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.

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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.

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who; Arrow; More Marvel on TV; Almost Human; S.; Batman vs. Superman; Better Call Saul; Downton Abbey

The BBC has released two trailers for The Day of the Doctor, with the longer version above. The 50th anniversary episode of Doctor Who will be simulcast internationally, starting at 2:50 EST in the United States on BBC America. (From my point of view, this is an awful time, interfering with both noon and 3:30 football games.) There is discussion of the trailers and images here and here. The official synopsis has also been released: “In 2013, something terrible is awakening in London’s National Gallery; in 1562, a murderous plot is afoot in Elizabethan England; and somewhere in space an ancient battle reaches its devastating conclusion. All of reality is at stake as the Doctor’s own dangerous past comes back to haunt him.”

The BBC America Trailer is above.

Steven Moffat has some major teases as to the meaning of the episode:

Moffat’s previous comments that the episode “will change the narrative in a big way” encouraged speculation that writers have found a solution to the fact that the Doctor can only regenerate twelve times. He has now further added to this by saying, “This should be the next step on the journey, guaranteeing the 100th anniversary”.

He said: “The story focuses on the most important thing that ever happened to the Doctor. We very rarely do that in Doctor Who as it’s usually about the people the Doctor meets or the companion that travels with him. This time it’s different.”

More from Moffat here.

McQ by Alexander McQueen

Jenna Coleman has been doing some modeling. The Guardian has more pictures.

Joanna Page (Stacey of the British sitcom Gavin and Stacey) will play Queen Elizabeth. She discussed kissing David Tennant.

BBC America has released their schedule of shows for the 50th anniversary (via TV Addict). Beyond Day of the Doctor, highlights include An Adventure in Space and Time about the initial development of Doctor Who. The cast includes Jessica Raine of Call the Midwife as producer Verity Lambert.

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 18
Doctor Who: The Doctors Revisited Marathon – 9:00am – 9:00pm ET
The First through Tenth Doctor

Doctor Who: Tales from the TARDIS – 9:00 –10:00pm ET
An all-new special, Doctor Who: Tales from the TARDIS, features the series’ actors and producers sharing their experiences and memories of the world’s longest-running sci-fi show. The special features exclusive interviews with principal cast members from the show’s 50-year history, including actors who have played the Doctor: Matt Smith, David Tennant, Tom Baker, and Peter Davison, actors who have played companions: Jenna Coleman, Karen Gillan, Freema Agyeman, and William Russell, as well as the current lead writer and executive producer Steven Moffat. The discussion includes how the actors got cast, how the roles changed their lives, how a ‘regeneration’ is recorded, and how filming the show in the 60′s compares to today.

The Science of Doctor Who with Brian Cox – 10:00–11:00pm ET
A former rock star and Britain’s popular TV physicist, Professor Brian Cox explores the universe of the world’s favorite Time Lord when he takes the audience on a journey into the wonderful universe of Doctor Who, with the help of celebrity guests. In this exclusively recorded special from the lecture theatre of the Royal Institution of Great Britain, Brian reveals the science behind the spectacle and explains the physics that allows Doctor Who to travel through space and time. Fun, but filled with real science, it’s a special night for Who fans and anyone with a thirst for understanding.

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 19
Doctor Who – The Ninth Doctor Marathon – 10:00am –11:00pm ET

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 20
Doctor Who – The Tenth Doctor Marathon – 2:00am –11:00pm ET

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 21
Doctor Who – The Eleventh Doctor Marathon Part I – 9:00am – 11:00pm ET
The Eleventh Doctor – Matt Smith

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 22
Doctor Who – The Eleventh Doctor Marathon Part 2 – 9:00am – 8:00pm ET

Doctor Who Explained – 8:00pm – 9:00pm ET
An all-new special, Doctor Who Explained, explores the mysterious and two-hearted alien who is the Doctor. Through exclusive interviews with principal cast members from the show’s 50-year history, including actors who have played the Doctor: Matt Smith, David Tennant, Peter Davison, and Tom Baker as well as actors who have played companions: Jenna Coleman, Karen Gillan, and Freema Agyeman, viewers get an insight to what happens behind-the-scenes of the award-winning sci-fi show.

