SciFi Weekend: Her; Harry Potter and Hermione; Sleepy Hollow; Hannibal; Orphan Black; Arrow; Doctor Who; The Americans; Lex Luthor; How I Met Your Mother/Dad;

Her

This has been a very good year for science fiction movies. Her is very likely the science fiction movie which is receiving the most mainstream critical acclaim ever. Last night it won the award for best original screenplay from the Writer’s Guild of America. It ties with another science fiction movie, Gravity, for Best Picture from the Los Angeles Film Critics Awards (intentionally ignoring the debate as to whether Gravity is science fiction). Her was also a big winner at the National Board of Review Awards. Both Her and Gravity are nominated for Best Picture. There was controversy when various organizations declined to consider Scarlett Johansson for acting awards when she was not seen in the movie.

The important aspect of the movie is how people relate to the technology, along with their other limitations in dealing with other humans to the point where people pay others to write “personal” letters to their lovers. It still becomes impossible to ignore the technological aspects of the movie, primarily the question as to whether artificial intelligence could really be developed to the point seen in the movie. The co-creator of Siri looked at some of the abilities of Samantha which are well beyond what can currently be accomplished:

To get the “That’s incredible!” technology ball rolling, Samantha never made a mistake, never misunderstood nor misheard a word Theodore said. That’s tough to do in a loud, raucous world. Especially in loud places such as the circus scene, where you can barely hear the person next to you, let alone get the exact nuance of every word as you share the pandemonium through an earpiece.

And what about the scene where Samantha is literally spun around, viewing, understanding and commenting on the world she sees only through a jostling cameraphone lens bouncing around in Theodore’s pocket?

That would entail massively scaled real-time image recognition, spatial understanding, facial and mood recognition — as well as understanding the subtleties of thousands of social scenarios in order to predict that the couple sitting at the table were on a first date.

And such a conversationalist! Samantha not only discussed an amazing range of topics with Theodore, but was also incredibly adept at reflecting his mood in her own, varying the subtle tones and verbal inflections that indicate emotion. She even demonstrated an evocative handle on pop-culture terminology when he said in one scene, “No waaay.” And she replied, “Waaay.” Now that is some cool software.

Finally, I don’t even need to mention the complexities of building a program that’s adept at verbal phone sex, including all of the relevant and perfectly timed Meg Ryan-ish sound effects in perfect harmony with the partner on the other end of the line.

NPR’s Science Friday also discussed these topics recently. The podcast can be heard here.

Hermione

Reading the Harry Potter books, I thought that it was unusual that Ron and not Harry wound up with Hermione. Harry was the hero who defeated Voldemort. Typically he is the one who would wind up with the girl. J.K. Rowlings now admits she did get it wrong:

“I wrote the Hermione/Ron relationship as a form of wish fulfillment,” she says. “That’s how it was conceived, really. For reasons that have very little to do with literature and far more to do with me clinging to the plot as I first imagined it, Hermione ended up with Ron.”

Rowling also said that Ron and Hermione would have needed “relationship counseling.”

John Noble Sleepy Hollow

John Noble had a notable role as a recurring character in Sleepy Hollow. His role (spoilers) became even more important in the season finale when he was revealed to not only be Jeremy Crane, the son of Ichabod and Karina, but also War, the second horseman of the apocalypse. After seeing how he played both Walter and Walternate on Fringe, he was clearly underused as a supporting character, and there is no doubt he can handle an entirely different type of role in the second season. He has been promoted to a series regular. Lyndie Greenwood, who plays Jennie Mills, will also be a series regular, which does spoil one of the many cliff hangers in the season finale which left Jenni unconscious on the road.

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NBC is trying to build the audience for the second season of Hannibal in a way similar to how the audience for Breaking Bad increased after many people (including myself) caught up with previous seasons by watching on Netflix. They have entered into an exclusive agreement with Amazon Prime to carry Hannibal and some other series. I hope they are successful, but I wonder if Netflix has as much impact as Amazon. There is also some casting news for the second season, including Mason Pitt joining the series late in the season as Mason Verger:

Pitt, best known for his work as Jimmy Darmody on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, will play Mason Verger, “an unstable wealthy patient of Dr. Hannibal Lecter who begins a dangerous cat-and-mouse game with the deadly serial killer.”

Hannibal’s version of Mason Verger – which will likely be quite different from the character Gary Oldman played in the 2001 film – was compared to Andrew Scott’s portrayal of Moriarty on BBC’s Sherlock in a casting description for the role. Knowing that, it will be interesting to see Pitt bring the same explosive energy he brought to Jimmy Darmody to Verger; a character who’s more cunning and therefor more dangerous.

Joining Pitt is Katharine Isabelle (Being Human), cast as Verger’s sister, Margot. She will first be introduced as a patient of Dr. Lector’s who is dealing with trauma related to her brother’s abuse. But again, this won’t be until later in the season.

Episode titles on Orphan Black came from Darwin’s Origin of Species during the first season. Second season titles will come from the work of Sir Francis Bacon. The title of the first episode of the season will be Nature Under Constraint and Vexed.

Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) became a popular character during the first season of Arrow and in response the role of her character was greatly expanded. We know very little about her beyond moving from the IT Department to become Oliver Queen’s executive assistant to cover for all the time they spend together. Each season also has had a scene establishing that she is Jewish. She is finally going to get a back story this season.

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The first pictures have been released of Peter Capaldi in the outfit he will wear as the Doctor. There have been some complains on line ranging from his hair being cut too short (following Matt Smith) to the top button being buttoned despite lack of a tie. Obviously none of these complaints have any real relevance to how successful Capaldi will be in the role. There is a minor spoiler about a surprise voice-only cameo upcoming on Doctor Who:

Clara emerges from the TARDIS on her mobile phone, looking intense and emotional. She’s not speaking to anyone, rather she seems to be just listening. In fact, whatever she is listening to hits her hard, and she slumps into the wall of a nearby store. The message, it turns out, is from the previous incarnation of the Doctor, played by Matt Smith. Hanging up the phone, the Doctor, played by Peter Capaldi exits the TARDIS, and starts an exchange with Clara. He asks if that was the Doctor on the phone. More on that in a minute.

Emotionally, he insists to Clara; he is the Doctor, he’s 2000 years old, and he’s standing right there, in front of her. Cautiously, Clara walks straight up to this strange, older man in front of her.

Inquisitively, she looks up straight into the Doctor’s eyes, inspecting them, looking for the man she knows. The Doctor looks down into his companions eyes curiously, like an owl bemused. Suddenly, Clara throws her arms around the Doctor. For his part, the Doctor awkwardly holds his arms out around her, fingers splayed and startled and uncomfortable.

Clara immediately then clicks back into her normal, bouncy self, asking the Doctor where they are. He replied Glasgow (although we were definitely in Cardiff, I double checked), and they continue to chat before the scene ends.

New promo for The Americans above. The show returns February 26.

Jesse Eisenberg will play Lex Luthor in the upcoming Superman vs. Batman movie. I don’t really see Eisenberg in the role, but we will see.

So far the former stars of Friends have not been very successful with network sitcoms. David Schwimmer is attempting a return to network television in a pilot named Irreversible.

Irreversible, which is partially improvised in the vein of Curb Your Enthusiasm, centers on Andy (Schwimmer) and Sarah, a somewhat eccentric, self-absorbed couple, and their trials and tribulations — most of which they bring upon themselves.

