SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who; Matt Smith and Benedict Cumberbatch Take Ice Bucket Challenge; Gotham; True Blood; Minority Report; Dating Naked; Richard Attenborough

Doctor Who Deep Breath

We now have a new regeneration of the Doctor, a redecorated TARDIS, and a new title sequence on Doctor Who. Unfortunately the plot of Deep Breath was not very good. There was the return of the droids from The Girl in the Fireplace. Unlike the challenge of not blinking in Blink and other stories with the Weeping Angels, the challenge in this episode was seeing how long you could hold your breath. There was plenty of humor between the confusion of the Doctor post-regeneration, along with cultural misunderstandings and the usual Strax humor. In addition, Moffat’s inner teenager came out wigh having a dinosaur and multiple allusions to Clara either removing her clothes or having sex. The Doctor did do some flirting, but only with the female dinosaur and not Clara, plus there was a human/lizard lesbian kiss. There was even the reported cameo by Matt Smith, telephoning Clara from his past.

While this episode was far from one of the better post-regeneration episodes, the episode did leave me confident that Peter Capaldi will make an excellent 0ld school style Doctor, and of course Jenna Coleman remains an excellent companion, even if there is no flirting or actual removal of her clothing. There are some vague clues of things to come. While we know that the reason the Doctor has seen his face before is because Peter Capaldi has appeared on Doctor Who in other roles, it appears that the reason for the same face will be given an explanation within the story in future episodes. The end of this episode left open the possibility that this could be the start of a new arc, with Missy apparently having had key roles in the past, such as giving Clara the Doctor’s phone number in The Bells of St. John. Capaldi presented what could also be a theme for the season: “I’m the Doctor, I’ve lived for over 2,000 years, and not all of them were good; I’ve made many mistakes, and it’s about time I did something about that.”

Next week: Daleks.

There is a rumor that Jenna Coleman will be leaving Doctor Who in the Christmas episode. Peter Capaldi denies this.

There are alternative versions of Doctor Who. For example, check out the above video celebrating fifty years of American  Doctor Who. IO9 looked at a porn parody of Doctor Who which can be viewed at Woodrocket.com.

Matt Smith has taken the Ice Bucket Challenge to raise money for research on ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). Benedict Cumberbatch of Sherlock went even further, including getting naked in the shower for a repeat exposure. Contributions to the ALS Association can be sent through their web site.

Last week I noted that the pilot for A to Z is available on line. A sit-com pilot with an even stronger genre connection was released this week–Selfie staring Karen Gillan.

A four-part You Tube series with background on Gotham has been released. The first part is above.

True Blood finally reaches the true end tonight. Does anyone even care anymore whether Bill really goes through with true death or if the show end with true love? At least there were some humorous moments in the final few episodes, such as Ginger finally getting to have sex with Eric. The scene is discussed more here.

My theory as to how the series ends is that Sookie will decide to become a vampire to convince Bill that the two of them can spend eternity happily ever after. Bill refuses to turn her into a vampire so she goes to Eric. By the time Sookie gets out of the ground she finds that Bill has already died from Hepatitis V. Meanwhile Pam, thinking Eric turned Sookie into a vampire for herself, kills Sookie. Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll) then leaves the show for a role on Daredevil. We will find out later tonight if my prediction comes through.

Steven Spielberg is developing a television series based upon the movie Minority Report.

Dating Naked

The big law suit this week stemming from television is Jessie Nizewitz suing Viacom for $10 million because not everything was obscured in the airing of Dating Naked. This led to many web sites (including here) posting the uncensored picture. I do not think a model should film a television show entirely naked if she has any qualms about pictures of her crotch getting out. Plus I would bet that far more people have now seen her nude pictures following the publicity from this law suit.

Richard Attenborough has died at age 90.

Lord Attenborough was one of Britain’s leading actors, before becoming a highly successful director.

In a career that spanned six decades, he appeared in films including Brighton Rock, World War Two prisoner of war thriller The Great Escape and later in dinosaur blockbuster Jurassic Park.

