SciFi Weekend: Star Trek Discovery Does Groundhog Day; Holodeck Technology On Discovery; The Orville; The Flash; Stranger Things; Doctor Who News

Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad  was the Groundhog Day episode of Star Trek: Discovery, along with featuring the return of Harry Mudd. This has become a common theme in science fiction, including the Next Generation episode Cause and Effect, the fourth episode of season three of Dark Matter, and the movie Edge of Tomorrow.

For these stories to work there will be someone who realizes what is going on, generally to learn from it. This version had two such people. Harry Mudd intentionally used the time loop to learn how to take over Discovery and what was special about it. Having Stamets be the only crew member to realize what was happening worked well in light of his connection to the spore drive.

Having become a common science fiction trope made it easy to progress the story rapidly with viewers understanding with only brief views of each repetition. Stamets first got Burnham’s attention by speaking along with her, knowing what she would say. That led to her telling him a secret which nobody else would know so that she would believe him the next time.

If I had any complaints about the episode is that once they established that they could make plans for the next time they had to progress rapidly off screen. By the final time they had multiple people involved and doing quite a lot for only thirty minutes. They did have a plausible explanation for beating Mudd, who took over essential systems but was defeated by the use of non-essential systems such as the Captain’s chair.

The episode ended with Harry Mudd closer to the situation we saw him in on the original show, stuck with his wife Stella. As much as he hates Stella, he did get off pretty lightly considering how many times he murdered Lorca and others. Of course in the final time loop he did not commit the murders and probably could not be convicted of those, he was still trying to steal a starship. Fitting into Star Trek continuity won out here.

We saw more daily life on Discovery, including a party which was much livelier than the typical party seen on The Next Generation. We Trying To Stay Alive fit in especially well. The episode progressed the relationship between Michael Burnham and Ash Tyler, except that they will not remember most of it. There were no clear clues regarding the theory that Tyler is actually a Klingon spy, but if he was I wonder whether he might have taken advantage of the situation to take control of Discovery and turn it over to the Klingons. Perhaps he has a longer game, influenced by the rivalries between different Klingon Houses. Another idea I had is that maybe when he had to give up everything, this included his memories. He might be a sleeper agent without realizing it, and will not regain his memories until a later date, allowing him to more easily fit into Discovery’s crew.

There was little development for Lorca. He did not do anything absolutely evil, but it was amusing to see how he differed from the typical Star Fleet captain in expressing how he did not care what was done regarding the space whale.

There have been some complaints about Discovery appearing to have more advanced technology than they should, including the holographic gallery on last week’s episode. One of the writers of the episode, Ted Sullivan, was interviewed by

The holographic shooting gallery has spurred a lot of fan discussion, can you explain how the Discovery holographic gallery differs from a TNG era holodeck?

Look, they never physically interact with the Klingons. Yes, Tyler “hits a virtual button,” but you do the same thing playing Star Trek: Bridge Crew on the PS4. What you’re seeing here is a step toward the development of holodecks. It’s not a fully realized holodeck.

We talked about this a lot in the room. It’s honestly not that far removed from today’s VR experience. Are we supposed to pretend that technology just disappeared or stopped evolving? This is basically a high tech laser tag. And honestly – it was in The Animated Series. So I don’t get what the big controversy is.

Technology doesn’t just suddenly materialize overnight. You evolve slowly from punchcard machines to desktop computers to laptops to smartphones. What you’re seeing here is a step in the journey of the development of holodecks. That’s all.

That still leaves open the question as to why we never saw anything comparable on the original show. Presumably they had them but we never saw them.

The Monkey Cage column at The Washington Post discussed how The new ‘Star Trek’ has gotten darker and more pessimistic — just like our politics.

Last week we learned that CBS All Access has renewed Star Trek: Discovery for a second season and this week we learned that The Orville has also been renewed. I am glad that for a second year we will have two versions of Star Trek. One dark and one light. One closer to the original show, and one based more on The Next Generation.

Into The Fold could largely be one of those episodes of STTNG which concentrated on a limited number of crew members beyond the Captain. Being written by Brannon Braga and Andre Bormanis certainly accounted for this feeling so much like such an episode. Humor also works best in episodes involving Isaac (as was the case on a previous episode). These scenes work best with Isaac as they seem less forced, with Isaac struggling to understand humans in a manner comparable to Data.

My favorite scene had Isaac, seeing Dr. Finn having difficulties with her two young children, advise her that on his planet “when a program is not working properly it is deleted.” He then offered to vaporize the children. By the end of the episode he was helping to save the children and even said he had grown fond of them.

Like on Discovery this week, we also saw the crew listening to music. Discovery won on this comparison, with the crew of the Orville listening to Barry Manilow. To be fair, this was actually Seth MacFarlane’s way to mock Manilow.

Just as this episode looks into specific characters. Screen Rant looked into the characters with a set of interviews.

Elsewhere on genre television this week, the Elongated Man was an excellent addition to The Flash. Screen Rant has background information on the character.

Legends of Tomorrow also had a fun episode, between seeing Zari join the crew and the time travel adventure to save Ray Palmer from being killed as a child.

The third season of Stranger Things is already in the works but probably will not be seen until late in 2018. The ending of the second season certainly left open many possibilities. There are many questions about events of the first two seasons (some of which are discussed here), but they also had enough of an ending to move on to different stories if they like.