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How I Met Your Mother had a fantastic 200th episode last week, going back over the time frame of the series from the perspective of the mother, played by Cristin Milioti. Characters have been outlined for the planned spin-off, How I Met Your Dad:

Sally: In her 20s but still not very grown-up and a little bit aimless, Sally has been married for a year to Gavin and is realizing they’re not meant for each other.

Danny: Sally’s older brother and opposite personality, he’s a driven lawyer who’s less than pleased when Sally moves in after splitting with Gavin. Danny is married to …

Todd: One of Sally’s best friends from college, who’s significantly more welcoming to having Sally as a roommate. Danny and Todd fill the Lily-and-Marshall/committed couple portion of the group.

Juliet: Sally’s “party-girl” best friend and the Barney of the group. She runs a fashion blog and has been telling Sally for some time that Gavin isn’t the right guy for her.

Frank: A “hot nerd” who heads up IT for Juliet’s site and has an unrequited (for the moment) crush on Sally. If Sally is the female Ted, Frank would be the male Robin (albeit with what sounds like a rather different personality).

Narrator: Future Sally.

 Philip Seymour Hoffman was found of an apparent overdose. His genre appearances include the Hunger Games movies and Red Dragon, based upon one of the Hannibal Lecter books.

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

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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.

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SciFi Weekend: Under the Dome Finale; Atlantis; Agent Carter; Breaking Bad; AMC Spin Offs; Downton Abbey Premiere; Orphan Black; Revolution and Blacklist

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The season finale of Under The Dome has been widely criticized by reviewers. We were promised some answers about the dome but instead we got what felt like a bunch of random scenes. After more meaningless butterfly scenes, the big revelation was that Julia is the Monarch, not that we know what that really means. The beings behind the dome spoke in the body of Norrie’s dead mother and declared that the intention was to protect them and apparently we are to believe they are good because they say they are. (They really are intended to be protecting the humans per this interview with executive producer Brian K. Vaughan).  There is no indication of what the dome is protecting Chester’s Mill from, and they show a funny way of providing protection when the dome turns black. Of course we don’t have to worry for long because somehow Julia was right in deciding that the way to protect the egg was to dump it at the bottom of the lake, leading to pink stars rising and the dome turning white. There was no explanation as to why the beings behind the dome even require a human to protect the egg.

The interview noted above tells more about the plans for the series but beware that it also spoils aspects of the book if you intend to read it between seasons. That is pleural seasons. There was a limit to how satisfying any revelations about the dome might be with a plan is to continue the series for several years. This would probably work much better as a single season show with a clear ending, but that is not how network television operates. Regardless, the writers knew there would be a break for the season and might have come up with something more sensible.

Ultimately the dome is just a mechanism to drive the conflict between the various human characters. We might have forgiven holes in the mythology if it actually drove good stories, as with Lost and Fringe. I already discussed many of the flaws in the story here. The cliff hanger hardly provides any suspense, knowing that they will not kill off Barbie as they have killed off less important characters. Potentially better writing might have made the plot line more  believable. Stephen King will be writing the second season premiere. Hopefully he can get the story back on track, and the show’s regular writers can carry on from there.

Atlantis

With Merlin finishing its run last year, The BBC is starting Atlantis, which reimagines Greek mythology.

The action packed series brings to life the vast store of Greek myths and legends re-imagined for a new generation.

From the creators of the hit show Merlin and the creator of BAFTA award-winning series Misfits comes a thrilling new thirteen part adventure series: ATLANTIS.

When Jason sets out to find his father, he could never have anticipated where his journey would lead…

Far from home and desperate for answers, Jason washes up on the shores of an ancient land. A mysterious place; a world of bull leaping, of snake haired Goddesses and palaces so vast it was said they were built by giants – this is the city of Atlantis.

But under the surface of this enticing place is a dark and simmering past, a complicated web of treachery and deceit, with which Jason himself seems inexplicably bound. He soon finds himself embroiled in a perilous game of politics and power from which there is no escape.

Aided by the studious young Pythagoras and the overweight, overbearing Hercules, Jason embarks on a voyage of discovery and salvation which sees him brush shoulders with Medusa, come face to face with the Minotaur and even do battle with the dead.

As the series’ progress, this unlikely but engaging trio will take us on a journey through the vast store of Greek myths and legends, which provide the bedrock of western literature. A treasure trove of extraordinary tales re-imagined in a thrilling and unexpected way for a new generation.

Atlantis was created by Julian Murphy (Merlin, Hex, Sugar Rush), Johnny Capps (Merlin, Hex, Sugar Rush) and BAFTA award winning Howard Overman (Merlin, Misfits, Dirk Gently). BBC Executive producer is Bethan Jones.

Starring Mark Addy, Jack Donnelly, Robert Emms, Sarah Parish, Juliet Stevenson, Jemima Rooper and Aiysha Hart.

Den of Geek has a spoiler-free review of the first episode.

Agent Carter

The Flash is being introduced as a potential DC Comics television spin off of Arrow, and Marvel isn’t far behind. Although the first episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn’t air for a couple more days, a second Marvel television series is under consideration. The second one is on the career of Agent Carter after her boyfriend Steve Rogers (Captain America) gets frozen in ice.

AMC is especially interested in spin off shows with two their major shows concluding soon. With Breaking Bad ending next week, they are developing a spin off, Better Call Saul. There had been talk for a while of a Mad Man spin off, potentially based upon the California office opened last season, but this plan is off. AMC will at least drag out Mad Men for another year, dividing the final season into two seven episode parts. At least they might extend it to eight as Breaking Bad has done. AMC is also working on a companion series to Walking Dead based upon another group in the same universe.

I do wish they weren’t airing the Emmy Awards opposite the final episode of Dexter and the penultimate episode of Breaking Bad. That was quite an episode last week as Walt lost virtually everything, including his family, Jesse, most of his money, and even his identity. We knew since the start of the fifth season that he would ultimately return with a new identity and lots of weapons (including returning home to retrieve the ricin).

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Presumably the major remaining business for Walt is go go after the neo-Nazi’s and possibly save Jesse in the process. I wouldn’t be surprised if he hasn’t found that Jesse is being forced to cook for the neo-Nazis. Perhaps while hiding out in New Hampshire he finds out about pure blue Meth still being produced and realizes that only Jesse could be cooking it. There remain many other questions such as what becomes of his home and family and whether Skylar will follow Walt if he survives in light of how he acted to protect her in that phone conversation. Last week we also saw that there was still some good in Walt as he tried to save Hank along with Skylar. On the other hand, he also turned Jesse over to the neo-Nazis and unnecessarily told Jesse about watching Jane die. Of course if Walt thought more, he wouldn’t have fallen for the fake pictures of the money, and previously wouldn’t have left that Walt Whitman book sitting around where Hank could find it. Considering the nature of the relationship between Walt and Jesse, it wouldn’t surprise me if either the two join together against the neo-Nazis or if one kills the other. I’m also sure we haven’t seen the last of Lydia, and Saul might have some role in how this all ends. Finally, is Huell still sitting in that room, afraid to answer the phone?

Michelle Dockery

Besides Dexter, Breaking Bad, and the Emmy Awards, tonight also marked the season premiere of Downton Abbey. Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary) didn’t look as good on the show as she did in this photo shoot to commemorate the fourth season premiere. I’ll avoid any real spoilers. It should come as no surprised that Lady Mary starts out the episode quite depressed in an era where Prozac has not yet been invented. Very early in the episode viewers also learned about the first major crisis of the season as a servant left without giving notice. At least two of the characters were quite unlikeable.

