SciFi Weekend: Orphan Black; Magical Tahiti; Star Wars; Mad Man Return Date; Hannibal; Doctor Who; Sherlock; Gone Girl

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Orphan Black was one of the best new shows of last season, along with being one of the best genre shows of recent years. It returns to BBC America on April 19, with the producers having a three-season master plan outlined. There is additional news on the second season of Orphan Black here and here (minor spoilers):

- More boundary-breaking. “We are going to take some risks with our premise in the second season and we are going to push technically what we’ve done with the first season and our actors are really pushing the limits as well,” says Manson. Jordan Gavaris, who play’s Sarah’s BFF/foster brother Felix, prefers when he’s outside of his comfort zone. “It’s not a good thing if you get complacent, when you get comfortable and everything’s easy,” he says. “There should be that discomfort because that pushes you to take the risks to keep it interesting, to keep people engaged — and we’re scared!”

– Plot-wise, Sarah is frantically searching for Kira. The very first scene, which was screened for critics, takes place immediately after she discovers her daughter and Mrs. S. are missing. She frantically calls Felix and Paul, whose phones go to voicemail, but Paul calls back — except Rachel’s on the other end telling her to surrender herself. Naturally, Sarah hangs up, but then two menacing henchmen walk into the diner where she’s taken refuge from the rain and menacingly offer to take her to Kira. What happens next? Well, you’ll have to wait and see!

– Cosima is struggling with her mysterious respiratory disease. “Cosima to me has always been the one who’s the most fascinated with life, so it’s interesting for her to be facing her mortality and that’s really what we start to explore in Season 2,” Maslany says. Adds Manson, “It’s hard because she’s my favorite clone. We’re putting her in this really heartbreaking position, and yet she’s almost as brave as Sarah in a lot of ways. Narratively, examining her illness and looking into her own science is part of our mystery. She performs a really great story function in the second season as well, trying to get to the root of her own illness.”

– Ainsley’s death will continue to weigh on Alison. “Alison is an intense person to begin with, and the secret she’s keeping is really going to eat at her in an interesting way,” Manson says. “Alison’s got some explosions coming up.”

– Felix’s character will be fleshed out. “In Season 1 Felix was very much an integral cog in the mystery… and now I think what Season 2 helps to do is establish him outside of the clones as an individual with his own identity,” says Gavaris. “He has gone along and been that person who picks up the phone at 3 in the morning and I think it’s safe to say that the relationship with Sarah comes to a head and there’s a tough decision that’s going to be made — many tough decisions that are going to be made — and it’s not going to be easy.” While his relationship with Sarah might be tested, he will grow closer to some of the other clones.

Michelle Forbes has also been cast to appear in multiple episodes. According to TV Line, “Forbes will play Marian Bowles, a powerful new player at the Dyad Institute with a birds-eye view on the war between Sarah and Rachel.” Forbes has appeared in multiple genre shows including Star Trek: The Next Generation and Battlestar Galactica.

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Agents of SHIELD revealed some information about Agent Coulson returning from the dead. Apparently it involved a series of painful surgeries, with false memories of Magical Tahiti implanted to replace these memories. There was no real explanation as to how this managed to bring him back from the dead. I’m not sure if this is it and we are just to assume advanced medical procedures at SHIELD could accomplish this or if more is to come. At least this does eliminate some of the theories floating around, such as a room full of Coulson androids.

Agent Coulson is far from the only genre character to return from the dead. No surprise that Peter Parker is returning to the Spider-Man comics after having died last year with Dr. Octopus taking over his body.

Back when the Star Wars saga ended chronologically after the original trilogy, it didn’t matter much if different writers carried the story onward in different ways. Now that Disney is continuing the movies, it would seem to be an insurmountable job to try to maintain consistency. They did what was probably the only sensible option and have decided that the expanded universe is not canon. As I have not read any of the novels, I can’t say first hand, but I’ve also read comments that this is good because almost all of it was crap.

Among the various casting rumors regarding the next Star Wars movie, Jesse Plemons of Friday Night Lights and Breaking Bad is reportedly being considered for a lead role. If he is to play an evil role, his time on Breaking Bad will make it easier to see him as a villain.

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Speaking of Disney, I hear that Saving Mr. Banks is an entertaining movie (and plan to see it in the future) but am not surprised to read that it got a lot of the facts wrong.

AMC has announced that the seventh season of Mad Men will begin April 13. While officially the last season, the season will actually be broken into two parts like Breaking Bad. Why don’t they just call these series of shows aired about a year apart separate seasons? Regardless, it will be interesting to see where they go after Don Draper was fired for the bizarre behavior we have grown to sort-of love over the last several years. AMC also announced that Better Call Saul, the Breaking Bad spin-off, will begin next November.

Screen Crush speculates on which characters might appear in season two of Hannibal based upon the book series.

Capaldi First Image

Filming has begun with Peter Capaldi playing the Doctor. Doctor Who will return in August. Current plans are for the next two seasons to be a single run (not counting the Christmas specials) as opposed to breaking them in half. Steven Moffat described Peter Capaldi’s Doctor as being more dangerous:

There would be little point in making as radical a change as we’ve made unless you’re going to go quite different with the Doctor. The last two Doctors have been brilliant, and have been your ‘good boyfriend’ Doctors. But the Doctor isn’t always like that. There is the sort of Tom Baker, Christopher Eccleston end of the spectrum, where he is mad and dangerous and difficult.

It remains open as to whether River Song will return:

It’s always down to whether there’s a good story. My immediate instinct was that story’s probably done. Not that we saw all of it, but I never thought we should see all of it. I’m slightly tempted, because I imagine Peter Capaldi and Alex Kingston would be absolutely hilarious together…”

He adds: “She could certainly have met other Doctors. So there’s nothing stopping us… But is there anything new we can do? Or is the new thing that Peter Capaldi and Alex Kingston would be very sexy together? Is that enough? We’ve always had fun with the fact that they don’t look like a couple.”

“Peter Capaldi and Alex Kingston would look like a couple – that’s the thing. Whereas I thought Matt and Alex were gorgeous together, but it looked slightly strange, because he was so much younger. Alex is just great fun to have on the show. It’s when you want to throw the Doctor a bit, because what River does so well is to make him a bit on the back foot and a bit flustered.”

Moffat also answered questions about a crossover with Sherlock, being non-committal and saying “nothing is impossible.” The final episode of the third season of Sherlock aired tonight but Steven Moffat also says that the fourth and fifth seasons have already been plotted out. I will hold off on discussion of the the third season episodes as they have not yet been shown in the United States. A spoiler-free review of tonight’s episode, The Last Vow, can be found here. I plan to watch a download later tonight. From what I here so far, it is a more conventional mystery after last week’s episode, and I suspect will receive a better reception.

John Simm will star in a new BBC America paranormal drama series, Intruder. He previously stared in the BBC version of Life on Mars and has played The Master on Doctor Who.

Starz has released a trailer for Ron Moore’s series Outlander–video above.

Starz has also announced that Da Vinci’s Demons will return on March 22. Like Saving Mr. Banks, Da Vinci’s Demons is a fictionalized account of a real person. It is probably better enjoyed as an entirely fictional show and ignoring the use of real names or events.

