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

Time of the Doctor1

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.

Time of the Doctor2

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.

Time of the Doctor Wig

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

Please Share

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

50th-anniversary-doctors-hurt-570x317

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.

all-doctors-day-of-the-doctor-570x319

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.

 

Please Share

The Night Of The Doctor

This prequel video has been released prior to the airing of The Day of the Doctor, filling in a huge gap in the history of the Doctor.

Please Share

SciFi Weekend: True Blood Spoilers; Doctor Who; Batman; Star Trek; Continuum; Under The Dome; Agents of SHIELD; The Newsroom

true-blood-616x450

The sixth season of True Blood, while not without faults, was the best season in several years.  The biggest negative of the season was that Warlow, after starting as evil, then portrayed as good, all of a sudden is shown to be evil again.  Of course it is essential not to take True Blood too seriously if you are to enjoy it, and in that vein the highlight was seeing the vampires partying in the nude outside in the sun following their rescue. There has been some criticism for jumping ahead six months in the middle of the finale as opposed to the usual continuous nature of the show. I didn’t mind this at all. The show is in serious need of some change and I’d rather see them jump six months, basing it on things we have already seen, than having to go through episodes written purely to achieve the changes desired by the writers. It was also unusual to do this right in the middle of an episode but better this than stretching out the narrative for the sixth season even longer.

There were potential cliff hangers but there is considerable agreement on line regarding the outcomes. Although Eric (who created further attention with his full-frontal  nude scene) was seen to burn in the sun, he did not melt, leaving everyone pretty certain that he will survive. After all, he has all that snow around to put out the fire, and Pam is on her way to rescue him once darkness falls. I also think viewers will be surprised if it doesn’t turn out that Tara’s mother infected her with Hepatitis V when she had Tara feed on her.

If there was any doubt about Eric surviving, Brian Buckner, who replaced Alan Ball as show runner, revealed this and more about next season:

Was blowing up everything at the end of the season a chance for you to really start fresh next year?
Brian Buckner:
It is. I think we’ve had more success at the outsets of our seasons when we’ve done an adequate job setting the table for the following season. It’s a bit of a reset and it’s also establishing a story that is for every vampire, a human, for every human, a vampire. It’s to try to return to the show’s promise in Season 1, which is if vampires exist, let’s examine the relationships between humans and vampires. Now we get to do it with many different pairings rather than just Bill and Sookie. The hope is — and this is what I was hinting at Comic-Con — that by putting all of our characters essentially into one story, now it’s Bon Temps vs. the world, the characters people love will get more screen time because these stories don’t have separate demands. We just get to tell a simpler story and then experience them through our characters.

If vampires and humans are now working together, where does the tension come from?
Buckner:
I don’t mean to say there are not complications with those relationships. The driving force of the show is going to be the relationships. What does Alcide (Joe Manganiello) or Sookie having to take on a vampire feeding partner do to their relationship? Every relationship is complicated because it’s a three-way or four-way. That’s what we’re looking at. I don’t think it’s all going to be hunky-dory. It’s going to create tensions between makers and makees because, “You love that human, don’t you?!” It’s a bit of a shift back from plot-driven big bad to some of the soapy elements of the show. It’s the relationships that are interesting, not the plot that the bad guy is necessarily providing.

Can you talk about the threat of the mutated Hep-V?
Buckner:
That’s the work of next season. Specifically, viruses do mutate and that’s part of why we gave ourselves a six-month time passage. This is a disease that, as Dr. Overlark (John Fleck) explained when he was injecting Nora (Lucy Griffiths), can be spread in any number of ways. It has spread around the world very rapidly. Bon Temps is a microcosm of what’s happening out there in the world. The vampires who are infected, their appetite for human blood is increasing. They need to feed more often in order to survive this disease.

Have vampires essentially overrun the world at this point?
Buckner:
It’s a major outbreak. You see how people got upset about Bird Flu and no one really had it. The idea here was to isolate Bon Temps to make it the town we know vs. the world so we don’t have to leave Bon Temps in order to get story. They can only depend on one another; that’s what Sam is talking to Andy (Chris Bauer) about. Andy obviously has his own feelings about vampires right now and whether or not they can be trusted. Sam’s point is we don’t have a choice but to trust them. Without their help, we can’t protect ourselves. It’s a very uneasy alliance. I don’t want to suggest that it is conflict-free. Of course, we promised a pretty big payoff at the Bellefluer’s bar.

Presumably that means Season 7 picks up right where we left off?
Buckner:
That’s a fair presumption.

Turning to the biggest question after the finale: Is Eric really dead? What kind of role will Alexander Skarsgard have next season?
Buckner:
In the olden days, this was a fun tease for an audience [Laughs]. The actor Alex Skarsgard and the character of Eric Northman will be back on the show next year. He’ll be a series regular. We’ve obviously promised a “Where is Eric?” story and it would feel incredibly cheap to deliver the goods right away. We sent Pam (Kristin Bauer van Straten) off in search of him and if she were to find him right away, we would be doing a disservice to ourselves and to the audience. How we use him is going to be up to us, but we want people to rest assured that he will be back in their living rooms next year or wherever they watch. Boy do they love him! Wow!

Pretty sure he broke the internet after going full-frontal.
Buckner:
It was crazy. I got a question about the discussion on that and said, “He’s Swedish. There was no discussion whatsoever.” I even called him to say, “Are you sure this is OK?” and he said, “No problemo.”

People thought it might be a body double.
Buckner:
Nope! One day the tell-all will come out that that guy is as cool as Eric Northman. He doesn’t sweat the small stuff.

Because you jumped ahead six months, we missed Sookie and Alcide’s courtship. Will we see some flashbacks to that?
Buckner:
Whether or not there will be flashbacks, we don’t know at this point. The writers will be back in the room starting September 3 and we’ll start to figure this all out. I think there is fun in, “How did this happen?” but you will see what sparks flew. It’s not like we’re going to skip over all the Sookie-Alcide fun. In terms of going back and filling in those six months, that I don’t think we’ll be doing, but the audience will see what they want to see.

