SciFi Weekend: Top Twenty New Shows Of 2016; Mary Tyler Moore and John Hurt Die; Genre Novels In The Age Of Trump; Riverdale Premieres

With over four hundred scripted shows (expected to surpass 500 in 2017) it is probably impossible for any one person to fairly rank the best of any season. Even many professional television critics, who don’t have another day job interfering, have said  how difficult it is to watch all the shows to do their end of year rankings. To make it more manageable, and to get around problems of listing the same top shows every year, I have limited this to the best new shows every season. Last year’s list is here and the top new shows of 2014 were listed here.

It got even harder this year with so many new streaming shows, some not dropping until December. In order to include more shows, I waited until the end of January to post the list. As usual, there are shows which I have heard very good things about which I have not watched at all. I put in a couple of shows towards the end of the list which I only watched parts of the season, and might rank them higher if I were to watch more. Also, as usual, it is very difficult to compare shows from different genre’s, or shows watched months apart. If you disagree with some of the rankings, it is very likely I also might agree and rank them differently if I were to do this on a different day. The real point of lists such as this is to point out shows which were worth watching.

Top 20 New Shows Of 2016

20. DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (CW Network)

If based upon the premiere of the show in early 2016, this show would not have made the list, however it was much better when it returned for a second season in the fall. If you gave up on it last year, as I almost did, it is worth another look.

19. Class (BBC)

A Doctor Who spinoff aimed at an older audience than TheMary Jane Adventures. Torchwood (in its early years) remains the only spinoff I consider must see, but fans should find this enjoyable. It aired in the UK last fall, and will be shown in the U.S. this spring after Doctor Who. While I understand the decision in the U.S., I personally found it to be of more value as a fall show to fill the gap when, besides the Christmas episode, there was no true Doctor Who.

18. Fleabag (Amazon Prime)

I wasn’t as in love with this show as the critics, but if you have Amazon Prime, it is well worth checking it out and deciding for  yourself. The entire season is only about three hours, making it essentially a long movie. There is a definite payoff to some of the events of the season in the finale.

17. Atlanta (FX)

Another show which many would probably rank higher. I started watching when it premiered, but then it got forgotten in September because of a combination of being busy with personal matters and the premiers of all the fall shows. It very could rank higher after I see more.

16. Dirk Gentry’s Holistic Detective Agency (BBC America)

A fun and very quirky genre show which, by the end, definitely qualifies as science fiction.

15. Billions (Showtime)

An entertaining cable series. It’s most important benefit was to give Damian Lewis somewhere else to go to make sure they didn’t get desperate and try to bring him back to life on Homeland.

14. Speechless (ABC)

A few years ago it looked like network sitcoms were on the verge of death, beyond The Big Bang Theory and Modern Family. ABC has managed to continue to make worthwhile sitcoms with the Modern Family formula, including Black-ish, Fresh Off The Boat, and now Speechless.

13. Goliath (Amazon Prime)

Billy Bob Thorton makes what could have been a run of the mill lawyer show well worth watching

12. The Crown (Netflix)

A young queen ascends to the thrown in a high budget presentation. She receives advice from the prime minister and is married to a foreigner played by Matt Smith, who adds a bit of whimsy to the show.

11. Victoria (ITV and PBS)

A young queen ascends to the thrown in a not-so-high budget presentation. She receives advice from the prime minister and is married to a foreigner. This also has strong connections to the Doctor Who world including Victoria being played by Jenna Coleman, with supporting cast including Eve Myles from Torchwood. It doesn’t have the budget of The Crown, but in deciding upon the ranking I deferred to my wife’s opinion. This aired in the UK last fall and recently started airing in the United States on PBS.

10. Luke Cage (Netflix)

The latest introduction of a Marvel character on Netflix. It could not meet the extremely high bar set last year by Jessica Jones, but was better than the second season of Daredevil.

9. The Magicians (Syfy)

Much more than an adult Harry Potter, but that would make a starting point to explain what this series is about. Yes, it did technically have an advanced showing of the pilot in 2015, but I’ll still consider this to essentially be a 2016 series. I watched the uncut episodes later in the year, and the editing for television on the premier episode of the second season last week was noticeable.

8. The Good Place (NBC)

A sitcom which has a continuing story, a genre element, discusses philosophy, plus has Kristen Bell and Ted Danson. Extra points for having one of the best plot twists on television in recent years.

7. This Is Us (NBC)

I thought that quality drama was dead on NBC with the ending of Parenthood, but this fills the gap. It had a fairly good twist of its own in the pilot but, unlike in The Good Place, I saw this one coming. The bigger surprise was that Mandy Moore could do such a good job acting. Sure it is full of old television cliches and spends most episodes tugging at the heart strings, but it does a good job of it.

6. 11.22.63 (Hulu)

Received mixed views but I thoroughly enjoyed this adaptation of the Stephen King time travel novel. (No comparison between this and the messed up adaptation of  Under the Dome). More on the show here.

5. Travelers (Showcase and Netflix)

Another low budget Canadian science fiction series filmed in Vancouver. This one is well-written and highly recommended, plus now easily available in the US on Netflix. The premise is that travelers from the future send their consciousness back to our present to prevent an apocalyptic future, taking over the bodies of people at the time of their recorded death. (I was  hoping that something like this would happen on January 20.) Besides having to attend to their mission, the travelers have to cope with the lives they took over–and sometimes their information was a bit off.

4. The Night Of (HBO)

A great self-contained story which shows both problems in the criminal justice system and xenophobia.

3. The Night Manager (BBC and AMC)

An excellent adaptation of the John le Carré novel. It was such a success that BBC and AMC are planning a second adaptation.

2. Stranger Things (Netflix)

The surprise hit from last summer. The series, with explanations of the finale, was discussed here.

1. West World (HBO)

The most discussed new show of the season, with mainstream critics also falling for this science fiction series. I looked at the show at various times, with a discussion of the season finale here.

There are also shows which might make the list which I did not see. I didn’t see any point in rehashing the O.J. Simpson story, but note that The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story  (FX) has received considerable critical acclaim. Many other shows, including genre dramas such as The OA (Netflix) and comedies such as One Mississippi (Amazon Prime) are also recommended by many people.

In past years I have found shows which I did not see when new, but saw them in subsequent years and thought they deserved to be in my rankings. This year I caught up on season one and two of Dark Matter (Syfy) and loved the show. I then tried Killjoys (Syfy) and didn’t get into it. I only watched the first episode, which might not be enough to judge it. I also thought that perhaps I was expecting Dark Matter and it might be better to watch some other shows before trying it again so I could judge it on its own merit.

It is notable that, once again, cable (both basic and premium), British imports, and especially streaming, dominate the list, with very little from the major American networks.

2016 ended with the loss of one beloved actress, Carrie Fisher, and began with the loss of another, Mary Tyler Moore. Later in the week, John Hurt died. While he is more famous for other roles, among science fiction fans he might be best remembered as the War Doctor for the Doctor Who 50th anniversary.

The past two weekends also were dominated by protests against Donald Trump. Earlier this week I looked at one good thing to come from Trump’s election–people are talking about books. This includes the classic 1984, as well as two other novels in which populist authoritarians became president. Even Doctor Who has been cited in discussion of the alternative facts coming from the Trump administration.