As a director he was perhaps best known for Gandhi, which won him two Oscars.

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, The War on Christmas, Saving Greendale (And Inspector Spacetime), Sherlock and The Hour Returning For Second Season But Future Of Terra Nova In Doubt

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Npe-7u1EFPw

Two clips from The Doctor, The Widow, and The Wardrobe (this year’s Doctor Who Christmas special) have been released (above).

For those who might have missed my posting of this earlier in the week, The BBC has released the above prequel video.

Recently I mentioned the search for lost episodes of Doctor Who and now two lost episodes of Doctor Who from 1965 and 1967 have been recovered. Video clips above.

Next time you hear conservatives talk about the War on Christmas, ask if it is possible if it was the trees which started the war.

Or perhaps we should not ignore the harm done to Christian children by Jews, atheists, and gays in the War on Christmas. See the public service announcement above.

Community is going on hiatus until spring but did end for the fall with more Inspector Spacetime.

With Inspector Spacetime gone, we will have to settle for Excellent!, a comedy spin off of Doctor Who staring the Cybermen. Title sequence above. Not satisfied? Then we must Save Greendale. Beyond Inspector Spacetime, more reasons to save Community are  listed here.

Spin, a short film by Jamin Winans which has won over 40 film festival awards worldwide, shows the complexities of trying to control time in the video above.

 

There are some hints as to what happens in the season finale of Terra Nova next week:

Someone’s going to die. That much has been leaked about the upcoming two-hour finale on Fox’s Terra Nova, and star Allison Miller promises that fans are not going to be at all happy if the Steven Spielberg dino drama doesn’t get a second season.

“There’s going to be so much left unanswered,” Miller told EW. Miller plays Skye, a traitor within the Terra Nova camp.

The finale, which airs on Monday, Dec. 19, at 8 p.m., opens with the colonists anticipating the arrival of the 11th Pilgrimage. Producers have already spilled that not just one, but two people will die, including a “person who is without family,” there will be an explosion, and there is an unexpected trip back to 2149.

“It felt like we went back to the pilot as far as the scope and scale of everything,” said Miller. “It’s just so huge, it sort of has this post-apocalyptic feel to it that’s dark and interesting.” As far as who might be killed off in the finale, “I was so disappointed. I mean, it’s heartbreaking. It’s so, so sad.”

However, she does say we’ll get some answers. We’ll learn why Lucas wants the portal to go into the future, as well as the past, and how Lucas and Taylor ended up on different sides of things. “You’ll know exactly what has been driving them apart all these years,” said Miller. And we’ll find out about an organization with “something else in mind for Terra Nova.”

Since we’ve already heard about new evildoers named the Phoenix Group, we’re guessing that might be the organization she’s talking about.

According to executive producer Brannon Braga: “We have supercharged the premise of our show in a very chilling way. … Everything changes.”

“It would not be fair to anyone to not give us a second season,” said Miller.

I would like to see the show have more time to develop, but getting a second season has nothing to do about fairness. The first season could have been developed more, but the key factor  in delaying a decision is probably the high cost of the show.

Sherlock returns on BBC1 on January 1. Spoiler TV has interviews with Steven Moffat, Mark Gatiss, and Benedict Cumberbatch on the second season. The first episode is A Scandal In Belgravia:

The contemporary re-imagining of the Arthur Conan Doyle classic, co-created by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, caused a sensation in the summer of 2010, delivering an audience of more than nine million viewers who tuned in to watch Sherlock and John Watson navigate a maze of cryptic clues and lethal killers in three thrilling, action-packed adventures.

In episode one of this new series, compromising photographs and a case of blackmail threaten the very heart of the British establishment but, for Sherlock and John, the game is on in more ways than one as they find themselves battling international terrorism, rogue CIA agents and a secret conspiracy involving the British government. But this case will cast a darker shadow over their lives than they could ever imagine, as the great detective begins a long duel of wits with an antagonist as cold and ruthless and brilliant as himself: to Sherlock Holmes, Irene Adler will always be THE woman.

