SciFi Weekend: Babylon 5 and Blake’s 7 Reboots; Doctor Who; Captain America; Agent Carter; Agents of SHIELD; Defiance; Big Bang Theory; Google Maps Adds The Moon and Mars

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J. Michael Straczynski has announced plans to reboot Babylon 5 as a movie. One reason for doing it his way is that Warner owns the television rights but Straczsynki retained the feature film rights:

Speaking at San Diego Comic Con last week, Straczsynki announced that he would soon be sitting down to write a Babylon 5 feature film, which is envisioned as a reboot of the iconic sci-fi series. JMS said that he plans to get the script locked down by the end of 2015 and the film would then enter production the following year in 2016.

Next to nothing is known about the plot for this Babylon 5 feature film, beyond the fact that it is a reboot of the concept seen in the series. That said, J. Michael Straczynski has stated that he would like to use cast members from the series, such as Bruce Boxleitner and Mira Furlan, in new roles in the feature film. “I’d love to see Bruce as the President of the Earth Alliance”, he said.

The hope is that Warner Bros, who produced the Babylon 5 television series, would step up and green-light a “big budget” feature film once the script has been completed. But owing to the nature of the deal that Straczysnki inked with the studio to produce Babylon 5 in the early 1990s, he, rather than Warner Bros, owns the feature film rights to the show. Should Warner Bros. choose not to greenlight a B5 movie, Straczynski would still proceed with the feature, which would then be funded and produced through his Studio JMS banner on a budget of $80 – $100 million.

Although Syfy passed on the show, there is still some hope for a remake of Blake’s 7.

The BBC has renewed Doctor Who for an eighth season since the show returned, again staring Peter Capaldi, with the shows to be presented in a continuous run. Steven Moffat said recently that there are no plans for either the return of the Master or for a tenth anniversary show (which would seem strange after doing a 50th).  Moffat has also expressed a willingness to do a Doctor Who/Sherlock cross over, but others involved are not interested. Would it look something like the video above, except with Peter Capaldi instead of Matt Smith?

Above is, perhaps, how Captain America: The Winter Soldier should have ended. Directors Joe and Anthony Russo discussed their upcoming projects, Agent Carter and the third Captain America movie:

Before turning their attention to the next feature, the Russos are directing several episodes of the spin-off TV series Agent Carter, debuting on ABC in January 2015. The miniseries follows the solo adventures of Peggy Carter, the love of Captain America’s life and founder of S.H.I.E.L.D. in the 1940s. From there, the brothers will tackle the third film, which picks up “a couple years” after Winter Soldier left off. Although the heart of the movie will be Steve Rogers’ complicated relationship with his childhood friend Bucky Barnes, the themes of politics and power will still be in play. “The character was invented for an explicitly political purpose. So it’s hard to get away from that nature,” Anthony tells Yahoo. It’s also important to the directors that Captain America doesn’t become another disillusioned antihero. As Joe sees it, “his morality is part of his superpower.”

While they’re not leaking any major details from the 2016 film, the Russo brothers promise that they’re “bringing some new elements to the table that will give us a twist on Winter Soldier.” Does this mean that Steve Rogers will pass the Captain America shield to Bucky Barnes (aka the Winter Soldier) or Sam Wilson (aka the Falcon), both of whom have donned the stars-and-stripes in the comics? With actor Chris Evans shifting his focus to directing, and Sebastian Stan and Anthony Mackie already in place as the Winter Soldier and the Falcon respectively, the next film could allow a new hero to step in.

Elsewhere in the Marvel universe, FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper (Twin Peaks) will be meeting SHIELD. Kyle MacLachlan  has been cast to play Skye’s father on Agents of SHIELD. Chloe Bennet said at Comic-Con that next season will also involve more hair. Skye will have bangs and Brett Dalton will do the evil-Spock thing of the mirror universe and have a beard as the evil Grant Ward.

Defiance Cast

Defiance has done a good job of creating a world with numerous well-developed characters and alien races, but often while watching I wonder if there is any point to it all. It lacks the big story ideas of a Babylon 5 or Battlestar Galactica. The showrunner, Kevin Murphy, did work on BSG and I am glad that he got away from the idea of doing the show as a “science-fiction crime of the week.”

AX: How did DEFIANCE started and how did it change when you came onto the project during its development?

KEVIN MURPHY: The original version was a little more of a closed-ended procedural, it was kind of more of a science-fiction crime of the week, and we were in the process of changing that when CULT got picked up and [original DEFIANCE co-creator/show runner] Rockne O’Bannon left. I then had a choice that I wasn’t sure that the show was going to work in the incarnation that it currently was in, and I didn’t want to have responsibility for something that didn’t work. So I gave Syfy a choice. I said, “I’ll transition you into your next show runner, and I’ll make sure that casting continues and produce the pilot, but I’m not going to stay on for the series unless I believe in the show.” And they were like, “Well, what would you want to do to it?” And it was basically, “Well, it involves getting rid of pretty much all the scripts, and let me give you my pitch.”

So I did the pitch, worked it out with the writing staff, and at this point, it was Rockne’s last day, and he was helping us to kind of reconceive it, and Scott Stewart, the director, was very involved in the process, and so was Michael Taylor, who had worked on BATTLESTAR GALACTICA and was a member of staff under me. And we pitched the whole thing to [then-Syfy Channel president] Mark Stern while he was driving in his car on vacation with his family in Palm Springs. And he had his wife and kid in the vehicle with him, and the pitch lasted about ninety minutes, because we pitched the entire story from beginning to end, every single beat, and by the time he pulled into the hotel in Palm Springs, we had finished our pitch and he was like, “Okay, I love it. Go write it.”

AX: Did you make major changes to the characters?

MURPHY: The PAPER MOON thing I added, the idea that Nolan [the town’s new law officer, played by Grant Bowler] came in from the outside and that he was a con man and a drifter and a huckster and a criminal. That was all stuff that I added. The idea that Amanda has only been mayor for six weeks and she’s the former mayor’s assistant and no one takes her seriously, that was an addition; the idea that Irisa [Nolan’s adopted Irathient daughter, played by Stephanie Leonidas] uses knives and Irisa being sort of the feral badass was an invention of mine. And Michael. When I say “me,” I’m including Michael Taylor, who was definitely my partner in crime. We would not have gotten that script in the shape it needed to be in without Michael at my side.

The Werewolf Transformation

In follow-up of an item from last week, the cast of The Big Bang Theory did settle on a new contract. The top three stars, Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki and Kaley Cuoco, will each  earn $1 million per episode for the planned upcoming three seasons, and there is talk of potentially adding an eleventh season.

Google Maps has added maps of the moon and Mars. I imagine that going off the earth was inevitable once they added the TARDIS to their maps.

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SciFi Weekend: Arrow; Agent Carter; Under The Dome; True Blood (vs. Sarah Palin); Utopia; Sleepy Hollow; Doctor Who (and flirting); Big Bang Theory;Allison Williams as Peter Pan

Arrow Selfie

This picture of the cast of Arrow might very well be the best selfie to come out of Comic-Con last weekend. The latest news on Arrow is that Charlotte Ross  has been cast as Felicity’s mother. Last week Collider asked Stephen Amel about topics including the Justice League and Oliver’s true love at Comic-Con:

Are you happy you don’t have to answer any more Justice League questions?

Stephen Amell: Yes — and by the way, there’s a The Flash show, we have Firestorm, we have Canary, we have The Atom… The actual Justice League film — I don’t know when that’s coming out. You can watch The Justice League on television now. But the reason I’m happy to not have to answer the question anymore is because I think it undersold what we did on TV. I would put our degree of difficulty – having to produce twenty-two episodes of television every year, spinning off the show, giving people the confidence to green-light other DC properties — up there with producing a two hundred million dollar film. They’re very different things. I never want to feel as though our existence is only going to be justified by being part of the cinematic universe. That has nothing to do with anything. We are stamping out our own spot.

[What is the romantic situation like for Oliver this season?]

Stephen Amell: There’s one lady in Oliver’s life.

