SciFi Weekend: The Name of the Doctor and Star Trek Into Darkness

DOCTOR WHO SERIES 7B

This was a weekend steeped in tradition with the two oldest science fiction franchises both having a major event. The season of Doctor Who concluded with The Name of The Doctor, which leads directly into the 50th anniversary episode, and a new Star Trek movie was released. As usual, the review of Doctor Who contains spoilers but it is posted a day after the episode aired.  Fortunately those who received the episode early in error kept quiet. Movies are harder to deal with as people view them at different times. There are also major spoilers for Star Trek Into Darkness, many of which have been revealed in other reviews.

After a season of near-misses, especially in the second half, Moffat really delivered with The Name of the Doctor. The episode dealt with the entire history of the Doctor and events in recent episodes were important in making the episode work. Now that we have seen where Moffat was headed, the season as a whole looks much better as a long story arc in retrospect, even if each chapter was not perfect. Obviously Asylum of the Daleks and The Snowmen were necessary to see Clara die while saving the Doctor.  It was important to show Vastra, Jennie, and Strax as friends of the Doctor in The Snowmen and The Crimson Horror to believe the Doctor would take such a great risk to try to save them. It was part of her story for Clara to learn of her significance and then lose the memory in  Journey To The Center Of The TARDIS.

The introductory sequence might be the best ever seen on Doctor Who. It begins on Gallifrey with the question, “What kind of idiot would try to steal a faulty TARDIS?” Clara appears telling the first Doctor, accompanied by Susan, “Doctor, sorry, but you’re about to make a big mistake.”  The episode also includes glimpses of the other Doctors. There was the return of The Great Intelligence along with a new monster, The Whispermen.

Clara Letter

The story initially centers around leading the Doctor to Trenzalore, including a clever way to have Vastra, Jenna, Strax, Clara, and River Pond communicate over time. “Time travel has always been possible in dreams” makes no sense, but is accepted to propel the story.

We already knew that Trenazlore was connected to the fall of the eleventh, but it also turns out to be the site of the Doctor’s tomb and apparently the fall of Doctors beyond the eleventh. As the TARDIS resisted taking the Doctor to this one place in the universe where he should never go, there was also a literal fall to the surface.

We saw both what happens to a TARDIS and to a Time Lord following their death. The Doctor’s real name was necessary to open his tomb, but was spoken by River Song without the viewer hearing it. It was no surprise that we did not learn the name and the title of the episode was mild misdirection on Moffat’s part. Moffat also deceived us in other interviews about the episode, but Moffat’s lies are always forgiven when he delivers a great show. A character did die, but was also restored to life. Or perhaps he was referring to River Song. The episode appears intended to her final meeting with the Doctor, but does not prevent her from returning, especially from an earlier point in her time line. The very nature of her appearance in this episode raises questions which may or may not be answered beyond the simple explanations provided.

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The claim that this would be a season of stand alone episodes was also not completely true. Besides the finale being largely a chapter in a story which must include prior episodes of this season, The Name of the Doctor ends on a cliff hanger.

By the end we did learn both the explanation for Clara Oswald and the Doctor’s greatest secret. Nobody would have figured out Clara’s explanation without the events of The Name of the Doctor as she was fragmented over time after entering the Doctor’s time stream. I do have a couple of nitpicks with what we learned here.

Echoes of Clara were with the Doctor throughout his life, often saving him from the changes to the Doctor’s time stream created by The Great Intelligence. When Clara told the Doctor he was making a mistake when first stealing a TARDIS, the mistake was merely in the TARDIS he planned to take and she directed him to another in which “the navigation system’s knackered” and he will have more fun.  This conflicts with The Doctor’s Wife in which it was the TARDIS who influenced the Doctor to steal her. The scene would have worked better if the Doctor went on to take the TARDIS he first tried to steal despite Clara’s warning. This would have also provided an explanation for the TARDIS disliking Clara earlier in the season. Maybe this was even intended and it is just not clear that he ignored Clara’s advice but I do believe he took the one which Clara recommended.

Clara Time Stream

My other complaint is that Clara spoke of seeing all eleven  Doctors, but if this was the remnant of his entire time stream after he died she should have seen versions of the Doctor beyond the eleventh. They could have shown glimpses of others without faces and refrain from having Clara specify eleven. Ultimately one other version is shown with a contradiction present. He is presented as a version which does not deserve to be the Doctor for his actions but the episode ends with the caption, “Introducing John Hurt as The Doctor.”

We have until November 23 to find out what this means. There was mention of the Valeyard, the evil version of the Doctor from between the twelfth and final regeneration, during the episode, yet more evidence of Moffat’s respect for the entire history of the show. While John Hurt could be playing him, interviews so far suggest he is a regeneration from between the eighth and ninth Doctors (added when Christoper Eccleston declined to appear in the 50th anniversary episode). He is apparently the Doctor’s greatest secret for what he did. So far we only know that “broke the promise” which comes from choosing the name of the Doctor. This might be referring to actions during the Time Wars, or perhaps to events we are not yet aware of.

However this ends, Moffat has given us a tremendous season and appears to be on the way to making a major addition to the Doctor’s history and mythology.

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We will be anxiously awaiting the 50th anniversary episode, and the eight season since the reboot has been officially announced.

The Behind the Scenes video is above.

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Star Trek Into Darkness is an entertaining movie well worth seeing but it is not great Star Trek. J.J. Abrams knows how to make a great action movie (even if there is too much lens-flare) but he does not really understand Star Trek. The plot is a series of contrivances for a series of action scenes, lacking Gene Roddenbery’s vision which made Star Trek great. Wil Wheaton has already responded to Abrams’ failing to understand the importance of philosophy to Star Trek. This was far more Star Wars than true Star Trek.

Partially in Abrams’ defense, Star Trek should be a television series, not movie. It takes a weekly television series to develop the characters and show the philosophy of Star Trek in a series of smaller stories as opposed to big action scenes. Unfortunately the movies thrive on big action scenes, and the original movie series also failed to live up to the quality of the television shows. A movie which was true to Star Trek would have to be directed more towards Star Trek fans than a mass audience. Star Trek The Motion Picture did avoid the big action scenes and was not a great success, but it also had other flaws.

Abrams depends even more on the big action scenes than the original movie series, moving from one to the other at the expense of a logical plot or really dealing with issues. Thus we have a few lines of explanation for Khan’s motivations (including a reference to Section 31 which I did enjoy) but Abrams did not develop the character as well as in either Space Seed or Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Benedict Cumberbatch did play an excellent villain with the material available.