The BBC has announced that The Hour will return for a second season:

Critically-acclaimed drama, The Hour will return to BBC AMERICA next year with a mini-series sequel, once again co-produced by the network.

Written and created by the award winning Abi Morgan (The Iron Lady, Shame, Sex Traffic) and produced by Kudos Film and TV, the new six-parter (6×60) sees the return of the highly competitive, sharp-witted and passionate news trio Bel (Romola Garai), Hector (Dominic West) and Freddie (Ben Whishaw) alongside beloved Lix (Anna Chancellor), scheming McCain (Julian Rhind-Tutt) and newly assertive Marnie Madden (Oona Chaplin), in this highly acclaimed 1950s newsroom drama.

The next installment rejoins The Hour team a year later in 1957 where we are introduced to new characters played by Peter Capaldi (The Thick of It, The Nativity) Hannah Tointon (The Inbetweeners) and Tom Burke (State of Play).

Perry Simon, General Manager, Channels, BBC Worldwide America says: “The Hour successfully launched BBC AMERICA’s new Dramaville franchise in August by setting the standard for great British drama. Abi Morgan and the Kudos production team delivered an extraordinary television experience and when the opportunity arose for us to co-produce a sequel we jumped at it. I can’t wait to see the next chapter in the lives of these brilliant characters.”

Jane Featherstone, Creative Director and Executive Producer, Kudos Film and Television, says: “In series two of The Hour we are going to find out what happens next in the lives of our news team, as they engage with a new year full of old flames, new loves, thrilling stories and plenty of scandal. Taking us even deeper into our characters’ lives and engaging the viewers with its energy, wit and story, we’re chuffed to bits to be able to keep the world alive.”

The sequel will see the team still striving to broadcast the stories they believe in, as they grapple with the looming spectre of the Cold War and changing social mores. It will chart political intrigue and corruption against the highly charged backdrop of a country in the grip of unsettling and rapid change. With the space race and nuclear power, Britain seems on the threshold of a new era of modernization, economic optimism, scientific progress and cultural change in the face of new immigration from the Commonwealth. But under the buoyant veneer, our characters become deeply embroiled in cover-ups, sexual intrigues and the resurgence of Mosley’s fascism…

Bel Rowley is still single and determined not to get involved with another married man. Clarence is in prison and she must now report to Randall Brown (Peter Capaldi) the eccentric new Head of News. While juggling the sparky relationships around her, she finds out that Hector is being lured to ITV. She fights for her program and finds herself taking on her adversary, Bill Kendall (Tom Burke), a producer whose magnetic charm she can’t help but find irresistible.

Hector Madden has risen to the status of a national celebrity, all while maintaining his lifestyle as a happily married man and face of The Hour. He is unsettled by Marnie’s desire to establish her own career and finds himself drawn to the late night clubs of Soho where he befriends Kiki (Hannah Tointon), a club hostess. No longer happy at The Hour under Randall’s new regime, he is tempted by offers from ITV, but when a night at the club goes badly wrong, scandal threatens and Hector must try to stop a news story that could destroy his marriage and his career.

Freddie Lyons, who was fired after ‘The Lord Elms’ live interview, makes an unexpected return to The Hour. Having been away for several months travelling around the world, he returns as co-host of The Hour, to both Bel and Hector’s surprise. He has however not lost his passion to investigate and as he becomes embroiled with exposing a cover-up, it becomes clear that the ghosts of the past will not let Freddie go.

Lix is still heading up the foreign desk, fighting for airtime for international stories, but a new side to her is revealed when Randall arrives at The Hour. Meanwhile, McCain (Julian Rhind-Tutt) is now Head of Press for Macmillan, protecting the recently elected Prime Minister and the closed circle of his cabinet.