There has been a lot of talk about Gillian Flynn making major changes in the movie adaptation of Gone Girl. I think that this was inevitable, both because of the different structure needed to tell a story in a movie as opposed to a book where the readers were being deceived, and to give people who read the book more reasons to see the movie. Some of stories dealt with a change to the ending. However readers of the book are quite aware that the crucial point was midway through the book with the specifics of the ending being far less important. I can easily see a more satisfactory ending being written without changing the essential story.

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SciFi Weekend: Awake; Old vs. New Monsters on Doctor Who; Sherlock vs. The Doctor; The Avengers; Scarlett Johansson’s Shower Scene; Follow STTNG Season 8 on Twitter; Community; Nimoy on Big Bang Theory

In a year when genre television shows are struggling to survive, it was a good sign that a new well-written genre show, Awake, has been receiving excellent reviews.  The Christian Science Monitor calls it one of the best dramas on television. Awake is about detective Michael Britten who wakes up after an auto accident in which his son or wife were killed. He alternates between realities in which one has survived and the other is alive. In each reality he remains a detective but is forced to see a psychiatrist. In one reality the psychiatrist is a woman (played by Cherry Jones of 24) who possibly represents the wife he lost while in the other the psychiatrist is a younger man, possibly representing the lost son. His partner is also replaced by a young man in one of the realities.

The show is more a police procedural than a science fiction show which attempts to explain what is happening. In style it reminds me a lot of Life on Mars in which the explanation for the police officer going into the past was a minor matter compared to the individual stories. Explanations were added in the end, with the British and American versions providing entirely different explanations, showing how little the explanation mattered during the shows’ run. The pilot also set up a mystery about the accident which precipitated events of the show. The pilot began with the accident, and Britten has no recollection of events leading up to this point.

From the first episode I don’t believe that finding an explanation will be significant in this show. Should an explanation ever be given, I bet that each reality will be equally valid. The pilot certainly gave no reason to believe one as opposed to the other. I bet either both realities are a dream-like state or there will be two alternative realities which Michael Britten is shifting between. Britten’s lack of recollection of events leading up to the accident do raise the possibility that none of the events are real (within the show), as was also the case in Life on Mars. Britten made it clear he wants no “cure” for the situation as he wants to preserve the situation in which he still has both his wife and son–a decision which certainly makes sense for him.

An interview with executive producer Howard Gordon and creator Kyle Killen was posted in Blastr, discussing comparisons between Awake and Inception and addressing Britten’s desire to live in both worlds:

“The show is really about a man who has decided and desperately wants to live in both of these worlds. Who refuses to acknowledge which is real and which isn’t,” said Killen. “And as you try to live two lives in parallel and you see them start to go in dramatically different directions, I think the idea is that hopefully the audience, like the character, becomes invested in not wanting to let either of those go.”

“Because as long as he has got both of them, he has got access to his wife and his son, then he hasn’t really lost anything. And the upshot for a detective living across two worlds is that he discovers that the cases in one seem to sort of be reflected or replicated in the other. And that provides him with insight and clues that allow him to do his job differently than he did before, and differently than any other detective that we have gotten to see on television.”

It is too soon, after only seeing the pilot, but with Fringe (while still worth watching) not reaching the quality of last season, Awake does have a shot at becoming both the best genre show and drama shown on American network television. Competing with the top shows available on  cable will be far harder.

Radio Times on the monsters and villains of Doctor Who:

Fans of perennial Doctor Who villains such as the Daleks and the Cybermen may disagree but Steven Moffat says new baddies are the best.

The Doctor Who and Sherlock writer says viewers develop a connection with villains when they first meet them and that continually bringing them back can hamper a show’s growth.

“One of the temptations, particularly if it’s a success is to keep repeating your hits, which means you hear it again and again and again,” said Moffat.

“I always say new monsters are better in Doctor Who because you fall in love with monsters when they’re new,” he told Le Village.

It’s an admission that may surprise some viewers, given that Moffat resurrected the Daleks within three episodes of having taken over the show for its 2010 series, but it suggests the Doctor will be facing some new foes in series seven.

Meanwhile, the show’s producer Marcus Wilson told Doctor Who Magazine that two monsters from “classic” Who would be back in the new series.

The final link above provides further information on next season.

Besides discussing old versus new monsters, Steven Moffat tweeted the above video showing Sherlock vs. The Doctor. Actually the leads on both of Steven Moffat’s shows are pretty similar. Just how did Moffat manage to become show runner for not one but two of the top fictional characters of all time?

It only makes sense that the tenth Doctor be on the ten dollar bill. (Similar changes should be made for the $1 and $5 dollar bills.)

Marvel has uploaded the official trailer to The Avengers, which opens in the United States on May 4 and in the U.K. on April 29. (Official UK trailer here). The movie is packed with super heroes and beautiful women. More pictures of Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother) as Maria Hill can be seen here. Besides appearing in The Avengers, Scarlett Johansson has recreated the classic Janet Leigh shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho. Entertainment Weekly reports that it took seven days to film the nude scene. It probably actually took a half day to film and then someone wanted to have her do it over and over again.

Saturn Award  Nominations were released in the past week.

Follow an imaginary eighth season of Star Trek: The Next Generation on Twitter.

The trailer above combines Community with The Dark Knight Rises. The producers of Community are optimistic that the show  will be renewed for a new season. I sure hope so. The cast will also appear in three animated short features on NBC.Com and Hulu.

The Big Bang Theory got a huge genre coup this week in getting Leonard Nimoy to come out of retirement to appear in Sheldon’s dream.

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SciFi Weekend: The Cape; A Baby Timelord; Torchwood Casting and Filming News; The Voldemort Effect

With the limited number of genre shows on this season, and No Ordinary Family taking a lighter approach to super heroes, there has been considerable anticipation for the premiere of The Cape. The show has been billed as a more serious and realistic superhero show. While there is a limit to how realistic such shows can possibly be, we have seen excellent results with such an approach with Iron Man and the latest Batman movies. Unfortunately it is unlikely that television will match the qualities of  Iron Man or The Dark Knight.

Like Iron Man and Batman, The Cape is an ordinary guy who learns tricks and utilizes gadgets as opposed to having true superpowers. The Cape learned his skills from a gang of criminal circus performers. Unfortunately we had all we wanted of mixing a circus and superheroes in the final season of Heroes.

The story would probably have been stronger if they used the full two hours of the premiere as an origin story instead of cramming in a weak follow up story. It is hard to judge shows such as this entirely by their first episodes as there is often room for improvement after initially setting up the situation. Even the last few episodes No Ordinary Family have been much better than the initial stories.

The best thing about The Cape is the return of Summer Glau as super-hacker Orwell. While I welcome her presence, I also fear that her character risks providing easy solutions to any problems. There is also an exaggerated view of the powers of technology in the show. Besides Orwell’s hacking abilities, having Vince Faraday (The Cape) have a card which opens multiple safes and is never canceled was far-fetched.

Besides Orwell, the show provides other supporting characters such as Faraday’s wife. Faraday is forced to take on a secret identity when framed for crimes committed by Chess/Peter Fleming, and when Fleming threatened Faraday’s family. While I can accept the situation of having Fleming keep secret the fact that he is still alive from the public and from Fleming, there is no reason why he can’t secretly see his wife.

Both Faraday and Fleming were pretty careless with their secret identities. The worst mistake was for Fleming to continue to appear as Chess after making it appear not only that Faraday was Chess but that he had been killed.

