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.

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.

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.”

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.

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.

SciFi Weekend: Brilliant Work By Steven Moffat, Matt Smith, & Karen Gillan As Doctor Who Returns

Doctor Who returned this weekend on the BBC, with BBC America to show The Eleventh Hour on April 17. I’ll try to avoid any major spoilers here but those who don’t want to know anything before watching might want to turn around (as is also suggested at one point during the episode when The Doctor changes into his new outfit. (One mild spoiler: new companion Amy Pond doesn’t even consider turning around as he changes clothes.)

We have a new Doctor, a new companion, a remodeled Tardis, and Steven Moffat has taken over as show runner. Moffat is responsible for some of the top Doctor Who episodes in recent years, winning a series of Hugo and Nebula awards. His episodes include Blink, The Girl in the Fireplace, and a pair of  two-part episodes, The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances and Silence in the Library/The Forest of the Dead. Moffat has also shown his versatility in writing on previous shows, such as Coupling, one of the best sit-coms ever (BBC version).

It is largely due to Moffat’s talent that Matt Smith succeeded in taking over the lead role following David Tennant, considered by many to have been the best actor to play The Doctor so far. The show opened where the regeneration scene in The End of Time Part II left off. The Tardis was flying low over London with The Doctor hanging on out the door.  As has happened with some other regenerations, The Doctor was just not quite himself for a while, providing some of the more humorous moments of the series. With a series of events I will not spoil, The Doctor wound up meeting his new companion, Amy Pond (Karen Gillan), and faced a new threat to earth.

The episode shows many of the aspects of Moffat’s style. While time travel has generally been used as a device to get The Doctor to a certain place and time for a story, Moffat actually uses time travel as a factor within many of his stories. Aspects of this story which were reminiscent of his earlier story, The Girl In The Fireplace. While far less than in Blink, there was more suspense than is usually seen in the stories by other Doctor Who writers. We have a new Doctor who is different from earlier ones but very strong continuity is also maintained with the past.

Karen Gillan did an excellent job as The Doctor’s new companion, Amy Pond, and I see reason to believe she will become as significant a character on her own as recent companions such as Rose Tyler (Billy Piper). She is already attracting considerable attention over the internet, with Google searches for old pictures of her breaking traffic records here–especially when she is scantily clad. (This is especially appropriate as Moffat’s characters on Coupling often described the internet as primarily being a repository for porn.) Not only was Moffat’s experience as a sit-com writer of value for the scenes of a totally messed up Doctor post-regeneration. Amy Pond, who has worked as a kissogram and likes to wear short skirts, could have fit in well on Coupling.

I’ve seen some apprehension on line before the episode aired that Moffat might throw out the past and recreate a different show. There was nothing to fear. Moffat has always been a big fan of Doctor Who, even turning down work with Steven Spielberg when he had the opportunity to work on this show.  Moffat brings his own style, but it is clear in this episode that Moffat considered the entire history of the show in developing his version of The Doctor. Matt Smith’s Doctor, while his own character, is clearly portrayed as part of a long succession of Doctors, and references are also made to the villains he has beaten in the past. Where Moffat’s style varies from past Doctor Who writers, it will only strengthen the show.

SciFi Weekend: Enterprise; The Plan; Landing in LA; Hugo Awards; Rory Gilmore All Grown Up (with Matt Saracen); and Racy Pics of Doctor Who Companions

TrekMovie.com reports on a panel held by Manny Coto and Brannon Braga at the annual Star Trek Las Vegas Convention. While I think there were far more problems with Enterprise to worry about than this, some fans were upset with the way the show ended. The final episode was intended as an homage to the previous shows involving the Enterprise and ended with Will Ryker and Deanna Troi looking back at the events of  Archer’s Enterprise on the holodeck. Braga took the blame for this:

I will take full blame for that episode, for those that didn’t like it. In retrospect, it was a very cool idea, that in the end was a mistake. The concept was was to have Manny do a final two-part finale, but then have a final final episode send a valentine to all of Star Trek over the last eighteen years. We just thought it would be a cool concept to show the Next Generation’s crew looking back, though the holodeck, at Archer’s crew. It is a high concept, but I am not sure it came together.