Just one?

Stephen Amell: Just one. There’s one woman in Oliver’s life this year.

Is that his sister?

Stephen Amell: No — it’s Felicity.

It just seems he’s got Sarah out there and Laurel…

Stephen Amell: The ship has sailed on those romances. I don’t think we’ll ever see Oliver & Sarah or Oliver & Laurel together again. I mean – they’ll be together but just not ‘together-together’. They’ll be teammates. We discover in the premiere the way that Oliver feels about Felicity. Because of that — if we just introduced random love interests, it would undersell what we do in the premiere.

How aware are you of the direction of the character throughout this season and for future seasons as well?

Stephen Amell: I really do think we are moving to a spot where we will refer to my character as ‘The Green Arrow’. We are moving to a spot where we will continue to embrace the fundamental classic elements of the character. Because we have that license now. We’re 46 episodes in. People like it. They buy into it. But unless this character is evolving — The Hood to Arrow to The Green Arrow — then people are going to lose interest. So I always want there to be a journey for him. And this year’s journey is really interesting.

Does that evolution involve the goatee?

Stephen Amell: No.

There’s more information on Agent Carter in the above interview with Hayley Atwell. The show is being described as being like Fargo or True Detective in being like an eight hour movie, and it sounds like it takes place before the formation of SHIELD. It might also contain one major Marvel villain who is unnamed. Also above is the full Agent Carter panel from Comic-Con.

Under the Locker

After True Blood, Under the Dome has to be the worst show I watch. Among its many faults, anything can happen with no apparent rules. In one recent episode there was reason to have a character get a message from outside to propel the plot so for an unknown reason email briefly went through, and then stopped again. Last week they checked out the locker at the site of the death of a character and found that there was a tunnel coming out of the locker. Does it go deep enough underground to get under the dome?

I’ve also wondered since the start of the show why there is not major activity going on outside the dome to try to both figure out what it is and how to get through it, including an effort to tunnel underneath from outside.

Despite all the implausible things which happen, the show somehow remains interesting to watch. On the other hand, I primarily stick with True Blood because I’ve gone on this long and want to see the ending. I had hoped that with this being the final season they would come up with a better storyline to end the series, but so far they have not done this. I can’t even blame Sarah Palin for her snub of the show in response to attacks such as calling her type of people (even if more monstrous than many of the characters on True Blood) Republic*nts.

Utopia has been the best summer genre show on, but as it has not aired in the United States I will avoid any spoilers. I was concerned by the end of the first season whether they could keep up the quality of the show once they began to reveal the secrets behind the conspiracy. They are pulling this off well in the second season. The first episode was a flash back which fills in may of the details about the conspiracy and how the major characters are interconnected. From there, instead of being a mystery about what is going on, the series has done an excellent job of moving on with the story now that we understand the full setup.

New trailer for season two of Sleepy Hollow above. More videos here.

Doctor Who Entertainment Weekly Capaldi

Back in July, 2012 Doctor Who made news by being the first British television show to make the cover of Entertainment Weekly. The show has returned several more times as it has become a bigger hit in the United States, including this week as we head towards the introduction of a new Doctor.

On August 23, Peter Capaldi will begin his first season starring in Doctor Who when the long-running British science-fiction show returns to BBC America. But it wasn’t so long ago that the Scottish actor and lifelong Who fan was certain he would never get his hands on the controls of the Time Lord’s TARDIS. “I wouldn’t have thought I would be the guy,” Capaldi says. “I wouldn’t have thought it would be me.” Why not? “Because of my age. I would have thought they were automatically heading younger.”

It was a reasonable assumption to make. At 56, Capaldi is roughly the same age as William Hartnell when he originated the role of the two-hearted, monster-battling alien way back in 1963. But since the BBC relaunched Doctor Who in 2005 after a lengthy hiatus, the actors playing the lead role have all been younger than Capaldi—and have gotten younger over time. The first of the new Doctors, Christopher Eccleston, was 41 when he first appeared on the show, while his successor David Tennant was 34. Capaldi’s immediate predecessor Matt Smith was just 26 when he was cast in the role.

But what Capaldi saw as a barrier to him playing the Doctor was actually an asset as far as Doctor Who executive producer and head writer Steven Moffat was concerned. “I did say, ‘No, we probably won’t end up with another quirky young man,’” says Moffat. “I didn’t think there was any space around Matt to have another Doctor of that kind, because he sort of sums up what you could do with that. I very very quickly, very quickly just thought about Peter. There is no right age to be the Doctor.”

Capaldi agrees. “I’m technically too young for the part,” chuckles the actor. “Because he’s over 2,000 years old.”

In contrast to Matt Smith and David Tennant, Peter Capaldi will not be flirting with his companion:

Incoming Doctor Who Peter Capaldi has revealed there will be no flirting with co-star Jenna Coleman in the new series.

The previous Doctor was engaged in a close relationship with his sidekick Clara that even led to a passionate kiss.

But Capaldi, 56, insisted his Time Lord would not be following in Matt Smith’s footsteps by getting intimate with 28-year-old Coleman’s character.

“There’ll be no flirting, that’s for sure,” he told the Sunday Times Magazine. “It’s not what this Doctor’s concerned with. It’s quite a fun relationship, but no, I did call and say, ‘I want no Papa-Nicole moments’. I think there was a bit of tension with that at first, but I was absolutely adamant.”

The Papa-Nicole comment relates to a series of 1990s Renault Clio car adverts which hinted at a romance between an older man and a younger woman, before they were revealed to be father and daughter.

Capaldi also had good news for those Doctor Who purists who believe the show’s storylines have become over the top.

“It’s going to be a bit different from what we’ve seen over recent years. A bit more gravity,” he said. “Some situations are more sombre and I think there are more rooted dramatic scenes. Over the past two or three years, which I’ve loved, there has often been a breathless vigour; we still have that attack, but we have another level of drama, another tone. And the scenes are longer.”

Big Bang Theory Cast

There’s optimistic news that the contracts will be settled with the cast of The Big Bang Theory. While filming has been postponed due to the lack of a contract, I don’t think anyone doubts that it is has just been a matter of haggling over exact dollar amounts and this will ultimately be settled, whether or not the stars get the full one million dollars per episode they are demanding. Both sides have have good reason to eventually come to an agreement.

Allison Williams

NBC is following up their live broadcast of The Sound of Music with Peter Pan. Allison Williams of Girls has been cast in the title role. She says she has wanted to play Peter Pan since she was three years old. While she very well might have obtained the role without any help, it might not have hurt to have some major connections with NBC. While excited about the role, Williams wonders, “what could go wrong in a live televised production with simultaneous flying, sword fighting and singing?”

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SciFi Weekend: Orphan Black; Walter White Possibly Still Alive; Eva Green In Controversial Sin City Poster; Lost & The Leftovers; Save Community; Under the Dome; Doctor Who; Karen Gillan; Ann B. Davis Dies

Orphan-Black Rachel Leakey

Most of this week’s episode of Orphan Black, Knowledge Of Causes, And Secret Motion Of Things, seemed like a lighter episode with less actual changes to move the story compared to other recent episode, until the end. Several characters did learn significant things they did not know before.

The episode introduced Marian, played by Michelle Forbes, as someone  high up in Dyad, but without the ambiguity as to whether he is good or evil seen in Leekie’s character. There was also a reunion between Sarah and Allison, with Tatiana Maslany once again having the opportunity to play one clone playing another. This situation was set up by Allison calling in Sarah for help after she made the mistake of trusting Vic with the truth about what happened to Aynsley before discovering he was spying on her for Angie. Sarah wound up filling in for Allison, both giving a speech for family day to the booze hounds and the pill poppers, and then engaging in role playing in which she pretended (not all that well) to be Allison playing Donnie who was speaking with Allison.

The same evening included additional comedy with Sarah and Felix carrying around Vic’s body Weekend at Bernie’s style after Felix spiked his tea with benzodiazepines. Donnie ultimately saw Sarah and Allison together and it became clear that despite being Alison’s monitor he had no idea that they were clones or what Leekie was really up to. Yes, I could believe Donnie is stupid enough to think he was helping a long term social metrics study. Needless to say, he became quite angry when he learned how he was being duped.