This week included the return of several genre shows, as well as the premiere of The CW’s reimagination of Archie comics, Riverdale. After watching Riverdale, I have three questions:

1) Who killed Jason Blossom?
2) What real teen talks about Truman Capote and about Mad Men by season?
3) And the old classic question, Betty or Veronica?

SciFi Weekend: Steven Moffat Leaving Doctor Who; Jessica Jones; Legends of Tomorrow; Charlotte Rampling On The Academy Awards

Moffat TARDIS

Steven Moffat is stepping down as show runner of Doctor Who after the upcoming tenth season (since the show’s revival) and Chris Chinball, best known for Broadchurch, will be taking over. Chinball is a long time fan of Doctor Who and also wrote these episodes: 42, The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood, Dinosaurs on a Spaceship and The Power of Three. He was also a producer and writer on Torchwood.

The tenth season of Doctor Who will not air until the spring of 2017, and the only episode to air in 2016 will be the annual Christmas special. I wonder if Moffat will introduce the next companion in the special or wait until the show returns on a regular schedule in 2017.

After Broadchurch, I also cannot help but wonder if, should David Tennant return for an episode of the show, if Chinball will have him talk in an often incomprehensible accent.

Following is the BBC press release:

BBC announces Steven Moffat’s next series of Doctor Who will be his last and confirms Chris Chibnall as new Head Writer and Executive Producer.

After six incredible series at the helm, the multi-award winning Steven Moffat has decided to step down as the lead writer and executive producer of Doctor Who.

Steven took over the reins on Series 5 in 2010 and during his tenure the show has become a truly global success. He has been responsible for introducing the Eleventh and the Twelfth Doctors in Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi; as well as two companions Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) and Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) and iconic characters and monsters including River Song (Alex Kingston), Missy (Michelle Gomez), Rory (Arthur Darvill) and the terrifying Weeping Angels. Plus, the smash hit 50th Anniversary special in 2013 which saw fans around the world celebrate the world’s longest running sci-fi series with the Doctors, Matt Smith, David Tennant and John Hurt battling the deadly Daleks in a feature length episode. Steven’s final series will air on BBC One in Spring 2017 and there will be a Christmas Special in 2016.

Steven Moffat says: “Feels odd to be talking about leaving when I’m just starting work on the scripts for season 10, but the fact is my timey-wimey is running out. While Chris is doing his last run of Broadchurch, I’ll be finishing up on the best job in the universe and keeping the TARDIS warm for him. It took a lot of gin and tonic to talk him into this, but I am beyond delighted that one of the true stars of British Television drama will be taking the Time Lord even further into the future. At the start of season 11, Chris Chibnall will become the new showrunner of Doctor Who. And I will be thrown in a skip.”

Like Steven, Chris Chibnall is also a lifelong Doctor Who fan and a multi-award winning writer and executive producer. He has most recently achieved huge success with the triple BAFTA winning hit ITV series Broadchurch. His other credits include BAFTA nominated The Great Train Robbery, United, Law & Order: UK, Life on Mars and Torchwood. Chris Chibnall’s debut series will launch in 2018.

Chris Chibnall, new Head Writer and Executive Producer : “Doctor Who is the ultimate BBC programme: bold, unique, vastly entertaining, and adored all around the world. So it’s a privilege and a joy to be the next curator of this funny, scary and emotional family drama. I’ve loved Doctor Who since I was four years old, and I’m relishing the thought of working with the exceptional team at BBC Wales to create new characters, creatures and worlds for the Doctor to explore. Steven’s achieved the impossible by continually expanding Doctor Who’s creative ambition, while growing its global popularity. He’s been a dazzling and daring showrunner, and hearing his plans and stories for 2017, it’s clear he’ll be going out with a bang. Just to make my life difficult.”

Charlotte Moore, Controller, BBC One says : “I want to thank Steven Moffat for everything he has given Doctor Who – I’ve loved working with him, he is an absolute genius and has brought fans all over the world such joy. I will be very sad to see him leave the show but I can’t wait to see what he will deliver in his last ever series next year with a brand new companion. I have decided to schedule Steven’s big finale series in Spring 2017 to bring the nation together for what will be a huge event on the channel. 2016 is spoilt with national moments including the Euros and Olympics and I want to hold something big back for 2017 – I promise it will be worth the wait! I would also like to take this opportunity to welcome Chris Chibnall, a wonderfully talented writer who I know will bring something very special to the hit series.”

Polly Hill, Controller, BBC Drama Commissioning says : “Like Charlotte I would like to thank Steven for his brilliance, which has made Doctor Who a global hit under his tenure. Chris Chibnall is the perfect successor to take over the reins of this incredible show, so I am delighted that his love for Doctor Who has made it impossible for him to resist! Chris is an incredible writer and his vision and passion for Doctor Who gives it an exciting future and promises to be a real treat for Doctor Who fans across the world.”

AKA Jessica Jones

Variety discussed plans for season two of Jessica Jones with show runner Melissa Rosenberg and star Krysten Ritter:

Rosenberg shared that she doesn’t know when work on the new season will start, or whether she’ll be collaborating with writers from any of the other Marvel-Netflix series (“Daredevil,” “Luke Cage” and “Iron Fist”) leading up to “The Defenders” crossover, but said that she intends to continue utilizing story ideas from Brian Michael Bendis’ series of “Alias” comics, where Jessica Jones debuted.

“I will always use as much as I possibly can from the comic book,” Rosenberg said, noting that they’ll have to allow for deviations given the differences in the mythology between the Marvel comics and ongoing Marvel Cinematic Universe. “The MCU is very different in terms of its mythology. In the books, everyone knows superheroes are walking around, there’s a lot of things building toward Secret Wars. We’re probably not going to be able to do a totally parallel storylines. But I take every little piece I can because it’s so good.”

While Rosenberg admitted that it was both intimidating and exciting to think of having to come up with a villain to follow Kilgrave, she didn’t consider keeping him around past season one, since “the show is about Jessica Jones; the story is about Jessica’s arc,” and thus everything had to be in service to her journey.

When asked about Jessica’s mental state at the end of the season, given her final defeat of Kilgrave, star Krysten Ritter said, “For Jessica, that final moment, that victorious triumphant moment, I found that very conflicting in terms of her headspace. He’s the reason why she got up every day. He’s the reason why she went out in the world… it really gave her a purpose, and the past trauma doesn’t go away with his death.”

Arthur Darvill Legends of Tomorrow

Legends of Tomorrow premiered this week and we found that there was some misdirection in both what the characters were told when recruited and in the trailers for the show. This might be for the better. If they really were already known to become legends, it would imply that they were successful and this was future history. The outcome of their mission would already be known. Of course with time travel a lot of questions can come up. For example, why not go after Vandal Savage when he was reduced to dust at the end of the Arrow/Flash episode and prevent him from being revived?

I suspect that this will turn out to be the sort of show which can be a lot of fun to watch as long as you don’t think too much about the time travel implications. It even has Rory (Arthur Darvill) as sort of a renegade Time Lord. Screen Rant has a list of additional Easter eggs.

