SciFi Weekend: Star Trek Sequel; Dollhouse; New Shows; Next Doctor Who Companion in a Bikini

Star Trek writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman deny the predictions made by Zoe Saldana that the script for the next movie is half way done.  They did discuss possibilities for the sequel with SciFi Wire:

Developing a worthy sequel to this year’s generally acclaimed and certainly lucrative Trek reboot will take much more time, Kurtzman said. They have to exhaust every possible idea to find the best ones.

“We take nothing for granted at this point,” Kurtzman said. “We’re only going to do it when it’s really right.”

The discussions include brainstorming classic Trek missions, which could be revisited with a new timeline established thanks to Spock and Nero’s time travel. Even generating new ideas brings up past Trek episodes, Orci said.

“Even when you pitch stuff, sometimes someone will be like, ‘Wow, that’s like that one episode,'” Orci said. “So even in trying to stay away from it, you can crash back in there.”

They hope to get some more of the classic catchphrases into the next movie:

One thing Orci does want to do is get more classic catchphrases into the sequel. Memorable moments in Abrams’ Trek included Spock Prime’s “Live long and prosper” and young Bones’ saying, “Dammit, Jim, I’m a doctor, not a … .” An example of a possible catchphrase to come? Bones has yet to say “He’s dead, Jim.”

“I noted that,” Orci admitted. “I was watching cable the other night, watching Star Trek. It’s been on rotation, the original series. He said, ‘He’s dead, Jim.’ I was like, ‘Oh, that has to go [in the script].'”

Getting that into the movie is fine, as long as they don’t screw up a script purely to give excuses to fit in such phrases.

Rod Roddenberry, son of Gene Roddenberry,  gave his views on a sequel to Star Trek in an interview in The Los Angeles Times:

HC: Is there anything you would like NOT to see in the sequels? Or anything specific you WOULD like to see?

RR: Well, not that this is factual information, but we all know they’re going to make another one. They would be crazy not to. So we all know that that’s going to happen. I’d like to see that the same team stays onboard. What tends to happen is someone comes in, they make their mark, now they’re gonna bring in someone else, and it becomes generic sci-fi action. That’s not “Star Trek.” “Star Trek” was never science fiction. “Star Trek” was about people, humanity, characters. That was just thrown into the bubble of science fiction.

Airlock Alpha reports that Epitaph One, the unaired episode of Dollhouse which I discussed here, will be critical in the upcoming season. The series will move towards the apocalypse seen in the episode, but details might not be as the memories restored in the episode described them.

Two of the promising new science fiction series for next season are a remake of V and FlashForward based upon Robert Sawyer’s novel. Spoiler TV has videos of a panel and interview regarding V. FlashForward executive producer David S. Goyer has discussed the show:

“FlashForward” executive producer David S. Goyer said that almost all of the mysteries presented in the show’s pilot will be solved by the end of the first season. But “to do the show justice” the serialized ABC program should run at least three seasons.

The only major question from the pilot that will be left unanswered by the end of S1 is what’s behind the blackout, which Goyer says will remain the central question of the show’s mythology.

“I really like to feel like storytellers need to know where they’re going,” Goyer said. “We have an obligation to know.”

Asked if he’s learned any lessons from ABC’s “Lost,” Goyer said, “it proved to me there could be a place on network television for a show like that … ‘Lost’ taught me that you could do a show with a large ensemble cast and tell a big cinematic story.”

In the show, everybody in the world blacks out and sees a glimpse of themselves six months in the future. Goyer says the first season will extend past that point in the story, revealing whether the characters’ prophesies come true.

And, finally, the latest pictures to gain attention in the blogosphere (beyond yet more nude pictures of Vanessa Hudgens) are recently resurfaced pictures of the next Doctor Who companion, Karen Gillan, in a bikini (picture above).

Eliminating Money in Japan

quark bar

I often see articles which compare real world changes to science fiction, but generally they are about scientific advances. The Times of London has a different comparison:

To fight deflation, abolish cash. Could Japan make reality of ‘science fiction’?

With recovery elusive, a population doddering into old age and perhaps a decade of deflation in prospect, Japan may start mulling the most radical monetary policy of all — the abolition of cash.

Unorthodox, untried and, said one Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi strategist, “in the realms of economic science fiction”, the recommendation has nevertheless begun floating around Tokyo’s corridors of power and economists have described Japan as particularly suitable as a testing ground.

The search for more outré economic policies continues, despite the recent surge in the Nikkei 225 index.The market may be reflecting soaring Chinese investment, rising consumer confidence and other cheerful data but economists see few long-term beacons of hope for Japan.

Other extreme ideas mooted by the financial authorities include a tax on physical currency or introducing one to operate alongside the yen.

The science fiction example which comes immediately to mind is Star Trek. Gene Roddenberry had the idea of a future where people are perfect and money isn’t needed. In his utopia people would do what they like to do without needing to be paid.

The economic problems with that are obvious, and not even subsequent Star Trek writers went along. While there was concern with creating a new time line to avoid contradicting Star Trek canon, there are actually multiple contradictions already present. There were episodes in which it was stated explicitly that Earth had eliminated money while other episodes showed money in use. One episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine even involved the dilemma of Jake Sisko having to engage in a series of trades to obtain a gift because people from Earth had no money. I’m sure that somehow Quark was paid by Star Fleet patrons as he certainly would not operate a bar just for the pleasure of it.

This science fiction comparison really has nothing to do with the situation in Japan as they are actually looking at ways to make monetary transactions without the use of physical cash.  It is already common there to buy things just by swiping their cell phone, making the elimination of physical cash plausible.