Donnie wasn’t the only one to learn the truth. Cosima found out that the stem cells were from Kira and was not happy about this either. She threw Delphine out of the lab saying, “This is my lab, my body. I’m the science.” Kira was the only one to learn something this episode without getting angry. Finding out that stem cells taken from her tooth were somehow significant, she calmly got a piece of string and pulled out another loose tooth.

Rachel found out that the first father to raise her was still alive and that Leekie had set the fire which killed her mother. Marian sided with Rachel, but Rachel did give Leekie a chance to survive on the run, with warnings not to get in his car or to go home. At first it looked like he was safer with Donnie finding him (although I’m not sure how he did it) before Dyad. Donnie happened to be holding a gun and accidentally blew Leekie’s brains out. Apparently keeping Leekie, Rachel, and now Marian around would have left too many at the top.

Entertainment Weekly interviewed John Fawcett about the decision to kill off Leekie:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s start with some words for the dearly departed Aldous Leekie.
JOHN FAWCETT: We knew Dr. Leekie was going to die in season 2. And we knew that was something that we wanted to work towards and was going to be a big part of the Rachel/Dr. Leekie story and be a big part of why we’ve been telling a lot of this backstory. Ultimately, I think we didn’t really know how we were going to do it. We knew we were going to do it, we just didn’t know how we were going to do it. And [co-creator] Graeme [Manson] early on had this idea that Donnie should kill Dr. Leekie. It’s funny because my initial reaction was “that’s ridiculous.” Then we sort of kind of went at it a bunch of different ways: Who would kill him? How would he die? And ultimately we came back to Donnie. We wanted to do it in a surprising sort of strangely comic fashion, and that was the result.

EW: And to have Donnie be an accidental triggerman is kind of perfect.
FAWCETT: Yeah, we wanted it to be surprising. And you know that Leekie’s life is in danger at the end of the episode. Rachel in a way kind of lets him escape, but there is a very real threat to his life, and Donnie just happens to step in the wrong place at the wrong time. The gun goes off.

EW: Obviously when you kill off a main character, that’s a big deal and you have to walk through the pros and cons of doing that. So why Leekie and why now?
FAWCETT: Well, I think that obviously Dr. Leekie and Matt Frewer are a big part of our show and it is a very big decision to decide to eliminate a character. We don’t want to just make those decisions lightly, and it really has to have a bearing on not just story structure of the season, but really the big picture also. It has to work towards our end goals. So we designed the first part of the season all the way to episode 7 knowing this was going to come to a head and that Leekie was going to die. We used that as building blocks for that character, and by the time the end came for him, he wanted to build a character that we actually had grown to like and maybe couldn’t entirely trust, but were having some sympathies for. And he wasn’t just a kind of a bad guy. He was kind of in a weird way helping. It’s interesting then to kind of kill off someone that actually the audience and the fans are sort of starting to like and care about. I think it was an important element to building that character and using his death to actually mean something at the end of episode 7, and going forward in the next bunch of episodes. Because Dr. Leekie’s death…the fact that he’s gone or missing or presumed dead or whatever — that informs a bunch of story in the coming episodes.

Fawcett made it sound pretty definite that Leekie is dead after we saw “brains on the window.” However this week there was a hint of another character possibly surviving an apparent death. Bryan Cranston suggested that Walter White might still be alive. He pointed out, “You never saw a bag zip up or anything.” Theoretically they could have him return on Better Call Saul, which sounds like primarily a prequel series but which might jump around in time. They better have a really good storyline to justify saying Walter White is still alive as otherwise his death in the series finale of Breaking Bad would be the best way to end his story.

Eva Green Sin City

The Motion Pictures Association of America is unhappy about this poster for the Sin City sequel, feeling it reveals too much of Eva Green.

The New York Times Magazine looked at Damon Lindelof, discussing both Lost and his new show,The Leftovers. His upcoming show is based upon the Tom Perotta novel:

The conceit of “The Leftovers” is also a kind of trick: 2 percent of the earth’s population disappears one day with no explanation. There appears to be no common denominator to the people who go missing. Condoleezza Rice is gone. The pope is gone. So is Gary Busey. It may be the Christian Rapture — when believers ascend to heaven — or it may not. The story begins on the third anniversary of what has become known as the Sudden Departure, and focuses on characters living in a world that is trying to figure out how to move on.

It’s a compelling but tricky premise for a TV show, because the show’s central mystery may (or may not) be teased out indefinitely. Perrotta’s novel wrapped up its story after 355 pages, but a successful HBO series has to sustain several seasons of intrigue. And because it is Lindelof’s first TV project since he was a creator of “Lost,” the ABC show that famously drew out several mysteries for many seasons — only to end with resolutions that many people found, to put it mildly, unsatisfying — this may be a good time to remember how comfortable Lindelof is with the whole idea of mystery. The short answer: very, despite everything.

Save Community

The most disappointing cancellation from last season was for Community. Now Deadline gives hope that Hulu might keep the series alive.

There is a glimmer of hope that there could be a sixth season of cult comedy series Community. I have learned that Hulu is in talks with Community producer Sony Pictures TV for more original installments of the show, which was cancelled by NBC earlier this month. Sources stress that conversations are preliminary and it is unclear whether they would lead to a deal, but I hear there is will on both sides. That includes Community creator Dan Harmon, who confessed on his blog that he had warmed up to the possibility of continuing the show elsewhere, changing his stance from “eh” when Sony TV called him with the news of the series’ cancellation by NBC to “sure, let’s talk” two days later. Said Harmon, “I’m not going to be the guy that re-cancels cancelled Community.”

My review of last week’s episode of Mad Men, the last until next year, was posted here.

under-the-dome-image

Collider discussed the second season of Under the Dome with Neal Baer:

Question:  What can you say about what viewers can expect from Season 2?

NEAL BAER:  We are really excited about Season 2.  It is the season of transformation.  Last season was the season of secrets being revealed.  Our characters were trapped under this impenetrable Dome, where no one could get in and no one could get out.  And because they were trapped in this hot house, their secrets started to come out.  This is the season where we will find out what they are truly made of.  One of our characters met a very untimely death, and so will another beloved character.  That doesn’t mean you won’t necessarily see them again, because anything is possible under the Dome.  But, we are very excited to continue our journey with these characters, and we have so many surprises in store, this season.

Are you going to deal with the practical aspects, this season, of how they are getting food, what happens when they run out of toilet paper, and things like that?

BAER:  That’s a huge part of it, and it really puts Julia and Big Jim at huge odds, in Episodes 3 and 4.

What new capabilities does the Dome have?

BAER:  It’s certainly magnetic.  We just love the butterfly metaphor. This is a season that’s almost about impending ecological disaster.  That magnetism has caused many things to happen.  So, you will be seeing, in the early episodes, our characters, and particularly Big Jim, confronting the almost Biblical problems of pestilence and bloody rain.  Our characters haven’t been the stewards that maybe they should be, protecting the land and protecting each other.  They have a lot to learn this year, and I guess the Dome is teaching them.  That’s what Julia keeps talking about.  We have to understand the message that the Dome is trying to give us, and what it is trying to teach us.

How many years do you think this can continue, given the structure of the book? 

BAER:  Well, I’m glad you brought up the book because Stephen King wrote the first episode, so he’s certifying that he is very much involved in this show.  The book is there for those who want to read it, if they haven’t, at this point.  But, we are way past the book.  The book is really only about the first week under the Dome, and we are already two weeks in.  This season, we will be going for two more weeks.  We really go day-by-day under the Dome.  If we lasted 15 years, that would really only be a year under the Dome.  So, I think it’s certainly possible to keep going because we have so many stories to tell. 