KUDOS FILM AND TELEVISION PRESENTS BROADCHURCH SERIES 2 Images are under strict Embargo not to be used before the 18th December. PICTURED : CHARLOTTE RAMPLING as Jocelyn Knight. Copyright ITV/Kudos.

Charlote Rampling, who appeared with David Tennant and Arthur Darvill in Broadchurch, has addressed the controversy over lack of diversity in the Academy Award nominees. Rampling had initially spoken about boycotting the awards, but has backed away from this:

In an interview with Europe 1 Radio earlier this week, Rampling said calls for a boycott of the Academy Awards because all of the nominees were white “was racist to white people.”

Today Rampling told CBS News’ “Sunday Morning”:

“I regret that my comments could have been misinterpreted this week in my interview with Europe 1 Radio. I simply meant to say that in an ideal world every performance will be given equal opportunities for consideration. I am very honored to be included in this year’s wonderful group of nominated actors and actresses.”

Rampling also said:

“Diversity in our industry is an important issue that needs to be addressed. I am highly encouraged by the changes announced today by the Academy to diversify its membership.”

SciFi Weekend: Raggedy Man Goodnight–The Time of the Doctor

Time of the Doctor1

The Time of the Doctor tried to do many things at once: be a Christmas episode, be an action story, tie up questions from the Matt Smith era, be a regeneration story, and be an homage to the Matt Smith era. It succeeded or failed to various degrees in each, but in the end managed to do enough to be a memorable chapter in Doctor Who, especially as a proper way to end the story of the eleventh Doctor.

After recent Christmas episodes which were more clearly based upon Christmas stories or themes, The Time of the Doctor resorted to naming the town where the Doctor spent centuries Christmas, along with brief scenes of Christmas dinner at Clara’s home. There were far too many other things to accomplish to get bogged down with a true Christmas story, but this sure gave a new meaning to the War on Christmas.

Sometimes if felt like he has been making new interpretations up as he went along, but Steven Moffat did try to tie up loose ends from not only the Matt Smith years but, in dealing with the Time Lords and the regeneration limit, the entire series. He handled the regeneration limit well, explaining the situation for those who have not already read about it on the blogs and without dwelling on it too long for those who have already heard the discussion. Matt Smith quickly explained to Clara that he was on his last regeneration once you counted the John Hurt Doctor:

CLARA: “But you don’t die. You change – you pop right back with a new face.”
THE DOCTOR: “Not forever. I can change 12 times. 13 versions of me. 13 silly Doctors.”
CLARA: “But you’re number eleven, so -”
THE DOCTOR: “Are we forgetting Captain Grumpy? I didn’t call myself the Doctor during the Time War, but it was still a regeneration.”

Explaining yet another previously uncounted regeneration, the Doctor pointed out that “Number Ten once regenerated and kept the same face – I had vanity issues at the time.”. Of course we knew that somehow he would not die at Tranzalor any more than he died at Lake Silencio, but instead would regenerate despite the previously established and easily broken regeneration limit.

Before nearly dying of old age, the Doctor spent over 300 years on Tranzalor fighting the Daleks and others at a standoff. Several other enemies were also thrown in, often quickly. The Weeping Angels were present only to briefly grab Clara’s ankle (without sending her back in time). The Cybermen had a cameo, with far more memorable scenes from Handles, a severed Cyberman head who chronologically  became the companion to spend the most time with the Doctor and was reminiscent of K-9. These cameos would have been pointless, and even distracting, in a normal story, but were present as part of the homage to the many events of the Matt Smith years.

After frequently throwing out the question, Doctor Who? into many stories, Moffat made the answer a key point of this story. Unfortunately the explanation makes little sense once you think about it. The Time Lords were hidden in a pocket universe and would not return until the Doctor said his real name. It doesn’t make much sense as to why this would be so important and why the Time Lords would even think that the Doctor would want them to return. Many events during the Matt Smith years have been revealed as being based upon attempts to prevent the Doctor from bringing back the Time Lords. Why would they think that the Doctor would do so after he was the one who made them disappear? Gallifrey was hidden behind the cracks in time which have been present in multiple episodes. Why didn’t the issue of the Doctor’s name or the return of the Time Lords come up around prior cracks.

Time of the Doctor2

I fortunately downloaded the BBC broadcast as I hear that at least one key explanation was cut from the BBC America version for commercials. The Silents were revealed to have been genetically engineered priests. Once someone gave their confession, they would forget about the confession. A cool idea until you question why. The key line which I heard was cut from the US showing was that Madame Kovarian led a renegade offshoot of the Silents from the Papal Mainframe which was dedicated to killing the Doctor as the way to prevent him from speaking his name and allowing the Time Lords to return.

Moffat managed to tie in many previous events into this narrative, including the explosion of the TARDIS. River Song was created as a perfect psychopath to kill the Doctor (but he wound up marrying her instead). The Doctor’s greatest fear behind a door in The God Complex was revealed to be a crack in time. The episode included other references to earlier in this regeneration, such as eating fish fingers and custard before regenerating, as the Doctor did after regenerating from Ten to Eleven. There were also references to earlier regenerations, such as using “reverse the polarity to the neutron flow.” Eleven has now said this more often than the Third Doctor actually did. The Doctor also referred to The Five Doctors with use of the“Seal of the High Council of Gallifrey – nicked it off the Master in the Death Zone.”

Moffat created a memorable new character in Tasha Lem. She seems to have had a romantic history with the Doctor and can even fly the TARDIS. She explained to Clara,”Flying the TARDIS was always easy. It was flying the Doctor I never quite mastered.” Such dialog could easily come from River Song, the only person other than the Doctor who we previously saw fly the TARDIS. The Doctor told Tasha Lem, “You’ve been fighting the psychopath inside you all your life,” reminding us of how River Song was called a psychopath in the same episode. Perhaps the episode was written with thought of including River Song. There has been some speculation that Tasha Lem is yet another manifestation of River Song, possibly taking a new bodily form after leaving the library.

Moffat also has a habit of bringing up themes and then dropping them (but you never know if he will one day return to them). The Doctor faking his death at Lake Silencio had no long term meaning as subsequently everyone still seems aware that he is alive. Clara’s wiping of the Dalek memory of the Doctor in Asylum of the Daleks has been forgotten. Moffat played with the meme that the Doctor lies by putting him in a truth field in this episode. This was also forgotten. The Doctor lied to Clara when he said he told her he would not send her away and lied at the end about having a plan.

Time of the Doctor Wig

Moffat even took advantage of Matt Smith having cut his hair for a movie role. The Doctor hid a spare key to the TARDIS under a wig. The scene only worked because of the knowledge that Matt Smith was actually wearing a wig during the filming of the episode. It also reminded me of when Sam Malone revealed he was wearing a wig on Cheers after word got out that Ted Danson actually wore one.

The episode might have been improved by making it longer than an hour and providing a more sensible conclusion. The Time Lords sat behind the crack and did nothing for years. Then Clara said, “His name is the Doctor. All the name he needs, all you need to know about him. And if you love him… help him.” This was enough to get the Time Lords to act. While questionable, it is at least consistent with the Doctor Who theme of often having the companions perform important actions to save the Doctor.In a way it also resolves the issue of the Doctor’s real name by pointing out that it doesn’t really matter.

