SciFi Weekend: Babylon 5 and Blake’s 7 Reboots; Doctor Who; Captain America; Agent Carter; Agents of SHIELD; Defiance; Big Bang Theory; Google Maps Adds The Moon and Mars

Babylon-5-Alt-FT-779x400

J. Michael Straczynski has announced plans to reboot Babylon 5 as a movie. One reason for doing it his way is that Warner owns the television rights but Straczsynki retained the feature film rights:

Speaking at San Diego Comic Con last week, Straczsynki announced that he would soon be sitting down to write a Babylon 5 feature film, which is envisioned as a reboot of the iconic sci-fi series. JMS said that he plans to get the script locked down by the end of 2015 and the film would then enter production the following year in 2016.

Next to nothing is known about the plot for this Babylon 5 feature film, beyond the fact that it is a reboot of the concept seen in the series. That said, J. Michael Straczynski has stated that he would like to use cast members from the series, such as Bruce Boxleitner and Mira Furlan, in new roles in the feature film. “I’d love to see Bruce as the President of the Earth Alliance”, he said.

The hope is that Warner Bros, who produced the Babylon 5 television series, would step up and green-light a “big budget” feature film once the script has been completed. But owing to the nature of the deal that Straczysnki inked with the studio to produce Babylon 5 in the early 1990s, he, rather than Warner Bros, owns the feature film rights to the show. Should Warner Bros. choose not to greenlight a B5 movie, Straczynski would still proceed with the feature, which would then be funded and produced through his Studio JMS banner on a budget of $80 – $100 million.

Although Syfy passed on the show, there is still some hope for a remake of Blake’s 7.

The BBC has renewed Doctor Who for an eighth season since the show returned, again staring Peter Capaldi, with the shows to be presented in a continuous run. Steven Moffat said recently that there are no plans for either the return of the Master or for a tenth anniversary show (which would seem strange after doing a 50th).  Moffat has also expressed a willingness to do a Doctor Who/Sherlock cross over, but others involved are not interested. Would it look something like the video above, except with Peter Capaldi instead of Matt Smith?

Above is, perhaps, how Captain America: The Winter Soldier should have ended. Directors Joe and Anthony Russo discussed their upcoming projects, Agent Carter and the third Captain America movie:

Before turning their attention to the next feature, the Russos are directing several episodes of the spin-off TV series Agent Carter, debuting on ABC in January 2015. The miniseries follows the solo adventures of Peggy Carter, the love of Captain America’s life and founder of S.H.I.E.L.D. in the 1940s. From there, the brothers will tackle the third film, which picks up “a couple years” after Winter Soldier left off. Although the heart of the movie will be Steve Rogers’ complicated relationship with his childhood friend Bucky Barnes, the themes of politics and power will still be in play. “The character was invented for an explicitly political purpose. So it’s hard to get away from that nature,” Anthony tells Yahoo. It’s also important to the directors that Captain America doesn’t become another disillusioned antihero. As Joe sees it, “his morality is part of his superpower.”

While they’re not leaking any major details from the 2016 film, the Russo brothers promise that they’re “bringing some new elements to the table that will give us a twist on Winter Soldier.” Does this mean that Steve Rogers will pass the Captain America shield to Bucky Barnes (aka the Winter Soldier) or Sam Wilson (aka the Falcon), both of whom have donned the stars-and-stripes in the comics? With actor Chris Evans shifting his focus to directing, and Sebastian Stan and Anthony Mackie already in place as the Winter Soldier and the Falcon respectively, the next film could allow a new hero to step in.

Elsewhere in the Marvel universe, FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper (Twin Peaks) will be meeting SHIELD. Kyle MacLachlan  has been cast to play Skye’s father on Agents of SHIELD. Chloe Bennet said at Comic-Con that next season will also involve more hair. Skye will have bangs and Brett Dalton will do the evil-Spock thing of the mirror universe and have a beard as the evil Grant Ward.

Defiance Cast

Defiance has done a good job of creating a world with numerous well-developed characters and alien races, but often while watching I wonder if there is any point to it all. It lacks the big story ideas of a Babylon 5 or Battlestar Galactica. The showrunner, Kevin Murphy, did work on BSG and I am glad that he got away from the idea of doing the show as a “science-fiction crime of the week.”

AX: How did DEFIANCE started and how did it change when you came onto the project during its development?

KEVIN MURPHY: The original version was a little more of a closed-ended procedural, it was kind of more of a science-fiction crime of the week, and we were in the process of changing that when CULT got picked up and [original DEFIANCE co-creator/show runner] Rockne O’Bannon left. I then had a choice that I wasn’t sure that the show was going to work in the incarnation that it currently was in, and I didn’t want to have responsibility for something that didn’t work. So I gave Syfy a choice. I said, “I’ll transition you into your next show runner, and I’ll make sure that casting continues and produce the pilot, but I’m not going to stay on for the series unless I believe in the show.” And they were like, “Well, what would you want to do to it?” And it was basically, “Well, it involves getting rid of pretty much all the scripts, and let me give you my pitch.”

So I did the pitch, worked it out with the writing staff, and at this point, it was Rockne’s last day, and he was helping us to kind of reconceive it, and Scott Stewart, the director, was very involved in the process, and so was Michael Taylor, who had worked on BATTLESTAR GALACTICA and was a member of staff under me. And we pitched the whole thing to [then-Syfy Channel president] Mark Stern while he was driving in his car on vacation with his family in Palm Springs. And he had his wife and kid in the vehicle with him, and the pitch lasted about ninety minutes, because we pitched the entire story from beginning to end, every single beat, and by the time he pulled into the hotel in Palm Springs, we had finished our pitch and he was like, “Okay, I love it. Go write it.”

AX: Did you make major changes to the characters?

