SciFi Weekend Part 1: Doctor Who, Downton Abbey, And Call the Midwife Christmas Specials, Plus Homeland and The Affair Season Finales, The Interview

Doctor Who Last Christmas

This year’s Doctor Who Christmas special, Last Christmas is a “dreamy-weamy”combination of a variety of Steven Moffat tropes and old movies. The early scenes combined elements of Doctor Who episodes such as Blink, Listen, the Silent from The Impossible Astronaut with the Alien movie series. Instead of not blinking, or not being able to see or remember the alien, the challenge was to not look at or think about the alien. Suddenly the strategy fell apart and we had an attack out of Alien, only to saved by Santa and a gang of toys reminiscent of the Toy Story movies. We even learned how Santa fits all those toys on his sleigh, and it should have been obvious: It is bigger on the inside.

Santa was played by Nick Frost who, with the possible exception of Nick Blood on Agents of SHIELD, is the actor with the best name to fit their role. At first Santa tried to hide his identity: “Sorry about this, girl, we are just three passing perfectly ordinary roof people, doing some emergency roof things.” One of the elves pointed out to Santa that his attempts to hide his identity were not that effective: “You know how you grew the beard as a bit of a disguise? People have picked up on it.” Incidentally the other elf was played by Dan Starkey, who also plays Strax.

Moffat did not hide the allusions to other movies. He recognized Alien with this line, spoken by the Doctor (who happens to be an alien): “There’s a horror movie called Alien? That’s really offensive. No wonder everyone keeps invading you.” Moffat has also stated in interviews that the tangerine at the conclusion of the movie is like the walking stick at the end of Miracle on 34th Street.

Doctor Who Last Christmas Dreaming

Following the rescue by Santa and the toys, we found that it was all a dream, and ultimately there were dreams withing dreams, with the episode feeling much like Inception. Of course being a Moffat show it was far less structured than Inception. There were certainly many plot holes in this episode, but being a Christmas episode in which Moffat was writing in Santa we need to be more forgiving than in a typical episode. The rules kept changing, but in this case it was often acceptable as we were dealing with changeable logic within dreams. Besides, none of the plot holes were as flagrant as the mass of the moon increasing as an egg comes close to hatching (Kill The Moon), people forgetting the actions of trees to protect the planet (In The Forest Of The Night), or the golden arrow of Robot of Sherwood.

A highlight of the dream sequences was Clara having far better closure with Danny Pink than occurred in Death in Heaven. The scene also used old Moffat tropes again, such as with the chalk board with messages like “Dreaming,” similar to the chalkboard from Listen. The episode also had both Clara admit that she lied about Danny being alive and the Doctor admit that he did not find Gallifrey, leaving them in a better position to go on together from when we last saw them. It also leaves the question open as to whether Gallifrey will play into future episodes.

Unfortunately the BBC had put out a press release immediately after the UK showing announcing that Jenna Coleman was returning, partially spoiling the ending. The scenes in which the Doctor saved an older version of Clara could have worked if Coleman was really leaving the series, and the scenes would have been more convincing before seeing the press releases. I wonder if that might have been the end of the episode if Jenna Coleman was really not returning. Instead, with Jenna Coleman coming back to play opposite Peter Capaldi for at least one more season, that was yet another dream.

Doctor Who Last Christmas Sleigh Ride

While I enjoy Moffat’s work, I also see the point of his critics and do find that his more recent work is not as tightly written as back in the days in which he wrote occasional (and usually excellent) stories under Russell  T. Davies. I do wonder if he does need a good editor to tighten up his plots these days. Some of the plot holes in Last Christmas could have been been handled with some better writing and more concern for details. The storyline would have made more sense if, when the Doctor first explained about the mind crabs, he made a point of saying that their ability to eat their victim’s brain depended upon the victim not realizing it was a dream while being tranquilized, but victims could successfully resist if they realize. The progressive realization that they were having dreams within dreams could then be turned into a battle of wits between the Doctor and the mind crabs. It made little sense that the mind crabs had them dream about being scientists fighting the mind crabs, as opposed to the happier (and individual) dream which Clara had involving Danny. This might have seemed more plausible with an exchange in which Clara specifically asked why the aliens would have themselves present in one layer of the dream. The Doctor could have come up with an explanation such as that at the shallowest levels of the dream their brains did provide them an explanation which was closer to reality.

