SciFi Weekend: Ascension; Person of Interest; Daredevil; Orphan Black; Hannibal; Fargo; Doctor Who Easter Eggs On Gracepoint; The Newsroom; The Fall; The Interview


Ascension was billed as  Syfy’s big attempt to return to outer space based, hard science fiction, including the return of Tricia Helfer of Battlestar Galactica. It didn’t exactly do that, but despite some flaws it was mostly a success. Major spoilers here if you plan to watch this at a later date.

The show was billed as sort of Mad Men in space with the advertised premise being of a multi-generational ship sent from earth in the 1960’s. It would have been a lifeboat for the human race during the height of the cold war. The show took place in current time, half way through the ship’s one hundred year journey, with the mission complicated by their first murder. This allowed them to show a culture which did not move beyond the 1960’s, complete with a beach and stewardesses to provide sexual favors for the upper class. It was never clear why such a class difference developed in such a short period of time, but if did make it feel more like the true 1960’s.

During the first episode there were scenes on earth which did suggest that things were not as they seemed, but the big reveal wasn’t until the end of the first two hours. They never left earth with those on board being part of a huge experiment, unaware that they were still on earth and under constant observation. Nobody on board thought it was odd that they never had any jobs to perform outside of the ship.

If this reveal wasn’t until the end of the series it would feel like a cheap cop out, but coming relatively early it did work to provide additional drama for the remaining four hours. I did actually like this development because it was far more plausible than the billed premise. If a science fiction show is set in our future, I don’t mind if they invent technology which is well beyond us such as artificial gravity. However, as the show claimed to have developed this space ship fifty years in our past, I didn’t find it credible for them to have technology which we do not currently have. I could accept them fooling people on board to accept this when they were actually under earth’s gravity.

This twist also allowed for the earth-bound drama to be as significant as the drama on board Ascension, including the well-developed schemes to not only keep this secret but to control those who suspected the plot, or who knew and wanted to take action. While I did like the twist leading to Samantha’s betrayal, I also would have liked to see them succeed in going full Snowden.

I do have mixed feelings about the ending’s almost paranormal nature. However once they did establish that this was an elaborate trick, they did need a big reason for doing it. An experiment as to how people would react to being on a multi-generational space mission would not justify this, but the eugenics experiments which resulted in the creation of someone with Christa’s powers would provide a more plausible reason. Once we saw Christa teleport Gault to an alien world it all made sense. The ability to transport across the galaxy immediately would provide a far better lifeboat for humanity than to send people out on a one hundred year perilous mission in space, in which those who start out would never see the end of the trip. Unfortunately this all ended much too abruptly, and Ascension works better as the first six hours of a series than a self-contained mini-series. I bet that the plan was never to end the story here and those who believed this was a six-hour miniseries were being fooled, just like the crew of Ascension.

The Cold War

The last episode of Person of Interest was far heavier into the show’s mythology. Zap2it discussed Person of Interest, and the trilogy which began before the midseason hiatus, with Amy Acker. Here are some questions from the beginning and end–check out the full post for the rest of the questions:

Zap2it: I don’t know if you feel the same way, but I have been waiting for Samaritan and the Machine to face off all season.
Amy Acker: It was funny because when we got that script everyone was kind of like, “Wait, this is happening now?” It did feel like that’s what this season was about, that Samaritan and the Machine are going to meet. I think that’s what the writers and Jonah [Nolan] and Greg [Plageman] really continuously do with this show is they bring up these things that would be a great season finale and they put them in the middle of the year. It really makes the whole second half of the season go in a different direction. I thought it was kind of cool that they did that when they did.

That scene was so great, and Oakes Fegley, who played the little boy Gabriel that Samaritan speaks through, was amazing.
Isn’t he so good? I have a 9-year-old, almost 10, that’s like the exact same age as him. I just kept looking at him going, “My son would never memorize some of those lines and then be able to deliver it.” [ laughs] He was very impressive. He was so smart and great, and he was excited about doing the scene and had ideas. The director [Michael Offer] was great with him too. He’s just really a special kid, and he was fantastic — and super creepy — as Samaritan.

There’s a little bit of a break until “Person of Interest” returns, so what can you offer as a tease for the next part in this three-part arc?
This is the second part of this trilogy of episodes which we’ve seen the beginning of. I would say this is the most dangerous of the three episodes. It’s a really unique episode. There’s not been a “Person of Interest” like this. When we all got the episode we were like “this is really cool,” and it was a really, really hard shoot. But as they’ve been putting it together, people have been saying this is their favorite episode that we’ve had. I’m excited to see it all together because it was kind of hard as we were shooting it to imagine how it was going to turn out.

The promo for the next episode makes it look like a lot of characters are in life-or-death situations. The last time “Person of Interest” had a big three-parter Carter died, so can we expect a similar game-changer this year?
Well everyone’s definitely in danger in this episode. With the beginning of the new year and the second half of the season, I think it’s going to really affect everything that happens from this point forward.

“Person of Interest” Season 4 returns on Jan. 6 with “If-Then-Else” on CBS. The synopsis reads: “Samaritan launches a cyber-attack on the stock exchange, leaving the team with no choice but to embark on a possible suicide mission in a desperate attempt to stop a global economic catastrophe.”


Marvel told Entertainment Weekly that the upcoming Daredevil series will be more about crime fighting than superheroes:

Forget Ben Affleck. Netflix’s Daredevil is ”the exact opposite” of Affleck’s much-maligned 2003 bomb, promises showrunner Steven S. DeKnight. Expect the classic origin story to remain unchanged: Blinded as a child, Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) is a lawyer by day who hunts criminals by night (he apparently doesn’t get much sleep). But this new iteration of Daredevil is more influenced by 1970s mean-street films like The French Connection and Taxi Driver than traditional superhero titles. ”There aren’t going to be people flying through the sky; there are no magic hammers,” says Marvel TV chief Jeph Loeb. ”We’ve always approached this as a crime drama first, superhero show second.” There’s also more grown-up content here. ”It’s a little grittier and edgier than Marvel has gone before,” says DeKnight, ”but we’re not looking to push it to extreme violence or gratuitous nudity.” The ‘devil will eventually get his iconic red costume, but first he’ll wear black duds inspired by Frank Miller’s comic Daredevil: The Man Without Fear.