The final scene did have a definite zombie feel but Buchner does say that these are not really vampire zombies:

TVLINE | How do you explain the fact that some of those infected  — Nora, for example — died quickly, yet others are wandering around.
We did say that the virus had mutated, and we get to decide what those mutations are. Perhaps the demand for human blood goes up and that’s the only thing that keeps vampires with Hep V alive. In seasons past – I’m not going to point to any one of them – we took some massive swings, not knowing where we were going. That’s the nature of what we do. In this case, I don’t believe we bit off more than we can chew. I’m not going to give answers to all these things, but the virus has mutated. That’s another reason for the time passage. Just like bacteria mutates and that’s why there are antibiotic-resistant strains. So what applied to Nora doesn’t necessarily apply to this gang. And they’re not zombies.

TVLINE | What are they? Is there a name for them?
In my somewhat limited zombie-genre experience, zombies are not organized. They’re just hunting-killing machines. So what was meant to come across there was that they’re organized, they’re in a formation, they’re hunting, they’re sentient, they can talk. They still have intellect.

I’ll accept this premise as the show is in need of change, but I do have a problem with the idea that survival depends upon humans agree to allowing a vampire to feed on them for protection. All the new anti-vampire weapons which the governor stock piled in Louisiana might no longer be available, but there should have been some other source of these weapons made available over the past six months.

In other True Blood news, Amelia Rose Blair, who played the governor’s daughter who was turned into a vampire, will be a series regular.

smith-tennant-hurt-50th

This low-resolution picture of three Doctors, (Tennant, Smith, and Hurt) has leaked out from the 50th anniversary episode of Doctor Who. TV Drama interviewed Steven Moffat. Here are some excerpts about writing Doctor Who, Sherlock, and Coupling

WS: When you succeeded Russell T Davies as head writer of Doctor Who, what did you want to do with the show?
MOFFAT: I just wanted it to be good. People always want me to have some form of agenda. Sometimes in desperation I say I want it to be a fairy tale or I want it to be this or that. I just wanted it to be a good Doctor Who. The thing about Doctor Who is it’s a different show every week. It speaks with a different voice on a weekly basis. It must be fast moving. It must be funny and exciting. Those were all present in Russell’s era and I hope they are all present in mine. I serve at the pleasure of the TARDIS [the time machine in Doctor Who].

WS: Was it ever intimidating, being responsible for such an iconic television franchise?
MOFFAT: You don’t really feel much pressure at the beginning of a TV series because you’re just making a home movie in a big shed! You don’t really think anyone is ever going to watch it. Towards April 3, 2010, [the British premiere date for Moffat’s first season as head writer] I started to feel the pressure a little bit. We were doing Sherlock at the time as well and Matt Smith’s Doctor for the first time, so Benedict [Cumberbatch] and Matt were waiting in the wings of fame. I remember thinking, if these two things screw up, I’m finished! I just thought, what if they’re rubbish? [Laughs] This could be a really terrible year. I could crash Doctor Who and screw up Sherlock Holmes and if I’d just shot Daniel Craig in the face I’d have ended all of British culture. But it didn’t work out that way [Laughs]. It was a very, very good year and they’ve been very good years ever since.

WS: You’ve had such a broad career in British television. Does writing sci-fi or fantasy flex different creative muscles than mystery or comedy or any other genre?
MOFFAT: I never feel as though it does. I never feel as though the job is any different. Comedy is good training for writing anything. It’s a very clear-cut proposition—you must be funny several times a page. Comedy writers, by instinct, are very severe on themselves. If there aren’t sufficient gags, in a wider sense of the word “gag,” in the scene then I’m not keeping it. It has to do something to the audience. But writing Coupling doesn’t feel different from writing Doctor Who.

WS: Why did you want to put Sherlock Holmes in a modern-day setting?
MOFFAT: [British actor and screenwriter] Mark Gatiss and myself are huge Sherlock Holmes fans. We adore and worship those stories above all literature. Going back and forth from [filming] Doctor Who—we were both writers on it when Russell was running it—we were talking on the train about Sherlock Holmes. We got to talking about the many wonderful movies and the many terrible movies, which are almost more entertaining. We admitted shyly to each other that our favorites were the updated Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce movies [produced in the U.S. in the 1940s]. Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce did two Victorian-set adventures and then they did 12 updated ones. At the time people criticized them terribly—How dare you update Sherlock Holmes? The fact is, those cheaply made updated adventures are just a bit more fun. They somehow seemed to capture more of the pulpy fun of the original stories. So what we said to each other was, “Some day someone is going to think of doing that again. And when they do they’ll have a huge hit. And when they have that huge hit we’ll be very, very cross because we should have done it.” And then we’d leave the conversation! My wife, Sue, who is also a television producer, said, Why don’t you just do it? So she made us sit down and explain Sherlock Holmes to her. She knows nothing of the Sherlock books but she was instantly interested. She literally got us in a room in London, where Mark and I sat and said, What would it be? Basic conversations like, What do they call each other? In the original they call each other Holmes and Watson. That would make them like a couple of public-school boys these days! So they call each other Sherlock and John. It became exciting for us when we realized how easily and properly it updates. In the original stories Dr. Watson comes home from a war in Afghanistan and is looking for cheap digs, so he moves in with Sherlock Holmes. He can come back from the same place now. In the original stories he wrote a journal, which fell out of fashion for a very long while until it was reinvented as a blog. Sherlock Holmes always sent telegrams in the original stories because he preferred the brevity of that communication. We’re back at telegrams—we call them texts.

Most of the adaptations have become about the Victoriana, but the original stories, there’s nothing in them that’s particularly Victorian. They are stories that are mysteries. The setting is just the world that Arthur Conan Doyle could see outside his window. I think by updating it you move the character closer to the audience. You move all the sepia-toned dusty Victoriana out of the way and you see him clearly again.

Coupling, which Moffat mentioned in passing, was one of the greatest sit-coms of all time. It sort of was a combination of Friends, Seinfeld, Sex and the City, and occasionally Big Bang Theory.

Some quicker questions for Moffat:

Rumour that JK Rowling is writing a short story for the 50th Anniversary.
“I can’t confirm that…, right now.”
A return for the Doctor’s daughter, Jenny?
“The door is open, it’s entirely possible.”Similarly, a return for Romana?
“I have actually given no thought at all to Romana. The Time Lords are dead in my mind. They died.”
Will Peter Capaldi’s Doctor have a Scottish accent?
“I’d be very surprised if he didn’t”
Moffat has also acknowledged that it has been established that the Doctor can only regenerate twelve times. Obviously they will not end the show when this limit comes. There was a throw away line when David Tennant was in an episode of Sarah Jane Adventures claiming 507 but the line wasn’t meant to be taken seriously. They already have had two events in the new episodes which could alter the original limit. As the Time Lords have been overthrown, nobody knows if the old rules apply. There is also the possibility that the Doctor obtained additional regenerations when River Song gave up her future regenerations to save the Doctor’s life in Let’s Kill Hitler. There is plenty of precedent for transfer of regenerative powers in Doctor Who, giving Moffat a number of possible routes around this. If there are only twelve regenerations, then Peter Capaldi’s Doctor would be the last with the ability to regenerate, and if the John Hurt Doctor is an actual regeneration, it would mean Capaldi is the last until the rules are changed.