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Admiral Marcus turned out to be a second villain but his motivations did not seem realistic. It s one thing to bend the rules to get Star Fleet to prepare for a war you feel is coming. It is another thing to attempt to destroy the Enterprise or to directly try to provoke war with the Klingons. The movie also had one thing in common with the other recent blockbuster, Iron Man 3. Both include a character who is influenced into betraying others to help their child.

There is some degree of political controversy and references to current events in the movie. Khan was the terrorist on Kronos in an analogy to today’s terrorists in countries such as Afghanistan and Pakistan. The morality of using drones to kill a terrorist versus taking the terrorist into custody for a fair trial was raised. This was dealt with too simply with Khan being in an unpopulated area where capturing him seemed to be a more realistic option.

I do wish the timeline could be fixed as it was on The Name of the Doctor, but we must deal with the J.J. Abrams alternative timeline for now. I did not object, as some fans did in response to rumors of Khan’s appearance, to this retelling of the story. It was plausible that Admiral Marcus might have found the Botany Bay at an earlier point in history, and after the destruction of Vulcan might tried to make use of Khan.

There were other changes in this timeline compared to the original timeline. For example, they actually thought to put seat belts on the bridge.

Carol Marcus

While obviously it relates to changes in our culture as opposed to Nero’s changes in the timeline, sexual attitudes are different. On one hand, Kirk is still the womanizer, and they added a young, beautiful, and scantily clad Carol Marcus (Alice Eve) to the movie and trailer to increase interest in the movie. In other ways things were different. Kirk started on his five year mission to go “where on one has gone before.” It took us from the original series to Star Trek The Next Generation to update from “where no man has gone before.” Uhura had a far more active role. For the most part I liked this, except in the scene where Uhura was beamed down to join Spock in fighting Khan. This should have been a big guy whose primary job involved fighting, not a communications officer. Of course the original Star Trek would have been unrealistic in its own way. Captain Kirk would have been the one to beam down, simultaneously placing the Captain and First Officer in danger.

A surprise in this movie which is an obvious consequence from the previous movie was how  Spock took advantage of his counterpart from the original timeline to obtain information about Khan. This did allow Spock to figure out that Khan could not be trusted, but there were plenty of other clues even without contacting New Vulcan. This does present the danger of providing an easy way to get answers in further adventures, which might be avoided by facing different dangers or by being too far out into deep space to contact the original Spock. It was a surprise to see Leonard Nimoy in this movie, and it is questionable as to how much longer he will be able or willing to put on those Vulcan ears and appear on screen. They also met up with Tribbles earlier in this timeline and a Tribble played a key role.

Compared to The Wrath of Khan, this movie reversed Kirk and Spock making the sacrifice and screaming out the name of Khan. For a moment I feared they might be leaving the resurrection of James Kirk to the next movie as was done with Spock in the original series. Thankfully everything was resolved in this installment.

Spock Uhura

I did not like some of the changes in technology from the original timeline.  I did not like having Khan being able to easily transport himself from earth to Kronos. This is not Doctor Who. I disliked even more having Star Fleet build bigger ships for battle. The Enterprise is already much larger. While the Enterprise was built primarily for exploration, it is still the flagship for Star Fleet. Military threats should be handled by the Enterprise and other similar star ships, and there should not be bigger, more powerful ships to rely on.

Ultimately The Name of the Doctor will be remembered as significant and rewatched by fans. Star Trek Into Darkness provided a very entertaining night at the movies, which isn’t all bad, but it was a one-shot affair without much significance to Star Trek history. I just hope it is successful enough to eventually lead to a new television series. A cable television show does not need the mass audience of a blockbuster movie to succeed.

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SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who; Agents of SHIELD; New & Returning Shows; Community; Person of Interest; The Newsroom

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Neil Gaiman’s second episode of Doctor Who, Nightmare in Silver, was weaker than his first episode, The Doctor’s Wife. Like so many  episodes this half-season, it wasn’t bad but came up short of what it might have been. The good thing about the episode is that Gaiman updated the backstory for the Cybermen which might be used in future episodes. He had less to say about the Doctor’s history than in The Doctor’s Wife except to reveal that it is foolish to try to beat the Doctor at Chess as The Timelords invented chess.

Gaiman accelerated the trend of making the Cybermen more like the Borg. (There has also been speculation that the Borg were originally based upon the Cybermen but I have never seen confirmation of this). Instead of assimilation, they upgrade. They upgrade humans, and now other species, with cybermites, and upgrade themselves to counter attacks. One problem with the episode was that upgrades were only used for dramatic effect in limited circumstances. The Cybermen upgraded to be faster, but in most scenes they continued to move slowly.

These Cybermen were shown to be far more dangerous. They are so dangerous that the standard reaction to finding one a a planet is to destroy the entire planet. Even an entire galaxy was destroyed to prevent the Cybermen from advancing. The problem with making an enemy this powerful is that ending each episode by imploding the planet would be tedious, and having the Doctor repeatedly defeat them in under an hour would be unrealistic–sort of how the Borg gradually changed from an unbeatable force when introduced on Star Trek The Next Generation to a race easily defeated by a lone starship on Voyager.

Warwick Davies stole the show as Porridge, later revealed to be Emperor Ludins Nimrod Kendrick Cord Longstaff the 41st. It was unrealistic for the Emperor to just happen to be hiding on this planet, but now that the Doctor has met him it would be a shame for the two not to meet up again.

The episode has the obligatory (this season) homage to past Doctors with images of them displayed. There’s more to come next week, including a scene with Bessie driving by. There were not any obvious clues to the Clara mystery but Clara did learn that the Doctor considers her to be the impossible girl. We should be getting the answers next week, with this prequel released leading into The Name of the Doctor:

A Radio Times interview with Neil Gaiman is posted here. Gaiman’s interview with the official Doctor Who site is here.  Blastr has the story of how Steven Moffat got Neil Gaiman to update the Cybermen and make them scary.

The Behind the Scenes video is above.

The Doctor found a BAFTA in the TARDIS (video above). There is also more at the awards ceremony to honor Doctor Who:

Doctor Who is to be honoured with a special tribute to be shown at Sunday’s BAFTA television award ceremony.

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts will be marking the programme’s 50th Anniversary year by showing a video montage celebrating the long history of the show.

Current companion Jenna-Louise Coleman will also attend the ceremony at the Royal Festival Hall in London and will present one of the night’s awards.

Amanda Berry OBE, Chief Executive of BAFTA, said:

There are only a handful of programmes that have the quality and longevity of Doctor Who and the ability to put the nation on their sofas – or indeed behind them – year after year. BAFTA raises a toast to Doctor Who on its 50th birthday this year.