Orphan  Black recently started on BBC Three. Digital Spy asks if it lives up the hype. After seeing the full first season, the answer is yes.

Trailer for the second season of Revolution above.

With James Spader staring, Blacklist is high on the list of new shows to try.

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SciFi Weekend: Continuum Season Finale (Major Spoilers); Broadchurch–Looking at Season 2 Without Spoiling Season 1; Hugo Awards; Benedict Cumberbatch; Star Trek Science

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For the last few days I felt a little like a time traveler with information about the future which should not be spread. I binged on both seasons of Continuum over one week, watching the season finale on a download from the original Showcase broadcast last Tuesday. Of course all the Canadian viewers must have felt like this for a few weeks.  This is a Canadian show on a network required to include some Canadian shows, so I immediately put aside any skepticism as to Vancouver being the key North American city in 2077. Now that SyFy has also broadcast the finale in the United States, I feel I can to on to discuss the show with some major spoilers.

Until I began watching, I had fears that Continuum might be a police procedural with the gimmick of a future cop and terrorists from the future. It was clear early that the show is much more complex, moving into new territory in the second season, and setting up the show to move in yet more new directions in the upcoming third season. Rachel Nichols plays future City Protective Services (CPS) Protector Kiera Cameron who was sent back in time from 2077 to our present along with a group of terrorists (Liber8) who escaped their death sentence with time travel The world of 2077 is, on the surface, the dream of several libertarian fantasies as governments have collapsed and corporations have taken over. It doesn’t turn out the way in which libertarians fantasize as the corporations have no respect for our concepts of individual liberty or restrictions on the power of the state.

Seeing the future which Liber8 is trying to prevent makes it very hard to decide who to root for in the series, and a factor which keeps the show so interesting. In the season two finale, Liber8 leader Travis claims that he, and not Kiera, is the good guy in this story. Many viewers would probably agree if not for the excessive violence utilized by Travis and others in Liber8. There have also been differences of opinion, and even a civil war, within Liber8, with some taking a less violent approach. Kiera is the protagonist of the story and does what she believes is right based upon her knowledge, but at least so far lacks the knowledge provided to the viewers about the system she defends.

Another major player is Alec Sadler, who as a young man assists Kiera and as an old man in 2077 (played by William B. Davies, the cigarette-smoking man of X-Files), runs the most powerful tech company in the world). Young Sadler connects with Kiera early because her CMR (an implant which, among other things, provides communication for Protectors) works on a frequency which Alec was experimenting on in the lab in his garage. Alec’s step-brother Julian is originally portrayed as being a messed up kid fated to become a mass murderer but by later in the second season it appears he becomes one of the most heroic characters of the series, with far more to the stories of mass murder by his future self than Kiera understands.

While doing repairs, Alec found messages from his future self placed in Kiera’s super-powered body suit which revealed that Liber8 and Kiera were intentionally sent back in time by his future self. This means that old Alec has developed reservations about the system which he was involved in creating as he sent Liber8 back in time to change the future, with Kiera possibly sent along to keep their violence in check. Even after two seasons, all the details of Alec’s plans are not yet clear. The members of Liber8 appear to be successful in creating the roots of a rebellion against Corporate control but cause and effect create a number of questions in this series. The anti-terror task force in the police department becomes CPS with corporate sponsorship in response to the threat from Liber8, being just one situation seen where we question whether the time travelers are actually creating the future of 2077. In an analogous situation, it is Kiera who wound up radicalizing Julian with her threat to kill him.

The ability to change the future on this show is quite unclear and I will return to this question later. In one episode Kiera captures a mass murderer who in her time was known for never having been caught. We do not know which events, if any, would actually change things in her future. A character believed to be another character’s grandmother is even killed, with the character not showing any change.

Not everyone sets out to change the future. Matthew Kelog was a reluctant member of the group all along, dragged into illegal activity by his sister.  After arriving in his past he left the terrorists and made a fortune with his knowledge of the future. One nit pick is that he made this fortune far too quickly. Knowledge of which businesses succeeded and other events will certainly help build a successful portfolio but this would take time. It is unrealistic that he would know enough winners of major sporting events from that far back in the past to amass a huge fortune from gambling so quickly either. It would be more plausible if he knew his destination and had time to do research before being sent back.

If time travel is possible, it only makes sense that there might be other time travelers around. Two characters, including one named Jason who happens to share DNA with Alec, were sent back in time from the original breakout but wound up in an earlier time. Jason is kind of nuts. Is this the result of being in the past so long? I suspect it was more  the result of being thrown into a mental institution when he went back in time and claimed to be from the future. It is hard to judge this based upon other characters as one other showed signs of mental imbalance but others did not.

Complicating matters further are the Freelancers who are from a different time.

The second season finale answered some question but also set up potential major changes in the show. We learned that one recurring character whose goals were unclear, Escher, is a former Freelancer and Alec’s father while Jason shares his DNA as he is Alec’s son. There already had been the question as to what degree future technology developed by Alec was based upon knowledge he learned of the future as opposed to being his own inventions. Now that we learn that time travel is the family business, we don’t even know if Alec would even be in this time line without time travel.

If the revelation from Escher that he was Alec’s father reminded viewers of Darth Vader telling the same to Luke, the scene with both Kiera and Travis suited up was reminiscent of a fight scene from The Matrix.

With the police being turned into a corporate-controlled unit which violates civil liberties (also presenting a change in the portrayal of Inspector Dillon of the Vancouver Police), Kiera’s partner Carlos left the police and wound up with Julian, who had been an enemy in prior episodes. It is possible that Carlos is going undercover, but I suspect that he really was fleeing from the newly founded City Protective Services, who are now planning to arrest Kiera as a terrorist.

At different times in the finale Alec appeared to be using and double crossing both Escher and Kiera, going for his own trip through time in the finale. Most likely he is going back to save his girlfriend Emily, who was killed during the second season. Emily’s motives were also unclear earlier in the season as it was clear to everyone but Alec that her goal was to get into his lab, and she also turned out to be working for Escher. Will Alec succeed in saving Emily, and if so will this create a cosmic reset making the other events of the last couple of episodes not occur, or will it create a new time line with a living Emily parallel to the one where she was killed? Is Emily Jason’s mother?  It is also possible that Alec might wind up at a different time, such as when the characters were first sent back in time, or maybe just a few minutes before the Freelancers attacked.

The show often shifts back between the present and 2077, and key information is often not revealed until subsequent episodes (if at all so far). The second season began with a scene of Kiera being captured and put in a glass cage along with members of Liber8, including one who was  brought back from the dead or from a different point in time. Kiera then awoke from a dream (when some of her memories were wiped)in 2077 and it wasn’t clear if this was part of her dream in 2077 or an event from some other point in time. In the second season finale, Kiera is captured by the Freelancers, who claim a goal of defending the time line from time travelers and are as violent as Liber8.While t is hard to trust the motives of the Freelancers, are we actually seeing something like the Temporal Cold War from Star Trek: Enterprise? The season ends with a repeat of the scene with her being placed in the glass cage.

continuum-second-time-glass cages

Presumably this imprisonment occurs immediately after what appeared to be her capture, but this is far from certain. If she had been dreaming this in 2077 before she was sent back in time, it could be a suppressed memory from earlier, especially if she has wound up in a temporal loop due to changes in the time line which are not yet clear. It is also possible that she actually escaped at the end of the episode and the imprisonment scene occurs at some other point in time. Alec’s trip through time might wipe out everything we are seeing, or create a new time line in which this does not occur. If the third season does start with her in the glass cage, then what? The cages look more like short term holding cells than a permanent prison. Do the Freelancers plan to move them elsewhere or perhaps take them back to their own time? Does Alec and/or Escher save them, or do still more time travelers get involved?

