at age 1306) but disappointed to find that her marital status was “information unavailable.”

The episode did have brief moments of terror with the Smilers which do show one way in which the writing style of Moffat differs from that of Davies.  The Doctor faced a moral dilemma which had him saying he would have to find a new name because he would would not be The Doctor anymore after doing what he thought was the only solution.  Fortunately he is spared by Amy figuring out something he missed, providing a preferable solution. Matt Smith’s Doctor was also able to discuss his past, and the Timelords, without showing the angst of David Tennant’s doctor:

The Doctor: “The computer doesn’t accept me as human.”
Amy: “Why not?” (The Doctor just looks at her.) “Well, you look human.”
The Doctor: “No, you look Time Lord. We came first.”
Amy: “So there are other Time Lords, yeah?”
The Doctor: “No. There were, but there aren’t… Just me now. Long story. It was a bad day. Bad stuff happened. And you know what, I’d love to forget it all, every last bit of it. But I don’t. Not ever.”

The episode even managed to sneak in a comment on the current election campaign in the U.K. Ethically questionable decisions were made by the future U.K. government but there is a perverse manner of achieving the consent of the governed. Inside a voting booth citizens are told the truth, and then given the choice to protest or forget.

This provided Moffat the opportunity to write in the warning,  “Once every five years everyone chooses to forget what they have learned. That’s democracy.” Moffat is not only speaking of the situation on Starship U.K. but of the current political situation where a show source put it more bluntly: “This almost echoes what Labour has been saying about how people should not forget what they learned in the 80s. They think the Tories will drag the country down again and it looks like the Doctor feels the same.”

American viewers can also relate to this as a disturbing number of Americans currently plan to vote Republican this fall, forgetting that the problems they are concerned about were caused by the Republicans not very long ago.

Criticism of conservatives is not unique for either Doctor Who or for Steven Moffat. Moffat had mocked conservatives in his BBC comedy, Coupling. Both Moffat and his predecessor Russell T. Davies have warned against the Tories winning. Former Doctor Who star David Tennant has been backing the Labour Party.

The episode ended with a lead-in to the following weeks episode with Winston Churchill calling The Doctor and previews showing Britain’s new weapon–Daleks. Meanwhile the crack in the universe was shown again. Victory of the Daleks, written by Mark Gatiss, is the only episode to air so far which was not written by Steven Moffat. This week’s episode, The Time of Angels, is the fist of a two part episode written by Steven Moffat. The episode has Moffat returning to two of his additions to the Doctor Who universe, the Wheeping Angels of Blink and River Song, who may or may not some day be The Doctor’s wife.

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SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, The End of Time Part II

The End of Time Part II will be a classic for the major events of the episode, even if not for the quality of the story. This post contains major spoilers.

Russell T. Davies tend to go over the top with season finales, and it was clear he would do this from Part I which ended with his version of the Master race. Last year had planets moving in space without regard for the scientific impossibilities. This year he only had one planet move but it was not just any planet but Gallifrey appearing next to earth.

The episode managed to remain entertaining despite frequently not making very much sense. The escape with The Doctor tied in a chair was a perfect chase scene for the episode. The return of the Time Lords made little sense, and it was disappointing that they reversed The Master’s act to turn everyone on earth into a copy of himself in a moment. It again made little sense that the Lord President didn’t kill The Doctor while wearing Glove of Rassilon as The Doctor was spinning back and forth between him and The Master.

The episode did explain the tragedy often felt by The Doctor as it revealed why he had to try to destroy or seal in time both the Time Lords and the Daleks. The Time Lords had become as evil as the Daleks.

The show included several scenes reminiscent of Star Wars, following the Imperial Senate scene in Part I. The second episode felt like it was beginning on Death Star, including a killing in which Darth Vader could have filled the role of the Lord President. Later Wilfred Mott was involved in a space battle which also appeared to be out of Star Wars, and there is a brief scene with Captain Jack in a Cantina. The scene in which The Doctor was exposed to the radiation was also reminiscent of Spock’s death in The Wrath of Kahn.

In addition to all these homages to other shows in the Peter Tennant/Russel T. Davies finale, a sit-com airing the same day included a quick homage to Doctor Who.  The fate of obsolete robots at Veridian Dynamics was seen on  Better Off Ted, including a Dalek in the background.