There has also been speculation that the regeneration will occur in the 50th Anniversary episode as opposed to the Christmas episode. Much of this is based upon rather circumstantial evidence, but I could see Moffat going for such a surprise during an episode which is being broadcast at the same time internationally. Matt Smith’s hair was cut before the Christmas episode was filmed, but he might also grow it back or grow a wig. There are some on line references to Peter Capaldi starting on Doctor Who in November but such references for future shows are often inaccurate. One of the faults I cited in my review of The Name of The Doctor was that if Clara was seeing remnants of his entire time stream after the Doctor died she should have seen versions of the Doctor beyond the eleventh. If the anniversary episode begins in the Doctor’s tomb, there could be reason for showing the 12th Doctor’s face other than a regeneration.

Christopher Eccleston has declined to participate in the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who after he did not leave the show on good terms. He has offered to appear in the 100th when speaking at the British Film Institute:

“I love the BFI. I love the Doctor and hope you enjoy this presentation. Joe Ahearne directed five of the 13 episodes of the first series. He understood the tone the show needed completely – strong, bold, pacy visuals coupled with wit, warmth and a twinkle in the performances, missus.“If Joe agrees to direct the 100th anniversary special, I will bring my sonic and a stair-lift and – providing the Daleks don’t bring theirs – I, the ninth Doctor, vow to save the universe and all you apes in it.”

I will be looking forward to watching this in another 50 years.

Doctor Who makes it was to recast the lead due to regeneration but other franchises such as Batman periodically reboot with a new star. There has been considerable amount of objection to the choice of Ben Affleck, to some degree in response to how he flopped as Daredevil.  Twitter responses to the choice here and here.

Last week we looked at a few of the Star Trek technological advancements which are now a reality. There is a $10,000 prize for developing a Tricorder.

The above “honest trailer” is a hilarious and brutal look at Star Trek Into Darkness. It does include a lot of legitimate criticism of the movie. The segment in the second half on the problems with having brought Spock back from the future is a serious problem whenever there are variations on old episodes.

The implications of knowledge of the future has also been on my mind this week as I got to watching Continuum, knocking off the first season and starting the second season this week. Besides questions of time travel, contemporary political issues are raised (as Star Trek often did in the past). There is a future in which corporations have “bailed out” failing governments and taken over. Many questions arise while watching which would have been worthy of discussion in this blog while the show was airing, and I’m sure I will have more to say about the show when I complete it. For those looking for shows to watch during the summer when there are fewer new shows being aired, I would definitely add Continuum to the list of great shows from 2013.

utdzea1

Who will be the monarch on Under the Dome? From SpoilerTV:

So, who is the Monarch? The obvious choice would be Angie, who became the latest person to suffer from seizures. Joe seemed to quash that theory, pointing out to Norrie that Angie’s butterfly tattoo is not a Monarch. But Angie could actually still be a candidate. “Of course,” executive producer Neal Baer tells. “She has seizures, she’s marked in a way that separates her from everyone else. She’s intrepid, smart and strong.”Unfortunately, that means Junior could be the king to her queen, or rather, the fourth hand. “There’s much more to come in the Angie-Junior relationship, especially when, in an upcoming episode, they’re brought together in a stunning way,” Baer teases.Though Junior seemed crazy at first — he claimed he locked Angie up in the fallout shelter because she was “sick” — now it appears he predicted this would happen. “Junior is sensitive to dome-ish things,” Baer says. “His mother painted pink stars falling in lines around him when he was a little boy, a precursor to all that’s happening now. Angie’s seizure confirmed what Junior felt — that she was different, like himself — though he didn’t know exactly why until she had her seizure, which confirmed what he felt all along: That Angie was ‘sick’ too; that she was somehow ‘touched’ by the dome.”

The show also introduced Natalie Zea playing a character from out of town who has been hiding out since the dome appeared. I can accept this once, but only once. The town is cut off. I hope they don’t go the Gilligan’s Island route and have people from outside repeatedly appear.

Natalie Dormer of Game of Thrones and Tudors has been cast in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 and 2.

New trailer for Agents of SHIELD above.

Tatiana Maslany of Orphan Black has be cast for a guest appearance on Parks and Recreation. I wonder how many roles she will play.

the-newsroom-episode-62

All season we have seen staffers at ACN on The Newsroom being prepared for a trial which came after the Genoa story fell apart. We are finally seeing what the actual case is about. Last week a situation was set up in which Jerry Dantana was all alone in an interview with a general. He committed a major breach of journalistic ethics when he edited a tape to remove the key use of the word if, failing to appreciate the hypothetical nature of the general’s answers. Dantana, played by Hamish Linklater, will be fired and file a wrongful termination suit. Linklater doesn’t see Dantana as being totally wrong:

“He believes the story is true,” Linklater says. “He just needs to get rid of one word from this interview in order for him to have enough evidence to get the story on the air. … He knows he’s done something that’s wrong. He knows that he’s breached ethics, but he believes that, for this story, it was worth it.”Linklater insists that his character’s decisions are not motivated by ambition, but rather his ideals. “He’s trying to tell news stories that the audience doesn’t seem to have much of an appetite for and the network doesn’t have much of an appetite for broadcasting,” he says. “His beef is with this sort of lazy liberalism that he feels is in the staff and that kind of knee-jerk Obama fandom that he finds around him. He feels [they're] apologizing for too many mistakes.”But indeed it’s Jerry’s mistakes that will bring the “News Night” team under fire. On Sunday’s episode, the “Genoa” story will air, and the wheels start to come off the train almost immediately after the broadcast ends. But it isn’t just Jerry’s fudged interview footage that is problematic. The episode will also slowly reveal the many other ways the story turned out to be false, which gives Jerry ammunition for his wrongful termination lawsuit.

