SciFi Weekend: New and Returning Shows For 2016, And Other Genre News

There has been a reduced television schedule so far this year, (giving me time to watch the second seasons of Catastrophe, Mozart In the Jungle, and Tranparent), but many shows are starting or coming back soon. Blastr has a list of nine science fiction shows premiering in January. I have already discussed Legends of Tomorrow and the revival of  X-Files several times in the past. The trailer for Legends of Tomorrow,which premieres on CW on Januray 21 is above.  ScreenRant discussed Sara  Lance’s mental state on the new series with Caity Lotz.

As for the three shows I mentioned watching above, Catastrophe‘s second season was broadcast in the U.K. on Channel 4 late last year but is not availably yet on Amazon, while the second seasons of the other two shows recently became available. The first season of Catastrophe, which I ranked as the best new comedy of 2015, is available on Amazon.

Getting back to the science fiction shows premiering this month, I have heard some favorable buzz for The Shannara Chronicles which began on January 5 on MTV. Nerdist interviewed the executive producer, Miles Millar. Other shows on the list which have received the most interest so far have been The Magicians (with Syfy streaming the pilot early) and Colony (with initial reviews being better for the first). Initial buzz has been negative for Second Chance, and there are questions as to whether Lucifer can make it on a major network.

There will be many additional genre shows premiering later in the year, along with the return of other shows. What Culture has a list of original shows appearing on Netflix this year, including Daredevil, which returns on March 18 (trailer above).

Supergirl returned last week, resolving the cliff hanger of Cat figuring out her secret identity just as I predicted last Sunday.

Sherlock returned for a single episode,The Abominable Bride, on New Year’s day. Those of us expecting a self-contained story in Victorian times were surprised by what was actually done with the episode and how it actually played into last  season’s cliffhanger.

ABC has ordered a pilot for the Agents of SHIELD spinoff, Marvel’s Most Wanted. The series will center on Bobbi Morse (Adrianne Palicki) and Lance Hunter (Nick Blood).

Among the shows I’m most interested in seeing, 11.22.63 premiers on Hulu on February 15, with new episodes being released weekly as opposed to all episodes being released at the same time as on Netflix and Amazon. (Trailer above.) There will be some changes from the Stephen King novel. More here and here, plus J.J. Abrams also addressed the controversy over the female lead in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (reviewed here) being left out of the Star Wars themed Monopoly game.

In my review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens I noted how the novelization has filled in some plot holes. Mashable has more from the novelization. In addition, the script has been released which also provides further explanation of some plot points.

"YHWH" -- Finch (Michael Emerson, left) and Root (Amy Acker, right) race to save The Machine, which has been located by the rival AI, Samaritan, while Reese is caught in the middle of the final showdown between rival crime bosses Elias and Dominic, on the fourth season finale of PERSON OF INTEREST, Tuesday, May 5 (10:01-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Giovanni Rufino/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. © 2015 WBEI. All rights reserved.

J.J. Abrams also says that Person of Interest will probably end after this season, which is no surprise considering how it is receiving a reduced thirteen episode run and has not made the schedule for this season yet. As long as it ends well this season, that is fine with me. The show gradually changed over time from primarily a procedural show to a true science fiction show, and it is better to have it end well as a great genre show as opposed to continuing indefinitely as a typical CBS procedural.

Like Person of Interest reinvented itself this year, Blacklist has also been considerably different from how it began. It was also off to an excellent start in this week’s episode. Unfortunately I don’t know  how much longer they can continue this storyline for.

The trailer above shows how the second season of Outlander will be much different from the first when it returns in April.

While not genre, another show of interest, Love, from Judd Apatow and staring Gillian Jacobs of Community will be released by Netflix on February 19.

HBO has renewed Girls for a sixth and final season. The fifth season begins on February 21.

Sundance has renewed Rectify for a fourth and final season.

Better Call Saul returns for its second season on February 15. Trailer above.

12 Monkeys will return on April 18 on Syfy.

Besides all the speculation as to the fate of Felicity, there have been rumors that Stephen Amell would leave Arrow, presumably ending the series, in the next year or two. Amell responded by saying his contract runs through 2019 (which doesn’t guarantee that CW will continue the show that long).

Laura Dern has been added to the cast of Showtime’s revival of Twin Peaks. While her role has not been announced, there have been rumors that she might play Special Agent Dale Cooper’s previously unseen secretary, Diane. The cast also includes Kyle MacLachlan, Sheryl Lee, Sherilyn Fenn,  Jennifer Jason Leigh, Robert Knepper, Balthazar Getty and Amanda Seyfried. The first three were from the original cast.

Coal Hill School

Class, the Doctor Who spinoff from BBC Three taking place at Coal Hill School, will also be available on BBC America sometime in 2016, but no date has been set yet.

Doctor Who has made the short list for the National Television Awards in the Drama category. It is up against Downton Abbey, Broadchurch, and a show I am not familiar with named Casualty. Humans is among the nominees for New Drama. Downton Abbey has completed its run in the U.K. (doing a good job of concluding the series) and has resumed in the United States.

BBC America is also working on a new television adaptation of Douglas Adams’ Dirk Gently series.

There is now hope that Parenthood will return in some form, with Jason Katims being inspired by the movie Boyhood to return to the lives of the major characters over time. (Review of the finale here). It is interesting that two of the shows which might return in such a manner both star Lauren Graham, with a revival of Gilmore Girls now being filmed. Katims made it sound unlikely that the rumored follow up of his other show, Friday Night Lights, will return.

Yahoo Screen has been discontinued, making it even less likely that Community will ever return.

Sylvester Stallone discussed running for office and Donald Trump with Variety.

Update: News came in overnight that David Bowie died of cancer. The New York Times reports:

David Bowie, the infinitely changeable, fiercely forward-looking songwriter who taught generations of musicians about the power of drama, images and personas, died on Sunday, two days after his 69th birthday.

Mr. Bowie’s death was confirmed by his publicist, Steve Martin, on Monday morning.

He died after having cancer for 18 months, according to a statement on Mr. Bowie’s social-media accounts.

“David Bowie died peacefully today surrounded by his family,” a post on his Facebook page read.

His last album, “Blackstar,” a collaboration with a jazz quartet that was typically enigmatic and exploratory, was released on Friday — his birthday. He was to be honored with a concert at Carnegie Hall on March 31 featuring the Roots, Cyndi Lauper and the Mountain Goats.

Following is a video of David Bowie’s Space Oddity, recorded by Commander Chris Hadfield on board the International Space Station in 2014:

SciFi Weekend: The Top 20 New Shows of 2015

Once again, as I did last year, I’m concentrating, I’m concentrating on the top new shows of the past year (but will include some comments on returning shows below). This is for a few reasons:

  • Not having the time to devote professional time to television as professional television critics do, there are many shows I have not watched purely due to lack of time. Limiting to a single year reduces the impact of this.
  • Limiting to new shows eliminates the problem in many “best of” lists of including the same shows every year.
  • Talking about new shows could be of greater value. It is more likely that readers know about the top shows which have been on for the last several years, but might not be aware of some of the shows which started more recently.
  • If readers are inspired to catch up on a show from a list such as this, it is far more practical to catch up after one season than several. I know this from personal experience. This is why I cannot say much about the series finale of Justified, which has received great reviews, as I’m years behind. It was much easier to catch up on Manhattan and The 100 after missing the first season, allowing me to say more about them below.

Besides being limited to shows I have watched, this is also biased towards genre shows. Therefore, what might be the year’s biggest hit among new shows, Empire, is excluded from consideration on both counts. Rankings are also quite arbitrary, and some shows could easily be a few spots higher or lower if I were to redo this fifteen minutes later. Still, this gives a general idea of which I consider among the best as compared to those ranked lower. It is a sign of the increased number of good shows coming out, partially due to the increased influence of steaming video along with cable, that I have expanded from a top fifteen list last year to a top 20 list this year.

Top 20 New Shows Of 2015

Last Man On EarthCa

20. Last Man on Earth (ABC)

This would have ranked far higher if it could have maintained the quality of its original premiere, but adding new characters just led to it devolving into a number of more standard sitcom tropes. Still, while many gave up on the show, I continued to have interest in the first season finale and into the second season.

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19. Childhood’s End (Syfy)

Adapting a novel from Arthur C. Clarke seemed like a sure winner, but there were problems I didn’t expect from doing this until I viewed the miniseries. It seemed far more dated in 2015 compared to when I read the novel in the 1960’s now that we have seen so many shows with alien visitation to earth. This story worked out much better as a novel as they could not capture important aspects of the story, including the magnitude of the ending, on television as compared to in prose. The show also failed to make the new world created in the miniseries seem believable, compared to the far better adaptations in a couple of other shows listed below. We heard about all the changes on earth, but rarely saw them, and what we did seem, such as mankind giving up science, didn’t seem believable.

Togetherness

18. Togetherness (HBO)

An excellent sitcom showing how cable and streaming have replaced the “must watch TV” from NBC and the other broadcast networks.