An Adventure in Space and Time – 9:00pm ET
What do you get when you mix C.S. Lewis with H.G. Wells, and sprinkle in a bit of Father Christmas? An alien Time Lord exploring space and time in a Police Box spaceship called the “TARDIS” (Time And Relative Dimension in Space). Written by Mark Gatiss, the BBC AMERICA co-production, the film stars David Bradley (the First Doctor, William Hartnell), Brian Cox (BBC Head of Drama, Sydney Newman), Jessica Raine (Producer, Verity Lambert) and Sacha Dhawan (Director, Waris Hussein). An unlikely trio of misfits set out to create a genre series that all ages would love. William ‘Bill’ Hartnell, displeased with his career, was presented with a chance to break out of the hard-man roles he’d become known for. And with the instincts of first time producer, Verity Lambert and first time director, Waris Hussein, the Doctor was born. As the success of the show grew, William went from unhappy curmudgeon to beloved television star who relished his career resurgence and found a new lease on life. But all good things come to an end. How will Bill face leaving behind the part that has made him a hero to millions of children? And can the show survive without him? Journey back fifty years through space and time to witness the exciting beginning and untimely end of the First Doctor in this touching drama.

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 23
Doctor Who – The Eleventh Doctor Marathon Part 3 – 1:00am – 2:00pm ET
The Eleventh Doctor – Matt Smith

Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor – Global Simulcast – 2:50pm ET
The centerpiece of BBC AMERICA’s celebrations is the global simulcast of Doctor Who’s 50th Anniversary special, Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor, written by Steven Moffat. The Doctors (Matt Smith and David Tennant) embark on their greatest adventure across space and time. In 2013, something terrible is awakening in London’s National Gallery; in 1562, a murderous plot is afoot in Elizabethan England; and somewhere in space an ancient battle reaches its devastating conclusion. All of reality is at stake as the Doctor’s own dangerous past comes back to haunt him. Starring Matt Smith, David Tennant, Jenna Coleman, with Billie Piper and John Hurt. Last seen as the Doctor on January 1, 2010, this will be the first time David Tennant has reprised his role as the Tenth Doctor. During his reign as the Time Lord, Tennant appeared in three seasons as well as several specials. He was first revealed as the Doctor in the 2005 season finale, The Parting of the Ways. Meanwhile Billie Piper, who played companion Rose Tyler for two seasons following the reboot in 2005, will appear in the show for the first time since featuring in David Tennant’s last episode, The End of Time in 2010. The special is directed by Nick Hurran, executive produced by Steven Moffat, Faith Penhale and produced by Marcus Wilson.

Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor encore primetime broadcast – 7:00pm ET.
BBC AMERICA will premiere exclusive Inside Look interviews with Matt Smith and David Tennant during the broadcast. The special will be followed by the premiere of new fantasy-adventure series Atlantis at 9:00pm ET.

The Graham Norton Show with guests Matt Smith and David Tennant – 10:00pm ET
Doctor Who stars Matt Smith and David Tennant make their first appearance together on BBC AMERICA’s hit talk show The Graham Norton Show. Emma Thompson, singer Robbie Williams and comedian Jimmy Carr will also be guests.

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 24
Doctor Who – Matt Smith Countdown – 9:00am – 8:00pm ET
BBC AMERICA counts down the top 11 episodes from the Eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith, as voted on by fans.

Doctor Who: The Doctors Revisited –The Eleventh Doctor – 8:00pm –10:30pm ET
BBC AMERICA celebrates the Eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith, in a new special of Doctor Who: The Doctors Revisited. Matt Smith first stepped into the TARDIS in 2010 and, after starring in the 50th Anniversary Special on November 23, will regenerate in the Christmas special. The Doctors Revisited begins with Matt Smith, Jenna Coleman (companion Clara Oswald), Karen Gillan (companion Amy Pond), Arthur Darvill (companion Rory Williams), lead writer and executive producer Steven Moffat, among others, examining the human side of this Doctor and taking a look at how his extraordinarily long life has affected him. The special is followed by the Eleventh Doctor two-part story, The Impossible Astronaut and Day of the Moon, in which a strange summons reunites the Doctor, Amy (Karen Gillan), Rory (Arthur Darvill) and River (Alex Kingston) in the middle of the Utah desert and unveils a terrible secret the Doctor’s friends must never reveal to him. These were the first Doctor Who episodes to be filmed in the U.S

 

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I’ve frequently said that Arrow is far better than SHIELD, regardless of any comparisons of the DC versus Marvel lines. After an especially strong episode this week, League of Assassins, I’ve seen reviews (including at The Hollywood Reporter) calling Arrow the best live action superhero television series ever. Considering the competition, and poor translation of superheroes to television, this is a fairly low bar. The question then is whether it is compared to Heroes season one, which was excellent, versus the entire run of Heroes.