While the show had many faults, it was finally staring to show some promise in its fourth season when Coto took over as show runner. The show was at its best when it had episodes foreshadowing events of the earlier Star Trek series (which took place after the events of this prequel series).  There was talk of what was planned if the series had survived for a fifth season:

  • Coto wanted to revisit the Mirror Universe on a regular basis with four or five episodes spread through the season as a “mini-series within a series.” Mike Sussman and Coto had discussed places to go with it and it was “big regret” not getting chance
  • The two main things they wanted to do with S5 was the “origins of the Federation” and the “begin whispers of the Romulan War”, and tying those two together
  • No other major villains were planned to be introduced, the Romulans were going to be the big villain, but would have new ones within new ‘mini-arcs’
  • Rick and Brannon thought Future Guy was “probably going to be a Romulan” and would tie into the Romulan War with a future Romulan trying to “instigate” things
  • They wanted to make Shran a regular character

I think spending so much time in the Mirror Universe would have been a mistake unless they had some really fantastic stories for this, but I do like the idea of tying the show into the Romulan war which has often been mentioned as past history in other Star Trek series.  It would have been best to stay away from the temporal cold war, but a brief arc tying it into the Romulan war would have at least provided some rational for that aspect of the series. Of course we’ve now seen another major Star Trek story involving a Romulan changing history in the latest Star Trek movie.

I always hate it when a few days following a major television event a DVD is released with an expanded version. It’s not that I mind paying for the DVD but that after watching a show once there is far too much to do for me to be likely to watch an expanded version of the same show soon afterward. They are doing it the right way with Battlestar Galactica: The Plan. The episode will premier on DVD and Blu Ray on October 27, 2009 including “some great footage that we are not able to show on TV.” The pilot for Caprica has been released on DVD with scenes which definitely cannot be shown on TV. I’m sure hoping that the scenes from The Plan which cannot be shown on television involve Six (Tricia Helfer). An added plus is that, as I do not receive the SyFy Channel in high definition, I’ll be able to watch the show in Blu Ray without waiting until after it is aired for an HD version.

There has been considerable speculation that the bomb which was detonated in the season finale of Lost did work, changing the timeline. In theory if the bomb did work Oceanic 815 would not have crashed and the flight would have landed in Los Angeles. TV Guide reports that Greg Grunberg (of Heroes), who pilot Seth Norris of Oceanic flight 815 in the first episode, has been asked to return to the show. Grunberg’s character did not survive, but would still be around if the plane did not crash. Grunberg says he was given no information as to what they are planning for his character.

There are also unconfirmed rumors that the title of the two hour season premier is LA X. This presumably refers to landing in Los Angeles, but there also might be significance to placing the space between LA and X.

The 2009 Hugo Award winners have been announced:

  • Best Novel: The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman (HarperCollins; Bloomsbury UK)
  • Best Novella: “The Erdmann Nexus”, Nancy Kress (Asimov’s Oct/Nov 2008)
  • Best Novelette: “Shoggoths in Bloom”, Elizabeth Bear (Asimov’s Mar 2008)
  • Best Short Story: “Exhalation”, Ted Chiang (Eclipse Two)
  • Best Related Book: Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded: A Decade of Whatever, 1998-2008, John Scalzi (Subterranean Press)
  • Best Graphic Story: Girl Genius, Volume 8: Agatha Heterodyne and the Chapel of Bones, Written by Kaja & Phil Foglio, art by Phil Foglio, colors by Cheyenne Wright (Airship Entertainment)
  • Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form: WALL-E Andrew Stanton & Pete Docter, story; Andrew Stanton & Jim Reardon, screenplay; Andrew Stanton, director (Pixar/Walt Disney)
  • Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form: Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, Joss Whedon, & Zack Whedon, & Jed Whedon, & Maurissa Tancharoen, writers; Joss Whedon, director (Mutant Enemy)
  • Best Editor Short Form: Ellen Datlow
  • Best Editor Long Form: David G. Hartwell
  • Best Professional Artist: Donato Giancola
  • Best Semiprozine: Weird Tales, edited by Ann VanderMeer & Stephen H. Segal
  • Best Fan Writer: Cheryl Morgan
  • Best Fanzine: Electric Velocipede edited by John Klima
  • Best Fan Artist: Frank Wu

The above trailer is out for Post Grad, which is most notable for combining Alexis Bledel (Gilmore Girls and Sin City) with Zach Gilford (Matt Saracen of Friday Night Lights–what would Julie say?) Rory Gilmore has sure grown up. Besides appearing as a doctor in the series finale of ER, she is on the cover of WWD:

Old posts about Gilmore Girls continue to receive attention, with many wondering what Amy Sherman-Palladino had planned for her final four words to the series if she had not left for the final season.  Here’s one report as to the final four words: “Rory, you were adopted.”

No, don’t freak out. Amy Sherman-Palladino was just joking about this possibility.

Besides the sort of couple of Rory Gilmore and Matt Saracen, there is another couple of interest on television tonight. It took a while to recognize her, but Jemma, Ray’s love interest on Hung, is played by Natalie Zea. She recently played Karen Darling on Dirty Sexy Money. I guess things didn’t work out with Nick (Peter Krause).

