SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, Hugo and Emmy Awards; Tony Soprano’s Fate; Next Season on Arrow and Fargo; Finales of Falling Skies, True Blood, Defiance, and The Last Ship; Karen Gillian’s Hair; Rebooting Fox Genre Shows; Libby Masters vs. Betty Draper; American Gods; Jennifer Lawrence, and much more

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Peter Capaldi’s second episode of Doctor Who was much better than the first. Into the Dalek was literally about going into a Dalek, Fantastic Voyage style. Once the reference was made, and we saw antibodies within the Dalek (for an unclear reason), I was surprised that Steven Moffat didn’t take the opportunity to recreate the attack of antibodies on Rachel Welch’s body with Jenna Coleman. Despite the Doctor’s strange criticism of Clara’s body at one  point in the episode, Clara did serve an important role as the Doctor’s moral compass, which was disrupted by the shock of seeing a good Dalek. The episode also served as the introduction of the next companion, and romantic interest for Clara, Danny Pink. There is no doubt that Clara and Danny will overcome the Doctor’s newfound objection to having a soldier join him, which certainly contradicts all the time he spent with UNIT.

While I knew the phrase was coming from advanced review, I was surprised by the context in which Resistance is Futile was used by the Dalek. There are certainly many comparisons to be made to the Borg, and I think Doctor Who did a better job than Star Trek The Next Generation with an episode about a good Dalek or Borg. Into the Dalek was a strong stand-alone episode, and now there is no doubt that Missy and “Heaven” will be a recurring storyline for the season. This time, instead of the person who the Doctor was fighting (and possibly pushed to his death), it was someone fighting with the Doctor who was seen in “Heaven.” My suspicion is that this will turn out to be something such as Missy saving people just before imminent death who are in the vicinity of the Doctor as opposed to actual “Heaven,” but even if I am right on this a lot of questions remain.

Doctor Who Extra (video above) gives behind the scenes information on the filming of Into The Dalek.

There have been two major sets of awards in the past couple of weeks, the Hugo Awards and the Emmy Awards. Doctor Who had five nominees for Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) but an episode of Game of Thrones won the award:

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

  • Game of Thrones: “The Rains of Castamere”, written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, directed by David Nutter (HBO Entertainment in association with Bighead, Littlehead; Television 360; Startling Television and Generator Productions)
  • Doctor Who: “The Day of the Doctor”, written by Steven Moffat, directed by Nick Hurran (BBC Television)
  • Orphan Black: “Variations under Domestication” written by Will Pascoe, directed by John Fawcett (Temple Street Productions; Space/BBC America)
  • An Adventure in Space and Time, written by Mark Gatiss, directed by Terry McDonough (BBC Television)
  • The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot, written & directed by Peter Davison (BBC Television)
  • Doctor Who: “The Name of the Doctor”, written by Steven Moffat, directed by Saul Metzstein (BBC Televison)

Gravity won for long form among these nominees:

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

  • Gravity, written by Alfonso Cuarón & Jonás Cuarón, directed by Alfonso Cuarón (Esperanto Filmoj; Heyday Films; Warner Bros.)
  • Frozen,screenplay by Jennifer Lee, directed by Chris Buck & Jennifer Lee (Walt Disney Studios)
  • Pacific Rim, screenplay by Travis Beacham & Guillermo del Toro, directed by Guillermo del Toro (Legendary Pictures, Warner Bros., Disney Double Dare You)
  • Iron Man 3, screenplay by Drew Pearce & Shane Black, directed by Shane Black (Marvel Studios; DMG Entertainment; Paramount Pictures)
  • The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, screenplay by Simon Beaufoy & Michael Arndt, directed by Francis Lawrence (Color Force; Lionsgate)

The full list of nominees can be found here, with the winners listed here.

While the Emmy Awards generally goes with the safe bet, such as repeatedly giving the award for best comedy to Modern Family, there is at least some realization that genre is ignored. While Tatiana Maslany was snubbed for a second year for her work on Orphan Black, the snub was at least acknowledged in a skit. They finally discovered Sherlock, even if it meant awarding Emmys for the weakest of its three seasons. It was a pleasant surprise to see Steven Moffat up on stage, and he also provided some vague hints about season four in post-award interviews:

Sherlock was a big winner at the 66th Primetime Emmys, taking home three awards (to go with the four the show earned at last week’s Creative Arts ceremony), including trophies for stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.

In celebrating his win for writing for a miniseries/movie or dramatic special, executive producer Steven Moffat dropped some hints backstage about the British drama’s anticipated fourth season, which begins production in January 2015 — the same time Doctor Who will also start filming.

Moffat was confident that the new season would be even more gasp-inducing than the previous year, which ended with an unexpected resurrection of a character presumed dead.

“We have a plan to top it — and actually I do think our plan is devastating,” he teased. “We practically reduced our cast to tears by telling them the plan. Honestly, Mark [Gatiss] and myself are so excited with what we’ve got coming up, probably more excited than we’ve ever been about Sherlock. … Honestly I think we can [top the last season].”

Moffat spoke of the surge of Emmy recognition the show has received in its third year.

“We’ve won outside of America, which is a place,” Moffat deadpanned. “We were just starting to think that that phase of our lives was dying down because as shows get older they don’t win as often — just like people. We’re delighted that we’ve made it here and hopefully this gets more people watching. That’d be great.”

He remained mum on when the new episodes would be premiering. “When they go out is up to the BBC,” he said. “And I am their loyal servant. I simply do what they ask me.”

Moffat reassured that the creative team behind the show will continue returning to Sherlock, no matter how busy they may be with other projects. “What’s happening with Sherlock is unusual,” he admitted. “We will keep coming back to it.”

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I am thankful to Vox for finally settling in my mind how The Sopranos ended, even if they totally botched the story. When the finale first aired, after I realized that my cable hadn’t gone out, I interpreted it as an intentionally ambiguous ending. Sure, going to black could be what happens to Tony if shot, but I didn’t accept this interpretation as the scene was not from Tony’s perspective. The scene concentrated on many things Tony did not see, from the actions of others in in the coffee shop to Meadow attempting to park the car outside. If I wanted to think that they finished the meal and then Tony showed Meadow how to parallel park, this interpretation was as valid as any other. I saw the real meaning as that Tony would always face threats to his life. One of the people in the coffee shop might have shot him, or he could have been suddenly killed at some other time in the future. There was even a chance he could remain alive despite all the threats.