“Once he’s found out… he knows the ax is going to fall,” Linklater says. “But he just sticks to his guns. He thinks that everybody was doing a sloppy job and that he’s been made the fall guy for it. It’s not fair.”

Related television and political comments yesterday on realistic versus unrealistic aspects of House of Cards, The West Wing, and Orange is the New Black.

Please Share

SciFi Weekend: Dexter Returns; Prince Charles Does Dalek Impersonation; The John Hurt Doctor

Episode 801

There will be a short edition this week as I continue to vacation in the location of Somewhere In Time (although not because of the mediocre time travel movie).  I haven’t seen hardly any genre television, but did download the first episode of the season of Dexter and watched one night over the past week.

Dexter resumed six months after Deb shot LaGuerta, with Dexter holding up much better than Deb. However, as we know that this is the final season, there are a few possible situations developing which could lead to Dexter’s downfall. Deb says she shot the wrong person and, while so far I wouldn’t make this my top prediction, this could lead to her ultimately either killing Dexter or turning him (and possibly herself) in. Dexter killed the criminal which Deb was investigating/living with and didn’t dispose of the body in his usual manner, possibly leading him to become implicated either for this crime or becoming at risk from the criminals after the jewels. The biggest risk to Dexter may come from Dr. Vogel, who knows about Dexter’s past, having assisted Harry in developing the code. She is overly confident over her own safety, telling Dexter he cannot kill her because she doesn’t fit the code, considering that Dexter has broken it several times. From the previews it appears that she wants to use Dexter to kill off someone else, which is yet another potential source of danger for Dexter.

Vulture has an interview with Charlotte Rampling, who plays Dr. Vogel.

charles-and-camill_2607755k

Prince Charles did a Dalek impersonation and The Telegraph had some potential spoilers about the identity of the John Hurt (nothing which hasn’t already been speculated about on line).

Costume designer Howard Burden, who showed the royal couple a selection of costumes from the show, disclosed that the anniversary episode will feature John Hurt, who will play a “dark Doctor” seen briefly at the end of the last series.

He said: “There was a gap between Paul McGann playing the Doctor and Christopher Eccleston, when we didn’t see a regeneration, and John Hurt will fit into that gap. He is a past Doctor, not a future Doctor.”

Please Share

SciFi Weekend: Star Trek Into Darkness; Doctor Who; Hannibal; Arrested Development; Game of Thrones; Sherlock and Fake Sherlock; Roaring ’20s Cocktails

star-trek-into-darkness-pstr07

As I discussed last week, Star Trek Into Darkness was a enjoyable action movie which hopefully serves to keep Star Trek alive in some form, but does not live up to the quality of the show. The producers ignored plot development to deliver a series of action scenes, while using the gimmick of an alternative timeline to avoid the need for consistency. Major spoilers do follow. Startrek.com interviewed Star Trek Into Darkness co-writers and co-producers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman. One question dealt with the alternative timeline:

Zoe Saldana has been quoted in interviews as saying that the Uhura (Saldana)-Spock (Zachary Quinto) romance will not work in the long run because that’s not what ultimately happened inThe Original Series. Given the alternate timeline, can’t this relationship go anywhere? Can’t you do… anything, really, with any and all of the characters?

Roberto Orci talk about Star Trek Into Darkness

ORCI: If she says that, I think she’s wrong. We can do whatever we want. However, the rule that we have for ourselves is that it has to harmonize with canon. This is going to get way too geeky, and I apologize ahead of time… Quantum mechanics, which is how we based our time travel, is not just simple time travel. Leonard Nimoy didn’t just go back and change history (as Spock Prime in the 2009 film), and then everything is like Back to the Future. It’s using the rules of quantum mechanics, which means it’s an alternate universe where there is no going back. There is no fixing the timeline. There’s just another reality that is the latest and greatest of time travel that exist. So, on the one hand we’re free. On the other hand, these same rules of quantum mechanics tell us that the universes that exist, they exist because they are the most probable universe.

Star Trek actually dealt with alternative timelines in different ways. Frequently when something changed history, as in The City On The Edge of Forever, members of the Enterprise crew would go back in time and would fix the timeline. The mirror universe which featured in several episodes did continue on its own with major differences. In Parallels, Worf saw several parallel realities which varied in how different each was for his original reality. This came closest to the timelines of quantum mechanics which Orci discussed but the specific situation of one person changing history was more commonly treated as having a single timeline which can be changed and later repaired.

Now that we have the situation of Spock and Uhura having a romance, there is no reason it cannot continue despite this not occurring in the original timeline. The bigger question is why this romance ever could start at all. Saying the timeline has changed has been an easy way to keep what they want in Star Trek and change other things. We have a Spock who handles emotions differently, but it is not clear why that is the case. One of the advantages of a weekly television show over movies is that they could have episodes detailing how this Spock handles emotions as compared to the original Spock. The emotions and  humanity of Spock, Data, and the Voyager Holodeck Doctor were common themes of three of the series which would not work in the action movies.

My biggest fear in this new timeline is that nothing seems to have consequences and there are no limits. Vulcan was destroyed and now they are developing New Vulcan, as if an entire planet can be easily repopulated. If they have questions, future-Spock has the answers. There no real need for Starships as it is possible for Khan to transport himself from Earth to Kronos. If there are battles to be fought, the Entreprise is bigger than the one in the Roddenberry universe. If that isn’t enough, even bigger Starships can be built. Distance is not an issue in space as it takes no time to travel back from Kronsos to Earth, and Kirk has no difficulty communicating with Scotty from light years away. Kirk dies and is quickly brought back to life with blood from Khan, and there is a tremendous supply remaining with Khan and the others who are frozen. Theoretically there is  no limit to a cure synthesized from Khan’s blood. The television shows certainly took liberties with what is scientifically possible, and would show abilities in some episodes which were forgotten when they might have been used again, but not as flagrantly as this movie.

If they were not content with a series of action scenes they might have placed some limits to keep this and future stories more plausible. Perhaps the curative powers of the blood are not present immediately upon awakening from suspended animation, which would also explain why Khan needed to be captured as opposed to awakening another. We could also imagine the Federation, which has always had lots of restrictions (primarily to promote drama and limit easy solutions), banning the awakening of Khan and the others. Unfortunately such explanations would results in breaks in the action which would not be consistent with the all-action type of movie being produced, but which made the television shows far better.

Alex Kurtzman and Bob Orci discussed the various Easter eggs placed in Star Trek Into Darkness in this interview.