The Time Lords gave the Doctor a new regeneration cycle. Previous episodes have established that this is very rare, but not without precedent. It remains to be seen whether twelve more regenerations will be enough to keep the Doctor alive as long as the show continues or if another way will need to be found to grant additional regenerations in the distant future. The regeneration energy was enough to enable the Doctor to easily shoot the Dalek ship out of the sky. If the Time Lord’s possess this much power, it is hard to believe that they were ever seriously threatened by the Daleks during the Time War.

Time has been rewritten and the Doctor did not die on Tranzalor. This would also mean that there is no tomb where Clara was fragmented into multiple copies to save the Doctor from The Great Intelligence. Yet another of those timey wimey paradoxes.

The regeneration was drawn out, enabling Matt Smith to appear yet again as a young man, eating custard. The episode showed growth for the Doctor. Ten didn’t want to go and Eleven hated endings. Finally Eleven was ready and accepted his fate as “times change, and so must I.” As he saw Amelia Pond, the first person he saw as the Eleventh, he said, “I will always remember when the Doctor was me.”

Time of the Doctor Amy Pond

Karen Gillan will always be the companion most closely thought of  with Matt Smith. Like David Tennant visiting Billie Piper for one last time before he regenerated, a vision of Amy Pond got to say to the Doctor, “Raggedy man. Goodnight.” Ironically both Karen Gillan and Matt Smith were wearing wigs in this picture, having cut their hair for movie roles.

Some fans have been disappointed because the regeneration scene did not show a prolonged transformation of the face from Matt Smith to Peter Capaldi. I suspect this might have been for budgetary reasons. I thought it was far more symbolic to have Matt Smith remove his bow tie just before changing. Bow ties and fez hats belong to the Eleventh. Others might wear them in his honor, but it will always be remembered that it was Matt Smith who said, “Bow ties are cool.”

As with previous regenerations, Twelve was observant of his bodily changes.”I’ve got new kidneys! I don’t like the color!” There are bigger concerns when the TARDIS alarms go off and he asks Clara, “Do you happen to know how to fly this thing?” It sounds like we might have another crash scene coming up, unless either he is either messing around with Clara or soon regains his memory.

Unfortunately we have to wait until next fall to find out.

Time of the Doctor Peter Capaldi

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who; Sherlock; Arrow; The Flash; SHIELD; Sarah Connor; Homeland; Interstellar; James Bond; Binge Drinking; Binge Viewing; Santa Claus and Science

BBC America will air a farewell to Matt Smith at 8 pm on December 25 prior to airing The Time of the Doctor. Trailer above.  That means that for many US fans, this will air a few hours after downloading and viewing the Christmas episode.

Steven Moffat told Doctor Who Magazine (via Doctor Who TV) what he thinks the John Hurt Doctor was up to:

I assume what’s been happening during the John Hurt years that we never saw, is that he battled hard and fiercely in a way that the other Doctors would not have done, and that he was a dangerous and difficult man. But in his view he was not living up to the standards. I mean, by involving himself in an ongoing war – I always thought that sounded odd.

He adds: “I remember when David Tennant said, ‘I fought in the Time War’. I thought, ‘The Doctor in a war?’ I mean, the Doctor may be saving people at the fringes of a war, or stopping a war, but I could never imagine him being in one. But John Hurt’s Doctor is the one who was.”

He spoke with SFX about wrapping up mysteries:

Moffat told SFX magazine: “It will be tying up various elements of the Eleventh Doctor’s story, some of which people have asked about before, some of which people haven’t bothered to ask about!”

He adds: “From [Matt Smith’s] first to his last episode, there will be elements. And it should be obvious they were fairly carefully planned.

“It’s not obstructive – if you didn’t remember any of that stuff or care about that stuff it would still be fine. If you’ve been sitting there saying, “Who blew up the TARDIS?” then you’ll get it.”

He has also discussed the female character from the Doctor’s past which will appear in Time of the Doctor.

More at Screen Rant and the BBC.

Wholock–Sherlock Meets the Doctor. Video above.

The BBC has released the synopsis for the third episode of season three of Sherlock, to air on January 12:

In the final episode of this new series, written by Steven Moffat, a case of stolen letters leads Sherlock Holmes into a long conflict with Charles Augustus Magnussen, the Napoleon of blackmail, and the one man he truly hates.

But how do you tackle a foe who knows the personal weakness of every person of importance in the Western world?

There are no plans for Lara Pulver to return to Sherlock but Natalie Dormer will be returning to fake Sherlock (CBS’s Elementary) to reprise her role as wrong-sex Moriarty when the show returns in January.

arrow-3-ghosts-0

Barry Allen was exposed to chemicals from beakers and lightening on the mid-season  finale of Arrow. We all know what beakers full of chemicals mixed with lightening will do–basic superhero science. I also liked how there is yet another major tie in to events back on the island. Executive producers Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg, DC Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns and Grant Gustin (who plays Barry/the Flash) discussed plans at BuddyTV. A portion:

Barry’s Profound Effect on Oliver and Felicity’s Relationship 
Andrew Kreisberg: I think for Oliver, he knows he feels something for her but can’t quite define it and I think he’s sort of surprised to find in [Episode 9] when Dig points out to him, “What you’re feeling right now might actually be termed jealousy.” And for Felicity, I think she doesn’t want to like Oliver in a way because she finds him unattainable and in a way he is unattainable. Especially after you saw at the end of Episode 6, when he said “It’s probably better if I’m not with somebody I care about.”
So while she really does like Barry, I think she probably throws [herself] even more into it because now he’s somebody who’s available. And Barry, being as smart as he is, because [as we allude to] is familiar with liking somebody who doesn’t like you back – which is something that will probably be explored further down the road – he sees that about her.
So I think at the end of this episode, and certainly as something we pick up in Episode 10 – because the fallout from Episode 9 carries over into the next episodes, as far as the Oliver and Felicity relationship is concerned – Barry has had a profound effect on them and that will carry through.
Flash’s Presence Will Be Felt on Arrow
Greg Berlanti: In the back half of the year, you definitely hear about what happened to [Barry] in the way that you’re hearing now about Star Labs and things like that – in the periphery and certainly in terms of Felicity since she has a connection with him.

The mid-season finale of Agents of SHIELD brought back old allies and enemies, but was yet another disappointing story. There are hints as to the significance of Coulson’s recovery which we should learn more about in the second half of the season, if anyone is still watching.

Emilia Clarke

Game of Thrones already has one Sarah Connor in the cast–Lena Headey who stared in  Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles plays Cersei Lannister. Emelia Clarke, (above without the albino look) who plays Daenerys Targaryen, will has been cast to play Sarah Connor in the planned reboot.

Morena Baccarin and Morgan Saylor, who play Brody’s wife and daughter on Homeland, will not be returning as regulars in season four, probably because there was not much use for either character in season 3.

Teaser above for Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar above–to be released in November 2014.