Of course none of this would have explained why they had the sleigh rid and didn’t just wake up when they figured out that they were having dreams within dreams. The answer to that one is simple. How could you expect Moffat to refrain from doing a scene featuring the Doctor flying Santa’s sleigh over London in the most exciting sleigh scene since Santa flew from Central Park through midtown Manhattan in Elf?

The Doctor Who Extra for Last Christmas follows:

While most television shows in the United States now go on  hiatus around the holiday, networks in the U.K. instead often have some of the major episodes of their top series on Christmas Day. There must be some sociological significance to how each country handles television so differently around Christmas. In addition to Doctor Who, two others were of particular interest, involving shows which also have a following in the United States. As US viewers are behind the UK, I will avoid spoilers on these two shows.

Downton Abbey Christmas Special 2014

Downton Abbey had an excellent Christmas episode which essentially serves as the season finale for the show, wrapping up a few major plot lines from the fifth season and providing a potential hint of what is to come next season. I don’t want to say anything else as none of the fifth season has been on here yet, with any discussion of the topics of the episode likely to spoil events of the season. I’ll just say that the season is more satisfactory with this conclusion added on.


The Christmas episode of Call the Midwife was the first since the departure of Jessica Raine. Fortunately the show had developed an excellent ensemble which should allow the show to survive her departure, even if she was a major element. Miranda Hart returned to a major role and instead of young Jenny staring in the main story, Vanessa Redgrave appeared as both narrator and on screen at the start and end of the show. The episode does show include character development for some of the remaining characters. Among the story lines is an aspect of the work of the midwives not seen before–handing pregnancies for young, unmarried women who leave town for the birth of their babies.

Besides the Christmas episodes, there were two new episodes of shows of significance in the past week. Homeland‘s season finale was a real disappointment. They would have been better off ending the season after last week’s episode. The Affair ended its first season with a much stronger finale. They certainly put out enough circumstantial evidence to make Noah’s arrest appear inevitable, and he didn’t help his case by attempting to bribe a witness. As there is still at least another full season to come, it seems a safe bet that Noah really is not guilty, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he is covering up for Alison.

The Interview dominated the news with regards to holiday movie releases. This was more because of the Sony hacking and threats to dissuade them from releasing it, and not due to the quality of the movie. I still might stream it this weekend, but the reviews have not been very good:

“Characterizing it as satire elevates the creative execution of the film’s very silly faux assassination of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un far beyond what it merits,” writes Betsy Sharkey in the Lost Angeles Times.

In the Village Voice, Stephanie Zacharek writes that “The Interview” is “contrived absurdity” and that it has very little payoff for all the trouble it caused.

Slate’s Aisha Harris argues that those looking for a satire of North Korea are better off re-watching “Team America: World Police,” the puppet movie created by the makers of “South Park” more than a decade ago.

While Part 1 of SciFi Weekend concentrates on reviews of the past week, Part 2 will look back on the entire year.

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.

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who–“The Almost People” Review (Spoilers) and Speculation About “A Good Man Goes To War”

Doctor Who The Almost People

The Almost People aired in the U.K. this weekend but BBC America decided not to show this week’s episode of Doctor Who because of the Memorial Day holiday. Between those who watched on BBC and those who found other ways to download the episode, I assume that a substantial proportion of fans have now seen it. Warning, there are major spoilers here for those who plan to watch on BBC America next week.

The second part of this two-part story was better than last week’s episode, The Rebel Flesh (reviewed here). The story took advantage of the set-up in the first episode, although this might have worked better if they could have had an extended full hour episode to tell a slightly condensed version of the story in a single sitting. The fight against the Gangers and ultimate conclusion made a good story, but far from a great one. Plot wise, the high point was Jennifer’s deception of Rory with a second Ganger, which I had already anticipated. The best parts of the episode involved the Doctor’s Ganger, and of course the final couple of minutes (video below).