Bob: The biggest addition was Benedict Cumberbatch. He was so compelling on the set that the other actors brought extra energy and extra attention to their roles. He was a force of nature. In terms of his character, we wanted to make sure that the audience did not need any previous knowledge to understand him. So the big debate was: should he or shouldn’t he be Khan?

Alex: We agreed he can be Khan as long as the audience doesn’t have to know that back story. Our challenge was to define a story that doesn’t rely on previous knowledge, or love of Khan or “Star Trek 2.” We thought if we can do that, then we can think of using that great character Khan.

Bob: Once we had that standalone story, we wondered: are there details from Khan’s history that fit? We returned to our Easter eggs at the back of the fridge: there were those seventy-two torpedoes that happened to house his crew. If we can use the details of Khan’s back story given our structure to make the movie more specific and more relevant, then that works.

Alex: We couldn’t use Khan just as a gimmick, as an excuse to get fans into the theaters. Once we developed the story, suddenly the details of Khan’s life became an even better way to tell it. Only when we decided that Khan really does fit here – and the fans know that Khan is to the series what The Joker is to “Batman” – that’s when we decided we earned it.

Bob: And that’s when we went for it. Khan is the ultimate Easter egg.

I saw them more as dropping a few lines to tie the movie into Star Trek’s past without really trying to do what made Star Trek great. Khan is hardly to the series what The Joker is to Batman. Khan appeared in exactly one episode of the original series and one movie. Plus each of these did a far better job of presenting Khan as a person with motives.

Cumberbatch Shower

While Star Trek fans might be concerned about the types of issues I raised, the media has paid more attention to controversy over the scene with Alice Eve in her underwear which I posted last week. In interviews, Alice Eve didn’t seem terribly concerned. After all, as Seth MacFarlane would put it, we saw her boobs in movies such as Crossing Over (pictures not safe for work). Putting aside the arguments of sexism, tamer scenes such as in Star Trek Into Darkness have been common throughout the history of Star Trek from Kirk’s conquests in the original show, Seven of Nine’s “Borg enhancements” on Voyager, and those scenes of T’Pol in the Decon Chamber on Enterprise. Hoshi Sato also had difficulty keeping her clothes intact on Enterprise. Scenes of sexual exploitation aren’t all one-sided. Kirk was seen with his shirt off and  J.J. Abrams showed a cut  scene had been filmed with Benedict Cumberbatch in the shower while on Conan.

Steven Moffat shows far more attention to plotting than in the new version of Star Trek. He will show little things in many episodes of Doctor Who which don’t become important to a later date. Unfortunately he also leaves some questions unanswered. Some of these questions actually do have answers but wind up on the cutting room floor. One of many questions from The Name of the Doctor is how Clarence came about the information which saved his life and directed his friends towards Trenazlore. This is explained in the deleted scene above.

Hannibal Family Dinner

I had previously called The Americans the best new show of the season, but must revise that view after watching the first several episodes of Hannibal. Here are seven reasons you should be watching.  Bryan Fuller was interviewed about the show he created based upon novels by Thomas Harris:

I want to ask about the level of gore and violence on Hannibal. Let’s start at the beginning when you first starting thinking about the show. How did you figure out its tone?

Bryan Fuller: What was always interesting about Thomas Harris’ books is they were a wonderful hybridization of a crime thriller and a horror movie. So I felt like we had to be true to that. Because Silence of the Lambs and Manhunter and Red Dragon have a certain pedigree of crime horror/thriller, in order to be true to that genre, we had to have a certain amount of graphic content to honor the source material, and also honor the expectations of the audience who are approaching the material realizing this is a horror icon. If we didn’t have certain ingredients for that dish, then it really wouldn’t be that dish.

What did you think were the keys there?

BF: Well, what was always fascinating with the villains of Thomas Harris’ books is they have this purple, operatic quality to them. They were also strikingly visual and cinematic. I think it was always our goal to honor the source material, because as a fan of the Thomas Harris books — I read Red Dragon in high school — I wanted to make sure that the loyalist in me and the loyalists out there were being delivered what they were being promised in calling the show Hannibal.

Fuller was later asked about network restrictions:

In terms of how you decided how to show the dead bodies in the pilot, was NBC fine with it? Did it get edited at all?

BF: The only restrictions were mostly nudity. Then other things would be a matter of frames and trimming: a concise method of delivering the imagery that didn’t rely on overt gore. There were times that were like, “OK, you can see the intestines, and you can see the abdominal wound, but you can’t see the intestines coming out of the abdominal wound.” Which, to me, felt perfectly reasonable! There were never any huge battles about gore. The conversations that we had were very much about, “These few frames here tip it, so can you remove those shots?” Or “Can you limit that shot?” They let us go a good distance at having striking visual imagery that wasn’t exploitive porn violence but actually had a great psychological impact to them.

Other than for the absence of nudity, Hannibal does feel much more like a cable show than a network television show. It does follow the pattern used successfully by many other shows in both having a continuing storyline and having each episode deal with a monster/crime of the week. Fuller begins with characters from Thomas Harris’s book  Red Dragon, making significant changes in some of the characters for the television series.  Besides Hannibal, the other major figure is Will Graham, who has the ability to see crimes from the killer’s point of view. So far they have used this to provide information to propel episodes without giving away too much to make investigation unnecessary.

Fuller has planned stories taking place over seven thirteen-episode seasons, taking Hannibal from a psychiatrist who is helping solve murders (while commuting some of his own) to the incarcerated mad genius of Silence of the Lambs. It is questionable if the show can last for seven years on network television, and Fuller’s track record is not very good in terms of getting his series renewed.  The show is receiving excellent reviews from the critics but not spectacular ratings. If NBC decides not to renew the show, both cable channels and Amazon have expressed interest in continuing it. Amazon has already purchased exclusive rights to reshow first season episodes. They might find it beneficial to add new episodes to those of the first season, as Netflix is doing with Arrested Development.

banana_stand_1

Netflix just released fifteen new episodes of Arrested Development. It has been seven years since the third season ended (with many of us watching a little more recently on DVD, and others even more recently on Netflix). Den of Geek brings us up to date on the story lines. Popwatch recommended five episodes to rewatch to prepare for the new episodes.  Watch With Kristen tells us a little bit about what we will be seeing. More interviews here and here.