The above trailer for season three of Orphan Black, which returns on April 18, indicates that there will be war. I wonder to what degree it might be between the male and female clones or, probably more likely, between some clones and the groups which try to control them.

 TVOverMind has a round table discussion on season three of Arrow.

Michael Pitt is leaving Hannibal and Joe Anderson will replace him in the role of Mason Verger.

Fargo Season 2

Entertainment Weekly has more information on season two of Fargo:

Fargo is going back in time to 1979 for season two, and EW has a first-look at a page from the season premiere script.

Expect another snow-swept rural crime drama loosely inspired by the Coen brothers’ film, only this time the action is set in Luverne, Minnesota, where humble married couple Peggy and Ed Blomquist (Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons) find themselves caught in an escalating war between a local crime gang and a major Mob syndicate. (A character in season one cryptically described the 1979 case as “savagery, pure and simple,” with a massive pileup of bodies.)

“The scope of the story- telling this season is a lot bigger, it has more of an epic feel to it,” says showrunner Noah Hawley, who adds that the earlier time period and even more rural setting gives the show an almost Western-like quality. “It’s not the ’70s in a Boogie Nights kind of way,” he assures.

Gracepoint Easter Eggs

Gracepoint took advantage of staring David Tennant by including a few Doctor Who Easter eggs. Look at who the messages were from which were left on David Tenant’s desk–D. Noble, Martha Jones, and R. Tyler.

Keifer Sutherland told The Telegraph that he doesn’t see going back to do another season of 24. Obviously this is not the equivalent of a Sherman statement.

The Newsroom ended last week with a mixed series finale. The episode largely contained flashbacks inspired by Charlie’s funeral but the plot did also advance in scenes between flashbacks. Unfortunately much of the plot advancement from this short season came from random events. Previously the storyline with Will in jail for refusing to reveal the identity of a source ended too easily when the source committed suicide. The finale too easily resolved the conflict from the changes made by then owner when scandals, which came out of nowhere, led to MacKenzie being named the new president of ACN. Despite these faults, Sorkin left me wanting to see another season with MacKenzie as ACN president, and even with Jim and Maggie trying to make a long distance relationship work.

The Fall completed its second season with a mixed ending which, like Ascension, ended too abruptly. It did not work completely because of relying on minor characters who have not been seen in recent episodes.  The show would probably work better for those binging on both seasons at once, as opposed to watching the second season over a year later when some key events have been forgotten by most viewers. There is hope of them redeeming themselves as there is talk of a third season. It is not known if Paul Specter survived and whether Jamie Dornan will be returning, but Gillian Anderson has expressed interest.

The top show business story of the week, greatly transcending show business, was North Korea’s hacking of Sony and intimidation resulting in Sony deciding against the release of The Interview. On the one hand, the problems faced by Sony in releasing the movie under the threat of terrorist attacks are obvious, but we hate to such such intimidation succeed. Today on CNN’s  State of the Union, President Obama called this an act of cybervandalism (video above):

President Barack Obama says he doesn’t consider North Korea’s hack of Sony Pictures “an act of war.”

“It was an act of cybervandalism,” Obama said in an interview with CNN’s Candy Crowley that aired Sunday “State of the Union.”

But he stuck by his criticism of Sony’s decision to cancel its plans to release the movie “The Interview,” which includes a cartoonish depiction of the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, after the country threatened attacks against theaters that showed it.

Obama said in a Friday news conference that Sony made “a mistake,” and that he wished the company had called him first. That led Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton to tell CNN that Obama and the public “are mistaken as to what actually happened.” He blamed movie theater companies that opted not to show the film, saying they forced Sony’s hand.

Obama shot back, saying: “I was pretty sympathetic to the fact that they have business considerations that they got to make. Had they talked to me directly about this decision, I might have called the movie theater chains and distributors and asked them what the story was.”

The President told Crowley that his problem wasn’t with Sony specifically, but with the precedent the company’s decision set.

Ideally the movie will be released in some way to ensure that North Korea is not successful in preventing the release of a movie they dislike. Many solutions have been discussed. There are now reports that Sony might release it for free on Crackle. Such a free release, along with all the publicity this has received, would probably lead to The Interview being seen by far more people than it would with a conventional theatrical release.

SciFi Weekend: “Torchwood: Children of Earth”

Instead of a usual thirteen episode season, Torchwood was presented as a five part miniseries for five constructive evenings. Torchwood: Children of Earth was broadcast on the BBC last week and will appear on BBC America later this month as well as becoming available on DVD. The miniseries was a tremendous success both creatively and in terms of ratings and can be enjoyed by those who have not followed the first two seasons. After this recommendation, I must warn that this review contains major spoilers and I recommend that it not be read if you plan to watch the miniseries at a later date.

The miniseries was stronger by having to come up with only one alien menace and having time to both tell the story and develop the back stories of the characters. The romance between Jack and Ianto was further developed, making Ianto’s death in the fourth installment even more shocking. We also saw relatives of both, including Jack’s daughter who appeared older than the immortal Captain Jack, and a grandson. Gwen’s story was advanced as she learned she is pregnant.

The story began with aliens speaking through the children of earth and it came as no surprise to find that the conflict was over the alien desire to take ten percent of the children. As with many science fiction shows it is necessary to enjoy the story without giving too much thought to all the specifics, but such thoughts cannot be helped after wards. If the alien 456 could control the children, it would have been much simpler to have them march off to rendezvous points as opposed to forcing the governments to round them up.

The story had the feeling of The X-Files in dealing with government involvement with the aliens and attempts to cover up their past dealings with them. The decision of the government to kill those with knowledge of their previous deal with the 456  showed questionable judgement but it was easy to believe they would make such a choice. It would have been far smarter to enlist Torchwood to help find a way to fight the 456 as opposed to trying to kill an immortal such as Jack. We saw the members of Torchwood on the run from the authorities, also similar to portions of several seasons of 24.

