SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who; Arrow; More Marvel on TV; Almost Human; S.; Batman vs. Superman; Better Call Saul; Downton Abbey

The BBC has released two trailers for The Day of the Doctor, with the longer version above. The 50th anniversary episode of Doctor Who will be simulcast internationally, starting at 2:50 EST in the United States on BBC America. (From my point of view, this is an awful time, interfering with both noon and 3:30 football games.) There is discussion of the trailers and images here and here. The official synopsis has also been released: “In 2013, something terrible is awakening in London’s National Gallery; in 1562, a murderous plot is afoot in Elizabethan England; and somewhere in space an ancient battle reaches its devastating conclusion. All of reality is at stake as the Doctor’s own dangerous past comes back to haunt him.”

The BBC America Trailer is above.

Steven Moffat has some major teases as to the meaning of the episode:

Moffat’s previous comments that the episode “will change the narrative in a big way” encouraged speculation that writers have found a solution to the fact that the Doctor can only regenerate twelve times. He has now further added to this by saying, “This should be the next step on the journey, guaranteeing the 100th anniversary”.

He said: “The story focuses on the most important thing that ever happened to the Doctor. We very rarely do that in Doctor Who as it’s usually about the people the Doctor meets or the companion that travels with him. This time it’s different.”

More from Moffat here.

McQ by Alexander McQueen

Jenna Coleman has been doing some modeling. The Guardian has more pictures.

Joanna Page (Stacey of the British sitcom Gavin and Stacey) will play Queen Elizabeth. She discussed kissing David Tennant.

BBC America has released their schedule of shows for the 50th anniversary (via TV Addict). Beyond Day of the Doctor, highlights include An Adventure in Space and Time about the initial development of Doctor Who. The cast includes Jessica Raine of Call the Midwife as producer Verity Lambert.

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 18
Doctor Who: The Doctors Revisited Marathon – 9:00am – 9:00pm ET
The First through Tenth Doctor

Doctor Who: Tales from the TARDIS – 9:00 –10:00pm ET
An all-new special, Doctor Who: Tales from the TARDIS, features the series’ actors and producers sharing their experiences and memories of the world’s longest-running sci-fi show. The special features exclusive interviews with principal cast members from the show’s 50-year history, including actors who have played the Doctor: Matt Smith, David Tennant, Tom Baker, and Peter Davison, actors who have played companions: Jenna Coleman, Karen Gillan, Freema Agyeman, and William Russell, as well as the current lead writer and executive producer Steven Moffat. The discussion includes how the actors got cast, how the roles changed their lives, how a ‘regeneration’ is recorded, and how filming the show in the 60′s compares to today.

The Science of Doctor Who with Brian Cox – 10:00–11:00pm ET
A former rock star and Britain’s popular TV physicist, Professor Brian Cox explores the universe of the world’s favorite Time Lord when he takes the audience on a journey into the wonderful universe of Doctor Who, with the help of celebrity guests. In this exclusively recorded special from the lecture theatre of the Royal Institution of Great Britain, Brian reveals the science behind the spectacle and explains the physics that allows Doctor Who to travel through space and time. Fun, but filled with real science, it’s a special night for Who fans and anyone with a thirst for understanding.

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 19
Doctor Who – The Ninth Doctor Marathon – 10:00am –11:00pm ET

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 20
Doctor Who – The Tenth Doctor Marathon – 2:00am –11:00pm ET

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 21
Doctor Who – The Eleventh Doctor Marathon Part I – 9:00am – 11:00pm ET
The Eleventh Doctor – Matt Smith

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 22
Doctor Who – The Eleventh Doctor Marathon Part 2 – 9:00am – 8:00pm ET

Doctor Who Explained – 8:00pm – 9:00pm ET
An all-new special, Doctor Who Explained, explores the mysterious and two-hearted alien who is the Doctor. Through exclusive interviews with principal cast members from the show’s 50-year history, including actors who have played the Doctor: Matt Smith, David Tennant, Peter Davison, and Tom Baker as well as actors who have played companions: Jenna Coleman, Karen Gillan, and Freema Agyeman, viewers get an insight to what happens behind-the-scenes of the award-winning sci-fi show.