I was satisfied with this interpretation until I heard a report that David Chase had said that there was a definitive meaning to the finale. Perhaps, as happened again this week, the person reporting put too much meaning into what he said during an interview. However, if there was an answer to the question as to whether Tony Soprano lived in the ending, then I could only see this as meaning I was wrong. If limited to Tony living or dying, I thought it would be easier to making an argument that the ending meant that Tony had died.

Then Vox had an interview with David Chase last week in which it reported that Chase said that Tony had lived. I actually found this to be very unsatisfying as it lacked any further explanation. Soon afterwards, David Chase issued a statement that what he said in the interview was misconstrued:

A statement issued by Mr. Chase’s publicist, Leslee Dart, said that the Vox.com writer “misconstrued what David Chase said in their interview.”

“To simply quote David as saying, ‘Tony Soprano is not dead,’ is inaccurate,” the statement continued. “There is a much larger context for that statement and as such, it is not true.”

The statement added that Mr. Chase had said “numerous times on the record” that answering the question of whether “Tony Soprano is alive or dead is not the point.”

“To continue to search for this answer is fruitless,” the statement said. “The final scene of ‘The Sopranos’ raises a spiritual question that has no right or wrong answer.”

This leaves me comfortable in returning to my original interpretation, more confident than in the past that I’m just not in denial over a scene intended to show Tony Soprano as getting killed.

The new promo for season three of Arrow above will make Oliver/Felicity fans happy. A digital comic will fill the gap between the second and third seasons.

Fargo season two will concentrate on strong women characters.

Falling Skies showrunner David Eick answered questions on the season four finale.

The series finale of True Blood really isn’t worth talking about. It is a shame that they couldn’t put together something more meaningful to end the series with.

The writers on Defiance did try harder. They used a formula which often works in combining elements of a season-long story in each individual stand-alone stories. Unfortunately it didn’t work very well. It just didn’t work for me to have an alien girl being used by a supercomputer intelligence to destroy New York City and the rest of the planet, and then end the crisis by having her kiss a boy who was a minor character during the season. When the show runners previously talked about expanding the show to New York and space I expected something more sensible, and more than a quick scene at the end of the season.

I was more impressed with The Last Ship. While not an A-list, must-see show, they did a good job of keeping the show entertaining. When I heard that they had renewed the show for a second season, my immediate impression was that this would mean they would not find a cure no matter how many episodes gave them a lead. I am glad I was wrong on that. If the first few episodes reminded me of Battlestar Galactica at sea, the return home to a country destroyed by plague now makes me see the show more like Revolution or Jericho (hopefully doing a better job than Revolution). So far there is nothing ground breaking. Who didn’t see the remnants of the Unites States government as being the enemy and realize they were walking into a trap? Still the show does provide solid entertainment.

Last week’s episode made my happy I stuck with The Leftovers. The episode was a flashback which explained key points, such as why a family which did not appear to have lost anyone was affected so much by the rapture-like event.

Karen Gillan filmed the shaving of her hair for Guardians of the Galaxy (video above)

Joe and Anthony Russo will be directing the sixth season premiere of Community. The Russo brothers are also working on Captain America and say the third movie will be more like Winter Soldier than the first installment (which is a good thing).

What Culture gives five reasons Sin City 2: A Dame To Kill For was a huge flop.

The video above provides a synopsis of last season of Person of Interest.

I’m not sure why, but Fox plans to reboot The Greatest American Hero. Amazon plans to return Patrick Warburton as The Tick. Fox provides plenty of material for anyone who desires to bring back a genre show canceled on the network. How about Firefly? I also wouldn’t mind seeing what happened after the cliff hanger on the final episode of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.

Scribbler includes several genre actresses including Katie Cassidy of Arrow. Trailer above (NSFW–contains nudity)

…it’s a comic book adaptation that stars Katie Cassidy, Michelle Trachtenberg, Eliza Dushku, Gina Gershon, Sasha Grey, Garret Dillahunt, Michael Imperioli and Billy Campbell, which is to say director John Suits has compiled an ensemble filled of “been there, done that” names, but they are recognizable names at least.

The film follows Suki (Cassidy), a young woman confronting her destructive mental illness using “The Siamese Burn,” an experimental machine designed to eliminate multiple personalities. The closer Suki comes to being “cured,” she’s haunted by a thought… what if the last unwanted identity turns out to be her?

Speaking of nudity by genre actresses, there has been more interest this week in the nude picture I posted of Jennifer Lawrence last year. That was a picture of her in her role as Mystique which was used as a publicity photo, and distribution of that is far different from hacking her phone or iCloud account, among with pictures of several other actresses, to obtain nude pictures which were privately stored with expectations that they remain private. As Jennifer Lawrence’s spokesperson said, “This is a flagrant violation of privacy.”

Bryan Fuller has ambitious plans for his adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods.

Syfy has not renewed the Wil Wheaton Project. No big loss.

Assignment X has an interview with Caitlin FitzGerald, who plays Libby Masters on Masters of Sex. I’ve always been impressed with FitzGerald, who has done a lot of work in indy films. In her role as a late 50′s housewife she faces many of the same problems as Betty Draper on Mad Men. I wonder how much better Betty Draper’s role could have been if cast with someone with FitzGerald’s talent as opposed to January Jones. On the other hand, perhaps a less talented but more beautiful model is exactly who Don Draper would have married.

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand provides a model for how the world should be for many libertarians. Wendy McElroy, who has strong libertarian credentials, found that the real world attempt at making Galt’s Gulch hasn’t worked out very well.

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SciFi Weekend: Orphan Black; Hannibal; Arrow; Agents of SHIELD; The Americans; Fargo; Continnum; Game of Thrones; The Newsroom; Hugo Nominees

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Orphan Black returned for a second season following several days of receiving a considerable amount of publicity for being such a high quality show, even if few knew about it when it aired last season. Nature Under Constraint and Vexed picked up right where the show left off last season, but BBC America did run a show last week which might help new viewers catch up, and has been rerunning the entire first season. It is definitely worth watching the full season before starting the second season.