One thing which made the second season so bingeable was how most episodes ended with a major event which led directly into the next episode. The one difference was in the controversial seventh episode, which had Eleven go off elsewhere. The Duffer Brothers have defended the episode against some of the criticism. Personally I liked the episode as it addressed the question of whether people with powers like Eleven would abuse their powers, providing Eleven with a means to confront the issue.

Stranger Things has multiple pop culture references. IndieWire has a guide.

In Doctor Who news, Jenny, the Doctor’s Daughter, is back, in a set of audio dramas from Big Finish.

I would love to see River Song meet Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor. I don’t know if that will happen, but Alex Kingston will reprise the role and meet two additional Doctors in radio dramas.

Bernard Cribbin, who played Wilfred Mott, Donna Noble’s grandfather, has expressed interest in returning to travel with the Doctor when Jodie Whittaker takes over.

Dalek operator Nicholas Pegg has been fired for putting a crude message in a column he also wrote. The Mirror reports:

Under pen-name The Watcher, he launched an extraordinary attack on BBC Worldwide , which distributes the sci-fi show, and Panini, who publish the magazine.

For reasons that are not entirely clear, Pegg has included a coded message in the current edition of Doctor Who Magazine.

The first letter of each sentence in his column spells out, “Panini and BBC Worldwide are c***s.”

The digital version of the page has been altered and Pegg will not be returning to either job.

SciFi Weekend: Westworld, Mr. Robot, Humans, Doctor Who


This week I’ll start with two shows which a lot of time could be spent on to interpret their full meaning–Westworld and Mr. Robot. Both deal with technology, but only one is really about robots. Westworld started out with a slow presentation of the story over the first five episodes and then a lot more happened in the last two, with another episode on tonight. Spoilers ahead related to the first seven episodes, along with fan theories which may or may not be true.  Last week’s episode Trompe L’Oeil confirmed what many of us suspected about Bernard being a host–and at times I wonder if even more characters we see as people are actually robots.

For the more casual viewers, here’s some clues to watch for which gave Bernard away, and are worth watching for regarding other characters.  Hosts are programmed not to see some doors that humans can see. Hosts are also literally blind to other things as well and it was a huge clue earlier in the season when Ford showed Bernard a picture which Bernard said didn’t look like anything. Episodes typically begin with scene involving a  host waking up for the day but they only seemed to break with this by showing Bernard waking up.  The big question remains as to whether Bernard is in the image of Arnold.


The last episode also confirmed what was widely suspected–that Ford is evil, and provided more evidence of the theory that we are seeing at least two different timelines, with William later becoming the Man in Black. It is notable that the scenes from when William first arrived show what appears to be an older version of a Westworld logo. They both use the same knife, and they both wear collarless shirts. William’s white hat is getting dirtier, and darker, the longer he is in Westworld. We have been told that disease has been eradicated in the outside world in The Man in Black’s time, but William was asked about pre-existing health conditions when he first arrived. William’s said things to Delores in the last episode which were remarkably like what The Man in Black said in an earlier scene in the series.

The fan theories regarding William becoming the Man in Black and Bernard being a host (possibly based upon Arnold) are two of the most discussed ideas, but there are many more floating around, such as this about Mauve’s escape plan. The show also has a tremendous number of Easter eggs. Some are obvious, such as an image of Yul Brynner from the original movie in the background. There are others which I would have never picked up on if I wasn’t tipped off by others. For example, the meaning of the robotic player piano is fairly obvious. What is less obvious, as the lyrics are not heard, is that the lyrics to many of the songs played are directly related to what is happening on the show (giving a reason for why modern songs are often played).

In actual news, Ed Harris has confirmed that he will be returning for the second season of Westworld. I hope that this doesn’t blow up anyone’s favorite theory about the show.


Recode Decode interviewed Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail, with full transcript here. The conversation includes the hacker world, technology, Westworld, and Donald Trump. Here are some excerpts:

What was the impetus for you when you were writing it? What were you trying to do there?

There were three things. Initially, it was, I just need to write something about the hacker culture and tech culture that I didn’t think was being represented. So that was in the back of my head for years, since I was 14 and I was like, “Oh, that will be a great movie. I don’t know what it is yet, but I’m going to come up with the idea.”

I always start with characters, so I started thinking about the character of Elliott. And then 2008 happened, the financial crisis. And I was like, “Oh, it’s gotta be …” And you know, Anonymous, the hacking group, had just come out. And LulzSec. So I was like, “Okay, this is kind of like the sort of group that Elliott might be involved in or might partake in.”

And then the 2008 financial crisis happened. I was like, “Okay, this is awesome, it’s going to be an anti-capitalist, anti-establishment character who’s angry and who wants to take down the system.” And then I cooled off a little bit because I was like, “Who wants to hear a guy rant about that for hours and hours?” I thought that would get a little grating. And there wasn’t a humanity to it. So I went away from that. It stayed in there, but the character wasn’t complete yet.

And then the Arab Spring happened and, you know, I’m Egyptian, so I have a lot of family out there, a lot of cousins. I went out there about nine months after the revolution happened to just talk to my cousins, who were young, who were online, who were part of that whole movement, using technology and honestly just channeling that anger that they had against their country, against the way their society was being run, in a really positive way. That was the missing piece. That was the thing that really moved me…

I was watching “Westworld” and it’s again, technology — although it’s humanity in that particular series. But go ahead.