Did Asimov Influence Obama?

We’ve had the New Deal and the New Frontier. Steve Benen speculates that Obama’s slogan might be the New Foundation. This led me (along with some of those commenting on his blog) to immediately think of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy. (While Steve didn’t mention this in his post, I also know Steve well enough to know he is a huge science fiction fan and I can’t believe he wasn’t also thinking of this.)

Last week, with the release of Star Trek, there were articles comparing Obama to Spock and discussing comparisons between Gene Roddenberry’s vision and Obama’s campaign for hope and change. Are political writers now going to have to look beyond Star Trek and also consider Asimov’s work? If the Bush years were a great time for authoritarians, theocrats, and lovers of torture, will we look back at the Obama years as a great time for those who follow science fiction for its vision?

SciFi Weekend: Star Trek XI

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With Star Trek J.J. Abrams has succeeded in making a movie which is both entertaining to both Star Trek fans and to those who have not seen Star Trek before.  This eleventh Star Trek movie is certainly the best of the odd-numbered movies (which isn’t saying much) and in many ways is the best of all the movies. Star Trek was primarily a set of television series with the movies never really doing justice to the quality of the television series. While taking some liberties with continuity, to the frustration of some fans, Abrams has done an excellent  job of capturing the actual feel of the shows while still making it a movie non-fans can enjoy.

When Gene Roddenberry first started Star Trek he wanted it to take place on a ship which already had a history. The original series began some time into a five year mission for the U.S.S. Enterprise.  Instead Abrams started from the beginning, showing both Spock and Kirk grow up and eventually wind up on the Enterprise. This allowed long time fans to see a story which had not been done before while allowing new viewers to  get into the story without any need to know the history.

In starting over with a new cast and a reboot of the series, some were concerned about whether this would really be Star Trek. If the movie was not to be true to Star Trek it would be better for Abrams to start with a new space opera of his own. There are many things which make Star Trek. This includes the feel of the cast, ship, and the universe the stories are set in, the philosophy of Star Trek, and the canon of the future history established. The movie succeeds well on the initial categories, with the most controversial area being over the changes in the time line. I will save discussion of this for last as it requires spoilers. I’ll provide another warning before getting into this final portion of the review where major spoilers are present.

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The most memorable feature of the original show was the interaction between the major characters, especially Kirk and Spock.  This was lost in future series but Star Trek lived with new characters. The movie was successful in reestablishing the classic relationships between the characters with a new set of actors. Chris Pine captured the essence of young Kirk, including his desire to bed every female who crossed his path. Karl Urban was terrific as Dr. Leonard McCoy. He was first seen in the film expressing his antipathy towards space flight. He later displayed comments about Spock which were true to the original when upset, and even got out a "I’m a doctor, not a X" line. Simon Pegg didn’t appear as Scotty until late in the movie, but it is easy to see his character developing into the Scotty of the television Enterprise. John Cho’s Sulu got an opportunity to do some fencing. Anton Yelchin played a very young and definitely Russian Chekov

There were minor deviations with Spock and Uhura, but they might have been for the better.  In the original pilot for the original show, The Cage,  Christopher Pike was Captain and Majel Barrett played the first officer. Spock was the only character to be kept on for the actual show but was shown as having emotions. Zachary Quinto’s Spock suppressed his emotions but did not seem as entirely emotion-free and logical as the Spock of the original show. This could be taken as a consequence of being younger and not yet being in control of his emotions to the degree seen on the television show.  This Spock was also different when compared to the television Spock who lacked the emotions to respond to nurse Christine Chapel’s advances. While Uhura had a relatively minor role on the television show, Zoe Saldana presents a far more vibrant character, which is definitely for the better.

It was to be expected that the ship would be modernized with science fiction visuals coming a long way from the 1960’s. This still captured the feel of a Star Trek starship despite the changes. The bridge was still the center of the ship. While minor, the views when en route to the shuttle crafts had a feeling of authenticity, being more complex than the television visuals while having a utilitarian simplicity. The uniforms were similar to the old ones (including having a red shirt be a sign of impending death) but were modernized just enough to avoid appearing geeky. Of course women wore miniskirts to be true to the original. The views of the Star Fleet Academy were similar to the views of Star Fleet when shown in the later television shows. The galaxy was also the galaxy of Star Trek,complete with references to Klingons, Romulans, the neutral zone, and even Cardassians.

USA-POLITICS/OBAMA

Far more than the specific characters and races, it was Roddenberry’s philosophy which defined Star Trek throughout its various incarnations. Roddenberry’s optimism, humanism, and support for liberal values makes the renewal of Star Trek particularly appropriate for the first year of the Obama administration. Star Trek fits the new feeling of hope and optimism and that we are now back on the right track. In contrast, the final Star Wars movie, Return of the Sith, while originally inspired more by the Nixon years, was more appropriate for the  Bush years in its portrayal of tyranny and the destruction of democracy. This movie had little chance to deal with Roddenberry’s philosophy, but where it was done, such as in the mission of Star Fleet as a “peace keeping and humanitarian armada,” it was consistent with Star Trek.

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In rebooting the series, J. J. Abrams wanted to avoid the problem of having to adhere to every item of Star Trek canon which has been established. While this was understandable, it should have also been predictable that Abrams would want the freedom to shake things up even more. On Alias the original format with SD-6 was unexpectedly changed in the second season, and the show continued with major changes over the years. Lost has also undergone major changes from year to year. This would be more difficult with Star Trek as we have seen the fates of major characters through the final mission of the U.S.S. Enterprise and the death of James Kirk. Further discussion of this involves major spoilers which those still planning to see the movie might wish to avoid.

