SciFi Weekend: 12 Monkeys; Person of Interest; Arrow; The Atom; Gotham; X-Files Reboot; Hannibal; Man In The High Castle; Doctor Who; Torchwood; Selma and LBJ

12 Monkeys

12 Monkeys got off to a great start this week. The second episode is also available for streaming here if you have a cable subscription but I am writing this after only having watched the pilot episode which aired Friday. It was a strange concept which actually works. It began with an idea for a time travel show named Splinters (also the name of the pilot) which was altered to be a re-imagining of the movie 12 Monkeys. It somehow did work, altering many aspects of the movie in ways which will probably work better than the movie did as a weekly series. Considering both the many changes to the movie, and the pilot staring out at the beginning of the story, there is no need to have watched the movie to enjoy the show.

The basic premise is the same as the movie in that a plague has wiped out most of the human race, but in the television movie Cole is trying to actually stop this from happening, and the Army of the 12 Monkeys will be an important aspect rather than a red herring. This means that the entire theory of time travel is different. In the movie, the plague happened, time cannot be altered, and the goal is to go back in time to find information to help develop a cure in the future.

In the television series time can be changed. Not only does Cole believe he can stop the plague, he believes that when he changes time he will cease to exist. This is of no concern to him as he doesn’t see anything about his future worth preserving, with the human race appearing doomed to extinction. There are some aspects of time travel reminiscent of how it worked in Looper, except instead of a character losing body parts, scratching the past version of a watch causes the same scratch to appear on the future version. This gets a bit more confusing when we find that a character saw Cole in his past but Cole has not yet made the trip to 1987 referenced. This might contradict what was shown with the watch, but trying too hard to think about this only leads to”making diagrams with straws.” (That’s another reference to Looper, which seems appropriate considering that Bruce Willis played a time traveler in both Looper and the movie version of 12 Monkeys.)

It is a safe prediction that Cole cannot be successful in changing history, at least until the series finale, so the show must stand on how compelling the ride is. As in the movie, his relationship Dr. Railly is an important aspect. In the television show, she has a different first name and is a virologist instead of a psychiatrist. The show started out with Cole kidnapping Dr. Railly, but their relationship did improve from there. At times their relationship had a feel reminiscent of Ichabod and Abbie on Sleepy Hollow. Both Cole and Ichabod are characters out of their time and on mission which is of vital importance to humanity. Despite the importance of their missions, the little things provide the fun, such as Cole discovering cheese burgers with a reaction similar to Ichabod when discovering the wonders of modern times. Cole also noted that Dr. Railly looks like the women he has only seen in magazines, making her wonder which magazines he was referring to.

12 Monkeys2

The Hollywood Reporter discussed the changes from the movie and plans for the show with showrunner Natalie Chaidez.

In the 1995 film, the Army of the 12 Monkeys served as a red herring. Originally believed to have spread the virus that kills billions of people, the 12 Monkeys in truth were nothing more than an activist group, led by Leland’s son, Jeffrey, who freed zoo animals and locked Leland away in a cage for conducting experiments on animals.

With Leland dead, 12 Monkeys showrunner NatalieChaidez shed light on what the audience can expect from the television adaptation of the Army of the 12 Monkeys and the 2043 timeline.

“Who the 12 Monkeys are, what they are trying to accomplish, how they relate to time travel is the big question of the series,” Chaidez told The Hollywood Reporter. “Unraveling that mystery is our series journey. Knowing where Cole fits in their plan is a big part of it.”

The mysteries, however, are not only related to the 2015 arc. While the movie did not spend much time exploring the future dystopia, Chaidez is set to bring 2043 and the dangers that come with it to the forefront.

“In the series, we have the time to explore what was around those dark corners that we couldn’t peer around in the movie,” she said. “We really get to dig into how people survive in the future and how they are living. We have a group of people called Scavengers. They are the people who have survived but not always with the best morality. They’ve done what they’ve had to do.”

Opening up the world and traveling past the walls of the Temporal Facility also will be a big part of the series. “You will see a little bit of that in episode four, ‘Atari.’ It continues to build in the next few episodes, and we refer to it in a big way at the end of the season,” she noted.

No matter how deep the rabbit hole surrounding the mystery of the virus and the 12 Monkeys goes, Chaidez admits Cole’s struggle will not always be against one force.

“Are there other evil forces at play? Are there other collaborators? Certainly, but the 12 Monkeys are definitely the mysterious force that Cole wrestles with and battles against over the course of the series,” she explained.

Person of Interest Control Alt Delete

Control-Alt-Delete concludes the current trilogy on Person of Interest. It was an unusual ending if truly viewed as a trilogy, but putting aside the trivial matter of the structure of the trilogy, it was another excellent episode in a continuing storyline transforming the show from a procedural to a true genre show. Unlike the previous episodes in the trilogy, it concentrated on the character Control, with very little of Finch, and provided a view of Samaritan from the government’s view which we have not seen before.

I suspect that the key role of this episode isn’t really in completing a trilogy but as starting a transformation for Control. We saw more clearly that Samaritan is both dishonest and evil in its operation, such as with the manner in which it eliminated programers it recruited when they were no longer of value by telling government agents that they were terrorists. One of them asked Control to at least entertain the idea she was being lied to. At the moment she did not and shot the programmer, but she then went to investigate the scene of the shoot out in last week’s episode. She did find evidence that he area was freshly painted, suggesting a cover-up.

We have already seen major changes in which side a character is on in the series, and this has set up a natural progression which I believe will turn Control from an opponent to an ally of Team Machine as she realizes the harm which Samaritan poses to the United States. The currently futile search for Shaw also continued after the events of last week, and the possibility of an alliance with Shaw’s old partner, or at least a cessation of hostilities, was also raised.