So to me, I feel like obviously, as younger writer/directors come up and they kind of understand it and then want to represent it more authentically, hopefully that mindset will change in Hollywood. Because in terms of just the old-fashioned thing, and then we talked about Donald Trump, those rules just don’t apply anymore. There aren’t 400-pound guys who are devilishly sitting behind a keyboard wanting to change the traffic lights, you know?

I think a lot of it came from the original Matthew Broderick movie, “War Games.” You know what I mean? That really had an impact on people of how the hacking culture [worked]. To me that was the biggest success, I guess.

Well, “Sneakers.” Although I don’t know if “Sneakers” …

With Robert Redford.

But that’s a great movie.

It is a great movie.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

But one of the things that is important to me is that technology is also a situation that’s ruining their business. The Rubicon has been crossed. People are streaming on phones. Amazon and Netflix are disrupting their business incredibly, so there’s a real fear of the technology, too.

It’s the fear that’s going to kill them, not the technology. Look at Netflix. They’ve pounced on that. They’ve taken that as an opportunity to say, “Well, if no one else wants to embrace the technology, if no one else wants to say ‘hey, no, this isn’t something to be scared of but an opportunity to expand and offer entertainment in a way that wasn’t offered before,’ then we’ll do it.”

And they’re doing it really well. And I think that’s the thing. Even the way films are made right now, they’re talked about as universes, franchises, right? So it’s not just about one movie anymore, it’s about how many movies can you make off that one movie, and how many toys can you make and how many video games. You know, it’s now this whole kind of universe.

See, to me, it’s still an antiquated way of thinking. Because when you watch all movies … I think I watched “Mr. Robot” on my phone, the whole time. How do you, as a creator, how do you think about that? Are there creators like you? You’re obviously illuminated about technology. But do they understand what’s happening? When Google becomes a studio, when Facebook becomes critically important to distribution of entertainment.

I don’t know if they do. And this is the worrisome part. For example, we’re doing a book, but the book is not a marketing opportunity, the book is its own standalone thing, and it’s an interactive thing. It’s not just a book you read, there’s layers to it. A little bit like that J.J. Abrams book “S.” So that’s a thing.

And then we had a mobile game that we released, which is awesome and that is a story. So it’s not just a game that you play and again, not just a marketing fodder for the show, it’s its own story and all these little pieces you can embrace. That’s sort of the universe-building, that’s the world-building of the future. That’s why when/if Google becomes a studio, or Facebook becomes a studio … Oh, we also did a VR film, which is also another story that’s kind of like in between a couple episodes…

And then my last question: I interviewed Elon Musk earlier this year at our Code Conference, and he talked about a lot of things. He talked about going to Mars, he talked about his cars, a bit of everything. But then we moved into the idea of artificial intelligence and whether we’re all in a big game. He believes this is all fake.


Simulation. But he was talking about the idea of artificial intelligence, and that the best case scenario, given your stories about the power of technology, is that we’re all going to end up in the most benign sense, as house cats to computers. And they will take our places.And the only way we can battle it is by attaching neural networks to our own brains.

This is the whole singularity thing: Will machines evolve faster than us? And honestly, you can’t avoid saying yes to that question, because why wouldn’t they? They would just have much more power, much more processing power. And so it’ll come down to that spiritual question, and it’s a tough one: Is there something different about us that a machine won’t have? Is there that soul that a machine might not … I mean, they might have the faster brain, but are we just neurons and electrical impulses, or is there something more to us than that? I don’t know the answer to that.

Because I think your show is about humanity, it’s not about tech at all.

Well, exactly right. I think we tried to. In a weird way, we try and fight against our humanity. I don’t see my friends anymore. I don’t even call them anymore. I text them. We’ve devolved our communication. I remember when texting came out and it was so popular and I was like, “Wait a minute, we used to call each other on the phone, we used to hear each other,” and we would get so much more information out of that, but now we’d just rather text because of our own whatever, I don’t know what it is. Is it just easier or more efficient or too neurotic to get on the phone? I don’t know.

Sam Esmail has also “leaked” a page from a Mr. Robot script in which Elliot’s psychologist asked why he is so disappointed in society. Elliot’s answer: “Oh, that’s easy. Donald Trump was just elected president of the United States.”

Westworld is not the only current television show dealing with artificial intelligence. Humans is already into its second season on Channel 4 in the U.K. I’m currently behind (and even if I wasn’t I would avoid spoiling it for those who are waiting for it to be more easily available in the United States), but it did get off to a good start. So, to keep this all straight, Westworld and Humans are about robots, but Mr. Robot is not.

A sneak peak of the Doctor Who Christmas special was released at Children in Need (video above). Radio Times listed what we have learned.

In other Doctor Who news this week, Steven Moffat might create some controversy with his argument that the Doctor’s companion should always be a female:

Science-fiction is notoriously male. You can tell that because everyone wears uniforms and marches around talking about rules. But Doctor Who has always felt to me, rather female. It’s full of kindness and compassion and eccentricity and wisdom instead of violence. And from that point of view it is important that the main character, the Doctor’s best friend, should be female. I think it would be damaging to Doctor Who if that voice and viewpoint were not represented.