Steven Moffat, Doctor Who’s Lead Writer and Executive Producer, said the production team would be sending Daleks to patrol the red carpet:

This is a massive and exciting year for Doctor Who, so I’m thrilled that BAFTA are including a special tribute to the show. So thrilled, in fact, we’re sending the Doctor’s best friend, Jenna Coleman, to present an award. We’re also sending the Doctor’s worst enemy, the Daleks, to exterminate lots of innocent people. Sorry, it’s just what they do. Let us know if it’s a Health and Safety issue.

Doctor Who won the main BAFTA award for Best Drama Series in 2006 and has won many BAFTA Craft Awards since the series returned in 2005.

Watch out for spoilers this week. An error was made and some Blu-Ray sets with The Name of the Doctor has been shipped early and some copies of the episode are starting to appear on line. Some people are intentionally spoiling the show on Twitter so be careful in reading messages in response to mentioning Doctor Who.

Speaking of spoilers,  John Hurt may have revealed his role in the 50th Anniversary episode:

Mr Hurt, who lives near Cromer, earlier told the EDP he had just finished shooting a Dr Who 3D special in which he plays “part of the Doctor” in a “kind of trinity” which includes David Tennant.

Not surprisingly, ABC has picked up Agents of SHIELD, along with additional genre shows for next season. More on the cast of Agents of SHIELD here. Defiance and Revolution have both been renewed. In the overkill department, Once Upon A Time is both returning and getting a spin-off. Blastr has a run down of eleven new genre shows.24 might return as a 12 or 13 episode mini-series. Does this mean that the story will take place in real time over a shorter period of time or that the show will move faster than real time?

Community - Season 4

Community was also picked up for a fifth season and there are some rumors that Dan Harmon might return. (I’m not holding my breath, but hope it is true.) Chevy Chase is gone, and he was not missed in the episodes where he did not appear at all or only had minor roles. The finale showed once again that show runners David Guarascio and Moses Port may be sincere in their desire to continue the creative ideas of Dan Harmon but just do not understand how to carry this out.

Compare the season finale, Advanced Introduction to Finality, with Basic Human Anatomy, the episode written by Jim Rash which most critics consider the best of the season. The finale brought back The Darkest Timeline with a story which was ridiculous on so many levels. It centered around the impossible situation of people crossing over from The Darkest Timeline with the use of paint ball in a story which didn’t make much sense even if you accept this. Then it ended by revealing it all to be Jeff’s daydream. A daydream (if the story was good) would be fine as part of a story. It might have even worked earlier in the season, but the finale should not be almost entirely a day dream (especially when the dream storyline wasn’t all that good).

Dan Harmon would have been more subtle with the use of an alternative time line, as with Jim Rash with the body swaps in Basic Human Anatomy. If there were true body swaps, or if it was all a dream, I doubt the story would have worked. Instead Rash had characters behave as if they had swapped bodies to reveal more about the characters. Troy acted as Abed because he couldn’t cope with a relationship he is too immature to handle. Abed reciprocated by acting as if he was Troy to end the relationship. Of course we know why the Dean pretended to change bodies with Jeff. The flashing lights weren’t magic but just someone flipping the switches. While not plausible, it was all possible.

Next season is expected to pick up with the remaining members of the study group in their final semester. Jeff and Pierce have graduated. Presumably Pierce is gone forever, but they now have a more difficult job of getting Jeff into the episodes when he should no longer be at the study group’s table. Perhaps they will come up with another reason why Jeff needs another class, but that would make last season appear even lamer in retrospect.

Person of Interest finale

Person of Interest concluded the season with a strong two-part episode which more firmly establishes the show as science fiction. In earlier episodes the machine was simply a gimmick to set up a more conventional crime show of the week, but now the machine is an integral part of the show. Plus Amy Acker was back and Sarah Shahi is an excellent addition to the show. In some ways the show reminds me of Fringe, which gradually set up its mythology in earlier stand-alone episodes.

Aaron Sorkin’s show, The Newsroom, returns on July 14, with changes made to hopefully fix some of the problems from the first season. A promo video is below:

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SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who; S.H.I.E.L.D.; Inspector Spacetime; Community; House of Cards and the White House Correspondents’ Dinner; The Americans

Time Wars

Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS was being hyped as the first blockbuster episode of the spring season of DoctorWho but failed to deliver. It’s not that I didn’t like it, but my exceptions were just too high for what turned out to be a bottle episode. One problem was that there were just too many plot contrivances. To start with the TARDIS was placed in basic mode so that it could be captured. Then how do we explain how the Doctor winds up outside and Clara is lost in the corridors? I might forgive these as necessary to set up the story, but similar problems plagued the entire episode.

The Doctor said not to touch anyone or else time will reassert itself. I have no idea what that means, and feel they are going too far in making up rules for time as they go along. I can forgive contradictions as to whether the Doctor can change events or meet up with his former selves on rare occasions in order to provide for a good story. I didn’t buy Moffat’s explanation as to why the Doctor couldn’t travel back in time to somewhere other than New York and meet up with Amy and Rory, but I’ll let that pass as we know the real point was a farewell episode for the two. Throwing out a new concept of time asserting itself based upon who is touched seemed like pointless and arbitrary timey whimey stuff.  I might have accepted a cosmic reset button to resolve the episode  if the explanation and story were executed better but entire existence of the  Big Friendly Button was rather weak. There were so many other questions, such as why did future burnt Clara attack everyone, and how did getting burnt make little Clara strong enough to take on larger men?

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The highlight of the episode was Clara running through the TARDIS. The scene of the TARDIS swimming pool would have been more exciting if we didn’t already know it was coming. This created expectations of more than a quick glimpse. I did like the TARDIS library but The History Of The Time War with The Doctor’s real name sitting out makes it implausible that none of the previous companions other that River Song knew this. This did serve to foreshadow the mystery of the season finale, The Name of the Doctor: “You call yourself ‘Doctor? Why do you do that? You have a name. I’ve seen it.”

I also wonder who would have the knowledge to write this book.  Besides reading this secret, Clara also heard the story of her two other deaths. The memory should be gone after the cosmic reset, but we also saw that from the Van Baalen brothers that not all memories were extinguished. I won’t even get into the nonsense of convincing one of the brothers that he is an android.

As has been common in episodes leading up to the 50th Anniversary, there were references to previous episodes. This included past sounds echoing through the TARDIS. Clara also found the Doctor’s cot from A Good Man Goes To War and the model TARDIS Amy and Mel were playing with in Let’s Kill Hitler. There were other things we have seen before, including a crack in time and (almost) an exploding TARDIS.

Quote of the Episode: “Don’t get into a spaceship with a madman: didn’t anyone teach you that?”

Above is the Behind The Scenes video

Next week, Strax, Vastra and Jenny return in The Crimson Horror. Dianna Rigg, whose roles range from The Avengers ( 1960′s BBC series) to Game of Thrones, guest stars. Here is an interview with her. A spoiler-free review is posted here.