There was also the return of the child avatar. I think the idea worked the first time, but now that the goal is to confront the president directly I would find it more realistic for Samaritan to utilize a different manner of communication.

Ray Palmer Felicity

Marc Guggenheim spoke with Nerdist about plans for an Atom spin-off series:

NERDIST: You just mentioned you’ve given some consideration to an Atom spin-off series…

MARC GUGGENHEIM: The thing that we’ve been talking about is just how do we further expand the universe; and we love Brandon and we love having him on Arrow.

N: He brings a new dynamic to the show in his scenes with Emily Bett Rickards’ Felcity, a kind of screwball comedy vibe.

MG: He does. When we met with Brandon, the whole point of Ray Palmer for us — not the whole point but a big piece of Ray Palmer — was… Felicity’s voice is of a different show and we always say that Emily’s playing tennis against herself. [Laughs.] So we wanted to create a character that could vibrate at her frequency. And Ray really brings that and brings that energy and he’s so much fun to write. He’s a joy to write. Brandon’s so terrific and embodies the role so well that when we talk about how to further expand things, he’s a natural person to talk about. It’s like Brandon said on the panel, originally when we met with him we just wanted to bring a great character onto the show and we wanted a great actor to play him. That’s really how it always starts. With the exception of Grant Gustin on Arrow last year, there’s never been a [decision] to bring in a character with the intention to spin them off. It’s always, “What services the show the best?”

X Files

Fox has renewed Gotham for a second season in a move which some will be happy about and others will question. They are also considering even more controversial moves, including a remake bring back 24 without Jack Bauer and  rebooting The X-Files.

Saturday at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour, Fox confirmed that the network hopes to reboot The X-Files the way it did with 24. The followup would star the original duo David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson as Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. So far they’ve just been talking logistics, and trying to match up everyone’s schedules. The actors both have commitments to other shows, with Anderson in a recurring role on NBC’s Hannibal (and likely another season of The Fall) and Duchovny also starring in the peacock network’s show Aquarius.According to Deadline, Carter hinted that the show might return in the summer.

I think that the more important question that must be answered before getting the cast together is whether there is a coherent story they can tell after the mess the series wound up in.

The third season of Hannibal will be adding Will’s wife Molly as a character. She will not appear until the eighth episode, which will have a time jump to allow for the changes in Will’s personal life.

The Seattle Times has a review of Amazon’s television version of Philip K. Dick’s novel, Man In The High Castle. It sounds like the television series should go well beyond the novel in developing this alternate history in which Germany and Japan won World War II. If interested in reading such an alternate history, another novel I’d recommend is Fatherland by Robert Harris. In his novel, instead of being defeated and occupied by Germany and Japan as in Dick’s alternate history, the United States and Germany both developed nuclear weapons and were in a cold war while Germany controlled most of Europe. HBO has also made a movie version.

There was talk earlier in the week that Netflix would be losing BBC shows including Doctor Who. A deal has been reached to renew rights for multiple shows including Doctor Who and Torchwood, however Fawlty Towers, Blackadder, MI-5 and Red Dwarf will no longer be available on Netflix as of February 1.

In related news regarding a couple of these shows, filming has started on season nine of Doctor Who. John Borrowman is working on Torchwood radio plays. He says that Russell T Davies and executive producer Julie Gardner are involved: “It’s the team back together.” Hopefully this is a step towards reviving the television series, without making the same mistakes as in the final season.

Maureen Doud‘s column this weekend is about seeing Selma. She did praise the movie but did object to both the Oscar snubs and to its historical inaccuracies about Lyndon Johnson:

In an interview with Gwen Ifill on P.B.S., DuVernay dismissed the criticism by Joseph Califano Jr. and other L.B.J. loyalists, who said that the president did not resist the Selma march or let J. Edgar Hoover send a sex tape of her husband to Mrs. King. (Bobby Kennedy, as J.F.K’s attorney general, is the one who allowed Hoover to tap Dr. King.)

“This is art; this is a movie; this is a film,” DuVernay said. “I’m not a historian. I’m not a documentarian.”

The “Hey, it’s just a movie” excuse doesn’t wash. Filmmakers love to talk about their artistic license to distort the truth, even as they bank on the authenticity of their films to boost them at awards season.

John Lewis, the Georgia congressman who was badly beaten in Selma, has said that bridge led to the Obama White House. And, on Friday night, the president offset the Oscar dis by screening “Selma” at the White House. Guests included DuVernay, Lewis and Oprah Winfrey, who acts in the film and was one of its producers.

There was no need for DuVernay to diminish L.B.J., given that the Civil Rights Movement would not have advanced without him. Vietnam is enough of a pox on his legacy.

As I have written about “Lincoln,” “Zero Dark Thirty,” and “Argo,” and as The New York Review of Books makes clear about “The Imitation Game,” the truth is dramatic and fascinating enough. Why twist it? On matters of race — America’s original sin — there is an even higher responsibility to be accurate.

DuVernay had plenty of vile white villains — including one who kicks a priest to death in the street — and they were no doubt shocking to the D.C. school kids. There was no need to create a faux one.

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SciFi Weekend: Person of Interest; The Flash and Other CW Shows; Agent Carter; Agents of SHIELD; The Returned; Mad Men; Star Talk; Neil Gaiman; Robert Crumb on Charlie Hedbo

Person of Interest Simulations

Often middle episodes of a trilogy can be weak, containing neither the set up or conclusion, but Person of Interest had no difficulty with the second part of their current trilogy. A show which deals with showing different versions of the same scenario might also be risky, but they certainly pulled that off well with If-Then-Else. Many viewers were aware that the episode might deal with the death of a character and they played with viewers in showing Finch get killed early in the episode. While the series has had one major character get killed in the past, it is a safe bet that Finch and Reese are safe, so it was no surprise that Harold’s death (along with a later sequence showing Reese get killed) were only a computer simulation as the Machine looked at every possible strategy.