The Expanse

17.The Expanse (Syfy)

Syfy returns to space, with a mystery and quite a bit of world building in the series based upon the novels by James S. A. Corey. I have only seen the first two episodes so far, so my opinion of the show could change once I see more. It was just recently renewed for a second season.

Fresh off the Boat

16. Fresh Off The Boat (ABC)

Both Blackish last year and Fresh Off The Boat this year offer new variations on Modern Family. Constance Wu makes the show.

Casual

15. Casual (Hulu)

Yet another twist on a family sitcom, done far better by Hulu than the networks.

12Monkeys

14. 12 Monkeys (Syfy)

A time travel show which took aspects from the movie, but improved upon them for a weekly series. The series did an excellent job of building on its mythology, providing surprises, and moving in a new direction in the season finale.

Programme Name: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell - TX: n/a - Episode: Ep2 (No. 2) - Picture Shows: Mr Norrell (EDDIE MARSAN) - (C) JSMN Ltd - Photographer: Matt Squire

13. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell (BBC One/BBC America)

An excellent adaptation of Susanna Clarke’s novel, making a world in which magic exists seem real.

Supergirl-TV-Show-Actress-Melissa-Benoist

12. Supergirl (CBS)

Another show from the produces of Arrow and The Flash, with his being much closer to The Flash in style. The show had an excellent pilot, but for a while seemed like a weaker version of The Flash. It started getting more interesting toward the end of the fall season as the show had an opportunity to develop. Spoilers ahead: Major events before the hiatus included the revelation that Hank Henshaw is the Martian Manhunter. Calista Flockhart is excellent as Cat Grant, but considering her profession can she be trusted now that she figured out Supergirl’s secret identity? So far Supergirl doesn’t know about Hank, but it is inevitable that she learns who he is. A shape shifter could be useful to show both Supergirl and Kara in the same place to fool Cat.

Sense8 Will and Riley

11. Sense 8 (Netflix)

A very ambitious show, which took time to develop its story, but well worth the wait. Enjoy the scenery from around the world while trying to figure it out in the early episodes.

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10. Agent Carter (ABC)

This shows how much better a network show can be when limited to a single eight-episode story.  Maybe that is why it is the only network show which cracked the top ten. Of course a network still could not compete with streaming when entering the Marvel universe.

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9. The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)

This shows how the networks have surrendered quality sitcoms to streaming and cable. The show was originally produced by Tina Fey for NBC, but they passed on it and it was picked up by Netflix. It will be interesting to see if the show is even better when the second season is produced, knowing it will appear on Netflix rather than NBC.

Daredevil Matt and Karen

8. Daredevil (Netflix)

The first of a series of shows from the Marvel universe. Dardevil was darker, grittier, and more violent than any of the superhero shows before this. The series also took advantage of the streaming medium, often telling a continuous story, but sometimes including a more conventional single episode on a specific topic (which was still part of the greater story for the season).

Master of None

7. Master of None (Netflix)

Aziz Ansari shows how good a comedy could be on what I bet is a low budget if there is excellent writing. Besides comparisons to his character on Parks and Recreation, the show is often compared to Louie. I also see a lot of early Seinfeld in it.

Catastrophe

6. Catastrophe (Channel 4/Amazon)

The British show, also made available in the United States from Amazon Prime, was the best new sitcom of the year. It was this year’s, You’re The Worst, with Sharon Horgan playing what felt like could be an older version of Aya Cash’s chacter, and the nationalities of Jimmy and Gretchen’s nationalities reversed.

Man In The High Castle Poster

5. Man In The High Castle (Amazon)

While changes were made for the new version, Man In The High Castle was an excellent adaptation of the Philip K. Dick novel, providing a realistic look at what could have happened if Germany and Japan had won World War II and occupied the United States. Changes were made in some characters, and there were plot differences to turn this into an ongoing series. Hitler remaining alive in the 1960’s provides for a difference in the politics. Instead of a book with an alternate history in which the Allies won, using film reels worked better on television. While the main storyline was tied up, the finale raised new questions, making me very happy that it was renewed. Spoilers ahead: As happened earlier in the book, the finale did show a character crossing over into an alternate universe looking like ours, partially explaining the meaning of those news reels. I still have a lot of questions about them, and if the book gave any further hints, I read it too long ago to remember. The finale did wrap up the major storyline and led to an unexpected character living in a “high castle” who was interested in the news reels. Is he really the title character, and how is he connected to the films?

Humans

4. Humans (Channel 4/AMC)

Yet another British import on this list which was also shown in the United States presented a look at how robots (Synths) could change our society, along with a thriller storyline involving a small group of  Synths which were more than they seemed. I’m not sure if the second season could be as strong as the first now that all the secrets have been revealed, but they definitely left matters open to continue the story.

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

3. Mr. Robot (USA)

A cyber-thriller which is totally different from what anyone would expect from a show on USA. The show gave a lot of hints about one element which was not confirmed until later in the season, but still came up with surprises along the way. The season finale also left room for a lot more.

Better Call Saul

2. Better Call Saul (AMC)

Better Call Saul greatly exceeded expectations, standing on its own in addition to being a prequel series to one of the greatest television series of all time, Breaking Bad.

Jessica Jones

1. Jessica Jones (Netflix)

Netflix exceeded what was accomplished on Daredevil with Jessica Jones, staring Kristin Ritter in the title role. The series, even more than Daredevil, was like a single long movie, with only brief breaks in the narrative to fill in viewers on the back stories of the major characters. This works as a stand alone story, but also has references to The Avengers, a character from Daredevil, and sets up future shows, especially Luke Cage.

Spoilers ahead. The show did so many things well.  While many super hero stories suffer from trying to create yet a bigger danger to the entire world to fight, Jessica Jones was a personal story between Jessica and the villain, with David Tennant doing a fantastic job playing Kilgrave. Without their powers, this is essentially the story of an abused woman who once again confronts the man who abused her. Add on the super powers, and it becomes a story of a man who can have whatever he wants and does not understand why Jessica does not love him when he is nice to her.

Most of the supporting cast was also excellent, including Mike Colter as Luke Cage and Rachel Taylor as Trish Walker. One neighbor initially seemed to be a stereotypical drug addict, but turned into a significant figure. The brother and sister also living in the same building were the weakest characters, but the sister was useful to allow Kilgrave to escape. The length of the story did require a series of  near-captures, captures, and escapes. Plus it was necessary to change the situation so that the ending could take place, when earlier Jessica had reason to not only capture Kilgrave alive, but provide proof of his powers.

Honorable Mention

Grace and Frankie Season 1 netflix handout .... Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin in the Netflix Original Series "Grace and Frankie". Photo by Melissa Moseley for Netflix.Ê

Grace and Frankie (Netflix) Any show staring Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Martin Sheen, and Sam Waterston has to be good, even if some of other new sitcoms were more consistent.

Blindspot (NBC) A fascinating premise made the early shows feel like something unique from network drama, but far too often it is just a gimmick to introduce the case of the week. Whether the show becomes a great will depend on whether the underlying mystery of the show remains compelling. Also on NBC, Blacklist almost felt like a new show with Lizzie now on the run, reminiscent of how Person of Interest evolved into more of a genre show last year on CBS.

Limitless (CBS) A lighter genre show which shows potential to be entertaining, but I doubt will rise to greatness.

Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp (Netflix) A prequel to the movie.

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (CBS) and The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore (Comedy Central) were two excellent additions to light night television, a genre which I arbitrarily left out of the rankings. They help make up for the loss of David Letterman and Jon Stewart. I haven’t actually watched much of Larry Wilmore but he has been hilarious when I’ve seen clips. I’m looking forward to seeing him host the White House Correspondents’ dinner.

The Republican Debates have become an amusing reality show, featuring reality television star Donald Trump. His previous reality show had a similar format in gradually eliminating candidates vying for a job.

Besides the above changes on late night television,  this year marked the end of many excellent shows including Mad Men, Parks and Recreation, Hannibal, Parenthood, Continuum, and Justified. Downton Abbey concluded in the UK with the Christmas special, but the final season is just now beginning in the United States. (No spoilers, but the series ended well).

Last year I left out some shows only because I had not had a chance to see them yet. These included The 100 (CW) and Manhattan (WGN). These turned out to both be extremely high quality shows. and both would have made the top five if I had seen them when compiling last year’s list.

Among shows I’ve heard excellent things about, and very well might deserve to be ranked among the top shows but I have not had a chance to see so far are Narcos (Netflix), Wolf Hall (BBC Two/PBS), and The Jinx (HBO). While not as critically acclaimed, I have received a plug for another genre show, Wayward Pines (Fox).

SciFi Weekend: Star Wars, The Force Awakens; Doctor Who, The Husbands of River Song

Star Wars Force Awkens Rey BB-8

The Force Awakens was the sequel to Star Wars we were looking for after the original trilogy. While J.J. Abrams has never understood Star Trek, he is a perfect fit for a franchise such as Star Wars which centers more on action and mythology than the type of ideas which characterize Star Trek when done well.  Rather than rejecting parts of of the original as with Star Trek, J.J. Abrams made a sequel to Star Wars which was a true homage to Star Wars: A New Hope. The movie has many parallels to the original, but does introduce a new generation of characters and mix things up enough to keep it fresh.  It avoided the mistakes of the second trilogy. There was no Jar Jar Banks, and it presented a cuter version of R2-D2 for a new generation. This review contains major spoilers, along with looking at some of the questions left unanswered in the movie.