Abrams wanted to leave himself free to totally change what might happen to any of the characters, along with freeing himself to have events in the movie differ canon. Rather than starting from scratch and totally ignoring past shows and movies, the solution allowed them to both stay within Star Trek’shistory and leave them free to move in different directions. Nero, the Romulan villain played by Eric Bana, traveled back in time to prevent the destruction of Romulus by destroying the Federation which he wrongly blamed for what happened to Romulus.  By coming back in time and changing events, Nero changed the time line.

Abrams, speaking through Spock, made quite a point of this in outright telling everyone on the bridge that the paths they were to have been on have now been changed. This made little sense as told to the crew as they know of no other time line and would not know that anything different is happening as they lived their lives in this time line. This is really a message for the viewers as we are being told that Abrams is free to change everything we know about the future history as established in Star Trek. Any character can now die, and any part of history can be changed.

quinto-spock

While I knew that Abrams had planned to have his stories take place in a different time line, I had hoped that Abrams would be more subtle about this, using it primarily to avoid criticism over violating canon over minor issues. Instead Abrams used this to bring about major changes both in how the Enterprise crew was brought together and in (final warning re huge spoilers) the destruction of Vulcan.

Abrams has essentially done what the Borg and many others have failed to do–totally wipe out everything we have seen in the Star Trek universe. It is possible that over time the universe will partially correct itself, but without Vulcan it is not possible for everything to return to the way it was meant ot be. (On the bright side, this might mean we will be spared the stories of Voyager).

At least the future history we have seen continues in the memories of Leonard Nimoy’s Spock who also came back in time. Abrams has described the new time line as existing in parallel to the time line we have seen, but real Star Trek geeks have found problems in this interpretation. Fortunately Star Trek has dealt with alternative time lines and alternate universes in different ways, leaving us free to interpret this as we choose, considering that in the end this  is all fiction, regardless of how real the Star Trek universe is seen as being to many fans. I’ll return to consideration of alternative time lines as portrayed on Star Trek at the end as I figure only hard core Star Trek fans will have any interest in this.

Starting a new time line will explain most of the differences between the movie and Star Trek canon. The differences which cannot be explained are trivial and can easily be overlooked. For example, it was previously established that James T. Kirk was born in Iowa on March 22, 2233, not in space as shown at the start of the movie. Kirk’s parents were not in space due to Nero coming back in time,  even if this did certainly affect the details of his birth.

Other changes from canon in the life of Kirk and the rest of the Enterprise crew could be accounted for by the change in time line but this was not necessarily for the better. From  information given in previous episodes, we know that Kirk moved up thorough the ranks and served on other starships before taking command of the Enterprise. This is far more realistic than to have Kirk be made First Officer, and soon after becoming Captain, on the initial flight, bypassing any other junior officers on board. As the movie skipped over large portions of Kirk’s life they could have briefly shown his advancement and then transfer him to the Enterprise as opposed to showing the implausible sequence of events of this movie.

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Actually many aspects of the movie were implausible but they can be overlooked without preventing enjoyment of the movie. It is not clear how Nero knew, upon hearing the year, that he arrived twenty-five years before Spock. While the ship came from the future it is still not very plausible that a mining ship would be this much more powerful than a starship. There were multiple scientific errors, such as going through a black hole to go back in time. Drilling to the planet’s core seems implausible. Unless Delta Vega was a moon of Vulcan it is hard to imagine how old Spock could have had such a close up view of the destruction of Vulcan.

While these and many other aspects of the movie are scientifically impossible, ideas on alternative universes are purely theoretical, making it difficult to evaluate the legitimacy of how this is portrayed in Star Trek. The concept has actually been portrayed in different ways on past Star Trek series.

city-edge-forever-ellison2

The most common portrayal of alternate time lines was seen in episodes such as City on the Edge of Forever, (Star Trek: The Original Series) and Yesterday’s Enterprise (Star Trek: The Next Generation). In these episodes the time line is changed and subsequently corrected so that things returned to how they should be. This does make changing the past fit firmly within Star Trek canon, except this time there was no cosmic reset switch as in Year of Hell (Star Trek: Voyager). The new movie series will continue entirely in this alternative time line and when seen like episodes such as City on the Edge of Forever this would mean that everything we have known in the old time line is gone.

While alternative time lines were generally portrayed as something which required repair to return the one reality which existed before the time line was altered, there have also been examples of parallel universes. The most extreme case was seen in Parallels (Star Trek: The Next Generation) in which there were multiple parallel universe. Some differed in only trivial manners while in others major events were different. While this could account for both versions of Star Trek, the parallel universes seen in this episode were each separate universes and a change in the time line in one  appears to mean that that particular universe would be changed. This would suggest that The Star Trek universe which we knew was still changed, even if similar ones might remain unchanged in parallel universe.

mirror-universe

A third form of alternative universes was first seen in Mirror, Mirror (Star Trek: The Original Series). In this episode a transporter problem exchanged crew members  with crew from the mirror universe where a tyrannical empire is present instead of Star Fleet. Chronologically earlier scenes of the mirror universe were seen in In a Mirror, Darkly (Star Trek: Enterprise).  This episode of Enterprise featured one of the few great moments in this series. The scene from First Contactin which Zephram Cochran first met he Vulcans was shown in the mirror universe with Cochran killing the Vulcans and taking control of the Vulcan ship.

How the mirror universe exists was never made clear. Some interpret it as one of many parallel universes as in Parallels. It has also been  interpreted by fans as being the consequence of a change in Earth’s history creating an alternative time line. Some have speculated that this is even the result of the alternative time line created in City On The Edge Of the Forever in which the Nazis won World War II. This theory would allow for the existence of both the original Star Trek universe and a new parallel one created by Nero’s alteration of the time line.