I particularly enjoyed one way they kept the showing of different scenarios from seeming redundant or boring–the use of generic responses to speed up the dialog:

Reese: “Coolly delivered sadistic warning.”

Fusco: “Self-deprecating inquiry into the time necessary to infiltrate system.”

Root: “Funny, yet insightful retort.”

Finch: “Mildly agitated declaration of mission completion.”

Once the scenarios were evaluated, we had the “real” version of events, with a couple of  surprises. While one simulation had Root kiss Fusco, as it was just a simulation, the real version showed a progression in the relationship between Shaw and Root. It was not entirely clear to what degree Shaw kissed root out of romantic interest versus to startle her so that she could sacrifice herself to get the elevator rising.

Person of Interest Shaw Kiss Root

It is notable that the when the final shot was heard we did not see Shaw’s body, and we know that in the absence of a dead body we should never assume a character has really been killed. The previews suggest that at very least Team Machine believes Shaw is alive. Interviews with the producers and cast reveal some spoilers as to whether Shaw is really dead. From TV Guide:

While debate rages about whether or not Shaw is actually dead, she certainly won’t be appearing on POI in the near future. In fact, this entire storyline was crafted after Shahi informed the show’s producers she was expecting twins.

“Our fans think we’re sadists who like killing off our characters. In this case, we had no choice,” executive producer Jonathan Nolan tells TVGuide.com. “Our hands were tied. The circumstances of Shaw’s character and what she does — being a lethal operative who goes around the world and exterminates people and often puts her life in peril — kind of makes her irresponsible as a maternal figure on the show. Sarah was the first person to say, “There’s no way we can write this into the character,” and we agreed.”

So, is Shaw really dead? “You have to stay tuned,” executive producer Greg Plageman says. “The great part of doing a serialized show is that you have people waiting to find out what happens. We’d hate to spoil that for the audience, but there is a little bit of ambiguity about what happens after those elevator doors close.” As for how long that ambiguity will last, Nolan quips, “What’s the earliest you can put two twins on an airplane?”

Regardless of Shaw’s fate, the producers did give fans a huge moment between Shaw and Root (Amy Acker), as the much-‘shipped duo finally locked lips before Shaw’s heroics kicked in. “I directed their first scene together on the show, and it was abundantly clear to me that there was a great deal of chemistry between those two characters,” Nolan says. “So from the beginning, for me, that tension has always been there. We felt like the fans were invested in that relationship. You don’t feel like you can walk away from something like that without giving some kind of consummation.”

Person of Interest Root Elevator

Initially stories I read about Sarah Shahi leaving the show reported an expected two year absence, but Shahi left this more open in an interview with Entertainment Weekly where she talked about her pregnancy and the kiss with Root:

How did you break the news to the producers?
I just kept hitting them, like one after another. At first it was, “Guys, I’m pregnant,” and they were like, “Woah, okay, this is great, how far along are you?” And then: “Hey guys, just went to the doctor, I’m having twins.” “Woah! What! Oh shit!” So the whammies just kept coming for them. They’ve been wonderful about it, and they’re all fathers themselves so they understand what blessings children are, but it did take some adjusting. As far as the show goes, I do 99 percent of my own stunts all the time, so it took a little re-wiring in terms of what was safe for me to do, what was not safe for me to do. There are things that on paper didn’t seem like a stunt. When you’re carrying two human beings inside your belly, sometimes just walking or standing is a stunt.

Was there any conversation about writing the pregnancy into the show?
There were. Even through creatively I didn’t have anything to do with how Shaw goes, I just kept stressing that I wanted to honor her in every way that I could, and I didn’t want them to write me behind a desk. I didn’t want them to lessen Shaw’s abilities in any way because of my physical inabilities. I just kept stressing to them, please please please let’s honor her the right way. I still want to go balls out. Don’t hold back just because I’m pregnant.

What is the right way to honor her?
Her going out the way she did is pretty perfect for her. I always viewed this character as somebody who had a death wish on her. She’s such an adrenaline junkie and she’s got an appetite for violence. She will definitely put herself in that situation. It’s fun for her. If she doesn’t do that, she’s not living. She looked death squarely in the eye. She had a hint of a smile in her eyes. And then it just went to black. I think for her, that was the perfect ending. If Shaw could pick anyway to go, that’s the way she would want to go.

Tell me about that big kiss between Root and Shaw. Was that purely for the fans?
It’s funny because that was Amy’s first girl-on-girl kiss, whereas I’m incredibly experienced because of The L Word. I’m a veteran at the girl-on-girl! And Amy was kind of getting kissed all over that episode, between me and Fusco. Although I think she’d rather me than Fusco.

But yeah, to be honest, I felt like it was more for the fans. The one thing that the producers and I did kind of disagree on was they felt like Shaw knew she was going to die. She’s against ten Samaritan operatives, there’s no way she’s getting out of this alive, and that kiss was a goodbye kiss. Whereas I didn’t see it like that. I don’t think Shaw goes into any situation going, okay, I’m going to die today. I feel like the stronger choice is to struggle to live, and so I felt like that kiss was just like, “Oh, shut the f–k up already, Root!” I felt like it was more trying to calm down a pestering child, if anything. “Okay, fine, I’ll give you what you want, now be quiet.” Just one of those moments. But again, I also felt like it was more for the fans than anything….

So, the million dollar question once more: Is Shaw gone for good?
This episode is the second episode in a three-part series, and that is going to be the question moving on. That is what the team is going to have to figure out. Is she alive? Did Samaritan capture her? Where is she? The rule in TV is if you don’t see a body, then they’re not dead.