The BBC has released the official synopsis for Neil Gaiman’s upcoming episode, Nightmare in Silver:

Hedgewick’s World of Wonders was once the greatest theme park in the galaxy, but it’s now the dilapidated home to a shabby showman, a chess-playing dwarf and a dysfunctional army platoon. When the Doctor, Clara, Artie and Angie arrive, the last thing they expect is the re-emergence of one of the Doctor’s oldest foes. The Cybermen are back!

Gaiman also did a far better job of revealing TARDIS secrets back in The Doctor’s Wife.

Clark Gregg has revealed how Agent Coulson will be brought back in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

“In the pilot, it’s revealed Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), the ultimate super spy, faked Agent Coulson’s death on purpose to motivate The Avengers. Some S.H.I.E.L.D. members were in on it (including, possibly, Maria Hill played by Cobie Smulders) but The Avengers were not. Their security clearance wasn’t high enough. Coulson was forced to hold his breath as part of the ruse and that’s a point of contention among his colleagues After the fact, Fury moved him to a remote location until things died down, and then he was reinserted into duty at the time of the show.”

I was hoping that we’d see Black Widow get in the shower and find Agent Coulson there, Bobby Ewing style.

Mayim Bialik of The Big Bang Theory will be joining the cast of the Untitled Web Series About A Space Traveler Who Can Also Travel Through Time. This is the web version of Inspector Spacetime with name removed to avoid copyright infringement against Community. Incidentally, Community had its best post-Dan Harmon episode this week with a Freaky Friday storyline. The episode was written by Jim Rash, who plays the Dean and shows he picked up a few things about how the show should be done during the time he has spent appearing on it. Rash is interviewed about writing the episode here.

The White House Correspondents’ Dinner showed the above parody of House of Cards, coincidentally the same week in which I completed watching the series on Netflix. The release of all thirteen episodes of the first season provided the advantage of allowing for binge watching. The disadvantage was the inability for blogs to discuss this on a weekly basis coinciding with most people watching as is the case with most television shows. Events became far more compelling in the final several episodes and I did wind up binging on the show this Friday night. Events in the slower-moving earlier episodes do become much more important. On the other hand, the shows leaves open much to talk about and it would have been interesting to read the views of others as the events unfolded.

MAJOR SPOILERS ABOUT HOUSE OF CARDS FOLLOW.

DO NOT READ THE NEXT SECTION UNTIL YOU COMPLETE THE FIRST 13 EPISODES

House of Cards might be seen as a completed story if seen as Frank Underwood going from being bypassed for the Secretary of State appointment to being chosen to become the next Vice President, which Frank wants to use as a stepping stone to the presidency. With filming beginning on a second set of thirteen, many things are still hanging which could jeopardize Frank’s appointment and perhaps lead to even worse consequences. The most serious would be revelations as to how he manipulated Peter, especially if the murder is revealed. Claire’s  legal problems could also create enough of a problem to prevent the appointment, even if the complaint was fabricated. I suspect that ultimately the season will seem more like the first half of a novel.

Initially the series seemed like a more cerebral, political version of Revenge. Later Underwood’s real plan becomes clear. When Underwood first set up Russo’s fall, I assumed it was in retaliation for Peter acting independent of Underwood, threatening to expose past manipulations. Presumably Underwood had planned this from the start, with Peter’s disloyalty  just providing the reason to put the final stages into motion at the time. When Underwood started to wipe his fingerprints off of Peter’s steering wheel I predicted what he would do next, but did it really make sense to murder Peter where security cameras might have shown him come in? Having Peter permanently silenced would be of benefit, but Peter no longer had the same ability to cause harm to Underwood.

My biggest nitpick about the show was the manner in which alliances changed so easily. Frank’s wife betrayed him and then quickly became loyal to their joint goals after returning home (a second way in which Peter’s death was of benefit to Underwood as long as everyone continues to consider it a suicide). More implausible was the degree of loyalty to Underwood showed by the President’s chief of staff in later episodes. I could easily see her performing a few favors for Underwood, even floating his name as Vice President, in return for his favor. It went too far with her actually scheming with Underwood and allowing the release of the secret schedule.

Other changes in loyalties were easier to accept. Backstabbing by underlings such as Remy didn’t come as much of a surprise. Zoe is far more interesting as a reporter digging into what happened as opposed to the slut who got her stories by sleeping with sources. Best of all was seeing Zoe convince Christina to help find out what really drove Peter to suicide. There is no doubt that this House of Cards will start to collapse around Frank Underwood when the series returns now that his earlier actions are becoming uncovered.

END OF SPOILERS

The Americans started in a more conventional, weekly format on FX at about the same time as  House of Cards was placed on Netflix. The finale airs this Wednesday, with a preview of the episode here.  It is my favorite new series of this season, centering around two Russian spies who pose as as a married couple during the Reagan era. Their neighbor across the street happens to be an FBI agent. I won’t say more, recommending that those who have not seen the series pick it up from the beginning.

Finally, here are Conan O’Brien and Barack Obama at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner:

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SciFi Weekend: Fringe Through The Looking Glass; A Partial Explanation on Revolution; Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chome; Neil Gaiman Making Cybermen Scary; Scarlett Johansson’s Shower Scene in Hitchcock

Fringe took a look  Through the Looking Glass and What Walter Found There. Walter looked at another tape and, in an uncharacteristic move, went off on his own. For a moment I thought he might be crossing over to the alternate universe but instead he wound up in a pocket universe. There are now new elements added to this season’s scavenger hunt–a bald-headed kid adopted by the Observers in a previous season who is now missing, and a radio left in his place. It will be interesting to see what type of message comes over this radio.

This was also an episode which concentrated on development for Olivia and Peter, as they continued to morn the death of Etta. The climax of the episode showed them fighting the Observers, with an Observer telling Peter that he knows what he has done but has made a grave mistake. Whether it turns to be good or bad, it may be analogous to hooking Peter up to the machine with its unexpected results. For now Peter is a better fighter, and more vicious in killing the Observer. His vision then took on a blue tint–yet another effect of the Observer implant in his neck (unless he took Viagra). There are also changes in Walter, who is becoming more like Walternate, or the Walter he was becoming before portions of his brain were removed by William Bell. I would assume this is a consequence of replacing these portions of his brain in Letters of Transit.

Revolution primarily continued its adventure of the week format, this time with a watered-down version of Lord of the Flies.  We did learn more about what caused the blackout, leaving more questions. The Mathesons, along with Grace (who was kidnapped earlier this season) were working on a device to generate electricity and instead it did the opposite–stopping electricity completely. Someone from the Department of Defense pressured Rachel into accepting a government contract for this technology, and he turned out to also be the person who kidnapped Grace. It might have made sense for the DOD to be interested in this as a weapon directed against a specific country, but it is harder to see the rational for using this if it also caused the blackout in the United States. It will be interesting to see if we ever get a plausible explanation.