In many ways, The Force Awakens was a retelling of the original story for a new generation. Both The Force Awakens and A New Hope have much of the early action on a desert planet with a droid carrying important information playing a major part. Therefore it did not came as a surprise that the escape was on The Millennium Falcon. Having it sitting there unused for years but all fueled up and ready to fly is just one of many plot holes which are easily ignored. Nor was it a surprise that Han Solo showed up. Many of the scenes on The Millennium Falcon felt quite familiar. Rather than repeating one classic scene, Harrison Ford did provide another reference to the original when asking about a garage chute.

The biggest surprise of the movie was that Rey turned out to be the character with the Force. We saw this when Rey found Luke’s lightsaber at Maz’s watering hole (reminiscent of the Cantina scene), with no explanation of why it was there. The producers did an excellent job of keeping this secret, such as showing the rare scenes in which Finn held the lightsaber in previews and posters.The experience would have been quite different if the previews showed the battle between Rey and Kylo Ren, or showed Rey holding out the lightsaber for Luke at the end.

Once we learned that Rey was really the main character with the Force, her path in the movie became clear. She would fight the movie’s villain, be tempted by and resist the dark side, and ultimately find Luke–after this movie’s version of the Death Star was destroyed (including flights through the trenches).

Once we saw the bridge in this part of the universe where hand rails have never been invented, it was also obvious that Han Solo would reprise Obi Wan Kenobe’s death scene. J.J. Abrams explained that this was also done to establish how evil  Kylo Ren was so that he could be at the level of a Darth Vader. Of course moments later in the movie R2-D2 woke up, so that viewers wouldn’t be sad for too long.

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The movie introduced other characters. One of the new characters, Poe, was intended to die but instead he turned up later in the movie. This isn’t the first time that Abrams planned to kill a character who seemed like a major character and later changed his mind. The original plan was to for Jack to be killed on Lost. While it might have been a surprise to see him later in the movie, most genre fans know that if you don’t see the body, the character most likely isn’t dead. I would have preferred it if there were brief scenes of Poe surviving but getting separated, and showing how he escaped from the planet.

Abrams also repeated an error he made in Star Trek in ignoring how big space is. The Enterprise seemed to travel from Vulcan to Earth in minutes, and in the alternate universe it is possible to beam by transwarp onto a starship traveling at many times the speed of light. The hyperlight weapon in The Force Awakens seems implausible, undoubtedly as a result of a desire to have a weapon even more powerful that the Death Star. The weapon was capable of destroying four distant planets as if they were nearby, with the four planets also appearing to be very close to each other.

The politics of the movie was also puzzling. It looked like we had a civil war between the Republic and the First Order. If that was the case, why weren’t the forces under Leia’s command the military for the Republic, as opposed to a rebel group? While I’ve seen explanations on line such as a peace treaty between the Republic and the First Order which made it necessary for the Republic to hide their actions against the First Order, the meta reason is most likely to be reminiscent of the rebel forces in the original trilogy. I suspect that having had its capital and a few other planets destroyed, we won’t see much more of the Republic, except possibly at the conclusion.

If a big moment in the second movie of the first trilogy was Darth Vader telling Luke that he was his father, I wonder if the second movie of this trilogy will be Luke saying the same to Rey. While I think that this is the most likely reason for Rey having the force, there are other possibilities. Maybe Leia is her mother, making Ren her brother, but this would require an explanation for Leia giving no indication of knowing about a daughter. Possibly Rey is descended from Obi Wan Kenobe. This could also explain the connection with the lightsabre as Luke’s lightsaber previously belonged to Obi Wan.

Another theory is that Ren’s parents are not from the characters we know. In The Empire Strikes Back, after Luke completed his training under Yoda, Obi Wan said , “This boy is our last hope.” Yoda replied, “No, there is another.” It was assumed he was referring to Leia, but she was never trained in the Force. Perhaps Yoda was referring to someone else that we do not yet know about.

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There are many other questions raised, some of which will probably be answered in subsequent movies. Others might be plot holes which there is no good reason for, but the movie was so much fun that most viewers won’t care. Some elements of the movie were taken from plot points in the expanded universe which was invented after the movies, which should give fans a lot to speculate on. The novelization for The Force Awakens also fills in some points.

The Daily Dot listed ten things learned from the novelization. Among the most interesting are the description of Kylo Ren’s feelings about killing his father:

In the movie, it isn’t clear what’s going through Kylo’s mind after he stabs his father through the chest with his lightsaber. The scene quickly shifts gears, and Kylo, wounded by a shot from an enraged Chewbacca, snarls up at Finn and Rey from a crouched position before the two heroes flee.

In the novelization, Kylo feels “stunned by his own action.”

“Following through on the act,” the narration says, “ought to have made him stronger, a part of him believed. Instead, he found himself weakened.”

Foster wrote the novelization based on a version of the script that later underwent significant revisions. It’s possible that the discrepancy between page and screen here is not a casual inconsistency but a deliberate choice—that J.J. Abrams and company didn’t want to suggest that Kylo felt conflicted after the fact. Of course, given how difficult it is to visually convey an internal monologue, it’s also possible that this moment wasn’t so much deliberate struck as overlooked for simplicity’s sake.

Rey’s battle with the dark side was more obvious in the novelization than the movie:

Rey’s triumph over Kylo in their lightsaber duel is widely considered one of the film’s greatest moments. But what you don’t fully see on-screen is that, standing over a defeated Kylo, Rey faces a final challenge. The novelization portrays it thusly:

Kill him, a voice inside her head said. It was amorphous, unidentifiable, raw. Pure vengeful emotion. So easy, she told herself. So quick.
Instead of killing Kylo, Rey “recoil[s]” from the feeling, which the narration describes as the pull of the dark side.

This is a very significant moment. Every Force-strong Star Wars hero faces this kind of challenge. When the narration refers to “pure vengeful emotion,” it’s important to remember that part of what drove Rey was seeing Kylo brutally defeat her new friend Finn. She had just seen Kylo deal Finn what might have been a killing blow. She was no doubt furious in that moment—the perfect target for the lure of the dark side.

This is, in essence, the dark side’s modus operandi. It’s how Anakin Skywalker began his fall in Attack of the Clones, when he slaughtered a village full of Tusken Raiders after they kidnapped his mother, who died in his arms.

But Rey, like Luke, is stronger than Anakin. She resists the urge to deliver her own killing blow. In the movie, a chasm quickly opens up between her and her vanquished foe, appearing to foreclose the possibility of her killing him. In the novelization, she makes her choice before that happens. She runs to Finn, to her friend, instead of yielding to her rage. In refusing the dark side, she has just taken the biggest step of her life.

I will be looking forward to seeing where they go with the next installment. It might be difficult to top the Starkiller base, and I hope they are not tempted to come up with a more implausible threat.  The answer might be to concentrate more on the characters now that The Force Awakens has made them important to the viewers. Will Luke have a more significant role? Presumably we will learn more about Ren’s back story, and possibly more about Snoke, assuming he remains a factor.

Doctor Who Husbands of River Song

Christmas also meant the annual specials from British television. This year’s specials included Doctor Who, Call the Midwife, and Downton Abbey. The Downton Abbey special was also the series finale, and therefore I will not give any spoilers for those who are waiting for the US showing of the final season. I wills say that they ended the series quite well.

The Doctor Who Christmas Special, the Husbands of River Song, was a very fun episode. The actual story hardly mattered. What was important was that it set up the situation where the Doctor met River Song with a different face that she knew, with River not recognizing the Doctor at first. This provided the Doctor a chance to act like those who see the inside of the TARDIS for the first time, and Peter Capaldi really hammed it up:

River: Oh, before you come in, you’d better prepare yourself for a shock. It’s not as… snug as it looks.
The Doctor:Finally… It’s my go. Oh… my… God! It’s bigger!

River: Well, yes.

The Doctor: On the inside!
River: We need to concentrate.
The Doctor: Than it is!
River: I know where you’re going with this, but I need you to calm down.
The Doctor: On the outside!
River: You’ve certainly grasped the essentials.
The Doctor: My entire understanding of physical space has been transformed! Three-dimensional Euclidean geometry has been torn up, thrown in the air and snogged to death! My grasp of the universal constants of physical reality has been changed… forever. Sorry. I’ve always wanted to see that done properly.
River: Would you like a drink? Aldebaran brandy. Help yourself, but don’t tell Dad.
This also allowed River to describe her relationship with the Doctor, more than once. First, someone looking for the Doctor questioned River, having identified her as “the woman who loves the Doctor.”
River: Yes, I am. I’ve never denied it. But whoever said he loved me back? He’s the Doctor, he doesn’t go around falling in love with people. And if you think he’s anything that small or that ordinary, then you haven’t the first idea of what you’re dealing with.
Doctor Who Husbands of River Song2
River discussed their relationship once again, when they were in danger, just before the Doctor revealed his identity:
River: When you love the Doctor, it’s like loving the stars themselves. You don’t expect a sunset to admire you back. And if I happen to find myself in danger, let me tell you, the Doctor is not stupid enough, or sentimental enough, and he is certainly not in love enough to find himself standing in it with me!
The Doctor: Hello, sweetie.
Another of my favorite exchanges between the two when in danger:
River: Does sarcasm help?
The Doctor: Wouldn’t it be a great universe if it did?
The dangers in this episode were handled, but we know there are other dangers ahead for River Song. She had a feeling for this when she saw how little room was left in her diary and noted, “The man who gave me this was the sort of man who would know exactly how long a diary you were going to need.”