I have also seen some Star Trek fans object to changing the time line as they enjoy envisioning the Star Trek time line as if it is our real future.  If one wants to give this degree of reality to Star Trek, acting as if it really is a true future, then we must see it as being on a different time line from our own. The Star Trek Chronologyby Michael and Denise Okuda reveals that in 2009 (based upon information from Tomorrow is Yesterday) “Captain Shaun Geoffrey Christopher commands the first successful Earth-Saturn space-probe mission.” Nomad (The Changeling) was launched back in 2002. If we are living in the Star Trek time line we also managed to forget the Eugenics Wars which took place between 1993 and 1996 in which Kahn Noonien Singh (Space Seed) took control of Earth and much of the population was wiped out. (I imagine that most people were unaware of the Eugenics Wars because of the media being preoccupied with Clinton’s scandals).

I wish that Abrams had preserved the overall Star Trek history and had only used the idea of an alternative time line to get away with minor changes from canon. in the future  talk of the Star Trek universe may need to clarify which time line is being considered. Despite this, the movie is still Star Trek.  The ideas and personalities of Star Trek are far more important than a set of events in a fictional future history. While I would have preferred that Abrams not obliterate this from his work, the movie does provide us with our best hope of keeping Star Trek alive. I can accept the loss of the Star Trek future history if it means having a new opportunity to see the adventures of the Enterprise when commanded by James T. Kirk. I do hope that Abrams continues to make many sequels to this. After all, it would be a waste to destroy the old Star Trek time line unless Abrams now takes advantage of this with future movies.

SciFi Weekend: Remembrances for Majel Barrett Roddenberry; Forbidden Planet; Battlestar Galacitica and Heroes Webisodes; Surviving The Rise of the Machines; and a Doctor Who Christmas Preview

The top story of the week, as I reported on Thursday, was the death of Majel Barrett Roddenberry, widow of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and a character is several versions of Star Trek. Trek Movie.com has assembled a collection of condolence messages from many people who have been involved with Star Trek.

Latino Review has some spoilers on J. Michael Straczynski’s plans for a remake of Forbidden Planet. He is actually planning a trilogy, with the first movie to be a prequel to the original:

The prologue to the script contains the following: Two ships traveled to Altair 4, a planet orbiting a star 16.7 light years from Earth. The first ship, the Bellerophon, came to explore that world. The humans on board encountered the relics of the Krell civilization for the first time and exhumed their dangerous past. The Bellerophon was never heard from again. Twenty years later, a second ship, a C-57D Starcruiser, came to investigate the dissapearance of the Bellerophon and her crew.

The original 1956 Forbidden Planet told the tale of the second ship. What Straczynski’s draft is about is the never-before revealed tale of the first ship, the Bellerophon…

  • Movie One tells the story of the original ship that came to Altair 4.

  • Movie Two tells the story of the search for the Krell by the captain of the Bellerophon and his crew…as Diana continues to grow into something profoundly other-wordly. The search takes them beyond the limits of known space into other dimensions, passing from what’s known into what’s not.

  • Movie Three tells the story of the second ship to arrive at Altair 4 to investigate what happened to the Bellerophon. They discover Morbius and his “daughter,” who is desperate to get off the planet and out into the rest of the universe, where her power would nearly be god-like…a fate we are spared when Morbius sacrifices his life to keep her there and eliminate the Krell homeworld once and for all.

Because movies two and three would have some overlapping cast members, but not all of them, they could be easily shot concurrently or back to back.

Straczynski personally states in the last paragraph that what is cool about this new movie is that events shown completely change the meaning of the original Forbidden Planet without changing a frame of film. Altaira’s attempt to seduce or inveigle the crew comes across as manipulative, using them to get off the planet. Straczynski also states that this has value to geeks of which he is one.

With most television shows being on hiatus until January, and some not having been aired since last spring, some shows are keeping the attention of their fans by posting webisodes. TV Guide has an interview with Jane Espenson on the ten part Battlestar Galactica webisodes which lead into the conclusion of the final season. The webisodes concentrate on  Lt. Gaeta and it is revealed that he is bisexual. The webisodes can viewed on line here.

Epenson has also discussed the made for television movie, The Plan, which tells of the early events of Battlestar Galactica from the viewpoint of the Cylons, with Sci Fi Wire:

Jane Espenson, who wrote the upcoming movie Battlestar Galactica: The Plan, said that the telefilm will retell the initial story of the SCI FI Channel series, but from the perspective of the Cylons, and that it will take advantage of revelations that will come in the upcoming new episodes of the show’s fourth and final season.

“The events of The Plan are the events that you’ve seen … in the show, from the miniseries to almost the end of season two,” Espenson said in an exclusive interview. “So it’s that chunk of time, but sort of seen with the Cylon perspective. So you’re going to see a lot of stuff that was going on that you weren’t aware of at the time: on Caprica, in the fleet. … This was the time when the Cylons, as depicted in the original show, … were very mysterious, enemies that would come out of the darkness and retreat. And this is … what were they really doing all that time: what was the internal stuff. … A lot of loose ends are tied up, a lot of questions are asked that you don’t even know you have.”

The movie–the second stand-alone telefilm based on the Peabody Award-winning show–deals with all the mythology’s secrets. “If you had a copy now, you might feel that you could go ahead and watch it, because it’s about stuff that already happened,” Espenson said. “But don’t do it. Of course, you don’t have a copy now, because there isn’t even a cut yet. … But it’s very much designed to be watched after the run of the series, because it definitely relies on stuff you don’t learn until much later.”