Game of Thrones producer Frank Doelger is also looking at a seven year series:

Speaking backstage at the Baftas – where Game of Thrones was also nominated in the International category – Doelger said: “[The number of series] is being discussed as we speak. The third season was the first half of book three, season four will be the second part of book three. George RR Martin has written books four and five; six and seven are pending.

“I would hope that, if we all survive, and if the audience stays with us we’ll probably get through to seven seasons.”

elementary-jonny-lee-miller-natalie-dormer-cbs

The second episode of season three of Sherlock. The Sign of Three, has completed filming:

Filming has completed today on the second block of Sherlock filming – largely comprising Sherlock S3E2: The Sign of Three – after four weeks of work which began on Monday April 22 2013. The second episode of the third series is written by Stephen Thompson and directed by Colm McCarthy.

Filming of The Sign of Three has taken place in cities in England and Wales familiar to the Sherlock production team, including an extensive period of work in Bristol at the beginning of the schedule. London also once again paid host to the series towards the end of the shoot, while filming itself wrapped on stage in Cardiff just before 20:00BST this evening.

Additional material for S3E1: The Empty Hearse was also shot during the latter stages of this second block of filming, under the direction of Jeremy Lovering.

Production on Sherlock Series Three will now take a scheduled break, to allow cast and crew to fulfil other long planned obligations.

Cast and crew are due to fully reconvene in late July 2013 for filming on the third episode of the series, written by Steven Moffat.

I included the full text of the post primarily to give the feeling of how much time and effort goes into each episode of Sherlock, as compared to an American network television series. I stopped watching CBS’s Fake Sherlock series early in the season, feeling that Elementary, as they call it, was simply an average network crime of the week series which applied the names of Holmes and Watson. After reading that Natalie Dormer would be playing Irene Adler and the final episodes would include Moriarty I decided to watch the last few episodes of the season. The back story, for those who have not been watching, is that Sherlock Holmes fell in love with Irene Adler, who was apparently captured and killed by Moriarty. Sherlock got hooked on drugs. He received treatment, moved to New York where he was quickly trusted by the NYPD, and a female version of Watson became his caregiver. Over the course of the season it appears that Watson moved on to become a detective as opposed to caregiver, and Moriarty was behind some of the criminals they apprehended.

The final episodes of the season dealt with Moriarty having Sherlock work on a case, with information to be provided in return. This led to Sherlock finding Irene Adler alive, and their story was told in flashbacks. There were more twists involving Moriarty but I will not spoil those in case others decide to watch these now that most network shows have concluded. The twist would not be acceptable if this was a more definitive retelling of the Sherlock Holmes stories in modern times, as with the BBC version, but for a series which is only loosely based upon Sherlock Holmes this provided an interesting new story. Needless to say, the quality was what we would expect from most network television shows (not up to that of Hannibal) and far below that of Sherlock.

Daleks Trespassing

This sign should keep trespassers out.

Great Gatsby

And finally, in honor of the release of a new movie adaptation of The Great Gatsby, E! has recipes for ten top roaring ’20s cocktails.

Please Share

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who and Daleks; Community and Inspector Spacetime; Sherlock as Cartoon; Person of Interest; The Americans; Utopia; Downton Abbey; Batwoman’s Gay Marriage; Captain America

Daleks London

Steven Moffat discussed the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who in a recent interview. Doctor Who returns March 30 with the final eight episodes of the season. Next fall we will have the 50th Anniversary episode (which will also be in 3D and released at movie theaters). In addition there will be the usual Christmas episode and An Adventure in Space and Time about the making of Doctor Who. This would still leave us with less Doctor Who than last fall, but Moffat does say there will be even more than these shows.

Ray Cusick who designed the look of the Daleks in 1963, died at last week at age 84.

The video above has an interview with Jenna-Louise Coleman on The Last Leg.

Last week’s episode of Community  featured a trip to an Inspector Spacetime convention and ended with how an American version of this Doctor Who parody would appear, after the producers received advice from Pierce. Here’s another take on how an American version of Doctor Who might have turned out.

sherlockanimated9

Angela Taratuta has re-imagined Sherlock as a cartoon series with pictures such as the one above.

Revolution returns on March 25. NBC is launching a prequel web series tomorrow which starts eleven years after the blackout:

In this webseries, premiering Feb. 25 on NBC.com, we flashback to 11 years after the blackout and the night Miles (Billy Burke) first tried to assassinate Gen. Monroe (David Lyons). The story will follow Capt. Neville (Giancarlo Esposito) on a mission to hunt down and kill and those who had a hand in the attempt to assassinate Monroe. While on his journey, however, Neville will apparently stumble “upon an even greater conspiracy that could change the course of the Republic forever,” according to a description.

Person of Interest Relevance

Person of Interest had an excellent episode, Relevance, in which we saw the machine used as intended. There was another team receiving numbers from the machine to fight actual terrorist threats, but they believed the information came from more conventional sources. They went after people found by the machine to be relevant, as opposed to the cases investigated by Finch and Reese not involving terrorism, and therefore considered irrelevant. One member of the team started to get too close to what is actually going on so both were set up to be killed. The female member of the team, Shaw, survived, with a little help from Reese after Shaw and her partner came up as the new numbers for Finch and Reese.

Shaw is quite a fighter on her own, and stated she has an “Axis II personality disorder,” meaning  she “doesn’t really feel anything” when she kills people. Her best moment was when she showed she was still a loyal soldier in fighting terrorism and also remained determined to avenge the killing of her partner. “A good soldier does both.” She initially refused to take Finch’s card, but later agreed after they saved her from poisoning, leaving her old superiors believing she was dead.

Shaw will make a welcome addition to the reoccurring cast of Person of Interest (assuming this as she was too good a character to only use once). Making the episode even better, Amy Acker  returned to reprise her role as Root (actually starting in the final moments of last week’s episode). Now, besides the team of Finch and Reese, we have the group involved in using the machine to fight terrorism as part of the show, with these people portrayed as both being engaged in an important task and as being somewhat evil. Having them infiltrated by Root will make matters even more interesting.

The Americans

FX has renewed The Americans for a second season. The series is about Soviet spies embedded in the United States during the Reagan years. Last week was their best episode to date, taking place at the time of the assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan. The Russians were worried about whether the attempt would be pinned on the KGB. Some of the Russians also were concerned that generals led by Alexander Haig were carrying out a coup following Haig’s “I am in control” statement.