The initial moments, while not as dramatic as the first moments of the first season, when Sarah saw someone who looks just like herself jump in front of a train, did have a similar feel. Sarah was on the run, and initially could not contact anyone else. Subsequently Sarah did reunite with Felix and then with some of her clones. Tatiana Massany has been widely praised for her work as multiple female lead characters in roles far more challenging than those faced by Patty Duke.This includes the following characters mentioned here: Sarah, Beth, Allison, Cosima, Helena, and Rachel.

Last season Sarah did frequently pretend to be Beth, taking her place after her suicide, and briefly impersonated Allison last season. Beyond this they did not take advantage of the fact that Sarah and her clones are even more alike than identical cousins. I liked that Sarah did use this to her advantage twice this week, both with using Alison as a decoy and impersonating the lesbian scientist Cosima, even fooling Delphine when she kissed her. They were also less concerned about hiding their existence, but it hardly matters that Ramone saw someone identical to Allison.

Orphan Black Sarah as Cosima

The episode made excellent use out of the supporting characters. Felix’s performance, and clothing, were most notable, but other characters were also important. I’m glad that Art is now in on what is going on and expect to see him help Sarah more in the future. Paul is at least partially under the control of Dyad, but does seem to want to help Sarah. Delphine seemed to have sided with Cosima, then betrayed her by doing the one thing Cosima told her not to do-give a sample of her blood to Dr. Aldous Leekie. Even Leekie’s motivations are not entirely clear, and in the end I can see him acting to protect the clones.

Besides the clones on one side and Leekie and the Dyad Institute on the other, it looks like other people, another branch of  the anti-clone religious extremists of Proleatheans, will have a major role in the second season. It appears that they have Kira and possibly Mrs. S, and the biggest surprise of the episode was that the presumed-dead Helena is still alive. A lesser surprise, but still unexpected, was how little interest Rachel seemed to have in Kira, except as bait to capture Sarah.

The location of the show remains purposely ambiguous. The show films in Toronto but unlike Continuum doesn’t actually state its Canadian location. They have not tried especially hard to hide this, with Canadian money and license plates visible in some scenes. The federal agency brought in to investigate was intentionally not named, while mention of a Supreme Court decision on genetic material suggests an American background. The show is written to seem like any city, including one surrounded by suburbia with big box stores (where an employee had guns and other items to sell out of his trunk) and a community theater, which fortunately is not putting on a new production of Cats.

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On the surface Su-zakana was like a first season episode of Hannibal, with Jack, Will, and Hannibal working together to solve the  murder of the week. The three even started out the episode having dinner together, except with the Chesapeake Ripper supposedly out of commission, Hannibal served fish instead of red meat. I could even imagine yet another fish in the episode–Richard Fish of Ally McBeal saying “bygones.” When speaking around others, Hannibal explained overlooking Will’s attempts at killing him as being because of Will believing that Hannibal was a killer. This included telling Alana that Will was acting to protect her.

Under the surface, both Will and Hannibal knew that Hannibal really is the killer, and they were more honest when alone. Hannibal might have revealed his own code in saying, “Doing bad things to bad people makes you feel good.” If this is his motivation for killing, he is far less consistent in sticking to his code than Dexter Morgan was to sticking with his.

The murder of the week story was also a bizzaro recreation of the Will/Hannibal dynamic. Peter Bernardorne was a crazier version of Will who was  manipulated by Chris Diamantopoulos, playing a weaker version of Hannibal. We also saw that Will remains damaged, even if not as much as Peter, by Hannibal’s manipulations. Will even considered killing Chris as a substitute for Hannibal, until Hannibal warned him that it wouldn’t feel the same.

The episode also introduced Margot and Mason Verger, who should become more significant in future episodes.

The Man Under the Hood

On Arrow, Laurel has learned more about The Man Under The Hood but took the news far better than expected, deciding against letting Oliver know she knows his secret. That should be the subject for a future episode. The writers have often had difficulty in deciding what to do with her character, and in this episode she appeared far stronger than before. The producers had also been undecided as to whether to ultimately make Isabelle an ally or villain, deciding in last week’s episode that she would be a villain working with Slade. She appeared to be dead, but we learned that Mirakuru is as effective as alien blood on Agents of SHIELD at bringing people back from the dead. While we are not certain as to all the effects of the alien blood, we do know on Arrow that Mirakuru both gives superpowers and makes people go crazy. I wonder if Slade will regret creating an army of crazy super-villains who might be more difficult to control than herding cats.

We did learn that there is a cure to Mirakuru, which might turn out to be the way that the new army is ultimately defeated, and perhaps be used to keep Roy from going insane. The back story makes more sense in giving Slade additional motivation beyond the death of Shado to want to destroy Oliver. Back on the island, Oliver had chosen to kill rather than cure Slade. The episode also introduced characters from the upcoming Flash spin-off.

Collider spoke with producer/writer Andrew Kreisberg about Oliver’s relationship with Laurel and the ramifications of the Queens’ financial problems now that Isabelle has taken control of Queen Industries:

Where are Oliver and Laurel at now, romantically?

KREISBERG:  It’s Oliver and Laurel.  It’s Lois and Clark.  They can break up, get together, sleep together, break up, get married, get divorced, and she can forget him.  The best part about the success of the show is that it’s always our desire to speed through story.  The fans appreciate that.  We just blow through things.  We’re not like, “Well, we’ll do that in Season 4.”  No, we’ll just do that now.  On the other hand, success has enabled us to slow play some things.  We’ve really adopted this mantra of, “We’ll give people what they need, even if that’s not what they want.”  Having Oliver and Laurel get together in Season 1 is what people needed then.  But then, they needed them to go on a break, so Oliver could have his storyline with Sara for this season.  That’s what felt right to us.  Oliver has women in his life.  He has Laurel.  He has Felicity.  Helena is doing a 10 to 20 stretch.  But Laurel will always be one of the closest people to him, whether that’s romantic or not.  That’s why it’s so powerful to us that, in his darkest hour, Laurel is the one who pulls him out of it.  There has been a subset of fans who have questioned our sanity and our talent, for making some of the decisions we’ve made, over the course of last year and this year, but somebody is always going to be upset.  A lot of the things we have done have been leading up to what we’re doing in the finale, and then moving that forward to Season 3.