Newsweek uses Battlestar Galactica as an example of how art has addressed the political issues during the Bush administration:

An orchestrated terrorist attack. An inexorable march to war. An enemy capable of disappearing among its targets, armed with an indifference to its own mortality. It sounds like a PBS special on Al Qaeda. In fact, it’s a synopsis of the Sci Fi Channel series “Battlestar Galactica,” which—for anyone who manages to get past the goofy name—captures better than any other TV drama of the past eight years the fear, uncertainty and moral ambiguity of the post-9/11 world. Yes, even better than “24,” with its neocon fantasies of terrorists who get chatty if Jack Bauer pokes the right pressure point. Of the two shows, “Battlestar” has been more honest about the psychological toll of the war on terror. It confronts the thorny issues that crop up in a society’s battle to preserve its way of life: the efficacy of torture, the curtailing of personal rights, the meaning of patriotism in a nation under siege. It also doesn’t flinch from one question that “24” wouldn’t dare raise: is our way of life even worth saving?

“Battlestar Galactica” always finds ways to challenge the audience’s beliefs—it is no more an ode to pacifism than “24” is to “bring ’em on” warmongering. In the pilot, humanity is nearly eradicated by the Cylons, a race of robots that revolt against their human creators. The only survivors are stationed on a spacecraft called Battlestar Galactica; they’re spared because the ship’s commander, William Adama (Edward James Olmos), had refused to relax any wartime restrictions. Adama is a hard-liner, willing to sacrifice personal freedoms in order to provide safety from an abstract threat. And he was right: the moment the human race let its guard down, the Cylons attacked. As the show unfolds, though, the survivors must constantly reflect on the price of keeping their enemies at bay, and whether it’s worth paying. The show’s futuristic setting—hushed and grimy, not the metallic cool of stereotypical sci-fi—helps ground the writers’ ruminations in a nail-biting drama series. “Battlestar Galactica” achieves the ultimate in sci-fi: it presents a world that looks nothing like our own, and yet evokes it with chilling accuracy.

Of course it would be an oversimplification to describe Battlestar Galactica as an argument that sacrificing personal freedoms is necessarily the correct response to current terrorist threats. Al Qaeda is certainly not the Cylons, and the show was written as a retelling of a story written well before we faced the current threats. One segment of the series was widely interpreted as being told from the viewpoint of the Iraqis in which the Cylons represented the United States as an occupying power.

Should the robots here on earth rebel, at least we are at less of a risk than many other industrialized countries, but you might want to consider moving to Africa. Both fans of Battlestar Galactica and the Terminator series might find this data to be of value.

Heroes ended a weak chapter last week and hopefully the show will recover when they have a less convoluted storyline beginning in January. We learned a little more at the conclusion of the last episode with Nathan appearing to be on the side of those hunting the other heroes, and we find that Michael Dorn (Worf) is the latest Star Trek star to appear on the show, playing the president. They are also presenting a series of webisodes until the show resumes, with the first episode embedded above.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N4pgws7Og78]

Another trailer is available for this year’s Doctor Who Christmas special (video above).

Majel Barrett Roddenberry Dies At 76

Majel Barrett Roddenberry, widow of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, has died of leukemia at age 76. Majel Barrett Roddenberry played nurse Christine Chapel in the original Star Trek series, Lwaxana Troi in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and was the voice of the Enterprise computer. From the announcement at Roddenberry.com:

Majel Barrett Roddenberry passed away this morning, December 18, 2008, at 12:27 AM in her Bel Air home. She died peacefully, in her sleep, and was surrounded by family and loved ones.

“My mother truly acknowledged and appreciated the fact that Star Trek fans played a vital role in keeping the Roddenberry dream alive for the past 42 years. It was her love for the fans, and their love in return, that kept her going for so long after my father passed away.” – Eugene “Rod” Roddenberry, Jr.

Information on donations and pending memorial service were also posted by her family:

The family has asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made in her name to the CARE Organization or Precious Paws both of which share Roddenberry’s love for animals and dedication to animal rescue.

Precious Paws
18034 Ventura Blvd., #430
Encino, CA 91316
www.preciouspaws.org
(818) 304-5595

C.A.R.E.
P.O. Box 56631
Sherman Oaks, CA 91403
www.care4pets.org
(818) 685-9980

Funeral details are pending and a public memorial will be scheduled sometime after Christmas or in early 2009.

There was a recent announcement that Roddenberry would be providing the voice for the Enterprise computer in the upcoming Star Trek movie but it wasn’t clear if this has already been recorded.

SciFi Friday: Star Trek News, Doctor Who Movie Rumors, And Battlestar Galactica Clips

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There are now two upcoming Star Trek movie events. Slice of SciFi reports that the two-part Star Trek Remastered version of “The Menagerie” will be presented in selected theaters on November 13 to promote the HD-DVD release the following week. The screening will include an introduction by Eugene Roddenberry, son of Gene Roddenberry, and a behind the scenes look at the making of the remastered Star Trek series.

Some former cast members of the original Star Trek series are being honored. William Shatner will receive the Jules Verne Lifetime Achievement Award on Sunday, December 9. More information is available at Startrek.com. George Takei’s character might not have survived long into the second season of Heroes, but he has been imortalized by having his name attached to an asteroid between Mars and Jupiter:

Last week the Committee on Small Body Nomenclature of the International Astronomical Union approved the name “7307 Takei” for the asteroid previously labeled “1994 GT9.” The Takei reference will be used in the scientific community to identify this minor body from now on, presumably forever. Only about 14,000 asteroids have been named after specific people, out of about 400,000 such bodies known to exist.