Utopia completed its first season last week, and hopefully will receive a second season. While not reducing my recommendations to watch the entire series or my hope for a second season, the first season finale was not up to the level of previous episodes. It was probably harder to write this episode because it had less mystery many of the secrets of the first season already revealed but also having to keep some things unresolved for second season. Major spoiler in the rest of this paragraph: I did have one problem with the explanations in the finale. If the manuscript didn’t really matter and the search was all to get Jessica out in the open, what were they doing with the interrogation of Grant and what did that chemical diagram mean? Perhaps the explanation to Jessica wasn’t entirely honest and there was information on recreating Janus to be found in case Jessica wasn’t captured.

The BBC has canceled The Hour after its second season. Hypable explains why you should watch the show despite being cancelled.

As expected following the Christmas episode of Downton Abbey, Lily James will become a regular member of the cast next season. With two members of the cast dying last season, her addition serves much the same purpose of Lesley Anne-Down joining Upstairs Downstairs as Miss Georgina. Vulture gave several reasons why ITV and PBS won’t both broadcast the show at the same time. I was especially interested in this point:

Editing episodes for PBS more quickly would also be more costly.
The version of Downton that airs in the U.K. is slightly different than the one that airs in the U.S. ITV is a commercial network that ran season three over eight installments, while commercial-free PBS ran the same season in just six. That requires some “stitching together and filling out” for the American version, Hoppe says. And because the editing is done entirely by the creative team in the U.K., “what it would mean in order for us to go simultaneously with them is that we’d have to have two editing rooms going at the same time during postproduction, one for our version and one for theirs,” Hoppe says. “It’s not one of the main factors in the decision, but it’s not an insignificant financial implication.”

I downloaded the series when it first aired on ITV and then, based upon following media stories, the series seemed to go by much faster when aired on PBS. This explains that it really did go by faster, with fewer episodes in the US. I wonder if some things were taken out of the US version. For example, there hasn’t been much discussion in the United States about the arc involving the Dalek invasion of Downton.

The Saturn Award nominations have been released–full list here.

Batwoman-Proposal

Batwoman is entering into a same-sex marriage but Alyssa Rosenberg says this  portrayal of a gay marriage is not enough to make up for DC hiring homophobe Orson Scott Card:

Something I wish I’d said more clearly the first itme I wrote about DC’s decision to hire Card to write Superman is that calls to fire him don’t appeal to me that strongly because it separates out his hiring from DC’s other hiring practices, which among other things, have produced a staff with very few women and no lead African-American writers on any comics titles. A decision by comics stores not to stock the title, demonstrating that Card’s values turn them off from a product that otherwise might have been profitable for them, makes more sense. And what would be most interesting to me is an explanation from DC about what process lead to Card’s selection. What made his pitches’ stronger than other writers? How did they weigh the likely publicity challenges from his employment against what appears to be a larger institutional imperative to modernize the brand by telling stories about committed gay couples? If DC Comics wants its image to be gay-friendly, then it should have been expected to be evaluated for consistency. More same-sex engagements doesn’t eliminate the appearance of a glaring contradiction in DC’s image.

If all DC wants is our money, rather than our social approval, that’s fine. But it needs to recognize that fishing for money on the grounds that it’s producing progressive and game-changing content is going to be a more difficult task if there’s a disconnect between what the content is, and who the money spent on it ends up going to.

The next Captain America movie, The Winter Soldier, will differ from the first, and from The Avengers, in being more of a political thriller according to Kevin Feige of Marvel Studios:

The challenge is not the number of projects but rather making sure that each is a fresh take on the genre. Being able to populate the films with rich, three-dimensional characters and employing a wealth of storylines that have been developed over the decades in print makes it much easier to pull off, Feige says.

And when it all comes together, the results are boffo: “The Avengers” was one of 2012′s most popular pics, according to Rottentomatoes.com, and with more than $620 million in ticket sales it was the year’s box office champ by a large margin.

As long as Marvel stays on its game, Feige believes its pics will continue to do well in a genre that is far from a passing trend.

“If it is a fad, it’s one that lasts 30 to 40 years, as the Western did, because each one is so different,” he says. “There’s an opportunity to graft almost sub-genres onto them. Our first Captain America film was a World War II picture, and the next is a political thriller. They all have their own textures and patinas, and that’s what is exciting about it.”

 

Please Share

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who News; Daleks Repeat 1964 Invasion of London; Utopia; Star Trek Bloopers

The questions: Who is Clara? Doctor Who?

The Dalek invasion of London from 1964 is being recreated for Doctor Who, An Adventure in Space and Time. I have moved the video under the fold as it begins running automatically.

A quote from Steven Moffat is keeping rumors alive that all eleven Doctors will be in the 50th Anniversary episode. From The Mirror:

Seven of the surviving actors are set to return in cameo roles on the 3D episode to mark the 50th anniversary of the sci-fi favourite.

And chiefs also want to involve the first three Doctors – William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee – who have died since the first episode screened back in 1963.

They would be included in the feature-length special using computer generated images and old footage.

Doctors of old Tom Baker, 79, Peter Davison, 61, Colin Baker, 69, Sylvester McCoy, 69, Paul McGann, 53, Christopher Eccleston, 48, and David Tennant. 41, are thought to have agreed to take part alongside current star Matt Smith, 30.

This week writer and producer Steven Moffat – who is notoriously secretive – admitted: “Getting the other Doctors involved would be very fitting for the anniversary episode, wouldn’t it?”

He is still writing the special, which is due to be filmed this spring.

The plot is a fiercely-guarded secret, but Moffat said the fact the original show was delayed by more than a minute by an extended news bulletin would be referenced.

The first episode with Hartnell as The Doctor was broadcast on November 23 – the day after President Kennedy was shot.

The special episode is likely to provide the exit point for Smith, who is expected to regenerate into the 12th Time Lord.

Smith, set to star in movie How to Catch a Monster, admitted he would love to work with his predecessors. “How amazing would it be to see Tom Baker? Can you imagine seeing him back in the scarf? That would be so cool,” he said.

“Paul McGann is a great Doctor – I say bring back Chris and Dave too.”

If bosses manage to pull off the coup, it will be the biggest gathering of Doctors since 1983, when five were reunited for the 20th anniversary.

That quote is hardly a clear cut answer without full context and, besides, it is well known that Moffat lies. Both the details of the anniversary episode and how long Matt Smith will remain on the TARDIS remain unknown.

