SciFi Weekend: Brilliant Work By Steven Moffat, Matt Smith, & Karen Gillan As Doctor Who Returns

Doctor Who returned this weekend on the BBC, with BBC America to show The Eleventh Hour on April 17. I’ll try to avoid any major spoilers here but those who don’t want to know anything before watching might want to turn around (as is also suggested at one point during the episode when The Doctor changes into his new outfit. (One mild spoiler: new companion Amy Pond doesn’t even consider turning around as he changes clothes.)

We have a new Doctor, a new companion, a remodeled Tardis, and Steven Moffat has taken over as show runner. Moffat is responsible for some of the top Doctor Who episodes in recent years, winning a series of Hugo and Nebula awards. His episodes include Blink, The Girl in the Fireplace, and a pair of  two-part episodes, The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances and Silence in the Library/The Forest of the Dead. Moffat has also shown his versatility in writing on previous shows, such as Coupling, one of the best sit-coms ever (BBC version).

It is largely due to Moffat’s talent that Matt Smith succeeded in taking over the lead role following David Tennant, considered by many to have been the best actor to play The Doctor so far. The show opened where the regeneration scene in The End of Time Part II left off. The Tardis was flying low over London with The Doctor hanging on out the door.  As has happened with some other regenerations, The Doctor was just not quite himself for a while, providing some of the more humorous moments of the series. With a series of events I will not spoil, The Doctor wound up meeting his new companion, Amy Pond (Karen Gillan), and faced a new threat to earth.

The episode shows many of the aspects of Moffat’s style. While time travel has generally been used as a device to get The Doctor to a certain place and time for a story, Moffat actually uses time travel as a factor within many of his stories. Aspects of this story which were reminiscent of his earlier story, The Girl In The Fireplace. While far less than in Blink, there was more suspense than is usually seen in the stories by other Doctor Who writers. We have a new Doctor who is different from earlier ones but very strong continuity is also maintained with the past.

Karen Gillan did an excellent job as The Doctor’s new companion, Amy Pond, and I see reason to believe she will become as significant a character on her own as recent companions such as Rose Tyler (Billy Piper). She is already attracting considerable attention over the internet, with Google searches for old pictures of her breaking traffic records here–especially when she is scantily clad. (This is especially appropriate as Moffat’s characters on Coupling often described the internet as primarily being a repository for porn.) Not only was Moffat’s experience as a sit-com writer of value for the scenes of a totally messed up Doctor post-regeneration. Amy Pond, who has worked as a kissogram and likes to wear short skirts, could have fit in well on Coupling.

I’ve seen some apprehension on line before the episode aired that Moffat might throw out the past and recreate a different show. There was nothing to fear. Moffat has always been a big fan of Doctor Who, even turning down work with Steven Spielberg when he had the opportunity to work on this show.  Moffat brings his own style, but it is clear in this episode that Moffat considered the entire history of the show in developing his version of The Doctor. Matt Smith’s Doctor, while his own character, is clearly portrayed as part of a long succession of Doctors, and references are also made to the villains he has beaten in the past. Where Moffat’s style varies from past Doctor Who writers, it will only strengthen the show.

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.

Billie Piper Returning to Doctor Who

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The BBC has confirmed rumors that Billie Piper, who played Rose Tyler, the first companion to Doctor Who after the series was revised, will be returning for three episodes in the upcoming season. Piper was named most popular actress at the National Television Awards in 2005 and 2006.

There will be quite a few returning companions next season. Catherine Tate, first seen in the Christmas special, The Runaway Bride, will return as Donna for the entire season. Freema Agyeman will return for part of the season after appearing in an arc on the Doctor Who spin off Torchwood. There are also rumors that John Barrowman, a previous companion who now stars in Torchwood as Captain Jack Harness, will also appear next season. A Doctor Who spin off staring Piper had been considered at one point.

SciFi Friday: New Movies and Rumors on TV Renewals

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The hottest genre film of the year (at least until the release of Spiderman 3) is Cleaver, produced by Christopher Moltisanti and Carmine Lupertazzi. The film is described as “The Saw meets The Godfather II” and some believe it might provide some clues to the mysterious disappearance of Moltisanti’s former girl friend, Adriana La Cerva. Among those attending the premier was Anthony Soprano, who helped finance the film. An HBO Documentary on The Making of Cleaver is posted above.