There’s rumors of upcoming movies. Cinematical speculates that Joss Whedon might make a sequel to Serenity. The Guardian says the BBC is considering a movie version of Doctor Who. SciFi Wire reports on rumors that Billie Piper might return for the movie or a three part special.

The season finale airs tonight for those watching Doctor Who on the SciFi Channel. My review was posted here.

SciFi Channel is revealing more information on Razor, the two-hour episode of Battlestar Galactica to air in November. They are preceding it with clips which will show during Flash Gordon and be available on line:

The Two-Hour Event

The special two-hour episode “Razor”, which will serve as a backdrop for the events of season four of Battlestar Galactica, tells the story of Lee Adama’s first mission as the commander of the battlestar Pegasus — and the harrowing tale of that ship’s desperate fight for survival in the immediate aftermath of the Cylon’s genocidal siege of the Twelve Colonies.

Lee Adama’s new XO, Major Kendra Shaw, is plagued by memories of her service and sacrifices under Admiral Helena Cain, who was able to save her ship during the Cylon attack — but only by making Shaw and her fellow officers rationalize suicidal battle tactics and brutal war crimes against their own people.

In the crucible of war, Shaw must let her hesitation and doubts burn away, until all that remains of her is the honed edge of a living human weapon — what Colonial veterans call “a razor.” But an edge so fine cuts in more than one direction. It can cleave an enemy to pieces … or it can carve away a person’s soul.

The Razor Flashbacks

The Razor Flashbacks From October 5 through November 16, SCI FI whets Battlestar fans’ appetites every Friday night with Razor Flashbacks during all-new episodes of Flash Gordon. All the flashback clips will be available on SCIFI.COM immediately after broadcast.

Written by Michael Taylor and directed by Wayne Rose and Felix Alcala, these intense, roughly two-minute segments tell the story of young William “Husker” Adama’s rookie Viper mission during the first Cylon war. In addition to fighting for his very survival against relentless Cylon centurions, Adama makes a terrifying discovery that will come back 40 years later to threaten him, the crew of the Pegasus and the survival of the human race.

This isn’t footage you’ll see in the premiere of Razor, so make sure to watch every Friday for a new flashback adventure, then see it again on SCIFI.COM!

The premise of another show being considered normally might not excite me but, considering that it is being produced by J. J. Abrams and written by Jill Soloway of Six Feet Under, it is worth checking out. The show “centers on a mobile notary who involves herself in the lives of those with whom she comes in contact.” Who would have guessed that a show about a family who runs a funeral parlor would have turned out to be one of the best shows ever to appear on television?

SciFi Friday: Emmy Awards, Battlestar Galactica, Doctor Who, Spoilers for 24 and Sex in the City, and Does Vanessa Go Wild?

There were several Emmy nominations for genre shows, but the only winner last Sunday night was Terry O’Quinn who won as Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series in Lost. While some were disappointed, the nominations themselves are also a form of recognition. I think they got it right in including Ron Moore in a group of top writers including David Chase, but it was no surprise that Chase came in first. Similarly Heroes is a good show and did well to get a nomination, but it didn’t stand a chance to win as best drama against Sopranos. While Battlestar Galactica got shut out on the main Emmy night, they did pick up a “Creative Emmy” for Outstanding Special Visual Effects. The award came for showing Galactica falling through the planet’s atmosphere in Exodus, Part 2.


TV Week reports that SciFi Channel is continuing to consider dividing up the final season of Battlestar Galactica for financial reasons:

As is often the case with the lavishly produced series, the issue is “the money people,” as one executive put it. Since “Battlestar” eats a considerable portion of the Sci Fi programming budget, the network might be forced to spread the resulting product across two seasons.

Showrunner Ron Moore shrugged off the issue. “It doesn’t affect my job either way, since we’re shooting it straight through,” he says. “It might be better to get it all done [in the same year] for the fans so they don’t have to wait.”

Waiting might be difficult:

With “Battlestar” fans already waiting about a year for the return of the series — not counting the two-hour “Razor” stand-alone movie coming this fall — returning with only 10 episodes could spark a revolt.

Moore’s storyline also could make fans demand rapid closure, one person close to the project says, since “when people see the ending of the 10th episode, they’re gonna freak out.”

The final decision might not come until January. A key factor is what new shows are in the pipeline that could be paired with “Galactica” – and how much those shows will cost.

Among the shows being considered is Caprica, the prequel to BSG. They are also considering filming the two hour pilot to sell on DVD regardless of whether they produce the entire series, especially if this fall’s BSG movie does well.

SciFi Pulse has an interview with Rod Roddenberry, son of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry. He is concerned about the movie being a prequel:

I am concerned about them doing a prequel because it’s always tricky to do a prequel. There were a lot of issues with Enterprise because Enterprise was going against pre – established things and it’s always tough when you go against pre – established things. So I’m happy he’s doing it. I’d prefer them, when I say them I mean Paramount and everyone to wait a few years. I’m hesitant on the prequel. You see I have not read a script. Paramount does not have to give me a script; no one has to give me a script to read to get my approval. I would like to read it but I think they know that I speak my mind for the most part. So if I thought it were a bad script I would probably say something along the lines of, ‘Huh you know it’s a good Star Trek’ as apposed to ‘Yeah everyone has to go see it. Everyone has to go see it.’ And the fans have given my family a lot of clout and I think that to some degree has given me a lot of clout. So I think that a lot of people respect what I say to a degree and if I didn’t have anything good to say about it I think they’d be scared.