One of the Freelancers did make a reference to different time lines in the finale, and this might be where the show is headed. It remains unanswered as to whether those sent back in time can change the future for old Alec or, as some incidents suggest, at most can create a different time line where things turn out different. Physics Today did look at the science of time travel in Continuum, but as 1) time travel is not real and 2) this is fiction and the show is going to follow whatever rules are made by its creators. We got some hints as from Simon Berry in this interview with some questions posted below:

The core of the show’s storytelling has always seemed to be the struggle between corporate dominance and the anarchy of Liber8. How do the Freelancers fit into that theme?

You will find out in the first episode of Season 3.

When did you guys decide that the show needed another group of time travelers in the mix?

The notion of Freelancers was introduced early in the writing room of season 1. We were going to bring it in then, but decided to hold back until Season 2.

In one episode, someone shoots Kellog’s grandmother and he’s unharmed. In another episode, Kiera solves a serial killer case that was never solved in her original timeline — and she still remembers seeing it as an unsolved case, back in 2077. Also, in one episode Old Alec tells Young Alec that he’s not Young Alec’s future self, but just a version of Alec that shares some experiences. So is it basically confirmed that you can change the past, but you’ll just create a brand new alternate timeline? Is that definite now?

The final episode of season 2 certainly points to that, but ‘definite’ is a dangerous word. Don’t get too hung up on the defining “multiverse versus closed loop” debate just yet.

We like to think of time in the context of our story: two points, 65 years apart. The belief that one can make small changes to the timeline now and that will upset 100% of the events in 65 years, is too simplistic. We’ve used the Tsunami metaphor in the show and I think it’s an appropriate one in this case. Small changes to that wave are certainly going to have an impact on the damage it does, but that doesn’t mean the wave doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do.

I think because the stories are Kiera-centric, we are tempted to believe that the changes to the timeline will affect her life more than others, but there’s no reason to think this way. Unless Kiera or Liber8 makes changes that are directly related to her family and Greg’s family, then there is still a good chance that she will be born and Greg will be born and they will meet.

The idea of multiple timelines in itself opens the door to connected timelines that could split like tree branches but then wrap around each other like vines, eventually merging again. That’s one of the amazing things about time travel; because it’s not a pure science, there is room for interpretation and the introduction of larger forces at work, be they natural or un-natural.

Even if Kiera is on an alternate timeline, she could theoretically return to a version of 2077 where her life played out 99% as it did. Now it’s true she would run into a version of herself that never went back in time and that would be complicated… But it would be deliciously complicated.

If so, then what does Old Alec have to gain by sending Kiera and the Liber8 gang back in time? Won’t he just create a different timeline that he can’t ever visit? From his viewpoint, how can Old Alec even know what changes happen as a result of that time travel?

Perhaps Old Alec understands more about what’s at stake than we’ve revealed to date. The final episode of season 2 will introduce the first threads of this larger storyline.

One of the big shifts in season two was the Vancouver Police Department coming under the control of Piron, or at least a big part of it. Do the police basically just become another gang in the city’s gang war at some point, and lose their legitimacy as cops? Have the police already crossed too many lines to be able to claim they’re upholding the law?

Well the Piron deal is really only with Dillon’s Liber8 task force so it was never meant to be a complete take-over (yet!) – What we are setting up is the very small moves that might lead towards an eventual corporate controlled police department a-la Robo-cop OCP scenario.

It seems as though the driving force behind the corporate takeover of the police was the arrival of Liber8. Are the Liber8 terrorists basically causing the corporate-controlled future they were trying to prevent, only ahead of schedule?

There’s a timely irony in that, and it’s not an accident.

And finally, it’s seemed as though Kiera isn’t sure what her goal is any more. At times she wants to preserve the timeline she comes from, but at other times, she’s willing to make some pretty big changes. (For example, being willing to shoot Julian, which would cause a pretty big change.) Are we going to see her regaining more of a clear sense of purpose in season three? Is her evolution as a character taking her someplace? And will we be learning more about Alec’s “purpose” for her?

It’s interesting that many comments pop up from time to time about Kiera not doing the ‘right’ thing or the ‘smart’ thing regarding time travel. This suggests she has the knowledge the audience has.

One of the unique aspects of Kiera Cameron in the Time Travel tradition is that she is one of the few characters in the genre who are not travelling by choice. Most Time Travel is driven by a character who understands the stakes and science of Time Travel, therefore their actions are determined based on their self aware role within the time continuum. They are willing adventurers who know the rules and usually have a goal and understanding of how to achieve it in context of their situation.

That is not the story of Continuum.

Kiera is an average person in 2077. She’s not a scientist or engineer. She’s not a theoretical physicist or even a fan of Science Fiction (unlike many of our fans who I believe would know what to do, and what not to do, if they found themselves in her shoes). Kiera is an unwilling victim of another person’s designs… She is us.

Kiera is fumbling her way through this experience using her humanity and experience as a guide, not a set of time travel rules or knowledge of paradoxes and wormholes. On occasion Alec will remind her of the possibilities and pitfalls, but without proof of anything, who’s to say what’s right or wrong. As Kiera evolves, so will her decisions.

For Kiera, this entire adventure is also a learning experience, and the lessons will form a critical path towards her becoming the person she needs to become in this mythology, and illuminate the “purpose” Alec had in mind for her.

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This weekend I binged on the entire season of Broadchurch. The story is about the murder of an eleven year old boy and the effects on the town. It stars David Tennant and its excellent cast includes a second actor who has starred on Doctor Who, Arthur Darvill. The third character in this scene, Olivia Coleman, also appeared in an episode of Doctor Who, The Eleventh Hour. As only four of eight episodes have shown so far in the United States on BBC America, I will avoid any meaningful spoilers. Those who want to know absolutely nothing (such as whether Danny’s killer is found) might want to skip the following.

Then I heard that the show had been renewed for a second season before completing the first, I was concerned that maybe they would leave things hanging, as occurs to some degree on another recent British crime drama, The Fall (staring Gillian Anderson). Broadchurch does have a very satisfying ending, showing not only the identity of the killer but answering many questions about other characters raised during the series. The killer might be guessed after a lot of information is provided in the seventh episode, but a big clue is held until the start of the eighth. With the killer apprehended, Broadchurch doesn’t appear to leave much room for a second season like the first, considering it would not be as realistic to have a second murder in the same place. Some of those involved in the show have said that the second season might be completely different:

Speaking at the Edinburgh Television Festival the network’s director of TV Peter Fincham said that viewers would not be subject to ‘a formulaic repeat of series one’ when the show returns in 2014.

He also did not confirm which members of the cast from the first series might – or might not – appear.

The comments mirror those of series creator Chris Chibnall, who confirmed earlier this year he was working on Broadchurch round two – but also stayed silent on whether Tennant and Colman would be back.