Torchwood has always been a far darker series than Doctor Who, and this was even more the case with Children of Earth. Sacrifice and loss was a major theme. First Jack watched Ianto die.  Much of the show was seen from the perspective of Frobisher, a civil servant placed on the front lines in dealing with the 456 (primarily as this placed him as opposed to the Prime Minister at risk). The Prime Minister told Forbisher he must publicly turn his children over to the 456 so that others will see this as safe. The cover story was that the children were to receive inoculations to protect them, but actually the 456 use children to extract drugs which bring them pleasure.

Like the decision to try to destroy Torchwood, this was a poor choice as, knowing their fate Forbisher was unlikely to comply and might have jeopardized the transfer by going public with is knowledge. It is also questionable if seeing a  single civil servant send his children for the inoculations would have calmed any parents who were skeptical. While a poor choice, this was foreshadowed by the attitude of the Prime Minister towards Forbisher in previous meetings.  Instead of  going along, Forbisher killed his children, his wife, and then himself to spare his children the horrible fate. His decision was also ultimately the wrong one as the transfer of the children was stopped.

Stopping the transfer and defeating the children called for yet another sacrifice as a child was needed to beat the 456 by using the children of earth to transmit a reverse of the frequency that the 456 used to control the children. Jack knew the primary child used would die and the only child available at the base where he was working was his own grandson. This sacrifice meant the loss of his grandson, and probably the loss of any chance at reconciling with his daughter.

While this defeated the 456 for the moment, we do not really know whether they remain a threat. We only saw those already on earth be defeated, but we do not know if more will be coming. Perhaps this is just a renegade group after drugs and there are no more to threaten earth. It is also possible that there are other planets where they obtain similar children and, having been defeated on earth, will stick to easier targets. It is also questionable if the deal with the 456 would have turned out well. The 456 first came in 1965 and settled for twelve children. This time they said they would destroy all life on earth unless they received ten percent of the children. If they broke their promise and returned a second time, it is likely they would return again for more.

The miniseries leaves open the future of Torchwood. The series started with only three surviving members after the events of last season. This year Ianto died, Gwen may or may not continue working after having a child, and the final episode ended with Jack leaving earth. Even their headquarters was blown up. Some see this as the end of Torchwood but, considering the high ratings, I suspect there will be another series.

Most likely Jack will return, perhaps just as a new danger to earth is revealed, and  Gwen will join him. Lois Habiba, who assisted Torchwood during this episode, could easily join the team. Early on I thought that Dr. Rupesh Patanjali (seen in the above video clip) was going to be an addition to Torchwood but he did not survive. Martha Jones could  return if Freema Agyeman is available. They used the excuse of her honeymoon to explain her absence from this episode. If they return with a full season as opposed to a miniseries they could also develop new characters.

While the miniseries worked very well this year, it might be best to return to a regular thirteen episode format to rebuild both their facilities and a new team. If this does turn out to be the end of Torchwood, it was an excellent way to end the series.

SciFi Weekend: Star Trek, Torchwood, and The Week’s Genre Shows

The upcoming Star Trek movie will reportedly be completed in the next one to two weeks. J.J. Abrams was interviewed by The BBC. One recurring topic was to avoid making the movie appear campy:

The goal of this movie, despite it being called Star Trek, despite the pointy ears and all the established fans and hundreds of hours and almost a dozen movies and all that kind of stuff, we actually feel this is kind of a new thing and this is legitimate. Which is probably the biggest challenge, because it is by default so close to being campy. Like you see Galaxy Quest, which is such a great movie, and it is so — when you are actually on the set doing Star Trek, there are these moments that are like ‘dear God, how do I not make this bad?’ You see how easily you could go the wrong direction and suddenly you are mocking your own world.

This topic came up again later:

There were moments where I thought ‘the biggest challenge of this moment is make it not suck.’…To make it not be the version that in Ben Stiller’s hands or someone, which would be hysterically funny, and yet that is not the result you want for this moment.

MTV Movies Blog reports that Bryan Fuller, writer for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Pushing Daisies, is interested in bringing Star Trek back to television.

Fuller says he would want to break the mold and have more fun with the series — you wouldn’t have to be on the same ship or have the same characters as the original ‘Star Trek,’ but you could be in the same timeline and universe. From what Fuller’s seen so far of J.J. Abrams’ version, he’s impressed — “boy oh boy!” he gushed about the costumes – but he thinks Kirk, Spock, and McCoy should stay in the movies for now.

“’Star Trek’ has to recreate itself,” Fuller said. “Otherwise, all the characters start to feel the same. You always have a captain, a doctor, a security officer, and you have the same arguments based on those perspectives. It starts to feel too familiar. So all those paradigms where it takes place on a starship have to be shaken up.”

I’ve commented before that it makes sense to use the original cast for the movies as many people beyond Star Trek fans are familiar with them. If they were to develop a new series it would make more sense to develop a new cast and new situations. I would prefer to have it take some time in the future after Deep Space Nine and Voyager concluded, being true to the past history but taking place far enough in the future that it doesn’t get bogged down with every detail established in previous series.

Branon Braga, co-creator of Enterprise and currently co-executive producer of 24, has sold a science fiction pilot to ABC based upon the novel Flash Forward by Robert A. Sawyer. The premise of the novel is that an experiment at CERN to search for the Higgs boson causes everyone on Earth to blackout for 2 minutes and 17 seconds during which they flash forward to view the world through their selves twenthy-one years in the future.

Leonard Nimoy appeared on the Not My Job segment of Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me this weekend. The audio is available here.

Tardis and Torchwood Treasures has this report on the release of a CD of a recent BBC radio drama of Torchwood:

Lost Souls, a special audio episode of Torchwood, was released on CD today and has now also become available for download. The CD has a running time of 75 minutes and is now on sale in all good entertainment stores at an RRP of £9.99. Lost Souls aired last Wednesday and stars John Barrowman as Captain Jack Harkness, Eve Myles as Gwen Cooper, Gareth David Lloyd as Ianto Jones and Freema Agyeman as Martha Jones. Among the guest stars are Lucy Montgomery and Stephen Critchlow. As well as featuring the episode, the CD also features a behind the scenes documentary called Torchwood: All Access. This is exclusive to the CD as the download doesn’t feature this documentary and only features the episode itself.