Steven Moffat has added so much to the series with references back to the early years of Doctor Who. The Ganger of the Doctor was amusing as it went through the previous regenerations of the Doctor. This included the third Doctor (originally played by Jon Pertwee) saying, “”reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.” While Pertwee became known for this phrase, he had actually only said it once.

The conclusion progressed the story arc involving the Schroedinger’s pregnancy in Amy, but I suspect that other events of this week’s story are also important to the entire season. The episode ended with learning that the Amy who has been with the Doctor is a Ganger while Amy is actually having a baby. As most already predicted, the woman with the eye patch was involved with the delivery. Seeing the Doctor “kill” the Ganger (or actually sever the link) now gives Karen Gillan two scenes this season in which she appeared to die. Rory retains his lead in overall appearances of getting killed.

Doctor Who A Good Man Goes To War Amy Pond River Song

One question is when the switch took place. It might have been when the Silence held Amy captive, but I suspect it was sooner as there had already been a scene showing the woman in the eye patch earlier in the episode. It could have happened during the gap we did not see between The Impossible Astronaut and Day of the Moon. With the Doctor saying Amy had been gone for a long time, the switch could have occurred even earlier, such as before Amy came out of the Pandorica in The Big Bang. Adding to my suspicion that the events of last season play into this, including the unexplained source for the destruction of the universe, are the promotional pictures for next  week’s episode in which Rory again appears Roman (such as above). The episode also contains multiple old enemies, as were seen in The Pandorica Opens.

This might suggest that Amy was impregnated by someone or something other than her husband. If Rory is the father, my suspicion is that it did not happen  before their wedding. After all, this is technically billed as a  children’s show. If the baby is the child seen at the end of Day of the Moon, the father might be a Time Lord, unless living in the Tardis was the cause.  This also raises a question of whether the picture of Amy holding a baby in the orphanage  in Day of the Moon was the real Amy or a Ganger.

Ever since The Rebel Flesh, there has been speculation that the “future” version of the Doctor who was killed is really a Ganger. That would certainly solve the problem of having more regenerations before the Doctor dies, regardless of whether it is in two hundred years or much further in the future. I became more convinced of this possibility after both watching The Almost People and going back to the Doctor’s death scene in The Impossible Astronaut. For a few seconds, the Doctor’s face reminded me of the faces of the Gangers before they fully established human form–something which would not have meant anything to viewers at the time the show first aired.

Events in The Almost People add further to this possibility. Having a Ganger of Amy which was present for some time makes it more likely that other Gangers  could be present in other episodes. The Doctor was concerned in The Almost People with finding out whether a Ganger of himself could fool others, also suggesting he had a plan involving another use of a Ganger.

Next week, in A Good Man Goes To War, we  presumably will see the birth of Amy’s child, and it is rumored that River Song’s identity will be revealed at the end of the episode. It has long been suspected that there is a connection between Amy Pond and River Song beyond having a body of water in each of their names. One possibility is that River might be Amy’s daughter.  Promotional material for the upcoming episode  reports (another possible spoiler) that Amy will have a daughter named Melody. Perhaps River Song is the daughter of Melody Pond, using both music and water in the names, if not Amy’s daughter.

The trailer for A Good Man Goes to War:

The prequel to A Good Man Goes to War:

Update: A Good Man Goes to War is reviewed here.

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, Day of the Moon

If last year some fans felt disappointed that the entire season of Doctor Who didn’t have the quality of earlier episodes written by Steven Moffat, this season started an arc (foreshadowed in past episodes) which very well might exceed all expectations. The second part of the two-part season premiere, Day of the Moon, left most of the questions  from The Impossible Astronaut unanswered while raising more. It should be quite a ride to see how these matters play out over this, and possibly future, seasons.

The episode resumed three months later. Just as The Impossible Astronaut appeared to start with the death of the Doctor,  Day of the Moon began with Canton Delaware  appearing to be hunting down and killing the companions. It all turned out to be an elaborate plan to reunite them all in what appeared to be another escape-proof prison, which the Silence could not see in.  This made for some great scenes, but was a rather contrived way to allow for a brief period of action without the surveillance by the Silence. Besides, it is unclear how they could have hatched such a plan without the Silence knowing, and it was quite fortunate that none of the Silents were around when the Doctor tampered with Apollo 11, even if they believed he was still imprisoned.