How long-running are the ramifications of the Queens’ financial problems?

KREISBERG:  We’re gonna make it a thing.  That plays out in the last five episodes.  We’re gonna start Season 3 with Oliver in very different circumstances than he’s been before.  Obviously, him being in different circumstances changes the circumstances of his paid bodyguard and paid assistant, since he can no longer pay them.  For Season 3, you’ll see that some of our familiar standing sets from Season 1 and 2, that you’ve come to know and love as being Arrow, are gonna be retired for reasons that will become apparent, as you see these last episodes.  We have already seen designs for some of the new sets for Season 3, which are amazing.  We want the show to feel like it’s constantly evolving, changing and growing.  If this year is the sequel, then next year is Arrow 3.  As different as 2 is from 1, in 3, they got Ewoks.

BRETT DALTON, BILL PAXTON

Providence continues the story of Agents of SHIELD after the infiltration by Hydra destroyed the organization, at least as we knew it. The have a secret base, Coulson learned that Director Fury is alive, and they are determined to remain Agents of SHIELD rather than Agents of Nothing. Last week there was a lot of speculation as to whether Ward had been brainwashed like the Winter Soldier or was faking allegiance to Garrett.  Anything is possible in this series, but the exchanges between Ward and Garrett suggest that Ward was recruited as a teenager and really has been working with Garrett from the start, with many of his actions designed to obtain trust from Coulson and his team. It appears that the only way that this could not be real would be if false memories were implanted into Ward, or if Ward spying on Garrett was intentionally withheld from Coulson. Such explanations would seem extremely contrived, and I hope that they just keep Ward the villain. Besides he is more interesting that way, although his feelings for Skye might complicate matters, especially as Ward’s allegiance so far seems more personal with Garrett as opposed to Hydra as an organization.

Besides the direct continuity in the recent episodes to Captain America: The Winter Soldier, there is further continuity with the Marvel universe with the Hulk’s old enemy, Colonel Talbot. Next episode Amy Acker visits as Coulson’s cellist girlfriend.

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The Americans maintained its usual quality with New Car. Once again Elizabeth and Philip had to deal with questions as to who to kill, or allow to be killed, and hand child rearing problems. Unfortunately for Lucia, it turns out that Larrick was far more important to the Russian plans than she was.  Plus Elizabeth really hates Ronald Reagan. The big surprise of the episode was to see Vasili alive along with Anton in the Soviet Union.

Fargo was off to an excellent start. It does remind me a little of Breaking Bad with over the top events portrayed as plausible in an area where I would not want to live. You would have to combine both Martin Freeman’s Lester Nygaard and Billy Bob Thornton’s Lorne Malvo to have a Walter White. While the premiere episode had a few murders, it looks like the series will be more about the consequences of the actions than a traditional detective series to uncover the identity of the murders.

I continue to avoid writing too much about Continnum as I’m a few weeks ahead of the American schedule by downloading from Showcase and I want to avoid any spoilers. The third episode, Minute To Win It, aired in the United States this week. The sequence taking place in the future revealed Kiera as being less blood thirsty than her superiors, but perfectly willing to ignore what they do. This week it was the future police shooting someone unnecessarily. Next week look forward to seeing Kiera’s take on a shooting which really has occurred in our history.

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Major Spoiler if you have not seen last week’s Game of Thrones: I make a point of not posting predictions about Game of Thrones as many people know far more than I do about the series if they have read the books. I would have never predicted that Joffrey would be killed off until late in the series. This should create a lot of interesting situations, ranging from speculation as to the murderer, effects on various characters, and a new fight for power. Natalie Dormer discussed the impact on Margaery in this interview. George R.R. Martin discussed the death here.

There is a little more news on the script being worked on for a Farscape movie which will follow the son of John and Aeryn.

Laura Pepon is only returning for four episodes of the second season of Orange Is The New Black but will return full time assuming there is a third season.

Aaron Sorkin only plans to write six episodes for the probable third and probable final season of The Newsroom. As he writes every episode of the series, I imagine it is better that he limit this to what he can handle if this leads to better scripts. HBO has not let the cast out of their contracts in case Sorkin decides to do more according to an interview with Olivia Munn.

The Hugo Award Nominees for 2014 are out. Doctor Who dominates the nominations for Dramatic Presentation (short form) with two episodes of the show, Adventures in Space and Time, a documentary about the origin of the television show, and The Five(ish) Doctors about the former Doctors who did not make it into the 50th Anniversary episode. An episode of Game of Thrones and Orphan Black complete the nominations in that category.

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION (LONG FORM)

  • Frozen Screenplay by Jennifer Lee; Directed by Chris Buck & Jennifer Lee (Walt Disney Studios)
  • Gravity Written by Alfonso Cuarón & Jonás Cuarón; Directed by Alfonso Cuarón (Esperanto Filmoj; Heyday Films; Warner Bros.)
  • The Hunger Games: Catching Fire Screenplay by Simon Beaufoy & Michael Arndt; Directed by Francis Lawrence (Color Force; Lionsgate)
  • Iron Man 3 Screenplay by Drew Pearce & Shane Black; Directed by Shane Black (Marvel Studios; DMG Entertainment; Paramount Pictures)
  • Pacific Rim Screenplay by Travis Beacham & Guillermo del Toro; Directed by Guillermo del Toro (Legendary Pictures, Warner Bros., Disney Double Dare You)

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION (SHORT FORM)

  • An Adventure in Space and Time Written by Mark Gatiss; Directed by Terry McDonough (BBC Television)
  • Doctor Who: “The Day of the Doctor” Written by Steven Moffat, Directed by Nick Hurran (BBC)
  • Doctor Who: “The Name of the Doctor” Written by Steven Moffat, Directed by Saul Metzstein (BBC)
  • The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot Written & Directed by Peter Davison (BBC Television)
  • Game of Thrones: “The Rains of Castamere” Written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss; Directed by David Nutter (HBO Entertainment)
  • Orphan Black: “Variations under Domestication” Written by Will Pascoe; Directed by John Fawcett (Temple Street Productions; Space/BBC America)
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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.

