SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who Christmas Special; Merlin To End; Sherlock Delayed; Revolution; Star Trek; Downton Abbey; Into The Darkness

The BBC has released the poster for The Snowmen, this year’s Doctor Who Christmas Special. The official synopsis:

Christmas Eve 1892 and the falling snow is the stuff of fairy-tales. When the fairy-tale becomes a nightmare and a chilling menace threatens Earth, an unorthodox young governess, Clara, calls on the Doctor for help. But the Doctor is in mourning, reclusive and determined not to engage in the problems of the universe. As old friends return, will the Doctor really abandon humankind or will he fight to save the world – and Christmas – from the icy clutches of this mysterious menace.

Radio Times has The Snowmen on their cover. Blogtor Who reports that the article quotes Jenna-Louise Coleman as saying, “I’m not Oswin: I’m a different person who looks and sounds like Oswin.” Could it be that there is no connection, or is Moffat dragging out an explanation? If at some point we find out that Clara gets duplicated, don’t get too attached to the copy. Same goes if we meet a descendent of Clara’s who looks a lot like her.

Entertainment Weekly interviewed Jenna-Louise Coleman about her role as Clara, the Doctor’s new companion. She had no further information to reveal about how she appears after having been blown up as a Dalek in Asylum of the Daleks:

So, you played an ultimately deceased Dalek on that show and now you are about to debut (again!) on the special Christmas show as the Doctor’s assistant. All of which obviously raises about a thousand questions. Is this a subject that is going to be addressed in the Christmas episode?
Uh… mmm… no. We’re going to have what has been referred to as a “soft mystery.” For me, filming, I’ve been totally oblivious to Oswin and the “Asylum of the Daleks.” I really have had to erase it from my memory. Yeah, Christmas is it’s own episode.

Oswin was a Dalek. Can you tell us whether your companion is human? Not all of the Doctor’s companions have been.
That’s why it’s so difficult [to talk about it]. Because of the way it started with Oswin, it’s really difficult to say much: where she’s from, what period she’s from, what planet she’s from, even.

It’s not often an actor can’t even reveal what planet their character is from.
Exactly, yeah. I know. Doctor Who’s the worst for it, isn’t it?

The BBC has announced that Merlin will end after the fifth season, which is currently being aired in the U.K. I will try to avoid giving away too much for those waiting for the season to air in the United States but there will be some spoilers here. I had thought that the entire series was to be about younger versions of Merlin and Arthur, taking place before the major occurrences of the legends. Now it appears the series might include the entire Arthur story.  The final season is in some ways more like the King Arthur legends except that this still seems earlier in the legends than might be expected at the conclusion of the story. Mordred plays a part in the final series and based upon released synopses of upcoming episodes we do appear to be heading towards their final confrontation.

The video above contains an interview with Colin Morgan. There is also talk of a spin off series taking place in this time period.

Production on Sherlock has been delayed so we will have to wait until late 2013 to see how the cliff hanger is resolved, with the third season not airing in the United States until late 2013 or 2014.

Revolution wrapped up the first half of the season. The mid-season finale was disappointing, but this came as no surprise based upon how the series has been written to date. The entire first half of the season consisted of an arc in which Rachel’s son was captured and it came as no surprise that the arc ended by freeing him. The contrived suspense of whether Miles would rejoin the militia, which began in a flashback the previous week, ended as expected. What could have been a surprise at the end of the episode, a helicopter in the air, had been given away by scenes of the helicopters in the preview. Even if Rachel had really built a working amplifier, could this really support helicopters going an distance? I suppose they also quickly invented some sort of receivers for the helicopters so that they would have power but there wouldn’t be electricity for everyone else around.