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who– Petrichor, For The Girl Who’s Tired of Waiting; The Wedding of River Song; Upstairs Downstairs; Community; Inspector Spacetime; Fringe; Terra Nova

Petrichor, while not used as frequently as Bad Wolf in a previous season, has become the word of the season on Doctor Who. Before its use in Closing Time,  Petrichor was mentioned in The Doctor’s Wife, first by Idris, and later Amy Pond used it as a telepathic password to enter one of the TARDIS’s old control rooms.

Idris: It means “the smell of dust after rain.”
Rory: What does?
Idris: Petrichor.
Rory: But I didn’t ask.
Idris: Not yet. But you will.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R7Fl6Jwabwo&feature=related

Closing Time was primarily, but not exclusively, a light show in which the Doctor visited his old friend Craig from The Lodger. Craig is played by James Corben, who co-wrote and acted in the fantastic BBC sit-com Gavin and Stacey. The episode also included Cybermen along with a view of Amy Pond’s perfume for the girl who’s tired of waiting (video above). Ultimately the story really didn’t matter. Corben’s role wasn’t as good as in The Lodger, but I’m always happy to see Craig/Smithy.

Near the end of the episode, the Doctor, wearing a stetson, was preparing to meet his fate. He spoke to some children before entering the TARDIS, and then the scene shifted to River Song reviewing interviews with the children about what they saw. The final moments (major spoilers ahead) confirmed what most suspected ever since Flesh and Stone. River Song kills the greatest man she ever knew, and this could only be the Doctor. The episode ended with an adult Dr. Song/Melody Pond being forced into the astronaut suit and is next seen under water, presumably at Lake Silencio.Here is the final scene and commentary from Steven Moffat:

Next week, The Wedding of River Song. The BBC has released this above prequel scene:

The BBC reports that Alex Kingston is also joining the cast of Upstairs Downstairs.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kRPeqaZiQ-M

There was a second type of connection between Doctor Who and the Upstairs Downstairs genre of British television shows. On Community, it was claimed that Cougar Town was based upon the British television show Cougarton Abbey. This was intended to distract Abed until Cougar Town returns but Cougarton Abbey, like many British shows, wrapped up in a very short time. This led to Britta showing Abed another British show, Inspector Spacetime, seen in the video above. Who knew that there was a British time travel show a year before Doctor Who began?

Community managed to beat out the other Thursday night genre comedy, The Big Bang Theory, at least in terms of genre references. Besides including references to Cougar Town, Downton Abbey, and Doctor Who, the episode also had an  homage to the ending of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Last week Fringe returned. Not only don’t we know where Peter Bishop is, everything else we knew could be changed in this timeline where adult Peter never existed. We already saw that Walter is somewhat different, never leaving his lab. There could be even bigger differences, such as perhaps characters who died in past seasons such as alt-Broyles still being alive.

Steven Spielberg’s latest television genre show, Terra Nova, starts tomorrow. The New York Times has a review. I’m glad that the show takes place in a different timeline, denying Sarah Palin the opportunity to use this as evidence that humans and dinosaurs co-existed.

Steven Moffat Wins Judge’s Award From The Royal Television Society

Congratulations to Steven Moffat for receiving the Judge’s Award for outstanding contribution to television from the Royal Television Society. It is amazing that Moffat could be great at such a wide variety of writing, from Coupling, one of the best sit-coms ever written, to an updated version of  the Sherlock Holmes stories, to taking over as show runner of Doctor Who.