There have been male companions such as Rory and Captain Jack, but there were also female companions at the time. Classic Who also included some male companions, including Ian at the beginning and later Harry Sullivan and Adric. Generally there were also female companions along with male ones. (I am only speaking of companions present for a prolonged period of time, not isolated events such as Christmas episodes).

This argument also does not answer what will happen if there is ever a female Doctor.


Moffat was also asked recently whether the Doctor’s daughter, as played by Georgia Moffat, will return. He has no idea. He said it is doubtful that David Tennant’s duplicate Doctor would even return as, should they have the opportunity to use Tennant again, “then we would bring back David playing the real Doctor, and not a substitute Doctor.”

Karen Gillan has explained why she used such a husky voice in Guardians of the Galaxy.

The major show business story of the week was the duel between the cast of Hamilton and Trump/Pence.

After the final curtain calls that night, Brandon Victor Dixon, the actor who portrays Aaron Burr, stepped forward with a microphone to directly address Mr. Pence, who was leaving the theater. “We, sir — we — are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us,” he said. He added that he hoped “this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us. All of us.”

Mr. Trump quickly made it clear on Twitter, his social medium of choice, that Mr. Dixon and the “Hamilton” team had been “rude and insulting” and owed Mr. Pence an apology. At first, a part of me could see Mr. Trump’s point, or at least feel a shudder of embarrassed empathy for Mr. Pence. If someone were to single me out for a direct plea from the stage in a large theater, I would no doubt want to run home, dive into bed and bury myself under the covers. (Mr. Pence, speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” said he was not offended by Mr. Dixon’s words.)

I posted more on this yesterday.

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, Fringe, Merlin, Camelot, Harry Potter

There is now considerable attention being paid to the international start of the upcoming season of Doctor Who next Saturday. Here are two clips from the episode:

The Daily Mail has a profile on the next villain, to be featured in the two-part episode to start the season, The Silence:

For The Silence are the most sinister — and the scariest — of more than 200 intergalactic monsters who have done battle with the Time Lord over the centuries.

They will have us all cowering in terror behind the sofa when the sixth series in the current run of Doctor Who returns to TV next week, promises Matt Smith, the Doctor’s 11th incarnation…

Matt says: ‘They are pretty repulsive, but it’s their history that will really chill people. They could turn up anywhere and everywhere, and they’ve been undermining and controlling us for thousands of years but we don’t realise it.

‘And yet, here they are — for the very first time — made flesh in front of our eyes.’

The Silence have been mentioned but never seen in several episodes since Matt took over as the Doctor last year, and will play a central part in the show’s future.

Matt, who has wanted to add a hat to the Doctor’s costume, gets to wear a stetson in the new series as he is mysteriously invited to America’s Utah Desert along with his companion Amy Pond (played by Karen Gillan).

In real life, the Utah desert has been a hotspot for UFO sightings — in Doctor Who, it’s where the presence of The Silence first manifests itself.

Their look has been carefully created for maximum scare-factor, with dark suits, white shirts and black ties made by Doctor Who costume designer Barbara Kidd.

The suits, in particular, are a nod to the Men In Black movies, which starred Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones as smartly attired U.S. Government agents fighting alien invaders.

The Silence’s hands and heads — created by Neill Gorton, principal designer at Millennium Effects, the company which make all the Doctor Who monsters — are the only features that betray the fact they are aliens.

Made from Latex foam, the hands are bony-white and crumpled, while the triangular faces have no mouths, but human eyes sunk deep into the skull with traces of ears and a nose.

‘Humans will have been subconsciously aware of The Silence for many centuries and that awareness will have manifested itself in paintings such as The Scream,’ says Steven Moffatt, Doctor Who’s lead writer, who invented The Silence.

The Daily Mail also had pictures of the previous Doctor, David Tennant, along with his wife (The Doctor’s Daughter Georgia Tennant) pushing their actual daughter Olivia Moffat in a baby buggy. Other pictures show that Tennant had more difficulty handling the baby buggy than flying the TARDIS.

There were multiple interviews with the current stars over the past week. Here are the MTV interviews with Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, and Arthur Darvill.

Craig Ferguson’s interview with Karen Gillan was recorded last week but has been held back to air on this Friday’s episode prior to the start of the new season. Ferguson’s Friday episodes, along with other episodes when he is away, are commonly recorded ahead of time.

The return of Leonard Nimoy to Fringe was a disappointment. The episode primarily took place within Olivia’s head, with the help of some LSD. The scenes involving William Bell (Nimoy) were all animated. Presumably Nimoy’s return from retirement is limited to voice work, in the upcoming Transformers movie as well as on Fringe. This probably really was the end of William Bell. The only exception I can see is that the writers might find it irresistible to bring him back if Nimoy ever expresses interest in an actual appearance. Have we ever been told what happened to the William Bell from the alternate universe? Simply going back to explain how and why William Bell lived in the alternate universe would be of interest.

The episode ended with Olivia’s personality somewhat different as she identified one of the people seen in her head by saying without displaying any concern,  “He’s the guy who’s going to kill me.”  Reportedly the final episodes of the season are going to speed up the mythology along with possibly killing off a character (who we can safely predict will not be Olivia):

The executive producers of Fringe have revealed that a key character will be killed off in a forthcoming episode.