I’ll be looking for a copy to download after I complete posting here. I’m sure it won’t be hard to find.

This week had another strong episode of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. I did like the second episode of Fringe better than the pilot, with the episode concluding with a little information on the unusual background of one of the main characters. I’m still not certain that it will live up to the quality of Lost and Alias, but IO9 does consider it science fiction TV’s most reassuring show. True Blood has already been renewed for a third season, which is to air next summer as opposed to waiting until fall.

SciFi Friday: Doctor Who and Its Spin Offs


This week’s installment of SciFi Friday will deal with Doctor Who and some of its spin offs. First let’s get everyone up to date. The video above contains the entire history of Doctor Who in under eight minutes from the first episode in 1963 through this season’s two-part finale, The Stolen Earth and Journey’s End, and even covers the spin offs.

Tardis and Torchwood Treasures reports that David Tennant has bee named the planet’s greenest star:

David Tennant has been named the Planet’s greenest star in this year’s Playing for the Planet Awards. The poll was carried out by Playhouse Disney and David was nominated for the award as he drives a hybrid car. Peter Duncan, awards judge and ambassador, said this about David winning the award:

“I am delighted that David Tennant has won the Greenest Star award – he’s a great role model for kids everywhere and clearly is as passionate at saving the planet as his character ‘The Doctor’.

Torchwood will be returning as a radio play on September 10. Here is a description of the planned show:

“Somewhere out there in that chaos of darkness and light, of science and protons, of gods and stars and death… somewhere there’s an answer.”

The Torchwood Institute was founded by Queen Victoria in 1879 to protect the British Empire against the threat of alien invasion. By 2008, all that remains of the organisation is a small team based in Cardiff. And now, following the tragic deaths of two of their colleagues, the remaining three – Captain Jack Harkness, Gwen Cooper and Ianto Jones – have to protect the human race against another unknown force from the darkness.

Martha Jones, ex-time traveller and now working as a doctor for a UN task force, has been called to CERN – the world’s largest particle physics laboratory in Geneva – where they’re about to activate the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).

The LHC is a particle accelerator which has been built deep underground in a 27km tunnel under Switzerland and France. Once activated, the collider will fire beams of protons together, recreating conditions a billionth of a second after the Big Bang – and potentially allowing the human race a greater insight into what the Universe is made of.

But so much could go wrong – it could open a gateway to a parallel dimension, or create a black hole – and now voices from the past are calling out to people and scientists have started to disappear…

Where have the missing scientists gone? What is the secret of the glowing man? What is lurking in the underground tunnel? And do the dead ever really stay dead?

Torchwood is a spin-off from the award-winning BBC Wales TV production Torchwood. Written by Joseph Lidster, it stars John Barrowman, Freema Agyeman, Eve Myles, Gareth David-Lloyd, Lucy Montgomery (of Tittybangbang) and Stephen Critchlow.

The television show will be limited to a five-part miniseries next season entitled Torchwood: Children of Earth, but it has been promoted to BBC-1. Hopefully this will give the show greater exposure and perhaps it will be shown for longer periods in future years.  While BBC-1 might not allow some of the material from earlier seasons on BBC-2 and BBC-3, fortunately it will air after 9:00 p.m. where some naughtiness is still allowed.  The miniseries is rumored to be about the sleeper aliens from the second season.

The final story technically isn’t about a Doctor Who spin off but there is a close connection. Coupling, which I’ve previously posted about here and here, was written by Steven Moffat who will be taking over as producer of Doctor Who in 2010. Moffat had a couple brief references to Doctor Who and Daleks in the first three seasons. In the fourth season Jeff was replaced by a new character named Oliver. In order to demonstrate his geekiness, he was made the owner of a science fiction book store, and in one scene he was seen with a full sized Dalek.

I completed watching the series this morning and then attempted to read a post at a Doctor Who forum mentioned in the shows Wikipedia entry in which Steven Moffat answers a fan’s request for closure by giving a run down of what will happen to the characters. The link given is to a forum which is now closed to new registration and therefore is no longer visible to many people. I finally tracked it down at a newer version of the forum and even found there were some fights at Wikipedia over the post’s inclusion.

As Steven Moffat’s post on the fates of his characters is not  easily available I will post it below. It does reference events in episodes of the show which will not mean anything to those who have not seen it. It also contains spoilers which those who plan to watch the show should avoid until they have seen the complete series. Beware the first line contains a major spoiler.

Sally said yes to Patrick, they got married and are very happy. Especially as Sally beat Susan to the altar, and finally did something first. Patrick is now a completely devoted husband, who lives in total denial that he was anything other an upstanding member of the community. Or possibly he’s actually forgotten. He doesn’t like remembering things because it’s a bit like thinking.

Jane and Oliver never actually did have sex, but they did become very good friends. They often rejoice together that their friendship is uncomplicated by any kind of sexual attraction – but they both get murderously jealous when the other is dating. Jane has a job at Oliver’s science fiction book shop now – and since Oliver has that one moment of Naked Jane burnt on the inside of his eyelids, he now loses the place in one in every three sentences. People who know them well think something’s gotta give – and they’re right. Especially as Jane comes to work in a metal bikini.

Steve and Susan have two children now, and have recently completed work on a sitcom about their early lives together. They’re developing a new television project, but it keeps getting delayed as he insists on writing episodes of some old kids show they recently pulled out of mothballs. She gets very cross about this, and if he says “Yeah but check out the season poll!” one more time, he will not live to write another word.

Jeff is still abroad. He lives a life a complete peace and serenity now, having taken the precaution of not learning a word of the local langauge and therefore protecting himself from the consequences of his own special brand of communication. If any English speakers turn up, he pretends he only speaks Hebrew. He is, at this very moment, staring out to sea, and sighing happily every thirty-eight seconds.