MURPHY: The PAPER MOON thing I added, the idea that Nolan [the town’s new law officer, played by Grant Bowler] came in from the outside and that he was a con man and a drifter and a huckster and a criminal. That was all stuff that I added. The idea that Amanda has only been mayor for six weeks and she’s the former mayor’s assistant and no one takes her seriously, that was an addition; the idea that Irisa [Nolan’s adopted Irathient daughter, played by Stephanie Leonidas] uses knives and Irisa being sort of the feral badass was an invention of mine. And Michael. When I say “me,” I’m including Michael Taylor, who was definitely my partner in crime. We would not have gotten that script in the shape it needed to be in without Michael at my side.

The Werewolf Transformation

In follow-up of an item from last week, the cast of The Big Bang Theory did settle on a new contract. The top three stars, Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki and Kaley Cuoco, will each  earn $1 million per episode for the planned upcoming three seasons, and there is talk of potentially adding an eleventh season.

Google Maps has added maps of the moon and Mars. I imagine that going off the earth was inevitable once they added the TARDIS to their maps.

SciFi Weekend: Sherlock Returns; Helix; Veronica Mars Trailer; Searching For Time Travelers; House of Cards; Star Wars; Better Call Saul; Community; Big Bang Theory

Sherlock Returns

Sherlock returned last week. I won’t say much to avoid major spoilers until the show returns in the United States. It should be safe to reveal that Sherlock lives. The episode shows how he survived the fall, but it was more interesting to see Mark Gatiss make fun of all the fan theories. A full review of the episode can be found here. Q&A with cast and show runners here.

The second episode, The Sign of Three, airs tonight on BBC One. A spoiler-free review can be found here.

Helix premieres on Friday. The fifteen minutes can be viewed above. Press release follows:

Helix is an intense thriller about a team of scientists from the Centers for Disease Control who travel to the high-tech research facility, Arctic Biosystems, to investigate a possible disease outbreak, only to find themselves pulled into a terrifying life-and-death struggle that may hold the key to mankind’s salvation or total annihilation. However, the lethal threat is just the tip of the iceberg, and as the virus evolves, the chilling truth begins to unravel.

Executive produced by Ronald D. Moore (Battlestar Galactica), Steven Maeda (Lost) who is also showrunner, and Lynda Obst (Contact), the 13-episode drama stars Billy Campbell (The Killing, Killing Lincoln) and Hiroyuki Sanada (The Wolverine, 47 Ronin).

Campbell stars as Dr. Alan Farragut, leader of the Centers for Disease Control outbreak field team called upon to investigate and control a potential outbreak. Sanada also stars as Dr. Hiroshi Hatake, director of Arctic Biosystems and its mysterious viral research program. Helix also stars Kyra Zagorsky (Supernatural) as Dr. Julia Walker, Mark Ghanimé (Emily Owens, M.D.) as Major Sergio Balleseros, Jordan Hayes (House at the End of the Street) as Dr. Sarah Jordan, Meegwun Fairbrother as Daniel Aerov, Catherine Lemieux (White House Down) as Dr. Doreen Boyle and Neil Napier (Riddick) as Dr. Peter Farragut.

Helix is produced by Tall Ship Productions, Kaji Productions and Lynda Obst Productions in association with Sony Pictures Television. Prolific director and producer Jeffrey Reiner (Friday Night Lights) directed the first episode of Helix, which was written by creator and co-executive producer, Cameron Porsandeh.

The trailer for the Veronica Mars movie was released last week. Video above.

Attempts were made to see if time travelers were active on social media and if they would provide clues as to their existence. The attempt to find time travelers was unsuccessful. What about these clues that John Kennedy and Barack Obama are time travelers?

House of Cards will return on February 14. For those who want to revisit the first season, Netflix has added director’s commentary tracts.

It looks like the Superman vs. Batman movie is a good deal financially for Michigan. Awaiting details on what is being filmed–will Detroit be the next Gotham City?

David Lynch is filming new material in preparation for the Blu-Ray release of Twin Peaks.

Star Wars Marvel

After Disney purchased the rights to Star Wars, it comes as no surprise that Star Wars comics will be returning to Marvel, which Disney also owns.

The Walt Disney Company’s Lucasfilm Ltd. and Marvel Entertainment are joining forces to bring new Star Wars adventures to readers across the galaxy, with Marvel granted exclusive rights to create and publish Star Wars comics and graphic novels beginning in 2015.

The agreement marks a homecoming for the Star Wars comic books. Marvel Comics published the first Star Wars comic book, STAR WARS #1, in March 1977, which went on to sell more than 1 million copies. Marvel Comics published its STAR WARS series for nine years. In 1991, Dark Horse Comics took over the license, publishing fan-favorite titles like Dark Empire and Star Wars: Legacy. Last year, Dark Horse released The Star Wars #1, an adaptation of George Lucas’ original rough-draft screenplay for the film, garnering rave reviews and national media attention and ranking among the top-selling Star Wars comics of all time.

“Dark Horse Comics published exceptional Star Wars comics for over 20 years, and we will always be grateful for their enormous contributions to the mythos, and the terrific partnership that we had,” said Carol Roeder, director of Lucasfilm franchise publishing, Disney Publishing Worldwide. “In 2015, the cosmic adventures of Luke, Han, Leia and Chewbacca will make the lightspeed jump back to Marvel, to begin a new age of adventures within the Star Wars universe.

TV-Breaking Bad Wisdom

Entertainment Weekly discussed both Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul with Vince Gilligan. A portion of the interview:

What has been the big challenge in formulating Better Call Saul? And can you clarify how much of the show will be a prequel and whether we might see scenes that take place after the events of Breaking Bad? Are we going to hop around in time a little?
Peter Gould is a wonderful writer and producer and director who worked on Breaking Bad with me from the first season, and he created the character of Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk). He and I have been turning that over in our heads quite a bit. We think, by and large, this show will be a prequel, but the wonderful thing about the fractured chronology we employed on Breaking Bad for many years is the audience will not be thrown by us jumping around in time. So it’s possible that we may indeed do that, and we’ll see the past and perhaps the future. Nothing is written in stone yet, we’re still figuring it out, but the thing we realize is tricky with the character is that Saul Goodman is very comfortable in his own skin. He seems to be a character who is pretty happy with himself, especially when we first meet him. He seems to be a pretty happy-go-lucky guy, and that makes him everything that Walter White is not. And that also makes for tricky drama. When I say drama, even in a comedy, you want drama, you want tension and conflict, and a character that at heart seems at peace with himself is intrinsically undramatic. [Laughs] So we’ve been thinking about how to address that issue.