The Singing Towers of Darillium was established as the location for their last night together when in 2008 in Forest of the Dead. However things were not as bad as they looked, even if this is truly their last night together before River met a younger Doctor in the library:

River: So… assuming tonight is all we have left…
The Doctor: I didn’t say that.
River: .. how long… is a night on Darillium?
The Doctor: 24 years.
River: ( gasps ) I hate you.
The Doctor: No, you don’t.

Doctor Who Extra videos can be seen here.

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who; Limitless; Supergirl; Gotham; You’re The Worst; Alison Brie; Continuum

Doctor Who Missy and Clara

Doctor Who returned with The Magician’s Apprentice. Does this mean that the Doctor is the Magician and Clara the Apprentice? This was a true Moffat episode, including both the strengths and weaknesses which that implies. The strengths include dealing with big issues, and a strong connection to the history of Doctor Who. The episode returns to the question raised in the classic 1975 episode, Genesis of the Daleks: “If someone who knew the future, pointed out a child to you, and told you that that child would grow up totally evil, be a ruthless dictator who would destroy millions of lives, could you then kill that child?”

The episode started with a child endangered by a war. The Doctor appeared to try to save him, with the advice, “Your chances of survival are about one in a thousand. So heres what you do, you forget about the thousand and concentrate on the one.” Then, before trying to save him, the Doctor asked his name. “Davros. My name is Davros.” Davros, the creator of the Daleks

From the start we saw another characteristic of a Moffat episode–many interesting ideas thrown in. Davros was threatened by the hand mines. When there was an effort later to get Clara’s attention, it was done by stopping planes in the air–a simple time trick from Missy, who is not dead as appeared last season: “Not dead. Back. Big surprise. Never mind.” This led to a quick scene with Clara at UNIT, meeting with Kate Lethbridge-Stewart, and then the actual meeting between Clara and Missy.

The season began somewhat similar to how last season did, with the Doctor not around. It also felt like a repeat of an old theme with the Doctor preparing for his death, with the added twist this time of the Doctor sending Missy his confession dial, the Last Will and Testament of the Doctor. He hosted a rock party and, without regard to how it might change human history, “I’ve also introduced the word ‘dude’ several centuries early.”

Missy’s role was never entirely clear, other than for the Moffat tendency to try to find a way to bring back favorite ideas from previous episodes. It did make little sense for the Doctor to walk into such an obvious trap. If he did not see it himself, he even had his frenemy Missy to warn him, noting “I know traps. Traps are my flirting.” She was a little upset to find that she was not the Doctor’s number one enemy:

The Doctor: “Now, explain. Politely. Davros is my archenemy. Why would I want to talk to him?”
Missy: “No, wait, hang on a minute. Davros is your archenemy now?”
The Doctor: “Hush.”
Missy: “Not as much as I am.”

But the Doctor did walk into the trap, and apparently saw the death of both Clara and Missy, along with the destruction of the TARDIS. Of course there was never any question as to whether it would really end this way. If Davros is killing the Doctor’s friends (or friend and favorite enemy) because of remembering how the Doctor did not save him, this leaves two options. He could return to save him, or could make sure Davros did not survive.

I suspect that there is more Moffat misdirection, but the episode ended with the impression that the Doctor did go back time to make certain that Davros died. Or maybe he exterminates the hand mines. In the final scene, the Doctor again appeared in the hand mine field. “I’m from the future.” He then said to young Davros, “I’m gonna save my friend the only way I can: Exterminate!”

We will have to wait until next week to see how this really turns out, with Moffat mixed in providing satisfactory conclusions to the set-ups in two-part stories. Two part stories area also reportedly to become the norm this season. There will be twelve episodes and then a Christmas episode which includes the return of River Song.

Doctor Who Daleks Abbey Road

The return of Doctor Who was a major event. My favorite publicity picture is the one above with the Doctor and Clara along with two Daleks replacing The Beatles on Abbey Road. Steven Moffat discussed the entire season with Radio Times, possibly providing too many spoilers. Just like last year there were rumors that Jenna Coleman would be leaving the show, ultimately with confirmation that this will be her last season. There are also two Doctor Who Extra videos for this week’s episode which can be viewed here.

Supergirl

CBS made the pilot for Limitless available through there All Access service, and in this day and age that means a copy was quickly available all over the web. The pilot was enjoyable in setting up the series, essentially being an origin story for someone with superpowers. From here I fear that it might drift into a typical CBS procedural, with the setup for that type of storyline contained in the pilot. Maybe we will be pleasantly surprised, like with Person of Interest. While the pilot does appear to set up a procedural, it also left open questions about the drug which gave the protagonist his powers.

Originally reports also suggested that Supergirl would be more of a CBS procedural also, however watching its pilot (which leaked out weeks ago) it appears to be more similar to The Flash, with Supergirl having super-enemies who escaped from Krypton similar to the metahumans who provide conflict for Barry Allen. Pictures of the Red Tornado were also recently released, further suggesting that the show is headed in the direction of fighting super-powered foes.

Season two of Gotham will be a more serialized story, and it sounds from this interview like they might have fixed some of the problems with the first season.

The second episode of You’re The Worst, Crevasses, showed dilemmas including Jimmy and Gretchen having to make their own Bloody Mary’s when Edgar was out with Lindsay. Most important discovery of the episode: Jimmy’s kitchen has a Bloody Mary drawer.

Alison Brie of Community and Mad Men will be staring in  Julian Fellowes’ first  post-Downton Abbey show for ITV, a television adaptation of Anthony Trollope’s Doctor Thorne.

It is hard to believe that Continuum is half over, with three episodes having already aired on Showcase (two shown in the United States). I will avoid any spoilers for those who have only seen the first two episodes. It should be no spoiler to note that the questions I had after the first two remain after watching the third, even if the third did advance the storyline more than the first two episodes did. As is usual for Continuum, finding out a little more information often leads to even more questions.

The first episode included a scene which was later revealed to be a simulation created by Kiera’s  CMR after she was knocked unconscious. Kiera felt as though she woke up in 2080 after spending three years in a medically-induced coma after the explosion which actually sent her back in time. Kiera saw her family, and afterwards had regained the desire to return home. (I suspect this came about here due to the need to condense the series and wrap it up this year–otherwise I suspect Kiera might not have regained this interest until later in the series). This raises a huge question after seeing how the future changed after Kellogg had taken control of Piron.

If the future has changed, how does Kiera think she can return home? While not explicitly stated, does this mean she intends first to correct the time line? Is she envisioning a means of returning to one of multiple possible time lines? It is also hard to believe she will just consider her job done when the Time Marines are running around in the present. There is also the question  of what is their goal, and how this will affect the future. It is apparently only need to know for Brad, and we do not know if the soldiers returned from just after Brad left, from a time later on when things have changed, changing the mission, or if this is even the same exact timeline Brad came back from.

Kellogg should also have questions about the soldiers which his future self sent back. The Kellogg of the present would much rather live in luxury as a corporate CEO than become a future warlord. Everyone should wonder what Curtis is up to, as he might know more than anyone else, but appears to be playing each side off each other.

In other events of interest, Dillon is somehow still alive, and now working for Piron. We have seen since the start of this series that alliances change, and I would not write him off as one of the bad guys yet. Poor Emily has both been kidnapped, and after escaping being told she is not the mother of Alec’s son, leading her to pack up and leave. I’m not sure that it makes sense for her to expect to be Jason’s mother considering how the timeline has changed since Jason traveled back in time, and how in the original timeline she was killed. The whole point of Emily’s character is that she might keep Alec from turning out to be how we have seen his future self.

If you are watching the episodes as presented in the United States, you might feel that too little has happened so far, considering how close we are to the end of the series. The action does pick up in the third episode, but it certainly feels like there is far too much to fit into only three more episodes.