The web series, Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome is now available on line. Episode one is embedded above. An “explosive unrated edition” will be coming out on Blu-ray & DVD February 19, 2013.

It has been confirmed that Neil Gaiman’s episode of Doctor Who will involve the Cyberman, with Gaiman making them scary again:

Speaking to Reviewer.fr he said: “Steven asked me to write a new episode and I said no because I was too busy. And then he wrote and asked if I wanted to make the Cybermen scary again. And I thought back to when I was six or seven years old: ‘The Moonbase’, ‘Tomb of the Cybermen’ … when I saw them when they were first broadcast. The Cybermen were far more frightening than Daleks, because they do not make noise. Daleks move in all directions, shouting ‘Exterminate’, etc..  With Cybermen it’s different. You turned around and bam! There were Cybermen. It’s scary.

“I told [Moffat] that I would revive the Cybermen for the 50th anniversary year and everything that has happened since, and see what I could do. I do not know if it will work, we’ll see.”

He added: “This will be a stand-alone episode, it will be the penultimate episode of Series 7. It has a beginning, a middle and an end.”

Gaiman also stated that the title of the episode, currently believed to be The Last Cyberman, could still change: “‘The Doctor’s Wife’ was’ Bigger on the Inside’, up to two weeks before release. It could be anything,” he said.

Scarlett Johansson is on the cover of V magazine, recreating the Janet Leigh shower scene from Psycho. She found facing Anthony Hopkins to be far scarier than filming a nude scene:

The flick, about the making of Psycho, finds Johansson having to recreate a certain iconic shower scene.

“We only had the luxury to shoot the scene for a day, and everybody was feeling very nervous because it involved water and nobody wants the actor to get wet,” the 27-year-old told V. “They were concerned with modesty and all these things—but I don’t care about any of that stuff and Janet Leigh never did either.”

But Johannsson did admit that it was “terrifying” having costar Anthony Hopkins, who portrays the famed director, point a long kitchen knife in her face.

“Maybe I watched Silence of the Lambs too many times when I was a kid. Maybe I was having some flashbacks. So I didn’t need too much preparation for the scene,” the actress said.

A trailer for Hitchcock has also been released:

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SciFi Weekend: A Big Surprise on Doctor Who (Asylum of the Daleks)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Q1r2dQkB1fY

Doctor Who returned this weekend with Asylum of the Daleks. It as preceded by two prequels, the video above from iTunes and Pond Life, with the collected episodes below:

Asylum of the Daleks  featured lots and lots of Daleks. The Daleks now are somewhat like the Borg, using nanotechnology to convert people into Daleks and into humans with Dalek weapons popping out of their foreheads. There’s also a game changing ending, and a huge surprise (Spoilers ahead).

We were told that each episode would be a stand-alone story without the big arc of last season.  Asylum of the Daleks could certainly be enjoyed by the casual viewer as a stand-alone episode, but Doctor Who fans were likely to be surprised to find that a character named Oswin, played by Jenna-Louise Coleman, was the highlight of the episode. For the benefit of any Doctor Who fans who might have been trapped in the Pandorica since last spring, Jenna-Louise Coleman will be playing the Doctor’s next companion beginning with the Christmas episode. Rumors are that her name will be Clara Oswin and she will be a computer genius, but seeing how Moffat played with us by having Jenna appear months early, it is possible that we also might have been fed some false information.

There are many possible explanation. Some companions, including Karen Gillan, appeared on the show as different characters prior to being hired to play the companion. Perhaps Moffat is using a variation on this, inserting the new companion into a different role after hiring Jenna. At least one interview I’ve heard does suggest this was the explanation, but I cannot give up on the idea that there is a stronger connection.

There’s also Donna Noble who appeared in a Christmas episode, and then returned in a future season to be the Doctor’s companion. It would be a little more difficult for Jenna to return as Oswin had both been turned into a Dalek and the planet she was on was blown up. Of course this is Science Fiction, and perhaps either Oswin found a way to save herself or the Doctor found a way to save her. This might explain all the references in the episode to being remembered. The Doctor told Amy to make the Daleks remember her, but for a moment Amy’s mind was somewhere else, seeing Daleks as dancers. Rory forgot his own name for a moment. Oswin told the Doctor to remember her. There’s also the ending of the episode which I will get to later, plus memory has been a common theme in Moffat’s stories.

If Oswin somehow escaped on her own, it might be significant that she has seen the Doctor while he does not knowwhat she looks like. That might explain reports of Clara chasing after the Doctor (who would not recognize her) in the Christmas Episode. If Oswin did survive, this be somewhat similar to Sherlock, where Holmes did survive a situation in which it appeared he had died.

If Oswin really is dead as it appears, there is always the River Song scenario. The Doctor might meet Oswin at some point earlier in her timeline, but would Moffat do the same thing twice? Maybe the Doctor rewrites time to prevent her from becoming a Dalek. Those rules about time are quite ambiguous to those of us who are not Time Lords. However that might create problems if Oswin was not around to help them in the asylum.

Perhaps Jenna does not play this Oswin but instead someone who looks identical to her. That could be a twin, an ancestor, or perhaps even a clone if the Doctor not only remembers her but somehow saved some of her genetic material. I could easily seen Clara Oswin being an ancestor of Oswin’s, assuming we aren’t being misled about the Clara Oswin name.

The Doctor also ended last season with most people believing he was dead. Oswin extended this to the Daleks, who share a long history with the Doctor. Moffat has often worked in the question, Doctor Who? but it was a surprise to hear it from the Daleks. It will totally change the completion of their next meeting if they do not know who the Doctor is. The episode also showed why Amy and Rory separated and brought the two back together, perhaps only for a short time.

Another amazing aspect of the surprise in this episode is that it remained a secret after four screenings. Steven Moffat expressed his appreciation:

“I hope you all got a nice surprise when Jenna popped up in Doctor Who several months early. If so, that surprise came to you courtesy of the frankly magnificent ladies and gentlemen of the press, and of the many Doctor Who forums and blogs too. This show has been seen at four separate screenings, across four different countries and yet not one person gave one spoiler. From all of us on Doctor Who, a heartfelt thank you for helping us tell our story.”