Could some of the action be set in the Breaking Bad era as well?
It could. That’s why I love the possibilities of the show so much. Anything is possible, and I can’t make any promises that we will indeed see that kind of stuff, but I can tell you from a writer’s point of view, it’s very freeing and emboldening to have those opportunities available to you.

How many characters from Breaking Bad might pop up or even have an extended role?
The character that springs to mind would be Mike (Jonathan Banks). That would be a great deal of fun. I would say the sky’s the limit, at least theoretically speaking. Realistically speaking, we’ve got a whole lot of actors, and the world is now well-aware of their wonderful talents and abilities, and therefore Breaking Bad has probably made it tougher for Peter and I to get some of these folks pinned down for another TV show. They’re off making big movies and doing Broadway plays and whatnot, and that’s exactly the way it should be. That is a high-class problem that we will have to contend with as we go forward with Better Call Saul, if we do indeed want to touch base with some of these characters… Better Call Saul could be The Love Boat of its generation, where instead of Milton Berle showing up in a sailor’s cap, hopefully it could be Aaron Paul, also in a sailor’s cap. [Laughs]

I would suggest using a lot of Jonathan Banks in order to add drama which might not be found in Bob Odenkirk’s character. Incidentally, we have already seen Jonathan Banks on Community and Vince Gilligan will also be making an appearance.

Community - Season 5

Community returned with two episodes, Reboot and Introduction to Teaching. Dan Harmon returned and did successfully reboot the show, putting the changes from last season behind. Reboot was the weaker of the two as Harmon did have to spend time setting up the scenario of having everyone back again at Greendale. I would have been satisfied if they simply said the fourth season was a dream and picked up from where season three left off but there was the obvious need to continue the narrative where the show left off last season. I bet that after this, repilot and gas leak year will enter the general vocabulary to describe future shows in similar situations which have a down year under the wrong creative team and then reboot afterwards.

The surprising thing about the episode was the cameo from Chevy Chase. Dan Harmon explained in this interview with IGN:

IGN: Chevy’s cameo was a very nice surprise. How did that come about, and how did you decide upon the specific way it happened in the episode?

Dan Harmon: Well, there’s always the point in every story when a character that’s gone down a certain path needs to have a reason to turn. One of the easiest things to do is have a moment with a mentor, a kind of Obi-Wan figure. I was really just considering what the story needed in the moment where Jeff is walking away with the power to destroy or save Greendale in his hands. What the story needed was someone to turn him, and I did picture Pierce immediately because if he was still on the show, that’s exactly how we would use him, and it’s a greater fact that he was always at his best as this sort of hapless Obi-Wan or a cautionary tale or unintentional mentor – trying to be a mentor in one way, but actually inspiring in a different way. It just seemed like one of those big moments where it was like, “Man, I really miss having that Pierce character,” and I literally pictured him in my head like this Industrial Light & Magic ghost that would appear in front of Jeff and say, “Don’t do this. Go back.” Then I thought, “Okay, then how do we actually make that happen, logically?” The answer was, “Well, actually what you’re describing could just be a hologram, because it doesn’t need to be having a conversation with Jeff. He just needs to say something. He just needs to be a vision.” He can’t be a literal ghost, but he could be a hologram, because Pierce has money, and that seems like the kind of thing you associate with Pierce — that whole Baby Boomer/Sharper Image kind of technology for its own sake kind of thing. And actually, that would work perfectly, because it would allow Chevy to come back to the show without panicking Sony legal, because he wouldn’t be on the set.

I wasn’t there when Chevy departed, but I know he had a specific agreement with Sony in which the terms of his departure were contractual and there was an agreement on both sides. I don’t really know more details than that except to say that simply bringing him back would be a contractual issue. So I was able to say to the studio, “What if we weren’t bringing him back? What if we were shooting him on a separate stage with no other actors around. Would that be allowable?” And they said, “Yes.” So it became this idea. I knew Chevy would be on-board because he’s an arch character, but I know that at the end of it all he always loved doing the show and would be more than willing to come back. He’s very passionate about making people laugh. So I texted him, and he said, “Absolutely, I’ll do it.” And then there was the weird thing of, we really didn’t want that to leak too early because it’s such an easy thing to spoil, and it really does spoil it, I think. So we wanted to see if it was possible to keep it under wraps until it aired. We actually kept it a secret from as much of the crew as possible, other than there were some people we needed to shoot Chevy, but we didn’t tell anybody that we didn’t have to tell. At the table read for the episode, we wrote a fake scene where Jeff is turned by Star-Burns. [Laughs] That’s actually, unfortunately, a really funny scene that the actors got really excited about, because it’s the reveal that Star-Burns is alive and that he’d been hiding on campus and faking his death to avoid death charges. The question is, why would he pick the campus to hide on? It’s the dumbest hiding place in the world, and he doesn’t know why, there’s just something special about the campus, like it was home or something. And that’s what turns Jeff.

the-big-bang-theory competing comic book store

There is new conflict coming up on The Big Bang Theory next week as Bernadette goes to a rival comic book store to purchase something for Howard in the picture above.

NPR’s Morning Edition had a recent segment on the show.

SciFi Weekend: What the Awake Finale Means; Doctor Who News; Warnings of Daleks and the Tax Implications of a Zombie Apocalypse; House and Holmes Fake Deaths

Following the series finale of Awake I found many sites were interpreting the final scene as meaning that it was all a dream, and the accident did not occur. I posted my disagreement with this interpretation. Subsequently interviews with Kyle Killen  (such as here) verified my interpretation and answered additional question. The finale went into a different form of dream after Britten was in jail in one of his realities. In this dream, Britten actually met with his self from the other reality, was followed by both of his psychiatrists, and had an unusual meeting with his wife. It might be argued the Britten in jail was the real Britten, having dreams of solving the crime and being the hero in the other reality, and developing a new dream to cope with the reality of being in jail.