We have new characters, as well, who shake things up.  We’ve got Eddie Cahill coming on as San Verdreaux, who is Big Jim’s brother-in-law.  He has been a recluse for the 10 years since his sister died, and was an alcoholic.  We have Karla Crome coming on as Rebecca Pine, who is a school teacher.  We are really getting into the science versus faith elements this season.  Rebecca represents scientific explanations for what’s going on, versus Rachelle’s character, Julia, who is really much more about faith.  And Big Jim is in the middle, trying to figure it out.  We have Grace Victoria Cox, who is the young woman that Julia pulls out of the water.  She is a pivotal character whose connection will be revealed.  And we have Sherry Stringfield, my dear friend who I worked with on ER.  We have a reunion this season because Eric LaSalle will be directing Sherry in Episode 10.  We are excited about that.  So, Stephen writing the episode is really sending us off into a place that he feels really proud of and really loves.  It’s his ideas of how to go beyond the book.  It’s really special for us to have Stephen launch us this season.

Maybe Stephen King can get the show back on track.

Town Called Mercy

BBC and BBC America are running teasers announcing that Doctor Who will be returning in August with a new Doctor played by Peter Capaldi. Steven Moffat revealed that the BBC had considered canceling the show after David Tennant left but Russell T. Davies pushed to keep it going, giving us Matt Smith along with Karen Gillan. Not only does Karen Gillan have an upcoming sit-com, Selfie, she will also be staring in a Western, In a Valley of Violence. According to BBC America, “She joins Ethan Hawke, John Travolta and Taissa Farmiga in the story of a drifter (Hawke) turning up in a small town in the 1890s, ready to find and punish the people who murdered his best friend. Karen and Taissa play sisters that run the local hotel.” She has previous western experience in the Doctor Who episode, A Town Called Mercy.

Ann B. Davis, best known for playing Alice on The Brady Bunch, died on Sunday.

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SciFi Weekend: Hannibal; Orphan Black; Agents of SHIELD; Arrow; The Americans; Fargo; The Big Bang Theory

Hannibal - Season 2

Nako-Choko began as an extension of last week’s episode of Hannibal in which Will Graham was placed in a position where he was forced to kill. There were other events including first seeing Mason Verger and viewing parallel sex scenes. One involved Will and Margot Verger and the other was between Hannibal and Alana Bloom, morphed into a threesome.

Freddie Lounds was convinced that Hannibal Lecter is the Chesapeake Ripper and Chilton was framed, but Freddie saw too much. For a moment I thought she was better off to have been discovered by Will instead of Hannibal in a scene which reminded me of Grace’s final scene before she was killed. Instead it appears that Will has morphed into Hannibal, including bringing a part of her to be prepared by Hannibal for dinner.

There was a strong suggestion that this occurred but we did not actually see Will kill Freddie, raising some suspicion that she is actually alive and Will is engaged in a plan to trap Hannibal. Interviews with Bryan Fuller suggest that Will did kill Freddie, but it is possible the is engaging in misdirection to avoid spoiling future events on the show. First from TV Guide:

But he seems to be enjoying the killing. Is he still playing the long con?
Fuller:
 In order to really seduce Hannibal and also blur the lines between who Will is and what he needs to become in order to catch Hannibal, he’s sacrificing his humanity in some ways to get the truth. Up until the end of Episode 10, Hannibal has said nothing that is actionable and has not been demonstrative in any way with his own murders. He’s not going to put himself out there until Will makes it a safe bet. We needed Will to take a life. And of all the characters Will might want to kill, Freddie was the first one to get what was coming to her in Will’s mind.

Are Will and Hannibal definitely eating Freddie? I was hoping otherwise until Will referred to the meet as longpig, which is a phrase I wasn’t familiar with.
Fuller:
 [Laughs] I guess you’re not hanging around the right cannibals.

So, in your mind that makes it clear what Will has done to Freddie?
Fuller:
 It’s pretty clear. Will has gone to the dark side and we should be fearing for him. It is very much a slippery slope for Will Graham because he is taking lives and that changes the way you think and interact with the world. We set up the theme of rebirth in Episode 8, and in 10 and 11 we’re very much exploring the child that has been born out of this unholy union between Hannibal and Will. How are they going to foster and feed it?

They discussed the sex scene:

Let’s talk about that “foursome.” That has to be the weirdest sex scene I’ve seen on TV in some time.
Fuller:  
I wanted to have a Dead Ringers moment where you have two Jeremy Irons flanking Geneviève Bujold. And I wanted to have this triangle between two heterosexual men who are getting so intimate with each other, but because they’re heterosexual, they have to make love via proxy. I wanted Alana to be kissing Hannibal and the camera would follow her as she turned her head and she’d be kissing Will all in a single shot. The lines between the two sex scenes would blur. Our director, Vincenzo Natali, came to me a day before and said, ‘Can I put the Stag-Man in there or is that too weird?’ I said, ‘[Deadpans] Not too weird. Do it.’ [Laughs]

What did you want it to mean for the characters?
Fuller:
 I felt like it was an interesting opportunity for us to reestablish that Will was still pining for Alana [Caroline Dhavernas]. Even though he was having sex with Margot [Katherine Isabelle], he was still fantasizing that he was having sex with Alana. Intercutting that with Alana having sex with Hannibal, and the lines between those two sex scenes blurring so Hannibal and Will would be sharing a bed together, felt like it was representative of where we were psychologically with these three characters. Even though it’s primarily in Will’s head, it felt like it was where the characters needed to be to express the disturbing quality of their relationships.

What is behind Margo’s attraction to Will?
Fuller:
 She sees herself in Will and Will seems himself in her. We have two characters who are in similar situations finding themselves in need of a friend that is not Hannibal because neither of them trust that guy. With Margo and Will, there’s a trust. These are two characters who are keeping each other’s confidence from Hannibal.

Hannibal - Season 2

The other key aspect of the episode was the introduction of Mason Verger:

We finally met Michael Pitt’s Mason Verger in this episode. How did you approach creating that character?
Fuller:
 We wanted him to be the Joker to Hannibal Lecter’s Batman. With Michael Pitt, I found his take on Mason to be charming and despicable, and yet I liked him as a person. And I needed to like Mason in order to write him because I didn’t want to necessarily write the character in the book who raped his sister repeatedly her entire life. I can’t get excited about sitting down and writing that character if that’s the core of him. So, we changed his pedophilia and serial raping into a general sadism and curiosity of mankind that could more closely parallel Hannibal’s curiosity with mankind. Mason is constantly introducing choices for the people that he manipulates that hold a little more curiosity. He loves to push buttons and see how people will react to various stimuli in their lives.

The antagonism between Mason and Hannibal was almost instantaneous. Will you tell the story of their relationship fully this season, or do you expect to see Mason back in Season 3?
Fuller:
 The story line with Margot and Mason and Will and Hannibal crescendos in Episode 11, and it leaves way for Mason and Will and Hannibal to deal with each other more directly. These characters are outside of the psychobabble world that we’re usually contained in and give us this — I was going to say breath of fresh air, but it’s not exactly fresh;  it’s rotten — different energy for the second half of the season. We will deliver how Gary Oldman ended up looking the way he did in the Ridley Scott movie playing Mason Verger, but I would love, love, love to have more of Michael Pitt and Mason Verger in Season 3.

There were questions on Twitter regarding Will and Margot sleeping together considering that Margot is a lesbian. Bryan Fuller had no problem with this from Will’s perspective: “I asked straight men on the crew if they would sleep with a hot lesbian if she came knocking on their door and they said yes.”

Hannibal the-threesome-found-it

More on the sex scene in an interview with AV Club:

AVC: Where did the idea to throw Margot and Will together come from?

BF: Well, actually, the idea of throwing Margot and Will together came very early on. When we started talking about Margot’s character in the writers’ room, there was a faction of the writers’ room that was like, “She should be heterosexual, and we should write this stormy love affair with Will and Margot,” and I was like, “That is so diametrically opposed to who she is in the book.” You know, there’s a bit of an affair with Barney and a dalliance, so I got it in some way. But the pitch that kept on getting thrown around the writers’ room is that she was heterosexual, and this was an opportunity to get a lot of sex in the show between Will and Margot and I just thought, “I hear you on the sex part.” [Laughs.] “But let’s make it more in line with who the character is and what the character’s agenda is.”