What he doesn’t know, of course, is that even now a beautiful Israeli girl he once met in a bar, is heading towards his apartment, having been directed to the only Hebrew speaker on the island. What he also doesn’t know is that she is being driven by a young ex-pat English woman, who is still grieving the loss of a charming, one-legged Welshman she once met on a train. And he cannot possible suspect that (owing to a laundry mix-up, and a stag party the previous night in the same block) he is wearing heat-dissolving trunks.

As the doorbell rings, it is best that we draw a veil.

SciFi Friday: Doctor Who Conclusion (Spoilers for US Viewers)

It is a slow week in the United States with the 4th of July holiday. The SciFi Channel is taking a week off from Doctor Who due to the holiday, but this has been a very interesting week for those watching in the U.K. and those of us downloading the episodes after they are shown there. This post contains very major spoilers and those watching on the SciFi Channel might want to hold off on reading. The spoilers are far more significant than the news which leaked ahead of time that the Daleks play a major part and that Davros has survived. If you read further, you have been warned.

The Stolen Earth is part of an effort of Russell T. Davies to really go out with a bang as he concludes his tenure as show runner. The earth is literally stolen and then attacked by a new Dalek race cloned directly from Davros. The story brings together all of the supporting characters who have been companions to The Doctor since the series returned: Torchwood’s Capt. Jack Harkness (John Barrowman), Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen), Dr. Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman) and Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) unite to battle the Daleks.

The Doctor is reunited with Rose in the final moments but gets mortally injured, setting up the tremdous cliff hanger for the finale, Journey’s End. The episode will be an extended sixty-five minute show. Having the earth in danger is not a big enough cliff hanger for Davies to end on as viewers would have no doubt that The Doctor would manage to save the earth. Instead Davies came up with the biggest cliff hanger possible as The Doctor began to regenerate.

There are many possible ways for this cliff hanger to play out. It could turn out to be a failed regeneration and The Doctor might remain in the form of David Tennant. The other extreme is that David Tennant really is leaving and they have done an incredible job of keeping this a secret in Great Britain, where a change in the actor playing The Doctor really is big news.

I suspect that something in between these two extremes might occur. There very well might be a new Doctor formed from the regeneration, but the question would be how long he (or she) would be around. The episode might end with a cosmic reset, which would be easy to do with the current story possibly occuring outside of normal time.

Another consideration is that there might be two Doctors for some time. We might both have a new Doctor for the regeneration and there has been speculation that the David Tennant form will be cloned back from the severed hand in the Tardis. This would be a way around the limit in regenerations which are possible, allowing the series to continue for many years to come. If there are two doctors, this might even last through next year as instead of a regular series there will be special episodes, with Tennant not necessarily staring in all. Perhaps whatever happens in the season finale will not be totally resolved for another year.

The fate of David Tennant’s Doctor is not the only question. Donna is not expected to return as a companion next year. She might simply return home with her family, or other possibilities exist. There has been speculation that the reason Donna has been able to control The Tardis is that she is actually a Time Lord, possibly The Rani. Maybe Catherine Tate will regenerate herself by the end of the season but her character will remain in the series.

SciFi Friday (Sunday Edition): Doctor Who, Torchwood, and Surviving the Year 1000


Every season there are one or two episodes of Doctor Who which really stands out, often winning the Hugo and Nebula awards. Most of these episodes have been written by Stephen Moffat, including The Girl in the Fireplace and Blink. Those of us watching (or downloading) the shows from the BBC have seen this year’s presentation from Stephen Moffat, a two-part story consisting of Silence in the Library and Forest of the Dead. This portion of SciFi Friday will contain many spoilers for those who are watching on the SciFi Channel which is a few episodes behind.

The two-parter essentially had three different aspects to it. The Doctor is called to a planet-sized Library. The story dealing with Vashta Nerada was the weakest portion. The Vashta Nerada are microscopic creatures which live in the shadows, and which are responsible for the fear of the dark which has arisen in many civilizations. They can devour an organism in seconds, making it necessary for all the people who had been in The Library to be saved. This served as a menace to drive the story but ultimately once the other two aspects of the story reached their conclusion this was resolved too easily to be satisfactory, with The Doctor convincing the Vashta Nerada to allow one day to get the humans away.

While I was dissatisfied with the conclusion of the story related to the Vashta Nerada, the nature of the menace was far superior to that of the previous episode. In The Unicorn and the Wasp The Doctor met Agatha Christie. Much of the episode had the feel of an Agatha Christie mystery, but having the menace turn out to be an alien who appeared like a giant wasp felt incongruous with the feel of the show. A more subtle menace such as the Vashta Nerada, which were either invisible or seen as shadows, would have better suited the feel of that episode.

One technique used in this story was to give the viewers answers which turned out to be different from what might be anticipated, but were consistent with the story. The Vashta Nerada were creatures of the forest, and in this story the forest turned out to be the paper of The Library. Even more important to the overall plot was the meaning of “saved.” Throughout the story we were told of people being “saved” with no evidence of life being found. Ultimately we find that the people literally were saved by the computer to its hard drive, with portions of the story taking place within an artificial reality created by the computer. Having this extra layer turned what would have been a mediocre story into an excellent one.

The third aspect of the story was to have The Doctor meet someone who had already met him. One important aspect of some of Moffat’s stories is that time actually plays an important role. In most stories The Doctor might travel through time to reach the destination, but once he arrives time travel is generally not important to any individual story.

In this story The Doctor meets archaeologist River Song (Alex Kingston, previously of ER) who summoned him for help. She had met The Doctor at a later point in his life and knew a lot about The Doctor and Donna. To The Doctor this was their first meeting. River convinced The Doctor to trust her by revealing that The Doctor had told her his real name.

Since Doctor Who resumed a few seasons back the formula has been for there to be a story which gradually builds through the season with parts revealed gradually in individual episodes. There may also be trends developing more slowly over seasons. The Doctor’s name has been mentioned in episodes including The Girl in the Fireplace, The Shakespeare Code, and The Fires of Pompeii. With Moffat taking over as show runner when Russell T. Davies steps down, perhaps the themes used by Moffat will become even more prominent in future seasons.