If hypothetically you did return and Shaw wasn’t dead, do you have an idea of your own timeline?
As far as my own timeline, it’s one of those things where you say that you’re having twins and you automatically see the fear of God in people’s eyes. Most people know what it’s like to handle one baby. There’s not a lot of sleep that involves just one baby. Then you add another baby to that equation and it’s just like doomsday. It’s going to be me for the next, like, two years. So to be honest, I have no idea. I’m trying not to think about stuff like that. But there’s no way—I’ve never had experience in this department before, so I can’t say at all, no clue.

SpoilerTV has a spoiler-free advance look at part three in this trilogy, Control-Alt-Delete, which does include the return of Camryn Manheim as Control.

Flash-TV-Reverse-Flash-Theories

There have been a number of teasers on Arrow and The Flash coming out of the Television Critics Association winter press tour. Among items of interest, it does appear that Tom Cavenagh’s character is the Reverse-Flash, as was suggested before the holiday hiatus, but he might not be the only Reverse-Flash:

Executive producer Andrew Kreisberg hinted that another person may be involved in the Reverse Flash mythology — namely Eddie Thawne (Rick Cosnett). Fans have speculated that Eddie (whose name resembles Eobard Thawne, one of the aliases of Reverse-Flash in the comic books on which the series is based) will emerge as Reverse Flash in the series.

“His name is not an accident,” Kreisberg said Sunday. “Eddie’s connection to the Reverse Flash lore is going to pay off big time in the back half of the year.”

The DC universe will also be growing on CW. This includes another spin-off based on The Atom and there are plans for an animated series about Vixen taking place in the same universe.

The DC v. Marvel rivalry didn’t interfere with this discussion between writers and producers of both the DC and Marvel based television shows in this interview at The Hollywood Reporter. It was confirmed in this interview that a crossover between Supergirl (on CBS) with the CW shows is a distinct possibility.

CW has announced the renewal of multiple shows including Arrow, The Flash, The 100, and Jane the Virgin.

While the DC cinematic universe will be kept separate from the television universe, there will be overlap in characters between the movies. Viola Davis is rumored to have been offered the part of Amanda Waller in the Suicide Squad movie, with her character to also appear in other DC movies.  There are also rumors (and a denial) that Batman V. Superman will be split into two parts.

Agent Carter Poster

Agent Carter started out much stronger than Agents of SHIELD, hopefully indicating that Marvel has learned its lesson and will be doing a better job with its future television shows. Although set in the 1940’s, there were plenty of references to the Marvel universe. Besides frequently mentioning Captain America and including Tony Stark’s father, there were multiple other references. What Culture provides a list of 10 Easter Eggs.

Edward James Olmos of Battlestar Galactica will be appearing in a major role on Agents of SHIELD. Reportedly his character will have “massive repercussions” for SHIELD.

A date has finally been announced for the next Marvel television show. Netflix will be releasing Daredevil on April 10. The other planned Marvel shows on Netflix will be released approximately one year apart, with Jessica Jones, staring Krysten Ritter,  next in 2016.

Carlton Cuse is busy working with A&E, although not on original ideas.  One of his shows, Bates Motel, starts its third season on March 9. In addition he has a second show premiering with the network on the same day. He is doing an American adaptation of the French series, The Returned. This has the same basic premise as ABC’s Resurrection with people returning from the dead, but it is a totally different story. The American adaptation will also diverge from the French version after the sixth episode, and the second season will be entirely new as the French version only ran for a single season.

When Amazon included a show from Chris Carter, The After, in their pilots, there was mixed reaction. Some were excited, hoping for great things from the creator of The X-Files, while others remain wary of Carter after the way The X-Files deteriorated over the years. We will not find out whether he learned from his past mistakes on this series as Amazon has decided not to pick it up.

Mad Men Bar

AMC announced that the final episodes of Mad Men will start on April 5. Matthew Weiner has discussed the finale saying, “The last seven episodes, I would say each one of them feels like a finale in the show.”

Following an era filled with very polarizing finales, from Lost to How I Met Your Mother, Weiner says he is very cognizant of finding a balance between giving the audience what they want and best serving the overall story. “I’m extremely interested in what the audience thinks, so much so that I’m trying not to confound them, not frustrate and irritate them,” Weiner said. “I don’t want them to walk away angry. But I don’t want to pander to them. This sounds patronizing, but as the person telling the story, sometimes people have to be protected from what they want to see happen and the story has to have its own organic thing. You can’t just give them everything that they want. That said, part of entertainment can be catharsis. Bad things happening are considered a good thing in entertainment.”

Tonight Girls returns and there is the debut of a new comedy on HBO entitled Togetherness. The advance hype for the show has been making a big deal out of Amanda Peet appearing topless considering she is 42 years old. Personally I find seeing Amanda Peet topless, regardless of her age, to be far more desirable than to see more nudity from Lena Dunham.

Neil deGrasse Tyson will be returning to television in a weekly late night talk show entitled Star Talk.

neil-gaiman-trigger-warning

Neil Gaiman has a new book coming out entitled Trigger Warning which includes a Doctor Who short story. It is not clear if this is the same story which was previously only available in an ebook collection for the 50th anniversary.

Speaking of books and ebooks, Time and Financial Times are reporting that ebooks are going “out of fashion” but, even if they are correct, I question how they came to this conclusion. First they cite declining sales for ebook readers like the Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble Nook. I see three flaws in using sales of these devices to be a meaningful measure of reading ebooks. First of all, while some might upgrade to the newest versions, many people might still be using an ebook reader which was purchased over a year ago and have no reason to buy a new ebook reader. Secondly, tablets have come down in price so much that many people might be using tablets as opposed to dedicated ebook readers. Thirdly, as screens on cell phones have increased in size and screen resolution has increased, cell phones have become much better for reading ebooks. Personally I find myself using my phone more than ebook readers since upgrading to an LG G3.