‘I would take nothing for granted, I would just wait and see!’ he commented.

Will Mellor, who played psychic phone engineer Steve Connolly, has also hinted that the next series could be a prequel – and may not even feature a whodunnit.

‘I can’t see it being about another murder because it will be a bit too coincidental. All I know is it’s going to be a surprise because the writer always catches you out,’ he said.

‘Maybe it’ll be a prequel, it might go back to the old case that David Tennant’s character [DI Alec Hardy] didn’t finish. Whatever it’ll be, it’ll be fantastic.’

red shirts

Redshirts by John Scalzi won the 2013 Hugo Award for Best Novel. The novel is an  homage to Star Trek, along with a look at what doesn’t completely work in television science fiction, and, continuing with the lead story today, even has some time travel.

The Avengers won for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form.

Blackwater, an episode of Game of Thrones won for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form. Three episodes of Doctor Who were also nominated in the category: The Angels Take Manhattan, Asylum of the Daleks, and The Snowmen. I wondered whether dividing the vote with three episodes might have prevented Doctor Who from winning again this year but looking at the total numbers Blackwater had more votes than all three episodes of Doctor Who combined.  The final nominee in this category was an episode of Fringe, Letters of Transit.

In the entertainment industry in 2077, Benedict Cumberbatch will be famous for being a part of every major movie franchise. Now there are reports that he will have a role in Star Wars VII. It looks like he should have some free time. Filming has completed on the third season of Sherlock.

James Spader has been cast to play Ultron in Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Yet another story on Star Trek science maybe becoming fact. This time, a report on experiments at NASA which might make warp drive a reality. Maybe. Fareed Zacharia also had a segment on Sunday’s show on technologies which are similar to the replicator.

 Update: News came in later tonight that Frederik Pohl died over this past weekend.

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SciFi Weekend: The 12th Doctor; The Next Batman; SHIELD And The Avengers; Captain America; Star Wars; Star Trek; Homeland; Dexter; The White Queen; Piracy

Last week white smoke emerged from the BBC and soon afterwards Peter Capaldi was introduced as the 12th Doctor on a show simulcast in the U.K., the United States, Canada, and Australia (video above). BBC America has a run down on the news coverage. The Guardian introduces Capaldi to non-Brits.

Every time there is a regeneration, there is speculation that the next Doctor might not someone other than a white male. Neil Gaiman claims that a black actor has turned down the role. Steven Moffat, Matt Smith, and Jenna Coleman discussed the transition in this interview. An excerpt:

Is writing that final story for Matt Smith’s Doctor the biggest pressure you’ve faced, in doing this show?

MOFFAT:  The biggest pressure will always be introducing a new Doctor.  And I can’t imagine it will ever be tougher than with “The Eleventh Hour” because everything changed.  It’s not an ideal way to run television.  It really isn’t.  That was mad.  All the execs left, the producer left, and all the stars left.  You think, “Christ, how do you get away with that?!”  We’re not in that situation this time, and it’s good that we’re not.  People say, “It must have been great and exciting and marvelous that you had all that new stuff,” but not really.  But, we got away with it.  I just remember thinking, “Are people going to buy that this is the same show, when it clearly is not?”

Do you wish that you could just introduce the new Doctor via the show, when he finally shows up?

MOFFAT:  I’d love to, but that’s physically impossible.  It was Russell’s plan not to tell anyone that Chris [Eccleston] was going to change in the last episode, but it leaked after one week.  I wish it were possible.   The fact is that those actors’ agents have to say that they’re available.  They have to take jobs.  It’s going to leak, so you have to take command of that story.  It’s annoying.  I’d far rather not tell anybody anything, seriously.  If you’re telling a joke, you don’t want anybody telling the punchline before you get to the end.  Sadly, I don’t think it’s possible now.  Everybody wanders around with cameras now.  A few years ago, no one had a camera on them.  Now, every little human being goes around with a camera on their phone.  How am I going to keep secrets with that?!  It’s tough.  It can be irritating, but what can you do?

Moffat started with a new cast with both Matt Smith and Karen Gillan. With Jenna Coleman still being relatively new to the series, the show with Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman will have a different feel than during most of Moffat’s tenure with Matt Smith and the Ponds.

Now that we know who will play the next Doctor, the next major succession is who will play Batman when he appears in the next Superman movie. Rumor has it that Orlando Bloom is the leading contender.

agents-of-shield-tv-show-teaser

Joss Whedon discussed synergy between Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the universe of The Avengers:

Speaking at the recent TCAs, Whedon said fans will spot some synergy in the run-up to Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Thor: The Dark World. “There will be as much as we can allow,” he said. “We’re still working that out. It’s a fun opportunity, but it’s not the reason for the show. It’s not an Easter egg farm, we want people to come back.”

The pilot kicks off with Angel alumnus J August Richards as an “unregistered gifted” that the SHIELD agents must track down. Don’t expect a superhero-of-the-week show, though, “There could be a device, a mystery,” Whedon continued.

“There’s so many aspects as to what’s happened since everybody in the world found out there’s a superhero team and aliens invaded New York. We want to be able to change it up every week: spy stuff, hero stuff, heartfelt stuff. We want to make sure the humor is there, but every week, you get something that feels a little bit different.”

Disney has also released a full synopsis for Captain America: The Winter Soldier

After the cataclysmic events in New York with The Avengers, Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier finds Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, living quietly in Washington, D.C. and trying to adjust to the modern world. But when a S.H.I.E.L.D. colleague comes under attack, Steve becomes embroiled in a web of intrigue that threatens to put the world at risk.

Joining forces with the Black Widow, Captain America struggles to expose the ever-widening conspiracy while fighting off professional assassins sent to silence him at every turn. When the full scope of the villainous plot is revealed, Captain America and the Black Widow enlist the help of a new ally, the Falcon. However, they soon find themselves up against an unexpected and formidable enemy—the Winter Soldier.

These Avengers-themed sex toys will definitely never be sold at the many stores around the Disney theme parks, even should the Avengers characters be moved from Universal to WDW in the future.

ABC is in talks to bring another genre show to television–a live action Star Wars show. I really hope this happens, not because I care whether there is a weekly Star Wars show but because maybe this would lead CBS (who appears to own the rights, but it is somewhat murky) to counter by returning Star Trek to television. Star Trek worked far better as a weekly series than intermittent movies which are forced by market demands to be big action movies.

After Disney purchased the rights to Star Wars, there was talk of expanding the Star Wars presence at the Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park. I expressed skepticism over speculation that they would  get rid of Muppet Vision 3D and the Honey I Shrunk the Kids Playground for this expansion. Earlier in the week I was looking at the refurbishment schedule at Walt Disney World and noticed that Muppet Vision 3D is closed August 6 through September 2 for refurbishment. In addition, the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Playground will be closed September 3 through November 19 for refurbishment. They might not be around forever, but it doesn’t appear likely that they plan to remove them in the near future. As is usually the case at WDW, other areas will also be closed during these times. The most significant is that Spaceship Earth will be closed August 18-24.

mulgrew

On Orange is the New Black, Kate Mulgrew ran the prison kitchen instead of the Starship Voyager. She was interviewed by Vulture, and told about one Star Trek reference thrown into the show:

At one point Natasha Lyonne has a line, “I thought I was your Spock.”
Yes, they threw that in. I’m sure they’ll do some more of that. I think that was intentional and very clever!