One of her agendas in the novel Hannibal was to have a child. She couldn’t have a child, because her uterus was destroyed by steroids, and she was barren as a result, and that was all kind of a byproduct of her brother’s abuse of her, that she destroyed her femininity as a result of that. There was this miasma of elements between Margot wanting to have a child and the inability to have a child at that stage of the story that we were kind of combining in various ways. It also seemed like it was a good place to remind the audience of this rebirth and how Will Graham has been descending into this very dark place that has to do so much with death.

AVC: The sex scene takes up the bulk of an act of the show and seems to showcase how the boundaries are blurring between all of these people. What was the impetus behind that being a centerpiece of the episode?

BF: The first sex scene that we had in episode eight, the simple one between just two people, Hannibal and Alana, was something that I’d been wanting to do since episode six. We actually had a couple of directors who were terrified of it, because what I was describing was taking a sex scene that was as innovative as, say, the sex scene in Fight Club and finding a way to produce it on a television budget. Because the Fight Club sex scene, between Helena Bonham Carter and Brad Pitt, was wackadoodle and a combination of CG naked bodies and all sorts of fantastic, elaborate controlled camera movements that I think took two or three weeks to shoot because of how detailed it was.

So every time I talked about the sex scene and how I wanted it to have that out-of-body, ethereal feel to it, one director flat-out [said], “I don’t know how to shoot that,” and another director was like, “That’s going to take forever to shoot the way you want it,” and then Vincenzo came along and was like, “I know how to shoot that.” And he did a beautiful job. Then, of course, coming around to episode 10, Vincenzo Natali was back up to bat and was so excited about doing an expansion of his Hannibal sex-scene vocabulary by just throwing more people into it.

I knew that I wanted the barriers between all of these characters to come down in a way that they are very intimately involved in the conspiracies that are afoot and that the sex scene is very much a psychological one. That was important to me: to have a deeply psychological sex scene that blurred the barriers between whose bedroom we were currently in. Also, it felt like Will Graham, in order to really engage Margot in sex, had to have some sort of ulterior motive, and him fantasizing that he was having sex with Alana felt like it was honest. I think it’s not uncommon to be in a sexual circumstance and be fantasizing about somebody who’s not in the room with you at that point, so it felt like it was an interesting use of Will’s imagination in a completely different way. And we get to have a five-way.

Orphan Black Sarah and Cal

Mingling Its Own Nature With It introduced both another clone and a new character to the Clone Club on Orphan Black. Cosima saw a video of a clone dying of the same illness she has and later assisted in the autopsy. Sarah hid out in a cabin owned by someone who is apparently Kira’s father. The Hollywood Reporter has an interview with Michael Huisman, who played Cal, getting to some of the questions raised about this new character:

What did the producers tell you early on about who they wanted this guy to be?

He opens up a little about his past to Felix. Cal is a smart guy, who has a tech background and is a successful entrepreneur. He founded a company that started as a great cause creating mini drones and pollinators, but his partners sold out from underneath him to the military. That made him bitter. That made him more anti-corporation, maybe even more anti-government involvement than he already was. I always imagined that he was there [at the cabin] to get inspired for a new plan and a new adventure. I do think he made a lot of money but he wants to press the reset button. If it were up to him, he would start something else, but this crazy girl he met eight years ago, who he was in love with and left without any announcement, shows up again and completely messes up his life.

There were scenes where Sarah, Kira and Cal acted like a normal, happy family. Do you think they could ever achieve that?

Yes, I think so — if it was on another show with the three of them. (Laughs.) I think they could be a really happy family. But to be serious, although Cal is completely shocked when he finds Sarah there and when he finds out he [fathered] a daughter she never bothered telling him about, it’s this love-hate thing. He really cared so much for Sarah that even though she did this terrible [thing] to him, he finds it hard to kick her out right away especially since he’s finding out he has a daughter with her. Maybe for a split second after the initial shock has come down, maybe he thinks, “Wow, maybe this is something that would be an option for us to be some sort of family.” But of course, it turns out there’s a lot more going on. They’re not going to be a happy family any time soon.

There’s a lot of mystery surrounding Cal. Intentional?

It’s one of the main themes within Orphan Black. Who are these monitors, these people who have seemingly normal relationships with the clones but turn out to be working for Project LEDA or whatever? Without giving away too much, I can imagine the audience not accepting right away of Cal not being involved.

What is the road going to be like for Cal as he attempts to be a father to Kira?

First of all, he never really seems to doubt the fact that she is his daughter because the timing makes sense. But it doesn’t [confirm] 100 percent that she is his daughter. There’s something in her that he really connects with. Her instinct is stronger than his but he also has that [trait]. I wouldn’t call it a sixth sense or anything like that but that quality of reading people and being able to go by your gut, Kira has that so he easily feels connected to her. He’s convinced this is his child. At the same time though, he has no idea how to do this. I remember when my wife [Tara Elders] and I had our child [in 2007] I had no idea how to do anything, how to be a father, but at least I had time to grow into it and slowly ease into the role. I could totally imagine what a complete shock it is to all of a sudden be responsible for an eight-year-old girl who’s supposedly your daughter.

In other developments, Allison learned that pills and alcohol don’t mix, especially when in front of an audience. The police are going undercover, both Art and his partner. Allison saw through Angie, but thought she was a new monitor rather than police. Art is snooping around the Promethians, who held a very strange wedding and an even more disturbing wedding night for Helena.

agents-of-shield-season-1-episode-20-coulson-hill

There might be a lot of plot holes in Agents of SHIELD, but the show has become much more fun to watch, including the inclusion of Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill this week. Everyone now knows that Ward is HYDRA, with next week going more into his back story. They managed to come up with a surprise revelation on TAHITI to keep this season long story line interesting.

Arrow is heading into what looks like a second season finale which places Starling City in peril. Felicity was great as the interrogator and Bitch with WiFi.

Amy Acker’s role has evolved considerably on Person of Interest, with her character Root almost becoming the new leader with Harold captured.

Billy Bob Thornton and Martin Freeman continue to put on excellent performances as the leads on Fargo, with the supporting cast also doing a great job. Lester Nygaard is increasingly getting caught up in his lies. He would have been better off telling the truth while withholding some of the significant details as opposed to telling outright lies such as that his car was in the shop and denying that conversation in the hospital waiting room. How long can he hide that bullet?

Also on FX, The Americans continues to do an excellent job of mixing weekly stories with the season-long storyline on the murder of the agents (with Stan and the FBI now involved) along with multiple other story lines.  Bringing back Annelise from a season one episode added additional continuity. Besides the risk of the FBI closing in with their investigation, there is now Larrick to contend with, with Elizabeth and Philip also having to devote more time to dealing with Paige and her church.

Once again, Fox is not a safe place for science fiction. Almost Human has been canceled.

Big Bang Theory Professor Proton Star Wars Day

The Big Bang Theory combined the funeral of Professor Proton (Bob Newhart) with the celebration of Star Wars Day. May the Fourth be with you.

FHM has named Jennifer Lawrence as the sexist woman in the world for 2014. Perhaps going around nude (but painted) in the X-Men movies as Mystique helps while falling at the Oscars doesn’t hurt.

Tricia Helfer will star in Ascension, a six hour series for Syfy.

Matt Smith will join Amelia Clarke in the upcoming Terminator movie.

Joel McHale of Community spoke at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner this year. More, including video and the top jokes from both McHale and President Obama, posted here.

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SciFi Weekend: Her; Harry Potter and Hermione; Sleepy Hollow; Hannibal; Orphan Black; Arrow; Doctor Who; The Americans; Lex Luthor; How I Met Your Mother/Dad;

Her

This has been a very good year for science fiction movies. Her is very likely the science fiction movie which is receiving the most mainstream critical acclaim ever. Last night it won the award for best original screenplay from the Writer’s Guild of America. It ties with another science fiction movie, Gravity, for Best Picture from the Los Angeles Film Critics Awards (intentionally ignoring the debate as to whether Gravity is science fiction). Her was also a big winner at the National Board of Review Awards. Both Her and Gravity are nominated for Best Picture. There was controversy when various organizations declined to consider Scarlett Johansson for acting awards when she was not seen in the movie.