A study in the British Medical Journal found that James Bond drinks too much alcohol:

James Bond’s level of alcohol intake puts him at high risk of multiple alcohol related diseases and an early death. The level of functioning as displayed in the books is inconsistent with the physical, mental, and indeed sexual functioning expected from someone drinking this much alcohol. We advise an immediate referral for further assessment and treatment, a reduction in alcohol consumption to safe levels, and suspect that the famous catchphrase “shaken, not stirred” could be because of alcohol induced tremor affecting his hands.

Bing watching is common among Netflix subscribers.

It appears that the previously-discussed Friday Night Lights movie is not going to happen.

For today’s hard science section, we look at Scientifically Accurate Santa Claus:

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who; Sherlock; Orphan Black; Almost Human; Arrow; The Doctor Meets Superman & Batman For Coffee

timeofthedoctor

Pictures, such as the one above, and an official synopsis have been released for the Christmas episode of Doctor Who, The Time of the Doctor:

Orbiting a quiet backwater planet, the massed forces of the universe’s deadliest species gather, drawn to a mysterious message that echoes out to the stars. And amongst them – the Doctor. Rescuing Clara from a family Christmas dinner, the Time Lord and his best friend must learn what this enigmatic signal means for his own fate and that of the universe.

Could this also involve saving Gallifrey after the events of The Day of the Doctor?

Despite the revelation of John Hurt as the War Doctor, Steven Moffat is sticking with the current numbering:

“He’s just The Doctor, Matt Smith’s Doctor is the 11th Doctor, however there is no such character as the 11th Doctor – he’s just the Doctor – that’s what he calls himself. The numbering doesn’t matter, except for those lists that you and I have been making for many years. So I’ve given you the option of not counting John Hurt numerically – he’s the War Doctor.”

If the numbering was only being done by fans it wouldn’t matter, but the numbering has appeared during the shows. On the one hand there has been talk of “the fall of the eleventh”, while on the other hand there was reference to “all thirteen” Doctors during The Day of the Doctor. The number of Doctors, if not how they are referred to, is important if there is a regeneration limit, and in this context we cannot leave out a regeneration. Moffat is separating the reference of number to Doctors from actual regenerations–sort of like the Big 10 having twelve teams and expanding to fourteen.

I previously had thought that the regeneration from Matt Smith’s Doctor to Peter Capaldi’s would be the twelfth and final regeneration, speculating that the limit might be exceeded by having the next Doctor find Gallifrey and be rewarded with a new set of regenerations. Steven Moffat has made matters even more complicated in an interview with Radio Times:

As Whovians will know, ever since the 1976 episode The Deadly Assassin it has been taken as fact that a Doctor can only regenerate twelve times in a cycle, allowing thirteen incarnations.

Officially until now, Matt Smith has been the 11th Doctor, meaning fans have started to wonder what will happen in 5-10 years time when we reach 13 after Peter Capaldi.

But Moffat has moved the goalposts, or perhaps more aptly stuck his own sonic screwdriver into the history of the show and given it a big twist.

On Saturday he told me Matt is actually the 13th and final doctor. John Hurt is officially now a doctor and David Tennant used up an extra regeneration during his stay.

In essence, the end of Matt at Christmas should mean the end of Doctor Who.

Where this leaves Peter Capaldi is unclear. But what Moffat would say is: “The 12 regenerations limit is a central part of Doctor Who mythology – science fiction is all about rules, you can’t just casually break them.

Everything changes if we consider the events of Journey’s End as showing David Tennant’s Doctor using up a regeneration (and ignoring the regeneration energy given to the Doctor by River Song in Let’s Kill Hitler). While we know that Moffat lies, or at least loves to cause misdirection with regards to speculations on future events on the show, this does force an update to previous predictions. The issue becomes more urgent to prevent Matt Smith from playing the last Doctor, which we know will not occur. Now it appears possible that Matt Smith’s Doctor might find Gallifrey and receive extra regenerations in The Time of the Doctor. Reportedly the episode will also tie up several of the loose ends Moffat has left since taking over regarding predictions of the fall of the eleventh, The Silence, The crack in time, and the Weeping Angels. There are also rumors that the Doctor will lose a limb before being regenerated.

During the above interview, Steven Moffat discussed further minisodes following the success of The Night Of The Doctor (posted here).

“I think this will usher in not so much a Paul McGann mini-series but usher in more minisodes, and I think we should take them more seriously than we used to. Night was the first one we’ve actually said, ‘Let’s make a high production value belter and let’s give them a surprise!’”

He teased: “You can count on us doing something like that again, but we won’t tell you when! I’ve actually told the BBC, ‘if we do it again we’re doing it in Cardiff and we’re not even telling you what we’re doing and we’ll give you it on the day…’

With Doctor Who Confidential no longer on the air, the BBC has released a series of brief videos giving an Inside Look on the 50th anniversary and the making of The Day of The Doctor, such as the video above. More of these videos have been  posted at Geeks of Doom.

We have a long wait after the Christmas episode. Doctor Who begins filming in January but the next season will not be aired until fall. There have been reports that the full season will air in the fall instead of being split but I’m not sure how official this is.

A new source for Doctor Who news–The Doctor Who Cuttings Archive

Sherlock Lives

Sherlock resumes on January 19 in the United States but many of us will be downloading copies earlier now that it has been announced that season 3 will begin on January 1. The BBC spread news of  the date for the first episode, The Empty Hearse, by having the above hearse drive around London.  The Sign of Three airs on January 5 and the finale, His Last Vow is on January 12. For those in other countries, Sherlockology has a lengthy list of broadcast dates. It also appears that there will be sort of a triangle.Martin Freeman’s real-life wife Amanda Abbington will also star as John Watson’s love interest Mary Morstan.

The Weinsteins are looking into several television projects, including some genre shows. This includes a television version of Sin City and an adaptation of the movie version of Steven King’s The Mist. Hopefully this works out better than Under the Dome (and there is no reason to believe that different people will make the same mistakes with a different story).

Orphan Black‘s second season will begin on April 19 in the United States on BBC America and in Canada on Space. I have not heard of a date being set in the UK but last year the show aired well after it aired in the United States. The season 2 trailer is above, which unfortunately contains no new footage even though the series has been filming for a while.

almost-human-minka-kelly

I watched the first three episodes of Almost Human over the holiday weekend. It does have promise. The premise appears to be that male cops are teamed with androids while hot female cops (as played by Minka Kelly) wear loose, low-cut shirts (which looks better on the show than in the picture above).

Ronald D. Moore’s new show Helix will begin on January 10. More premiere dates from SyFy here.

Barry Allen (The Flash) will appear on the next episode of Arrow. Initially the appearances on Arrow were to be a back-door pilot for a new show, but now CW has decided to film a conventional pilot for The Flash. There has been a lot of speculation as to whether the DC universe being created around Arrow will tie into the Justice League movie which will be developed out of the upcoming Superman vs. Batman movie. Arrow showrunner Greg Berlanti says the two universes will not be connected as Agents of SHIELD is connected to the Marvel cinematic universe.

Oliver will also be getting a mask like the one worn by the Green Arrow in the comics. I’m not sure that it is needed. If Laurel hasn’t figured out that Oliver is the vigilante yet, wearing the hood has been unrealistically sufficient.  (It was a more realistic change from the old comics to have Lois Lane quickly figure out who Clark Kent was in Man of Steel.)