The show teased viewers with The Doctor’s death before he actually did take the lethal dose of radiation to save Wilfred Mott. This then dragged out to the longest death and regeneration scene ever. The Doctor had time to visit many of his former companions and help them live happily every after. Donna had the largest role in the episode but it was mostly pointless. After all the warning that having her memory return would fry her brain we found that there was a safety device which not only prevented any harm to Donna but saved her from a hungry version of The Master.

Finally The Doctor, after declaring he did not want to do go, did regenerate. The episode ends with destruction to the Tardis which will give Steven Moffat an excuse to redecorate. Moffat has also discussed how he will return to many aspects of the original series including, as I suspected in my review of Part I, the return of Gallifrey.  From Airlock Alpha:

Steven Moffat is looking to restore the BBC icon to its classic roots that some are describing as an effort to integrate fans of the original “Doctor Who” series. However, others say it’s more about what Moffat likes.

“Every showrunner has brought their own personal touch to ‘Doctor Who,’ and [Moffat] is someone who just can’t get away from the episodes we all grew up with,” a source, who wished not to be named, told Airlock Alpha. “There is just something to the original show that made it magical, and finding a way to bring that back is something Moffat has been working hard to achieve.”

And Moffat has already done some things that have fans wondering. Changing the look of the Tardis to a more classic appearance, adjusting the “Doctor Who” logo to appear as if it was simply touched up from the 1980s, and even reports that new opening credits have been commissioned that will feature the likeness of the new Doctor, played by Matt Smith, an obvious homage to past opening credits that did the same for many of the actors who played The Doctor over the decades.

But that’s not where it’s stopping.

“The re-introduction of Gallifrey was not just a late-[season] twist,” the source said. “The idea is to create a transition from the RTD version of ‘Doctor Who’ to the Moffat version. And Moffat wants to go back to as close to the original program as possible.”

It’s not that Moffat had any issues with the way Davies brought the show back, or what it become, the source said. Moffat himself wrote some of modern “Doctor Who’s” better episodes including “Blink” and “The Girl in the Fireplace” and “The Doctor Dances.”

However, now that Davies has successfully brought the show back with full network backing, there is an open door to restore “Doctor Who” to much of its original self.

I wonder if one unexplained item, the woman giving Willfred Mott advice, was intentionally left open for Moffat to return to. It appears that it might be The Doctor’s mother but her role is not clear.

This BBC promo for the fifth season shows that Moffat will be returning characters from both shows he has written and classic Who with scenes showing both the weeping angels from Blink and Daleks:

While it is sad to see David Tennant go, I am looking forward to this spring to see what Steven Moffat and Matt Smith do with Doctor Who.

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SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, The End of Time Part I

Doctor Who: The End of Time Part I aired on the BBC on December 25 and the following day on December 26–a far wiser policy than having large differences in air dates between the two countries. Warning, this review contains major spoilers.

As this is the first of a two part episode designed to set up the regeneration in the final episode for both David Tennant and Russel T. Davies, it is difficult to judge all aspects of it. While it ends with a cliff hanger, it does stand up on its own with a major change in the mythology for the renewed series.

While every fan probably is aware that this is to set up  a regeneration story, the show suggests the danger of even more ominous outcomes ranging from the final death of The Doctor to the end of time itself. Some of these warnings occur as part of the story while others come from a narrator played by Timothy Dalton. Early in the episode we find that The Master had left behind a cult determined to save him. The last thing they needed was his DNA, taken from the lips of an imprisoned Mrs. Saxon. The revival doesn’t work out correctly, resulting in The Master being even more insane than previously, but with new powers.

Besides the return of The Master, the episode ties into previous Davies stories in additional ways. Donna Noble’s grandfather, Willfred Mott,  is the equivalent of The Doctor’s companion in this episode.  Adding further continuity, a major portion of the show centers around technology which was recovered with the destruction of Torchwood.

This leads to three key aspects of the cliff hanger. The alien device was intended to cure the ill–on a planet-wide level. The last time we saw The Master he tried to conquer the entire Earth. This time he goes even further. The Master alters the alien device to turn everyone on earth into a copy of himself.