An Adventure in Space and Time – 9:00pm ET
What do you get when you mix C.S. Lewis with H.G. Wells, and sprinkle in a bit of Father Christmas? An alien Time Lord exploring space and time in a Police Box spaceship called the “TARDIS” (Time And Relative Dimension in Space). Written by Mark Gatiss, the BBC AMERICA co-production, the film stars David Bradley (the First Doctor, William Hartnell), Brian Cox (BBC Head of Drama, Sydney Newman), Jessica Raine (Producer, Verity Lambert) and Sacha Dhawan (Director, Waris Hussein). An unlikely trio of misfits set out to create a genre series that all ages would love. William ‘Bill’ Hartnell, displeased with his career, was presented with a chance to break out of the hard-man roles he’d become known for. And with the instincts of first time producer, Verity Lambert and first time director, Waris Hussein, the Doctor was born. As the success of the show grew, William went from unhappy curmudgeon to beloved television star who relished his career resurgence and found a new lease on life. But all good things come to an end. How will Bill face leaving behind the part that has made him a hero to millions of children? And can the show survive without him? Journey back fifty years through space and time to witness the exciting beginning and untimely end of the First Doctor in this touching drama.

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 23
Doctor Who – The Eleventh Doctor Marathon Part 3 – 1:00am – 2:00pm ET
The Eleventh Doctor – Matt Smith

Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor – Global Simulcast – 2:50pm ET
The centerpiece of BBC AMERICA’s celebrations is the global simulcast of Doctor Who’s 50th Anniversary special, Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor, written by Steven Moffat. The Doctors (Matt Smith and David Tennant) embark on their greatest adventure across space and time. In 2013, something terrible is awakening in London’s National Gallery; in 1562, a murderous plot is afoot in Elizabethan England; and somewhere in space an ancient battle reaches its devastating conclusion. All of reality is at stake as the Doctor’s own dangerous past comes back to haunt him. Starring Matt Smith, David Tennant, Jenna Coleman, with Billie Piper and John Hurt. Last seen as the Doctor on January 1, 2010, this will be the first time David Tennant has reprised his role as the Tenth Doctor. During his reign as the Time Lord, Tennant appeared in three seasons as well as several specials. He was first revealed as the Doctor in the 2005 season finale, The Parting of the Ways. Meanwhile Billie Piper, who played companion Rose Tyler for two seasons following the reboot in 2005, will appear in the show for the first time since featuring in David Tennant’s last episode, The End of Time in 2010. The special is directed by Nick Hurran, executive produced by Steven Moffat, Faith Penhale and produced by Marcus Wilson.

Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor encore primetime broadcast – 7:00pm ET.
BBC AMERICA will premiere exclusive Inside Look interviews with Matt Smith and David Tennant during the broadcast. The special will be followed by the premiere of new fantasy-adventure series Atlantis at 9:00pm ET.

The Graham Norton Show with guests Matt Smith and David Tennant – 10:00pm ET
Doctor Who stars Matt Smith and David Tennant make their first appearance together on BBC AMERICA’s hit talk show The Graham Norton Show. Emma Thompson, singer Robbie Williams and comedian Jimmy Carr will also be guests.

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 24
Doctor Who – Matt Smith Countdown – 9:00am – 8:00pm ET
BBC AMERICA counts down the top 11 episodes from the Eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith, as voted on by fans.

Doctor Who: The Doctors Revisited –The Eleventh Doctor – 8:00pm –10:30pm ET
BBC AMERICA celebrates the Eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith, in a new special of Doctor Who: The Doctors Revisited. Matt Smith first stepped into the TARDIS in 2010 and, after starring in the 50th Anniversary Special on November 23, will regenerate in the Christmas special. The Doctors Revisited begins with Matt Smith, Jenna Coleman (companion Clara Oswald), Karen Gillan (companion Amy Pond), Arthur Darvill (companion Rory Williams), lead writer and executive producer Steven Moffat, among others, examining the human side of this Doctor and taking a look at how his extraordinarily long life has affected him. The special is followed by the Eleventh Doctor two-part story, The Impossible Astronaut and Day of the Moon, in which a strange summons reunites the Doctor, Amy (Karen Gillan), Rory (Arthur Darvill) and River (Alex Kingston) in the middle of the Utah desert and unveils a terrible secret the Doctor’s friends must never reveal to him. These were the first Doctor Who episodes to be filmed in the U.S