The important aspect of the movie is how people relate to the technology, along with their other limitations in dealing with other humans to the point where people pay others to write “personal” letters to their lovers. It still becomes impossible to ignore the technological aspects of the movie, primarily the question as to whether artificial intelligence could really be developed to the point seen in the movie. The co-creator of Siri looked at some of the abilities of Samantha which are well beyond what can currently be accomplished:

To get the “That’s incredible!” technology ball rolling, Samantha never made a mistake, never misunderstood nor misheard a word Theodore said. That’s tough to do in a loud, raucous world. Especially in loud places such as the circus scene, where you can barely hear the person next to you, let alone get the exact nuance of every word as you share the pandemonium through an earpiece.

And what about the scene where Samantha is literally spun around, viewing, understanding and commenting on the world she sees only through a jostling cameraphone lens bouncing around in Theodore’s pocket?

That would entail massively scaled real-time image recognition, spatial understanding, facial and mood recognition — as well as understanding the subtleties of thousands of social scenarios in order to predict that the couple sitting at the table were on a first date.

And such a conversationalist! Samantha not only discussed an amazing range of topics with Theodore, but was also incredibly adept at reflecting his mood in her own, varying the subtle tones and verbal inflections that indicate emotion. She even demonstrated an evocative handle on pop-culture terminology when he said in one scene, “No waaay.” And she replied, “Waaay.” Now that is some cool software.

Finally, I don’t even need to mention the complexities of building a program that’s adept at verbal phone sex, including all of the relevant and perfectly timed Meg Ryan-ish sound effects in perfect harmony with the partner on the other end of the line.

NPR’s Science Friday also discussed these topics recently. The podcast can be heard here.

Hermione

Reading the Harry Potter books, I thought that it was unusual that Ron and not Harry wound up with Hermione. Harry was the hero who defeated Voldemort. Typically he is the one who would wind up with the girl. J.K. Rowlings now admits she did get it wrong:

“I wrote the Hermione/Ron relationship as a form of wish fulfillment,” she says. “That’s how it was conceived, really. For reasons that have very little to do with literature and far more to do with me clinging to the plot as I first imagined it, Hermione ended up with Ron.”

Rowling also said that Ron and Hermione would have needed “relationship counseling.”

John Noble Sleepy Hollow

John Noble had a notable role as a recurring character in Sleepy Hollow. His role (spoilers) became even more important in the season finale when he was revealed to not only be Jeremy Crane, the son of Ichabod and Karina, but also War, the second horseman of the apocalypse. After seeing how he played both Walter and Walternate on Fringe, he was clearly underused as a supporting character, and there is no doubt he can handle an entirely different type of role in the second season. He has been promoted to a series regular. Lyndie Greenwood, who plays Jennie Mills, will also be a series regular, which does spoil one of the many cliff hangers in the season finale which left Jenni unconscious on the road.

Hannibal-season-2-poster-570x760

NBC is trying to build the audience for the second season of Hannibal in a way similar to how the audience for Breaking Bad increased after many people (including myself) caught up with previous seasons by watching on Netflix. They have entered into an exclusive agreement with Amazon Prime to carry Hannibal and some other series. I hope they are successful, but I wonder if Netflix has as much impact as Amazon. There is also some casting news for the second season, including Mason Pitt joining the series late in the season as Mason Verger:

Pitt, best known for his work as Jimmy Darmody on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, will play Mason Verger, “an unstable wealthy patient of Dr. Hannibal Lecter who begins a dangerous cat-and-mouse game with the deadly serial killer.”

Hannibal’s version of Mason Verger – which will likely be quite different from the character Gary Oldman played in the 2001 film – was compared to Andrew Scott’s portrayal of Moriarty on BBC’s Sherlock in a casting description for the role. Knowing that, it will be interesting to see Pitt bring the same explosive energy he brought to Jimmy Darmody to Verger; a character who’s more cunning and therefor more dangerous.

Joining Pitt is Katharine Isabelle (Being Human), cast as Verger’s sister, Margot. She will first be introduced as a patient of Dr. Lector’s who is dealing with trauma related to her brother’s abuse. But again, this won’t be until later in the season.

Episode titles on Orphan Black came from Darwin’s Origin of Species during the first season. Second season titles will come from the work of Sir Francis Bacon. The title of the first episode of the season will be Nature Under Constraint and Vexed.

Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) became a popular character during the first season of Arrow and in response the role of her character was greatly expanded. We know very little about her beyond moving from the IT Department to become Oliver Queen’s executive assistant to cover for all the time they spend together. Each season also has had a scene establishing that she is Jewish. She is finally going to get a back story this season.

doctor-who-peter-capaldi-costume

The first pictures have been released of Peter Capaldi in the outfit he will wear as the Doctor. There have been some complains on line ranging from his hair being cut too short (following Matt Smith) to the top button being buttoned despite lack of a tie. Obviously none of these complaints have any real relevance to how successful Capaldi will be in the role. There is a minor spoiler about a surprise voice-only cameo upcoming on Doctor Who:

Clara emerges from the TARDIS on her mobile phone, looking intense and emotional. She’s not speaking to anyone, rather she seems to be just listening. In fact, whatever she is listening to hits her hard, and she slumps into the wall of a nearby store. The message, it turns out, is from the previous incarnation of the Doctor, played by Matt Smith. Hanging up the phone, the Doctor, played by Peter Capaldi exits the TARDIS, and starts an exchange with Clara. He asks if that was the Doctor on the phone. More on that in a minute.

Emotionally, he insists to Clara; he is the Doctor, he’s 2000 years old, and he’s standing right there, in front of her. Cautiously, Clara walks straight up to this strange, older man in front of her.

Inquisitively, she looks up straight into the Doctor’s eyes, inspecting them, looking for the man she knows. The Doctor looks down into his companions eyes curiously, like an owl bemused. Suddenly, Clara throws her arms around the Doctor. For his part, the Doctor awkwardly holds his arms out around her, fingers splayed and startled and uncomfortable.

Clara immediately then clicks back into her normal, bouncy self, asking the Doctor where they are. He replied Glasgow (although we were definitely in Cardiff, I double checked), and they continue to chat before the scene ends.

New promo for The Americans above. The show returns February 26.

Jesse Eisenberg will play Lex Luthor in the upcoming Superman vs. Batman movie. I don’t really see Eisenberg in the role, but we will see.

So far the former stars of Friends have not been very successful with network sitcoms. David Schwimmer is attempting a return to network television in a pilot named Irreversible.

Irreversible, which is partially improvised in the vein of Curb Your Enthusiasm, centers on Andy (Schwimmer) and Sarah, a somewhat eccentric, self-absorbed couple, and their trials and tribulations — most of which they bring upon themselves.

cristin-milioti-rachel-bilson-how-your-mother-met-me

How I Met Your Mother had a fantastic 200th episode last week, going back over the time frame of the series from the perspective of the mother, played by Cristin Milioti. Characters have been outlined for the planned spin-off, How I Met Your Dad:

Sally: In her 20s but still not very grown-up and a little bit aimless, Sally has been married for a year to Gavin and is realizing they’re not meant for each other.

Danny: Sally’s older brother and opposite personality, he’s a driven lawyer who’s less than pleased when Sally moves in after splitting with Gavin. Danny is married to …

Todd: One of Sally’s best friends from college, who’s significantly more welcoming to having Sally as a roommate. Danny and Todd fill the Lily-and-Marshall/committed couple portion of the group.

Juliet: Sally’s “party-girl” best friend and the Barney of the group. She runs a fashion blog and has been telling Sally for some time that Gavin isn’t the right guy for her.

Frank: A “hot nerd” who heads up IT for Juliet’s site and has an unrequited (for the moment) crush on Sally. If Sally is the female Ted, Frank would be the male Robin (albeit with what sounds like a rather different personality).