SciFi Weekend: The Americans; The Flash; Arrow; Agents of SHIELD; Doctor Who (The Doctor Dates Cinderella); 12 Monkeys; Big Bang Theory; Two And A Half Men Finale; Mad Men In The 70’s; Orphan Black; Kristen Bell; If Ayn Rand Wrote Harry Potter; Birdman Parody; Politics And The Oscars

The Americans Nina Gulag

One of the things which makes The Americans one of the top television shows now on is the manner in which several story lines involving different characters are carried out so well. Whether or not the different story lines become intertwined, one storyline often has lessons for another. On Dimebag, while Elizabeth and Phillip fought over whether Paige should become a spy, neither seemed to have thought that if Paige had been trained they could have used her to get information from Kimberly, the young daughter of the CIA’s Afghan group, instead of Phillip seducing her. Neither realized initially the degree to which they were in danger of losing Paige to her church–hardly acceptable if she were to be a good Communist. There is some similarity to how Pastor Tim is “recruiting” Paige to how Phillip is using Kimberly and the Russians want them to recruit Paige. Meanwhile in Russian, Nina might be saved due to Oleg’s family relationship to the future Russian oligarchs, and she went to work on her cell mate as Elizabeth would work on getting information. On top of this, the episode included a defector who might be double crossing them, an EST meeting, and a visit with an AA sponsor.

Keri Russell discussed the relationships with her character’s daughter and mother this season, and described the scene earlier this season in which Annelise’s body was packed into a suitcase:

IGN: I have to ask about that second episode and the scene of having to get rid of the body in that hotel room. First of all, there’s the “Oh my god!” of it all. And then also is it interesting for you to play a character who already had to compartmentalize everything, but this is a woman that her husband was sleeping with as a part of the job, and now she has the reality of that in front of her?

Russell: All I have to say is so many naked girls! Naked, beautiful actress, naked beautiful contortionist, yeah. Then on a second unit day of reshoots, a second naked beautiful girl. I was like, “There’s a lot of pretty, naked girls on this show!” Yeah, so bizarre! Really gruesome. I haven’t seen it. Does it play?

IGN: Oh yeah, it plays.

Flash Firestorm

Last week The Flash was both a back door pilot for Firestorm and further advanced the idea of time travel for Barry Allen. We saw once again how far Harrison Wells is willing to go, and his motives remain unclear. We should be learning more when the show returns in March.

Also on CW, we saw a reversal on Arrow, as the flashback took place in Starling City while the present day action took place back on the island. It was strange to see Oliver from the period when he was missing back around his home. Seeing Oliver snooping around Queen Consolidated gave the feeling of a time travel story in which a character is in their past but cannot risk being seen.  Meanwhile, on the island, there was a deliberate reference to Star Trek II, The Wrath of Kahn with Slade’s comment, “I’m going to leave you as you left me.”

Agents of SHIELD returns March 3. Marvel has released this synopsis of the episode:

After discovering an alien city with ties to his resurrection, Coulson and his team destroyed it before the forces of Hydra could claim its secrets, eliminating the villainous Whitehall (Reed Diamond) in the process. But new threats to the world have arisen, including Skye’s father, Cal (Kyle McLachlan), who now seeks retribution against Coulson for stealing his revenge against Whitehall; a disturbing alliance between former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Ward (Brett Dalton) and Agent 33; the enigmatic Raina (Ruth Negga), who struggles with her transformation into something inhuman by the alien Obelisk and seeks vengeance; and Skye (Chloe Bennet), who developed mysterious new powers from the Obelisk but whose lack of experience with her new abilities may threaten the safety of those she loves.

Meanwhile, Bobbi (Adrianne Palicki) and Mack (Henry Simmons) begin the next phase of a plan which seems to have grave repercussions for Coulson and his team, who are unaware that there’s another mysterious force moving against them. And as Hunter (Nick Blood) is forced to make the biggest choice of his life, Coulson will find his mission threatened by this shocking endgame.

In the midseason premiere, “Aftershocks,” Coulson’s team must deal with the consequences of their war with Hydra as shocking revelations threaten to tear them apart, and Hydra makes a dangerous move that may involve a traitor in S.H.I.E.L.D.’s midst.

Adrianne Palicki has been promoted to a series regular on Agents of SHIELD, which probably means that Will will not be getting back together with Doctor Sam on About a Boy anytime soon.

Lily James Matt Smith

The Doctor is dating Cinderella–Matt Smith has confirmed that he is dating Lily James. I don’t know if it has occurred yet in the US broadcasts of Downton Abbey so I won’t give any specifics, but I did like her character’s triumph in a late season episode. Of course anything is better than revisiting certain past events yet once again.

In other Doctor Who and related news, The BBC has announced that Michelle Gomez will return as Missy in a two part episode to open the next season of Doctor Who. Add Eve Myles to the list of those interested in another season of Torchwood.

Speaking of Lily James in Cinderella, Ellen DeGeneres has presented a mash-up of Cinderella and Fifty Shades of Grey. Video above.

I thought there was a chance that 12 Monkeys might be able to make it into the upper tier of genre shows with The Night Room last week but The Red Forest couldn’t keep up the same quality this week. Not that it was a bad episode, but it was too easy to fix the timeline when it simply came down to Cassie getting captured in our present, and saving her would fix things. There are still a number of questions raised last week which could provide interesting episodes. Plus they now know how important Cassie’s role is and will make sure that they do not change history involving her, ensuring that she can deliver the message for Cole before she dies.

Amazon has renewed Mozart in the Jungle (which I recommend watching, now about half way through the first season) and is going ahead with the adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle. I have intentionally held off on watching the pilot, preferring to wait until Amazon shows are released in full as opposed to watching the pilot months earlier, but reviews have been excellent for the pilot.

Last week’s episode of The Big Bang Theory seemed to throw far too much into a single episode, including the reopening of Stuart’s comic book store, a cameo by Nathan Fillion, and (the most amusing part of the show), Sheldon telling Penny how Amy was doing experiments on her. Then we learned what the episode was really about–a tribute to Carol Ann Susi, the voice of Mrs. Wolowitz, who died in November. There is a toast to her in the video above, and there is an unseen tribute to her in every episode:

After we had that impromptu memorial the morning she passed away, Johnny and I were hugging—like everybody was—and right then we found our prop person and asked to get a little picture of Carol Ann and we put it on the refrigerator [in Leonard and Sheldon’s kitchen] so she’s there in every episode now. It’s so small you wouldn’t even see it, but on the fridge is this tiny little wallet-size picture of Carol Ann that’s been there since the day she passed away.

It also appears that The Big Bang Theory is so subversive that China doesn’t want its citizens to be able to watch the show.

We are going into the final week of one of the best network sit-coms in recent years, Parks and Recreation. Last week we had the finale of Two And A Half Men, a multi-cam sit-com which over the last twelve years has shown everything wrong with the format. If anyone cares, Chuck Lorre explained his intentions for the finale. There were no apologies to the nation, but at least our great national nightmare is over.

Mad Men 70's

Mad Men enters the 1970’s for its final half-season, and from the music playing in the trailer it might even be doing a time jump to the mid 70’s. After that, I’m looking forward to the inevitable spin-off. Better Call Sally. Just kidding but considering how good Better Call Saul has been so far as a spin-off of Breaking Bad, it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if AMC went that route again.

AMC purchased 49 percent of BBC America, and this has implications for the promotion of the third season of Orphan Black. The show probably has many less viewers than a show of this quality might otherwise have due to not being seen on BBC America. In the hopes of increasing exposure, the third season premiere will be shown on all of AMC’s channels, including AMC, Sundance TV, IFC and We TV. The one problem with this strategy is that Orphan Black is not a good show to come into late. Perhaps they should have been rerunning the first two seasons on some other channels prior to the start of the third season.

Forget any thoughts of John Oliver taking over for Jon Stewart. HBO, perhaps thinking along those lines and wanting to lock him in, has signed Oliver for two more seasons of This Week Tonight, with 35 episodes a year. Meanwhile Jon Stewart, after having to put out new shows daily, near year round, might envy Oliver’s deal.

Kristen Bell has no tolerance for anti-vaxxers, and won’t let them around her children. “It’s a very simple logic: I believe in trusting doctors, not know-it-alls.”

morena_baccarin
Morena Baccarin (of Gotham, Firefly, V, and Homeland) has been cast as the female lead in another superhero adaptation, this time the movie version of Deadpool. I don’t know if this will impact her work on Gotham, but we know that sooner or later Jim Gordon has to get back with Barbara, or else Batgirl will never be born.

BoingBoing has pointed out an example of Harry Potter fan fiction by Mallory Ortberg, written as if it was written by Ayn Rand. Thus there are passages such as, “It’s also why I never water my plants in Herbology. They must learn to survive with or without me. Self-sufficiency is not just a human virtue. It is the highest virtue.”  Plus don’t miss the link to Mallory Ortberg’s reviews of children’s movies as if they were written by Ayn Rand. For example:

“Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”

An industrious young woman neglects to charge for her housekeeping services and is rightly exploited for her naïveté. She dies without ever having sought her own happiness as the highest moral aim. I did not finish watching this movie, finding it impossible to sympathize with the main character. —No stars.

“Bambi”

The biggest and the strongest are the fittest to rule. This is the way things have always been. —Four stars.

“101 Dalmatians”A wealthy woman attempts to do her impoverished school friend Anita a favor by purchasing some of her many dogs and putting them to sensible use. Her generosity is repulsed at every turn, and Anita foolishly and irresponsibly begins acquiring even more animals, none of which are used to make a practical winter coat. Altruism is pointless. So are dogs. A cat is a far more sensible pet. A cat is objectively valuable. —No stars.