There is criticism of the current story lines on Arrow which everyone seems to agree with. It is not plausible that Laurel would be involved in the prosecution considering the conflict of interest. We know we have to accept unrealistic sequences when a man with an bow and arrow can regularly win out against guns. We also must ignore how people do not see though secret identities of people they know well. While this is necessary for the show to exist, they should avoid unrealistic scenarios unnecessary for superhero shows such as Laurel being involved with the prosecution in this situation.

There is more Marvel coming to television (besides a second rumored show on ABC about Agent Carter). They are planning for a set of thirteen episode series on Netflix of Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, and Luke Cage. Just as the movies led to a joint movie in The Avengers, these Netflix individual series will be followed by a joint mini-series entitled The Defenders. Considering that they have not done all that great a job with Agents of SHIELD, I wonder if it is a good idea to go ahead with four more series. Maybe, not being limited by the constraints of a prime time network television series these could be better for genre fans.

SHIELD really teased viewers last week. How many others were hoping that Simmons was not rescued when she jumped off the plan, and Fitz would follow her?

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Spoiler TV has a lot of information on the upcoming television show, Almost Human in an interview with J.J. Abrams and J.H. Wyman:

The series is set in the year 2048 and stars Karl Urban as John Kennex, a cop who is forced to partner with an android (named Dorian) played by Michael Ealy after an increase in crime leads to all human law officers being accompanied by robots. J.J says that “The idea when Joel pitched it was that Dorian, who is a synthetic, was in some ways more human than his partner.” Wyman told reporters that Ealy heightened what was already on the page with “an incredible sense of thoughtfulness and compassion. He’s playing a character who is by design, literally, as brave and as knowledgeable and as strategic as you’d want your partner to be if you were riding along as a cop, but he’s also as sympathetic as you’d want. What Michael brings is that kind of depth and humanity.” His dubious partner, in turn, is “forced to kind of deal with the idea that his well-being now relies on this technology which he sort of holds in contempt.”

So what sets this latest series apart from the increasingly present action and sci-fi shows on networks today, let alone from the duo’s previous work in the genre? First of all, Wyman began, he wasn’t interested in presenting another dystopian vision of Earth’s future. “I hope that we’re not really in that territory and that we’re successful in that.” Often in the genre, the writer says, the outlook seems to be “‘Look what you humans have done!’ whereas what we’re talking about, I think, is a little more hopeful. There’s a sense of going forward. We’re resilient, we’re going to succeed.”

Abrams mentioned that unlike many of his past efforts this series has much less of an emphasis on mythology and will instead focus on a procedural case-of-the-week type format that will allow us to explore the characters as well as the unique complexities of navigating in an increasingly technology-reliant world. He also promised “a level of humor that is distinct from what we’ve done before” which backs up his partners talk of the series leaning towards a more ‘popcorn’ movie vibe than their previous collaboration. That’s not to say the show is all-action-all-the-time, as Wyman went on to explain his hopes to create a conversation about what these human-computers are at their core and how we should interact with them. “They’re thinking beings, so what are their rights? And where are those lines drawn? A lot of those things are sort of examined in our later stories: What is a robot? What is an android? What is a being?” Wyman, to be sure, did his homework. “J.J had set us up with some very brilliant people from MIT and one was a woman who studied robot ethics, which is pretty amazing, that they’re actually… real.”

The case also includes Minka Kelly of Friday Night Lights.

I haven’t had a chance to read J.J. Abrams’ new book, S., yet, but it looks intriguing. Besides a conversation in margin notes going along with the narrative of the book, there are many postcards, maps, and letters at various points in the book. Librarians are not very happy about this.

Alan Alda will be going up against James Spader’s character on The Blacklist later this season. I’m hoping for a reunion with William Shatner.

Adam Driver of Girls is being considered for the role of Dick Grayson/Nightwing in the upcoming Batman vs. Superman movie. It is scheduled for release July 17, 2015.