Russel T. Davis has tried to present big endings in recent seasons, including The Master conquering Earth and the movement of the entire planet during recent seasons. This cliff hanger is rather silly, but did present amusing scenes at the end with everyone on the planet being The Master. Before judging the idea, it will be necessary to see what is done with it in the conclusion. While a product of The Master’s insanity, it is difficult to see how this really serves his ends. A planet full of equals is not the same as a planet of humans who serve him.

The second part of the cliff hanger is that Donna begins to remember her past with The Doctor. At the conclusion of the fourth season, Donna acquired the mind of a Timelord. This necessitated the wiping of all her memories of her time with The Doctor with warnings that her mind would burn itself out should she regain her memory.

It is easy to imagine solutions for each of these cliff hangers, however the third cliff hanger has the potential to change the series for the Steven Moffatt era. At the end, the narrator played by Timothy Dalton, is revealed to be a Time Lord. The Time Lords of Gallifrey have returned, in a scene reminiscent of the Imperial Senate in Star Wars III: The Revenge of the Sith.

It is fitting that the story of the time war and apparent end of the Time Lords takes place in Davies’ final episode as this was a change to the mythology which he brought with the return of the series. I have always questioned the end of the Time Lords, questioning the possibility of  destroying a race which can travel anywhere in both space and time. While dealing with time has been inconsistent throughout the series, it also doesn’t make sense that the paths will never cross between either the other Time Lords and The Doctor when both can appear at different points in time.

Although the stories are about a time traveler, Russell T. Davies primarily used the Tardis as a device to place The Doctor at different places in space and time while avoiding dealing with the concept of time travel within most stories. Previous interviews have revealed that Davies has been working with Steven Moffatt to leave the Doctor Who universe as he desires it when he takes over as show runner. In contrast to Davies, when Moffatt has written individual episodes time travel has been more important. This has included Blink which involved aspects of the story at different points in time. The Girl in the Fireplace took place over a large time span.  Silence in the Library and Forest of the Dead involved a character who knew The Doctor from a point in The Doctor’s future time line.

It is possible that Steven Moffatt wanted the Time Lords and Gallifrey to return for use in future episodes. I do hope this is not a one-episode event. It also remains to be seen how their return will affect The Doctor and the universe. It was never clear to what degree The Doctor voluntarily fled from Gallifrey or was exiled by the Time Lords. They have placed him on trial twice, and have even forced a regeneration. This scene from Part II gives a clue about the nature of the Time Lords:

The above scene is from early in the episode. Following is an actual trailer from the episode, which will air on New Year’s Day on the BBC and the following day on BBC America:

Update: The End of Time, Part II

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SciFi Friday: Torchwood Premiers, Blink and You’re Dead, Battlestar Galactica, and Jehrico News

Torchwood, a spin off of Doctor Who (which is also an anagram of Doctor Who) premiered last Saturday, breaking all records for a premier on BBC America. The show second episode is tomorrow night, but I might hold off until a week from Monday to watch in high definition. Torchwood begins with the first episode on HDNet on Monday.

Torchwood is being compared to both X-Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Of course it is actually X-Files in reverse. X-Files started out ambiguous as to the existence of aliens. Torchwood takes place in the world of Doctor Who which has already been attacked by aliens such as the Cybermen, although some believe the attack actually represented mass hallucinations caused by terrorists. While Agent Mulder tried to spread the word about the aliens, on Torchwood Captain Jack Harkness tries to keep their efforts quiet, demonstrating the problems in the first episode of trying to use alien technology which they don’t really understand.

Last week Girl in the Fireplace, an episode of Doctor Who written by Steven Moffat won a Hugo Award. This week SciFi Channel airs another story written by Moffat which will also be a strong contender for a Hugo next year. If you haven’t seen it, don’t turn your back, don’t turn away…and don’t blink. Definately don’t miss this episode. Blink, like the excellent two episodes before it, was based upon a written Doctor Who story which is available on line here. Do not read my previous review of the episode until after you have seen it as this is one episode which is enjoyed best without any advance information.

If watching Doctor Who on Friday and Torchwood on Saturday are not enough, you can always go to a Doctor Who service on Sunday:

A CARDIFF priest loves Dr Who so much he is preaching to his congregation through the Time Lord.