Regardless of whether this was the real Britten or a dream within a dream, the episode ended with Britten speaking with Dr. Evans. She attempted to convince Britten that the world with Hannah was just a dream, but Michael then questioned what the “rules” were. Britten never had been interested in finding which reality was true–his desire was to have both his wife and son back alive. His mind coped with the death of one by creating a second reality in which the other survived. His mind now realized that he could create an even better fantasy in which both his son and wife were alive. The immediate feeling upon watching this episode was that this was a happy ending with Britten getting what he wanted. It is also an ending in which Britten is even more out of touch with reality.

Killen described it this way:

Some fans saw the final scene — Britten (Jason Isaacs) seeing both Rex and Hannah in the house — and mistook it as a copout ending revealing the detective had dreamt the entire 13 episodes. “The idea that we’re saying nothing happened, this is St. Elsewhere, was something we actively fought against. You can still hate the finale, you just can’t say that that’s what it did. It’s just wrong and can actually be disproven watching the last four minutes,” Killen says. The show was always conceived as the way that one particular man dealt with grief that he was completely unprepared to handle. “That’s how the season ended — while he’s able to see his wife and child together, if you take a step back, what it really represents is a further fracturing of his psyche,” he says. “You understand that you don’t see your partner in a penguin suit in any version of reality — that grew directly out of the red world in which Hannah is alive [seemingly] revealing itself to be a dream. He just can’t accept that, and then [in the conversation with Dr. Evans] backs into the idea of, Wait, what if I fell asleep in my cell and then everything that happened after that was a dream? What if for the first time I had dream-like dreams in between being awake and being asleep? Once he does that, it’s almost as if his brain seizes that moment and creates precisely the thing that psychologically he’s dying for — and that is a moment with everyone together.”

One big question all season has been whether one reality was true and the other a dream, if there was some sort of quantum universe explanation in which both were equally valid, or whether there would be a conclusion like on Life on Mars in which nothing was real. Watching week by week I found that the evidence was contradictory as to which reality was real and suspected they were equally valid or both unreal. In interviews leading up to the finale Killan had said that one was real and the other was a fantasy which Britten developed due to the horror of losing either his wife or son. The reason that there was such contradictory evidence now appears to be that Killan and the writers did not have a conclusion in mind which settled this:

The show’s producers all had their own pet theories, but nothing was written in stone. “Most people felt like the red world was more likely to be real, just from a logical basis that the death of a child is something that’s out-of-order with nature and much more difficult to deal with than the death of a spouse. It felt like the death of a child is one that you might create a world to undo. So it felt a little bit like the balance was tipped in the red world’s favor, but we constantly adjusted that. One of the things we talked about was if ultimately the green world with his son was real and the red world was his imagination, was it that he couldn’t let his wife go until he’d psychologically worked out something that was unresolved with Hannah? There were arguments for why he simply could not let go of one or the other. We didn’t feel it was necessary to decide which one was his imagination now. We didn’t have a big sitdown and say, ‘This is what Rosebud means.’ We just didn’t approach it that way.”

Watching the finale I had also wondered whether this was written after Killan knew the show was cancelled and was intended to be the ending, or if this was written previously with plans to move on from this point in a second season. Killan revealed that he planned to pick up the second season from this point if the show was renewed:

The finale was written and filmed before the show’s cancellation. “I don’t know how the show could have gone on if the fundamental thing that made it work was taken away,” Killen says. He believes you can make the argument that the world in which wife Hannah survived — the red world — was the real one with just as much vigor. “Look at the state that Britten is in [there]. He’s lost. The woman who destroyed his family has gotten away with it. He’s in prison and he seems to have no hope of getting out of there. He’s essentially indicted himself with his own behavior. So if ever there were a place where you could reach a low that would cause you to create through a psychic break a world in which you do solve all the problems, and you do get the bad guy, and everything does turn out okay… I would think that would be an argument for the red world actually being real and requiring the green world as a dream to make going on seem possible. We, at least internally, made sure we could argue it both ways because going forward, we didn’t intend to have that mystery sewn up in this episode.”

Killan went on to describe how the second season would have picked up the story:

“The discussion was always that that’s where he finds himself when he woke back up in red world. It would be as if all of the dream-like elements had in fact been a dream, and he’d closed his eyes just before the guard knocked on the door and told him he had a visitor [Harper], and we’d treat it as that was the moment he went to sleep. He would know that he’d caught Harper in the other world and that he seemed unable to do anything in red. Ultimately, he would have relied on Vega to help him extricate himself from that situation.”

At that point the narratives would have proceeded in both realities (or technically one reality and one dream state) we saw in the first season, with the addition of the third state seen at the end of the finale:

“You still would have had red and you still would have had green,” Killen says.”We left ourselves open to the possibility that [producers/writers plotting out season 2] would have had a really interesting pitch for what to do with that third space, and whether there was an ongoing narrative we wanted to tell there or whether we wanted to use it as simply a surreal dream space that we could access when we wanted to and how we wanted to that let us bring other weirder elements into the show that we’d always wanted to try.” He suspects it would have been the latter. “Twin Peaks being a show that was very close to my heart and a seminal thing in my childhood, the third space was sort of our Black Lodge. It was a place where almost anything could have happened. What happened initially was he found himself in his house with his wife and his child, but there were a lot of other places we would have taken that dream space. I don’t know that it would have always been that linear or happy. I think it would have been a place where he had a lot less control than he thought.”