Their second argument is an increase in sales of physical books, but increased sales of physical books could just as likely mean more people are getting ebooks as mean less are. It could be a sign of an overall increase in reading and book sales, with different people buying more of one or the other along with some of us who buy both. Generally when I read a book I’ll obtain both a hard cover copy for my library and to read when at home along with an ebook copy to have it available for either when away from home or to read on my phone or tablet in night mode should I awaken in the middle of the night and decide to read for a little while.

American cartoonist Robert Crumb gives a

The New York Observer interviewed American cartoonist Robert Crumb, who moved to France in 1991, about the recent killings at Charlie Hebdo:

Charlie Hebdo, they print so many insulting cartoons about Muslim extremists, you know, geez, they just kept at it, you know…but that wasn’t the only people they insulted, they insulted everybody. The Pope, the President of the country, everybody! They were merciless, to everybody. It was a really funny magazine. They just didn’t hold back towards anybody. You know, they didn’t let anybody off the hook, which was good.

What was your reaction inside when you first heard about it?

I had the same reaction I had when 9/11 happened.  I thought, “Jesus Christ, things are really going to turn ugly now.” That kind of thing, just like 9/11, it gives the government the excuse to crack down, to become very much more, like, you know, “Homeland Security” oriented.  And the right wing gets like this kind of like fodder for its arguments. The right wing here is very down on the Arabs. And France has an Arab population that’s like, 5 Million, something like that – huge population of Muslims in this country, most of whom just want to mind their own business and don’t want to be bothered. Those kinds of extremists are a very small minority. We have friends here who are from that background, you know, Moroccan or Algerian. And they just don’t want any trouble, and their kids are mostly even more moderate than they are.

Is there anything in the US in our history that comes anywhere near this tradition – the Hedbo tradition? If so, what would it be?

Underground comics, back in the 70s.  But today, I don’t think there’s anything like that now in the US. The thing about Charlie Hebdo is that it started in 1969. The gang of guys that worked for that magazine, they just kept at that for decades. Those guys are fairly old, you know, older guys most of them. There wasn’t a whole lot of, you know, 20- somethings or 30-somethings in that group. The cartoonists are mostly older guys. There is lots of critique of the left also. They say the left is hypocritical, bullshitters and opportunists, and all that. But generally I would say there’s a leftish sympathy in Charlie Hebdo. But they just came out with that every week. Every week. And people would just look at it and laugh, “Oh, you know those guys, those crazy guys.  They’re outrageous.”

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SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who; Benedict Cumberbatch on Sherlock and Sex; Agents of SHIELD; Agent Carter; Gotham; Arrow; The Flash; 12 Monkeys; Billy Bob Thornton and Other Sitcom News; Crash of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo

Doctor Who Black Water

Black Water is so far likely to be the most memorable episode of this season of Doctor Who, but any such judgment will be influenced by the second part of the story, Death in Heaven. It is difficult to review the first episode of a two-part story as when an interesting idea in genre is raised we never know how well the story will play out. Of course this could also be said of both individual stories and entire series (such as Lost and The X-Files.)

The episode demonstrated how much the Doctor cared for Clara: “Do you think I care for you so little that betraying me would make a difference?” Fortunately the betrayal was in a dream sequence. Before realizing it was a dream I expected that the Doctor would either pull out a spare key or show that he can still get into his TARDIS even without a key. Clara pointed out a common issue on the the series in which the Doctor is inconsistent as to whether he can change time. Such inconsistencies are unavoidable on a long running time travel series and actually seem less objectionable when openly acknowledged by a character.

Danny Pink appears to have died, but it isn’t clear if it is final. After all, the idea of the episode is that death is not what we think it is, although it is not clear if we were told the truth or if it was entirely lies coming from Missy. We were told,  “This isn’t really an afterlife. It’s just more life than you were ever expecting.” With rumors that Jenna Coleman might be leaving the series, it is possible that he really is dead, but also possible that he can be rescued from the Nethersphere for further adventures. The previews of Death in Heaven suggest that Clara might have never existed, but previews are often misleading.

The biggest danger to Danny might not be that he appears to be dead, but that he might delete his emotions and voluntarily become what was hidden away in the black water, which hides all not-organic material. Even though it was well known that the finale involved the Cybermen, and it might not have made sense keeping all of them stored in water, the scene revealing what they were as the water drained away still had considerable impact.

If we can believe what we heard, the dead are still conscious and feel what their body feels–making “don’t cremate me” a crucial plea and avoiding being studied for science also an important goal. One reason we cannot be certain of anything we were told was the reveal as to the identity of Missy: “Try to keep up. I’m Missy. Short for Mistress. Well, couldn’t very well keep calling myself the Master, could I?”

Although there was widespread speculation that Missy was the Master, we were kept guessing until the end, including with a claim earlier in the episode that she was just a droid. Now that we know that Missy is the Master, the question remains as to whether she really was the one who gave Clara the Doctor’s phone number in The Bells of St. John, and if so what the purpose was. We can be certain that her use of the Cybermen is not a good thing,

Having the Master regenerate as a woman has been received with excitement by a lot of fans who have been hoping for a female doctor. While this establishes that it is possible for a Time Lord to regenerate in the opposite sex, having this be possible and actually doing it are quite different things. I suspect that for now this might have been done to placate fans calling for a female doctor with no current plans to actually do so.

The Doctor Who Extra for Black Water is above.

Benedict Cumberbatch discussed Sherlock and sex in an interview with the UK edition of Elle.

ELLE UK: What do you think Sherlock would be like in bed? How would you play a love scene as Sherlock?

BC: Oooh… You know I’d get the, I’d probably test the latex, if it involved prophylactics, beforehand.