We also have a little news on another upcoming film. JJ Abrams has confirmed that Star Trek XI will feature Captain James T. Kirk and respect Star Trek canon. “The respect we all have for Star Trek canon – and for a brand-new audience – is massive. The script is done. We’re now starting pre-prep, and we can’t wait to start shooting! Many more details to follow!” Trek Today quotes Star Trek consultant Richard Arnold as saying the film will also be true to Gene Roddenberry’s vision:

Arnold had explained the day before at the convention that Abrams called him after Leonard Nimoy (Spock) suggested that Arnold would be a good choice to bring a message to the fans. He said that he and Abrams had discussed Arnold’s perceptions of series creator Gene Roddenberry’s vision, adding that former executive producer Rick Berman had once described the original Star Trek as “‘pollyannish'” to which Abrams declared, “‘I think we can all do with some pollyanna.'”

Anyone else feel that 24 is spending the season simply taking elements of previous seasons and mixing them up in random order? We have a nuclear explosion early (making everything else seem anti-climatic), fights over the Presidency, and even Jack going rogue. We’ve seen it all before, with the one inexplicable twist that this time Cloe doesn’t back Jack. Maybe we need some new ideas for the writers, which leads to this suggestion from Lorelei Gilmore:

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This week’s episode of Gilmore Girls might have done the best job of recapturing the old feeling of the show, with Lorelei’s ambivalence about Logan possibly foreshadowing changes in the relationship between Rory and Logan. The latest rumor is that Gilmore Girls might return for an additional season with reduced episodes.

While some rumors claim that Veronica Mars will not be renewed (and her Logan suffers a fate similar to Rory’s), The Toronto Star quotes Enrico Colantoni, who plays Veronica’s father, as having some hopeful news, even if he might underestimate the number of people who follow both Veronica Mars and Gilmore Girls:

“No one knows anything,” the actor insists over double espresso at his old haunt, Café Diplomatico. “But I love how people think they know …

“We were outside the bubble for the longest time…. And then they put us on after the Gilmore Girls. But people weren’t sticking around after Gilmore Girls, because it’s really a whole different audience.

“The thing is, anyone who actually sees Veronica Mars is going to love Veronica Mars. I mean, I have yet to meet anyone who’s like, `Eh …'”

That being said, and despite the failure of the experimental retooling, a new initiative came down from even farther out of left field to take the show in a whole new direction.

“Rob (creator/producer Thomas) and a couple of the other executives said, `Let’s make a little showcase pilot of what Veronica could be like in four years.’ They thought Dawn might latch on to the idea of Veronica as an FBI agent in a kind of sexy workplace environment, á la Grey’s Anatomy, that kind of thing.

“We shot 10 pages and they saw it and the reaction was, `That’s not our show.’ Then they saw the last episode of this season, and it was so on the money … it was like the first two years. And I think the network was very excited about that.

“You know how it works. They’ve got six new pilots. And if some of those tank, or if Gilmore Girls doesn’t come back, then of course they’re going to want us back.”

In other rumored renewals, SyFy Portal reports rumors that Jericho might be given a second season.

The third season of Doctor Who continues in Great Britain, and based upon all the on line talk about the current episodes I wonder if there will be any fans left who haven’t downloaded them by the time they ever air in the United States. The Doctor takes Martha to New New York, not understanding why she was a little upset about being taken to the same place The Doctor once took Rose (who has been mentioned every week since she left the show).

In Gridlock, New New York has changed since The Doctor and Rose were there. The story has so many clever ideas that it is easy to overlook the many flaws in the idea. The Doctor again meets Boe, who finally reveals the secret he promised to tell The Doctor in previous appearances. The Doctor is told he is not alone, which, in combination with the discussions with Martha about Galifrey during the episode, suggest that there is another Time Lord remaining alive. I bet this turns out to be The Master, who is rumored to be returning at the end of the season.

Last weekend we presented Saturday Night Entertainment with a music video from Billy Piper in her days prior to her role as Rose Tyler. Needing some better entertainment after hearing John McCain sing Bomb Iran, I’ll present another music video from Billy Piper tomorrow night.

Breakfast with Freema Agyeman

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If Saturday night’s entertainment came from Billie Piper, it only makes sense to have breakfast wtih Freema Agyeman, who replaced Rose Tyler as The Doctor’s new companion, Martha Jones. The video from BBC Breakfast includes clips from the third season premier episode of Doctor Who. Here’s some more clips, including The Kiss:

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Saturday Night Entertainment: Billie Piper–Something Deep Inside

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Some people have uploaded tonight’s episode of Doctor Who, but not enough for a good quality bit torrent download. As it might take until tomorrow until the episode can be downloaded, here is something for Saturday night entertainment–a music video from Billie Piper, who was a top British pop star prior to playing Rose Tyler. Come back in the morning for breakfast with Freema Agyeman.