At least  this did provide for some answers, even if they were not the answers we were asking after The Impossible Astronaut.  Were there aliens in Area 51? Yes, the Doctor, and later a Silent. Was there alien technology in Area 51? Yes, a Tardis and the material used to make the cell. Was their future technology in Area 51? Yes, a camera phone.  Why did mankind go to the moon? Due to suggestions from the Silence since they needed us to build a space suit.  Why did Richard Nixon keep the White House tapes? In order to record any suggestions from the Silence, on the advice of the Doctor. Do River Song and the Doctor really have a romantic relationship? It appear so (in the Doctor’s future and River’s past). Is Amy Pond really pregnant? Yes and No. See Schrödinger’s cat,  or perhaps there are alternative time lines.  Why couldn’t the FBI and White House handle Canton Delaware’s desire to marry? Richard Nixon might have handled his desire to marry someone black, but not a black man.

Beyond this, there were few more answers. We did see how the Doctor cleverly used the ability of the Silence to place suggestions in the minds of humans without our ability to recall them. Everyone who ever has or ever will watch the footage of the moon landing will receive the instruction to kill the Silence on sight. From time to time the Doctor has shown a dark side, and therefore it was no surprise to see him be willing to turn all of humanity into executioners of the Silence.

There has been plenty of talk about  the many remaining questions, such as in this video.  There are many rumors circulating around the internet but Steven Moffat has been careful to prevent fans from finding out the answers until ready to reveal them.  This has included writing fake scenes for some episodes. Members of the cast know a little more regarding what their character knows. Only Alex Kingston knows what is really coming since the events to come are already in River Song’s past.

Among the many questions from the first two episodes, who was in the Astronaut suit and why did they kill the Doctor. How will they resolve the issue of the Doctor appearing to be killed two-hundred years, preventing further regenerations? What has become of the Tardis used by the future version of the Doctor? Why do the Silence care about the little girl and why did they place her in the space suit?  Is Amy Pond her mother, as suggested by the picture of Amy holding the baby? Who was the lady with the eye piece? Rumors are that she will appear throughout the season, like the crack in Amy’s wall. What happened during all of the sightings of the Silence (as evidenced by the growing number of markings on Amy’s face)? Why did the Silence kidnap Amy?  Why did they want her to tell the Doctor that she is pregnant? Is their ship (TARDIS?) the same as seen in The Lodger?

The biggest questions surround the little girl and River Song (and  are they the same person)? Can River Song operate the TARDIS because she is a Time Lord? (If it wasn’t the Doctor who she killed, could she have been imprisoned under the belief she killed a previous version of herself before regenerating?)  Is Amy Pond the mother of River Song and/or the little girl. Who is the father? The final scene creates the most questions:

Does the ability to regenerate mean that the Doctor is the father, or did living in the TARDIS while developing turn the baby into a  time head, whatever that may be,  as Amy feared? If not Amy’s daughter, do the Doctor and River Song have a child? Perhaps the little girl was the result of the need of the Silence to have their own  Time Lord (or equivalent) to operate their version of the TARDIS.  For that matter, why did the universe explode when they took control of the Doctor’s TARDIS last season?  Was their goal really the destruction of the universe? Perhaps it was an accident as they would appear to be harmed by such destruction, unless they are surviving in an alternative time line (where Amy is or is not pregnant). There is much to speculate on, and I suspect Moffat has an answer quite different from what anyone now suspects.

Quote of the Day

“Oh look, this is the Oval Office, I was looking for the … Oblong Room.” –The Doctor (Doctor Who: The Impossible Astronaut)

Bonus Quote:

“A lot more happens in 1969 than anyone remembers.” –The Doctor

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: Doctor Who and Torchwood– News And Interviews On Their Upcoming Seasons

Matt Smith and Karen Gillan discuss the upcoming season of Doctor Who in the above video. More from Matt Smith here and Karen Gillan here. Here are some of Karen’s comments:

“There were clues planted in the last series that are going to become major storylines in this one,” divulges a conspiratorial Karen Gillan; a revelation which is bound to have all Whovians avidly watching Series 5 to spot what the Inverness born actress is referring to.