I was opposed to doing an entire prequel series as with Enterprise, but for the movie I don’t think they have much choice. As there isn’t a recent successful television show to base the next movie on, the best chance for a mass market success comes from returning to the most well known characters including Kirk and Spock. If the movie does well, I hope it leads to a new Star Trek television series, preferably taking place on a Starship and occurring after the events of Voyager and Deep Space Nine. A television show can build a new following, but a movie does not have that luxury.

A web site for the Doctor Who spin off, The Sarah Jane Adventures, is now on line and they are no longer blocking those of us outside of the UK from seeing it. There’s no word as to whether it will air on American television. Currently the SciFi Channel carries Doctor Who, BBC America caries Torchwood (as well as previous seasons of Doctor Who) and HDNet carries Torchwood nine days after the episode is seen on BBC America. Therefore, unless I get to the point where I cannot wait to see what happens next, posts on Torchwood will be postponed until after it is shown in HD. Of course if it turns out to get so good that it becomes difficult to wait, I’ll just download the first season as I did to avoid waiting to see Doctor Who this season. The consensus appears to be that the show gets much better over time.

Tonight SciFI Channel broadcasts Utopia, which leads into the final two episodes of the season on Doctor Who. I previously reviewed Utopia here. Many items from earlier in the season play a part in the season finale, including even more than I first suspected from Utopia. The episode is also notable for the return of Captain Jack for the final three episode arc, taking place after the first season of Torchwood.

Geeks of Doom has a preview of the new version of The Bionic Woman:

Jaime Sommers (Michelle Ryan) is having a tough time of things, but she’s making it work for her. She has to deal with her bratty little sister (Lucy Hale), a crappy job, and not much of a future, but she has a nice guy in Dr. Will Anthros (Chris Bowers), a noted professor who works in prosthetics and reconstructive surgery. Things take a turn for the worse when Jaime and Will are in a terrible accident. Will is fine, but Jaime has massive injuries, and ends up losing her legs, right arm, right ear, and right eye. That’s when the boyfriend goes to work, and gives her new body parts. Of course as happened to Steve Summers in the Venture Brothers, the government expects her to pay for her new limbs. Do you know how long it takes to pay back 50 million dollars on a government salary? But seriously, she escapes from the hospital only to run into another bionic woman (Katee Sackhoff) and becomes embroiled in a variety of mysteries. Who is her new boss (Miguel Ferrer)? What is the other bionic woman’s agenda? What do some of these other scenes mean?

What the creators have done well here is create a good mystery series. There are conspiracies within conspiracies, and a lot of things to keep the viewer coming back for more. There’s so much going on that I discovered new connections on a second viewing. The angle with Jaime working for the organization that gave her the powers sets up a decent enough storytelling engine, as long as the creators can come up with valid threats for her to fight on a weekly basis. Fights with other enhanced people could wear thin quickly though, so they’ll need to come up with various enemies that are legitimate challenges for her. But it’s the underlying mystery that really drives the drama forward. Much like BSG, the big questions make me want to watch the second episode, and if done well, will keep me on for the third and the fourth and the whole season. I’m forced to keep coming back to BSG, but the creators have borrowed so heavily from it that it’s hard not to make the comparison (especially since creator David Eick is also a producer on BSG).

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Google searches for Vanessa Hudgens are greatly surpassing Britney Spears and Paris Hilton in hits to the site following the item two weeks ago on the nude pictures of the star of the High School Musical being released on line. Disney is still sticking with her. After all, compared to former Mouseketeer Britney Spears, Vanessa still looks respectable. There are rumors floating around that Hudgens is considering posing nude in a men’s magazine and that she has been offered $500,000 to appear in a Girls Gone Wild video. I suspect there is a limit to what Disney will forgive. Besides, how much will people really pay to see what has been available on line to see for free?

Fox has issued a press release with a minor spoiler about the upcoming season of 24:

Bauer’s day gets off to a shocking start when former colleague Tony Almeida (played by Carlos Bernard), last seen in Day 5, returns after being left for dead by a terrorist conspirator in CTU’s infirmary.

The Sex and The City movie started filming this week, taking place four years after the events of the television show. Thanks to a cell phone camera we have a spoiler from the filming. The picture shows a very pregnant Charlotte talking to Big:

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SciFi Friday: Daleks in Manhattan, Jenna Supports Obama

SciFi Channel has announced the summer schedule. A remake of Flash Gordon premiers on August 10. The third season of Doctor Who starts July 6. I’ll be out of town for the 4th of July holiday, but that won’t matter as by then I’ll have seen the full third season thanks to those kind people in Great Britain who faithfully upload each week’s episode the night it airs. While I haven’t verified the math, I’ve also heard that in the past week Doctor Who passed Star Trek for most episodes, counting all versions of both shows.

I knew I’d love this week’s episode as soon as I saw the Tardis materialize at the base of the Statue of Liberty, followed by The Doctor and Martha walking through Central Park. The episode ends with a cliff hanger as the Daleks present a new threat to make up for them being an endangered species. While I enjoyed the show, such time travel stories always present some problems. If the few surviving Daleks have come back in time to the 1930’s, this would be before most of them were wiped out and there should still be lots of Daleks out there. Of course the same could be said about the Time Lords being killed as there would still be ones roaming through time from before the war.