In a recent conference call, showrunner Jeff Pinkner claimed that “somebody who [fans of the show] love deeply will die”.

Fringe always does things the way you don’t expect,” added co-producer Joel Wyman. “It’s going to be effective, and it will be self-explanatory. That’s sort of all we can say without spoiling anything.”

Pinkner also suggested that the events of the third season finale will be “wholly unexpected“.

“It will recontextualise the story of season three in a really cool way, and be fun and entertaining and mind-blowing,” he claimed.

However, Pinkner ruled out the possibility of introducing a third universe to the sci-fi drama, which currently focuses on events in two parallel worlds.

“We are not introducing a third world,” he insisted. “We still have plenty of story to tell just in those two worlds. Maybe at some point in the future there will be a third world, but not yet.”

The third season of Merlin recently concluded its US run. Digital Spy has interviews with the two female leads which give limited hints as to the fourth season. Katie McGrath had this to say:

Is there a part of you that misses playing the ‘good’ Morgana?
“No, I love a bad girl! Absolutely. I couldn’t wait for her to become like this, because at the same time that she became the bad girl, she became powerful. All her uncertainty goes. In the first series, she was the opinionated, spoiled princess, and then in the second series, she was very unsure of herself. In the third series, she was still playing both sides. So by the time we get to the fourth series, she’s got to where ultimately she’s going to go. But in typical Merlin fashion, it’s not what you expect. It’s never what you expect, and in series four, it isn’t either. But I like the fact that she is strong and she’s accepted who she is. She’s assured, and even if you don’t agree with her point of view, she’s committed to it. She believes that she is doing the right thing and that she is saving people like her. She wants to bring back the old traditions, so she will no longer have to hide. I really respect that in somebody, that she is committed to what she believes. To be that strong and powerful is great, especially when you’re a girl. Without being a weak woman and soft, she’s still feminine. She’s a great woman to play!”

Series four will take place one year after the events of series three. What’s changed in that time?
“I think I’m bound to silence! I’m not sure what I can say. Well, Morgana has entirely changed in the year away. She’s been out of Camelot, and she’s probably been hunted and had to hide who she is. So to go from being such a privileged woman to being a hunted fugitive is going to change her. It’s going to make her harder, stronger and more committed. A year has also passed with everyone knowing that she is magical, so that’s also going to have changed how everybody else views her and how she views herself. I’m quite lucky. I’m probably completely biased, but I always say that I have the best character in the show. From season to season, I think she’s changed the most, and this season is no different. I know that everybody will be shocked by what she does in the first two episodes, and how she looks. It’s a complete new image for her. Very cool!”

Morgause appeared to die at the end of series three, so will Emilia Fox be back?
“Yes! Nothing’s ever the way it seems!”

And is there any chance of Mordred returning?
“I’d like Mordred to be back. He’s such an integral part of the story. I don’t know if he’s going to be back, because we’ve only got the first three scripts. But I’d like to think that at some point over the next few years, he’ll turn up, because you can’t tell the story without him. But again, what’s nice about Merlin is that it’s never going to be what you expect, so you can’t think that you know the legends. Even if you do, the show will trip you up and you’ll get a surprise! But I hope he’ll be back. Although [Mordred actor] Asa [Butterfield]’s off working with Martin Scorsese! I love it, we’re so proud of him! That boy, we’ve seen him grow!”

She had a lot more to say about her character, as well as the other version of Morgana in the Starz version of Camelot:

What are your thoughts on that other Arthurian adaptation, the Starz series Camelot?
“When they first told me they were doing it, I wanted to know who they’d cast! I wanted to know who was playing Morgana, and then they cast a Bond girl! How am I ever going to compete with that? Eve Green is my favorite Bond girl and she was so amazing and totally beautiful. I was like, ‘Oh great! Up against a Bond girl, I should just give it all up!’ But I have a friend who auditioned for it and read all the scripts, and she told me that the two shows are so different. [Eva and I] are playing two completely different characters, with a few similarities. Their portrayal of everything is nowhere near what we do. Their Arthur is different, their Guinevere is different, and so on. You can’t really put them in the same box, which is quite nice. I would put Camelot closer to [HBO fantasy drama] Game of Thrones, because it’s for a similar audience. We’re quite lucky in that there isn’t really anything like Merlin around.”

Game of Thrones is premiering on HBO tonight with the reviews sounding very positive. Digital Spy also interviewed Angel Coulby who plays Gwen. She revealed that Lancelot will be returning but does not know for how long.

While I loved most of the Harry Potter movies, I was disappointed with Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and did not have very high expectations from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part I. I recall disliking much of the first half of the book, feeling as Ron Weasley did, that we they wandering aimlessly. Therefore I waited until the Blu-Ray came out on Friday as opposed to seeing it at the movie theater, and it was at least as bad as I feared. If I didn’t already own the rest of the  Blu-Ray collection I might have refrained from purchasing this one, but it is hard to leave such a hole when almost at the end of a series.

The movies often improved upon the Harry Potter books by tightening them up in order to make them movie length. In some cases it was necessary to cut too much out for the movie, but in this case it would have helped to cut much of the material from the first half of the final book. If the studio wasn’t rearing the loss of income from the end of the franchise, I bet they would have just released a single book with much of the first half removed. Those who have also followed both the books and the movie could easily skip Part I and wait for Part II. If anyone is only following the movies, they might want to see  the first half hour or so of  the movie, but from there it would be helpful to use the fast forward button liberally.