The 2012 Hugo Awards are out. The complete list is here and some of the winners include:

BEST NOVEL: Among Others by Jo Walton (Tor)

BEST NOVELLA: “The Man Who Bridged the Mist” by Kij Johnson (Asimov’s, September/October 2011)

BEST NOVELETTE: “Six Months, Three Days” by Charlie Jane Anders (Tor.com)

BEST SHORT STORY: “The Paper Menagerie” by Ken Liu (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, March/April 2011)

BEST RELATED WORK: The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, Third Edition edited by John Clute, David Langford, Peter Nicholls, and Graham Sleight (Gollancz)

BEST GRAPHIC STORY: Digger by Ursula Vernon (Sofawolf Press)

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION, LONG FORM: Game of Thrones (Season 1) (HBO)

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION, SHORT FORM: “The Doctor’s Wife” (Doctor Who) (BBC Wales)

Neil Gaiman conformed that he is working on another script for Doctor Who: “Only a fool or a madman would try to do it again… so I’m on the third draft”

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SciFi Weekend: Season Finales and Reboots; Dan Harmon Fired From Community; Moffat Wins Special Bafta; Doctor Who Wins Nebula Award; Karen Gillan At Cannes; Farewell to Kristen Wiig

J.J. Abrams has been highly successful in keeping shows interesting by rebooting them over time so that each season isn’t a rehash of the exact same format as previous seasons, and viewers cannot assume that fundamental changes cannot occur. This worked with Lost and Alias in the past. It worked a little less well on Fringe, with the fourth season failing to maintain the quality of the second and third seasons (with the show still worth watching). If Alcatraz survived, it was clear from the finale that it would also have been a different show. I had concerns as to whether Once Upon A Time could be successful over multiple seasons if left with a situation where Emma must always fail to break the spell. As was rumored before airing, Once Upon A Time had a major reboot, with Emma breaking the spell, followed by Rumpelstiltskin bringing back magic. The highlight of the week was the appearance of Amy Acker on Person of Interest, also shaking up this show.

Amy Acker’s character, who turned out to be the hacker Root, surprised Finch and Reese, and from reviews it appears also fooled most viewers. While this was the second time that the person they were protecting turned out to be far different from what the person seemed, the set up was done so well that we were fooled again. The series began with a simple format of the machine giving Social Security numbers. A simpler show would have continued the format, failing to raise the underlying questions of what it would mean to have such a powerful computer. The episode ended with Finch in danger and a phone call to Reese which just might be the machine, making it likely that the machine will be more significant next season. I hope that Amy Acker’s character also becomes a recurring character next season. Seeing how this show has evolved, it would most likely be as a protagonist to Reese and Finch, but not being sure of Root’s agenda, she could also turn into an ally over time.

Awake is in the midst of a two-part series finale so I will wait until it is completed before saying much about the show, but what is the deal with Britten visiting Britten in the preview? I do hope they end this series with a satisfying explanation as to what has been happening with the two realities.

If seeing Amy Acker on Person of Interest was the network television highlight of the week, the low point was the firing of Dan Harmon as show runner of Community. Producing a season of Community without Dan Harmon as show runner is like doing West Wing without Aaron Sorkin or Gilmore Girls without Amy Sherman-Paladino. Neither show was as good as when their creators ran the show, but in this case the consequences will be far worse. Those who took over West Wing and Gilmore Girls still attempted to do a similar show without breaking from the past. In this case I fear that the goal is to make Community a more traditional sit-com about a group of people going to school together. The show has an excellent cast and might still be an above-average sit-com, but it will not be the same without Harmon’s variations from the normal sit-com formula.

As is usually done in such situations. Harmon was given a title, but it is doubtful he will have any further influence on the show. He explained how he learned about being fired after getting off a plane and turning on his phone, without any previous discussion with Sony.

Apparently great show runners are treated better  Great Britain than here. Steven Moffat is to receive as special Bafta award for “outstanding creative writing contribution to television.” One of Moffat’s current shows, Sherlock, is now running in the United States while Doctor Who recently filmed the final scene with Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill. Gillan is seen in the picture above taken at Cannes, and will soon start filming Not Another Happy Ending, a movie about an eccentric author with writer’s block. She did manage to steal something before leaving the TARDIS for the last time.

An episode of Doctor Who, The Doctor’s Wife, was awarded the Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation at the Nebula Awards. That was quite a major accomplishment, beating Midnight in Paris, Hugo, Captain America, Source Code, and The Adjustment Bureau for the award.  Among Others by, Jo Walton won the Award for Best Novel.

Someone is demonstrating for time travel in the real world, but is being patient about it.

Besides the recent finales in genre shows. Saturday Night Live concluded its season last night, with quite a farewell to Kristen Wiig–video above.

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SciFi Weekend: Casting Jenna-Louise Coleman; Amy and Rory; The Easter Dalek; Enterprise in Los Vegas; Hugo Nominees; Captain America; Titanic; Downton Abbey; Upstairs Downstairs

People who interpret the Mayan calendar as indicating the end of the world in December 2012 are mistaken. It is now clear that  the Mayans were just noting the transition from Karen Gillan to Jenna-Louise Coleman on Doctor Who. We have some more information about the process of casting Jenna. Material has been posted on line from part of the audition of Jenna-Louise Coleman for her role as the new companion. The material, taken from Doctor Who Magazine, appears to be Jenna acting out a scene with Matt Smith:

The Doctor and Jasmine are investigating a haunted house.

DOCTOR: So you saw it coming in here? What did it look like?

JASMINE: Grey. Sort of dusty. Like it was made of spider webs.

D: And it came through the wall.

J: Yeah, that wall there.

D: But you don’t think it was a ghost. Why not?

J: Because there’s no such thing as ghosts.

D: You know, a lot of people who saw what you saw wouldn’t still think that.

J: Obviously. Otherwise there wouldn’t be idiots who believe in ghosts.

D: What were you doing here?

J: I love this place. It’s… beautiful.

D: It’s falling apart.

J: It’s old. I love old things, they make me feel sad.

D: What’s good about sad?

J: It’s happy for deep people. You’d know.

D: I’m not sad.

J: Oh, you are though. Under all that talking and leaping about. Takes one to know one.

D: So you come here for… recreational sadness?

J: Yeah. In a way. Okay, why are you looking at me like that?

D: You remind me of an old friend of mine. Someone I lost a long time ago.

J: Down boy. I’m not her.

D: Oh, I know you’re not – I don’t believe in ghosts either.

J: Oh my God, what’s that?

D: Okay, just stay calm.

J: But that’s the thing I saw before.

D: Yep, and it’s coming towards us. I expect you noticed that. Say it with me – I don’t believe in ghosts!

J: I don’t believe in ghosts!

D: Louder! I don’t believe in ghosts!

J: I don’t believe in ghosts!! Will this work?

D: No idea, never met a ghost before.