Broadchurch3-20130807-44

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BEST NOVEL: Among Others by Jo Walton (Tor)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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SciFi Weekend: Casting Jenna-Louise Coleman; Amy and Rory; The Easter Dalek; Enterprise in Los Vegas; Hugo Nominees; Captain America; Titanic; Downton Abbey; Upstairs Downstairs

People who interpret the Mayan calendar as indicating the end of the world in December 2012 are mistaken. It is now clear that  the Mayans were just noting the transition from Karen Gillan to Jenna-Louise Coleman on Doctor Who. We have some more information about the process of casting Jenna. Material has been posted on line from part of the audition of Jenna-Louise Coleman for her role as the new companion. The material, taken from Doctor Who Magazine, appears to be Jenna acting out a scene with Matt Smith:

The Doctor and Jasmine are investigating a haunted house.

DOCTOR: So you saw it coming in here? What did it look like?

JASMINE: Grey. Sort of dusty. Like it was made of spider webs.

D: And it came through the wall.

J: Yeah, that wall there.

D: But you don’t think it was a ghost. Why not?

J: Because there’s no such thing as ghosts.

D: You know, a lot of people who saw what you saw wouldn’t still think that.

J: Obviously. Otherwise there wouldn’t be idiots who believe in ghosts.

D: What were you doing here?

J: I love this place. It’s… beautiful.

D: It’s falling apart.

J: It’s old. I love old things, they make me feel sad.

D: What’s good about sad?

J: It’s happy for deep people. You’d know.

D: I’m not sad.

J: Oh, you are though. Under all that talking and leaping about. Takes one to know one.

D: So you come here for… recreational sadness?

J: Yeah. In a way. Okay, why are you looking at me like that?

D: You remind me of an old friend of mine. Someone I lost a long time ago.

J: Down boy. I’m not her.

D: Oh, I know you’re not – I don’t believe in ghosts either.

J: Oh my God, what’s that?

D: Okay, just stay calm.

J: But that’s the thing I saw before.

D: Yep, and it’s coming towards us. I expect you noticed that. Say it with me – I don’t believe in ghosts!

J: I don’t believe in ghosts!

D: Louder! I don’t believe in ghosts!

J: I don’t believe in ghosts!! Will this work?

D: No idea, never met a ghost before.

Whatever this is, Moffat has said that Jasmine won’t be the character’s actual name on the show:

“Two things before you read it. Her name is NOT Jasmine. I don’t like the name Jasmine (sorry all Jasmines, I didn’t mean you) so I knew I’d never use it for real. And also, you might notice there’s a line snuck in from Blink. One of those self-consciously clever, writer-showing-off lines that anyone stuck working with me better get used to.

“So here’s a spoiler from a future that is never going to happen. This is the scene we saw Matt and Jenna perform in a dull little room in the basement of the BBC, which changed the future of Doctor Who. Now remember, this is nonsense, none of this is going to happen, no clues or hints. Think of it as series of hurdles we placed in front of an actress to check her jumping skills.”

After months of rumors (spread by Steven Moffat and Sophia Myles via Twitter), Sophia Myles now says she is not returning to Doctor Who, at least in the near future:

“Steven [Moffat] and I did talk about Doctor Who and I honestly feel – and I think he feels the same – that The Girl in the Fireplace was so special, I really doubt we could do something better together on that show. It was just so perfect and I would rather leave it at that, ” she explains in the latest Doctor Who Magazine.

“If I was to come back to Doctor Who, I don’t think it should be as [Madame de Pompadour]… but it would just ruin it to come back as anything else.”

However, Myles doesn’t completely rule out another role.

“Maybe when I’m old and don’t look anything like her. I’d like to come back in 20 or 30 years’ time as a baddy, and cause some trouble! But as for anything imminently? No. I think that would be inappropriate.

This might be a major spoiler (or perhaps major misdirection) from the first episode of the next season of Doctor Who: Reportedly a prop was seen of divorce papers for Amy and Rory. There are also reports of them getting along well in scenes from episode 3, so if true early-season conflict between the two might get resolved.

Via the TARDIS Newsroom, here’s the Easter Dalek.

The big thing we learned about the alternate universe on Fringe is that they have different superheroes, and no Batman. It was obvious that Agent Lee was interested in Olivia in our universe. Now that she is reunited with Peter, is he heading into a relationship with Fauxlivia?

On Awake, Britten wound up working with Dr. Lee on a police case (although part of their contact was real, and part induced by a drug–or  was Britten  having hallucinations and losing his mind?). It might have been more interesting if they had Britten run into Dr. Lee in the time line where he sees the other psychiatrist and Dr. Lee doesn’t know that Britten knows him. Of course we’ve seen that sometimes things are quite closely the same in both time lines, and sometimes individual’s lives are quite different, so Dr. Lee may or may not be around as a police psychiatrist in the other time line. From the previews, it looks like next week gets back to the conspiracy around the auto accident which precipitated events.

Las Vegas considered building a full sized replica of the Enterprise in 1992. The story came out last week and can be seen here.

The Hugo Award nominees have been announced. Nominees for Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) include three episodes of Doctor Who and one episode of Community.

Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) (512 ballots)
“The Doctor’s Wife” (Doctor Who), written by Neil Gaiman; directed by Richard Clark (BBC Wales)
The Drink Tank‘s Hugo Acceptance Speech,” Christopher J Garcia and James Bacon (Renovation)
“The Girl Who Waited” (Doctor Who), written by Tom MacRae; directed by Nick Hurran (BBC Wales)
“A Good Man Goes to War” (Doctor Who), written by Steven Moffat; directed by Peter Hoar (BBC Wales)
“Remedial Chaos Theory” (Community), written by Dan Harmon and Chris McKenna; directed by Jeff Melman (NBC)

Television shows typically are recognized by the Hugo Awards based upon individual episode. Game of Thrones misses out under that criteria. The entire first season was actually one long story, but it is hard to pick an individual episode. Instead the first season was nominated under Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form):

Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) (592 ballots)
Captain America: The First Avenger, screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephan McFeely, directed by Joe Johnston (Marvel)
Game of Thrones (Season 1), created by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss; written by David Benioff, D. B. Weiss, Bryan Cogman, Jane Espenson, and George R. R. Martin; directed by Brian Kirk, Daniel Minahan, Tim van Patten, and Alan Taylor (HBO)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, screenplay by Steve Kloves; directed by David Yates (Warner Bros.)
Hugo, screenplay by John Logan; directed by Martin Scorsese (Paramount)
Source Code, screenplay by Ben Ripley; directed by Duncan Jones (Vendome Pictures)

It is difficult to compare an entire season of a television show to a single movie. Perhaps they should divide into three categories, one for individual episodes of television shows and other short form presentations, one for movies, and a new category for genre television shows.

