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

Doctor Who Ice Warriors

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

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

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

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

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

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

She also discussed her relationship with the TARDIS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, The Power of Three; Merlin: Revolution

The Power of Three refers to both the power of the alien cubes and to the power of the three stars of Doctor Who. This week’s episode was primarily a last look at the Doctor’s relationship with Amy and Rory before their final episode next week. The slow invasion allowed the three to spend a lot of time together,  and we learned it has now been ten years since Amy first went off with the Doctor. Now Amy and Rory are starting to live normal lives, making commitments for the future which they would not have made in the past in case they were off somewhere with the Doctor.

The episode also provided a reunion with UNIT. It came as no surprise that the new head of UNIT,  Kate Stewart, played by Jemma Redgrave, turned out to be the daughter of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. Kate, apparently unaware that to most of the universe the Doctor has died, recognized him by his manner of dress and verified the presence of two hearts. Scientists are also now in control of UNIT.

Rory’s dad Brian asked the Doctor about the fate of his previous companions. The Doctor answered,  “Some left me. Some got left behind. And some… not many but… some died.” While this could be preparing the viewers for next week’s episode, this did not stop Brian from encouraging Rory and Amy to go off once again with the Doctor.

The invasion story provided an amusing backdrop as we saw the cubes become assimilated into day to day life over the course of the year. They were used for mundane tasks such as holding up menus in restaurants and had a thousand different Twitter accounts. Did the disparaging comment on Twitter reflect the views of either Matt Smith or Steven Moffat? The episode, like all the earlier episodes of the season, also included light bulbs–this time Christmas lights.

Unfortunately the ending was rushed and made little sense. The Doctor solved everything too easily with a wave of the Sonic Screwdriver. I can accept that the cubes were able to emit electric shocks to stop the hearts of those around them. After all, this is alien technology, and who are we to question what an apparently empty alien cube might be capable of? It is harder to accept that reversing the shock would restart the hearts of those around them as here we are dealing with human physiology. Once a heart has stopped and the person has died, a second shock would not reverse this. Even if this was possible, the the people should all be brain dead and not capable of just getting up again as if nothing had happened. (Or is this now a Zombie invasion to be dealt with in a future episode?)

Next week, The Angels Take Manhattan. The Space video promo is above. The BBC press release confirms what we already knew:

Doctor Who: The Angels Take Manhattan

The Doctor’s heart-breaking farewell to Amy and Rory – a race against time through the streets of Manhattan, as New York’s statues come to life around them…

With Rory’s life in danger, the Doctor and Amy must locate him before it’s too late! Luckily, an old friend helps them and guides the way.

Guest stars: Mike McShane, Alex Kingston and Rob David

Written by Steven Moffat

Executive produced by Steven Moffat and Caroline Skinner

Directed by Nick Hurran

Produced by Marcus Wilson

And above are two promos from the BBC.

A new promo for Merlin is above.

Despite the failure of multiple genre shows over the last couple of years, NBC is heavily hyping Revolution. If it succeeds I fear it will be because enough people like the gimmick of people fighting without modern weapons in a background which almost looks like our world. A sword fight in a Chicago hotel might be cool, but can this idea remain fresh for long? The special effects of a modern world destroyed without power were well done, but far too many genre shows try to succeed with special effects as opposed to a good story.

The science fiction aspects do remind me of FlashForward and Jericho. As on FlashForward, we have a change in the rules of physics with some unknown people responsible. Instead of jumping forward in time, on Revolution all devices dependent upon electricity suddenly stop working (but some people still have access to working electricity, appearing to have downloaded it to a fancy USB drive). Like on FlashForward, planes dropped from the sky and Elizabeth Mitchell has a role. I do question whether she is really dead, limited to appearing in flashbacks. When asked about this by Entertainment Weekly she responded, “I am not allowed to say one word. I’m not even allowed to tease.”

The show is also reminiscent of Jericho in showing people living after a tremendous disruption to normal life. It is more like the final episodes of Jericho, showing the battle for control of the country. The pilot might have felt more plausible if it was more like the early episodes of Jericho, showing how people survived and established a civilization. Perhaps we will see more of this in flashbacks on future episodes.