Whatever this is, Moffat has said that Jasmine won’t be the character’s actual name on the show:

“Two things before you read it. Her name is NOT Jasmine. I don’t like the name Jasmine (sorry all Jasmines, I didn’t mean you) so I knew I’d never use it for real. And also, you might notice there’s a line snuck in from Blink. One of those self-consciously clever, writer-showing-off lines that anyone stuck working with me better get used to.

“So here’s a spoiler from a future that is never going to happen. This is the scene we saw Matt and Jenna perform in a dull little room in the basement of the BBC, which changed the future of Doctor Who. Now remember, this is nonsense, none of this is going to happen, no clues or hints. Think of it as series of hurdles we placed in front of an actress to check her jumping skills.”

After months of rumors (spread by Steven Moffat and Sophia Myles via Twitter), Sophia Myles now says she is not returning to Doctor Who, at least in the near future:

“Steven [Moffat] and I did talk about Doctor Who and I honestly feel – and I think he feels the same – that The Girl in the Fireplace was so special, I really doubt we could do something better together on that show. It was just so perfect and I would rather leave it at that, ” she explains in the latest Doctor Who Magazine.

“If I was to come back to Doctor Who, I don’t think it should be as [Madame de Pompadour]… but it would just ruin it to come back as anything else.”

However, Myles doesn’t completely rule out another role.

“Maybe when I’m old and don’t look anything like her. I’d like to come back in 20 or 30 years’ time as a baddy, and cause some trouble! But as for anything imminently? No. I think that would be inappropriate.

This might be a major spoiler (or perhaps major misdirection) from the first episode of the next season of Doctor Who: Reportedly a prop was seen of divorce papers for Amy and Rory. There are also reports of them getting along well in scenes from episode 3, so if true early-season conflict between the two might get resolved.

Via the TARDIS Newsroom, here’s the Easter Dalek.

The big thing we learned about the alternate universe on Fringe is that they have different superheroes, and no Batman. It was obvious that Agent Lee was interested in Olivia in our universe. Now that she is reunited with Peter, is he heading into a relationship with Fauxlivia?

On Awake, Britten wound up working with Dr. Lee on a police case (although part of their contact was real, and part induced by a drug–or  was Britten  having hallucinations and losing his mind?). It might have been more interesting if they had Britten run into Dr. Lee in the time line where he sees the other psychiatrist and Dr. Lee doesn’t know that Britten knows him. Of course we’ve seen that sometimes things are quite closely the same in both time lines, and sometimes individual’s lives are quite different, so Dr. Lee may or may not be around as a police psychiatrist in the other time line. From the previews, it looks like next week gets back to the conspiracy around the auto accident which precipitated events.

Las Vegas considered building a full sized replica of the Enterprise in 1992. The story came out last week and can be seen here.

The Hugo Award nominees have been announced. Nominees for Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) include three episodes of Doctor Who and one episode of Community.

Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) (512 ballots)
“The Doctor’s Wife” (Doctor Who), written by Neil Gaiman; directed by Richard Clark (BBC Wales)
The Drink Tank‘s Hugo Acceptance Speech,” Christopher J Garcia and James Bacon (Renovation)
“The Girl Who Waited” (Doctor Who), written by Tom MacRae; directed by Nick Hurran (BBC Wales)
“A Good Man Goes to War” (Doctor Who), written by Steven Moffat; directed by Peter Hoar (BBC Wales)
“Remedial Chaos Theory” (Community), written by Dan Harmon and Chris McKenna; directed by Jeff Melman (NBC)

Television shows typically are recognized by the Hugo Awards based upon individual episode. Game of Thrones misses out under that criteria. The entire first season was actually one long story, but it is hard to pick an individual episode. Instead the first season was nominated under Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form):

Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) (592 ballots)
Captain America: The First Avenger, screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephan McFeely, directed by Joe Johnston (Marvel)
Game of Thrones (Season 1), created by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss; written by David Benioff, D. B. Weiss, Bryan Cogman, Jane Espenson, and George R. R. Martin; directed by Brian Kirk, Daniel Minahan, Tim van Patten, and Alan Taylor (HBO)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, screenplay by Steve Kloves; directed by David Yates (Warner Bros.)
Hugo, screenplay by John Logan; directed by Martin Scorsese (Paramount)
Source Code, screenplay by Ben Ripley; directed by Duncan Jones (Vendome Pictures)

It is difficult to compare an entire season of a television show to a single movie. Perhaps they should divide into three categories, one for individual episodes of television shows and other short form presentations, one for movies, and a new category for genre television shows.

A sequel to Captain America has been announced for release in April 20124:

Marvel Studios isn’t waiting to see how “The Avengers” does in theaters later this year. Following in the footsteps of “Thor,” the studio Friday announced it’s moving forward with a sequel to its 2011 hit “Captain America,” prepping it for a 2014 release.

Keeping the film canon with “The Avengers,” Chris Evans will take on the title role in the present, and not during World War II like the previous film. The events at the end of the first “Captain America” film, along with some storyline in the upcoming “Avengers” movie, bring super soldier Steve Rogers to the present.

The first Captain America film is of increased interest being the film debut of Jenna-Louise Coleman. A picture of her in the movie was previously posted here.

Although not airing in the United States until next weekend, I did get a hold the first two episodes of Titanic. Some of the information posted about the mini-series on line was incorrect. Some reports claimed that Jenna-Louise Coleman doesn’t appear until the third episode but actually she was present in the first two. Perhaps she has a larger role in the third. Some early reviews also described the mini-series as each episode involving  different characters, leading up to the ship sinking at the end of each hour. It is correct that each episode leads up to the Titanic sinking, but there is tremendous overlap between the characters. The second episode introduced new characters and didn’t include all the characters from the first episode, but it did provide more information about some of the major characters from the first episode.

The mini-series, written by Julian Fellowes, does have much of the same style as Fellowes’ show Downton Abbey. One difference is that the some among the wealthy are far less sympathetic characters–and in some cases their servants are even nastier.

As for Downton Abbey, there are spoilers for the third season:

What can “Downton Abbey” fans expect when the PBS series starts its third season in January?

“Matthew and Mary do get married,” ”Masterpiece” executive producer Rebecca Eaton said Wednesday at a Winter Park party. She previewed the British drama, which is in production, for supporters of WUCF TV, Central Florida’s new PBS station.

In the new “Downton” season, everyone is waiting for the arrival of the mother of Cora (Elizabeth McGovern), a character played by Oscar-winner Shirley MacLaine. They’re waiting for MacLaine’s character because the British family, especially Violet (Oscar-winner Maggie Smith), needs money again, Eaton said.

“There are some wonderful scenes between Maggie and Shirley MacLaine — Shirley MacLaine being as ditsy as ever,” Eaton said. “And Maggie barely restraining her sneer in having to deal with this American. Maggie Smith is a handful, it’s true. She’s very difficult. She knows her worth, and she’s tricky on the set, but she delivers when the time comes.”