“The Judges’ Award is given for an outstanding contribution to television, and there are few screenwriters in the world whose work boasts the same incredible range as tonight’s recipient. Equally at home with horror, detective stories, situation comedy, action adventure and sci-fi, this year’s winner is an author in the truest sense of the word. With a vocation encouraged by his father, his first foray into television arrived in the form of the awarded and still iconic children’s drama series Press Gang. (The first and last time he needed a leg-up from anyone but not the last time he would call on a family member for help). With a clear comic ability and an already-proven knack for seeing the insane and ironic in ordinary life, tonight’s winner forged a highly accomplished career in situation comedy during the 90s, paving the way for his most successful original comedy to date, Coupling – regarded by many as a paradigm for near-perfect comic writing and storytelling. Sitcom, it would turn out, was the perfect warm up for tackling two of the biggest icons in British fiction in his most recent works: Sherlock and Doctor Who. Channeling all that he had learned about structure into shaping mind-bendingly brilliant sci-fi and thriller plots, as well as placing a funny man/straight man pairing at the centre of extraordinary and impossible circumstances, with his friend Mark Gatiss he invited an entirely new audience to claim Holmes and Watson as their own. And in his downtime reinventing Doctor Who to overwhelming critical and ratings success from the get-go. There are few writers who would trade Steven Spielberg and Hollywood to work with the Daleks in Wales but this man did. Indeed, with a seemingly inexhaustible resource of utterly distinctive plots and the ability to use comedy liberally to form a devoted connection with the audience, our winner is living, typing proof of why television remains THE writer’s medium.”

SciFi Weekend: Fringe & Other TV Shows; Scientology; Lisbeth Salander As Libertarian & Leftist Heroine; The Ultimate “Leftist” Novel

This week’s episode of Fringe appeared to be a stand-alone story until late in the episode. I was surprised to find that it tied into the ongoing mythology of the show by having the results of Alan Ruck’s experiments, which never should have worked, become successful in making people lighter than air due to the laws of physics breaking down as a result of the rift between the universes.

The story also featured Walter obsessing about bringing William Bell back to live, along with getting high with Jorge Garcia of Lost, at Massive Dynamic. There was a lot of Peter and Olivia. Somehow seeing our Olivia smiling this much just didn’t look right. It looked more natural in Fauxlivia. The episode ended with another surprise as Anna Torv now has a  third charter to play–William Bell possessing the poor Olivia’s body. One can just imagine what that would do should Peter get Olivia into bed again. There’s no doubt that this will lead to the return of William Bell’s physical body with Leonard Nimoy confirming on Twitter that he has already come out of retirement.

BBC America has announced that the upcoming season of Doctor Who will premier April 23 at 9:00 p.m. There’s no official date from the BBC, but there are rumors that they are also airing the first episode on April 23 and the second of the two-parter on April 24. If true, hopefully BBC America will also air both parts the first week and not fall a week behind.

Among last week’s television shows, V appears to be ending the season with more enjoyable shows, despite the numerous plot holes which persist. The Event returned, but it remains questionable as to how long they can drag out this storyline. The Cape’s final unaired episode has been  posted on line. Terra Nova, a Steven Spielberg produced show about people escaping to the prehistoric past, has been moved back from May until next fall.

Michael Crowley has an article at Slate noting L. Ron Hubbard’s 100th birthday, noting “how truly strange Scientology is.” If we were going to have a science fiction writer devise a religion which has as many followers as Scientology, why couldn’t it be one more along the lines of the freer religions devised in novels by Robert A. Heinlein?

Benjamin Kerstein at Pajamas Media questions how a leftist such as Stieg Larsson managed “to create a libertarian parable for the ages” with Lisbeth Salander in his Millennium Trilogy:

Lisbeth Salander explodes like a grenade tossed into an ammunition dump. Ferociously individualist, incorruptible, disdainful, and suspicious of all forms of social organization, and dedicated to her own personal moral code, Salander often seems to have stepped into Larsson’s world from out of an Ayn Rand novel. She despises all institutions, whether they are business corporations, government agencies, or the Stockholm police. Rejecting all forms of ideology, she is dedicated only to her own individual sense of justice. Relentlessly cerebral, she trusts only what she can ascertain with her own mind and her own formidable talents. She considers Blomquist a naïve fool because of his belief that social conditions cause people to commit the horrible crimes he investigates. At one point, as Blomquist ponders the motivations of a brutal serial killer, Salander erupts, “He’s just a pig who hates women!” Salander believes there are no excuses, everyone is responsible for their own actions, including herself, and must answer for them accordingly.