If the show continued, Britten would have also had a relationship with Rex’s tennis coach, Tara, as was hinted at in the first season:

“It always felt too soon and difficult to explain. If it’s about a man overcoming the loss of his wife, he’s only overcoming the loss for 12 hours a day. So most of us deal with that by not needing to get into another relationship. What ultimately was needed to really jump-start the alternate relationship was some sort of fracturing in the Hannah-Britten story. That’s exactly what you see us building to at the end of the season,” Killen says. “Once he’s imprisoned and he’s considered essentially a mad man and there’s not really a clear way out, we would have used that and Dr. Evans to really try to convince him that that was his imagination and there was a psychological reason that he was holding himself there. That would have opened the door enough for us to begin something with Tara. And then by the time the red world resolved itself and he was extricated from prison, without really meaning to, he would have gotten himself in two different relationships. By the time things were repaired with Hannah, he would have already begun a relationship with Tara because he had been leading himself to believe that Hannah wasn’t real and it was something that he needed to get over. By the time that flipped on him, he would have been a man divided. That was something we were really eager to explore in the second season.”

Benedict Cumberbatch and Matt Smith presented Steven Moffat with a well-deserved special BAFTA Award. Video of the presentation, including clips from Moffat’s work, is above.

Matt Smith carried the Olympic Torch this week. Pictures and an interview with Smith were posted here, and above is another news clip.

If you every wondered how all eleven Doctors would look if they were dinosaurs, an entire set of pictures can be seen at I09.

Christopher Eccleston continues to insist he will not appear in a 50th reunion episode. He has previously explained this by saying, “I never bathe in the same river twice.” This never sounded like a satisfactory reason, and he has subsequently elaborated without much detail saying, “I know what went on and the people who were involved know what went on. That’s good enough for me. My conscience is completely clear.” Obviously there were problems which have not been made public.

Karen Gillan on her final script for Doctor Who:

I literally couldn’t read it without crying … It was the most highly-charged read-through I’ve ever experienced. But I couldn’t have asked for a better exit. I don’t think it’ll be what people expect.’

Gillan leaving means that Jenna-Louise Coleman has started filming. Her initial filming was behind closed doors so we do not yet know how her character will look.

Merlin is filming season 5.

Sign seen in Colorado above. If Daleks were there, it would certainly be good to warn people. Last year the same area had a sign warning “Zombies Ahead.” That would be another important warning. Besides the obvious hazards, there are serious tax implications to a Zombie Apocalypse, as is discussed in this paper, and summarized here.

House concluded last week with House and Wilson being compared to Holmes and Watson. The series ended in a manner similar to  how Moffat’s version of Sherlock ended its second season, with both House and Sherlock faking their own deaths. In addition, Moffat’s other show also ended with the Doctor faking his death. Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss discussed the finale of Sherlock with The Guardian but gave no clues as to how Sherlock survived. Moffat simply says, “He did it cleverly. Very cleverly. And we know, we’re not telling – next!!” I suspect that there will be aspects which were not clear  on screen so I have not worked on a full explanation as to how Sherlock survived, but here are my comments after The Reichenbach Fall  originally aired on the BBC.

It seems strangely appropriate that the big war scene which this season of The Game of Thrones has been leading up to will be airing this Memorial Day weekend.

SciFi Weekend: Torchwood: The New Earth; Doctor Who; Two New Versions of Superman; Wil Wheaton & Lesbian Sex on Big Bang Theory; Lost

IGN has interviewed Russell T. Davies and Julie Gardner about the upcoming Torchwood Series, The New World. The discussion also included questions about future cross over episodes of Torchwood and Doctor Who now that they no  longer have the same show runner.  Here is a portion of the interview:

IGN: We’ve heard this new CIA character, Rex, is somewhat the entry point of The New World. Will we get to Jack and Gwen pretty quickly?

Davies: Too soon to say, but I’m very aware of that. I will enjoy playing with that and I can see already that a slight myth is going to build up of sorts, saying that Rex is our only entry point. When we first see Gwen, you will see what it essentially was in the series [before]. There are no super powers, there’s no credits, no money, no special privileges. You’ll see an ordinary woman whose life is about to take an extraordinary turn. So there will be an awful lot of new viewers where if you’ve never seen Gwen Cooper in your life, you will see a woman with a husband, a baby, thrown into a threat and you’ll latch onto her immediately. Even the way that Captain Jack is introduced is written so that you’ll latch onto that as well.

IGN: What is the dynamic with Rex and the other new character, Ester? What kind of sensibilities do they bring to Torchwood?

Davies: I don’t want to give away too much. Rex certainly brings dynamism and energy and hostility towards Torchwood. He wants to know who the hell they are and why the hell they’re so important and they can get out of his way… at first. There’s a great, fun, sparky, sexy sort of antagonism to the whole thing. Ester is much calmer, but through the course of the story, she suffers some great, powerful, emotional stories as it goes on. In some ways, she’s a bit of an innocent abroad and soon learns not to be. And that plays off Gwen’s experience with these things. The fact that Gwen still is the most ordinary woman in the world, and Jack’s huge perspective of things, having lived for thousands of years… Just telling Rex that he can’t die is a hilarious scene. There’s a lot of fresh material there that we’ll mine, but again the new story will always move us forward.

IGN: Are you looking at this as Series 4 or Season 4 of Torchwood? Or is it a new project with characters we know?

Russell T. Davies: It’s funny, you can’t deny it’s Series 4. There’s a whole fan base and a whole legacy and a whole mythology that I would hate to contradict. Fortunately I have sort of done this before with Doctor Who, when I re-launched that in 2005. It was absolutely imperative to keep everyone who loved Doctor Who on board and to bring in a new audience – it was an even bigger task than this, to be honest. And frankly, I think that went very successfully. I’m an old hand at this. I do know how to do it.

I think these subtitles help, because we don’t actually refer to it as series 4. And we didn’t actually refer to Children of Earth as Series 3. We referred to it as Children of Earth. Now this is The New World, so that takes the curse off of it sounding old. Obviously, you know your stuff – you know your television and I imagine your readership knows their stuff, so we can freely talk about the past. If this was an interview with, say, a more general and generic site, I would avoid talking about the past. So you [move] in-between those points. Because there’s nothing worse than reading an interview and thinking, “Well, I won’t watch that, because it’s on Series 4.”