Entertainment Weekly interviewed series creator Eric Kripke about the finale. Here are some of the questions and answers:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Was there ever a version in your head where Miles goes, “Yeah, I’m re-joining Monroe”?
Eric Kripke: What we love about Miles is half of him is light and half is shadow. If this story was set a couple years ago he would be the bad guy. You never want to lose sight of that. Just because Miles was able to face-off with Monroe in this particular encounter and maintain the heroic side of his personality doesn’t mean it’s going to happen again. So even though he was able to resist the temptation, that temptation is still there. Even moreso when he starts to fulfill his destiny and becomes a leader for the rebels [in the second half of the season]; he starts to fall into his old bloodthirsty patterns again. … There’s also a lot of important pieces in last night’s episode that move the story forward. We’re setting up how pissed Monroe is going to be in the second half of the season; how personal Neville is going to take Miles’ assault on his wife. And [we hinted that] Rachel and Miles have a very secret history.

I gotta ask, since I’m seeing this comment on the boards: How could Rachel forget to grab the pendant on the way out of the room?
Kripke: We shot a scene where Rachel goes, “We have to go back and get the pendant,” and Miles says, “We can’t go back, they’re shooting machine guns at us!” We ended up cutting it for time because we thought, maybe wrongly, that when there’s a room full of five people shooting machine guns in your direction that you can’t run toward those machine guns.

You mentioned the learning curve, what more have you figured out since the last time we spoke?
Kripke: The biggest lesson we learned is we need to move this story forward a little faster. We’re still going to have the same format where each episode is centered around a single event so it has certain self-enclosed elements to the storytelling. But sometimes in the emotional arcs and serialized arcs we treaded water maybe a little too much without revealing either new character moves or emotional revelations. We went a couple episodes too many where we didn’t move the ball forward significantly. We’re trying to correct that so that every time somebody tunes in they get a satisfying story and also a big “what the hell” moment

Staging a revolution is a pretty big venture. Can you give us an idea of what specific characters will be focused on?
Kripke: Charlie and Miles are really going to be focused on the war against Monroe. Miles leading the rebels gives them a fighting chance and Charlie is right beside him. Rachel and Aaron will focus the ongoing mythology in terms of revealing why the lights go out. I can reveal now that we do reveal it, now that we’ve written that scene. And reveal how to turn them back on.

You’re not that deep into production on the second half of the season, so can we assume that revelation comes fairly early?
Yeah in the second half it happens sooner than anyone is thinking it will happen.

Revolution has been mediocre but has managed to keep me hooked by wondering about its back story. Knowing that their will be a revelation early has me hooked into starting the second half of the season, and once I start watching I’m likely to continue through the first season. Will they come up with enough to advance this story into a second year?

An official synopsis has been released for Star Trek Into Darkness, scheduled for release on May 17, 2013:

In Summer 2013, pioneering director J.J. Abrams will deliver an explosive action thriller that takes “Star Trek Into Darkness.”

When the crew of the Enterprise is called back home, they find an unstoppable force of terror from within their own organization has detonated the fleet and everything it stands for, leaving our world in a state of crisis.

With a personal score to settle, Captain Kirk leads a manhunt to a war-zone world to capture a one man weapon of mass destruction.

As our heroes are propelled into an epic chess game of life and death, love will be challenged, friendships will be torn apart, and sacrifices must be made for the only family Kirk has left: his crew.

My immediate thought on this: Gary Mitchell (Where No Man Has Gone Before). The above video is obviously  from the original show and not the upcoming movie.

Last week’s installment of SciFi Weekend had some cases of shows having to carry on with the loss of characters. Now there are reports that Dan Stevens will only return for the first episode of the fourth season of Downton Abbey. His character, Matthew, takes on a prominent role at Downton in the third season (which has not yet aired in the United States) and I wonder if it will require a major change in direction for the fourth season if it is necessary to write him out. Perhaps more money will encourage him to stay, or at least make occasional appearances so that they can just say he is working in London for parts of the season.

Julian Fellowes is going to be writing and producing a series on The Gilded Age for NBC:

UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. – November 27, 2012 – NBC and Universal Television have entered into a deal with Oscar, Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning writer-producer Julian Fellowes (“Downton Abbey,” “Gosford Park”) to create and produce his next dramatic television series, it was jointly announced today by Jennifer Salke, President, NBC Entertainment, and Bela Bajaria, Executive Vice President, Universal Television.