Like Lost there is a big mystery (along with Elizabeth Mitchell) , but according to J.J. Abrams the show will not feature long, drawn out mysteries as on Lost. The show’s writers do know why the power went out, and hopefully it doesn’t involve a man in black or turning the power back on with a donkey wheel. As it appears that this was intentional, there are two possible motives which I sure hope do not turn out to be the explanation. I hope it is not a case of environmental radicals turning out the power to reduce carbon emissions. Anyone capable of stopping all electricity in the world would probably be able to come up with a more sensible solution to global warming such as a clean energy source or a way to cool the planet. I also hope this is not a reaction to the situation seen at the start of the pilot, showing signs of too much technology invading our lives. If someone with advanced technology wanted to act upon this, it would make more sense to knock out television and cell phones, as opposed to all electricity which would cause massive deaths.

 

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SciFi Weekend: The Doctor’s Wife; Canceled and Renewed Shows

Fans have been anxious to see a continuation of the storyline  started in the first two episodes of Doctor Who this season. Many were disappointed by The Curse of The Black Spot which repeated the ambiguity over Amy being pregnant and showed the woman with the eye patch, but did not really advance the storyline. There was far greater anticipation for this week’s episode, The Doctor’s Wife, written by Neil Gaiman. Instead of advancing this season’s arc, the story went back to the origins of the entire series.

The Doctor’s Wife is his constant companion and perhaps true love- the TARDIS.  The actual story was merely a device to have the TARDIS appear in the form of a woman. Karen Gillan had one of the best lines of the episode, asking the Doctor, “Did you wish really hard?” At the conclusion of the episode it was clear that the Doctor wanted her back.

Idris, also known as Sexy, revealed more about the origins of the Doctor, who “borrowed” a TARDIS which he found unlocked. From Idris’ account, it was she who picked the Doctor because she wanted to see the universe. While it might be the case that the TARDIS doesn’t always go where the Doctor wants, Idris pointed out that she always takes the Doctor where he needs to go. Most importantly, Idris finally got the opportunity to say “hello” to the Doctor.

As the story was primarily a mechanism to have the Doctor and Idris interact, it was necessary to work in an excuse to have Amy and Rory elsewhere. They spend most of the episode running through the corridors of the TARDIS, including yet another sequence in which Rory appeared to die and return.  It was also amusing to see Idris be unaware of which companion was which, ultimately identifying the pretty one, which she believed to be Rory.  It is a shame that the budget only allowed them to run through corridors as opposed to actual rooms during the bulk of the episode. Gaiman had wanted to have a view of the swimming pool but they didn’t have the budget for this. At least the old TARDIS set from the David Tennant era still exists, allowing them to say that the TARDIS has archives of all these old control rooms.

While this was primarily a stand-alone episode, there was on line which appears to pertain to the current story line. Idris told the Doctor, “The only water in the forest is the river.” Would this mean River Song, and does the forest refer to the forest in The Forest of The Dead?  That was part of the two part story in which the Doctor first met River, and the last time River saw the Doctor due to their crossed time lines.

Neil Gaiman will be taking questions about the story on Monday.

Also this week we received news on which shows were renewed or canceled. Cancellations include The Event, V, and No Ordinary Family. All of these were expected.  Cancellations of non-genre shows include Brother’s and Sisters, which ended the season with an episode which worked well as a series finale. Two of the female stars of Friday Night Lights, Minka Kelly and Adrianne Palicki appeared in pilots (Charlie’s Angels and Wonder Woman). The first was picked up but the second was not.  Parenthood, which Minka Kelly had a recurring role in, was also renewed.

There is speculation that Netflix might pick up The Event out of a desire to have their own shows with a following. In principle this does make sense as there are so many ways to watch movies. If not for their original shows, I probably would have dropped HBO, Showtime, and Starz by now. While it makes sense in principle, I’m not sure that The Event is the best choice for Netflix to go with. If it returns on Netflix I will probably watch it, but if I didn’t already have a Netflix account I doubt having The Event would be enough to sell me.