BC: I’d do a little experiment to do with durability, length, girth, and um, strength. And um, I would probably take a lot of vitamin supplements to make sure that I could perform, and had had my sleep, and probably not had many cigarettes. Or drink, for that matter. Not that he does drink.

ELLE UK: You see. Proficient, but lacking enthusiasm.

BC: Yeah, no wait for it. I would probably watch a lot of porn…

Cumberbatch is currently in negotiations to star in Doctor Strange but perhaps he should also be signed for a guest appearance on Masters of Sex.

Agents of SHIELD Ward

SHIELD could really use better security. We figured that Ward wasn’t going to spend the entire season in Coulson’s basement, but I would think that they would have taken even more precautions to transport him. Brett Dalton discussed his character with Entertainment Weekly.

ABC has released the official synopsis for Agent Carter.

It is too early to judge Gotham as they are busy building their pre-Batman universe. Screen Rant looks at Arkham Asylum. Of course any discussion of Arkham leads to the Joker, and the post also mentions the fan theory that Oswald Cobblepot actually turns out to be the Joker, not the Penguin.

It has been announced that Morena Baccarin (Homeland, Firefly, V) will be playing Dr. Leslie Thompkins:

She will play Dr. Leslie Thompkins, a gifted and dedicated physician who was a friend of Bruce Wayne’s parents, Thomas and Martha. She is determined to use her skills to aid Gotham’s most in need, which currently means working at the newly opened Arkham Asylum’s Home for the Criminally Insane. In addition to her medical skills, her coolness under pressure will serve her well as she finds herself drawn close to James Gordon and into more and more dangerous waters.

Blastr looked at Christopher Nolan’s original ideas for the Dark Knight trilogy, which were changed with the death of Heath Ledger (the Joker).

At this point CW is doing the better job of bringing the DC universe to television, and Gotham has a long way to go to compete with Arrow as the best television adaptation of Batman. Last week Felicity visited The Flash and the next episode of Arrow features her in The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak. The synopsis for the episode reads:

When a cyber attack brings Starling City to its knees, Oliver and Felicity are pushed to their limits to contain the destruction. Life gets even more complicated for Felicity when her mother, Donna (guest star Charlotte Ross), stops by for a surprise visit. Meanwhile, Ted Grant (guest star JR Ramirez) questions Laurel’s motives, and Thea buys an apartment with Malcolm’s “estate””money, which infuriates Oliver.

 Stephen Amell discussed Arrow, The Flash, and DC movies;

We’ve heard so much in recent weeks about Marvel and DC announcing so many comic book movies over the next few years. Are you ready for a Green Arrow movie? I am completely indifferent. First of all, wanting a movie undersells the idea that making 23 episodes a year isn’t a huge achievement. It is and I would put that degree of difficulty up against any feature film that has ever been made… except “Lord of the Rings” and that gigantic Peter Jackson-led undertaking… and maybe “Titanic.” But, other than those two movies, I’d put making 23 hours of interesting content in a TV season up against anything on the film side. It is difficult to me to want or envision an “Arrow” movie when we are shooting the 10th episode of our third season with 13 more episodes to go and in all likelihood 3 more seasons on the other side of that. I’m interested in keeping that content fresh. Once we get to the end of that road, maybe then I’ll shift my focus. There was some talk and controversy about the fact that Grant Gustin is doing the “Flash” TV show but was not named the Flash for the “Flash” movie. If Green Arrow was going to be on screen, do you feel like it should be you? Yeah. Of course. And I feel like it should be Grant doing the movie. But the important thing to remember is just because Grant Gustin plays the part of Barry Allen doesn’t mean Ezra Miller can’t also play Barry Allen. There can be different interpretations of the character. Anyone who is a fan of the comics knows the Flash character is one of the forces that leads to parallel universes. And who knows, they might find a fantastic actor to play Oliver Queen on the feature side who has a different take on the character. I’m certainly a departure from the typical Oliver Queen from the comic books. I just think that everybody needs to be patient with the whole thing. The fact that DC and Warner have announced all these comic book features is nothing but good for business.

Syfy has released the above extended footage for their upcoming series (based on the movie) 12 Monkeys.

Last season CBS killed Cristin Milioti in the series finale of How I Met Your Mother.  Now NBC has killed her on A to Z, or for now turned her into a zombie. She is currently walking dead, not unlike Brady Hoke as Michigan’s football coach. The series will complete its initial thirteen episodes but end at that point. Unless the thirteenth episode is rewritten we will never learn about what happens in that final hour of her eight-month, three-week, five-day, and one-hour relationship. I would expect that viewership will fall even further now that we know the show will not be on much longer. I have already deleted it from my DVR’s schedule.

NBC also canceled Bad Judge along with A to Z. NBC still has Marry Me for now but, having watched the pilot only, it hardly seems worth watching. Seeing these shows leads to the inevitable question–why did NBC cancel Community to make room for these? (Fortunately it has been saved by Yahoo!)

It has not been a good year for romantic comedies, with ABC having already canceled Manhattan Love Story.  At the moment, the only new network sitcoms I’m watching are Blackish and Selfie. Weak romantic comedies seem even lamer than most years after watching You’re The Worst which premiered last summer.

Big Bang Theory Billy Bob Thornton

Billy Bob Thornton was largely responsible for the success of Fargo. Late in the series he impersonated a dentist, and last week he went on to portray a doctor on The Big Bang Theory. The Hollywood Reporter interviewed showrunner Steve Molaro about his memorable appearance (which hopefully will be repeated). Billy Bob Thornton is a big fan of the show, and he is the one who pitched the idea of playing a doctor who tries to steal Penny away from Leonard. Molaro also states that “a major move forward in the Sheldon-Amy relationship occurs” in next week’s episode.

It was a real tragedy when Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo experimental space plane crashed on Friday.  While a huge setback, hopefully this is not the end of the idea of commercial spaceflight:

For now, the future of the New Mexico spaceport intended as the hub and central customer for Virgin Galactic’s operations seems uncertain.