SciFi Weekend: The Cape; A Baby Timelord; Torchwood Casting and Filming News; The Voldemort Effect

With the limited number of genre shows on this season, and No Ordinary Family taking a lighter approach to super heroes, there has been considerable anticipation for the premiere of The Cape. The show has been billed as a more serious and realistic superhero show. While there is a limit to how realistic such shows can possibly be, we have seen excellent results with such an approach with Iron Man and the latest Batman movies. Unfortunately it is unlikely that television will match the qualities of  Iron Man or The Dark Knight.

Like Iron Man and Batman, The Cape is an ordinary guy who learns tricks and utilizes gadgets as opposed to having true superpowers. The Cape learned his skills from a gang of criminal circus performers. Unfortunately we had all we wanted of mixing a circus and superheroes in the final season of Heroes.

The story would probably have been stronger if they used the full two hours of the premiere as an origin story instead of cramming in a weak follow up story. It is hard to judge shows such as this entirely by their first episodes as there is often room for improvement after initially setting up the situation. Even the last few episodes No Ordinary Family have been much better than the initial stories.

The best thing about The Cape is the return of Summer Glau as super-hacker Orwell. While I welcome her presence, I also fear that her character risks providing easy solutions to any problems. There is also an exaggerated view of the powers of technology in the show. Besides Orwell’s hacking abilities, having Vince Faraday (The Cape) have a card which opens multiple safes and is never canceled was far-fetched.

Besides Orwell, the show provides other supporting characters such as Faraday’s wife. Faraday is forced to take on a secret identity when framed for crimes committed by Chess/Peter Fleming, and when Fleming threatened Faraday’s family. While I can accept the situation of having Fleming keep secret the fact that he is still alive from the public and from Fleming, there is no reason why he can’t secretly see his wife.

Both Faraday and Fleming were pretty careless with their secret identities. The worst mistake was for Fleming to continue to appear as Chess after making it appear not only that Faraday was Chess but that he had been killed.

It is hard to evaluate the show without seeing future episodes. The weekly format of the show does place limitations on it, such as the need to keep Peter Fleming around  for further episodes as opposed to resolving that conflict as a stand alone movie might. James Frain, who plays the title role,  has provided hints as to where the series is going:

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Frain teased that Vince (David Lyons) and Peter will be involved in a number of confrontations in the future.

“They have to go head-to-head,” Frain said. “Vince has to confront this guy but he’s in a very unusual position of not being able to destroy him.

“The obvious thing to do is to take your revenge and go get the guy who framed you, but he can’t do that. He needs to keep this guy alive because he can’t prove his real identity without him, and so he realises that to really be free, he has to frame this guy and flip the tables on him. And so it’s not just a straightforward combat – it’s more psychological warfare.”

Frain also suggested that viewers will learn more about Peter as the series continues, saying: “We start to find out that Peter is a little bit more of a ladies’ man than we first thought. As the show goes on, the guy who he is by daytime, the guy who he is in the mask, becomes more and more separate and this conflict starts opening up.”

He added: “There’s going to be some action with a young woman that comes up that’s very interesting.”

I am glad that they will be expanding more upon Peter’s character. Having him be the head of a corporation who turns out to be evil was far too much of a television cliche.

Series creator TomWheeler has provided more background on where he wants to go with the series:

Wheeler says that the cape in The Cape also has its own backstory, and it will be explored throughout the life of the series. “In episode three, you get a big chunk of it,” he says. “One of our writers is getting his doctorate in mythology, and one of the things we talk about is the cape has a lot of primal symbolism. There’s the blanket you tie around your neck as a kid. That’s your first contact with being a superhero, so as a symbol, the cape connects you to childhood. But there’s also the cape in Jungian mythology/psychology that represents the shadow. So we are setting up a history for the cape that is quite dark. Even though the cape has no supernatural ability to do something to the wearer, we do get into what it means to embody your shadow; we explore the question ‘Do you wear the cape or does the cape wear you?’ That becomes an issue. We will be planting clues and mysteries along the way about the cape because there’s a big story to be told about the cape and what Vince is destined for.”

Another aspect of the superhero mythos that The Cape indulges is the super-villain. We’re not talking garden-variety crooks–we’re talking diabolical masterminds and high strange baddies. Wheeler’s ambition is to give The Cape a large rogues gallery, though Vince’s ongoing conflict with Chess provides the narrative spine of season 1. “Chess is a psychotic James Bond and we deal a lot with him and his alter-ego, Peter Fleming,” says Wheeler. “But we will see that while Peter is awful, he has a complicated life. In total, we’ll introduce seven new villains in the first season, including one that’ll be the center of a two-parter in the middle of the season.”