It is hard to evaluate the show without seeing future episodes. The weekly format of the show does place limitations on it, such as the need to keep Peter Fleming around  for further episodes as opposed to resolving that conflict as a stand alone movie might. James Frain, who plays the title role,  has provided hints as to where the series is going:

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Frain teased that Vince (David Lyons) and Peter will be involved in a number of confrontations in the future.

“They have to go head-to-head,” Frain said. “Vince has to confront this guy but he’s in a very unusual position of not being able to destroy him.

“The obvious thing to do is to take your revenge and go get the guy who framed you, but he can’t do that. He needs to keep this guy alive because he can’t prove his real identity without him, and so he realises that to really be free, he has to frame this guy and flip the tables on him. And so it’s not just a straightforward combat – it’s more psychological warfare.”

Frain also suggested that viewers will learn more about Peter as the series continues, saying: “We start to find out that Peter is a little bit more of a ladies’ man than we first thought. As the show goes on, the guy who he is by daytime, the guy who he is in the mask, becomes more and more separate and this conflict starts opening up.”

He added: “There’s going to be some action with a young woman that comes up that’s very interesting.”

I am glad that they will be expanding more upon Peter’s character. Having him be the head of a corporation who turns out to be evil was far too much of a television cliche.

Series creator TomWheeler has provided more background on where he wants to go with the series:

Wheeler says that the cape in The Cape also has its own backstory, and it will be explored throughout the life of the series. “In episode three, you get a big chunk of it,” he says. “One of our writers is getting his doctorate in mythology, and one of the things we talk about is the cape has a lot of primal symbolism. There’s the blanket you tie around your neck as a kid. That’s your first contact with being a superhero, so as a symbol, the cape connects you to childhood. But there’s also the cape in Jungian mythology/psychology that represents the shadow. So we are setting up a history for the cape that is quite dark. Even though the cape has no supernatural ability to do something to the wearer, we do get into what it means to embody your shadow; we explore the question ‘Do you wear the cape or does the cape wear you?’ That becomes an issue. We will be planting clues and mysteries along the way about the cape because there’s a big story to be told about the cape and what Vince is destined for.”

Another aspect of the superhero mythos that The Cape indulges is the super-villain. We’re not talking garden-variety crooks–we’re talking diabolical masterminds and high strange baddies. Wheeler’s ambition is to give The Cape a large rogues gallery, though Vince’s ongoing conflict with Chess provides the narrative spine of season 1. “Chess is a psychotic James Bond and we deal a lot with him and his alter-ego, Peter Fleming,” says Wheeler. “But we will see that while Peter is awful, he has a complicated life. In total, we’ll introduce seven new villains in the first season, including one that’ll be the center of a two-parter in the middle of the season.”

Wheeler says viewers can expect a show that will span a range of genres. There’s an episode that’ll be more sci-fi. There’s an episode that’s more “gothic” and scary. He believes non-geeks will be able to connect with emotional heart of the show–a story of a husband and father trying to reconnect with his wife and family. For all its old fashionedness, Wheeler believes The Cape is as entertaining as other state-of-the-art superhero action fantasies–even the ones of the grim and gritty stripe. “I think there’s a thirst out there for something that can marry the old and the new, something everyone to sit down and watch together as a family,” he says. “But we are very aware of the other entertainments that are out there and we believe we can be a compliment to them. God willing, we can be considered a branch on the tree of the great things Chris Nolan is doing or Zack Snyder or Jon Favreau have done–all the great adult stuff that’s out there.”

More from Wheeler here.

Doctor Who, which has had many inconsistencies during its near fifty-year run, has both had stories stating both that Timelord children do and do not exist. If the British tabloids are to be believed, we might have a Timelord child born on Earth this spring. Reportedly Georgia Moffat, who already has an eight year old son, is pregnant. News was recently released that Moffat is engaged to David Tennant. Tennant played the tenth Doctor, including staring in The Doctor’s Daughter where he met Georgia Moffat. Besides playing the Doctor’s daughter in the 2008 episode, Moffat is the daughter of Peter Davison, who played the fifth Doctor from 1981 to 1984.

There will be another reunion of cast members from Doctor Who. John Sim (who has played The Master, in addition to staring in the BBC version of Life on Mars) will be staring with Marc Warren (Elton Pope in a 2006 episode of Doctor Who entitled Love & Monsters) in Mad Dogs:

Woody (Beesley), Quinn (Glenister), Baxter (Simm) and Rick (Warren) have been friends since sixth form. The fifth member of their gang is Alvo (Ben Chaplin, Dorian Gray), a risk-taking opportunist who, having made his fortune in property, leads a luxurious lifestyle in Majorca.

Now in their 40s, they’ve all taken different paths in life with varying degrees of success. When Alvo flies them to his extravagant villa to celebrate his early retirement, they enjoy a trip down memory lane.
However, all does not go to plan and they find themselves entangled in a web of deception and murder involving beautiful police women, large yachts, Speedos and a rather short assassin in a Tony Blair mask…

Continuing Sky 1 HD’s dedication to homegrown high definition drama, Mad Dogs is a dark and twisted comic tale in which four ordinary guys discover how easily the line between friend and foe can be blurred.

The Doctor Who News Page has a report on the first week of filming Torchwood: Miracle Day. TV Squad has more information from Russel T. Davies on the series.  Lauren Ambrose, who played Claire Fisher on Six Feet Under, has been added to the cast. She will play Jilly Kitzinger, “a sweet-talking PR genius with a heart of stone who’s just cornered the most important client of her career … and maybe of all time.”

Julian Sanchez has blogged about The Voldemort Effect:

…as Harry’s sage mentor Dumbledore notes at one point, it was Voldemort’s choice to regard Harry as his predestined foe that made it true.

There’s a similar phenomenon in American politics, which I long ago mentally dubbed The Voldemort Effect. Maybe it’s always been this way, but it seems like especially recently, if you ask a strong political partisan—conservatives in particular, in my experience—which political figures they like or admire, and why, they’ll enthusiastically cite the ability to “drive the other side crazy.” Judging by online commentary, this seems to be an enormous part of Sarah Palin’s appeal. Palin herself certainty seems to understand this. Her favorite schtick, the well to which she returns again and again, is: “Look how all the mean liberals are attacking me!” Weekly Standard writer Matt Continetti even titled his book about the ex-governor “The Persecution of Sarah Palin.” Perversely, liberals end up playing a significant role in anointing conservative leaders.

This is, I think, a bipartisan phenomenon everyone at least subconsciously recognizes: A political figure—though more often a pundit than an actual candidate or elected official—gains prominence largely as a function of being attacked or loathed with special vehemence by the other side. Which means it’s crying out for a convenient shorthand so we can talk about it more easily; I propose “The Voldemort Effect.”

Matthew Yglesias responded:

I think the equivalence here is not only mistaken, but actually 180 degrees off base. You do see this Voldemort Effect in a lot of conservative thinking, but if liberals go awry it’s more likely to be in the reverse way—a lot of Team Blue’s thinking about politics is dominated by a kind of desperate search for leaders who won’t drive the other side crazy. Hence Bill Clinton, southern good ol’ boy. Hence John Kerry, decorated war hero. Hence calm, rational compromising Barack Obama instead of polarizing meanie Hillary Clinton. And that goes back to war hero George McGovern, southern good ol’ boy Jimmy Carter, Massachusetts Miracle technocrat mastermind Michael Dukakis, etc. In retrospect all of these people are hated by the right and “obviously” represent just another strain of out of touch liberalism, but in advance each and every one appealed to the rank and file as somehow “different” from his predecessors in some key way.