Besides Hung, there are two even more significant shows on television tonight. True Blood has been fantastic all season creating a tough choice between this show and Alan Ball’s previous series, Six Feet Under (with cast including Peter Krause) for best show ever on television. The really big even of the night is the start of the third season of Mad Men.

Looking back on the shows mentioned shows how things have changed for broadcast television. It is common for shows on HBO and Showtime to surpass network shows in quality and any list of the best shows in recent years would be dominated by pay cable. Even basic cable is often beating out network television in quality with recent shows including  Mad Men, Battlestar Galactica, the various Star Trek series, and Gilmore Girls. Even Friday Night Lights, often considered the best written network series couple seasons, has had to work out a deal with a satelite network to survive.

Since I posted pictures of Karen Gillan, the next companion on Doctor Who, in a bikini last week more scantily clad pictures of Gillan have surfaced on the internet, such as the almost topless one above. Finding on line pictures of The Doctor’s companions is a way in which following the show has changed from the early days of the show when there was no internet. I guess it is only appropriate that this has become commonplace with Steven Moffat taking over as show runner. Steven Taylor, Moffat’s alter ego on Coupling, has noted how the internet was formed to become the world’s largest repository for porn. If someone had a real Tardis the could really create excitement by posting some of the pictures of Billie Piper (Rose Tylor) in her role as Hannah/Belle on Secret Diary of a Call Girl after she left Doctor Who (especially if going beyond the very tame ones in the examples below).

Most Electronic Voting Isn’t Secure

Steve Stigall, a CIA cybersecurity expert, suggested that  Hugo Chavez fixed a 2004 election recount. He also argued that most electronic voting isn’t secure:

Stigall said that voting equipment connected to the Internet could be hacked, and machines that weren’t connected could be compromised wirelessly. Eleven U.S. states have banned or limited wireless capability in voting equipment, but Stigall said that election officials didn’t always know it when wireless cards were embedded in their machines.

While Stigall said that he wasn’t speaking for the CIA and wouldn’t address U.S. voting systems, his presentation appeared to undercut calls by some U.S. politicians to shift to Internet balloting, at least for military personnel and other American citizens living overseas. Stigall said that most Web-based ballot systems had proved to be insecure.

SciFi Friday: Moffat Wins Three In A Row; The Doctor Dates His Daughter

The Hugo Awards are out and Steven Moffat now won three years in a row for episodes of Doctor Who. This year he won for Blink, which I previously reviewed here. He previously won awards for The Girl in the Fireplace, The Empty Child and The Doctor Dances. While I have long been impressed for Moffat’s work as a science fiction writer, I become even more impressed with him after seeing how well he did in a different genre. Coupling, which I wrote about here, is one of the best sit-coms I have ever seen, combining aspects of Friends, Seinfeld, and Sex And The City. I am hoping that once Moffat takes over as show runner for Doctor Who in 2010 he gives The Doctor three famale companions–Susan, Sally, and Jane from Coupling.

Here are some of this year’s Hugo Award winners:

Best Novel: The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon.

Best Novella: “All Seated on the Ground” by Connie Willis

Best Novelette: “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Guide” by Ted Chiang

Best Short Story: “Tideline” by Elizabeth Bear

Best Related Book: Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction by Jeff Prucher

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form: Stardust

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form: Doctor Who: “Blink”

David Tennant is currently busy playing Hamlet to mixed reviews. Catherine Tate, who played Donna last season is currently appearing in the play Under The Blue Sky. Tennant was recently seen attending an appearance of the play accompanied by Georgia Moffett, daughter of Peter Davison (born Peter Moffett) who previously played The Doctor.  Georgia also played The Doctor’s Daughter in the episode of that name last season, making her the The Doctor’s daughter both in real life and on television.

Besides the work of stars such as David Tennant, and writers including, but certainly not limted to Steven Moffat, much of the credit for the new Doctor Who series and its spin offs must go to executive producer Julie Gardner. IO9 has an interview with Gardner, which includes a spoiler about the Sarah Jane Adventures.

SciFi Friday: Approaching the Moffat Era for Doctor Who

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Journey’s End, the season finale of Doctor Who and the final regular episode under Russell T. Davies aired Friday on the Science Fiction channel. My comments on the episode were previously posted here. Davies will still be doing a series of specials while David Tennant is performing in Hamlet, with the series resuming on a regular basis in 2010 under Steven Moffat. Among the episodes written by Moffett are the Hugo-award winners The Girl in the Fireplace, The Empty Child and The Doctor Dances, and Nebula award winner (as well as nominee for this year’s Hugo award) Blink.

Moffat is working with Davies so that the specials lead into his planned episodes according to SciFi Wire.