Nothing has spoiled True Blood more than bad writing, too many characters who nobody cares about, and weak plot lines. Compared to these problems, the season seven spoilers posted here are rather trivial.

And, finally, the Doctor is sort of like a superhero, so there’s no reason why he shouldn’t go out for coffee with Superman and Batman (unless he’s afraid of their tough questions).

SciFi Weekend: Gallifrey Falls No More, A Review of Day of the Doctor

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The Day of the Doctor accomplished Steven Moffat’s goal of presenting an homage to the past but primarily looking towards the future. Just as real life isn’t neatly divided into sixty minute episodes (or serials in the case of older Doctor Who), the 50th anniversary episode combined two different stories. Both had the common theme of the Doctor finding a way to defeat an invasion and prevent destruction to either London or Gallifrey. The episode  won a Guinness World Record award for the largest ever simulcast of a TV drama, being shown in ninety-four countries.

There were many tributes to the past beyond those I mention here. We saw the original opening, starting in black in white just as the series began. Clara was teaching at Coal School which Susan attended in the first episode. After several mentions of Queen Elizabeth I over the years, we saw the Doctor marry her, believing she was actually a Zygon shape shifter in disguise. (No word on what River Song thought of this). A UNIT agent (or her Zygon copy) wore Tom Baker’s scarf.  David Tennant repeated his classic line, “I don’t want to go” and John Hurt said “reverse the polarity” in a tribute to Jon Pertwee. The episode included all thirteen Doctors, including John Hurt and Peter Capaldi, even if some were primarily from old clips and CGI. The episode ended with an ambiguous appearance from Tom Baker as the Curator, who might be the form which the Doctor takes after he retires. Billie Piper returned, but as Bad Wolf Rose in order to allow for her presence without altering Rose’s story.

The Doctors stopped a Zygon invasion of earth by literally bringing about the concept of a veil of ignorance, as the shape-shifting Zygons and members of UNIT did not remember which they were, giving motivation to both sides to negotiate a fair deal. From there the three Doctors tackled an even bigger problem, saving Gallifrey from the Dalek attack during the Time Wars by some way other than destroying them all. This was ultimately accomplished due to Matt Smith and David Tennant’s version of the Doctor having had more time to work on the problem, and the joint effort of thirteen Doctors.

We have now seen all of the regenerations. The webisode (posted here) The Night of the Doctor, showed the regeneration of Paul McGann to John Hurt.  The regeneration of John Hurt was present near the end of The Day of The Doctor but unfortunately Christopher Eccleston declined to appear to complete the scene. Considering how little effort it would have taken to film the regeneration scene, his refusal to participate in the anniversary episode just makes him look more petty, regardless of what problems he had with the previous crew.

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Although Steven Moffat had said that the numbering of the Doctors would not change, it is hard to see justification for not including John Hurt. Moffat recently said:

“I’ve been really, really quite careful about the numbering of the Doctors. He’s very specific, the John Hurt Doctor, that he doesn’t take the name of the Doctor. He doesn’t call himself that. He’s the same Time Lord, the same being as the Doctors either side of him, but he’s the one who says, ‘I’m not the Doctor.’ So the Eleventh Doctor is still the Eleventh Doctor, the Tenth Doctor is still the Tenth…

He adds: “Technically, if you really counted it, the David Tennant Doctor is two Doctors, on account of the Meta-Crisis Doctor [in Journey’s End]… It’s not a matter of counting the regenerations, but of counting the faces of the Time Lord that calls himself the Doctor. There’s an anomaly Doctor slotted in somewhere, that’s all. In the script to The Day of the Doctor, Matt’s Doctor was called the Eleventh, and David’s was called the Tenth, so the numbering stays exactly the same – and we call Peter Capaldi the Twelfth Doctor.”

Of course we know that Moffat lies, and  perhaps he said this to avoid giving away the ending to The Day Of The Doctor. Now that we have seen the full story of  John Hurt’s Doctor, it is harder to justify not counting him. Despite being called the Warrior, we have now seen rather standard regenerations both into him and into the subsequent Doctor. Taking a different name hardly makes sense as a way around the regeneration limit. Even if his story ended with being responsible for a heinous act, this should not change the numbering.  Now that this act was reversed, there is even less reason to exclude him. There was reference to “all thirteen” on Gallifrey. The Daleks recognized him as the Doctor. If we want to go meta and try to limit the official Doctors to those who had their own shows, this would contradict the convention of including Paul McGann who, before this month, appeared in only a single movie. Surely John Hurt’s appearance in the 50th anniversary episode, along with a brief scene in the previous episode, is as significant as an essentially stand-alone move.  The BBC even reposted the 50th anniversary promo picture with John Hurt included (above).

The episode has significant ramifications for the future. The Doctor now has a new goal, to find Gallifrey. I wonder if this will be a season-long McGuffin like was done previously with The Key To Time serials in the Tom Baker era. This could provide a new emphasis from the show now that Amy Pond is gone and the mystery of Clara has been resolved, getting away from the stand-alone episodes of last season. A limit of twelve regenerations, meaning thirteen versions of the Doctor, was previously established, and we have now seen reference to “all thirteen” Doctors. The search for Gallifrey opens up one of several possible solutions as it is a safe prediction that Doctor Who will not end with Peter Capaldi’s Doctor. Perhaps saving Gallilfrey will lead to the Doctor being given another set of regenerations solving this issue. There has been precedent for the Time Lords having this power.

Before we see how this rewriting of the mythology affects Peter Capaldi’s Doctor, there remains the Christmas Episode in which Silence will Fall and we return to Trenzalore (trailer above).

For those disappointed in not seeing cameos from more actors who have played the Doctor, we do have the video below which was written and directed by Peter Davison. “The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot” stars  Peter Davison,  Colin Baker,  Sylvester McCoy and Paul McGann attempting to make it into the 50th anniversary episode. In a way they have accomplished this. I think that this video, along with The Day of the Doctor,  and An Adventure in Space in Time should be counted as parts of a set honoring the 50th anniversary.

As I was working on my impressions of the episode, Blogator Who posted the official comments from Steven Moffat. Some portions of the interview follow:

I asked Steven for his thoughts on Peter Davison’s special The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot.
“I loved it. I love it, I’m in it! I’m the villain as far as I can see! [Laughs] Absolutely adorable. It was actually my idea to do that, I had bumped into Peter at a party and he said, ‘I’m going to do this little fan video about us all trying to get into the 50th. Do you mind and would you be in it?’ And I said I’ll give you a budget and a camera crew and some time and why don’t you make it for real? Make it for us? It solved a problem for me. I wanted all The Doctor’s properly involved, if they were willing, as best they could.

It maximises what you can do with Sylvester [McCoy] and Colin [Baker] and Peter because they’re not the same people were, all those years ago. You get to see Colin Baker playing Colin Baker which is much more fun that seeing him trying to do a performance that no longer suits him, frankly. And the same with Peter and the absolutely charming Sylvester McCoy, who is an absolute hero. It was brilliant, I love The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot, it was gorgeous.