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SciFi Weekend: Torchwood to US; Kissograms on Doctor Who; Rebooting An Old Roddenberry Series; Caprica Premiers; Rob Lowe Leaving Kitty

The Hollywood Reporter has a story on the possibility of Fox picking up Torchwood. Russell T. Davis would write it and John Barrowman might still star, but I still have my doubts about this working as an American television show. Many shows with science fiction aspect have had difficulty making it in the United States. One of the features which makes Torchwood special is being a more serious show taking place in the Doctor Who universe which would be unfamiliar to many American audiences. Even under the best of conditions, far too many genre shows such as Firefly and Dollhouse have died quickly on Fox.

It also does not always work to try to translate successful British television series to the American networks. Some such as The Office have been successful but there have also been many flops. Two examples of such failures in recent years have been Life on Mars and Coupling. The American version of Coupling also showed that having the writer of the original BBC version does not guarantee success. Coupling, which NBC had hoped to be the replacement for Friends (and which was in many ways more like a combination of Seinfeld and Sex in the City) failed for several reasons in the United States. They used the same scripts as were used on the BBC–written by incoming Doctor Who show runner Steven Moffat.

The article also mentions the possibility of also rebooting Doctor Who for American television. That would be far, far worse than doing this with Torchwood. It isn’t clear if the idea for Torchwood is to pick up the series where it left off but with a more international background or if they would reboot it.

I’ve been impressed with Steven Moffat for doing such a great job on such different television genres. I’ve sometimes joked that I would like to see some of the characters from Coupling become The Doctor’s next companion. We don’t know very much about The Doctor’s actual upcoming companion, Amy Pond (Karen Gillan). TV Overmind has picked up a report that “everyone thinks she is this prim and proper policewoman… it’s going to be revealed early on that she works as a kissogram.” Reading that, she just might be a Steven Moffat character of the Coupling variety!

Personally I think this whole trend towards reboots is going a bit too far. I would primarily reserve it for shows which were so bad that they should be done entirely differently (such as Battlestar Galactica) or for shows which never made it and we have no emotional investment with the original. One such show which is being talked about for a reboot is an old Gene Roddenberry idea, The Questor Tapes. His son Rod has said, “My father always felt that Questor was the one that got away. He believed that the show had the potential to be bigger than Star Trek.”

TrekMovie.com has some information on the show:

Now 36 years later “Questor” is back. Gene’s son Rod Roddenberry will develop the project along with Roddenberry Productions COO Trevor Roth and Imagine Television’s President David Nevins and EVP of Development Robin Gurney. The team is currently in negotiations with writer, producer and show runner Tim Minear (Lois & Clark, The X-Files, Angel, Dollhouse) to produce. Of course there still is no guarantee that the new “Questor” will get picked up as a series either, but Imagine Entertainment, which was founded by Brian Grazer and Ron Howard, has a good track record on TV. Imagine developed shows like 24, Friday Night Lights, Lie To Me; Arrested Development, and many more (including JJ Abrams Felicity)…

Gene Roddenberry may never have got “Questor” as a series, but he didn’t forget the idea of that android on a quest. “Questor” influenced the creation of the character Data in Star Trek The Next Generation.

John Kennith Muir has more background, including a review of the original movie.

Caprica premiered on television this week. My original review from when it came out on DVD was posted here.

Rob Lowe, who left The West Wing before the series was completed to attempt to make it on his own show, has now decided to leave Brothers and Sisters at the end of this season. While his previous attempt with his own show failed it is more understandable that he wants to try again as opposed to remaining where he is as his role on Brothers and Sisters is not as substantial as his role as  Sam Seaborn on The West Wing. There is no word as to how he will exit the show. Possibilities include his character having another heart attack or a divorce from Kitty.

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SciFi Weekend: We Are At Peace, Always; Changing Fate; Doctor Who: The Waters of Mars; Wolowitz in Bath Tub With Katee Sackhoff; Lost Final Season

V premiered with terrific ratings and mixed reviews. Being a remake of an old series gives it an advantage in already having people interested in the show. This is also a disadvantage as many viewers already know the surprises which were developed in the original. The show would be more effective if the fact that the aliens are evil was gradually revealed but this could not be done when this is known from the original. Even without revealing this it should have raised suspicions when the alien leader repeatedly told humans that we are at peace–always. In repeating this she almost seemed to be attempting a Jedi mind trick to influence the listeners (as in “these are not the Droids you are looking for”).

By the end of the first episode we knew the Visitors were plotting the destruction of the human race, that they are really lizards who hid their appearance with genetically engineered human skin, and the broad outlines of the series. The original series used allusions to a Nazi take over and World War II. The new series has been updated to be based more on the war on terror.

The Visitors in the new series continue to be lizards disguised as humans. The two series differ as the Visitors had non-human sounding voices in the original but now look and sound completely human (unless one cuts through their skin to reveal the reptilian skin). This allowed advance sleeper cells to be set up on Earth prior to the public arrival.

One of the most monumental periods in the history of the planet is shown through the eyes of a small handful of people which the show is centered around.  FBI agent Erica Evans, played by Elizabeth Mitchell of Lost, spent a large portion of the show tracking down a terrorist sleeper cell. Initially I was questioning why they devoted so much time to what appeared to be her usual FBI duties as opposed to the arrival of the aliens but ultimately the connection between the sleeper cell and the aliens became clear.

The aliens set up a group of Peace Ambassadors and utilized their ability to not only appear human but appear as extremely attractive humans to enhance recruitment. It did feel contrived to find that not only was Erica’s son recruited but that the attractive blond recruiter was especially interested in recruiting him. His significance to the show is that he is the son of the main character–not something which the aliens would mean anything to characters within the show.

The Bush administration had Fox to willingly provide favorable news. The Visitors were concerned about favorable news coverage and convinced a television journalist to avoid asking any questions which might place them in a bad light in return for the fame of being granted exclusive interviews. The episode also revealed that the Visitors who had been hiding on earth had infiltrated the government and were responsible for current turmoil, such as starting unnecessary wars.  I’m surprised that they hadn’t also concentrated on infiltrating the news media to guarantee the presence of reporters who would always provide positive coverage.

The question is what they will do with the series now that the premise has been laid out. The initial mini-series was excellent but the subsequent television series couldn’t maintain the quality. There are already signs of possible trouble in sustaining this series such as reports of already changing the show runner. The show will need to establish itself quickly as ABC is airing only four episodes and then showing the remaining nine later in the season.

The pilot of the new series along with episodes of the original series are available for viewing on line here.

Flash Forward The Gift

Previous episodes of FlashForward have teased viewers with the possibility of seeing events take place which differ from those in the flash forwards of the major characters. In the original novel it was shown that the future could be changed but we did not know for sure if the same rules applied on the television show.

This week’s episode, The Gift, finally made it clear that the future can be changed. A character jumped to his death in order to prevent a tragedy he discovered he will cause in his flash forward. (It is amazing that for so many characters the moment of their flash forward is at a major point in their life).

The discovery that the future can be changed  has a profound effect on some of the characters who had been acting as if they were inevitably heading towards the situation in their flash forward. Rather than being shown an inevitable future, it is increasingly likely that knowledge of the future will change the behavior of some characters to attempt to give themselves a different future. Now Dimitri can work to prevent his murder, and perhaps it really is Dimitri in Zoey’s flash forward of a wedding on the beach. Last week it appeared that Mark and Olivia were acting to make their visions of the breakdown of their marriage come true. Now they have motivation to really work to save their marriage, knowing it is possible.