Big Bird meets Birdman in the video spoof above. Birdman is considered a heavy favorite to win an Oscar for best movie.

When actors go on stage to accept Oscars tonight, many of them are contributing to the Democrats, and some to the Republicans. The Hill reports:

Democrats are the biggest winners when it comes to raking in political donations from Academy Award nominees.

Some of the Oscars’ most famous contenders — including this year’s hopefuls Reese Witherspoon, Edward Norton, Mark Ruffalo, Bradley Cooper, and Meryl Streep — are delivering big bucks for the left.

Norton plays an egotistical movie star in “Birdman,” — which snagged him a Best Supporting Actor nomination at Sunday’s awards — but the real-life film star is one of Hollywood’s biggest Democratic donor…

Witherspoon, who earned her second Best Actress nomination this year for “Wild,” has also donated generously to Democrats, according to Federal Election Commission records. The 2005 Oscar winner gave $1,500 to Warren’s camp in 2012. She’s also given in excess of $6,000 to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and $1,500 to then-Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.).

While Clint Eastwood, the director behind Best Picture nominee “American Sniper,” is known for his support of Republican candidates — famously delivering his “empty chair speech” at the 2012 Republican National Convention — the film’s star, Bradley Cooper, gave $750 to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential bid. Cooper is vying for Best Actor for his portrayal of real-life Navy SEAL Chris Kyle in the record-breaking movie.

The article later discusses how Democrats often use celebrities in fund raising campaigns while “Republicans have capitalized on conservative celebrity activists by encouraging them to run for office.”

SciFi Weekend Part 1: Doctor Who, Downton Abbey, And Call the Midwife Christmas Specials, Plus Homeland and The Affair Season Finales, The Interview

Doctor Who Last Christmas

This year’s Doctor Who Christmas special, Last Christmas is a “dreamy-weamy”combination of a variety of Steven Moffat tropes and old movies. The early scenes combined elements of Doctor Who episodes such as Blink, Listen, the Silent from The Impossible Astronaut with the Alien movie series. Instead of not blinking, or not being able to see or remember the alien, the challenge was to not look at or think about the alien. Suddenly the strategy fell apart and we had an attack out of Alien, only to saved by Santa and a gang of toys reminiscent of the Toy Story movies. We even learned how Santa fits all those toys on his sleigh, and it should have been obvious: It is bigger on the inside.

Santa was played by Nick Frost who, with the possible exception of Nick Blood on Agents of SHIELD, is the actor with the best name to fit their role. At first Santa tried to hide his identity: “Sorry about this, girl, we are just three passing perfectly ordinary roof people, doing some emergency roof things.” One of the elves pointed out to Santa that his attempts to hide his identity were not that effective: “You know how you grew the beard as a bit of a disguise? People have picked up on it.” Incidentally the other elf was played by Dan Starkey, who also plays Strax.

Moffat did not hide the allusions to other movies. He recognized Alien with this line, spoken by the Doctor (who happens to be an alien): “There’s a horror movie called Alien? That’s really offensive. No wonder everyone keeps invading you.” Moffat has also stated in interviews that the tangerine at the conclusion of the movie is like the walking stick at the end of Miracle on 34th Street.

Doctor Who Last Christmas Dreaming

Following the rescue by Santa and the toys, we found that it was all a dream, and ultimately there were dreams withing dreams, with the episode feeling much like Inception. Of course being a Moffat show it was far less structured than Inception. There were certainly many plot holes in this episode, but being a Christmas episode in which Moffat was writing in Santa we need to be more forgiving than in a typical episode. The rules kept changing, but in this case it was often acceptable as we were dealing with changeable logic within dreams. Besides, none of the plot holes were as flagrant as the mass of the moon increasing as an egg comes close to hatching (Kill The Moon), people forgetting the actions of trees to protect the planet (In The Forest Of The Night), or the golden arrow of Robot of Sherwood.

A highlight of the dream sequences was Clara having far better closure with Danny Pink than occurred in Death in Heaven. The scene also used old Moffat tropes again, such as with the chalk board with messages like “Dreaming,” similar to the chalkboard from Listen. The episode also had both Clara admit that she lied about Danny being alive and the Doctor admit that he did not find Gallifrey, leaving them in a better position to go on together from when we last saw them. It also leaves the question open as to whether Gallifrey will play into future episodes.

Unfortunately the BBC had put out a press release immediately after the UK showing announcing that Jenna Coleman was returning, partially spoiling the ending. The scenes in which the Doctor saved an older version of Clara could have worked if Coleman was really leaving the series, and the scenes would have been more convincing before seeing the press releases. I wonder if that might have been the end of the episode if Jenna Coleman was really not returning. Instead, with Jenna Coleman coming back to play opposite Peter Capaldi for at least one more season, that was yet another dream.

Doctor Who Last Christmas Sleigh Ride

While I enjoy Moffat’s work, I also see the point of his critics and do find that his more recent work is not as tightly written as back in the days in which he wrote occasional (and usually excellent) stories under Russell  T. Davies. I do wonder if he does need a good editor to tighten up his plots these days. Some of the plot holes in Last Christmas could have been been handled with some better writing and more concern for details. The storyline would have made more sense if, when the Doctor first explained about the mind crabs, he made a point of saying that their ability to eat their victim’s brain depended upon the victim not realizing it was a dream while being tranquilized, but victims could successfully resist if they realize. The progressive realization that they were having dreams within dreams could then be turned into a battle of wits between the Doctor and the mind crabs. It made little sense that the mind crabs had them dream about being scientists fighting the mind crabs, as opposed to the happier (and individual) dream which Clara had involving Danny. This might have seemed more plausible with an exchange in which Clara specifically asked why the aliens would have themselves present in one layer of the dream. The Doctor could have come up with an explanation such as that at the shallowest levels of the dream their brains did provide them an explanation which was closer to reality.

Of course none of this would have explained why they had the sleigh rid and didn’t just wake up when they figured out that they were having dreams within dreams. The answer to that one is simple. How could you expect Moffat to refrain from doing a scene featuring the Doctor flying Santa’s sleigh over London in the most exciting sleigh scene since Santa flew from Central Park through midtown Manhattan in Elf?

The Doctor Who Extra for Last Christmas follows:

While most television shows in the United States now go on  hiatus around the holiday, networks in the U.K. instead often have some of the major episodes of their top series on Christmas Day. There must be some sociological significance to how each country handles television so differently around Christmas. In addition to Doctor Who, two others were of particular interest, involving shows which also have a following in the United States. As US viewers are behind the UK, I will avoid spoilers on these two shows.

Downton Abbey Christmas Special 2014

Downton Abbey had an excellent Christmas episode which essentially serves as the season finale for the show, wrapping up a few major plot lines from the fifth season and providing a potential hint of what is to come next season. I don’t want to say anything else as none of the fifth season has been on here yet, with any discussion of the topics of the episode likely to spoil events of the season. I’ll just say that the season is more satisfactory with this conclusion added on.

Call_the_Midwife_Christmas_special

The Christmas episode of Call the Midwife was the first since the departure of Jessica Raine. Fortunately the show had developed an excellent ensemble which should allow the show to survive her departure, even if she was a major element. Miranda Hart returned to a major role and instead of young Jenny staring in the main story, Vanessa Redgrave appeared as both narrator and on screen at the start and end of the show. The episode does show include character development for some of the remaining characters. Among the story lines is an aspect of the work of the midwives not seen before–handing pregnancies for young, unmarried women who leave town for the birth of their babies.

Besides the Christmas episodes, there were two new episodes of shows of significance in the past week. Homeland‘s season finale was a real disappointment. They would have been better off ending the season after last week’s episode. The Affair ended its first season with a much stronger finale. They certainly put out enough circumstantial evidence to make Noah’s arrest appear inevitable, and he didn’t help his case by attempting to bribe a witness. As there is still at least another full season to come, it seems a safe bet that Noah really is not guilty, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he is covering up for Alison.

The Interview dominated the news with regards to holiday movie releases. This was more because of the Sony hacking and threats to dissuade them from releasing it, and not due to the quality of the movie. I still might stream it this weekend, but the reviews have not been very good:

“Characterizing it as satire elevates the creative execution of the film’s very silly faux assassination of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un far beyond what it merits,” writes Betsy Sharkey in the Lost Angeles Times.

In the Village Voice, Stephanie Zacharek writes that “The Interview” is “contrived absurdity” and that it has very little payoff for all the trouble it caused.

Slate’s Aisha Harris argues that those looking for a satire of North Korea are better off re-watching “Team America: World Police,” the puppet movie created by the makers of “South Park” more than a decade ago.

While Part 1 of SciFi Weekend concentrates on reviews of the past week, Part 2 will look back on the entire year.

It’s A Wonderful Downton Life

An alternative-universe Downton Abbey which shows what would have happened if Lord Grantham had never lived, in an homage to It’s a Wonderful Life. Features appearances by Jeremy Pivens and George Clooney. It is part of a Text Santa fund raiser on ITV.