 

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I’ve frequently said that Arrow is far better than SHIELD, regardless of any comparisons of the DC versus Marvel lines. After an especially strong episode this week, League of Assassins, I’ve seen reviews (including at The Hollywood Reporter) calling Arrow the best live action superhero television series ever. Considering the competition, and poor translation of superheroes to television, this is a fairly low bar. The question then is whether it is compared to Heroes season one, which was excellent, versus the entire run of Heroes.

There is criticism of the current story lines on Arrow which everyone seems to agree with. It is not plausible that Laurel would be involved in the prosecution considering the conflict of interest. We know we have to accept unrealistic sequences when a man with an bow and arrow can regularly win out against guns. We also must ignore how people do not see though secret identities of people they know well. While this is necessary for the show to exist, they should avoid unrealistic scenarios unnecessary for superhero shows such as Laurel being involved with the prosecution in this situation.

There is more Marvel coming to television (besides a second rumored show on ABC about Agent Carter). They are planning for a set of thirteen episode series on Netflix of Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, and Luke Cage. Just as the movies led to a joint movie in The Avengers, these Netflix individual series will be followed by a joint mini-series entitled The Defenders. Considering that they have not done all that great a job with Agents of SHIELD, I wonder if it is a good idea to go ahead with four more series. Maybe, not being limited by the constraints of a prime time network television series these could be better for genre fans.

SHIELD really teased viewers last week. How many others were hoping that Simmons was not rescued when she jumped off the plan, and Fitz would follow her?

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Spoiler TV has a lot of information on the upcoming television show, Almost Human in an interview with J.J. Abrams and J.H. Wyman:

The series is set in the year 2048 and stars Karl Urban as John Kennex, a cop who is forced to partner with an android (named Dorian) played by Michael Ealy after an increase in crime leads to all human law officers being accompanied by robots. J.J says that “The idea when Joel pitched it was that Dorian, who is a synthetic, was in some ways more human than his partner.” Wyman told reporters that Ealy heightened what was already on the page with “an incredible sense of thoughtfulness and compassion. He’s playing a character who is by design, literally, as brave and as knowledgeable and as strategic as you’d want your partner to be if you were riding along as a cop, but he’s also as sympathetic as you’d want. What Michael brings is that kind of depth and humanity.” His dubious partner, in turn, is “forced to kind of deal with the idea that his well-being now relies on this technology which he sort of holds in contempt.”

So what sets this latest series apart from the increasingly present action and sci-fi shows on networks today, let alone from the duo’s previous work in the genre? First of all, Wyman began, he wasn’t interested in presenting another dystopian vision of Earth’s future. “I hope that we’re not really in that territory and that we’re successful in that.” Often in the genre, the writer says, the outlook seems to be “‘Look what you humans have done!’ whereas what we’re talking about, I think, is a little more hopeful. There’s a sense of going forward. We’re resilient, we’re going to succeed.”

Abrams mentioned that unlike many of his past efforts this series has much less of an emphasis on mythology and will instead focus on a procedural case-of-the-week type format that will allow us to explore the characters as well as the unique complexities of navigating in an increasingly technology-reliant world. He also promised “a level of humor that is distinct from what we’ve done before” which backs up his partners talk of the series leaning towards a more ‘popcorn’ movie vibe than their previous collaboration. That’s not to say the show is all-action-all-the-time, as Wyman went on to explain his hopes to create a conversation about what these human-computers are at their core and how we should interact with them. “They’re thinking beings, so what are their rights? And where are those lines drawn? A lot of those things are sort of examined in our later stories: What is a robot? What is an android? What is a being?” Wyman, to be sure, did his homework. “J.J had set us up with some very brilliant people from MIT and one was a woman who studied robot ethics, which is pretty amazing, that they’re actually… real.”