Regarding Billie Piper in The Day of the Doctor Steven stated:
“I thought the story of Rose, which was beautiful, was done. I didn’t want to add to it, I didn’t feel qualified to add to it. That was always Russell’s [T Davies] story. The way Russell ended it in The End of Time was perfect. I didn’t want to stick another bit in. It would be wrong.

But we did want Billie Piper, one of the absolute heroes of Doctor Who, back in the show without interfering in the story of Rose Tyler. I think I might of spoiled something if I had done that.  Billie represents the rival of Doctor Who, more than anyone else. It’s all about Billie, it’s her show for two years. It’s really startling watching The Runaway Bride and you’re going, ‘Where is she? Where is she? Where is the star of the show?’

On the 2013 Christmas Special, Moffat commented, “It’s a proper finale to Matt Smith, it’s the story we’ve been telling since he put the bow tie on. A lot of stuff we’ve left hanging, we tie up there. And it’s Trenzalore!” At a panel at the Official Doctor Who Celebration, including Matt Smith, Jenna Coleman and Steven, they revealed that the world “bubbly” will appear in the finale for The Eleventh Doctor.

 

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who 50th Anniversary; Agents of SHIELD; Arrow; Community; How I Met Your Mother Sequel; Big Bang Theory; Alpha House; Almost Human

The Night of the Doctor, a prequel video for The Day of the Doctor was released during the past week, showing a regeneration from Paul McMann’s Doctor to John Hurt’s.  There is a difference in the nature of Hurt’s Doctor which we will undoubtedly learn  more about in the 50th anniversary episode. Despite what we learn in this video, Steven Moffat says that the numbering of the Doctors will remain the same.

A clip from The Day of the Doctor played at Children in Need above showing when Matt Smith and David Tennant met is above.

There are many more shows planned for the 50th anniversary celebration. I posted a schedule of BBC American broadcasts here.

The trailer for An Adventure In Space And Time, on the development of Doctor Who fifty years ago, is above. A spoiler-free review has been posted here.

Steven Moffat discussed fifty years of Doctor Who in a twenty-minute video available on line here.

SHIELD The Hub

The Hub was one of the better episodes of Agents of SHIELD so far, but still remained weak. Last week Simmons was in danger but fans were disappointed to see her survive. Fitz came out looking much better in this week’s episode which was centered around placing him in danger. On the other hand, Simmons came out looking like an even weaker character than before, if that was possible. Once again we were teased with the possibility of being rid of her. One would think that Simmons would be history after shooting a superior officer, but nothing really happened. They advanced the mystery of the season about Coulson returning after being killed when Coulson found that the file about his time in “Magical Tahiti” is being kept from him. Speculation ranges from there really being magic involved to Coulson being a robot.  More credence was given to the robot theory when Sky said during the episode that “He’s acting like a robot version of himself right now.” Considering the weak level of writing in this series, that might be intended to foreshadow the end result.

While this episode involved Russia and Georgia, Arrow (the far better of the two superhero series) also had its characters travel to Russia. Summer Glau’s character was a little less robotic as she wound up going to bed with Oliver in a scene which was primarily designed to frustrate the fans who have been rooting for Felicity and Oliver to get together since last season. (Yes, while this is a fun genre show, it is also a CW show.)

COMMUNITY -- "Introduction to Teaching" Episode 502 -- Pictured: (l-r) Jonathan Banks as Hickey, Joel McHale as Jeff Winger -- (Photo by: Justin Lubin/NBC)

We have to wait until January 2, but a lot of photos from Community have been posted on line. In the picture above, Jonathan Banks of Breaking Bad appears as Professor Nichols. We don’t know the circumstances or his position (student or faculty), but Jeff is definitely back at Greendale Community College.

CBS is going ahead with a sequel to How I Met Your Mother entitled How I Met Your Father which will presumably be the same format from a woman’s point of view. I am glad that Carter Bays and Craig Thomas will be doing another sitcom but question whether network television can manage to be a little more original as opposed to doing the same thing over again. It was amusing when the original pilot, in which viewers expected to see how Ted met his wife, instead said it was how he met “Aunt Robin.” The actual answer as to how Ted met his wife took nine years and once seems to be enough to for that idea. At least the format is quite loose and does leave open the possibility of having unique aspects in the new show. There have been a lot of shows about a group of friends in New York since Friends left the air, and How I Met Your Mother was the best of them which I have seen.

THE BIG BANG THEORY

What Culture! has five reasons that Big Bang Theory is good for nerds. This includes the many prominent guest stars, such as Stan Lee in the photo above.

Garry Trudeau’s political comedy Alpha House has been released on Amazon video. Review at The New York Times.

They can’t kill The Killing. It will receive a fourth season, this time on Netflix.

Almost Human premiers on Fox tonight. Trailer above.

The Night Of The Doctor

This prequel video has been released prior to the airing of The Day of the Doctor, filling in a huge gap in the history of the Doctor.

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.

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who; Sherlock; Atlantis; SHIELD; Arrow; Last Week’s Revelation on Homeland; The Blacklist; Once Upon A Time In Wonderland; Star Trek; Star Wars; American Blackout; X-Men; Time Travel; Dealing With A Zombie Apocalypse

doctorwho50th1

Matt Smith and David Tennant worked very well together during filming of The Day of the Doctor according to Steven Moffat:

Matt Smith and David Tennant got on so well while filming the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special that they hatched a plan to continue working together on the show, says Steven Moffat.

“They got on like a couple of old women. They just say in the corner and gossiped the entire time,” revealed the Doctor Who showrunner.

“By the end of it, Matt told me that he’d worked out this plan that they’d both continue in Doctor Who: do five individual episodes each and three together – would that be ok? It was a nice plan. I think if I’d said yes they’d have gone for it.”

However, Moffat admitted that neither star had started out completely confident about bringing their two Doctors together.

“David and Matt, I think… were both quite apprehensive of the other,” Moffat told the audience at a Radio Times event earlier this month. “David’s continued to watch Doctor Who like the sad old fan he is and so as far as he’s concerned Matt’s the Doctor. And of course for Matt, you don’t believe yourself you’re the Doctor, you just think David’s the Doctor. So they were both slightly nervous and slightly apprehensive.”

Steven Moffat also told Radio Times that John Hurt would steal scenes with his eyes:

“It was great fun,” said Moffat. “You’d have David and Matt, they’d be leaping around the set and doing every form of physical comedy with each other – and, you know, slightly competing about who could be slightly more insane than the other – and then John Hurt would come along and do this [tiny movement] with his eyes and you go ‘That’s it – he’s got the scene now hasn’t he?'”

Moffat has also discussed the return of the Zygons:

Steven Moffat says bringing back the Zygons has been an ambition since he took over Doctor Who – and that the classic monsters are so well designed he hardly had to change a thing for their return in the 50th Anniversary Special.

“Every year since I took over I’ve been trying to get the Zygons in,” says Steven Moffat, “and then I thought ‘Well, it’s the 50th…’

“The Zygons are beautifully designed monsters, they are so wonderful… We barely changed the design at all because it was so good.”

The classic Who foes have appeared just once before, in 1975 adventure Terror of the Zygons, yet remain a firm fan favourite.