SciFi Weekend: Black Widow; Arrow; Continuum; House of Cards; Fantastic Four; Hannibal; Man From UNCLE; The Americans; Two More US Remakes Of British Shows; Karen Gillan; If Ikea Sold A TARDIS

Black Widow

Variety reports that Black Widow will continue to have a major role in upcoming Marvel movies and then Scarlett Johansson will star in her own stand-alone movie:

According to Chris Evans, who plays Captain America, Black Widow’s storyline in “The Winter Soldier” revolves around “her coming to terms with her history, that she’s been a spy, and spies aren’t necessarily trustworthy,” he told Total Film.

That will be further explored in “The Avengers: Age of Ultron,” out in 2015. Film starts production in March.

“(Black) Widow’s part in that is very big,” Feige said. “We learn more about her past and learn more about where she came from and how she became in that film. The notion of exploring that even further in her own film would be great, and we have some development work with that. When we meet the Avengers at the top of ‘Age of Ultron,’ it’s a very different landscape than we left them at the end of the first film. Partially, that’s because we love the rhythm that the comicbooks have developed — each of the characters appear in their runs, occasionally they get together for a big event or crossover series, they part again, and then they come back together again.”

It’s unclear whether Marvel hopes to have a Black Widow movie become part of its third phase of films, which so far includes “Ant-Man,” “Doctor Strange” and the third installments of “The Avengers” and “Captain America.”

Phase two includes “Iron Man 3,” “Thor: The Dark World,” “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “The Avengers: Age of Ultron.”

Bringing Sarah into Team Arrow raises questions as to Felicity’s role. That is answered with a Felicity-centered episode. Preview above. More about Arrow here.

After Arrow, I’m far more willing to take a show on CW seriously. They have ordered  pilots from the creators of Sleepy Hollow and Veronica Mars:

The CW has given pilot orders to dramas Identity, from Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, Jane the Virgin, from Jennie Snyder Urman, and iZombie from Rob Thomas, TVGuide.com has learned.

In Identity, when a young woman in need of a transplant learns she is related to a powerful family whose son is her only hope for a donor organ, the CIA approaches her to investigate the family’s involvement in domestic terrorism and to infiltrate their rarified world.  Her loyalty, morality and ethics are tested as she’s forced to slowly build a case against the family who saved her life. Sleepy Hollow‘s Kurtzman and Orci will executive-produce with The Good Wife‘s Corinne Brinkerhoff, who will also write. Heather Kadin, Rob Golenberg and Alon Aranya are also attached as executive producers…

Based on DC Comics’ series, iZombie is a supernatural crime procedural about a med student-turned-zombie who takes a job in the coroner’s office to obtain the brains she must eat to maintain her humanity. However, with every brain she consumes, she also inherits the corpse’s memories. In order to silence those disturbing voices in her head, she solves homicide cases along with her medical examiner boss and a police detective. Veronica Mars‘ Thomas and Diane Ruggiero will write and executive-produce with Danielle Stokdyk and Dan Etheridge.

Showcase has released another trailer for the third season of Continuum. It returns on  March 16  or you can wait until April 4 and see cut episodes on SyFy. Guess which version I plan to watch.

If you haven’t seen the first episode of season two of House of Cards yet, you just better get off the Internet if you don’t want to see spoilers. It turns out that the shocking event from the first episode was planned from the start with a similar event in the season finale of the first season of the U.K. version. How realistic is the show? A star such as Robin Wright may or may not know very much about actual political life, but it is easy to have their opinion covered by being a bit titillating:

During a Q&A in the upcoming issue of Capitol File magazine, a reporter asked whether Wright’s White House source thought the fictional events depicted in the Netflix series were close to the mark.

“Did she think reporters sleeping with sources and members of Congress was factual?” the reporter asked.

“Oh, yeah,” the actress replied. “D.C. is more corrupt than Hollywood. It really is. It’s more sleazy than Hollywood… how much infidelity goes on.”

Kate Mara might soon become better known for another genre role. The cast has been announced for the Fantastic Four reboot, with Mara playing Sue Storm. Think how House of Cards might have turned out differently if Zoe Barnes also had Sue Storm’s power to turn invisible.

Orange Is The New Black returns on Netflix on June 6. No relation to Black Widow, Black Canary, or Orphan Black.

Hannibal returns on February 28, with the first season available to binge on Netflix and Amazon. Here is some more information on  the second season.

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Open Channel D. The Man From UNCLE movie opens on January 16, 2015. The movie stars Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander, Elizabeth Debicki, Jared Harris, Hugh Grant and Luca Calvani. One of the key things I remember from the original show was the use of cigarette cases and pens as communication devices. Is there any point in this with smart phones? But if these are not used, will the movie really feel like UNCLE? It might be fun to go back and look at some of the old episodes to see how they stand up today. My guess is that they would be better than SHIELD.

Actually Agents of SHIELD has improved. They did try experimenting with storytelling a little in the last episode, TRACKS, telling the same story from the perspective of different characters. I also enjoyed seeing a train heist as it reminded me of one of the first Joss Whedon shows I had ever seen, The Train Job episode of Firefly. (Yes, I have never seen Buffy). The episode ended with a cliff hanger but I doubt Skye is really dead considering how they appear in the midst of developing her back story. Besides, people on comic-based shows are rarely ever dead. A clue to this is that the next episode when SHIELD returns from hiatus will be entitled  TAHITI. Bill Paxton will be joining to assist in saving Skye.

Producer Joel Fields answered questions about the second season of The Americans, which returns this week. One of my favorite moments from the first season was when Reagan was shot and the Russians saw it as a coupe attempt by Alexander (“I am in control here”) Haig. Fields was asked if any real life events will be included in the second season:

Season two will begin in early 1982 and, as our show was last season, it will be informed – but not shaped – by real life events. Philip and Elizabeth will deal with threats ranging from the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan to the covert American assistance taking place in Nicaragua, and everything they do will happen under the specter of constant brinkmanship that was a hallmark of US-Soviet relations at that time.

Last year it was discovered that Robert Galbraith was really a pseudonym for J.K. Rowling. She has a second novel about Cormoran Strike coming out on June 19. With character names such as Cormoran Strike, we should have guessed who the author was.

Joel McHale of Community will be hosting the White House Correspondents Dinner on May 3.

Broadchurch US

The first pictures have been released from filming of Gracepoint, the US remake of Broadchurch. David Tennant reprises his staring role from the ITV version, along with Anna Gunn of Breaking Bad.

An American adaptation of Utopia is being planned by HBO and is to be written by Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn.

Both Broadchurch and Utopia have completed their first season in the U.K. and will be returning for a second season. The first season of each was excellent, but as accustomed as I have become to downloading shows from the U.K. I can’t help but wonder why they don’t just show the original versions here. Yes, there are references which Americans might not understand, and David Tennant’s accent was a bit thick in the ITV version, but I think American audiences can cope. Look how popular Downton Abbey and Call the Midwife are becoming here without need to remake them for American audiences.

The above trailer has been released for Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy.

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Doctor Who and Guardians of the Galaxy star Karen Gillan has been cast in an American sit-com, Selfie:

The actress, who next appears in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy and Oculus, has been tapped to star in ABC’s Emily Kapnek comedy Selfie, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

The modern take on My Fair Lady is inspired by the musical and tells the story of a self-obsessed 20-something woman named Eliza Dooley (Gillan) who is more concerned with “likes” than being liked. After suffering a public and humiliating breakup, she becomes the subject of a viral video and suddenly has more social media “followers” than she ever imagined — but for all the wrong reasons. She then enlists the help of a marketing expert at her company to help repair her tarnished image.

The casting marks the Scotland native’s return to TV following Doctor Who — where she played the Doctor’s companion, Amy Pond, for more than 30 episodes on the show’s fifth through seventh seasons — and Adult Swim’s NTSF: SD: SUV

No word as to whether Karen Gillan will be doing any nude writing or baking as in  Not Another Happy Ending.

I’ve seen a number of posts about people building their own TARDIS. With so much interest, it is only a matter of time until Ikea comes up with a kit. This is what the experience might be like:

TARDIS Ikea

SciFi Weekend: Sleepy Hollow & Other Cliffhangers; Doctor Who & Sherlock Win At National Television Awards; The Americans; Arrow; Wonder Woman; Revolution; Hannibal; SHIELD

SLEEPY-HOLLOW-FINALE

Sleepy Hollow ended its first season with several cliffhangers, placing virtually all the major characters in some sort of danger. If they had known how successful the show would be, perhaps they wouldn’t have had to resort to such gimmicks. Get the viewers to return the next season based upon the quality of the show rather than ending with cliffhangers for the sake of cliff hangers. With all the shows now on, people aren’t even likely to recall all the cliffhangers, especially with the longer wait following a show with only a thirteen episode run.

This isn’t to say I oppose all cliff hangers. Back when Dallas first ran the Who Shot JR? storyline, this was somewhat unique for network television, and the buzz around it was a major television event. Star Trek The Next Generation had a great cliffhanger in Best of Both Worlds with Riker ordering the Enterprise to fire on Borg Picard.  The buzz over that summer helped make the show. Most cliffhangers are not this good and do not provide comparable benefits.