The most frustrating aspect of the episode to me was seeing Mark and Olivia at home with Charlie. All I could think of while seeing them all together is to wonder why Mark doesn’t simply ask her what she knows to make her say that “D. Gibbons is a bad man.”

Aaron’s daughter had a prominent role in this episode as we learned more about how she was apparently killed. Rather than finding her at the time of the flash forward, Aaron returned home to find his daughter alive at the end of the episode. This appears to be a second situation where things are playing out different than in the flash forward.

A trailer has been released for the next Doctor Who special, The Waters of Mars (video above). This will first air on the BBC on November 15 and December 19 on BBC America. Blogator Who has posted a synopsis of the episode:

Starring David Tennant as The Doctor and guest starring acclaimed British actress Lindsay Duncan – best known for her roles across stage and screen (Margaret, Lost in Austen) – The Waters Of Mars is set to be one of the most terrifying episodes of the series to date.

Lindsay Duncan stars as Adelaide – the Doctor’s cleverest and most strong-minded companion yet.

She and The Doctor face terror on the Red Planet as they battle against a mysterious alien living within the terrarium of life on Mars’ surface which infects its victims using a water compound it creates.

Neighbours, Flying Doctors and Casualty star Peter O’Brien also guest stars as Ed, Adelaide’s second-in-command at the base

According to The Hollywood Reporter, David Tennant might be seen more by US audiences after he concludes his role as The Doctor. Tennant has been cast in the title role of a pilot for NBC entitled Rex Is Not Your Lawyer.

Written by Andrew Leeds and David Lampson, “Rex” centers on Rex Alexander (Tennant), a top Chicago litigator who begins suffering panic attacks and takes up coaching clients to represent themselves in court.

David Semel, who directed the pilots for “Heroes” and “Life,” has come on board to helm the comedic legal drama from Universal Media Studios and BermanBraun.

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A picture has been released of Katee Sackhoff’s upcoming appearance on the November 23 episode of The Big Bang Theory.

“The story is about how Wolowitz has this wonderful woman in his life” after a double-date with Leonard and Penny and one of her co-workers from the Cheesecake Factory, Lorre says. “But he can’t recognize what’s right in front of him because he’s mesmerized by fantasies about women from sci-fi. The scene is his mental image of Katee, but she’s telling him the truth, that he’s missing out on real life.”

For her part, Sackhoff enjoyed the rub-a-dub-dub so much that she says she hopes it leads to a recurring role as “Wolowitz’s Number Six” (a Battlestar reference), returning from time to time in his imagination to offer advice – for instance, disabusing him of the notion that he’s a ladies’ man.

Lorre says he could get on board with that idea. “That would be terrific – she could definitely be Number Six in Wolowitz’s head – his muse, the magnificent woman who tells him the truth. We should all have a conscience that looks like Katee Sackhoff.”

Sackhoff’s guest appearance follows previous guest spots by Summer Glau and more recently Wil Wheaton. Wheaton revealed on his blog that he his voice was used in J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek movie.

Katee Sackhoff will have a role in the upcoming season of 24.  Gregory Itzin will also be returning next season in his role of former President Charles Logan.

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E! Online interviewed Damon Lindelof about the final season of Lost:

For those fans of Lost who are invested in the romance on the show, will there be anything for them this year, or is this primarily a mythology season?
That’s an excellent question. Our focus remains where it’s always been: on the characters. And there are significant and emotional bonds, from both the friendship and the romantic angle, that we would be remiss in not exploring; we probably won’t be exploring them in the way that you think. That’s my official answer.

All right, last night you tweeted about this event, and you said that you would address the numbers question.
Oh, well that was just to get people here. [Laughs.]

Are we going to get an answer on the numbers this season?
When someone asks what the numbers mean or are you going to answer the mystery of the numbers, it’s a very interesting phrasing of a question, because I would pose it back to them: Well, what does an answer to “what do the numbers mean” look like? The answer that I’m giving now, my political answer, is that we’ve made a lot of the numbers in this show, so the idea that in the final season of the show we are telling everybody that we’re in answer mode and you’re never going to see the numbers again, or you won’t understand a lot more about the numbers than you do now, would be a cop-out. You would legitimately tar and feather us. But the one question that I can’t answer is what someone’s own level of personal satisfaction is going to be when all is said and done. We’ve gotten a sense from some people that there’s no such thing as a definitive answer to a question, you know? You say that this is the definitive answer and sometimes fans do like, “No, it’s not, I still think that there’s more there.” So all we can do is basically tell the story that we want to tell and answer the questions that are relevant to that story and hope that the audience leaves with some degree of satisfaction. But Lost wouldn’t be Lost if there wasn’t an ongoing debate as to whether or not questions were answered satisfyingly or not.

Word has been spreading this week that Juliet (Elizabeth Mitchell) does appear during the final season but does die. Entertainment Weekly has quotes from the producers:

CUSE: “As the story is now nearing its conclusion, some characters just aren’t going to make it all the way to the end. Even beloved characters aren’t going to make it all the way to the end. And sometimes we have to do things that are really painful, like killing Juliet, because that’s what makes the story feel like the stakes are genuine, and people feel invested that characters who are beloved can actually perish on our show. It was an enormously powerful story that concluded the entire season of the show. So she was sacrificed in service of the story, and I think was hugely responsible for the season being viewed as successful because that was how it ended.… But she will always loom as one of our favorite characters, and even more importantly, favorite people that we’ve ever worked with on this show.”

LINDELOF: “What always gives us pause—especially in this instance—is we just love working with Elizabeth. And she always brings it, she always gives more than we expected, and transcends the material. She has always been so gracious and sweet and lovely…. That conversation [in which he and Cuse delivered the bad news] went the same way that the entire relationship did, which is Elizabeth was completely understanding, sweet, and wonderful. And she was bummed, as were we.”

MITCHELL: “I really only thought [the job] was going to be a year. I didn’t in any way think that that character would be liked because I didn’t think of her as a likable person.  I was just in love with her, so that was what was fun.  She didn’t have to be beautiful. She didn’t have to be sexy. She was someone who we really haven’t seen. It was new, it was virgin ground.… [But after season 3], I was told many, many times that they weren’t sure what to do and that they wanted to keep her a mystery.  Which I thought was great, to keep her a mystery.  I’m glad they didn’t go the other way, and make her completely nothing. In many ways a lot of it was just inevitable. [Season 4] wasn’t as exciting as season 3 was, but I was still pretty grateful to be there, to be honest with you.  They’d done a lot for me, so I still felt pretty good about it and I still loved her. Even if I was just walking around in the background, I was still having my Juliet thoughts…. [In a phone call right before the end of season 5, Lindelof and Cuse] said they didn’t have any story left to tell, and they didn’t think there was anything left for her to do… They were very open and honest and kind about it. And they seemed to be sad about it.”

CUSE: “There are so many characters in the weave of the fabric of Lost that at various times certain people get to shine and other people are forced into the background. Juliet’s character had that kind of an arc on the show: She burned brightly, but then we moved on in the storytelling and other things became more important. And it’s always painful. It’s like having a garage full of the most beautiful cars in the world but you only can drive one to work every day. And it was frustrating for us, too, because we were pursuing other stories which rose to prominence and hers ended up taking a little bit of a backseat. But Damon and I came to a place where we came up with a fantastic ‘ending’ [for Juliet]. And ending is in quotations, of course, because just because a character’s died doesn’t mean that their story’s over on Lost.”