St Paul’s Church, in Grangetown, Cardiff, was used as a location for an episode of the first series of Doctor Who starring the ninth Doctor played by Christopher Eccleston.

And parish priest, Father Ben Andrews, 32, says he loves the cult TV show so much he thought a themed evening would go down well with the youngsters.

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I recently reported rumors that the final season of Battlestar Galactica would be split up. SyFy Portal reports:

There could be 10 months separating the first half and the second half of the final season of “Battlestar Galactica,” or there could be just a month. Either way, fans of the SciFi Channel series are in for a ride straight to the end.”We were told that SciFi was thinking about splitting the final season, but we do not know how long the gap in that split will be,” producer David Weddle told SyFy Portal’s Michael Hinman. “As far as I know, SciFi has not decided yet. The SciFi Channel executives are the only ones who will be able to answer that question, once they’ve arrived at a decision.”

SciFi Wire has news on the upcoming season of Jehrico. The writers had planned out a 22 episode arc, but instead they are forced to condense this into seven episodes. They are treating the seven episodes like an extended movie which follows up on the events of last season’s finale, leaving room for yet another season if the show is more successful when it returns. There are some minor spoilers on the season:

Among the new buildings on the freshly rebuilt main street in the Van Nuys suburb of Los Angeles was a cement facade that housed the headquarters of Jennings and Rall, a multinational organization that sets up shop in the town in season two.

There was also evidence of a continued military presence following its arrival in the season finale to suppress the hostilities between Jericho and the neighboring town of New Bern.

John Steinberg, co-creator and producer of the show, said in interviews that the seven episodes of the season will focus primarily on the introduction of these new outside elements to the town of Jericho and how its citizens respond to them.

“The first season was about that sort of invisible force, the government, the law, the financial system, all those things, disappearing, and living in a vacuum,” Steinberg said in an interview on the set. “And season two is about what happens when something comes back to replace that vacuum, and it’s not what you remembered being there when you left. And so that’s kind of the big arc of it, and how we respond to that and resist it or learn to deal with it.”

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Sci Fi Friday: Blink and You’re Dead, But What About Tony Soprano?

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Today’s edition of SciFi Friday will look further at the finale to The Sopranos, as well as other shows but first, don’t turn around, don’t look away, and don’t blink. Blaink and you’re dead. That is unless you haven’t watched last Saturday’s episode of Doctor Who and plan to watch in the future. In that case, close your eyes and turn away. This one was just too good to risk seeing these spoilers.

Blink, like the excellent two episodes before it, was based upon a written Doctor Who story which is available on line here. I really didn’t have high hopes for this episode, coming after two such excellent ones and knowing that it was both a Doctor-lite episode and one which was being billed as being behind-your-couch scary. With The Doctor only playing a small part, Carey Mulligan did a superb job as Sally Sparrow. There’s already talk among fans that she should be the next companion.

The show opens with Sally Sparrow investigating an old house and finding a warning addressed to her on the wall to duck, saving her from getting hit. The clues increase as the show goes on until we ultimately learn that the weeping angel statues are actually aliens which have the ultimate protective device. They are “quantum locked, meaning they turn to stone and connot be harmed if anyone is looking at them. If you just blink they can move at incredible speeds. They live off the potential energy of the lives they take away, but they have a humane way of “killing” their victims. They are sent back into the past, leaving their future lives for the weeping angels to live off of. Instead of the typical chases, we have tension created as the statues approach should anyone take their eyes off of them, wondering how long they can go without blinking. Unfortunately nobody thought of alternating closing one eye at a time to give them a rest.

Having characters sent to the past leads to Sally receiving information, such as a letter from a friend who accompanied Sally in a return to the house. The letter was sent down through the generations and was delivered to Sally by the friend who recalled exactly when she would be there. Other clues pop up as easter eggs on DVD’s, which turn out to be messages from The Doctor, who was himself sent back in time by the weeping angels without his Tardis.

Any description of the show doesn’t do it justice as it was the execution of the story which made it work so well. Generally the Tardis is a simply a gimmick to get The Doctor involved in stories which can take place at any time and place. It was a welcome change to see time travel actually play a significant part in the story, despite the paradox. Next week we see the end of the universe, Utopia, and the return of Captain Jack.