In short, Salander is as close to an avenging angel libertarianism is ever likely to get, and her presence in the novels throws the books’ politics into a bizarre contradiction. Far from the left-wing bromide in favor of democratic socialism it appears to be, the Millennium trilogy, as Ian MacDougall has pointed out in the leftist journal n+1, often appears on second glance like a calculated and relentless evisceration of the Swedish welfare state. Indeed, not only is Salander a walking rebuke to the myths of Scandinavian socialism, but she  is usually portrayed by Larsson as being absolutely correct in her attitude toward it. “In this Sweden,” MacDougall writes:

The country’s well-polished façade belies a broken apparatus of government whose rusty flywheels are little more than the playthings of crooks. The doctors are crooked. The bureaucrats are crooked. The newspapermen are crooked. The industrialists and businessmen, laid bare by merciless transparency laws, are nevertheless crooked. The police and the prosecutors are crooked.

In Larsson’s world, it is only the individual — usually Salander — with their own personal sense of right and wrong and the courage to act on it, who can save the day.

It is, perhaps, telling that millions of readers around the world, whatever their political orientation, have become fans of the Millennium series and especially of Lisbeth Salander. Indeed, it appears that Steig Larsson, though he himself might have been horrified at the prospect, gave birth to one of the great literary ironies of our time: for reasons that will likely forever remain unknown, a Scandinavian leftist managed to create a libertarian parable for the ages.

I find this far less ironic than Kerstein, who sees far too much of the right wing stereotype of the left as opposed to the actual views of those on the left. The left actually contains people of a variety of view points, and many do not support the big-government stereotype which the right commonly uses. Many on us on the left are far closer to individualist anarchists at heart, opposing the right wing as the actual supporters of big government and authoritarianism.

While I don’t know terribly much about Stieg Larsson, from what I have read about him, Larsson’s “leftism” appeared to have concentrated on opposing the authoritarian threat from the far right. As sometimes happens, Larsson also appears to have bee to quick to see his enemy’s enemies as his friends, which has led to far too many people on the left to become overly sympathetic to aspects to the left which are better off avoided.

To see Lisbeth Salander as supporting libertarianism is overly simplistic (analogous to how libertarianism itself is an overly simplistic view of the world). Salander appeals to both libertarians and to those on the left who I referred to above as are far closer to individualist anarchists at heart. Such people on the left are attracted to such anarchism and disrespect for authority but also see the limitations to such a philosophy in the real world which libertarians do not.

Larrson both made Salander an appealing character on one level while also showing as the trilogy progressed how her attitudes were shaped by her troubled youth. Salander’s world view is appealing to part of us, but most people have grown up to understand the limitations in such a world view. Libertarians, along with Lisbeth Salander, have ideas and attitudes we can respect, but ultimately both libertarians and Salander are flawed people who have not grown up to understand the real world.

At Marginal Revolution, Tyler Cowen was asked to name the ultimate left wing novel. His answer is quite different from mine, showing the differences in views and emphasis on the left which I noted above. Cowen’s answer:

What jumps to mind is Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, but if you read the request carefully it does not qualify.  Here is a list of thirty famous left-wing novels, heavy on the mid- to late nineteenth century.  There is Bronte, Dickens, Hugo, Sinclair, Zola, Gorky, Jack London, and Edward Bellamy.  None of these books is as analytically or philosophically comprehensive as the novels of Ayn Rand.

I would say that the story per se is usually left-wing, in both good and bad ways.  It elevates the seen over the unseen, can easily portray a struggle for justice, focuses on the anecdote, and encourages us to judge social institutions by the intentions of the people who work in them, rather than looking at their deeper and longer-term outcomes.  Precisely because the story is itself so left-wing, there won’t be a definitive example of the left-wing novel.  Story-telling encourages context-dependent thinking, although not necessarily in an accurate manner.  One notable feature of Atlas Shrugged is how frequently the story-telling stops for a long speech or an extended dialogue, in order to explain some first principles to the reader.

Grapes of Wrath was an excellent work, and is one which I might expect from the branch of the left more concerned with economics. With my concerns more centered around opposing right wing encroachments on civil liberties, my answer would be quite different. Three books immediately came to mind, with only one book making the list in the link above–It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis.