Eaton supplied more teases: “Somebody will be born, and somebody will die, somebody pretty key in the cast, unfortunately not going to make it. It’s the 1920s now.”

The obvious speculation is that the birth will be a child for Matthew and Mary, especially as it is confirmed that they will marry. There are other possibilities. Perhaps Bates makes it out of prison and starts a family with Anna. It is also possible that Lady Sybel might be having a child. Those interested in seeing Jessica Brown Findley in other roles might click here to see her in Albatros. (Beware, the scene is not safe for work, and the Crawley family would really be shocked to see her flashing in this scene).

The cast of Downton Abbey includes Hugh Bonneville, who has appeared on Doctor Who. Alex Kingston has a role on the second season of the remake of Upstairs, Downstairs (coincidentally also playing an archeologist). I was aware that Jean Marsh, who has been on the original and remake of Upstairs, Downstairs, has appeared in Doctor Who and was curious as to whether many other actors have appeared on both shows. I was surprised by the length of the list, which can be seen here.

The second season of Upstairs, Downstairs won’t air in the United States until 2013 and is well worth watching. The season takes place as conflict escalates between Germany and Great Britain just before World War II, giving it a much more modern feel compared to the original, or compared to Downton Abbey.

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Neil Gaiman on Craig Ferguson

Neil Gaiman on The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson last night. Includes a discussion of Doctor Who including the episode written by Gaiman, The Doctor’s Wife.

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Neil Gaiman on Craig Ferguson Tonight

Neil Gaiman, whose book American Gods is being made into an upcoming HBO series, and writer of The Doctor’s Wife, will be visiting Doctor Who fan Craig Ferguson’s show tonight. Maybe Neil can get Idris to come out of the TARDIS on Craig’s desk.

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SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who–A Good Man Goes To War

A Good Man Goes To War provided some answers, left others unanswered, and ended with a cliff hanger which might carry through the entire second half of the season of Doctor Who. American audiences watching on BBC America remain a week behind, learning in The Almost People that Amy was a Ganger and not really with the Doctor for quite a long time. The Almost People was discussed here, and this contains major spoilers for those who have not seen A Good Man Goes To War.

Kidnapping Amy and her new born daughter Melody provided reason for the Doctor to gather those who owed him favors and go to war to rescue them. The Ganger technology used by Amy’s kidnapper, Madame Kovarian, was clearly far more advanced than that used in the previous two episodes, extending through time and even beyond our universe. Amy probably had been kidnapped before the events of The Impossible Astronaut. Unlike the Gangers who became independent beings in The Rebel Flesh, Amy’s Ganger remained linked to the real Amy, who awoke when the Doctor destroyed the Ganger at the end of The Almost People. It was necessary for the Doctor to destroy Amy’s Ganger so that Madame Kovarian would not know what the Doctor was planning.

The rescue, like many Doctor Who plots, had many holes in the story and was written to throw in as many ideas as Steven Moffat could possibly fit in. This included a wide variety of beings recruited to assist the Doctor, the most interesting being Commander Strax, a Sontaran punished by being turned into a nurse and forced to have compassion for the weak, plus Madame Vastra, a lesbian Victorian Silurian. Huge Vonneville’s pirate and his son from The Curse of the Black Spot had a quick appearance, but it is questionable what real assistance they would have provided.

The kitchen sink extended beyond the Doctor’s allies. The fat and thin gay married marines were quickly introduced, only to have one beheaded when “recruited” by the Headless Monks, and the other was forgotten. The Headless Monks have been mentioned when the Doctor and Amy visited a museum in The Time of Angels,  part of the vast continuity to the series provided by Moffat. Lorna Bucket also seems to have entered and left the Doctor Who universe far too quickly.

The episode provided the final teases that the father of Amy’s daughter might be the Doctor’s before firmly establishing that Rory was the father. Her daughter had both human and Time Lord DNA due to having been conceived while the Tardis was in flight. We also learned an interesting, if not crucial fact about the Doctor. Not only does the TARDIS enable him to translate the language of any planet he is on. He can even speak “baby.” I wonder if he can also communicate with my cats.

The key thing we learned from this episode is that, as the only water in the forest is the river (previously noted by Idris in The Doctor’s Wife), River gets translated to Pond. In addition, Melody becomes Song and the names are reversed. Therefore Amy’s daughter, Melody Pond, is also River Song.

This certainly explains why River could pilot the TARDIS. This also explains why River could not appear until the end of the battle of Demon’s Run, or at least until the real Melody was taken away. She could not overlap with her own time line. I wonder if rescuing Melody will mean the end of the Doctor’s relationship with River. It is also not clear where on the Doctor’s personal time line the implied romance with River took place.

Now we know the full meaning of when River said, “the first time I met him I was just a young girl and he knew every single thing about me, imagine what that does to a girl.”  Amy Pond and Lorna Bucket also learned first hand, and did not have to imagine. River  knew the Doctor in other ways, including his darker side which has included the destruction of the other Time Lords and initiating the killing of the Silence on earth. River warned:  “This was exactly you, all of this. All of it. You make them so afraid. When you began all those years ago, sailing off to see the universe, did you ever think you’d become this? The man who can turn an army around at the mention of his name.”

Is this why River ultimately kills “”the greatest man I ever knew, ” assuming that it was the Doctor that she killed? Perhaps she killed him as a child in the astronaut suit in Day of the Moon for reasons which at this point are totally unclear.  Now that the Doctor learned about his upcoming “death” from Amy in The Almost People, he is presumably making preparations and this was all part of some huge plan. I suspect we won’t really understand what happened in that scene until the end of the season, which is also likely to be the end of Amy and Rory’s time with the Doctor.

The cliff hanger to end the episode was the Doctor going off to rescue Melody. It was not a traditional cliff hanger as we know that Melody Pond/River Song will be rescued. I bet that Moffat ended this portion of the season in this manner to leave us questioning how all this fits together. Successful cliff hangers, from who shot J.R. on Dallas to the ending of Best of Both Worlds on Star Trek The Next Generation benefit a show when they keep the fans talking and speculating until the answer is revealed.

It looks like a lot remains to happen to Melody before she is ultimately rescued. It appears from The Impossible Astronaut and Day of the Moon that the Silence become involved, she is trapped in a space suit, shot at by her mother, and has the strength to bust out. It appears that she escapes and is on her own, making it to New York City where she regenerates.

The season resumes this fall with an episode entitled Let’s Kill Hitler, suggesting the search for Melody Pond is a journey through space and time, also to involve the 1960′s as seen in Day of the Moon.

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