An alternative to the cliffhanger which I prefer is for a show to tie up the major story lines at the end of a season and then foreshadow what is coming next. Once Upon A Time did an excellent job with this. The show has been mixed quality-wise, but the old Lost writers on the show manage to keep things interesting by changing things every season. The Peter Pan story from the fall season was drawn out too long, but if you take out the middle episodes where everyone seemed to just wander around Neverland, it did end well. After concluding the story, there was a great final scene taking place a year later which sets up the show when it returns. They got the benefit of favorable publicity and talk about what is happening next without making the viewers wait to see the current story tied up.

Sleepy Hollow didn’t need a bunch of cliffhangers in the finale to create discussion among the fans. Without putting everyone in immediate danger, there was a major revelation and change for the show via John Noble’s character. It was like having him change from Walter to Walternate on Fringe but remain the same person. I was happy to see Captain Irving’s wife find out what is going on so he will no longer need to make lame excuses for not being home, but now we have to see him get off on the charges he confessed to to protect his daughter when processed. On top of all this, we got a flashback to see Zombie George Washington!

Doctor Who did well at the National Television Awards. The show won as Best Drama, beating Broadchurch, Downton Abbey and Call the Midwife. Matt Smith won for Best Drama Performance, beating  Miranda Hart (Call The Midwife), Martin Clunes (Doc Martin) and Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey). He was not present to accept the award in person. Instead it was accepted by Steven Moffat and Jenna Coleman (video above). Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock) won the award for Best TV Detective.

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The Americans returns February 26. Here’s some information released about the second season during a panel at the Television Critics Association press tour:

This season will turn the focus back on the family.
“We felt like [season 1] had been so focused on the marriage,” says EP Joe Weisberg, “and the natural place to go next was the family.” Particularly with Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth’s (Keri Russell) marriage on more solid ground, they wanted to move on to exploring “the next point of fracture” — the family unit.

Paige’s curiosity continues
At the end of the first season, the Jennings’ teenage daughter started to show signs of increasing curiosity about her parents and their ongoings, and this season, questions will start being asked and “it’s not going to go great,” says EP Joel Fields. “Teenagers are hard,” adds Weisberg. “They’re all tough on mom and dad.”

Margo Martindale returns
The actress will be back for several episodes this season as KGB handler Claudia. The fate of her CBS comedy The Millers will not determine what comes next for that character, as The Americans will be done filming the second season in March — well before broadcast network renewals are typically announced. That said, if Martindale finds herself available full time and the show gets a third season, “It’s hard to argue with more Margo Martindale,” says Fields. “We love that character and we love her.”

Martha will get a backbone this season!
Martha’s faux-marriage with Philip will actually serve to strengthen the character, who is widely thought of as insecure, the producers said. “Who she was was extremely lonely and extremely vulnerable and she’s less lonely this season, so it’s allowing her to grow,” says Weisberg. “It’s a law of unintended consequences,” adds Fields.

There’s a racy scene in the premiere
Without giving away too much, a racy scene in the season premiere had critics buzzing. According to Weisberg, the purpose was to depict a show of love between Philip and Elizabeth that was “powerful, shocking, and funny.” You’ll see.

Stan is in a power struggle.
“He’s got such an interesting season coming up,” says Weisberg. “Nina is getting ahead of him. You see that at the end of the first season, and that’s such an interesting place for him to be in and so true and so real for what happens to people when you’re playing this back-and-forth game. People who are smart and good can have people get ahead of them because they are also smart and good at what they do too.” And while Stan is a man who is used to a certain amount of pressure, what it does to him will be “great” to watch, he says.

BONUS BURNING QUESTION: Is the show ever heading to Russia?
The producers said they have “half-joked” about having a season that takes place in Russia, later admitting that such a task would require heaps of funding. But, they said, “I think we’re going to eventually have some storylines there,” teases Weisberg. In fact, he added, there will, like season 1, be some material set in Russia. But filming in the country remains on their to-do. “It would basically be a budget question,” he said.

Tremors

Arrow star Stephen Amell says that episode 15, The Promise, is “grandest, most challenging and most difficult episode” of the series:

“Episode 15 that we have coming up – and this is breaking news – it’s an island-centric episode,” he revealed to Entertainment Weekly Radio. “We take our usual format of 75% of the time in Starling City and 25% of the time on [the island], and we flip it upside down.”

He continued: “[In this episode], there is a shot where we establish where we are and it’s the biggest shot that we’ve ever done on the show. There’s people getting blown up. There’s people getting thrown overboard.

“There are all of these incredible things happening, and then the camera zooms from way, way, way out and it comes in to end on a close-up of me. And all I had to do was evade a punch and bang a guy’s head into the wall. I was super nervous!”

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Gal Gadot has been signed to appear as Wonder Woman in three movies: the Superman vs. Batman movie, a Justice League movie, and a Wonder Woman standalone movie. Presumably this might be extended further if the character does well.

I don’t know if this is the official final storyline, but this synopsis  (spoiler) of the Fantastic Four reboot leaked out from casting calls:

“The Fantastic Four’ will tell the story of two very young friends, Reed Richards and Ben Grimm. After an event transforms the boys, they find themselves empowered with bizarre new abilities. Reed becomes a scientific genius who can stretch, twist and re-shape his body to inhuman proportions. Ben becomes a monstrous, craggy humanoid with orange, rock-like skin and super strength. However, the two end up being owned by the government and used as weapons. But after they mature, two others with powers come into the picture – Sue Storm “The Invisible Girl” and Johnny Storm “The Human Torch.”

I’m glad I stuck with Revolution. The show still has its flaws, but when it gets away from the daddy issues of major characters, the current story lines are getting better. (Along these lines, when will they reveal that Miles is Charlie’s father? This is so obvious, even if it isn’t intended by the writers.) One good thing about the show from the start has been that the story does advance and they are not constantly repeating similar stories. Now there are the Patriots who are getting into eugenics. I thought the story line with Aaron and the nanobots was pretty dumb last fall, but suddenly that is becoming interesting. Of course any storyline with Giancarlo Esposito has hope due to the quality of his acting. Currently Tom and Julia Neville/Doyle are in Washington, D.C. but unfortunately for Tom his plot has been exposed. I’m sure he will recover from his current setback, but should they ever decide to end his time on the show, I hope he goes out in a scene where half his face is blown off, as happened with his character Gus on Breaking Bad.

A longer trailer for Season 2 of Hannibal, which starts February 28, has been released–video above.

Two characters will be killed in the first episode when Under the Dome returns. I’m having a tough time getting down to only two characters who I would like to see get killed. Maybe they can kill two characters every week. That might help the show.

HBO has renewed The Newsroom for a third and final season. I’m glad that Aaron Sorkin’s show will be returning, but wish there would be more than one season to go.

CHLOE BENNET

Maybe I’m getting softer, but I also think Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has improved. I am glad to hear that there will be more than has been revealed so far on the mysteries surrounding two of the characters according to an interview with Chloe Bennett:

Though “Seeds” and its “SHIELD Hogwarts” storyline was one of the series’ more playful episodes, Bennet says that the end of episode 13 “TRACKS” is “f***ing crazy” and will leave viewers “very worried.” Henstridge backs her up, saying that the rest of this season gets very serious and very intense.

“The thing about the next few episodes that we’re about to film and that are about to be shown, it starts getting very serious and the tone goes a lot darker,” Henstridge says. “There’s less kind of comedic things for us to do. The stakes just go through the roof. With Coulson having been kidnapped, things start to get very scary. So I think it’s more focused on the mission and there’s a lot of mystery around Skye, and that starts to be explored. So that’s kind of the main mystery.”

In terms of the mystery surrounding Coulson’s death, Bennet also acknowledges that there is a lot left fore viewers to find out — and that she thinks we’ll find out those answers before the end of Season 1.

“We found out what Tahiti was — or lack thereof — but we didn’t know why. Why is it a huge secret?” Bennet asks. “There’s a couple big question marks. There’s: What am I? Where am I from? Why the f*** are they not telling Coulson why he died? And then there’s: Who’s the Clairvoyant? Who’s the head of Centipede? What is happening? Basically starting next episode, it’s bam bam bam bam bam from here on, so it will be a lot of answers and a lot of drama.”

Jamie Alexander will be appearing on an upcoming episode reprising her role as Lady Sif from the Thor movies. There are also upcoming guest appearances from Stan Lee and Bill Paxton.

Parks and Recreation has been renewed for a seventh season, and it is looking hopeful that Community will return for a sixth season.

Colin Jost has been named to replace Seth Meyers as the anchor of Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live.

Mr. Selfridge returned last week for a second season on ITV. It picks up four years after season one, but the events of the end of the season still have ramifications.

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

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

The BBC America Trailer is above.

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

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

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

More from Moffat here.

McQ by Alexander McQueen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The case also includes Minka Kelly of Friday Night Lights.

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

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

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

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

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

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