It will be interesting to see if we are actually shown the relationship between The Doctor and River as mentioned in this episode, with The Doctor knowing her ultimate fate (and how he saves her by transferring her intelligence to the computer after she appears to have died) from the moment he firsts meets her.

Having The Doctor meet River in such a manner points out a flaw I’ve considered ever since the series revived. Since the original series there was a war in which the rest of the Timelords were killed. I’ve thought that it does not make sense to have a situation where The Doctor will never run into the Timelords when he (and other Timelords who left Gallifrey) are moving throughout time. Just as The Doctor will first meet River (by his time line) at the time of her death (in River’s time  line), even though other Timelords have died (in The Doctors time line) he could still run into them at an earlier point in their lives before the time war.

I have one additional complaint about what was generally an excellent story. Racing to prevent the completion of a computer’s self destruct sequence has been done way too many times. There is never any real suspense as there is always a second to two to spare before the self destruct sequence is completed.

With another excellent story, despite some minor flaws, It appears the show will be in excellent hand when Stephen Moffat takes over as show runner. Besides his own work, there are rumors that he has convinced Neil Gaiman to write an episode in 2010.

Next season we will have far less of Doctor Who while David Tennant is busy in Hamlet (along with Patrick Stewart). Instead of a regular season in 2009 there will be occasional special episode. Now it also appears that we will also have very little of Torchwood. The BBC only plans five episodes, which will air in a single week. They will appear on BBC One, which probably means the show will also be watered down even more.

After the deaths of two major characters there has been speculation that Martha Jones would return to Torchwood. Freema Agyeman will also be busy on another show. She has a role in another old BBC show from the 1970’s which is being revived, The Survivors. The show is about the survivors of a plague which wipes out most of the population.

Captain Jack lived through much of earth’s history. The Doctor travels to any period and usually manages to fit in (although he wasn’t very popular in old England). Surviving in the past would be much more difficult for a modern American who happened to be transported back to Europe of 1000. This happened to be the topic of discussion at Marginal Revolution a few days ago. Being able to write, or even program, a blog would be a totally worthless skill. Most of what we know would also be pretty worthless back then, and discussing what we know could get us killed.

If we managed to survive after coming to an area which isn’t too friendly to strangers without knowing the language or having appropriate clothing, we would have a tough time with the manual careers available at the time. Working in the church might be the best bet, but would also increase our risk of saying something which could result in execution. Then we’d have to worry about surviving the diseases of the time. Having a Tardis is definitely the only way to ever consider visiting the year 1000.

SciFi Friday (Sunday Edition): The Three Big Mysteries on Television

Lost went backwards again as opposed to a flash forward, providing more on Locke’s life. I suspect we will not see a flash forward on Locke as the fate of those who do not leave the island will remain a mystery for a while longer. We find that Richard Alpert has been watching Locke since he was a born, and seems to have never aged. Matthew Abaddon met Locke when he was in physical therapy and, posing as an orderly, gave Locke the idea of going on a walkabout in Australia. This still leaves the question of how they got Locke, and the other passengers of interest, to go at precisely the time that Desmond would inadvertently cause the plane to crash.

The time differences were demonstrated again as the doctor on the freighter, who has already washed up on the beach, had not yet been killed. There are also strange things going on beyond the time issue. Ben found Jacob’s cabin, only to find both Christian Shephard and Claire there. Does this mean that Claire is dead like Christian Shephard (father to both Jack and Claire) or less likely that Christian Shephard is not dead?

Fortunately we are not going to miss episodes of Lost due to the writer’s strike. Originally there were to be sixteen episodes during each of the three final seasons. This season will wind up being two episodes shorter, but the next two seasons will be extended to seventeen episodes each. There are also some comments on the future of the show from co-creator Damon Lindelof:

“The finale this year will not be as tricky as last year,” he said. “Hopefully, this year it’s a little bit more of a straightforward action-adventure narrative. But the ending of the episode will hopefully engage and intrigue people looking forward to the next season of the show.”

Lindelof declined to say whether the flash forwards will continue, but did leave open the possibility of the show’s main story line on the island catching up with the flash forwards that have taken place on the mainland this season.

“It’s very exciting that the audience is going to be wondering when is the present going to be (next season),” he said. “We’ve moved backward in time, now we’ve moved forward in time. The present of the show has always been on the island — that may not necessarily be the case in the future.”

When it comes time to air the series finale in 2010, Lindelof said he and Cuse plan to “go into hiding for many, many months” at an “undisclosed location.”

“David Chase set a great example when he went off to Paris after ‘The Sopranos’ ending, which is great because all these people are going to be asking, ‘What does it mean? What is it?’ ” he said. “The fact that there’s no one really around to answer that question, it forces people to come up with what they think it means. We can guarantee our show will not end with a cut to black, it will be more clear than that. But whenever anything you love ends … there’s a certain disappointment.”

While some ambiguity about the future of the characters is to be expected, Lost better not go out with everything left a total mystery. Fading to black won’t work as well with a show of this type as with The Sopranos.

For those who watch on the SciFi Channel, Doctor Who has just revealed the back story on the Ood. There is yet another reference to a missing planet, which many speculate is a consequence of Rose jumping between dimensions. Once again The Doctor is portrayed as a heroic character who will be remembered, making the stories this season different from most in the past.

The SciFi Channel remains three episodes behind the BBC. I’ll avoid real spoilers, but this paragraph will give away a little of what comes next. First there is a two parter in which Martha Jones, now working with UNIT, brings The Doctor back to earth to fight an enemy from the original series, the Sontarans. The previews for the episode which aired yesterday reveal a real shocker: The Doctor’s Daughter. The daughter (picture above) is played by Georgia Moffett, daughter of previous Doctor Who star Peter Davison. Davison, the fifth Doctor also appeared in a brief video with the current Doctor, David Tennant in a video I previously posted here. Moffett has also been cast to play Jenna Stannis in the planned reboot of Blake’s 7.

Battlestar Galactica featured a guest appearance by Nana Visitor of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. There’s also a predictable killing of a red shirt and further movement towards humans and one faction of Cylons working together. Visitor is far from the only character in one science fiction show to appear on another. This week we also learned that Bruce Boxleitner of Babylon 5 will be appearing on Heroes next season.