In addition to the announcements this week, The Cape, Dollhouse, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Files and FlashForward also failed to survive. While genre shows have generally done poorly on television the last couple of years, there have been multiple blockbuster genre movies, such as Thor this week. I wonder why genre titles are doing so much better at the movies than on television. Some of these genre shows suffered from mediocre writing, but an excellent show such as Fringe is also failing to do all that well in the ratings.  Perhaps it is partially the higher budgets for movies. Maybe there is a larger audience for intermittent blockbuster events as opposed to following a show weekly. Regardless of the reason, I still find the support for genre movies as reason to hope that a well-done genre television show can still be successful on network television.

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SciFi Weekend: There Are No Monsters In The White House (Doctor Who); Torchwood; Fringe; The Event; No Ordinary Family; How District 9 Should Have Ended

A brief prequel for the upcoming season has been released (video above), including Richard Nixon claiming, “There are no monsters in the White House.”

A long-lost episode of Doctor Who written by Douglas Adams, Shada, returns. The episode was never aired as it was not completed due to a television strike. The Guardian reports that a novelization based upon the planned episode is going to be released next March:

The story features the Time Lord coming to Earth with assistant Romana (Lalla Ward) to visit Professor Chronotis, who has absconded from Gallifrey, the Doctor’s home planet, and now lives quietly at Cambridge college St Cedd’s. (The Doctor: “When I was on the river I heard the strange babble of inhuman voices, didn’t you, Romana?” Professor Chronotis: “Oh, probably undergraduates talking to each other, I expect.”)

Chronotis has brought with him the most powerful book in the universe, The Worshipful and Ancient Law of Gallifrey – which, in a typical touch of Adams bathos, turns out to have been borrowed from his study by a student. Evil scientist Skagra, an escapee from prison planet Shada, is on its trail.

Large parts of the story had already been filmed on location in Cambridge before industrial action at the BBC brought production to a halt. The drama was never finished, and in the summer of 1980 Shada was abandoned – although various later projects attempted to resurrect it.

Douglas Adams’s Doctor Who series are among the very few which have never been novelised, reportedly because the author wanted to do them himself but was always too busy. Gareth Roberts, a prolific Doctor Who scriptwriter, has now been given the job.

Publisher BBC Books declared the book “a holy grail” for Time Lord fans. Editorial director Albert De Petrillo said: “Douglas Adams’s serials for Doctor Who are considered by many to be some of the best the show has ever produced. Shada is a funny, scary, surprising and utterly terrific story, and we’re thrilled to be publishing the first fully realised version of this Doctor Who adventure as Douglas originally conceived it.”

Blastr has a guided tour to explain how the TARDIS works.

The premiere date for Torchwood has been released by Starz. The show will begin July 8. I am not surprised that the initial rumors of a July 1 start date were false considering how many American viewers might be traveling for the 4th. Those at Cannes will get to see an early promotion, along with two stars, John Barrowman and Bill Pullman, and executive producer Julie Gardner.

The big news of the week is that Fringe was renewed for a fourth season. Has the Friday night course ended? This week Fringe returned to the alternate universe. Having an alternate universe makes it easier to invent one of those television disease which provides exactly the dilemma which is desired for the story line. In this case we found that Fauxlivia has a viral/genetic disease (Fringe never has been great on actual science) which might require her to abort her baby to save her life. She was abducted by people who accelerated her pregnancy so that the baby developed more quickly than the virus could do harm, allowing both mother and baby to live.

For a while it wasn’t clear as to the motives of those who captured Fauxlivia, and it was never answered whether saving Fauxlivia along with the baby was also a goal or just a fortunate result. It turned out that Walternate was behind it all in order to save his grandson. Apparently the birth of this baby was also a major event with the Observers keeping a close watch. At the end, one Observer announces, “It is happening.” Unfortunately the show now goes on a hiatus, with very little left from American genre shows.

On the other American genre shows still airing, The Event is quickly turning into yet another alien invasion show. They decided to give up the flashbacks because  fans did not like them. I’m not so sure that the show still even has any fans, but the problem was not that there were flashbacks, but that they were handled so badly. This is in contrast to  Lost which was able to have two meaningful story lines per episode with the far more effective use of flashbacks. 

No Ordinary Family has an episode featuring time travel this week after Stephanie received an injection from Dr. King which increased her speed allowing her to travel through time. We all know that when someone on a science fiction television show goes forward in time and sees what is happening with them they will never just find themselves sitting on a couch watching television. It’s the same phenomenon which ensured that when anyone had a FlashForward they usually would up seeing something of monumental importance.