The case also includes Minka Kelly of Friday Night Lights.

I haven’t had a chance to read J.J. Abrams’ new book, S., yet, but it looks intriguing. Besides a conversation in margin notes going along with the narrative of the book, there are many postcards, maps, and letters at various points in the book. Librarians are not very happy about this.

Alan Alda will be going up against James Spader’s character on The Blacklist later this season. I’m hoping for a reunion with William Shatner.

Adam Driver of Girls is being considered for the role of Dick Grayson/Nightwing in the upcoming Batman vs. Superman movie. It is scheduled for release July 17, 2015.

When news came out about plans for Better Call Saul it was being called a prequel to Breaking Bad. There remains interest in what will happen to Saul after going to Nebraska, and now Bob Odenkirk says the show might be both a prequel and sequel.  There has been speculation that the show might be more of a comedy but Odenkirk says, “It’s going to be 70% drama and 30% comedy.” He also played down the speculation that characters from Breaking Bad will pay a major role in Better Call Saul. If it is a sequel, they should at least work in Gus and Mike. It is also feasible that Saul would cross path with a certain DEA agent, and a high school science teacher could briefly appear as long as any contact with Saul is minimal.

With the success of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and other books by Stieg Larsson in the United States, HBO is planning an hour-long series based upon the works of another Scandinavian author, Jo Nesbø. They are planning an adaptation of his 2008 novel, The Headhunters.

Dan Stevens of Downton Abbey will play Lancelot in Night at the Museum 3. It is hard to believe that the season finale already aired tonight on ITV. I haven’t watched today’s season finale yet, but as of last week there were several loose ends. I wonder how many were tied up tonight, and how many will be extended to the Christmas episode. Thanks to British television, Christmas has become a big television day with episodes of Downton Abbey, Doctor Who, and Call the Midwife. Update: News came in shortly after this was posted that Downton Abbey has been renewed for a fifth season.

Thomas Friedman Offers Ten Months or Ten Years for Iraq

Thomas Friedman offers two possible scenarios for Iraq considering the current realities, which are even worse than being in a civil war:

Iraq has entered a stage beyond civil war — it’s gone from breaking apart to breaking down. This is not the Arab Yugoslavia anymore. It’s Hobbes’s jungle.

Given this, we need to face our real choices in Iraq, which are: 10 months or 10 years. Either we just get out of Iraq in a phased withdrawal over 10 months, and try to stabilize it some other way, or we accept the fact that the only way it will not be a failed state is if we start over and rebuild it from the ground up, which would take 10 years. This would require reinvading Iraq, with at least 150,000 more troops, crushing the Sunni and Shiite militias, controlling borders, and building Iraq’s institutions and political culture from scratch.

Anyone who tells you that we can just train a few more Iraqi troops and police officers and then slip out in two or three years is either lying or a fool. The minute we would leave, Iraq would collapse. There is nothing we can do by the end of the Bush presidency that would produce a self-sustaining stable Iraq — and “self-sustaining” is the key metric.

Friedman had previously applied the “Pottery Barn rule” to Iraq which warns that, “You break it, you own it.” He no longer believes this applies:

But my Pottery Barn rule was wrong, because Iraq was already pretty broken before we got there — broken, it seems, by 1,000 years of Arab-Muslim authoritarianism, three brutal decades of Sunni Baathist rule, and a crippling decade of U.N. sanctions. It was held together only by Saddam’s iron fist. Had we properly occupied the country, and begun political therapy, it is possible an American iron fist could have held Iraq together long enough to put it on a new course. But instead we created a vacuum by not deploying enough troops.

That vacuum was filled by murderous Sunni Baathists and Al Qaeda types, who butchered Iraqi Shiites until they finally wouldn’t take it any longer and started butchering back, which brought us to where we are today. The Sunni Muslim world should hang its head in shame for the barbarism it has tolerated and tacitly supported by the Sunnis of Iraq, whose violence, from the start, has had only one goal: America must fail in its effort to bring progressive politics or democracy to this region. America must fail — no matter how many Iraqis have to be killed, America must fail.