Speaking of Star Trek, Blastr describes how the show was saved by Lucille Ball.

In 1965, Roddenberry got a pilot order from NBC and produced the original Star Trek pilot “The Cage.” It was rejected by the network, reportedly because it was “too cerebral,” and for most shows that’s where the story would have ended. Luckily for Roddenberry, he had Ball on his side. The story goes that she still thought the Star Trek idea had legs, and used her considerable influence in television to push for NBC to give Roddenberry a second chance. The network made the exceedingly rare move of ordering a second pilot from Roddenberry, who overhauled almost the entire cast of characters from “The Cage” and eventually produced “Where No Man Has Gone Before.” That pilot was accepted, the show was given a series order, and the rest is history.

Damian Louis interviewed about his role on Homeland in the video above.

Anna Torv returns to television following Fringe in a show expected to air on HBO next year. Torv will play a lesbian yoga instructor.

Yvonne Strahovski as Hannah McKay (Season 7, episode 6) - Photo: Randy Tepper/Showtime - Photo ID: dexter_706_0087

We don’t know yet how Dexter will end but executive producer Sara Colleton realizes that she can’t make everyone happy.

“This has been the ending that we have talked about for years,” she said. “So to us, it feels right for our show and how we feel about it. I hope fans will think it’s right [too].”

The exec conceded that there is no way to make “everybody happy” with the conclusion of the Michael C Hall series.

“At the end of the day, we know that you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t,” she said. “There will be people who hate it, but we can’t try to anticipate that or put it through the lens of any other show’s finale – because that was another show.

“This is our show. This is Dexter.”

It is hard to believe that things will end well for Dexter Morgan. Multiple routes to doom have arisen this season. So far this has included Dr. Vogel and Deb when she is in a crazy mood. Last week episode showed two additional threats. He has decided he wants to be a mentor to Zach Hamilton, but Zach appears unhinged enough to turn on Dexter. Then there was the return of Hannah McKay.

Having a hard time waiting until Game of Thrones returns? The White Queen on Starz might help.

Piracy drops when there are legal ways to view shows. It comes as no surprise that piracy has spiked in response to the Time Warner cable blackout of CBS.
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SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who; Agents of SHIELD; New & Returning Shows; Community; Person of Interest; The Newsroom

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Neil Gaiman’s second episode of Doctor Who, Nightmare in Silver, was weaker than his first episode, The Doctor’s Wife. Like so many  episodes this half-season, it wasn’t bad but came up short of what it might have been. The good thing about the episode is that Gaiman updated the backstory for the Cybermen which might be used in future episodes. He had less to say about the Doctor’s history than in The Doctor’s Wife except to reveal that it is foolish to try to beat the Doctor at Chess as The Timelords invented chess.

Gaiman accelerated the trend of making the Cybermen more like the Borg. (There has also been speculation that the Borg were originally based upon the Cybermen but I have never seen confirmation of this). Instead of assimilation, they upgrade. They upgrade humans, and now other species, with cybermites, and upgrade themselves to counter attacks. One problem with the episode was that upgrades were only used for dramatic effect in limited circumstances. The Cybermen upgraded to be faster, but in most scenes they continued to move slowly.

These Cybermen were shown to be far more dangerous. They are so dangerous that the standard reaction to finding one a a planet is to destroy the entire planet. Even an entire galaxy was destroyed to prevent the Cybermen from advancing. The problem with making an enemy this powerful is that ending each episode by imploding the planet would be tedious, and having the Doctor repeatedly defeat them in under an hour would be unrealistic–sort of how the Borg gradually changed from an unbeatable force when introduced on Star Trek The Next Generation to a race easily defeated by a lone starship on Voyager.

Warwick Davies stole the show as Porridge, later revealed to be Emperor Ludins Nimrod Kendrick Cord Longstaff the 41st. It was unrealistic for the Emperor to just happen to be hiding on this planet, but now that the Doctor has met him it would be a shame for the two not to meet up again.

The episode has the obligatory (this season) homage to past Doctors with images of them displayed. There’s more to come next week, including a scene with Bessie driving by. There were not any obvious clues to the Clara mystery but Clara did learn that the Doctor considers her to be the impossible girl. We should be getting the answers next week, with this prequel released leading into The Name of the Doctor:

A Radio Times interview with Neil Gaiman is posted here. Gaiman’s interview with the official Doctor Who site is here.  Blastr has the story of how Steven Moffat got Neil Gaiman to update the Cybermen and make them scary.

The Behind the Scenes video is above.

The Doctor found a BAFTA in the TARDIS (video above). There is also more at the awards ceremony to honor Doctor Who:

Doctor Who is to be honoured with a special tribute to be shown at Sunday’s BAFTA television award ceremony.

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts will be marking the programme’s 50th Anniversary year by showing a video montage celebrating the long history of the show.

Current companion Jenna-Louise Coleman will also attend the ceremony at the Royal Festival Hall in London and will present one of the night’s awards.

Amanda Berry OBE, Chief Executive of BAFTA, said:

There are only a handful of programmes that have the quality and longevity of Doctor Who and the ability to put the nation on their sofas – or indeed behind them – year after year. BAFTA raises a toast to Doctor Who on its 50th birthday this year.

Steven Moffat, Doctor Who’s Lead Writer and Executive Producer, said the production team would be sending Daleks to patrol the red carpet:

This is a massive and exciting year for Doctor Who, so I’m thrilled that BAFTA are including a special tribute to the show. So thrilled, in fact, we’re sending the Doctor’s best friend, Jenna Coleman, to present an award. We’re also sending the Doctor’s worst enemy, the Daleks, to exterminate lots of innocent people. Sorry, it’s just what they do. Let us know if it’s a Health and Safety issue.

Doctor Who won the main BAFTA award for Best Drama Series in 2006 and has won many BAFTA Craft Awards since the series returned in 2005.

Watch out for spoilers this week. An error was made and some Blu-Ray sets with The Name of the Doctor has been shipped early and some copies of the episode are starting to appear on line. Some people are intentionally spoiling the show on Twitter so be careful in reading messages in response to mentioning Doctor Who.

Speaking of spoilers,  John Hurt may have revealed his role in the 50th Anniversary episode:

Mr Hurt, who lives near Cromer, earlier told the EDP he had just finished shooting a Dr Who 3D special in which he plays “part of the Doctor” in a “kind of trinity” which includes David Tennant.

Not surprisingly, ABC has picked up Agents of SHIELD, along with additional genre shows for next season. More on the cast of Agents of SHIELD here. Defiance and Revolution have both been renewed. In the overkill department, Once Upon A Time is both returning and getting a spin-off. Blastr has a run down of eleven new genre shows.24 might return as a 12 or 13 episode mini-series. Does this mean that the story will take place in real time over a shorter period of time or that the show will move faster than real time?

Community - Season 4

Community was also picked up for a fifth season and there are some rumors that Dan Harmon might return. (I’m not holding my breath, but hope it is true.) Chevy Chase is gone, and he was not missed in the episodes where he did not appear at all or only had minor roles. The finale showed once again that show runners David Guarascio and Moses Port may be sincere in their desire to continue the creative ideas of Dan Harmon but just do not understand how to carry this out.