And, finally, the video above shows how District 9 should have ended.

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

Waters of Mars Hugo Winner

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

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

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

David Tennant Single Father

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

Jane Espenson on Torchwood

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

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

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

What’s got you most excited about it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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SciFi Weekend: Amy’s Kiss, Torchwood, Hope For FlashForward To Return, Dollhouse, Caprica, and The Promethius Awards

The season is over on Doctor Who but that doesn’t mean we won’t see more of what happened to the Doctor and Amy over the past year. The season five boxed set, which will be released on November 8 in the UK and November 9 in North America, will contain a feature showing some scenes which took place between episodes. This includes why Amy was floating in Space above Starship UK and what happened after Amy kissed the Doctor (video above).

The Los Angeles Times has a story on Neil Gaiman writing a story for Doctor Who next season along with blogging.

Torchwood in the USA

Torchwood will be very dark when it returns, like last year’s Children of Earth miniseries. The upcoming ten-episode  miniseries, being  jointly produced by the BBC and Starz, will have Jack and Gwen return along with adding some additional American characters.

Starz might do more to continue genre shows than co-producing Torchwood. They have expressed some interest in reviving FlashForward. The show showed tremendous potential but sagged creatively in the middle of the season, losing much of their audience. The series ended on ABC with an episode which was clearly intended as a season-ending cliff hanger and which did not work as a series finale.

Dollhouse Comic Epitaph

At least Dollhouse managed to wrap up their brief run with Epitaph Two which showed what happened after the events of Epitaph One. A comic is also being planned to fill in the gaps which never made it to television. It will be distributed with the DVD and Blu-Ray sets of Season Two which will be released in October.

The second half of Caprica has been postponed until January. There’s no official word on whether there will be a true second season, but many involved with the show do sound optimistic in recent interviews.

The Libertarians Futurist Society has announced their annual Promethius Awards. The Unincorporated Man by Dani and Eytan Kollin won as best novel.

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

Amy in the Pandorica, Doctor Who: The Big Bang

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amy and Rory Pond Wedding

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

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

Amy Pond Rory Wedding Doctor Who The Big Bang

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

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

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

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SciFi Weekend: Series Finales of Lost, 24, and FlashForward

The major event of the week, as well as the entire season, was the finale of Lost. I reviewed the episode here and having more time to reflect upon it (and watch portions again) I appreciate its greatness even more. Some have been dissatisfied that it did not explain every mystery during the series but genre shows which develop a complex mythology rarely if ever do. At least Lost was consistent once you accept the underlying premises. You do have to accept the rules which Jacob and the Man in Black operated under without a good explanation, but the conclusion of the series remained true to what they had set up.

Even if not explicitly discussed most of the mysteries can be explained by knowing how Jacob and the MIB were operating. Much can be understood by the MIB’s actions, included taking on the appearance of dead people in order to influence others on the island–most if not all of whom were brought by Jacob in his search for candidates to kill his brother and replace him as guardian of the island. Between the actions of the MIB and the results of Dharma’s experiments, much of what occurred can be explained.

Most likely other events from early on were never answered as the show went in slightly different directions than intended at the time, possibly due to events beyond their control. I think that fans were most frustrated by the lack of a good resolution to Walt’s story. The first season suggested that Walt had some clairvoyant powers or that there was some additional connection between him and the island. We never received an explanation because Walt grew too quickly for the time line of the story on the island, but perhaps they could have provided an explanation at a later date using the adult Walt.

I was somewhat disappointed to find that the sideways sequences took place after everyone had died after having spent the season trying to figure out an explanation for them based upon the assumption that the bomb had worked. We were both mislead into thinking and this was an alternate reality in which Oceanic 815 had not crashed on the island, such as Juliet saying “it worked” before dying, as well as being given hints that it really was about the characters moving on.

The theme of moving on has been raised in previous episodes, such as Michael explaining that the whispers were the people who were trapped on the island because they could not move on. Kate was talking to Jack about moving on, even if leaving it vague enough for both Jack and the viewers to have time to become comfortable with this conclusion. The episode also suggested this  when Hurley told Ben that he had been a good number two, suggesting that we were not dealing with a time line based upon Oceanic 815 not crashing but that this happened after events we had not seen occurred. By the time Jack realized he had died and stated so it was clear that this is what Jack would say.