Fellowes, creator of “Downton Abbey,” will write and produce “The Gilded Age,” an epic tale of the princes of the American Renaissance, and the vast fortunes they made — and spent — in late nineteenth-century New York. “This was a vivid time,” says Fellowes, “with dizzying, brilliant ascents and calamitous falls, of record-breaking ostentation and savage rivalry; a time when money was king.”

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who Christmas Special and Journey to the Centre of the Tardis; Fringe; Bill Prady on Romney’s View of Voting To Get Free Stuff

Pictures from the Doctor Who Christmas Special have been released and two videos of consequence were presented at Children in Need. First there is a prequel episode, The Great Detective, in which we find that the Doctor has retired. Secondly there is the trailer for the Christmas episode in which the Doctor’s retirement on screen is a brief as we would expect.

Here is the announcement from the BBC:

‘The Snowmen’ has been revealed as the title for this year’s movie-scale Doctor Who Christmas special, and the episode that will introduce the new companion, a new look for the Doctor and a new monster that will have families shivering behind their sofas.

Starring Matt Smith as the Doctor, and introducing Jenna-Louise Coleman as new companion Clara, The Snowmen will follow their adventures as they embark on a mission to save Christmas from the villainous Doctor Simeon (Richard E Grant) and his army of icy snowmen.

Fans also got a sneak peak at a new costume for the Doctor, revealed in an exclusive trailer on Children in Need, while a special prequel showed the impact of the loss of the Ponds, with old friends Vastra, Strax and Jenny trying to persuade the Doctor not to give up on adventures.

Steven Moffat, Lead Writer and Executive Producer, said: “The Doctor at Christmas is one of my favourite things – but this year it’s different. He’s lost Amy and Rory to the Weeping Angels, and he’s not in a good place: in fact, he’s Scrooge. He’s withdrawn from the world and no longer cares what happens to it. So when all of humanity hangs in the balance, can anyone persuade a tired and heartbroken Doctor that it’s time to return to the good fight? Enter Jenna-Louise Coleman…”

Matt Smith, who plays the Doctor, commented: “For this year’s Christmas special we have the wonderfully villainous Richard E Grant as Doctor Simeon – as well as lizards, Victorian assassins and deranged warriors from the future, who all return to convince the Doctor that he should board the TARDIS again and save the world. Add to that Jenna-Louise Coleman, and so begins the Christmas Special 2012. I hope everyone enjoys it!”

The BBC Cymru Wales produced drama will return to BBC One in December, with a further eight epic episodes in spring next year.

Doctor Who TV previews an episode for the second half of the season, to air this spring:

Writer Stephen Thompson speaks about his upcoming episode for Series 7: Part 2 in the latest issue of Doctor Who Magazine(#454 out today.)

He confirms the story is titled Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS and explains how the episode came to be: “My first meeting was last October. I went along with a pocketful of dream-episodes. (Still trying to work out a way to shoehorn the Krynoids in. Might yet happen.) This initial meeting is fairly predictable. Before I even open my mouth and pitch to the room, Steven goes ‘I want you to do x.’ And his idea is so wonderful, and so much more clever and interesting than anything mere mortals like myself could come up with, you end up saying ‘Yes’ and the meeting’s over in record time. Or at least the same time it took last year. And so it was. ‘Would you do one where we see the centre of the TARDIS?’ ‘Er, yeah. Okay.’ Conversation took nine seconds. And then I’m chained to a laptop on and off for the next six months, basically.”

“Actually Steven had two ancillary reasons for bringing that idea to the table. One: he admits to being haunted by The Invasion of Time – the story from 1978 set on board the TARDIS, where the sets were cobbled together at the last minute. Unfortunately a TV strike meant that studio sets were not built, and as a result our only glimpse of the TARDIS interior has been a disused hospital in Surrey with bin-bags stuck to the windows. Two: Steven knows; that I’m a pure mathematician and anything involving multi-dimensional geometry gets me excited. (There’s my geek credentials.) So – that was the brief. What’s in the middle? Plus the title. And then I’m sent off to fill in all the blanks.”