When news came out about plans for Better Call Saul it was being called a prequel to Breaking Bad. There remains interest in what will happen to Saul after going to Nebraska, and now Bob Odenkirk says the show might be both a prequel and sequel.  There has been speculation that the show might be more of a comedy but Odenkirk says, “It’s going to be 70% drama and 30% comedy.” He also played down the speculation that characters from Breaking Bad will pay a major role in Better Call Saul. If it is a sequel, they should at least work in Gus and Mike. It is also feasible that Saul would cross path with a certain DEA agent, and a high school science teacher could briefly appear as long as any contact with Saul is minimal.

With the success of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and other books by Stieg Larsson in the United States, HBO is planning an hour-long series based upon the works of another Scandinavian author, Jo Nesbø. They are planning an adaptation of his 2008 novel, The Headhunters.

Dan Stevens of Downton Abbey will play Lancelot in Night at the Museum 3. It is hard to believe that the season finale already aired tonight on ITV. I haven’t watched today’s season finale yet, but as of last week there were several loose ends. I wonder how many were tied up tonight, and how many will be extended to the Christmas episode. Thanks to British television, Christmas has become a big television day with episodes of Downton Abbey, Doctor Who, and Call the Midwife. Update: News came in shortly after this was posted that Downton Abbey has been renewed for a fifth season.

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: Torchwood New World Synopsis; True Blood Gets Really Bloody (and Paquin & Moyer Wed); New Season Promos; And Sarah Palin Is No Lisbeth Salander

Jack Gwen Torchwood

Starz has released additional information is out on Torchwood: New World. Here is a synopsis and character descriptions:

Synopsis

When C.I.A. agent Rex Matheson investigates a global conspiracy, he finds himself unearthing a threat which challenges the entire human race.

The answers seem to lie within an old, secret British institute, known only as Torchwood. But Torchwood was destroyed, years ago, and the keys to the institute are held by its only two survivors – former Police Officer Gwen Cooper, who has long since disappeared along with her husband and child, and the mysterious Captain Jack Harkness, a man whose history seems to stretch back centuries.

With Rex under attack from all sides, in both the US and the UK, he soon discovers there are forces at work within every level of society, determined to stop Torchwood’s return. As a chain of events across the world links together the most disparate and unlikely individuals – including a surgeon, a killer, senators and CEOs – a new Torchwood team takes shape. But this time, the threat is much closer to home, as they realize that their greatest enemy is mankind itself…

CHARACTER DESCRIPTIONS

CAPTAIN JACK HARKNESS (John Barrowman)

  • Jack looks like a hero. But he’s so much more than that…
  • He’s American, handsome, with a killer smile and a classic coat. But you don’t expect heroes to be this much fun. He’s witty, fast, subversive and there’s a reason for that glint in his eye – he’ll sleep with women, he’ll sleep with men; if aliens invade, he’ll sleep with them too. Got a problem with that? Tough!
  • His dashing style hides a secret. There are mysteries about Jack – a man going under his name seems to have a history stretching back to World War 2, or even earlier, to the Nineteenth century, the Eighteenth…Truth is, Jack Harkness is immortal. A fixed point in time and space. The only one of his kind. For thousands of years, he has never been able to die. When killed, he comes back to life – seconds later. Though his tragedy is, he feels every death. It hurts – and so does the passage of time. He can never love anyone for too long, because he will always lose them. As a result, he’s lived many lives. He’s been a conman, a thief, an adventurer – though more a rogue than a villain, because his perspective on human life makes him appreciate this world all the more.
  • Jack once ran the Torchwood Institute, a British organization dedicated to fighting the strange and bizarre. He was king of his own little world for a while, the happiest he’d ever been. But Torchwood fell. His friends were killed. The Institute closed down, and Jack disappeared, to start yet another of his many new lives. And yet…
  • The only thing that could call Jack Harkness back is his unstated love for Gwen Cooper. And when a new, epic danger affects the whole planet, Jack finds himself back at the center of events, fighting not just for his own life, but for everyone on Earth. But this time, are the stakes too high?