A sequel to Captain America has been announced for release in April 20124:

Marvel Studios isn’t waiting to see how “The Avengers” does in theaters later this year. Following in the footsteps of “Thor,” the studio Friday announced it’s moving forward with a sequel to its 2011 hit “Captain America,” prepping it for a 2014 release.

Keeping the film canon with “The Avengers,” Chris Evans will take on the title role in the present, and not during World War II like the previous film. The events at the end of the first “Captain America” film, along with some storyline in the upcoming “Avengers” movie, bring super soldier Steve Rogers to the present.

The first Captain America film is of increased interest being the film debut of Jenna-Louise Coleman. A picture of her in the movie was previously posted here.

Although not airing in the United States until next weekend, I did get a hold the first two episodes of Titanic. Some of the information posted about the mini-series on line was incorrect. Some reports claimed that Jenna-Louise Coleman doesn’t appear until the third episode but actually she was present in the first two. Perhaps she has a larger role in the third. Some early reviews also described the mini-series as each episode involving  different characters, leading up to the ship sinking at the end of each hour. It is correct that each episode leads up to the Titanic sinking, but there is tremendous overlap between the characters. The second episode introduced new characters and didn’t include all the characters from the first episode, but it did provide more information about some of the major characters from the first episode.

The mini-series, written by Julian Fellowes, does have much of the same style as Fellowes’ show Downton Abbey. One difference is that the some among the wealthy are far less sympathetic characters–and in some cases their servants are even nastier.

As for Downton Abbey, there are spoilers for the third season:

What can “Downton Abbey” fans expect when the PBS series starts its third season in January?

“Matthew and Mary do get married,” ”Masterpiece” executive producer Rebecca Eaton said Wednesday at a Winter Park party. She previewed the British drama, which is in production, for supporters of WUCF TV, Central Florida’s new PBS station.

In the new “Downton” season, everyone is waiting for the arrival of the mother of Cora (Elizabeth McGovern), a character played by Oscar-winner Shirley MacLaine. They’re waiting for MacLaine’s character because the British family, especially Violet (Oscar-winner Maggie Smith), needs money again, Eaton said.

“There are some wonderful scenes between Maggie and Shirley MacLaine — Shirley MacLaine being as ditsy as ever,” Eaton said. “And Maggie barely restraining her sneer in having to deal with this American. Maggie Smith is a handful, it’s true. She’s very difficult. She knows her worth, and she’s tricky on the set, but she delivers when the time comes.”

Eaton supplied more teases: “Somebody will be born, and somebody will die, somebody pretty key in the cast, unfortunately not going to make it. It’s the 1920s now.”

The obvious speculation is that the birth will be a child for Matthew and Mary, especially as it is confirmed that they will marry. There are other possibilities. Perhaps Bates makes it out of prison and starts a family with Anna. It is also possible that Lady Sybel might be having a child. Those interested in seeing Jessica Brown Findley in other roles might click here to see her in Albatros. (Beware, the scene is not safe for work, and the Crawley family would really be shocked to see her flashing in this scene).

The cast of Downton Abbey includes Hugh Bonneville, who has appeared on Doctor Who. Alex Kingston has a role on the second season of the remake of Upstairs, Downstairs (coincidentally also playing an archeologist). I was aware that Jean Marsh, who has been on the original and remake of Upstairs, Downstairs, has appeared in Doctor Who and was curious as to whether many other actors have appeared on both shows. I was surprised by the length of the list, which can be seen here.

The second season of Upstairs, Downstairs won’t air in the United States until 2013 and is well worth watching. The season takes place as conflict escalates between Germany and Great Britain just before World War II, giving it a much more modern feel compared to the original, or compared to Downton Abbey.

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SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, The Impossible Astronaut; Elisabeth Sladen; More Doctor Who News; Surviving Judgment Day; A New Roommate For Sheldon Cooper

Unless you were locked up in the Pandorica, you should know about the two big stories of the week: the season premiere of Doctor Who and the death of Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith). A video on Sladen’s career is posted above. My initial post on Elisabeth Sladen, which includes some major scenes from her career and tributes, was posted here. This week’s episode of Doctor Who, The Impossible Astronaut, began with a message in memory of Elisabeth Sladen on the BBC broadcast. A memorial show was broadcast afterward on CBBC. The full video of My Sarah Jane A Tribute To Elisabeth Sladen is posted here. David Tennant had this to say about Elisabeth Sladen on BBC Breakfast:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RkKUcf_HvKM&feature=related

More of the interview with David Tennant can be seen here. Tom Baker has a tribute on his web site.

Those who need a refresher coarse on forty-seven years and eleven Doctors before beginning this season can check out this video which recaps it all in just six minutes:

Both NPR’s Morning Edition and The New York Times had stories about how this season is starting on the same day in the United Kingdom, The United States, and Canada (and soon after in Australia) to reduce pirating of the show. When there was a several month delay, there would typically be 200,000 illegal downloads the week an episode aired. The article reports that BBC America will not air a new episode on Memorial Day weekend, and then be a week behind for the remaining June episodes.  That will get many US fans to resume downloading on the day it first airs.Even the several hour delay between airings will make downloading irresistible. I had a high definition copy hours before I could have watched a standard definition version on cable, but if I ever get a Nielsen box I promise to turn on BBC America when Doctor Who is on.

The Impossible Astronaut began both what is probably a season-long arc and a two-part story with events of a magnitude which is more characteristic of a season finale. Now that there is no longer a gap before the U.S. version airs, posts here on completed episodes will no longer avoid spoilers.