Gardner: Also, if you look at the history of Torchwood in the UK, it’s moved three channels in three years. It started on the digital channel BBC3 and moved to BBC2 and finally Children of Earth moved to BBC1 which is like the UK’s network channel. Each time, particularly with Children of Earth, Russell reinvented it for a new audience. We didn’t go into Children of Earth thinking that everyone had seen what had gone on before, but very much with that title, it would reward the audience that was there before. There would be references and nuances that they would pick up on that a new audience wouldn’t, but it was done very very much to welcome in people.

Davies: Frankly, it’s gotten bigger and better with every series, and if we ever get to a Series 10, mankind would have to live on the moon to make room for it. So it’s a good plan. [Laughs]

IGN: Now that Doctor Who has done its latest big reinvention with Matt Smith, do you think the two series have completely split off at this point, or do you think another crossover is possible?

Davies: Steven [Moffat] knows the plot of The New World. As a courtesy, I sent him a synopsis and said, “Is that going to clash with anything you’re doing?” We both have enough awareness of each other’s worlds to avoid that. And I still executive produce The Sarah Jane Adventures in Britain. I’m still working on that, and that works in synch with Doctor Who. So we are still very much aware of each plans, without spoiling each other’s news. We’re very careful to make sure that we behave within the Doctor Who world, while still being completely free to tell our own stories.

IGN: I think the curiosity fans have is how Jack would react to this Doctor, since he had a specific relationship with the previous one.

Davies: Well, Steven said he’d love to see Jack in Doctor Who. So if Steven says that, Steven will make it happen, I would think. That’s not inside information, but I bet one day it will happen. I’d love to see it. It would be marvelous.

New York Magazine had a recent interview with Steven Moffat on topics including sex in the Tardis following the selection of a bad girl like Amy Pond to be the current companion. Moffat also reports he will be revealing more about River Song’s identity. He is currently working on an episode in which The Doctor finds out who she is. I previously posted excerpts from the interview here.

Deadline has some casting news, including that Arlene Tur of Crash will join the cast as as a surgeon named Vera Juarez (picture above).

The title for this year’s Doctor Who Christmas Special has been announced: A Christmas Carol.

There are a couple of new interpretations of Superman. J. Michael Straczynski is giving up regular writing for the Superman and Wonder Woman comic books to concentrate on graphic novels following the success of his recent Superman graphic novel. I09 has a review of Straczynski’s version of Superman:

Every time the Superman franchise jumps to a new media, we inevitably get some iteration of his origin story (i.e. baby Kryptonian crash-lands on the Kent farm, is raised to be a homespun demigod). Given that it’s a modern update of the Superman story, Superman: Earth One doesn’t stray wildly from this formula. When artwork of the hoodie-clad Clark Kent hit the internet, there was chatter that the picture (top) portended a gritty or emo Superman. Luckily, the Earth One Clark Kent is a good guy, and the book makes a strong case that the Kents are the reason he doesn’t grow up to be like that creepy god-child from The Twilight Zone.

How does the origin story in Superman: Earth One diverge from traditional portrayals of the hero? First off, Clark’s powers manifest the minute he crawls out of his escape pod. The Kents also hide Clark to protect themselves. They discover his downed spaceship while camping and hightail it once black helicopters begin investigating the vessel. This book is the diametric opposite of Straczynski’s 2003 Marvel series Supreme Power, which starred an alien infant pressganged into superheroics by the US government. The Kents encourage their son to be an übermensch, but he’s raised without any knowledge of Kryptonian heritage — he knows he’s an alien, but being human is all he’s got.

Straczynski’s emphasis on Clark’s alienness is the book’s strongest point, and artist Shane Davis rightly gives the book a photorealistic look to drive home that this is more science fiction than superhero romp. There are no pastels, other heroes, undulating bosoms, or juiced deltoids. Clark is a lithe guy in a gray and brown world, and he only dons the S as an emergency. There’s a certain amount of disbelief that must be suspended here (a.k.a. Clark’s a humanoid), but this is a Superman story — he’s not going to look like a space walrus or lion

Zack Snyder also plans for some changes in his upcoming Superman movie. Digital Spy reports:

Zack Snyder has promised that his Superman movie will be “different” from previous Man of Steel incarnations, yet stay true to tradition.

In an interview with Empire, the Watchmen director said that David Goyer’s script doesn’t alter the DC Comics “canon”.

“It’s a different story,” Snyder said. “I won’t say there’s a break from the canon or anything like that, but there is definitely an approach that makes you go, ‘Okay, that’s a way to get at it.'”

He continued: “David is very respectful of the canon and stuff like that. It has its roots in the canon and again, like I say, it has a point of view about who he is. I’m being cryptic, I know, but it’s the best I can do.”

Asked if his movie will track the Man of Steel’s early years, Snyder replied: “I think it’s early to say. I don’t know.”

The director also described rumors of the comic book hero facing General Zod as “just wrong”, adding that “the internet has no idea what’s going on”.

Wil Wheaton returned to The Big Bang Theory this week (clip above). Big Bang Theory also almost matched the recent oil fight between Britta and Annie on Community. While the guys were trying to get into a showing of Indiana Jones, the girls were having a slumber party as Kaley Cuoco, Melissa Raunch, and Mayim Bialik  had a pillow fight, and Mayim Bialik decided to experiment with lesbian sex.

In its worst decision since running the awful remake of The Prisoner, AMC has decided not to renew Rubicon. I was looking forward to a second season to see the aftermath of the unraveling of the conspiracy. There were many loose ends, such as whether Spangler would commit suicide after receiving the clover, or whether he would survive to fight both those who were exposing him and his former associates.

Apparently Spangler is still alive and tweeting about API being shut down from the screen grab above. Several other characters from the show also are on Twitter.