GWEN COOPER (Eve Myles)

  • All Gwen wants is a quiet life. Honest.
  • She’sWelsh, lives in seclusion, far away from the city, on a cliff top in the wilds of South Wales with her devoted husband, and baby Anwen – it’s a rural idyll.
  • And it’s a lie. Gwen is in hiding, because she once lived the most extraordinary life. She was the heart and soul of an organization called Torchwood, a freelance band of fighters who fought the strange and unexplained. She was a defender of the human race.
  • But no more. Torchwood was destroyed. Her colleagues died, or fled. And Gwen hid herself away, for the rest of her life, to protect her loved ones. But knowing, just knowing, that one day trouble would come calling again.
  • She lives the ultimate double life: the funny, salty, earthy woman who loves home and family, combined with the tough, ruthless warrior, who loves the thrill of the fight. She’s both selfish and selfless. And never doubt it – when Gwen’s in a crisis, she is magnificent. Gun in both hands, baby strapped to her chest, she’ll run and fight and never give up.
  • It’s passion, in the end: Gwen’s all about passion. She loves her man, she loves her child, she loves this mad old world, and maybe she loves Captain Jack Harkness just a little too much. But when the events of this story push Gwen to the limit, she’ll need to call on resources she never knew she had, to take action and make the most terrible decisions, on behalf of all mankind.

REX MATHESON (Actor TBD)

  • He’s 28, the golden boy. Has been, all his life. Harvard education, fast-tracker in the C.I.A., destined for success. Though he’s never taken it easy – Rex hustles, seduces and campaigns to get where he is today. He can talk his way into anything, then charm his way out, fast.
    He’s made a lot of enemies, but his friends and lovers would defend him to death.
  • His choice of career is significant. Someone like Rex could make a fortune in Wall Street, or Hollywood. But choosing the C.I.A. says a lot about him: that for all his swagger, he does believe in justice. And will fight for it.
  • Slowly but surely, we see him make friends. He’s thrown together a bunch of people known as Torchwood, the only people who might have the answer to a global mystery. To Rex, at first, they’re a bunch of freaks. Welsh women and World War 2 Captains, what’s that about?! But as they race from one crisis to another, dodging assassins, blackmail, corruption and conspiracy, from Washington to Wales and the slums of Shanghai, Rex forges friendships in the heat of fire. He learns to trust his new colleagues. And they realize that this dangerous, dazzling, reckless man is the best friend they could ever have, in a world going to hell.
  • They frighten us, men like Rex. We wish we were him; we never will be.

True Blood Anna Paquin Bloody Nude Rolling Stone Cover

True Blood began last week with bloody vampire sex, possibly inspiring the upcoming Rolling Stone cover above,  and had what might be the best ending so far for an individual episode. All that stuff about vampire politics which so far wasn’t very interesting when thrown into previous episodes suddenly has some real meaning. While things got really messed up after Bill’s proposal to Sookie at the end of last season, in real life stars Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer got married Saturday night.

IO9 has a guide to the upcoming television season with several trailers. Above is a trailer for No Ordinary Family with cast including Julie Benz.

Besides the many promos at the above link, there’s also a new trailer available for the upcoming season of Dexter (above).

Sarah Pallin No Lisbeth Salandar

Adam Bessie argues at Truthout that Lisbeth Salander (Girl With The Dragon Tatoo) is the real maverick, and Sarah Palin is no Lisbeth Salander. We might also be seeing far more of the actress who played her on screen. Noomie Rapace who played Lisbeth in the movie version from Denmark, is breaking into Hollywood.

SciFi Weekend: Torchwood, Girl With The Dragon Tattoo Likely To Receive R Rating, Olivia Wilde in Cowboys and Aliens, Fringe, V, Lost Epilogue, Big Bang Theory

We have much more information on the upcoming season of Torchwood which airs next summer:

“Torchwood” picks up a while after the events of “Children of Earth,” but still deals with Capt. Jack Harkness’ (John Barrowman) state of mind after those devastating events that left him dispirted. Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles) will also be back. A new character, CIA agent Rex Matheson — who’s yet to be cast — will serve to introduce new audiences to the world of “Torchwood.”

“Rex has no idea what Torchwood is and has to investigate,” explains Davies. “Torchwood has been destroyed. It’s ike a legend now, it’s almost ceased to exist a long time ago and is spoken only of in whispers. We also have a watch analyst at the CIA called Esther. The two of them become embroiled in the Torchwood legend and investigate what Torchwood is or was and they find themselves on the run and meeting Captain Jack and Gwen, having to decide whether they’re friends, whether they’re enemies. It’s a decision that takes a long time to be decided. That’s part of the 10 episodes is the two teams coming together, a lot of sparks, a lot of excitement.”

Among other things we learn:

  • Rhys Williams (Kai Owen) will be back with their baby.
  • Sorry Capt. John Hart fans, but James Marsters is not going to be in this 10-episode season, but he’s still in good with Davies for possible future participation.
  • The new series continuous and very arced.
  • Scheduling of the new “Torchwood” will be “very close” on both sides of the pond.
  • Since the show is on a premium cable network, “Torchwood” can have nudity in sex scenes, but Davies is only sold on that if the story demands it. “There’s nothing worse than a great big global international thriller that stops for a sex scene. Get on with it please.”