The episode began with a few minutes of fez hats and other fun before bringing Amy, Rory, and River Song to a meeting with the Doctor (now wearing a stetson) in Utah. While breaking out of prison was no surprise, I’m not certain as to how River Song managed to get to Utah in 2011, but she always has been a resourceful person. Soon afterward the Doctor was killed, and then shot again during the regeneration cycle by someone in an astronaut outfit, leading to the Doctor’s actual death. This left the three with no choice but to burn the Doctor’s body as it goes out into the lake.

Doctor Who Regenerates The Impossible Astronaut

Obviously we knew that the Doctor could not really be dead, and figured that it was all part of some sort of plan, considering that the Doctor clearly knew what was going to happen and told the other three not to interfere. He even arranged for gasoline to be delivered for his funeral pyre. This was delivered by ex-FBI agent Canton Delaware, played by the father of Mark Sheppard who played the ex-agent in the 1969 portion of the story.

Moffat used some of his “timey-wimey” stuff to continue the story with a younger version of the Doctor, which was anticipated after a point was made of the Doctor’s age when he first met up with his three companions. Theoretically the story could continue after establishing that the Doctor would die when two hundred years older, but this would mean no further regenerations and that Matt Smith would be the last actor to play the Doctor. It is more likely that they will resolve this by preventing the Doctor from actually dying, and this was confirmed in an interview with Matt  Smith.

While we generally know when watching a show that the main character will not be killed, Doctor Who has always appeared to place the main character in less danger  due to his ability to regenerate. This episode shows that the Doctor can be killed, and that the character can feel he is at risk when taking actions which might endanger his life.

Knowing this detail of the Doctor’s future changes the dynamics as this time it is the companions who knew more, leaving the Doctor feeling very uncomfortable. He finally agreed to trust his friends and do what they say when Amy swore on something very important to her, “fish fingers and custard.”

They traveled back to 1969, with the TARDIS materializing in Richard Nixon’s oval office. I had expected that they would make use of a pre-existing set, but Doctor Who Confidential showed the crew actually building their version of the oval office. The Doctor wound up getting involved with the mystery of a young girl calling Richard Nixon every night, regardless of where he was. A new villain, which Amy first got a glimpse of  in Utah, was present–The Silence. With the Weeping Angels, Steven Moffat created a threat which would kill you if you blink and stop looking at them. The Silence is even harder to fight as the moment you look away you forget that you even saw them. They were presumably behind the destruction of the universe last season, and Doctor Who fans are reporting evidence of their appearance in several previous episodes.

The Silence told Amy that she must tell the Doctor something, which probably explains why she suddenly told him that she is pregnant at what was not a very convenient time. Presumably their instructions, while forgotten the moment Amy looked away, remained somewhere in her mind. The episode ended with a cliff hanger in which we found that the little girl who had been calling Richard Nixon was in an astronaut suit. Amy, assuming this is the same person who had killed the Doctor, shot the girl.

The cliff hanger left a lot to speculate about. Was the little girl in 1969 the same person in the astronaut suit who killed the Doctor in 2011? Could the girl be Amy’s daughter? Perhaps it was River Song who was in the astronaut suit and killed the Doctor. We were reminded of River’s story (presumably to allow new viewers to catch up) and the Doctor even asked her who she killed.  (“No spoilers.”)  In Flesh and Stone River said she had killed “the best man I’ve ever known.” She also foreshadowed her own “death,” at a time when the Doctor would no longer know her, in Forrest of the Dead. Perhaps River is even Amy’s daughter. Someone known as Pond just might name a daughter after another type of body of water. Hopefully we will get some answers next week in Day of the Moon:

Karen Gillan does say there will be a lot of revelations in an interview in the Scotsman.com:

“There are going to be a lot of revelations,” she suggests tantalisingly. “There’s one huge one that will change everything. Steven Moffat went around everybody and only told them the bits they needed to know, and we’re not allowed to discuss it with each other, which is really relevant for the whole story.”

Karen Gillan Amy Pond Doctor Who

In an interview with The Telegraph, Karen Gillan said she wanted to be like Robin Williams, or perhaps Birttany Murphy.  Karen Gillan’s interview with Craig Ferguson aired on Friday–a video is posted here.

In other Doctor Who news, Meredith Vieira and The Today Show will be traveling to the set of Doctor Who in May. Vieira will have a cameo role on the show.

Doctor Who has been nominated for three Hugo Awards, including two stories written by Steven Moffat, A Christmas Carol and The Pandorica Opens/Big Bang. A third episode of Doctor Who, Vincent and the Doctor written by Richard Curtis also received a nomination. In addition, a nomination went to a book entitled Chicks Dig Time Lords: A Celebration of Doctor Who by the Women Who Love It, edited by Lynne M. Thomas and Tara O’Shea.

Steven Moffat is vague in talking about Neil Gaiman’s script, but does tell us he is giving the Daleks a year off:

The TV boss and lead writer has opted to give the aliens a rest in 2011.

He wants to give them another make-over and bring them back with a bang next year.

Diehard fans hated the multi-coloured fat Daleks from the last series and dubbed them Dipsy, Tinky Winky, Laa-Laa and Po after children’s favourites the Teletubbies.

Moffat said: “We will bring back the Daleks.

“But there will be lots of different kinds.

“I want them to come back in a really brilliant way.

I started the post by noting there were two important events this week. Fortunately we escaped a third. According to Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, April 21, 2011 was Judgment Day, when the machines rose up to destroy most of humanity. We might have already been on borrowed time as the original Terminator movie set Judgment Day on August 4, 1997.

And, finally, there is news that Sheldon Cooper is getting a new roommate on Big Bang Theory. It will be someone we already know:

As teased in the new issue of EW, everyone favorite creature of habit is parting ways with his longtime roomie, Leonard.

“You have a situation where Priya is staying with her brother, and Leonard is spending time with Pryia,” executive producer Billy Prady says. “The current sleeping arrangement isn’t the best one. I think a little experimentation with people in different spots [is necessary].”

But who is the (un?)lucky soul to take Leonard’s spot in the apartment? Prady wouldn’t say, specifically, but guarantees, “It will be a human, and it will be someone we know.” Prady elaborates: “One of the things that Sheldon will [learn from] his new roommate — temporary or permanent, we don’t know — is just how long Leonard has been skating by. He’s going to have a terrific experience with this new roommate.”