Before we get to the anniversary episode, it has been confirmed that the Ice Warriors will return after 40 years in an episode written by Mark Gatiss.

channel-4-utopia-forum-ian-and-becky

Utopia concludes its first season this week in the UK and is widely considered one of the top shows on television. While not involving aliens, it has the feel of Torchwood at its best–and shows the advantage of not dragging out a season beyond what the story justifies. While I cannot be specific to avoid major spoilers, the goal of those behind the conspiracy was revealed in the fifth episode last week in a manner which almost made it sound justifiable. One problem with the plan was pointed out by a character later in the episode. Things looked pretty grim at the end of last week’s episode. I wonder to what degree they will resolve the problems versus leaving things open for a potential second season.

I doubt Utopia will air in the United States anytime soon in light of the violence in the series, which has included children as targets. At least Utopia, while often very graphic in showing violence against adults, has left deaths of children off screen.

Once Upon A Time spoilers here.

If you were hoping to go to San Diego Comic Con in July and don’t have tickets yet you are out of luck. Tickets sold out in 93 minutes.

Above is a 41 minute collection of the best Star Trek bloopers. The video on the recreation of the Dalek invasion London is below.

(more…)

Please Share

SciFi Weekend: A Big Surprise on Doctor Who (Asylum of the Daleks)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Q1r2dQkB1fY

Doctor Who returned this weekend with Asylum of the Daleks. It as preceded by two prequels, the video above from iTunes and Pond Life, with the collected episodes below:

Asylum of the Daleks  featured lots and lots of Daleks. The Daleks now are somewhat like the Borg, using nanotechnology to convert people into Daleks and into humans with Dalek weapons popping out of their foreheads. There’s also a game changing ending, and a huge surprise (Spoilers ahead).

We were told that each episode would be a stand-alone story without the big arc of last season.  Asylum of the Daleks could certainly be enjoyed by the casual viewer as a stand-alone episode, but Doctor Who fans were likely to be surprised to find that a character named Oswin, played by Jenna-Louise Coleman, was the highlight of the episode. For the benefit of any Doctor Who fans who might have been trapped in the Pandorica since last spring, Jenna-Louise Coleman will be playing the Doctor’s next companion beginning with the Christmas episode. Rumors are that her name will be Clara Oswin and she will be a computer genius, but seeing how Moffat played with us by having Jenna appear months early, it is possible that we also might have been fed some false information.

There are many possible explanation. Some companions, including Karen Gillan, appeared on the show as different characters prior to being hired to play the companion. Perhaps Moffat is using a variation on this, inserting the new companion into a different role after hiring Jenna. At least one interview I’ve heard does suggest this was the explanation, but I cannot give up on the idea that there is a stronger connection.

There’s also Donna Noble who appeared in a Christmas episode, and then returned in a future season to be the Doctor’s companion. It would be a little more difficult for Jenna to return as Oswin had both been turned into a Dalek and the planet she was on was blown up. Of course this is Science Fiction, and perhaps either Oswin found a way to save herself or the Doctor found a way to save her. This might explain all the references in the episode to being remembered. The Doctor told Amy to make the Daleks remember her, but for a moment Amy’s mind was somewhere else, seeing Daleks as dancers. Rory forgot his own name for a moment. Oswin told the Doctor to remember her. There’s also the ending of the episode which I will get to later, plus memory has been a common theme in Moffat’s stories.

If Oswin somehow escaped on her own, it might be significant that she has seen the Doctor while he does not knowwhat she looks like. That might explain reports of Clara chasing after the Doctor (who would not recognize her) in the Christmas Episode. If Oswin did survive, this be somewhat similar to Sherlock, where Holmes did survive a situation in which it appeared he had died.

If Oswin really is dead as it appears, there is always the River Song scenario. The Doctor might meet Oswin at some point earlier in her timeline, but would Moffat do the same thing twice? Maybe the Doctor rewrites time to prevent her from becoming a Dalek. Those rules about time are quite ambiguous to those of us who are not Time Lords. However that might create problems if Oswin was not around to help them in the asylum.

Perhaps Jenna does not play this Oswin but instead someone who looks identical to her. That could be a twin, an ancestor, or perhaps even a clone if the Doctor not only remembers her but somehow saved some of her genetic material. I could easily seen Clara Oswin being an ancestor of Oswin’s, assuming we aren’t being misled about the Clara Oswin name.

The Doctor also ended last season with most people believing he was dead. Oswin extended this to the Daleks, who share a long history with the Doctor. Moffat has often worked in the question, Doctor Who? but it was a surprise to hear it from the Daleks. It will totally change the completion of their next meeting if they do not know who the Doctor is. The episode also showed why Amy and Rory separated and brought the two back together, perhaps only for a short time.

Another amazing aspect of the surprise in this episode is that it remained a secret after four screenings. Steven Moffat expressed his appreciation:

“I hope you all got a nice surprise when Jenna popped up in Doctor Who several months early. If so, that surprise came to you courtesy of the frankly magnificent ladies and gentlemen of the press, and of the many Doctor Who forums and blogs too. This show has been seen at four separate screenings, across four different countries and yet not one person gave one spoiler. From all of us on Doctor Who, a heartfelt thank you for helping us tell our story.”

The 2012 Hugo Awards are out. The complete list is here and some of the winners include:

BEST NOVEL: Among Others by Jo Walton (Tor)

BEST NOVELLA: “The Man Who Bridged the Mist” by Kij Johnson (Asimov’s, September/October 2011)

BEST NOVELETTE: “Six Months, Three Days” by Charlie Jane Anders (Tor.com)

BEST SHORT STORY: “The Paper Menagerie” by Ken Liu (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, March/April 2011)

BEST RELATED WORK: The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, Third Edition edited by John Clute, David Langford, Peter Nicholls, and Graham Sleight (Gollancz)

BEST GRAPHIC STORY: Digger by Ursula Vernon (Sofawolf Press)

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION, LONG FORM: Game of Thrones (Season 1) (HBO)

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION, SHORT FORM: “The Doctor’s Wife” (Doctor Who) (BBC Wales)

Neil Gaiman conformed that he is working on another script for Doctor Who: “Only a fool or a madman would try to do it again… so I’m on the third draft”

Please Share

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

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

The Guardian discussed the new season with Steven Moffat:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moffat also kept open the possibility of a female Doctor:

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

Moffat answers more questions here.


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

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

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

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

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

Trailer for Person of Interest above.

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

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

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

Please Share