“It’s all happening in this head,” Moffat said in an interview at Comic-Con International in San Diego on July 23. “I know where I want it to start. I don’t mean to make it sound very grand. It’s very simple, just where I want it to be when it takes off. So [Russell’s] arranged for that.”

Moffat, who has written some of the most popular episodes of the new series so far, said that his new role as executive producer will require him to approach writing from an entirely different perspective.

“There are a bunch of things I’ve always wanted to see in Doctor Who, yes, but now it’s slightly different–it’s very different in my new position,” Moffat said. “Obviously, I only turned up once a year, and practically my brief was to write, in effect, the Moffat episode–the one that’s very different, the one that’s a bit timey-wimey or a bit scary. And that’s all they were expecting. And they would just tell me, ‘Go, and do your thing.’ So I would do my Moffat-y thing–whatever the f–k that is–in a very, very pronounced way. But you couldn’t have a whole series like that. If you started a series with ‘Silence of the Library’ or ‘Blink,’ people would turn off. You can’t have that as the first episode. It’s just too grim. So it’s different contemplating it from this position, very, very different.”

The series will also continue to embrace a wide range of tones and genres, Moffat said. Rather than adapting the show to his particular writing style, he looks forward to experimenting with different voices to maintain the show’s variety.

Moffat discussed his plans for Doctor Who in an interview with IO9. One of the questions dealt with how future companions might be portrayed compared to the companions in the past few seasons:

One of the great innovations of the Russell T. Davies era was the idea of the companion being connected to her home and family, and keeping the family as a supporting cast. How do you keep that fresh with a succession of new companions?

You change everything, all the time. Even that element of the show has changed radically over the past four years… You don’t worry about doing things radically, in an a new way… [You] do what tells the story… It was very important that Rose, Jackie and Mickey were clear, developed characters. [When the show started] the Doctor was a ridiculous guide. [Audiences didn’t] understand who he is and what he’s supposed to be. But [now] it’s very different, because the Doctor is the most familiar character in the show. [Originally] we knew Rose much better than the Doctor, and now we know the Doctor better than we know Rose. And now we see Rose from the Doctor’s point of view, instead of seeing the Doctor from Rose’s point of view. You have to stay alive and stay lively, and Doctor Who is about change. Change is part of Doctor Who‘s formula. It must change.

Working on Doctor Who was Moffat’s childhood dream, and this was such a high priority for him that he turned down a £500,000 movie deal with Steven Spielberg so he could take the job:

Moffat said: ‘I know a lot of people won’t understand it but I’ve been dreaming about writing for Doctor Who since I was seven.

‘There are no bad feelings between Spielberg and me, but Doctor Who has to come before Hollywood.

‘The show has enjoyed a renaissance. I am working on scripts to be filmed next year. Russell T. Davies is doing four specials next and then my shows will begin. The show is all-consuming.’

coupling

This isn’t the first time that Moffat gave up something in order to work on Doctor Who. He previously wrote the British sit-com Coupling. His interest in Doctor Who could be seen in the series as the male lead is named Steven Tayor, who had also been the name of a character on Doctor Who. An early second season episode had a brief reference to Daleks. Moffat wrote the series for four season, but turned down an offer to write a fifth season due to being busy with other projects, including his work on Doctor Who.

I recently started watching Coupling and highly recommend the show. In addition to being available on DVD’s it is being shown on BBC America. NBC had planned to have an American version replace Friends when it completed its run but it did not last long due to both poor adaptations and protests by some affiliates with the manner in which the episodes dealt with sex. The scripts were based upon the original scripts but execution was far inferior to the original. The BBC episodes also lack the commercial breaks of the American episodes, allowing more time for the plots to play out.

The extra time might be important as, while the show is often compared to Friends, Moffat was influenced even more by SeinfeldCoupling manages to combine the best of Friends, Seinfeld, and Sex and the City. Instead of dealing with “nothing” as Seinfeld did, it deals with more exclusively with relationships and sex, but many characteristics of Seinfeld can be seen in the writing. This includes the manner in which topics are discussed, with some of the conversations sounding like they could be between Jerry and George. Coupling often takes this further with the male and female characters having two parallel conversations about the same situation, with quite different views. Coupling is also much like Seinfeld in the manner in which two or three different stories might be told during the episode which come together at the end in an unexpected manner.

While some are predicting that episodes of Doctor Who under Moffat will be scarier episodes such as those he has written previously, seeing his work on Coupling demonstrates the versatility of his talent. Coupling is quite different from Doctor Who, but should The Doctor and Captain Jack get together at a pub, Moffat is capable of writing quite interesting dialog between them. He also has the ability to write about relationships with The Doctor’s future companions which probably would not be allowed considering the appeal of Doctor Who to younger viewers.