The story was more about the characters than explaining every mystery, with Jack being the most important character. The story on earth ended with Jack’s death. We know the stories of others who died before Jack but we do not know what happened to those who died after him. Kate, Sawyer, Claire, Miles, Frank and Richard escaped in the  plane. They could have crashed and died five minutes after Jack died but I’d prefer to believe they lived long happy lives back home before dying. Desmond was left injured but with Hurley predicting he’d be okay. We don’t know if he managed to return home and to Penny but perhaps he was assisted in doing so by Hurley.

We know that Ben did remain to be a good number two to Hurley and reportedly we will find out more of what happened in a epilogue appearing on the DVD set to be released August 24. The epilogue tells what happened after Hurley became guardian of the island. This would leave things open to reveal tidbits as to what the other surviving people were doing considering that before him Jacob had no trouble keeping an eye on  his candidates. This would also provide an opportunity to explain other mysteries. On a podcast Jorge Garcia did reveal that the epilogue will give an explanation for the “Hurleybird” which said Hurley’s name during the series.

Also on television this week we say the finale of 24 with Jack on the run, but still alive to return for a movie version. Beyond that it was a fairly mediocre ending to a mediocre season. After the main terrorist threat was eliminated this season concluded with Jack on a rampage going after those responsible, including the current president. It ended too easily as the president suddenly realized she was wrong, decided to turn herself in, but gave time for Jack to run.

FlashForward also had a series finale but it was written to be the season as opposed to series finale. The series was written as a five year arc and earlier the producers had stated it would take at least two years to explain the events around the first flash forward.The episode ended with another flash forward, Janet getting kidnapped, and an older Charlie being told someone (presumably her father) was found and still alive. This served as an excellent cliff hanger but was a poor way to end the series.  Unless someone else picks up the show, which is not likely, I hope that they at least provide an outline of what was to occur after this cliff hanger.

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SciFi Weekend: Finales For Lost, 24, Fringe, V, and FlashForward

It is a big week for television finales, especially with Lost concluding tonight and 24 concluding tomorrow night. The possibility of future movies might prevent a definitive ending to Jack’s story on 24 but we have been promised that everything will end tonight on Lost (with the exception of a few goodies being held back to help sell the DVD’s).

While Lost had a strong episode last week, it seems pointless to talk about it in depth when the conclusion is just a couple hours away. I suspect that the biggest mystery to be answered will be about the meaning of the two alternative time lines shown all season and how they play into the overall story of the main characters. We have learned a lot about the history of the island and the battle between Jacob and the Man in Black. Many points remain murky, and I bet most of them will be left that way.

The best season finale for a genre show so far has been with Fringe, which has improved tremendously from the first season. (Major spoilers ahead). Until the final moments it seemed that, at least for now, this story about the alternate world was concluded and it was not clear where they were heading for the third season.

The final moments answered that as we found that the alternative Olivia with the hotter hair style had replaced the Olivia of our universe. Seeing characters being replaced by others has been a common science fiction plot device, including Sydney Bristol’s room mate Fancie on Alias and even on Fringe with Olivia’s partner Charlie. It changes the show even more to have the main character being replaced by their evil twin–as if the Kirk of the mirror universe managed to pass as Kirk and remain. Now either Walter and Peter must figure this out on our side and return to free Olivia, and/or the Olivia from our universe must escape from solitary confinement and find a way to return–without William Bell’s help.

V ended the season with almost everyone taking a side. The conclusion with Anna experiencing human emotion and turning the sky red might force the rest of the planet to do the same. At very least it might get the Visitors to install better security on their ship.

The show has lost much of the appeal of the original series (at least early on) which used a Nazi allegory to have the Visitors gradually take over. Instead the producers of the remake decided to go with analogies to terrorism instead, but there was little meaningful to do with this. Rather than renewing V, I would have preferred that ABC had renewed FlashForward.

FlashForward has one episode to go and it is interesting to see many, but not all, of the characters falling into the positions they saw themselves in at the start of the season. Unfortunately while we should see what happens on that day the show will not have the time to address the questions it raised about those who caused the flash forward to occur.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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