And for Scaled Composites and Virgin Galactic, Messier says, “it’s obviously a massive setback.

“I’m hesitant to try to make predictions this soon after the accident,” he says.  “They’ve been working on SpaceShipTwo for ten years now. If the engine blew, they may have to go back to the drawing board.”

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SciFi Weekend: Hannibal; The Fall; Crisis; Orphan Black; Continuum; History of Science Fiction; HIMYM; Gotham; Agent Carter; SHIELD; The Americans; Under The Skin; Under The Dome

Hannibal-Season-2-Episode3

Hannibal has now become a courtroom drama, with Will Graham on trial for the murders committed by Hannibal. We appear to have another murderer out there, but without Will investigating we never get into the new murderer’s head and do not even know their identity. Is Hannibal also committing these murders in an attempt to free Will and regain him as a (manipulated) friend? Hannibal was forced to admit that there were some differences in how the murderer was operating. Hannibal would know better, unless this was part of a bigger plan.

Another favorite scene in the trial was the return of Freddie. She first seemed to bury Will by saying that Abigail had confided in her that she was afraid Will  might kill and cannibalize her. The defense then asked Freddie how many times she was accused of libel (six) and how many times she settled (six), quickly discrediting her testimony.

Assignment X has an interview with Mads Mikkelsen:

AX: Did you watch any of the earlier incarnations of Hannibal?

MADS MIKKELSEN: I think we all watched that, growing up, right? We were certain from the beginning that we could not detach ourselves from the character. Obviously, he’s a man who loves anything beautiful – beautiful music, beautiful people, beautiful wine – so we had to address that, but we had to detach it from what Anthony did. Obviously, it would be creative suicide to go down his path. He was so wonderful, and if you try to copy something like that – but I think any actor would make it his own, regardless of if it’s me or somebody else, but it was a conscious choice that detached us.

AX: Can you say what you’re bringing to Hannibal?

MIKKELSEN: A lot of it is already in Bryan’s scripts. He’s already given life to the character to a certain degree, and then it’s up to me to step into those shoes. As I said before, any actor would color it somehow, and I’m coloring it – I’m trying, to a degree, to make him human. What he does is absolutely not human, but his emotions are true and honest.

AX: You’ve compared Hannibal to Lucifer. Is he becoming more Luciferian or less Luciferian as you go along?

MIKKELSEN: He is Lucifer. He is the fallen angel. The thing about him is that he’s honest – he’s honest with his emotions regarding Will. He’s having a hard time here trying to regain his friendship. That’s uphill, of course. But that’s his main target in this season.

AX: Do you think Hannibal qualifies as a psychopath by regular psychiatrist standards, or is he something else?

MIKKELSEN: I don’t think he is a psychopath. I mean, reading about psychopaths, they normally have a traumatized childhood or something they’re struggling with. He doesn’t have that. He’s as happy as you can get. He’s a happy man. I have rarely given life to a character that is as happy as him, I must say.

AX: What would you say Hannibal’s relationship is like with his erstwhile psychiatrist Dr. Bedelia du Maurier, played by Gillian Anderson?

MIKKELSEN: That’s obviously a very unique and kinky relationship that they have, and we will address it a little more in this season. I think she has been a very important partner for him, in a sense that we will see a different side of Hannibal, and he will be quite emotional with her to a degree. Why he’s doing that, we don’t know. And I think that’s just his little space of freedom where he can be what he is.

Gillian Anderson is gone from the series for now, busy with two other series. She has begun filming the second season of The Fall for BBC2, a series well worth watching (and available in the United States on Netflix). Another series, Crisis, begins on NBC tonight with some  initial reviews being very favorable. Entertainment Weekly has more on the show.

Gillian Anderson had a great response to a question posed on Reddit:

Question: My question is assuming your character is made into a gourmet meal by Hannibal what type of food would you want to be made into?

Gillian Anderson: Something so rich that he’d choke on it and die.

EW Orphan Black

Orphan Black has put BBC America on the map (and cover of Entertainment Weekly) with one of the top genre shows of all time.Tatiana Maslany spoke about one of her clones being gay:

Even while Orphan Black received praise for the diversity of its characters, there was some debate online about the decision to have Cosima be gay, because If she has the same genetic code as her clone sisters, does that mean the show is implying that she chose to be gay as opposed to being born that way (since other clones like Sarah and Alison appear to be heterosexual)? Absolutely not, says the woman who plays her. “By no means are we saying that Cosima chooses to be gay,” says Maslany. “It’s by no means that. It’s just that there are so many biological factors into the mother’s womb, into the conditions of the womb. So much of the research I was doing about clones was about identical twins, right? Identical twins would actually be closer in expression than clones because clones are birthed from different wombs. And there’s so much information that gets fed through the mother. I think we’re not saying anything about that in terms of choice and biology or whatever. We’re saying more that everyone could be anything.”

I think we have to give the show some leeway being fiction and not try to use it as actually revealing anything about the genetics of sexual preference. More from the interviews at Screen Rant.

Spoiler TV has information (and video) on a new clone to be introduced in the second season:

A brand new season of Orphan Black means a brand new clone. And we have all the intel on said clone right here! Meet Jennifer Fitzsimmons, a 28-year old teacher and swim coach. And you are about to meet Jennifer the same way Cosima does, through a series of video diaries that Cosima discovers while researching her own respiratory illness.

Amazon has obtained exclusive streaming rights to Orphan Black, along with Hannibal, and the first season is available if you missed it.