Wheeler says viewers can expect a show that will span a range of genres. There’s an episode that’ll be more sci-fi. There’s an episode that’s more “gothic” and scary. He believes non-geeks will be able to connect with emotional heart of the show–a story of a husband and father trying to reconnect with his wife and family. For all its old fashionedness, Wheeler believes The Cape is as entertaining as other state-of-the-art superhero action fantasies–even the ones of the grim and gritty stripe. “I think there’s a thirst out there for something that can marry the old and the new, something everyone to sit down and watch together as a family,” he says. “But we are very aware of the other entertainments that are out there and we believe we can be a compliment to them. God willing, we can be considered a branch on the tree of the great things Chris Nolan is doing or Zack Snyder or Jon Favreau have done–all the great adult stuff that’s out there.”

More from Wheeler here.

Doctor Who, which has had many inconsistencies during its near fifty-year run, has both had stories stating both that Timelord children do and do not exist. If the British tabloids are to be believed, we might have a Timelord child born on Earth this spring. Reportedly Georgia Moffat, who already has an eight year old son, is pregnant. News was recently released that Moffat is engaged to David Tennant. Tennant played the tenth Doctor, including staring in The Doctor’s Daughter where he met Georgia Moffat. Besides playing the Doctor’s daughter in the 2008 episode, Moffat is the daughter of Peter Davison, who played the fifth Doctor from 1981 to 1984.

There will be another reunion of cast members from Doctor Who. John Sim (who has played The Master, in addition to staring in the BBC version of Life on Mars) will be staring with Marc Warren (Elton Pope in a 2006 episode of Doctor Who entitled Love & Monsters) in Mad Dogs:

Woody (Beesley), Quinn (Glenister), Baxter (Simm) and Rick (Warren) have been friends since sixth form. The fifth member of their gang is Alvo (Ben Chaplin, Dorian Gray), a risk-taking opportunist who, having made his fortune in property, leads a luxurious lifestyle in Majorca.

Now in their 40s, they’ve all taken different paths in life with varying degrees of success. When Alvo flies them to his extravagant villa to celebrate his early retirement, they enjoy a trip down memory lane.
However, all does not go to plan and they find themselves entangled in a web of deception and murder involving beautiful police women, large yachts, Speedos and a rather short assassin in a Tony Blair mask…

Continuing Sky 1 HD’s dedication to homegrown high definition drama, Mad Dogs is a dark and twisted comic tale in which four ordinary guys discover how easily the line between friend and foe can be blurred.

The Doctor Who News Page has a report on the first week of filming Torchwood: Miracle Day. TV Squad has more information from Russel T. Davies on the series.  Lauren Ambrose, who played Claire Fisher on Six Feet Under, has been added to the cast. She will play Jilly Kitzinger, “a sweet-talking PR genius with a heart of stone who’s just cornered the most important client of her career … and maybe of all time.”

Julian Sanchez has blogged about The Voldemort Effect:

…as Harry’s sage mentor Dumbledore notes at one point, it was Voldemort’s choice to regard Harry as his predestined foe that made it true.

There’s a similar phenomenon in American politics, which I long ago mentally dubbed The Voldemort Effect. Maybe it’s always been this way, but it seems like especially recently, if you ask a strong political partisan—conservatives in particular, in my experience—which political figures they like or admire, and why, they’ll enthusiastically cite the ability to “drive the other side crazy.” Judging by online commentary, this seems to be an enormous part of Sarah Palin’s appeal. Palin herself certainty seems to understand this. Her favorite schtick, the well to which she returns again and again, is: “Look how all the mean liberals are attacking me!” Weekly Standard writer Matt Continetti even titled his book about the ex-governor “The Persecution of Sarah Palin.” Perversely, liberals end up playing a significant role in anointing conservative leaders.

This is, I think, a bipartisan phenomenon everyone at least subconsciously recognizes: A political figure—though more often a pundit than an actual candidate or elected official—gains prominence largely as a function of being attacked or loathed with special vehemence by the other side. Which means it’s crying out for a convenient shorthand so we can talk about it more easily; I propose “The Voldemort Effect.”

Matthew Yglesias responded:

I think the equivalence here is not only mistaken, but actually 180 degrees off base. You do see this Voldemort Effect in a lot of conservative thinking, but if liberals go awry it’s more likely to be in the reverse way—a lot of Team Blue’s thinking about politics is dominated by a kind of desperate search for leaders who won’t drive the other side crazy. Hence Bill Clinton, southern good ol’ boy. Hence John Kerry, decorated war hero. Hence calm, rational compromising Barack Obama instead of polarizing meanie Hillary Clinton. And that goes back to war hero George McGovern, southern good ol’ boy Jimmy Carter, Massachusetts Miracle technocrat mastermind Michael Dukakis, etc. In retrospect all of these people are hated by the right and “obviously” represent just another strain of out of touch liberalism, but in advance each and every one appealed to the rank and file as somehow “different” from his predecessors in some key way.

SciFi Weekend: A Timelord Wedding; Torchwood: Miracle Day; Dollhouse Stars on Torchwood & Community; Caprica; Mad Men to Return; January Jones as Emma Frost

David Tennant and Georgia Moffet are engaged with plans to get married next New Year’s Day. This sounds like a Timelord Wedding. Not only did Tennant play the tenth doctor, but Moffet has two ties to Doctor Who. She played The Doctor’s Daughter in a 2008 episode and Moffet is also the real life daughter of Peter Davison, who played the fifth Doctor from 1981 to 1984. (For those missing the old episodes, the BBC has announced the opening of a Classic Doctor Who channel on YouTube.)