Blink left us wondering about the fates of characters, as The Sopranos did at the end. I’ve previously discussed the finale here, and quote information from an interview with David Chase here. Chase accomplished the goal of keeping everyone talking, but I continue to feel he made a mistake in the abrupt ending. Too many of us first questioned whether our DVR was working correctly when we should have been wondering if Tony was dead or alive.

We were left to talk not only about how the show ended, but whether there really was any definite ending at all. Some people are convinced that the screen turned black as things turned black for Tony, noting how Tony had previously told Bobby, “At the end, you probably don’t hear anything, everything just goes black” if you are whacked. Some interviews witih David Chase, as well as HBO spokesman Quentin Schaffer, suggest that Chase did intend to leve clues to a definitive ending. James Gandolfini, who played Tony Soprano, isn’t so sure. He says he has “no idea” as to how it ended, and said, “I thought it was a great ending. You decide.” Steven Van Zandt, who played Silvio, also suported the idea of an ambiguous ending, saying “Life doesn’t have tidy little endings.” Personally I prefer to think that the guy going into the bathroom was just a guy who had too much coffee in his bladder, and that after a good dinner Tony took Meadow out to teach her how to parallel park.

I have mixed feelings as to the ambiguity of the ending. While life doesn’t have tidy little endings, the death of Tony would provide such an ending if that was what was intended. Otherwise the series, like many novels, could end with one aspect of Tony’s life ending, with the future beyond that remaining unknown.

The finale has been compared to The Princess or the Tiger but I don’t find that comparison to be accurate. In The Princess or The Tiger there is a reason for not revealing whether the protagonist lives or dies as we are left to wonder about the motivations of the princess who lost him. There is no such reason for ambiguity in The Sopranos. We’ve seen many gang killings and there was no question that there are people who would kill Tony. This was just a cliff hanger for the sake of a cliff hanger, and reminds me more of the final episode of Dallas. We wereleft to wonder whether J.R. Ewing was dead or alive until the television movie was done. While David Chase denies any such plans, he certainly has left open the door to another story involving Tony Soprano.

Heroes also ended the season with ambiguity as to the fate of Sylar, who appeared to escape after earlier looking like he had been killed. Zachary Quinto, who played Sylar has now signed on as a regular for the second season, answering that question.

The show with the most questions currently on television must be Lost. Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof promise that Lost “will not be ending with a blackout.”

“Obviously, we can’t wait to the 48th hour to say, ‘Here are all the mysteries of the show,”‘ Lindelof said. But Cuse also noted the reality of the sometimes vociferous and heavily engaged viewership of the show, which uses the Web to advance theories and post explanations and even freeze-frames to parse further meaning.

“I’m not sure there is any ending that will satisfy everyone,” Cuse said. “Our hope is that the ending will be … the logical conclusion of the story.”

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Perhaps the worst type of series finale of all occur when the fate of the show is not known when the season ends as occured with Veronica Mars. Fans of the show were far more concerned as to whether the show would be renewed than how the season-ending cliff hanger would turn out. The offical word came last week that Veronica Mars has been cancelled. It might be for the better. Without a good idea for a mystery good enough to last all season, the third season was weak compared to the first two. The show also lost a lot of its edge when Veronica went from high school to college, and the theme of the class differences in Neptune was no longer an issue.

And finally, here’s a story where we know the ending. Howard Dean’s 2004 campaign is being made in to a Broadway play:

Last week, Oscar-nominated actor Jake Gyllenhaal did a private reading of “Farragut North” (written by playwright and former Dean campaigner Beau Willimon) about the presidential hopes of a charismatic, unorthodox candidate and his staff. The 26-year-old “Brokeback Mountain” star would play the idealistic young communications director sabotaged by old political dogs with dirty tricks, reports the New York Post. If he’s cast, it would be Gyllenhaal’s Broadway debut.

“Jake was a big campaign supporter of mine, so I hope he takes it,” Dean told us yesterday. “But I want him to play me.” The DNC chairman likes the concept — “Hell, I’ll go to it” — even if it includes his famous scream. “I’d like to see him do that.”

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