Gregg Sutter has an interview with Carlton Cruse of Lost. Here’s a portion:

Gregg: For you personally, what was LOST about?

Carlton: On the surface, LOST was a show about a group of people who survive a plane crash and find themselves lost on a mysterious island. But much more importantly, it was a show about how these people were metaphorically lost in their lives and searching for redemption. Viewers talked a lot about the mythology but for us making the show, it was always first and foremost about the characters.

Gregg: Early on, did you feel like you were doing something special, something that had never been done before?

Carlton: Absolutely. Internally we all thought we were onto something cool. We were shattering a lot of the commonly held beliefs about what you could or couldn’t do on TV and that was an exciting feeling. Of course at that point, no one else believed the show would work as a series, so we talked a lot about how if the show did bomb after the 12 episode initial order, it would hopefully become a cool classic like Twin Peaks, which ran for 30 episodes — or The Prisoner, which ran for 17. We hoped, worse case scenario, that LOST would be the kind of show that gets passed around from geek to geek with people saying, “Hey, have you ever seen this show LOST?”

So with the idea that failure was okay, Damon and I asked ourselves one fundamental question to start: If someone handed us the DVD of the 12 episodes of LOST what would we want it to look like? We decided we’d make a show that the two of us thought would be cool.

Gregg: And you ended up breaking a lot of the traditional rules of narrative in TV.

Carlton: Yes. We did. We showed that it was possible on network TV to tell a highly complex, serialized narrative with intentional ambiguity — leaving the audiences room to debate and discuss the meaning and intentions of the narrative – and still find a large audience. This made it a game-changer, in my opinion.

Now Terrorism Against Topless Coffee Shop

coop

What a sad week. We’ve seen right wing terrorism with the murder of an abortion doctor. We’ve had a case of Islamic terrorism with the murder at an Arkansas army recruiting station. Now an arsonist has burned down the Grand View Topless Coffee Shop in Vassalboro, Maine. The coffee shop had received national media coverage for having coffee served by topless waiters and waitresses.

I hope that they manage to rebuild and get this business back up and running. It might not be an appropriate time for joking about the coffee shop, but I can’t resist a comment from a post I had planned but never completed when the coffee shop previously made the news. I had been hoping for an R-rated  east coast remake of Twin Peaks. Imagine Special Agent Dale Cooper remarking on the “Damn good cup of coffee and damn good…”

SciFi Weekend: Sam Tyler’s Search For His Present, And For Life on Mars

stepping-on-mars

While for most television viewers last week marked the finale of ER after fifteen seasons, for science fiction viewers the week was also significant for the series finale of the American version of Life on Mars after only seventeen episodes. (Note there are major spoilers if anyone interested has not yet watched.) During its run some were undecided whether to classify it as a police or science fiction series. The finale made this clear.

The series began with Sam Tyler losing consciousness in 2008 and awaking as a police officer in a similar position in 1973. (Video of the pilot previously posted here). It was never clear if he had really traveled back in time, with many clues suggesting he was really unconscious, or perhaps in a thought-control experiment, still in 2008. In the end it turned out that neither the events in 2008-9 or 1973 were real.

Sam awoke at the end of the episode on a space ship which was actually traveling to Mars in 2035 and we found that everything was simulation played in Sam’s brain to keep it occupied while in hibernation for the trip. Something went wrong with the simulation of Sam as a police officer in 2008, causing him to think he had moved further back to 1973.

Reading the reviews around the blogsophere I think that viewers are undecided as to whether to feel cheated. On the one hand it turned out that nothing was “real” and we had no real way to figure out the ending. On the other hand they managed to insert so many items from the show into the mars mission that in retrospect everything made sense. It also seems easier to accept such an unexpected ending after watching for seventeen episodes. Reactions might have been different after a seven year run unless there was more to lead into it.

The show was really about a search for life on Mars. Sam really was a spaceman, as he was called many times during the series. The machines Sam often saw were replicas of his space ship. Windy was the computer voice. Windy often called Sam 2B after his apartment number, and he awoke in an animation unit labeled 2B. The ship was Hyde-1-2-5 and run was a part of the Aires Project, bringing in both the references to Hyde and Aires in the imaginary 1973. Frank Morgan turned out to be at mission control, really knowing what was going on as Sam suspected in the previous episode.

The show included many references to The Wizard of Oz, including the character Frank Morgan who shared the name of the actor who played the Wizard. Like The Wizard of Oz,  the characters in the imaginary land were based upon real characters. Some of the key characters were fellow astronauts.

At times Gene Hunt seemed to play a fatherly role towards Sam, and it turned out that he was a fellow astronaut as well as Sam’s father. I wonder if the writers considered this relationship when Sam slept with Gene’s daughter in the 1973 imaginary story. In a way Sam dreamt of sleeping with his sister. Another sign of Gene’s importance is that the mission was literally a search for life on Mars or, as a member of the crew put it, a “gene hunt.”

As this is primarily a political blog I should also note we were told that President Obama was unable to speak with the crew when they woke up in 2035 because her father was ill.

While the events in 1973 were not real, in many ways this did not matter because nothing on such dramatic television shows is really real.  St. Elsewhere wasn’t any less entertaining after learning that it all occurred in the imagination of an autistic child in the final episode. (On the other hand, it does not work to go backwards, as in declaring an entire season of Dallas to have been a dream in order to bring back Bobby Ewing). If this was really a simulation to keep the minds of the crew busy it would have been possible to have it end abruptly the midst of the 1973 storyline. The writers treated viewers better than that and did have a satisfactory conclusion to the 1973 events. The storyline with Sam’s imaginary father was resolved. Sam and Annie did get together, and Sam decided he would prefer to remain in 1973 instead of returning to 2008 (or now 2009) when it appeared he had a chance. Annie got her promotion to detective and, in response to the sexism of her co-workers, said she “just thinks of a time far, far in the future when they all work for me.” This turned out to be true as she was really the colonel in charge of the Mars mission.