Compare the season finale, Advanced Introduction to Finality, with Basic Human Anatomy, the episode written by Jim Rash which most critics consider the best of the season. The finale brought back The Darkest Timeline with a story which was ridiculous on so many levels. It centered around the impossible situation of people crossing over from The Darkest Timeline with the use of paint ball in a story which didn’t make much sense even if you accept this. Then it ended by revealing it all to be Jeff’s daydream. A daydream (if the story was good) would be fine as part of a story. It might have even worked earlier in the season, but the finale should not be almost entirely a day dream (especially when the dream storyline wasn’t all that good).

Dan Harmon would have been more subtle with the use of an alternative time line, as with Jim Rash with the body swaps in Basic Human Anatomy. If there were true body swaps, or if it was all a dream, I doubt the story would have worked. Instead Rash had characters behave as if they had swapped bodies to reveal more about the characters. Troy acted as Abed because he couldn’t cope with a relationship he is too immature to handle. Abed reciprocated by acting as if he was Troy to end the relationship. Of course we know why the Dean pretended to change bodies with Jeff. The flashing lights weren’t magic but just someone flipping the switches. While not plausible, it was all possible.

Next season is expected to pick up with the remaining members of the study group in their final semester. Jeff and Pierce have graduated. Presumably Pierce is gone forever, but they now have a more difficult job of getting Jeff into the episodes when he should no longer be at the study group’s table. Perhaps they will come up with another reason why Jeff needs another class, but that would make last season appear even lamer in retrospect.

Person of Interest finale

Person of Interest concluded the season with a strong two-part episode which more firmly establishes the show as science fiction. In earlier episodes the machine was simply a gimmick to set up a more conventional crime show of the week, but now the machine is an integral part of the show. Plus Amy Acker was back and Sarah Shahi is an excellent addition to the show. In some ways the show reminds me of Fringe, which gradually set up its mythology in earlier stand-alone episodes.

Aaron Sorkin’s show, The Newsroom, returns on July 14, with changes made to hopefully fix some of the problems from the first season. A promo video is below:

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

DOCTOR WHO SERIES 7B EPISODE 1

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

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

DOCTOR WHO SERIES 7B SERIES PREVIEW IMAGES

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

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

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

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

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

Doctor Who was also nominated for two BAFTA Awards:

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

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

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

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

Three episodes were nominated for Hugo Awards:

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

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

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

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

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

 

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SciFi Weekend: Fringe Series Finale

Olivia Alternate Universe

Throughout its five year run, Fringe was often unrealistic, but fans were willing to forgive this and enjoy the ride. The series finale was made to feel more plausible by multiple references to prior events on the show. It also helped the flow of the episode to have the major revelations and the plan to destroy the Observers revealed the previous week.

The finale began with the need to rescue Michael, the child observer, from a detention cell on Liberty Island. On Fringe the way to get around security was obvious–go to Liberty Island in the alternate universe, which is the location of the Department of Defense, come back to our universe and rescue Michael, return to the alternative universe, and then return to our universe at a safer spot. This meant that Olivia had to receive a new series of injections of Cortexiphan to allow her to cross over and back a total of four times. Sure this was risky, but “Etta died so we could finish the plan,”as Olivia pointed out to a skeptical Peter.

This plan served a couple of purposes. For the fans, it allowed one more glimpse of the alternative universe. While some disagree, I found the alternative universe arc to be the highlight of the entire series. We got to see Fauxlivia and Lincoln again, and find that Walternate is now lecturing at Harvard at age 90. I do wish we had another opportunity to see John Noble play this role. For the purpose of the story plot, it provides a reason for Michael to have allowed himself to be captured in the prior episode, which became important later on. His capture led to Olivia injecting herself with Cortexiphan, providing her with the power to kill Windmark in their final battle and enable Michael to be taken into the future.

Sure, this was somewhat convoluted. Maybe Michael could have come up with another way to defeat the Observers and go into the future. The  plan might not have worked at all if he had been taken somewhere else. Perhaps Michael could have told them that it was essential for Olivia to receive the Cortexiphan, but they might not have be willing to take this risk without high stakes such as Michael being captured.

From Michael’s perspective, being captured didn’t seem to be a problem. Windmark’s scientist found that Michael had greater intellectual powers than the Observers and a capacity for emotional responsiveness than normal humans (whatever this means). Michael clearly had more powerful mind powers than Windmark. It is also probable that he could see the future, knowing that Olivia would take the Cortexiphan and rescue him before the Observer surgeons got started on him.

Besides seeing Fauxlivia and Lincoln again, it was good to see Broyles have a major role in this episode. His attempts to mislead the Observers ultimately failed and he was captured. This provided an opportunity to see a wide variety of items saved from the Fringe Unit used in an attack which included his rescue and obtaining another gadget needed for the time machine. Having seen this tactic used earlier this season both made this attack appear more realistic within the framework of the show and eliminated the need for an explanation in this episode.

This was a good episode for Astrid. Highlights of her actions in this episode included her showing Walter another “character” from the past–Gene the cow, frozen in Amber. When they needed an ignition device (because Windmark got this from December before September/Donald could) Astrid came up with the idea to use one of the Observers shipping lanes. Again this was shown in an earlier episode of the season, making it plausible without distracting explanations or pulling something totally out of left field.

The previous episode had foreshadowed two aspects of the finale–resetting time to be with Etta again and sacrifice. I (and probably most viewers) had been expecting all season for the series to end by resetting time and returning to the scene in the park when the invasion began and Etta was taken. The idea of sacrificing Peter has come up so often that this was almost expected, but would contradict the predictions of Olivia, Peter, and Etta being safe in the park.

Fringe Park

Once things were hinted at in the previous episode it became obvious that the ending would provide some degree of a surprise and the ending would not be exactly as predicted. A tape was found of Walter explaining that the sacrifice was that, to prevent a paradox, he would have to live in the future and could not be present in the world of 2015 when the Observer invasion (which would be wiped from history) originally occurred. With time being reset in 2015 I am not certain why the reset wouldn’t include Walter being there, but how do we argue with the results of time travel? Then, after we believed that Walter would be sacrificed, Donald decided to go instead of him, feeling greater attachment to his son and having greater understanding of what it meant for Walter and Peter to remain together.  It also made more sense for Donald to go on to a life in 2167 considering that otherwise he would cease to exist along with the other Observers. We were misled about this again as Donald was killed and Walter had to take Michael into the future.

The universe was reset to 2015 with Peter and Olivia in the park with Etta. There is one potential problem with this scenario. If there were no Observers, then Peter would not have survived being brought over in the initial timeline of Fringe as he was saved from drowning by September. It is questionable as to whether this was necessary as we already saw the timeline changed so that Peter did not exist, and yet he returned (without a really plausible explanation). On the one hand, his existence in this timeline no longer depended upon him being brought over by Walter as this event did not occur in this timeline. On the other hand, Peter returned to existence in this timeline because of his existence in the initial timeline. His continuing existence in one way is even harder to justify because of the lack of Observers to have led to a timeline where he was here. On the other hand, his existence after the reset would have been more implausible if not for the way he returned in the fourth season, no longer having the history of being brought from the alternate universe with help from September. Peter’s existence, even though he should not exist, has been something we must accept from Fringe in the final two seasons.

The question of Walter’s continued existence after resetting the timeline allowed for a reference back to an episode from 2010, White Tulip, in which a picture of a white tulip had been sent to Walter after an analogous situation involving time travel. Now Peter was the recipient of the letter with a white tulip. It is sad to see this series end, but also tempting to go back and watch earlier episodes which will not have so much more meaning after seeing their role in the big picture painted over five years by this fantastic series.