While it is still early in the season for Doctor Who, network shows are coming towards their season finales. Jericho appears on the verge of war with a neighboring city. It s a good thing they have both a tank and a nuclear bomb hidden away in town. Next week I believe Heroes shows the aftermath five years in the future if New York had been destroyed by the explosion. Considering that the show started around the fifth anniversary of 9/11, and before the Republicans were thrown out of office, I’m wondering if there will be any analogies to the authoritarian pathway the Republicans tried to go down using fear of terrorism as an excuse. Lost appears to be heading towards both wrapping up the story line about The Others as well as returning to the Desmond/Penny story started at the end of last season. Naomi’s identity remains unclear, but fans on the web have answered one small mystery. When Naomi was talking to Bakunin, who looks quite well after his recent “death,” it is not surprising to find that she was not really thanking him for his assistance. Word on the web is that Naomi was saying, “I am not the only one.”

Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry will be inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in June.

Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip returns on May 24 to air the six remaining episodes. As they were still filming the final episodes when it appeared clear the show had little chance to be renewed, hopefully they came up with a good ending for the show.

While Studio 60, a drama about the making of a comedy show, did’t make it, 30 Rock, the comedy about making a comedy, has been renewed. The show aired its season finale this week, and earlier in the season the show presented some political analysis as Jenna took on Chris Matthews and Tucker Carlson:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r3p1za4M5WE]

SciFi Friday: New Movies and Rumors on TV Renewals

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The hottest genre film of the year (at least until the release of Spiderman 3) is Cleaver, produced by Christopher Moltisanti and Carmine Lupertazzi. The film is described as “The Saw meets The Godfather II” and some believe it might provide some clues to the mysterious disappearance of Moltisanti’s former girl friend, Adriana La Cerva. Among those attending the premier was Anthony Soprano, who helped finance the film. An HBO Documentary on The Making of Cleaver is posted above.

We also have a little news on another upcoming film. JJ Abrams has confirmed that Star Trek XI will feature Captain James T. Kirk and respect Star Trek canon. “The respect we all have for Star Trek canon – and for a brand-new audience – is massive. The script is done. We’re now starting pre-prep, and we can’t wait to start shooting! Many more details to follow!” Trek Today quotes Star Trek consultant Richard Arnold as saying the film will also be true to Gene Roddenberry’s vision:

Arnold had explained the day before at the convention that Abrams called him after Leonard Nimoy (Spock) suggested that Arnold would be a good choice to bring a message to the fans. He said that he and Abrams had discussed Arnold’s perceptions of series creator Gene Roddenberry’s vision, adding that former executive producer Rick Berman had once described the original Star Trek as “‘pollyannish'” to which Abrams declared, “‘I think we can all do with some pollyanna.'”

Anyone else feel that 24 is spending the season simply taking elements of previous seasons and mixing them up in random order? We have a nuclear explosion early (making everything else seem anti-climatic), fights over the Presidency, and even Jack going rogue. We’ve seen it all before, with the one inexplicable twist that this time Cloe doesn’t back Jack. Maybe we need some new ideas for the writers, which leads to this suggestion from Lorelei Gilmore:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GyfPQtNlA1k]

This week’s episode of Gilmore Girls might have done the best job of recapturing the old feeling of the show, with Lorelei’s ambivalence about Logan possibly foreshadowing changes in the relationship between Rory and Logan. The latest rumor is that Gilmore Girls might return for an additional season with reduced episodes.

While some rumors claim that Veronica Mars will not be renewed (and her Logan suffers a fate similar to Rory’s), The Toronto Star quotes Enrico Colantoni, who plays Veronica’s father, as having some hopeful news, even if he might underestimate the number of people who follow both Veronica Mars and Gilmore Girls:

“No one knows anything,” the actor insists over double espresso at his old haunt, Café Diplomatico. “But I love how people think they know …

“We were outside the bubble for the longest time…. And then they put us on after the Gilmore Girls. But people weren’t sticking around after Gilmore Girls, because it’s really a whole different audience.

“The thing is, anyone who actually sees Veronica Mars is going to love Veronica Mars. I mean, I have yet to meet anyone who’s like, `Eh …'”

That being said, and despite the failure of the experimental retooling, a new initiative came down from even farther out of left field to take the show in a whole new direction.

“Rob (creator/producer Thomas) and a couple of the other executives said, `Let’s make a little showcase pilot of what Veronica could be like in four years.’ They thought Dawn might latch on to the idea of Veronica as an FBI agent in a kind of sexy workplace environment, á la Grey’s Anatomy, that kind of thing.

“We shot 10 pages and they saw it and the reaction was, `That’s not our show.’ Then they saw the last episode of this season, and it was so on the money … it was like the first two years. And I think the network was very excited about that.

“You know how it works. They’ve got six new pilots. And if some of those tank, or if Gilmore Girls doesn’t come back, then of course they’re going to want us back.”

In other rumored renewals, SyFy Portal reports rumors that Jericho might be given a second season.

The third season of Doctor Who continues in Great Britain, and based upon all the on line talk about the current episodes I wonder if there will be any fans left who haven’t downloaded them by the time they ever air in the United States. The Doctor takes Martha to New New York, not understanding why she was a little upset about being taken to the same place The Doctor once took Rose (who has been mentioned every week since she left the show).

In Gridlock, New New York has changed since The Doctor and Rose were there. The story has so many clever ideas that it is easy to overlook the many flaws in the idea. The Doctor again meets Boe, who finally reveals the secret he promised to tell The Doctor in previous appearances. The Doctor is told he is not alone, which, in combination with the discussions with Martha about Galifrey during the episode, suggest that there is another Time Lord remaining alive. I bet this turns out to be The Master, who is rumored to be returning at the end of the season.

Last weekend we presented Saturday Night Entertainment with a music video from Billy Piper in her days prior to her role as Rose Tyler. Needing some better entertainment after hearing John McCain sing Bomb Iran, I’ll present another music video from Billy Piper tomorrow night.