Cult Box interviewed Doctor Who composer Murray Gold. H:ere is just one question on the show’s theme, which has changed with the lead actor:

Have you started thinking about what the 12th Doctor’s theme will sound like? Are you going to miss using the 11th Doctor’s wonderful theme?!

“I’m not 100% certain they will let me drop that theme entirely… but yes, I have started to think about it. I really need to see Peter in the role to get it all firing up.”

Peter Salus looked at the history of computers in Doctor Who.

Sherlock season 3 will premiere in the United States on PBS on January 19 at 10 p.m. This means it will air back to back with Downtown Abbey, which starts on January 5 in the United States. Downton Abbey is already well into the season on ITV (with a rather major event for Anna at one point during the season so far). The BBC has not announced when Sherlock will return in the U.K.

Atlantis (the replacement for Merlin) will premiere in the United States on November 23, after The Day of the Doctor.

black canary arrow

Agents of SHIELD and Arrow are extending further into the Marvel and DC universes respectively. SHIELD has come up against Centipede, plus expect more connections to Captain America: The Winter Soldier. On Arrow, Oliver was saved by the Black Canary, who turns out to have been working in the past for Ra’s al Ghul, ultimately tying into Batman. We will see more of this Black Canary next week, and will have to wait and see  how things play out regarding the discrepancy with her identity in the comics. Situations and characters do tend to evolve gradually on Arrow.

Arrow, while well-done and quite entertaining  for its genre, does trace back to the teen/young adult form of genre common on CW. In this vein, CBS is considering a reboot of Charmed.

Anastasia and Will Wonderland

I think that Once Upon A Time would have worked better if they stuck to the first season’s story as opposed to trying to stretch it out into a conventional multi-year television series. American television often is of a lower quality than British television due to the usual format requirements in the US.  Once Upon A Time In Wonderland shows promise partially because it is planned as a single season story. Last week Alice learned more about the White Rabbit but the story is not limited to Wonderland. Any Disney fan has to just love to see Robin Hood and his Merry Men rob Maleficent’s  castle, as occurred on last week’s episode. Then there was the revelation that Will’s girlfriend Anastasia becomes the Red Queen.

I was happy to see that last week’s episode of The Blacklist delved more into Elizabeth and her husband, with implications that more is to come next week. I do hope the series concentrates more on this mythology as opposed to being a villain of the week series. According to E!, episode eight is also major:

Episode eight is a big one. Don’t miss it. Oh, you want more than that? Fine. Not only does someone on the team get severely injured in the episode, but Red comes face to face with one of his mortal enemies. Someone Red is scared of? This we can’t wait to see!

Episode 304

Showtime has renewed Homeland and Masters of Sex. The big revelation on Homeland last week didn’t come as very much of a surprise. In many ways it is more plausible that Saul and Carrie are working together consider the past working relationship between the two and the fact that Saul knows that Brody’s confession tape had to be a set-up. On the other hand, Carrie sure played her role at all times she was seen on television. I would have to go back to past episodes to verify this, but I believe this includes times in which there was nobody else watching her beyond the television audience. Alex Gansa discussed the revelation with TV Guide:

In your mind, when did Carrie and Saul hatch this master plan?
Alex Gansa:
 I think they decided the very next day after the bomb went off. Carrie and Saul were culpable in what happened, and they were looking for some way to make good, to make it right, to get the guy who was ultimately responsible. They began to hatch the plan right then to figure out how to lure the bad guy of the season, Javadi, out of his anonymity in Iran.

So, Dar Adal (F. Murray Abraham) and Quinn (Rupert Friend) don’t know about this?
Gansa: For the first four episodes they were totally outside the circle. This was a ruse and a plot that was hatched just between Carrie and Saul.

There were a lot of machinations to this plot. Saul continued to pursue Javadi on his own, for example. Was that just to throw the audience off or was it a backup plan?
Gansa:
 One of the things that our intelligence officer consultants [told us] is that the most effective intelligence operations are 95 percent true. Carrie and Saul were largely to blame for what happened and [they knew] the CIA would be looking for a scapegoat to take the blame. How would they turn that into a silver lining? This was a huge gamble, and Carrie was asked to sacrifice a lot in that gamble. It’s not a sure thing, so Saul was really playing all sides of the equation here. And you will see that he’s got a Phase 2 of the operation in mind, which he is not sharing with Carrie. Saul is very much the puppeteer here. He’s the maestro.

Why would Carrie react the way she did to Saul “outing” her during his senate testimony if she knew this was all a scam?
Gansa: 
Saul is the one who leaked the idea that she was having a sexual relationship with Brody to the committee. Carrie was aware that he was doing that. However, it doesn’t diminish the reality of it when it’s actually presented in front of you. When we were shooting it, we were talking to Claire about, “This moment is going to have to play two ways. It’s going to have to play one way if the audience is watching it for the first time not understanding that this is a ruse.” But when you go back and look at it again, you’ll understand that she’s not surprised by what she’s hearing. She’s amazed at how it affects her to understand that she is to blame for what happened. That’s where the emotion catches up with her in an unexpected way.

There’s more at The Hollywood Reporter, including how Brody will fit into the storyline:

How will Brody figure in to all of this?

I will say that Brody becomes a principal player in the architecture of the last sweep of episodes. His predicament down in Caracas and his separation from Carrie and Saul is really paramount as we move into the next two movements of the season.

Did you have any reservations about having an episode (“Tower of David”) that was almost exclusively from Brody’s point of view?

It was really a function of how much story was to be told there. Just anecdotally, some people felt we were with him too much and others felt we were with him too little. It felt right to us to establish his predicament and to parallel his plight with Carrie’s. These are two people in some very desperate circumstances. The show has paralleled their stories before and some of the most successful episodes that we have done have drawn comparisons between their predicaments.

I just saw this commercial from May. It has to be the best car commercial ever. Spock v. Spock. May the best Spock win.

I don’t find it to be a good sign when there is a need to change writers for Star Wars VII.

The National Geographic Channel is airing a fictionalized account of the consequences of a catastrophic ten day cyberattack:

As the power grid goes down across the country, the streets quickly descend into chaos while consumers ransack stores for bottled water and canned goods.

Those without sufficient cash handy are quickly in dire straits, since no electricity means no credit cards or ATMs, either.

Meanwhile, the heroes of the day are “doomsday preppers” who have had the foresight to stockpile a couple years’ worth of bottled water, batteries, and military-style meals-ready-to-eat in secret underground bunkers.

This is the scenario explored in “American Blackout,” the National Geographic Channel’s fictionalized account of a 10-day-long power outage precipitated by a cyberattack.

What Culture has ten alcoholic drinks from Mad Men which you must try.

Screen Rant reports that X-Men: Days of Future Past’ Trailer Preview Includes a Time-Traveling Wolverine

Is time travel even possible? See the above video from TED-ED. No X-Men but it includes plenty of scenes with a TARDIS. It only deals with time travel into the future. No hope we will be visited by Kiera Cameron of Continuum.

Some people think that TED Talks fail to deal with real problems. The above DED Talk might be more practical after a zombie apocalypse.