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Fringe Series Finale Trailer

It all ends this Friday.

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SciFi Weekend: Some Answers on Fringe; Avengers; SHIELD; Star Wars; Dexter; Awards; White House Response On Petition To Build The Death Star; Grammar Dalek; Dark Knight Trilogy In Three Minutes

Fringe Olivia Walter

This week’s episode of Fringe, The Boy Must Live, was the final episode before Friday’s two hour series finale. After enduring years of episodes which offered more questions than answers, this episode did reveal a lot about September/Donald, the Observers, and the child Observer, Michael. September was punished for his assistance to the Bishops by Biological Reinversion–being turned back into a normal human. Donald explained how the Observers became the way they are by generic engineering (in addition to the device seen earlier this season). The key moment comes in 2167 when a scientist in Norway finds that removing jealousy from humans would leave room for greater intelligence. Further emotions were later removed to provide for even greater intelligence. Of course we have seen examples showing that at least some Observers still have some emotions.

Once humans lost emotions, test tubes replaced sex to create future generations. Michael was an anomaly who possessed both advanced intelligence and emotions. His genetic material came from September, who showed emotions himself in forming a bond with this son and saved him, analogous to Walter saving Peter.

September has been keeping a notebook of his observations of humans. This is actually being released as a book on March 12.

For beings of supposedly great intelligence, Observers often appear to have difficulty communicating. When September met Walter after saving Peter, when he said “the boy must live” he was referring not to Peter (the boy present at the time) but to Michael (a boy who Walter had no knowledge of at the time). While September sees time differently, it still makes little sense for him to have said this to Walter at this time without further explanation. September also showed questionable intelligence, even if reinverted to a human, when he wired his apartment to explode but included a warning light allowing other Observers to escape.

Finding the real meaning of “the boy must live” does clear up the question of why the Observers eliminated Peter’s existence in our timeline in a previous season if he was so important. I had previously rationalized this as representing different priorities for September and the other Observers.

Donald’s plan was to send Michael to 2167 to show that it is possible to have advanced intelligence without eliminating emotion. The scavenger hunt of the season to date has been to accumulate supplies needed for a time machine, with Donald conveniently having access to additional material needed. The idea is that, seeing Michael, the scientist would go down a different road and not eliminate emotion. The hope is that this would keep the Observers from coming back in time and waging war against humanity. When in human history have emotions kept a group from going to war?

The episode foreshadows two ideas which have been common in fan discussion of the final season–sacrifice and resetting time. Peter even suggested to Olivia that if they could reset time and prevent the invasion they could have Etta back. However, if the Observers were changed this might mean that Walter might have never succeeded in bringing Peter over from the other earth and he might have never lived and met Olivia. On the other hand, this might not be an issue in the world of Fringe, where Peter already returned once after he ceased to exist in our timeline. Michael also gave Walter memories of Peter from the previous timeline, making it even more tragic if the two do not both remain alive after the Observers are defeated.

I also wonder if raising the need for sacrifice and resetting the timeline in this episode served as misdirection, with one or both points not being true once we see how the dilemma is resolved.

The episode ended with another mystery as Michael voluntarily surrendered himself to the Observers. I wonder if he doesn’t have yet another plan which will allow him to destroy the Observers while he appears to be their prisoner.

Agent-Coulson-98701-header

Joss Whedon says Avengers 2 will be deeper, not bigger. He also will begin shooting on the pilot for his S.H.I.E.L.D. series in the near future. Reportedly the series takes place after the events of The Avengers, but there also reports that Clark Gregg will reprise his role of Agent Phil Coulson in the pilot, creating some questions.

ABC is also considering a live action Star Wars television series.

Person of Interest had another strong episode this week. Prisoner’s Dilemma ties the recent arc in which Reese was captured into has back story. He’s now in the hands of his old partner, Kara Stanton, and I have no idea what she is up to.

Showtime had an awesome Sunday night line up with both Dexter and Homeland. They are moving up Dexter’s’ eight, and probably final, season to June 30 so that the popularity of both Dexter and Homeland can be used to develop other shows.

The Oscar nominations came out without much attention to genre movies. Some genre movies are competing for Visual Effects. The nominees are The Avengers, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Life of Pi, Prometheus, and Snow White and the Huntsman. Life of Pi also was nominated for Best Picture. There are some additional nominations for genre movies, but only in minor categories.  Benedict Cumberbatch is nominated for Best Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television for his role on Sherlock at the Golden Globe Awards tonight.

The White House has denied the petition to build the Death Star, and showed a sense of humor with this response:

Official White House Response to Secure resources and funding, and begin construction of a Death Star by 2016.

This Isn’t the Petition Response You’re Looking For

By Paul Shawcross

The Administration shares your desire for job creation and a strong national defense, but a Death Star isn’t on the horizon. Here are a few reasons:

  • The construction of the Death Star has been estimated to cost more than $850,000,000,000,000,000. We’re working hard to reduce the deficit, not expand it.
  • The Administration does not support blowing up planets.
  • Why would we spend countless taxpayer dollars on a Death Star with a fundamental flaw that can be exploited by a one-man starship?

However, look carefully (here’s how) and you’ll notice something already floating in the sky — that’s no Moon, it’s a Space Station! Yes, we already have a giant, football field-sized International Space Station in orbit around the Earth that’s helping us learn how humans can live and thrive in space for long durations. The Space Station has six astronauts — American, Russian, and Canadian — living in it right now, conducting research, learning how to live and work in space over long periods of time, routinely welcoming visiting spacecraft and repairing onboard garbage mashers, etc. We’ve also got two robot science labs — one wielding a laser — roving around Mars, looking at whether life ever existed on the Red Planet.

Keep in mind, space is no longer just government-only. Private American companies, through NASA’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Program Office (C3PO), are ferrying cargo — and soon, crew — to space for NASA, and are pursuing human missions to the Moon this decade.

Even though the United States doesn’t have anything that can do the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs, we’ve got two spacecraft leaving the Solar System and we’re building a probe that will fly to the exterior layers of the Sun. We are discovering hundreds of new planets in other star systems and building a much more powerful successor to the Hubble Space Telescope that will see back to the early days of the universe.

We don’t have a Death Star, but we do have floating robot assistants on the Space Station, a President who knows his way around a light saber and advanced (marshmallow) cannon, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which is supporting research on building Luke’s arm, floating droids, and quadruped walkers.

We are living in the future! Enjoy it. Or better yet, help build it by pursuing a career in a science, technology, engineering or math-related field. The President has held the first-ever White House science fairs and Astronomy Night on the South Lawn because he knows these domains are critical to our country’s future, and to ensuring the United States continues leading the world in doing big things.

If you do pursue a career in a science, technology, engineering or math-related field, the Force will be with us! Remember, the Death Star’s power to destroy a planet, or even a whole star system, is insignificant next to the power of the Force.

Paul Shawcross is Chief of the Science and Space Branch at the White House Office of Management and Budget

That’s ok with me if they don’t build the Death Star. I’m far more interested in the more recent proposal to build the Starship Enterprise.

Grammar Dalek

T-shirt available here, based upon this cartoon.

The Dark Knight Trilogy is condensed to only three minutes in the video above.  I’m afraid the experience is not the same as watching the full movies.

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