The other two which I immediately thought of were both by George Orwell: 1984 and Animal Farm. I’d pick 1984 as the answer to the question of picking the one ultimate book. Besides the messages of the book it remains even better known than Atlas Shrugged, and also stopped the story-telling for extended periods to make political points.

1984, while always an excellent choice for its opposition to totalitarianism, is even more significant today in light of the Orwellian distortions commonly used by the right wing. “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.” One might almost think that Orwell was aware of the current American right wing in writing this.

To the  right wing freedom often means the “freedom” to impose their views upon others. Their support for the perpetual warfare state has clear parallels to Orwell’s work. Most disturbing of all is the manner in which the right wing supports Sarah Palin/Tea Party style ignorance as it opposes science, reason, and factual sources of information which do not follow the distortions they spread.

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: Approaching the Moffat Era for Doctor Who

4x13-journey-s-end-screencaps-doctor-rose-badwolf-tenth-rose-3543783-640-352

Journey’s End, the season finale of Doctor Who and the final regular episode under Russell T. Davies aired Friday on the Science Fiction channel. My comments on the episode were previously posted here. Davies will still be doing a series of specials while David Tennant is performing in Hamlet, with the series resuming on a regular basis in 2010 under Steven Moffat. Among the episodes written by Moffett are the Hugo-award winners The Girl in the Fireplace, The Empty Child and The Doctor Dances, and Nebula award winner (as well as nominee for this year’s Hugo award) Blink.

Moffat is working with Davies so that the specials lead into his planned episodes according to SciFi Wire.

“It’s all happening in this head,” Moffat said in an interview at Comic-Con International in San Diego on July 23. “I know where I want it to start. I don’t mean to make it sound very grand. It’s very simple, just where I want it to be when it takes off. So [Russell’s] arranged for that.”

Moffat, who has written some of the most popular episodes of the new series so far, said that his new role as executive producer will require him to approach writing from an entirely different perspective.

“There are a bunch of things I’ve always wanted to see in Doctor Who, yes, but now it’s slightly different–it’s very different in my new position,” Moffat said. “Obviously, I only turned up once a year, and practically my brief was to write, in effect, the Moffat episode–the one that’s very different, the one that’s a bit timey-wimey or a bit scary. And that’s all they were expecting. And they would just tell me, ‘Go, and do your thing.’ So I would do my Moffat-y thing–whatever the f–k that is–in a very, very pronounced way. But you couldn’t have a whole series like that. If you started a series with ‘Silence of the Library’ or ‘Blink,’ people would turn off. You can’t have that as the first episode. It’s just too grim. So it’s different contemplating it from this position, very, very different.”

The series will also continue to embrace a wide range of tones and genres, Moffat said. Rather than adapting the show to his particular writing style, he looks forward to experimenting with different voices to maintain the show’s variety.

Moffat discussed his plans for Doctor Who in an interview with IO9. One of the questions dealt with how future companions might be portrayed compared to the companions in the past few seasons:

One of the great innovations of the Russell T. Davies era was the idea of the companion being connected to her home and family, and keeping the family as a supporting cast. How do you keep that fresh with a succession of new companions?

You change everything, all the time. Even that element of the show has changed radically over the past four years… You don’t worry about doing things radically, in an a new way… [You] do what tells the story… It was very important that Rose, Jackie and Mickey were clear, developed characters. [When the show started] the Doctor was a ridiculous guide. [Audiences didn’t] understand who he is and what he’s supposed to be. But [now] it’s very different, because the Doctor is the most familiar character in the show. [Originally] we knew Rose much better than the Doctor, and now we know the Doctor better than we know Rose. And now we see Rose from the Doctor’s point of view, instead of seeing the Doctor from Rose’s point of view. You have to stay alive and stay lively, and Doctor Who is about change. Change is part of Doctor Who‘s formula. It must change.