David Tennant is also going to be working with another character from his days at Doctor Who. Tennant and Catherine Tate will be appearing together in a production of  Shakespeare’s Much A Do About Nothing.

The upcoming season of Torchwood has a tentative starting date of July 1 and a new title: Miracle Day.

As Davies explained, “The premise is a miracle that happens to the world. That one day, on Earth, no one dies. Not a single person on Earth dies. The next day, no one dies. The next day, no one dies. And on and on and on. Now, the sick stay sick, the old keep getting older, the dying keep dying, but no one quite dies.”

And at first, this seems a wonderful thing, “But globally, it’s an instant overnight population boom. The Earth relies on people dying.”

Davies understandably didn’t want to offer too many details on how and why “Torchwood” hero Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman, who couldn’t appear at the press tour session because he was acting in a play in England) comes back to our planet after running away at the end of the “Torchwood: Children of Earth” miniseries. But he did say that the notion of a world where no one can die would prove very intriguing to a man who suffers from immortality.

There is more information on the show and cast here. Dichen Lachman, who played Sierra on Dollhouse, who will play an FBI agent. Another cast member from Dollhouse will have a role on Community:

Enver Gjokaj, who played Victor during Dollhouse‘s brief life, will guest star on Community in episode 17, “Custody Law and Foreign Entanglements,” as Lukka, a love interest for Gillian Jacobs‘ Britta.

The character of Lukka is an “attractive, accent-y, oily Eastern European” fella who uses his finer points to seduce our girl Britta, but Lukka obviously is not exactly as delightful as he appears to be on first meeting.

The episode will most likely air sometime in March.

Miss the final episodes of Caprica last week? SyFy is streaming them online for free. As I’ve mentioned before, the concluding episodes were excellent, while the series as a whole was of mixed quality. Den of Geek! interviewed Eric Stoltz about some of the problems with the series.

Do you think that the show fell on the wrong side of a double-edged sword, following Battlestar?

I don’t think it was what the majority of Battlestar fans wanted, for the most part. It probably would’ve served us all better to have not even been connected to it.

It’s rare to find characters so instantly complex as we got in Caprica. How do you balance the many levels of Daniel Graystone? How do you set about giving the audience a way into a character like that?

That’s a very thick question, one which really requires a three page answer, which I won’t bore you with. The levels of the character were largely in the scripts, and usually left to the directors’ control: a little bit more malice here, a little more loving there.

That being said, there were certain relationships, like Greystone and his wife, that seemed to take on a life of their own, even beyond Paula Malcomson and myself. And that was wonderful to be a part of.

It was always a fascinating show to watch, and clearly the narrative had many, many threads to it. In hindsight, though, do you think the show was slightly off balance? Or wouldn’t you change a thing about it?

It’s rare for a show to find itself in the first season. There are exceptions, of course, but a lot of shows take two or three years to find the right ingredients. I’m sure we were off balance at times, and I’m sure I would change a few things if I had that power, but I’ve moved on.

It comes as little surprise, but it has been officially announced that Mad Men will return for a fifth season. No date for the season has been announced yet. January Jones will also be appearing in X Men: First Class, which will be a prequel story which, like Mad Men, takes place in the 1960’s. Jones will play the scantily mutant telepath Emma Frost. It would take an actress with the looks of January Jones to pull off the role.

”The costumes are insane,” Jones said.

“It’s a lot of very body-conscious stuff. If you look at the comic book, she’s barely dressed. She’s got quite the bod, which is very intimidating.”

I do think January Jones can handle the costumes.

SciFi Friday: Moffat Wins Three In A Row; The Doctor Dates His Daughter

The Hugo Awards are out and Steven Moffat now won three years in a row for episodes of Doctor Who. This year he won for Blink, which I previously reviewed here. He previously won awards for The Girl in the Fireplace, The Empty Child and The Doctor Dances. While I have long been impressed for Moffat’s work as a science fiction writer, I become even more impressed with him after seeing how well he did in a different genre. Coupling, which I wrote about here, is one of the best sit-coms I have ever seen, combining aspects of Friends, Seinfeld, and Sex And The City. I am hoping that once Moffat takes over as show runner for Doctor Who in 2010 he gives The Doctor three famale companions–Susan, Sally, and Jane from Coupling.

Here are some of this year’s Hugo Award winners:

Best Novel: The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon.

Best Novella: “All Seated on the Ground” by Connie Willis

Best Novelette: “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Guide” by Ted Chiang

Best Short Story: “Tideline” by Elizabeth Bear

Best Related Book: Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction by Jeff Prucher

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form: Stardust

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form: Doctor Who: “Blink”

David Tennant is currently busy playing Hamlet to mixed reviews. Catherine Tate, who played Donna last season is currently appearing in the play Under The Blue Sky. Tennant was recently seen attending an appearance of the play accompanied by Georgia Moffett, daughter of Peter Davison (born Peter Moffett) who previously played The Doctor.  Georgia also played The Doctor’s Daughter in the episode of that name last season, making her the The Doctor’s daughter both in real life and on television.

Besides the work of stars such as David Tennant, and writers including, but certainly not limted to Steven Moffat, much of the credit for the new Doctor Who series and its spin offs must go to executive producer Julie Gardner. IO9 has an interview with Gardner, which includes a spoiler about the Sarah Jane Adventures.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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