I was also happy to read that the American movie version of The Girl With The Dragon Tatoo will probably receive an R-rating like the original version. It think this would be necessary to be true to the book. Now if they can only get the mess over Stieg Larsson’s fourth book settled.

Adam Beach created a lot of buzz  from mentioning Olivia Wilde’s upcoming nude scene in Cowboys and Aliens during an interview in the Toronto Sun:

“We just finished shooting Olivia Wilde naked in front of a bonfire in front of 500 Apache warriors,” Beach says. “That was beautiful. You won’t get to see what I saw, but you’ll get a glimpse.”

Asked about the nude scene, Wilde laughs. “Did Adam Beach talk to you? Adam Beach is the best. Last night, we did a scene where I’m naked in front of a group of couple hundred Apache. Pretty amazing, pretty interesting.”

Not that she’s only wild west cheesecake in the film, due out next July. “I do kick-ass in this. I love doing action movies … This movie is so much fun for me.”

The above picture is of Oliva Wilde from Elle.

The alternative universe will be a bigger part of Fringe next season, with much of the action taking place over there. Jasika Nicole says that Astrid will have a larger role. Her job did seem more significant over there, and back here she becomes closer to Walter since he lost both Peter and the Olivia from our world.

Anna Torv claims that the alternate Olivia is much like the Olivia from our universe. Actually the alternate Olivia was much hotter, but beyond that I’ve been wondering if there is some meaning to this. Is she hinting that the alternative Olivia is really one of the good guys, and in the end will help set everything straight? Or maybe I’m putting too much meaning into a comment made in an interview. It’s like how I assumed that Juliet saying “it worked” in the final season premiere of Lost was important and it turned out she was probably only talking about getting the candy bar out of the vending machine in the sideways universe.

Jane Badler, the original Diana from V, returns to the series in a recurring role as Anna’s mother. There’s also major spoilers regarding the meaning of the red sky and other upcoming events:

How does the season begin?

Season 2 begins with the panic that results from the red sky, the vistors cut off their communications with the humans completely and most visitors on earth return to the mother ship. Anna refuses to answer to anyone and earth panics and takes pre-emptive measures to prepare for war. The panic intensifies when red rain begins to fall.

What is the real purpose of the red sky?

The red sky is later revealed to be a “gift for humanity” spreading life on earth making deserts green. The true purpose behind the red sky is to improve human fertility and prepare them for mass breeding with the visitors.

What is Marcus’s agenda?

At the end of the first season it appeared Marcus had his own agenda with reviving Joshua and contacting Hobbs however in season 2 it appears all this was done with Anna’s knowledge as Anna is aware of Joshua’s revival however, Joshua is back missing memories and human emotions and is no longer a member of the fifth column, nor does he remember working with them. Marcus takes orders from Anna and then blackmails Hobbs into carrying them out.

What happens to Ryan in season 2?

In season 2 Ryan’s main goal is to be with his daughter. Anna seperates him from his daughter and simply sends him back to earth planning to use the hybrid child to force Ryan into spying on the fifth column .

Does Anna experience any more human emotion?

Throughout the second season Anna struggles to control and hide her human emotions.

Why is Anna so interested in Tyler?

Tyler’s humanity comes into question as Erica connects complications with her pregnancy with Tyler to materials in the red sky.

The New Man In Charge, the twelve minute epilogue to Lost which is appearing on the DVD and Blu-Ray sets, leaked out last week. I have linked to clips and, in the update, a site which Disney didn’t manage to force to take down the full clip. The post also contains a summary of the key points. The clip explains several points including where the food drops came from, what the Hurleybird was, why there were polar bears on the island, why there were problems with pregnancies on the island, more about the relationship between Dharma and “the hostiles,” and Walt’s fate.

The stars of The Big Bang Theory are trying to renegotiate their contracts to increase their salaries from 60,000 per episode to $250,000. Compared to Friends these seems quite cheap. Reportedly Jim Parsons was trying to get even more than his co-stars. That’s just like Sheldon to think he is worth more than his co-workers.

It doesn’t look like these negotiations are interfering with filming. Bill Prady tweeted a few days ago that production has officially started on season four.