He adds: “[With The Curse of the Black Spot] my brief from Steven was very different – he said a lot of the [Series 6] episodes were dark and complex, and he needed me to write something light. This year got to indulge my inner fan. (And I got to ask my kids what rooms in the TARDIS they’ve always wanted to find.)

“This episode will be different in many ways, not least because the star won’t necessarily be the usual person. You might not even see the star, it might be the guy at the drawing board. It just might be the designer…”

Fringe is now about putting things into or taking things out of the brainstem and brain, and the consequences of such action.  On Fringe, greater intellectual power tends to have dangerous trade offs, if not being outright evil. We continue to see Peter developing his Observer powers after implanting Observer technology in his neck, with Olivia now aware of what Peter has done. There is parallel story going on with Walter and Nina with Walter wanting Nina to remove the parts of his brain which William Bell removed and which were later restored.

There are so many questions leading into the final episodes of the series. I wonder if Peter might wind up being the first Observer, setting everything else in motion, and providing an explanation as to why so much has centered around Peter. Will we be better or worse off with Peter becoming more like the Observers and with Walter more like his old self? Will Peter lose all his hair? Will Walter perform a lobotomy on himself if Nina does not help him? Will the Observers continue to allow pictures of Etta to go up all over as the face of the resistance? Will Peter defeat the Observers and pull a cosmic reset switch, returning to the park with Olivia and Etta? We will have to wait three weeks to find out anything more, with the next episode featuring Peter vs. Windmark.

I have previously presented opinions on the election from people in show business. In case have not seen it, the one which you really should not miss was from Joss Whedon on  how Mitt Romney’s policies would set up the conditions needed for a Zombie Apocalypse. The same issues remain even if Romney has become a toxic-asset which even Republicans now want to be rid of. Almost everyone seems to have turned on Mitt Romney for his view on the 47 percent and takers after the election, including Republicans who defended Romney on this view during the campaign. I previously commented on this post-election Romney gaffe when speaking to donors here and here. Bill Prady, creator of Big Bang Theory, weighed in on Romney’s flawed view on his Facebook page. A portion follows:

I number among my friends many who, like myself, voted for the President. Not one of them gets “free stuff” from the government (unless you count Social Security and Medicare, I suppose). My friends are hard working moms and camera operators. They are teachers and gardeners and maids. They are writers and actors. People with jobs. Two jobs, some of them. They didn’t vote to get free stuff.

Me, I created a television show. I didn’t vote to get free stuff.

We voted for the President because we share his vision for America. We believe in a country where people are treated with respect no matter who they are. We believe in the freedom to love whom you love — and to marry the person you love. We believe that no family should go bankrupt because their child becomes sick.

We believe that women can make their healthcare decisions for themselves in consultation with their doctor and their god and that they don’t need a politician to tell them what to do. We also believe they should be paid the same if they do the same work.

We believe that lowering taxes on the wealthy isn’t an economic policy and it doesn’t lead to prosperity and higher employment. The experts believe that, too — it’s in the report the Senate recently suppressed. We also believe that because we lived through it — it lead to the worst economic disaster in our lifetimes.

We believe that the men and women who wear the uniform of our nation deserve our highest respect, and we believe that when we send them to fight unnecessary wars and then don’t care for them when they return we have betrayed that respect. We also believe that if we ask them to leave their jobs and fight for us, we should make sure they can get jobs when they return.

We believe that asking people like me to pay a little more — just what we paid during the Clinton administration (one of the greatest periods of growth in modern history) — isn’t communism. It isn’t socialism. It’s fair.

We believe the infrastructure of this nation is crumbling and that we must invest in the repair of our roads, bridges and schools. And we believe that in those schools, our children — our most precious resource — should be getting the best education whether they live in Chevy Chase or Harlem.

We are hard working people who worked hard for this victory.

The Big Bang Theory get into genre (including recent references to Doctor Who) far more than politics, as would be expected on a network television show seeking to appeal to a mass audience, but there have been a number of amusing swipes at the religious right on past episodes such as here and in the clip below.