“There’s a really interesting arc in this series that involves all of the major characters and it’s evident from the first episode that everyone on the TARDIS is withholding secrets from one another,” continues Karen.“It makes for a fascinating dynamic between the characters and it’s incredibly important to the overall series.”

Karen also believes that Amy has more respect for her new husband Rory after his recent adventures.“I think Rory has perhaps developed the most out of all the characters,” explains Karen.“By the end of last series he became a Roman Centurion hero and he had changed a lot; it felt like he had earned his place in the TARDIS. In fact, it’s hard for me to imagine the TARDIS without him now!”

But has married life changed Amy Pond? Karen quickly sweeps that concern out of the way exclaiming “if anything she is even more Amy Pondish! I don’t think it would work for Amy to completely change now that she’s a married woman and I certainly don’t think she should become a subdued version of herself. However, I do think being married has helped to define the Doctor and Amy’s relationship and I can reveal thatsomething takes place this series which makes Amy see Rory in a new light…,” teases the actress.

More from Matt Smith and Karen Gillan here. Karen Gillan will also be a guest on Craig Ferguson’s show on April 13. Perhaps she will show him how to operate the TARDIS on his desk. The picture above is from the third episode.

Steven Moffat had these comments on the upcoming season:

How has this series evolved from last year?

Steven Moffat: Well we’ve moved through the funfair a bit – we’ve done the rollercoaster, now we’re on the ghost train. Last year, in a way, was all about saying, don’t worry, it’s still him, it’s still the same show, nothing’s really been lost. Losing a leading man like David Tennant is seismic – unless you gain a leading man like Matt Smith. It’s been the biggest joy to see him stride in and just claim that TARDIS for his own. But now he’s really here, and the part is his, and the bow tie is cool, he’s ready to lead us places we didn’t know existed. Last year we reassured you – this year, to hell with that, we’re going to worry the hell out of you. How well do we really know that man, or what he’s capable of? We’re putting the Who? back in the Doctor.

Is there a major story arc to look out for?

Oh, there’s a big story being told this year, and major mysteries from the very off. As ever, in this show, the stories all stand alone, and every episode is a perfect jumping-on point for a new viewer. But at the same time the over-arching plot will be a bigger player this year. More than hints and whispers – we’re barely ten minutes into episode one before our heroes face a dilemma that they’ll be staring at months from now. And there will be no easy answers.

Will there be new monsters?

They’re … scary. Very scary. And, ohh, I don’t want to say more – there’s the Silence in 1 & 2, the Siren, in episode 3, the Gangers in 5 & 6, all these are more than just freaky costumes and masks; there are SCARY ideas here. And just wait till you meet Idris in episode 4.

Is this series scarier than the last one?

See above. Yes, I think so. But it’s not JUST scary – it’s funny and moving and revelling in its own insanity too.

How have the characters evolved?

The big difference, I suppose, is how long the Doctor is hanging around in the lives of his Companions. His normal MO is get them while they’re young, and leave them while they’re young too. He’s careful to put them back where he found them, before he screws up their lives. But here he is, married couple on board – and much as he loves them both, he does wonder if it isn’t time he got out of the way. Before something really BAD happens.

What can you tell us about the cliff-hanger at the end of episode 7?

Normally our cliff-hangers are lives being threatened. With this one, three live are changed FOREVER.

The poster for The Impossible Astronaut (above) is available for pre-order. Here’s  the synopses of the first two episodes:

Episode 1: The Impossible Astronaut

Four envelopes, numbered 2, 3 and 4, each containing a date, time and map reference, unsigned, but TARDIS blue. Who sent them? And who received the missing number one? This strange summons reunites the Doctor, Amy, Rory and River Song in the middle of the Utah desert and unveils a terrible secret the Doctor’s friends must never reveal to him.

Placing his life entirely in their hands, the Doctor agrees to search for the recipient of the fourth envelope – just who is Canton Everett Delaware the Third? And what is the relevance of their only other clue: ‘Space 1969′? Their quest lands them – quite literally – in the Oval Office, where they are enlisted by President Nixon himself to assist enigmatic former-FBI agent Canton, in saving a terrified little girl from a mysterious spaceman.