Narrator: Future Sally.

 Philip Seymour Hoffman was found of an apparent overdose. His genre appearances include the Hunger Games movies and Red Dragon, based upon one of the Hannibal Lecter books.

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SciFi Weekend: Sleepy Hollow & Other Cliffhangers; Doctor Who & Sherlock Win At National Television Awards; The Americans; Arrow; Wonder Woman; Revolution; Hannibal; SHIELD

SLEEPY-HOLLOW-FINALE

Sleepy Hollow ended its first season with several cliffhangers, placing virtually all the major characters in some sort of danger. If they had known how successful the show would be, perhaps they wouldn’t have had to resort to such gimmicks. Get the viewers to return the next season based upon the quality of the show rather than ending with cliffhangers for the sake of cliff hangers. With all the shows now on, people aren’t even likely to recall all the cliffhangers, especially with the longer wait following a show with only a thirteen episode run.

This isn’t to say I oppose all cliff hangers. Back when Dallas first ran the Who Shot JR? storyline, this was somewhat unique for network television, and the buzz around it was a major television event. Star Trek The Next Generation had a great cliffhanger in Best of Both Worlds with Riker ordering the Enterprise to fire on Borg Picard.  The buzz over that summer helped make the show. Most cliffhangers are not this good and do not provide comparable benefits.

An alternative to the cliffhanger which I prefer is for a show to tie up the major story lines at the end of a season and then foreshadow what is coming next. Once Upon A Time did an excellent job with this. The show has been mixed quality-wise, but the old Lost writers on the show manage to keep things interesting by changing things every season. The Peter Pan story from the fall season was drawn out too long, but if you take out the middle episodes where everyone seemed to just wander around Neverland, it did end well. After concluding the story, there was a great final scene taking place a year later which sets up the show when it returns. They got the benefit of favorable publicity and talk about what is happening next without making the viewers wait to see the current story tied up.

Sleepy Hollow didn’t need a bunch of cliffhangers in the finale to create discussion among the fans. Without putting everyone in immediate danger, there was a major revelation and change for the show via John Noble’s character. It was like having him change from Walter to Walternate on Fringe but remain the same person. I was happy to see Captain Irving’s wife find out what is going on so he will no longer need to make lame excuses for not being home, but now we have to see him get off on the charges he confessed to to protect his daughter when processed. On top of all this, we got a flashback to see Zombie George Washington!

Doctor Who did well at the National Television Awards. The show won as Best Drama, beating Broadchurch, Downton Abbey and Call the Midwife. Matt Smith won for Best Drama Performance, beating  Miranda Hart (Call The Midwife), Martin Clunes (Doc Martin) and Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey). He was not present to accept the award in person. Instead it was accepted by Steven Moffat and Jenna Coleman (video above). Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock) won the award for Best TV Detective.

russell-americans_opt

The Americans returns February 26. Here’s some information released about the second season during a panel at the Television Critics Association press tour:

This season will turn the focus back on the family.
“We felt like [season 1] had been so focused on the marriage,” says EP Joe Weisberg, “and the natural place to go next was the family.” Particularly with Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth’s (Keri Russell) marriage on more solid ground, they wanted to move on to exploring “the next point of fracture” — the family unit.

Paige’s curiosity continues
At the end of the first season, the Jennings’ teenage daughter started to show signs of increasing curiosity about her parents and their ongoings, and this season, questions will start being asked and “it’s not going to go great,” says EP Joel Fields. “Teenagers are hard,” adds Weisberg. “They’re all tough on mom and dad.”

Margo Martindale returns
The actress will be back for several episodes this season as KGB handler Claudia. The fate of her CBS comedy The Millers will not determine what comes next for that character, as The Americans will be done filming the second season in March — well before broadcast network renewals are typically announced. That said, if Martindale finds herself available full time and the show gets a third season, “It’s hard to argue with more Margo Martindale,” says Fields. “We love that character and we love her.”

Martha will get a backbone this season!
Martha’s faux-marriage with Philip will actually serve to strengthen the character, who is widely thought of as insecure, the producers said. “Who she was was extremely lonely and extremely vulnerable and she’s less lonely this season, so it’s allowing her to grow,” says Weisberg. “It’s a law of unintended consequences,” adds Fields.

There’s a racy scene in the premiere
Without giving away too much, a racy scene in the season premiere had critics buzzing. According to Weisberg, the purpose was to depict a show of love between Philip and Elizabeth that was “powerful, shocking, and funny.” You’ll see.

Stan is in a power struggle.
“He’s got such an interesting season coming up,” says Weisberg. “Nina is getting ahead of him. You see that at the end of the first season, and that’s such an interesting place for him to be in and so true and so real for what happens to people when you’re playing this back-and-forth game. People who are smart and good can have people get ahead of them because they are also smart and good at what they do too.” And while Stan is a man who is used to a certain amount of pressure, what it does to him will be “great” to watch, he says.

BONUS BURNING QUESTION: Is the show ever heading to Russia?
The producers said they have “half-joked” about having a season that takes place in Russia, later admitting that such a task would require heaps of funding. But, they said, “I think we’re going to eventually have some storylines there,” teases Weisberg. In fact, he added, there will, like season 1, be some material set in Russia. But filming in the country remains on their to-do. “It would basically be a budget question,” he said.

Tremors

Arrow star Stephen Amell says that episode 15, The Promise, is “grandest, most challenging and most difficult episode” of the series:

“Episode 15 that we have coming up – and this is breaking news – it’s an island-centric episode,” he revealed to Entertainment Weekly Radio. “We take our usual format of 75% of the time in Starling City and 25% of the time on [the island], and we flip it upside down.”

He continued: “[In this episode], there is a shot where we establish where we are and it’s the biggest shot that we’ve ever done on the show. There’s people getting blown up. There’s people getting thrown overboard.

“There are all of these incredible things happening, and then the camera zooms from way, way, way out and it comes in to end on a close-up of me. And all I had to do was evade a punch and bang a guy’s head into the wall. I was super nervous!”

Gal Gadot2

Gal Gadot has been signed to appear as Wonder Woman in three movies: the Superman vs. Batman movie, a Justice League movie, and a Wonder Woman standalone movie. Presumably this might be extended further if the character does well.

I don’t know if this is the official final storyline, but this synopsis  (spoiler) of the Fantastic Four reboot leaked out from casting calls:

“The Fantastic Four’ will tell the story of two very young friends, Reed Richards and Ben Grimm. After an event transforms the boys, they find themselves empowered with bizarre new abilities. Reed becomes a scientific genius who can stretch, twist and re-shape his body to inhuman proportions. Ben becomes a monstrous, craggy humanoid with orange, rock-like skin and super strength. However, the two end up being owned by the government and used as weapons. But after they mature, two others with powers come into the picture – Sue Storm “The Invisible Girl” and Johnny Storm “The Human Torch.”

I’m glad I stuck with Revolution. The show still has its flaws, but when it gets away from the daddy issues of major characters, the current story lines are getting better. (Along these lines, when will they reveal that Miles is Charlie’s father? This is so obvious, even if it isn’t intended by the writers.) One good thing about the show from the start has been that the story does advance and they are not constantly repeating similar stories. Now there are the Patriots who are getting into eugenics. I thought the story line with Aaron and the nanobots was pretty dumb last fall, but suddenly that is becoming interesting. Of course any storyline with Giancarlo Esposito has hope due to the quality of his acting. Currently Tom and Julia Neville/Doyle are in Washington, D.C. but unfortunately for Tom his plot has been exposed. I’m sure he will recover from his current setback, but should they ever decide to end his time on the show, I hope he goes out in a scene where half his face is blown off, as happened with his character Gus on Breaking Bad.

A longer trailer for Season 2 of Hannibal, which starts February 28, has been released–video above.

Two characters will be killed in the first episode when Under the Dome returns. I’m having a tough time getting down to only two characters who I would like to see get killed. Maybe they can kill two characters every week. That might help the show.