LINDELOF: “Juliet basically birthed season 6 by the actions that she takes in the final seconds of season 5. She is completely responsible for the endgame of the show. So the character is going to be seen in a slightly different light this year. We gave her that action for a reason, and that’s because she’s so important to the fabric of the story.”

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Those who might want more of Hayden Panettiere beyond seeing her fight a deadly sorority and share a lesbian kiss with Madeline Zima on Heroes might check out her spread in Elle.

The identity of the character to be killed off this season of Heroes has been revealed by TV Guide. They report it will be Adrian Pasdar, who plays Nathan. This doesn’t come as a surprise considering that he was already killed at the end of the last season and the manner in which he returned does  not appear permanent.

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SciFi Weekend: A Virtual Wreck; The Next Doctor

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Ron Moore’s Virtuality was shown on Friday night and, after viewing, I can see why Fox left it to die by airing it on a Friday night in June. Moore just tries to throw too much into this, which perhaps would have left him with many avenues for future television series but it leaves the pilot looking like a mess.

The premise is that a ship is on a ten year mission to another solar system and, to keep the crew from going nuts or killing each other, virtual reality is used. This is to keep the crew from feeling claustrophobic and to allow them to interact with other people, even if only computer generated. The claim is that this is not a series of holodeck stories because each crew member uses their own goggles (like the virtual reality in Caprica) as opposed to being in a specific room as in Star Trek. That hardly matters.

Of course something goes wrong  in the simulations (as in Life on Mars). As this was intended to be a pilot we have a lot of mysteries and no answers. We don’t know if it is a computer glitch, a crew member messing with the programs, or perhaps Cylons influencing the ship. Crew members are attacked in their simulations, and one is even raped.  One good aspect of the show was to treat the virtual rape as meaningful to the woman involved as it had the same psychological impact as if real.

The virtual reality simulations aren’t the only place where something goes wrong. Perhaps 2001: A Space Odyssey’s HAL is involved as there is even a murder involving the air lock.

If this already seems to be throwing ideas from many sources together, it gets worse. The crew is also being filmed as the cast of a reality television series. It was amusing when Doctor Who used reality series for one episode (Bad Wolf), but this was too much for a pilot. The idea is that the company running the mission might also be playing mind games with the crew to affect their behavior and improve ratings.

If they haven’t already thrown in enough, there is yet another crisis. After they left it was suddenly found that global warming is real and life on earth is doomed (especially if you live around London or Florida).

With all this, the show still managed to deal briefly with events of the space mission. A lot of time was spent creating false drama as to whether the mission would go on or return to earth as they approached their last moment  to decide this. Of course viewers realized they would go on. Even when the captain announced this to the crew there was still false drama when they complained that the captain made the decision to go without consulting the crew. There was more time wasted as everyone got a chance to vote, and all voted to go.

This was intended to be largely a show about people in space but with twelve crew members it was difficult to really get interested in any of them. Perhaps if the show made it as a series this would have provided for more potential stories.

BBC America aired the first of this year’s Doctor Who specials. I previously reviewed The Next Doctor here when it originally aired on the BBC.

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SciFi Weekend: The Plan, Vintage Doctor Who Credits, Virtuality, and Summer Shows

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SciFi Wire has information on The Plan–an upcoming Battlestar Galactica movie told from the point of view of the Cylons which will air this September:

Edward James Olmos, who directed the upcoming DVD movie Battlestar Galactica: The Plan, told an audience of fans that the film will deliver exactly what they expect it to: The Plan shows the Cylons’ perspective on their attempted genocide of humanity.

“I gotta tell you, not to give anything away, it is exactly what you think it is,” Olmos said in a panel discussion Thursday night in Hollywood as part of the Los Angeles Times series The Envelope. “You see the complete opposite of the first 281 days of what we went through, … seen through the eyes of the Cylons, and it is breathtaking. It’s fantastic. It’s not fun, but I will say that you will sit there [gasping].”

Perhaps The Plan will also drive sales of BSG complete-season DVDs. “Basically, you will go back to see the series again,” Olmos said. “I couldn’t have imagined this kind of a situation happening at the end of a show, where you would actually start at the beginning. That’s a masterful piece of understanding, Ron [Moore]. Genius. Because after you see The Plan, you’ll want to go back and view the whole series again.”

The DVD release of The Plan will feature more than 30 minutes of additional Cylon perspective than will air in the version that will air on SCI FI. “The Plan is 2 hours and 6 minutes long the way you’re going to have it on the DVD. When you see it aired, it’s going to be 88 minutes.

I wish they would release the DVD the same day as the television version, if not earlier. Otherwise it becomes necessary to either hold off on watching when it first airs or watch a repeat of much of the show to see the extra material. My bet is that there will be a delay so they can maximize ratings and then make money off the DVD sales. Obviously there’s no reason why they could not air the entire show on television other than the desire to pick up the extra DVD sales.

New Scientist has an interview with Kevin Fong, lecturer in space medicine at University College London, on the science of Battlestar Galactica.

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When Steven Moffat takes over Doctor Who next season he is going to restore a tradition for the original series which was dropped in the remakes. Traditionally the opening of Doctor Who included a picture of the current Doctor with the time vertex swirling behind. This was dropped when the series returned, but next season Matt Smith will be seen in the opening.

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Ron Moore’s pilot episode of Virtuality was originally planned to air around the Fourth of July holiday but Fox has moved it up to June 26. The show is about a space ship on a ten year mission in which the crew uses virtual reality to keep sane, but a virus gets into the system. It sounds like a cross between the old holodeck episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Life on Mars. The show is currently being aired as a made for television series with the hope that Fox will pick it up as a series. That way fans can get more involved in the show before Fox pulls the plug.

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ABC is spending the summer showing the final episodes of shows which didn’t make it during the regular season (as NBC is also doing with Kings.) Variety reports that there will be new episodes of one series which is returning. Six unaired episodes of Better off Ted will be aired on Tuesdays starting on June 23. Thirteen episodes will air next season as the series is paired with Scrubs. Scrubs is returning with Zach Braf to appear in six of the episodes to tie up the old story lines and transition the show to a new format.

I have bad feelings about a long running show which tries to change its format in such a manner. Even spin offs are variable in their success. NBC did well with Frasier as a spin off of Cheers but this was largely successful as it was a totally new show where viewers did not see it as missing the other characters from Cheers. The two characters from Better off Ted in the picture above both show different examples of NBC failing in their attempts to replace Friends. Andrea Anders was previously in Joey, the failed spin off. Jay Harrington was in the US version of Coupling, which was seen as a replacement for Friends but failed to pull off the excellence of the BBC show it was based upon. (Coupling incidentally, was written by Steven Moffat, who is taking over as show runner of Doctor Who, tying into an above item).

Besides the mostly failed shows to air on the networks this summer, there are several cable shows to look forward to. This includes True Blood which returns next week, with a promo above.

AMC will be airing Mad Men starting in mid-August with a promo above. They are saying little about what will occur next season but reportedly it will take place some time after Betty’s child is born. They have confirmed that that  Don Draper is the father despite Betty’s brief affair (in retaliation for Don’s many affairs). While the Cuban Missile Crisis provided a backdrop for the second season there is  speculation that the new season will occur at the time of John F. Kennedy’s assasination. Series creator creator Matthew Weiner has  stated in interviews that this has already been done on many shows and expressed reluctance to deal with the topic again.