Episode 2: Day of the Moon

The Doctor is locked in the perfect prison. Amy, Rory and River Song are being hunted down across America by the FBI. With the help of new friend and FBI-insider, Canton Everett Delaware the Third, our heroes are reunited to share their discoveries, if not their memories. For the world is occupied by an alien force who control humanity through post-hypnotic suggestion and no one can be trusted. Aided by President Nixon and Neil Armstrong’s foot, the Doctor must mount a revolution to drive out the enemy and rescue the missing little girl. No-one knows why they took her. Or why they have kidnapped Amy Pond..

Beyond the two-part story opening the season in the United States, an episode written by Neil Gaiman entitled The Doctor’s Wife is attracting considerable attention. Newsarama interviewed Gaiman:

“Getting to write a Doctor Who episode, for me anyway, was probably the nearest to being God that I have ever been or will ever get,” Gaiman told Newsarama. “I remember a similar feeling of megalomaniac power for about fifteen minutes in 1988 when I got to write my first Batman line. I got to bring on Batman and write dialogue for Batman and, I’m making Batman talk.  But making Batman talk does not actually compare to the feeling of glorious power you get the moment you type, ‘Interior TARDIS.’”

…Gaiman isn’t exactly sure why Doctor Who is making such a big splash in the U.S. finally, but he did venture a guess. “I think partly, it’s probably broken at the States because there isn’t anything like it and I think it probably took it five years to break in because nobody was really promoting it. It was something that has been driven by fans,” he said. “If I can say this without being taken outside and beaten up by the BBC, it was probably in many ways, driven by people downloading it and torrenting it. It was being driven by people falling in love with it one person at a time and then telling somebody else, ‘Look, you have to watch this. Here’s ‘Blink,’ watch this. Here’s ‘The Girl In The Fireplace,’ watch this. Here’s ‘Dalek,’ watch this,’ and I think that’s what drove it.”

“But I also think the lovely thing about having a new Doctor is, it gave everybody a nice place to jump on. You didn’t have to feel that you were in this five episode…you know, Russel’s [T. Davies] arc was this five year run and now we’re into the new one,” continued Gaiman. “But also, I think the worst thing about Doctor Who is also the best thing about Doctor Who, which is you’ve got 47 years of mythos and it’s unfortunate, but people think that they need to know or understand that 47 years of mythos rather than the simplicity of Doctor Who which is, there’s this wonderful man, in this blue box, that can travel through space and time and it can turn up anywhere and it will turn up somewhere where there’s a problem and he will sort it out.”

Gaiman didn’t reveal too much about the episode, providing this summary:

Although he was reluctant to give too many details, Gaiman also mentioned a few actors he was excited to write for in his episode, “The Doctor’s Wife,” and what we can expect. “It stars Suranne Jones playing a character named Idris who may turn out to be an old acquaintance of the Doctor’s with a new face. It co-stars Michael Sheen as a mysterious baddie called The House,” he revealed to Newsarama. “It begins on a junkyard planet out on the very edge of the universe and I thought it would be fun to start in a junkyard just because Doctor Who started in a junkyard, so this does.”

Thirteen minutes were cut from the final version (which hopefully will be included on the DVD) and Gaiman had to settle with less CGI than he initially wrote into the story:

The other thing Gaiman had to get used to, was writing for a show that doesn’t necessarily have the biggest budget in television. “There’s a lot of CGI. I remember handing in the first draft to them and having a dinner afterwards at Steven Moffat’s place where they said, ‘Look Neil, we love the first draft. It’s brilliant, it’s funny, it’s clever, it’s wonderful. Just so you know, each episode of Doctor Who has,’ I forget what the exact numbers were, I think they basically said 100 man-hours of CGI, ‘You have 640.’  So there was a level on which lots of things went away,” he said, “They still wound up essentially taking other episodes out around the back of the bike sheds, beating them up and taking their lunch money and giving it to me. All I know is the finished episode looks beautiful and it has, like I say, it has everything I would have wanted and it takes you places you’ve never been before.”

Interview with John Borrowman and Bill Pullman on Torchwood: Miracle Day at Cannes in the video above.