The New York Post reveals the changes to take place on the next season of Weeds. Little Boxes will be played one final time in the first episode but now that Agrestic was burnt down the show will be moving to a seedy seaside town by the Mexican border (actually shot in Manhattan Beach, California). Nancy (Mary Louise Parker) has progressed from a suburban house wife who started selling marijuana to get by following the death of her husband to a big time drug dealer.

There are three major ongoing mysteries on television: the meaning of Lost, the fate of the humans and Cylons on Battlestar Galactica (including the final unrevealed Cylon), and the identity of Ted Mosby’s future wife on How I Met Your Mother. One blogger believes he found a clue in the pictures above. The letter in Stella’s (Sarah Chalke) apartment (right) appears to be the same letter in the background behind the kids (left).

This is far from conclusive. Possibly the props department just happened to use the same prop in both scenes. If Ted is really telling his children the same stories he is telling us, the kids would already know that this is their mother once he began talking about Stella by name. As with Lost and Battlestar Galactica we will have to wait and see how the mystery turns out.

SciFi Friday (Saturday Edition): Jack & Kate and Ted & Robin, and the Goat

This week we had two shows which deal with relationships viewed at different points in time. Lost was a Jack-centered story in which the flash forward showed Jack and Kate living together at some point after Kate’s trial. Jack proposed but we saw the seeds of the end of their relationship which would lead to them talking by the airport at the end of last season. We also saw the beginning of Jack’s problem with drugs and alcohol, as well as an explanation of why he mentioned his father in last season’s finale.

Back on the island Jack gets appendicitis, raising the question as to why Jack, and earlier Ben, developed medical problems while the trend for everyone else (who manages to avoid a traumatic death or pregnancy) is to have problems cured. There was little drama in Jack developing the appendicitis as we know he survives, and I suspect that the fact that he developed a life-threatening problem at all is the significant point.

We possibly also learn why Claire doesn’t make it off the island, depending upon whether we ever see her again after having disappeared at the end of the episode. The scene with Jin and Charlotte is also consistent with having seen Sun but not Jin off the island. Another question is raised when Kate, back at home, tells Jack that she is doing a favor for Sawyer. Is this something he requested before Kate left, is Sawyer also off the island, or are they in contact?

The supernatural element of the series also takes on greater importance. It appears that the dead can return to influence the living. The warnings against others raising Aaron in the past, along with the “message” from Charlie via Hurley, appear to be important.

How I Met Your Mother also deals with a relationship that we know will never lead to marriage, along with flashes to the future and information from the past. I bet that not many have considered the number of ways in which the show is like Lost.

Many episodes begin with a flash forward as Ted is telling his kids far more about his dating years than most men would ever dream of telling their children (or spouse). Due to these flash forwards we do not know who Ted eventually marries, but we do know it will not be “Aunt Robin.” Ted and Robin broke up at the end of last season. Last week Barney, in direct violation of the Bro Code, slept with her. Barney even hired Marshall to search for a loophole in the code but the Bro Code is just too tight. Barney also thought he could tell Marshall and take advantage of lawyer-client confidentiality, but by the end of the episode everyone knew.

This damaged Barney’s friendship with Ted, but the episode ended with an unexpected flash forward from Ted’s thirtieth to thirty-first birthday. The goat is still around and eats Robin’s hand towel in Ted’s bathroom. Either they get back together, Robin has reason to be staying at Ted’s or perhaps they swap apartments as the gang did in Friends. (To be honest, How I Met Your Mother is far more like Friends than Lost.)

Doctor Who, for those of us downloading from The B.B.C. also deal with romance which did not succeed and time. I think it is safe to tell those who are watching on the SciFi Channel that Martha Jones brings The Doctor back to earth. This begins a promising start to a two-part episode in which the earth is in danger.

The Fires of Pompeii aired on the SciFi Channel last night (which is why I postponed SciFi Friday until today). There’s mention of another missing planet, which many believe is connected to Rose hopping around between dimensions, along with allusions to classic episodes of the series. The episode helped establish Donna as a moral influence on The Doctor, which will be seen again in the following week’s episode. (However in a later episode she will show a skill which might raise questions.)

Changing time also became an issue for the Timelord. The Doctor could not prevent the volcano from destroying Pompeii because that was a known and fixed part of history. There was a flaw in his argument because it is somewhat arbitrary what is a fixed part of history. On the surface the argument is plausible because we, the viewers, know about Pompeii. However to people in the future in other areas where he intervenes he might also be changing their known history. Donna does convince The Doctor to save one family, but how does he know whether this will change history?

On Battlestar Galactica Starbuck faced a mutiny on the Demitrius but the previews show she does not wind up returning to Galactica. It looks like we will be seeing a lot more interaction with the Cylons, possibly including an alliance with one side of the civil war.

SciFi Friday (Sunday Edition): Torchwood Ends and Doctor Who Returns; A Cylon Civil War; An Aging Starlet?; and a Special Passover Feature

For viewers of the U.S. feeds of the shows, this week marked the end of Torchwood and the start of a new season of Doctor Who. Exit Wounds, the finale of Torchwood presented a surprise as it turned out that Jack’s brother Gray, and not John, was the real villain. John was really the prisoner, not Gray, and was being forced to do all those nasty things to Jack and the others at Torchwood. Besides concluding the Gray storyline, we also say a conclusion to the hinted at romance between Toshiko Sato and Owen Harper. Sadly it also meant the end of both of their lives. This does leave things open for changes in the show, such as bringing back Martha Jones, but hopefully they will not destroy what has made the show great, as some rumors suggest.

The SciFi Channel returned with the Christmas episode of Doctor Who, The Voyage of the Damned, which I previously commented on here. Next week they start the actual season. The season begins with the return of Donna, as well as someone else. In the second episode The Doctor takes Donna to Pompeii, on volcano day, allowing for a look at the question of changing history. The third episode features a trip to the plane of the Ood.