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SciFi Weekend: Lost, Dollhouse, Fringe, and Heroes Finales

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There have been at least four more finales of genre shows since my last finale installment of SciFi Weekend. The season finale of Lost (The Incident) aired on Wednesday and is probably the best season finale yet for the show. There were essentially two story lines. The story on the island in the present, along with the flashbacks, centered around Jacob and what appeared to be Locke’s journey to kill Jacob. We found that Jacob has been intervening in the lives of those who wound up on the island for years. We also found that at some time in the distant past Jacob was clashing with someone who was looking for a loophole which would allow him to kill Jacob. The loophole turned out to be impersonating Locke, who we ultimately found really was dead, and then trick Ben into doing the actual killing. There are still many questions, such as whether Jacob is really dead and the implications if this is the case. As it was the smoke monster which previously convinced Ben to do whatever Locke ordered, I also wonder if the smoke monster is another manifestation of or something under the control of Jacob’s adversary.

Back in 1997 the bomb did ultimately go off, presumably explaining why in the present Richard told Sun that he saw everyone die. What is the result of the explosion? Does the explosion prevent the development of the hatch or is this what caused the problem in the first place? With one season to go we can safely assume that everyone did not die in the explosion. Perhaps the explosion worked as Jack intended and their flight never crashed. It is conceivable that the season will began with the appearance that they never crashed, and that something will bring the characters back together and back to the island. Maybe the explosion just managed to send everyone back to the present. If the explosion can change history, any chance that it might also save the planet Vulcan from destruction by J.J. Abrams?

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Dollhouse ended the season with Omega, a great episode which worked both as a season finale and, if necessary and as expected, a series finale. It provided more on Caroline/Echo’s back story and completed some of the story lines from the season. It was a much better finale than on Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles which ended with a cliffhanger and left many of the threads from the season wide upon. Unfortunately Dollhouse also ended the season with terrible ratings, leaving most predicting it would not return.

Fortunately Dollhouse is not going to be placed in the attic. There was one additional episode filmed but not aired, which will be included on the DVD set to be released on July 28 and which will air in Great Britain. The episode takes the series in a new direction and Joss Whedon used it to demonstrate that he can continue the show’s quality on a smaller budget. Personally I have thought this show was a better fit for HBO or Showtime where he would have had a freer hand and could have better displayed Eliza Dushku’s assets. A show which involves sex is at a tremendous disadvantage creatively on network television when up against shows such as The Tudors. Even Weeds turned to topless scenes this year to increase interest in the show.

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Fringe is also returning and both Fox shows will make a little more money for the network by eliminating their policy of limited commercial breaks. I initially was uncertain about Fringe as it has developed its mythology rather slowly. The finale confirmed that the show will be moving forward next season. I imagine it does make sense, even if sometimes frustrating to viewers, to gradually lay out the mythology to avoid the problems of shows such as X-Files which ultimately ran out of places to go.

More Than One ended with Olivia meeting William Bell (played by Leonard Nimoy) and realizing she is in a parallel universe after looking out the window. At least since the original Planet of the Apes, well known scenes from New York have been used for dramatic effect. Olivia sees the Twin Towers, ending the season as Life on Mars began. One of the clues that Sam had gone back to the 1970’s was seeing the Twin Towers before they were destroyed.

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The Heroes finale, An Invisible Thread, ended an arc which was better than the one from the first half of the season but was still far from the quality of the first season. It felt  like they had decided to end the arc and just threw in a conclusion as opposed to giving the feel of a continued story. The episode ended with Nathan dying but Matt using his mind powers to make Sylar, who was morphed into Nathan’s shape, believe he was Nathan. This does give Zachary Quinto time off if needed for more movies but there are reports he will be returning to the fourth season. Fans could have predicted that something would go wrong with Matt’s mind trick, but to be sure that fans figured it out they showed this in an unnecessary scene tacked onto the episode.

Tomorrow night we have the two hour finale of 24. This possible means Jack will save Kim,  finish off the conspiracy within the government, and find a cure for the biological weapon so he can live on to torture next season.

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SciFi Weekend: Sam Tyler’s Search For His Present, And For Life on Mars

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While for most television viewers last week marked the finale of ER after fifteen seasons, for science fiction viewers the week was also significant for the series finale of the American version of Life on Mars after only seventeen episodes. (Note there are major spoilers if anyone interested has not yet watched.) During its run some were undecided whether to classify it as a police or science fiction series. The finale made this clear.

The series began with Sam Tyler losing consciousness in 2008 and awaking as a police officer in a similar position in 1973. (Video of the pilot previously posted here). It was never clear if he had really traveled back in time, with many clues suggesting he was really unconscious, or perhaps in a thought-control experiment, still in 2008. In the end it turned out that neither the events in 2008-9 or 1973 were real.

Sam awoke at the end of the episode on a space ship which was actually traveling to Mars in 2035 and we found that everything was simulation played in Sam’s brain to keep it occupied while in hibernation for the trip. Something went wrong with the simulation of Sam as a police officer in 2008, causing him to think he had moved further back to 1973.

Reading the reviews around the blogsophere I think that viewers are undecided as to whether to feel cheated. On the one hand it turned out that nothing was “real” and we had no real way to figure out the ending. On the other hand they managed to insert so many items from the show into the mars mission that in retrospect everything made sense. It also seems easier to accept such an unexpected ending after watching for seventeen episodes. Reactions might have been different after a seven year run unless there was more to lead into it.

The show was really about a search for life on Mars. Sam really was a spaceman, as he was called many times during the series. The machines Sam often saw were replicas of his space ship. Windy was the computer voice. Windy often called Sam 2B after his apartment number, and he awoke in an animation unit labeled 2B. The ship was Hyde-1-2-5 and run was a part of the Aires Project, bringing in both the references to Hyde and Aires in the imaginary 1973. Frank Morgan turned out to be at mission control, really knowing what was going on as Sam suspected in the previous episode.

The show included many references to The Wizard of Oz, including the character Frank Morgan who shared the name of the actor who played the Wizard. Like The Wizard of Oz,  the characters in the imaginary land were based upon real characters. Some of the key characters were fellow astronauts.

At times Gene Hunt seemed to play a fatherly role towards Sam, and it turned out that he was a fellow astronaut as well as Sam’s father. I wonder if the writers considered this relationship when Sam slept with Gene’s daughter in the 1973 imaginary story. In a way Sam dreamt of sleeping with his sister. Another sign of Gene’s importance is that the mission was literally a search for life on Mars or, as a member of the crew put it, a “gene hunt.”

As this is primarily a political blog I should also note we were told that President Obama was unable to speak with the crew when they woke up in 2035 because her father was ill.

While the events in 1973 were not real, in many ways this did not matter because nothing on such dramatic television shows is really real.  St. Elsewhere wasn’t any less entertaining after learning that it all occurred in the imagination of an autistic child in the final episode. (On the other hand, it does not work to go backwards, as in declaring an entire season of Dallas to have been a dream in order to bring back Bobby Ewing). If this was really a simulation to keep the minds of the crew busy it would have been possible to have it end abruptly the midst of the 1973 storyline. The writers treated viewers better than that and did have a satisfactory conclusion to the 1973 events. The storyline with Sam’s imaginary father was resolved. Sam and Annie did get together, and Sam decided he would prefer to remain in 1973 instead of returning to 2008 (or now 2009) when it appeared he had a chance. Annie got her promotion to detective and, in response to the sexism of her co-workers, said she “just thinks of a time far, far in the future when they all work for me.” This turned out to be true as she was really the colonel in charge of the Mars mission.