After the finale aired executive producers Scott Rosenberg and Josh Appelbaum discussed the show with TV Guide and commented on their next project:

TVGuide.com: What’s next for you two?
Appelbaum: We’re doing a [pilot] called Happy Town, for ABC [and revolving around a small town rocked by a horrific crime].
Rosenberg: It’s got a really cool ensemble [including Jay Paulson, Amy Acker, Dean Winters and Robert Wisdom]. We’re all huge fans of Twin Peaks and the Stephen King novels, and hopefully we can create a world worthy of those reference points. There hasn’t been a straight-out scary show on TV in years, and hopefully this will deliver.

Update: Many theories about how Life on Mars would end were raised in the blogoshere. It looks like one of the theories at CliqueClack was quite close.

SciFi Friday: Finales For Doctor Who and Studio 60; Best Genre Shows of All Time

The major event in science fiction this weekend is the finale of the third season of Doctor Who, with this weeks episode running an extra six to eight minutes. My review of the previous episode, The Sound of Drums, along with a video clip, is here. Of course those planning to watch the season starting in July on the SciFi Channel might want to avoid these spoilers.

Many questions remain going into the finale, including the nature of the droids which are literally decimating the earth. I say literally as their instructions are to kill one tenth of all humans. We do know that The Master has converted the Tardis into a Paradox Machine to bring them to earth. He calls them Toclafane, which The Doctor says is really a fairy tale villain, not a real alien race. The Master also warned The Doctor that their identity will break his heart. One theory is that The Master is using The Paradox Machine to bring Cybermen in a new form back to our dimension, with Rose somehow involved, explaining the part about breaking The Doctor’s heart. (Fortunately The Doctor has two hearts). Another possibility is that The Paradox Machine brings fairy tales to life.

While Doctor Who has more episodes of any genre show, TV Guide didn’t give it the respect it deserves. They have released an updated list of the top thirty genre shows as follows:

30) Strangers with Candy (1999-2000)*
29) Absolutely Fabulous (1994-2003)
28) Stargate SG-1 (1997-2007)*
27) H.R. Pufnstuf (1969-1971)
26) Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman (1975-1978)
25) Firefly (2002-2003)*
24) Twin Peaks (1990-1991)
23) Dark Shadows (1966-1971)
22) Doctor Who (1963-present)
21) Freaks and Geeks (1999-2000)

20) The Avengers (1966-1969)
19) Quantum Leap (1989-1993)
18) Veronica Mars (2004-2007)*
17) Beauty and the Beast (1987-1990)
16) Babylon 5 (1994-1998)
15) Family Guy (1999-present)
14) Battlestar Galactica (2003-present)*
13) Mystery Science Theater 3000 (1989-1999)
12) Pee-Wee’s Playhouse (1986-1991)
11) Jericho (2006-present)*

10) Xena: Warrior Princess (1995-2001)
9 ) Twilight Zone (1959-1964)
8 ) The Simpsons (1989-present)
7 ) The Prisoner (1967-1968)
6 ) Monty Python’s Flying Circus (1969-1974)
5 ) Lost (2004-present)*
4 ) Farscape (1999-2003)
3 ) Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003)
2 ) The X-Files (1993-2002)
1 ) Star Trek (1966-1969)

Shows marked with an asterisk are new to the list. I can’t see placing Doctor Who, which has more episodes than any show on the list (even if we add on all the spin offs to Star Trek) and is far better than many of the shows, at only 22. Firefly is ranked at 25. While I might place it a little higher, I do agree that it doesn’t deserve as high a ranking as some would give it. For example, recently I posted a list of top science fiction movies which listed Serenity (which was based on Firefly) as the top movie. They might also be overly influenced by the reaction to the cancellation and subsequent saving of Jericho. While a good show, it is over ranked here. I have no disagreement with the two two spots, Star Trek and The X-Files. While I’ve never seen Buffy, it has a tremendous following and I can also see ranking it highly. A few shows which have been left out, Heroes, 24, Lost in Space, and Dark Angel, are far more significant than several of the shows on the list.

Finally, a farewell to Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip. Fans of the show took out the above ad in the Hollywood Reporter thanking Studio 60 and encouraging donations to the Tipitina’s Foundation of New Orleans.

The problem with the show, which led to its demise, was that it was composed of Aaron Sorkin characters engaging in Aaron Sorkin dialog about Aaaron Sorkin’s favorite issues, transferred from the West Wing to the set of a television show. On the other hand, the great thing about the show was that it was composed of Aaron Sorkin characters engaging in Aaron Sorkin dialog about Aaaron Sorkin’s favorite issues, transferred from the West Wing to the set of a television show.

Prior to the finale, the show had a three part episode which ranks with the best of television. The finale tied up the loose ends, giving everyone a happy ending, even if not always realistically. Personally I don’t ever recall pulling a patient’s family aside with the words “I need to talk to you” to deliver good news! On the other hand, I’m glad to see that Jordan not only survived, but had already thought to draw up papers for Danny to adopt her newborn daughter. It was predictable all season that Matt and Harriet would follow the Ross and Rachel route and get back together. The best Harriett scene in the final four episodes, however, was not with Matt and Harriet but between Harriet and Danny. When things were looking bleak for Jordan, Harriet came up with,”Let me teach you how to pray.” If it was anyone but Aaron Sorkin, I’d start worrying–this is Studio 60, not Seventh Heaven after all. Fortunately it turns out that it was Danny who had something to teach Harriet, placing a few questions in her mind.

Sorkin ended Sports Night with a jab at ABC when he had a character say, “Anybody who can’t make money off of Sports Night should get out of the money-making business.” That left me wondering if he would end Studio 60 with a similar message to NBC. With all the happy endings in the finale, my suspicion was that Aaron Sorkin might have been thinking, “so this stuff is too complex for you. Here, have a nice happy television ending if that will make you happy.” While there were perhaps too many happy endings for all, it was preferable to shows such as Veronica Mars which ended without a resolution in the hopes of being renewed. For better or for worse, it was also as different from the ending of The Sopranos as an ending could be.