The author speculates that it will be Amy Farrah Fowler. That is a definite possibility, but the two are so much alike. There could be far more conflict if Penny moves in with Sheldon to save money. There is already a bizarre chemistry between the two.

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

Waters of Mars Hugo Winner

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

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

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

David Tennant Single Father

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

Jane Espenson on Torchwood

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

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

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

What’s got you most excited about it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, Moral Choices, And Politics (Real Present and Fictional Future)

On Saturday night the BBC aired what very well might turn out to be the first part of this year’s Steven Moffat story to win the Hugo award while in the United States BBC America aired Doctor Who’s second episode of the season. Spoilers will be limited to discussion through the second episode, with comments on the third and fourth episodes limited to general comments which have been widely publicized.

Steven Moffat seemed to use The Beast Below to make as statement that he was not going to radically change Doctor Who. The premise was far more like one Russell T. Davies would have used than what we have seen in the Moffat episodes. The episode had many good ideas but the story did not entirely work. The show is far better enjoyed for the advancement of the relationship between The Doctor and his new companion, Amy Pond. Both Matt Smith and Karen Gillan did an excellent job of supporting the episode regardless of its flaws.

The episode began with The Doctor lecturing Amy about observing everything around her and ended with Amy, instead of The Doctor, figuring out the solution by seeing something which even The Doctor missed. Along the way The Doctor even threatened to take Amy back home. Meanwhile Amy was surprised to see herself listed in the computer (now at age 1306) but disappointed to find that her marital status was “information unavailable.”

The episode did have brief moments of terror with the Smilers which do show one way in which the writing style of Moffat differs from that of Davies.  The Doctor faced a moral dilemma which had him saying he would have to find a new name because he would would not be The Doctor anymore after doing what he thought was the only solution.  Fortunately he is spared by Amy figuring out something he missed, providing a preferable solution. Matt Smith’s Doctor was also able to discuss his past, and the Timelords, without showing the angst of David Tennant’s doctor:

The Doctor: “The computer doesn’t accept me as human.”
Amy: “Why not?” (The Doctor just looks at her.) “Well, you look human.”
The Doctor: “No, you look Time Lord. We came first.”
Amy: “So there are other Time Lords, yeah?”
The Doctor: “No. There were, but there aren’t… Just me now. Long story. It was a bad day. Bad stuff happened. And you know what, I’d love to forget it all, every last bit of it. But I don’t. Not ever.”

The episode even managed to sneak in a comment on the current election campaign in the U.K. Ethically questionable decisions were made by the future U.K. government but there is a perverse manner of achieving the consent of the governed. Inside a voting booth citizens are told the truth, and then given the choice to protest or forget.

This provided Moffat the opportunity to write in the warning,  “Once every five years everyone chooses to forget what they have learned. That’s democracy.” Moffat is not only speaking of the situation on Starship U.K. but of the current political situation where a show source put it more bluntly: “This almost echoes what Labour has been saying about how people should not forget what they learned in the 80s. They think the Tories will drag the country down again and it looks like the Doctor feels the same.”

American viewers can also relate to this as a disturbing number of Americans currently plan to vote Republican this fall, forgetting that the problems they are concerned about were caused by the Republicans not very long ago.

Criticism of conservatives is not unique for either Doctor Who or for Steven Moffat. Moffat had mocked conservatives in his BBC comedy, Coupling. Both Moffat and his predecessor Russell T. Davies have warned against the Tories winning. Former Doctor Who star David Tennant has been backing the Labour Party.

The episode ended with a lead-in to the following weeks episode with Winston Churchill calling The Doctor and previews showing Britain’s new weapon–Daleks. Meanwhile the crack in the universe was shown again. Victory of the Daleks, written by Mark Gatiss, is the only episode to air so far which was not written by Steven Moffat. This week’s episode, The Time of Angels, is the fist of a two part episode written by Steven Moffat. The episode has Moffat returning to two of his additions to the Doctor Who universe, the Wheeping Angels of Blink and River Song, who may or may not some day be The Doctor’s wife.

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Doctor Who, Star Trek, Avatar Among Hugo Nominees

The Hugo Award nominees are out. As I’ve discussed science fiction television and movies far more than novels here I’ll just note those categories in this post.  There’s a number of excellent choices for among movies including blockbusters like Star Trek and Avatar:

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

  • Avatar Screenplay and Directed by James Cameron (Twentieth Century Fox)
  • District 9 Screenplay by Neill Blomkamp & Terri Tatchell; Directed by Neill Blomkamp (TriStar Pictures)
  • Moon Screenplay by Nathan Parker; Story by Duncan Jones; Directed by Duncan Jones (Liberty Films)
  • Star Trek Screenplay by Robert Orci & Alex Kurtzman; Directed by J.J. Abrams (Paramount)
  • Up Screenplay by Bob Peterson & Pete Docter; Story by Bob Peterson, Pete Docter, & Thomas McCarthy; Directed by Bob Peterson & Pete Docter (Disney/Pixar)

Doctor Who dominated the nominations among television shows:

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

  • Doctor Who: “The Next Doctor” Written by Russell T Davies; Directed by Andy Goddard (BBC Wales)
  • Doctor Who: “Planet of the Dead” Written by Russell T Davies & Gareth Roberts; Directed by James Strong (BBC Wales)
  • Doctor Who: “The Waters of Mars” Written by Russell T Davies & Phil Ford; Directed by Graeme Harper (BBC Wales)
  • Dollhouse: “Epitaph 1″ Story by Joss Whedon; Written by Maurissa Tancharoen & Jed Whedon; Directed by David Solomon (Mutant Enemy)
  • FlashForward: “No More Good Days” Written by Brannon Braga & David S. Goyer; Directed by David S. Goyer; based on the novel by Robert J. Sawyer (ABC)

In recent years it was easy to pick a single episode of Doctor Who to honor–which ever one Steven Moffat wrote that year. With Moffat not having written any episodes last year, this is divided between three episodes by Russell T. Davies. If I had to pick one of them quickly without reviewing them I’d go with The Waters of Mars.  Of the entire set I’d vote for Epitaph 1, which I previously discussed here. I also suspect that dividing the vote between three episodes will decrease the chances of any of the Doctor Who episodes winning. The pilot episode of FlashForward was also excellent, making it a shame the show has not lived up to this potential.

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