After the finale aired executive producers Scott Rosenberg and Josh Appelbaum discussed the show with TV Guide and commented on their next project:

TVGuide.com: What’s next for you two?
Appelbaum: We’re doing a [pilot] called Happy Town, for ABC [and revolving around a small town rocked by a horrific crime].
Rosenberg: It’s got a really cool ensemble [including Jay Paulson, Amy Acker, Dean Winters and Robert Wisdom]. We’re all huge fans of Twin Peaks and the Stephen King novels, and hopefully we can create a world worthy of those reference points. There hasn’t been a straight-out scary show on TV in years, and hopefully this will deliver.

Update: Many theories about how Life on Mars would end were raised in the blogoshere. It looks like one of the theories at CliqueClack was quite close.

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SciFi Weekend: Imagining Windy; Shooting Ben; Caroline’s Past; and Battlestar Galactica Alternative Endings

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Last week Friday night dominated science fiction television with the conclusion of Battlestar Galactica. I’ll have more on that later, but this week Wednesday was the top  night. Life on Mars aired its second from the last episode, Everyone Knows It’s Windy. I wish I knew if this episode was made with knowledge that the show was ending, and was intended to lead towards the end, or if this was just another episode with clues which didn’t really go anywhere. Eariler we had the Aires Project. This episode featured the Aries Toy Company. I doubt this is a coincidence, but what about having a character named Frank Morgan playing a key role? Frank Morgan was also the name of the actor who played the Wizard of Oz. Is Sam over the rainbow?

It now looks like Windy is a figment of Sam’s imagination. That wasn’t much of a surprise. The bigger question is whether everything is a figment of Sam’s imagination, or the product of some type of mind control experiment. (If she was in Sam’s imagination, why didn’t he do more than play checkers with her?) Morgan gave Sam the impression of knowing what is going on but Annie let him know that Morgan had read Sam’s file. When we thought we knew how Morgan knew about Sam and the future he confused the issue by knowing about the fourth Raiders of the Lost Arc movie which Sam didn’t seem to think was in his file. Could this mean Morgan really does know what is happening with Sam? Of course if everything is happening in Sam’s head this wouldn’t really matter. The scene with Sam on the ledge was also similar to a scene in the British version.

The other development is that Sam and Annie are now closer. Unfortunately Sam only has one more episode with her.

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Lost is getting back to a regular pattern of having the key characters back in the 1970’s living with the Dharma Initiative before Ben killed them all off. The episodes contain flashbacks which I suspect will concentrate on the period off the island. Others such as Sun are on along journey to join the rest in the past. We learned how Sayeed wound up on the plane and the big shock of the episode was seeing him shoot young Ben. Assuming Daniel Faraday is right, it is not possible to change major events and Ben will live. However, we have seen that Desmond’s future behavior was changed as a consequence of Faraday’s acts. Perhaps this act will have an impact on Ben’s actions, or perhaps it happened all along and was a motivating factor for him.

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Back on Fridays, Dollhouse has had two solid episodes in a row which were much better than the first five. The mythology of the show was significantly advanced last week. The number of actives has increased, including the revelation that Mellie was one and seeing a new recruit. I was surprised that they had Mellie return to the Dollhouse considering that Ballard was still searching for the Dollhouse despite being taken off the case.

This week’s episode, Echoes, was the first to reveal more information about Caroline’s past. The puzzling thing is that we saw her get into trouble but hardly enough to be consistent with the desperate situation she was in when “recruited.” I suspect we will see more of this story in the future, and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the Dollhouse made Caroline’s situation even worse to force her to join. The dolls regain their memories in next week’s episode and perhaps we will learn more of their back stories.

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With Battlestar Galactica over Ron Moore has talked about the show but hasn’t revealed very much. He said a little about one of the mysteries I was wondering about last week regarding Starbuck:

We made a conscious decision to say, “We’re going to leave this opaque.” You can certainly say that she’s an angel or a demon or some other form of life. We know from the show that she died a mortal death, she was brought back to life in some way, and then she fulfilled a certain destiny and guided them all to Earth. What does that mean? And who is she really? It was a conscious creative decision to say, “This is as much as we’re going to tell you, and she’s connected to some greater truth.” The more we try to answer what that greater truth is, the less interesting it becomes, and we just decided to leave it more of a mystery. I am sure that there will be a cadre of people who are angry that they never got a more definitive answer, but we just decided not to do that.

He said a little more about Starbuck in an interview with TV Guide:

TVGuide.com: What exactly is Kara at the end of the series? An angel?
Moore: I think Kara remains an ambiguous figure. Kara lived a mortal life, died and was resurrected to get them to their final destiny. Clearly she was a key player in the events that led to [the fleet’s] finding a home. And, I don’t know if there’s any more to it beyond that. I think you could call her an angel, you could call her a demon, the second coming or the first coming, I guess, chronologically speaking. You can say that she had a certain messiah-like quality, in the classic resurrection story. There’s a lot of different ways you can look at it, but the more we talked about it, the more we realized there was more in the ambiguity and mystery of it than there was in trying to give it more definition in the end.

TVGuide.com: So she is completely different than the hallucination/visions of Baltar and Six?
Moore: Yes, Kara was physically among us. Everybody saw her. She was tactile, she flew a viper, she was around. She was with us. And yet, there was a body that died on the original Earth, and Baltar did the DNA analysis and it was her body, so she was literally brought back from the dead by something — by some higher power or other power, and she came back to serve a function.

Moore also talked about the extended scenes on the upcoming DVD and there has been talk online about alternative endings which had been considered before deciding on the final ending. One alternative had Ellen join up with Cavil after learning that Tigh had inpregnated a Six. Here is another alternative endng:

Battlestar Galactica executive producer Ron Moore has been discussing last week’s series finale with fans on the BSG forum, where he dropped an interesting tidbit about an ending that might have been.

In this version of the story, the Galactica herself ends up on Earth instead of being flown into the sun, and she also manages to show up in our present-day timeline:

“There was a point in the development process where we discussed the idea of the Galactica not being destroyed, but having somehow landed on the surface more or less intact, but unable to ever get into orbit again (the particulars here were never worked out, so don’t ask how she made it down without being torn apart). We talked about them basically abandoning the ship and moving out into the world.

“Cut to the present-day in Central America where there are these enormous mysterious mounds that archeologists have not been able to understand (it may have been South America, I can’t recall the exact location, but these mounds really do exist). Someone is doing a new kind of survey of the mounds with some kind of ground-penetrating radar or something and lo and behold, we see the outlines of the Galactica still buried under the surface.”

Moore said they ultimately didn’t go with the ending because they wouldn’t have been able to reconcile it with the “reality” of the series.

“It was an intriguing idea and we bandied it about for a while, but ultimately rejected it as a little too cute and also felt that it would violate our contemporary reality, in essence ‘branching off’ the BSG story in 2009 into an parallel reality where a battlestar was discovered in Central America. I wanted the end of the show to directly relate to us, not to a world where that event had occurred.”

While this would have avoided the questionable decisions to give up technology and destroy the fleet, I agree with their reasons for not using this ending.

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