Working on Doctor Who was Moffat’s childhood dream, and this was such a high priority for him that he turned down a £500,000 movie deal with Steven Spielberg so he could take the job:

Moffat said: ‘I know a lot of people won’t understand it but I’ve been dreaming about writing for Doctor Who since I was seven.

‘There are no bad feelings between Spielberg and me, but Doctor Who has to come before Hollywood.

‘The show has enjoyed a renaissance. I am working on scripts to be filmed next year. Russell T. Davies is doing four specials next and then my shows will begin. The show is all-consuming.’

coupling

This isn’t the first time that Moffat gave up something in order to work on Doctor Who. He previously wrote the British sit-com Coupling. His interest in Doctor Who could be seen in the series as the male lead is named Steven Tayor, who had also been the name of a character on Doctor Who. An early second season episode had a brief reference to Daleks. Moffat wrote the series for four season, but turned down an offer to write a fifth season due to being busy with other projects, including his work on Doctor Who.

I recently started watching Coupling and highly recommend the show. In addition to being available on DVD’s it is being shown on BBC America. NBC had planned to have an American version replace Friends when it completed its run but it did not last long due to both poor adaptations and protests by some affiliates with the manner in which the episodes dealt with sex. The scripts were based upon the original scripts but execution was far inferior to the original. The BBC episodes also lack the commercial breaks of the American episodes, allowing more time for the plots to play out.

The extra time might be important as, while the show is often compared to Friends, Moffat was influenced even more by SeinfeldCoupling manages to combine the best of Friends, Seinfeld, and Sex and the City. Instead of dealing with “nothing” as Seinfeld did, it deals with more exclusively with relationships and sex, but many characteristics of Seinfeld can be seen in the writing. This includes the manner in which topics are discussed, with some of the conversations sounding like they could be between Jerry and George. Coupling often takes this further with the male and female characters having two parallel conversations about the same situation, with quite different views. Coupling is also much like Seinfeld in the manner in which two or three different stories might be told during the episode which come together at the end in an unexpected manner.

While some are predicting that episodes of Doctor Who under Moffat will be scarier episodes such as those he has written previously, seeing his work on Coupling demonstrates the versatility of his talent. Coupling is quite different from Doctor Who, but should The Doctor and Captain Jack get together at a pub, Moffat is capable of writing quite interesting dialog between them. He also has the ability to write about relationships with The Doctor’s future companions which probably would not be allowed considering the appeal of Doctor Who to younger viewers.

Maureen Dowd on Obama vs. Clinton in Hollywood

Maureen Dowd writes about the Hollywood party given by David Geffen, Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg which raised $1.3 million for Obama. Dowd provides some quotes which show how Hollywood support has shifted from Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama:

“Whoever is the nominee is going to win, so the stakes are very high,” says Mr. Geffen, the Hollywood mogul and sultan of “Dreamgirls,” as he sits by a crackling fire beneath a Jasper Johns flag and a matched pair of de Koonings in the house that Jack Warner built (which old-time Hollywood stars joked was the house that God would have built). “Not since the Vietnam War has there been this level of disappointment in the behavior of America throughout the world, and I don’t think that another incredibly polarizing figure, no matter how smart she is and no matter how ambitious she is — and God knows, is there anybody more ambitious than Hillary Clinton? — can bring the country together.

“Obama is inspirational, and he’s not from the Bush royal family or the Clinton royal family. Americans are dying every day in Iraq. And I’m tired of hearing James Carville on television.”

Later in the column:

“I don’t think anybody believes that in the last six years, all of a sudden Bill Clinton has become a different person,” Mr. Geffen says, adding that if Republicans are digging up dirt, they’ll wait until Hillary’s the nominee to use it. “I think they believe she’s the easiest to defeat.”

She is overproduced and overscripted. “It’s not a very big thing to say, ‘I made a mistake’ on the war, and typical of Hillary Clinton that she can’t,” Mr. Geffen says. “She’s so advised by so many smart advisers who are covering every base. I think that America was better served when the candidates were chosen in smoke-filled rooms.”

Dowd concludes with some background information: (more…)