Battlestar Galactica has shown the Cylons degenerate into a civil war. While the pre-season rumors that Starbuck would be thrown in the brig were true, this didn’t last long as she has now been given a ship of her own to once again find Earth. Apparently it isn’t as easy as suggested at the start of the season. Cally found out that her husband is one of the four newly identified Cylons with tragic results. Incidentally, did anyone else notice the homage to Star Trek? The room where Cally overheard the conversation naming the Cylons had a designation of NCC1701-D, the call letters of the Enterprise on Star Trek: The Next Generation.

While Battlestar Galactica is ending, there has been news of yet two more projects for Ron Moore. He will have a trilogy of movies, and Fox has approved a two hour pilot for Virtuosity.

The sci-fi project, from Universal Media Studios and producers Gail Berman and Lloyd Braun, is set aboard the Phaeton, Earth’s first starship, on a 10-year journey to explore a distant solar system. To help the 12 crew members endure the long trip and keep their minds occupied, NASA equipped the ship with advanced virtual reality modules, allowing them to assume adventurous identities and go to any place they want.

I hope this doesn’t turn into a series of holodeck adventures. Perhaps it won’t matter. Odds are that a science fiction show starting on Fox won’t be around very long. At least Fox has renewed Terminator: The Sarah Connor Adventures.

Lost returns with five new episodes on April 24. SciFi Wire has some mild spoilers regarding the final episodes. They primarily talk about what information will be revealed without actually revealing anything.

Believe it or not, Scarlett Johansson (above) is considered too old, at least for one role. Emma Watson (Hermione Granger) has replaced Johansson in Napoleon and Betsy.

SciFi Friday concentrates on television, and has also included both movies and books.  If Andrew Haydon has his way, science fiction will extend to theater.

Finally, for the Passover edition of SciFi Friday I will  include a link to an unusual reference. When reading about various animals in  fantasy literature have you ever wondered if their meat is kosher? If so, Ecstatic Days has the ultimate reference.

SciFi Friday (Sunday Edition): The Oceanic Six, Jericho, SNL, and the Disappointing Return of Amy Sherman-Palladino

This week Lost fooled us until the end with Sun in a flash forward and Jin in a flashback. We also found, to nobody’s surprise, that Michael (now Kevin) is Ben’s spy on the freighter. The producers had said that we would know all six members of the Oceanic Six after this episode, but being Lost there remains controversy as to who they really are. The five definite members are Jack, Kate, Sayid, Hurley, and as of this week, Sun.

There are several possibilities for the sixth. If Jin had been rescued and then died he would have still been the sixth, but his tombstone shows he “died” the day of the crash. As the tombstone is a fake this leaves open the question as to whether he really died or had to remain on the island. It did seem like he was actually dead when Sun and Hurley spoke of him at the end, but there could be misdirection there.

Michael (Kevin) and possibly Walt remain possibilities, but as they got off earlier most likely they have a different cover story or new identities. Aaron could be the sixth, but the producers had said he isn’t in one of the Oceanic Six during one of the podcasts on the show.

There are a couple of more unusual possibilities. We know Ben is alive and off the island in the future. Possibly he left the island assuming the identity of someone else. We certainly know he is capable of obtaining fake identities. It is less likely he would ever go with the people on the freighter. There have been suggestions that Christian Shephard really is alive and perhaps they claimed he was a living passenger on the flight. If so, then perhaps Jack wasn’t just calling for his father as a result of being drunk in last season’s finale.

Jericho is quickly moving towards the season finale, and it is not yet decided if this will also be the series finale. Ratings have not been very good so I do not expect it to survive. At least it looks like the show can go out with a good ending. The problems with Goetz are now resolved, although the repercussions of his killing remain to be seen. Most likely the final episodes will center around fighting the Cheyenne government and trying to expose the role of Jennings & Rall in the nuclear attacks on American cities.

The fourth season of Battlestar Galactica begins Friday, April 4th. If you aren’t up to date, the third season of Battlestar Galactica will be out on DVD on Tuesday. The stars of the show will be doing the Top Ten list on Letterman on Wednesday.

There were seven Harry Potter books, but there are going to be eight movies. The final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is being divided up into two movies. The first part is scheduled for November 2010 and the second part for May 2011. The Harry Potter movies are now the most financially successful film series in history, having surpassed the James Bond series after only five movies.

The Martha Jones trilogy has concluded for those watching Torchwood on BBC America. The next episode, Something Borrowed, features Gwen’s wedding, including an uninvited guest, and some alien sex.

Tracy Morgan responded to Tiny Fey’s recent “editorial” on SNL’s Weekend Update supporting Hillary Clinton because bitches get things done. Morgan responds by saying, “Bitch may be the new black, but black is the new president, bitch!” Morgan also questioned Clinton’s qualifications by saying, “I want to know what qualifies Hillary Clinton to be president? Is it because she was married to the president? If that were true, then Robin Givens would be heavyweight champion of the world.” Raw Story has the video and full transcript.

Parker Posey and Lauren Ambrose star in 'Jezebel James'

The Return of Jezebel James premiered on Friday, marking the return to television by Amy Sherman-Palladino after she left Gilmore Girls. Like Gilmore Girls, the new show begins with two women whose relationship differs from the traditional nuclear family. In The Return of Jezebel James Parker Posey has her estranged younger sister, Lauren Ambrose, to be a surrogate mother as she is unable to have her own baby.

Perhaps the show will develop over time, but there was no sign of the dialog and relationships which gave Gilmore Girls its strength. Under the best of circumstances it would be tough for Amy Sherman-Palladino to recapture the success of Gilmore Girls. I fear I watched half expecting Parker Posey to be Lorelei Gilmore. It was even more confusing with Lauren Ambrose as I couldn’t decide if she should be Rory Gilmore or if she should be Claire Fisher, her role on Six Feet Under. Either way, this was certainly a waste of Ambrose’s talent.

Reviewers have said that the second episode is better than the pilot so I will give it another chance, but this show won’t last long without considerable improvement. Perhaps A S-P should concentrate on writing a satisfactory finish to Gilmore Girls to make up for the season done without her.