HBO has renewed The Newsroom for a third and final season. I’m glad that Aaron Sorkin’s show will be returning, but wish there would be more than one season to go.

CHLOE BENNET

Maybe I’m getting softer, but I also think Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has improved. I am glad to hear that there will be more than has been revealed so far on the mysteries surrounding two of the characters according to an interview with Chloe Bennett:

Though “Seeds” and its “SHIELD Hogwarts” storyline was one of the series’ more playful episodes, Bennet says that the end of episode 13 “TRACKS” is “f***ing crazy” and will leave viewers “very worried.” Henstridge backs her up, saying that the rest of this season gets very serious and very intense.

“The thing about the next few episodes that we’re about to film and that are about to be shown, it starts getting very serious and the tone goes a lot darker,” Henstridge says. “There’s less kind of comedic things for us to do. The stakes just go through the roof. With Coulson having been kidnapped, things start to get very scary. So I think it’s more focused on the mission and there’s a lot of mystery around Skye, and that starts to be explored. So that’s kind of the main mystery.”

In terms of the mystery surrounding Coulson’s death, Bennet also acknowledges that there is a lot left fore viewers to find out — and that she thinks we’ll find out those answers before the end of Season 1.

“We found out what Tahiti was — or lack thereof — but we didn’t know why. Why is it a huge secret?” Bennet asks. “There’s a couple big question marks. There’s: What am I? Where am I from? Why the f*** are they not telling Coulson why he died? And then there’s: Who’s the Clairvoyant? Who’s the head of Centipede? What is happening? Basically starting next episode, it’s bam bam bam bam bam from here on, so it will be a lot of answers and a lot of drama.”

Jamie Alexander will be appearing on an upcoming episode reprising her role as Lady Sif from the Thor movies. There are also upcoming guest appearances from Stan Lee and Bill Paxton.

Parks and Recreation has been renewed for a seventh season, and it is looking hopeful that Community will return for a sixth season.

Colin Jost has been named to replace Seth Meyers as the anchor of Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live.

Mr. Selfridge returned last week for a second season on ITV. It picks up four years after season one, but the events of the end of the season still have ramifications.

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

Time of the Doctor1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time of the Doctor Wig

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

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

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

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

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

Time of the Doctor Amy Pond

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

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

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

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

Time of the Doctor Peter Capaldi

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The Time of the Doctor: The Fall of the 11th

Tardis North Pole

Some people count the days until Christmas. Others have been counting the days until the Doctor Who Christmas Special.

Is there someone you forgot to send a card to this year and need to pick up one quickly. The BBC has a set of Doctor Who cards you can download in pdf format and print. Here’s an example:

Doctor Who Christmas Card

It looks like the Daleks have joined the War on Christmas–Exterminate Santa:

Dalek Tree

This also means that the day which has been prophesied about has arrived, the fall of the 11th.

On the fields of Trenzalore, at the fall of the eleventh, when no living creature can speak falsely or fail to answer, a Question will be asked, a question that must never, ever be answered.

Doctor Who?

Fall of the 11th

Silence will fall

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Jenna Coleman on BBC Breakfast

Jenna Coleman talked about the Doctor Who Christmas special, The Time of the Doctor on BBC Breakfast. The discussion included the change from Matt Smith to Peter Capaldi.

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SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who; Homeland; Hannibal; The Americans; Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Series; Welcome To Yesterday

BBC America has released the above extended trailer for The Time Of The Doctor.

With the regeneration almost here, see the above video in which David Tennant tells Matt Smith about the inevitable fate of every actor to play the Doctor.

Steven Moffat felt it was wrong to kill off the Doctor (not that this is stopping him from doing it:

“Regeneration scenes are the toughest but most exciting part of Doctor Who – you don’t really know the show until you’ve written one.

“Previously, I’d only written Matt’s end of David’s regeneration – this is the first time I’ve actually killed off a Doctor. “It feels like a very wrong thing to do to your childhood, not to mention one of your friends!”

Above is a clip from The Time Of The Doctor in which Clara and the Doctor find that they need a time machine to finish the Christmas dinner turkey

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Besides scenes of cooking a turkey, the Christmas special includes a nude scene. Regrettably it is of Matt Smith and not Jenna Coleman. At least having Jenna Coleman’s name and nude scene in the same line should be good for several additional hits.

Moffat has discussed what would have happened if Christopher Eccleston had been willing to return for the 50th Anniversary episode, The Day Of The Doctor:

In the latest DWM, Moffat confirms that Eccleston would have filled what became John Hurt’s role: “Yes, but I was pretty certain Chris wouldn’t do it, although he did agree to a couple of meetings. So instead we had the challenge and excitement of introducing a BBC audience to a brand new Doctor.”

Asked if it would have been Eccleston ending the Time War instead: “Yes, but do you know, I was always nervous of that one, because it doesn’t fit with [2005's] Rose at all.

“[Eccleston] is a brand new Doctor in Rose, he’s absolutely, definitely new. It couldn’t have been is who pushed the button in the Time War, cos that’s a new man, very explicitly, in that episode. I also had trouble, I have to be honest, imagining it being Paul McGann’s Doctor.

“So all of this led me to the idea that if you’re going to sell to the Not-We audience a Doctor who essentially they haven’t seen before, then you have a freer hand than saying it has to be one of the ones you’ve already had. And it was predicated in getting an enormous star to be able to do it. We got John Hurt, so that was cool! Think of the fuss it’s created for us!”

Strax has issued a field report on Christmas in the video above.

Homeland Carrie Pregant

The season finale of  Homeland was essentially a reset for the entire series. (Mayor spoilers here for those who have not seen it yet). During the first season of the show, I had wondered how they could possibly do a second season with Brody. We learned later that the producers had planned to kill him off but Showtime intervened. They managed to find a way to do a second season with him, but it was not as good as the first season. There had to be a limit to how long they could base a show on questions of Brody’s loyalties. They even managed to drag this out into a third season, but the quality suffered.

They did manage to have a moment of suspense in which we weren’t sure whether Brody would seek asylum in Iran or complete the mission. The finale allowed for even more suspense as this was a rare situation in which viewers really could not be certain if the star of a show would live or die. We had hints that Brody would not make it. The show runners discussed in interviews how Showtime had not allowed Brody to be killed off earlier, but did agree he could die at some point. Shortly before the finale aired we learned that the roles of Brody’s wife and daughter would no longer be series regulars. Despite these opportunities, the past season was a disappointment compared to previous years.

Next season we will no longer face questions of Brody’s loyalties. Other aspects of the show were also reset. Carrie gave up her baby, and her mental illness does not appear to be an issue, at least for the moment. Even her disputes with the new CIA director are forgotten with Carrie being made a section chief. It remains to be seen whether Claire Danes can continue to carry the series, but it was clear they could not redo the first season yet again.

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Two of the best new series from last year return in February. NBC has released the above poster along with the release date for Hannibal Season 2–February 28. The Americans also returns in February–teaser below:

At the time of his death, Stieg Larsson had been at work in the fourth entry in his Millennium series which included The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. There had been hopes that someone else would complete the book but so far this has not been possible. It was announced last week that the series will continue with a new author:

With Larsson’s own fourth book unlikely to be completed soon because of a dispute between Larsson’s partner, Eva Gabrielsson, and his family, the publisher, Norstedts Forlag, has sought another author to take up Larsson’s standard. On Tuesday the publisher said that it has found its man in David Lagercrantz, a journalist and author who has published several novels and biographies, and is the co-author of “I Am Zlatan Ibrahimovic” (2011) the autobiography of a Swedish soccer star.

Larsson’s unfolding tale of the computer hacker Lisbeth Salander and the journalist Mikael Blomkvist has sold more than 73 million copies worldwide. Film versions of the first three books were produced in 2009, followed by David Fincher’s 2011 English language version of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” starring Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara.

The next book in the series is scheduled to be published in August 2015.

Welcome to Yesterday trailer is above. Looks like fun, even if not an original idea, with the movie set for release on February 28. I will be watching Hannibal that night, but if reviews are at all decent I will catch this movie eventually.

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