Besides their science fiction drama, BBC America will also be airing a show on The Real History of Science Fiction beginning April 19:

From Star Wars to 2001: A Space Odyssey, and from Jurassic Park to Doctor Who, each program is packed with contributors behind these creations and traces the developments of Robots, Space, Invasion and Time. Narrated by Mark Gatiss, Doctor Who writer, actor, and co-creator of the BBC’s Sherlock, the series determines why science fiction is not merely a genre… for its audience it’s a portal to a multi-verse – one that is all too easy to get lost in.

Among those taking part are: William Shatner (Star Trek), Nathan Fillion (Firefly), Zoe Saldana (Avatar, Star Trek), Steven Moffat (Doctor Who), Richard Dreyfuss (Close Encounters of the Third Kind), Chris Carter (The X-Files), Ronald D Moore (Battlestar Galactica), John Landis (An American Werewolf in London, Schlock), David Tennant (Doctor Who), Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future), Rutger Hauer (Blade Runner), John Carpenter (Dark Star, The Thing), Karen Gillan (Doctor Who), Neil Gaiman (The Sandman, Stardust), Kim Stanley Robinson (Mars Trilogy), Scott Bakula (Quantum Leap, Star Trek: Enterprise), Ursula K Le Guin (The Left Hand of Darkness), Syd Mead (Blade Runner), Kenny Baker (Star Wars), Anthony Daniels (Star Wars), Nichelle Nichols (Star Trek), Peter Weller (Robocop), Edward James Olmos (Blade Runner, Battlestar Galactica), and many more.

The four part series will be divided into episodes on Robots, Space, Invasion, and Time.

Continuum - Episode 3.01 - Minute by Minute - Promotional Photos (5)_FULL

Continuum returns tonight on Showcase, but American audiences who resist the temptation to download the episode will have to wait until April 4. I certainly intend to get a hold of the earlier (and uncut) episodes after aired on Showcase. I will warn of any spoilers before the American showing. Some Spoilers have already been released prior to the first episode of the season, but presumably nothing which truly spoils the episode. Those who want to know nothing might want to skip the rest of this section which discusses what I have already heard.

The first episode, Minute By Minute reportedly reveals who the Freelancers really are, and someone new  joins up with them and gets the tattoos. Kira teams up with Garza, which comes as little surprise considering the changing alliances we have seen. As suggested in the second season finale, Alec goes back in time to try to save Emily, and reportedly there is a lot of timey wimey stuff with potential end of the world consequences. With time travel involved, other dead characters do return. The first ten minutes have already been released in this video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wbdOVrqHuCU

The Marvel vs. DC feud will heat up next year, this time in the movie theaters. Both Captain America 2 and the next Superman vs Batman movie will be released the weekend of May 6, 2016.

CBS has renewed The Big Bang Theory for three more seasons. Bazinga!

Cristin Milioti has called the theories that her character dies on How I Met Your Mother “some crazy conspiracy theories, which actually just makes me really love the fans more,” but never actually denied the rumors.  The show runners also dodged the question at PaleyFest. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is intentional misdirection, but if there is some other surprise at the end. The cast will also be appearing on Inside The Actors Studio later this month prior to the series finale on March 31.

Gotham

Fox has released more information on their upcoming series, Gotham:

Everyone knows the name Commissioner Gordon. He is one of the crime world’s greatest foes, a man whose reputation is synonymous with law and order. But what is known of Gordon’s story and his rise from rookie detective to Police Commissioner? What did it take to navigate the multiple layers of corruption that secretly ruled Gotham City, the spawning ground of the world’s most iconic villains? And what circumstances created them – the larger-than-life personas who would become Catwoman, The Penguin, The Riddler, Two-Face and The Joker?

“Gotham” is an origin story of the great DC Comics super villains and vigilantes, revealing an entirely new chapter that has never been told. From executive producer/writer Bruno Heller (“The Mentalist,” “Rome”), “Gotham” follows one cop’s rise through a dangerously corrupt city teetering on the edge of evil and chronicles the birth of one of the most popular super heroes of our time.

Growing up in Gotham City’s surrounding suburbs, James Gordon (Ben McKenzie, “Southland,” “The O.C.”) romanticized the city as a glamorous and exciting metropolis where his late father once served as a successful district attorney. Now, two weeks into his new job as a Gotham City detective and engaged to his beloved fiancée, Barbara Kean (Erin Richards, Open Grave, “Breaking In”), Gordon is living his dream – even as he hopes to restore the city back to the pure version he remembers it was as a kid.

Brave, honest and ready to prove himself, the newly-minted detective is partnered with the brash, but shrewd police legend Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue, “Sons of Anarchy,” “Terriers,” “Vikings,” “Copper”), as the two stumble upon the city’s highest-profile case ever: the murder of local billionaires Thomas and Martha Wayne. At the scene of the crime, Gordon meets the sole survivor: the Waynes’ hauntingly intense 12-year-old son, Bruce (David Mazouz, “Touch”), toward whom the young detective feels an inexplicable kinship. Moved by the boy’s profound loss, Gordon vows to catch the killer.

As he navigates the often-underhanded politics of Gotham’s criminal justice system, Gordon will confront imposing gang boss Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith, The Matrix films, “HawthoRNe,” Collateral), and many of the characters who will become some of fiction’s most renowned, enduring villains, including a teenaged Selina Kyle/the future Catwoman (acting newcomer Camren Bicondova) and Oswald Cobblepot/The Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor, “The Walking Dead,” Another Earth).

Although the crime drama will follow Gordon’s turbulent and singular rise through the Gotham City police department, led by Police Captain Sarah Essen (Zabryna Guevara, “Burn Notice”), it also will focus on the unlikely friendship Gordon forms with the young heir to the Wayne fortune, who is being raised by his unflappable butler, Alfred (Sean Pertwee, “Camelot,” “Elementary”). It is a friendship that will last them all of their lives, playing a crucial role in helping the young boy eventually become the crusader he’s destined to be.

captain-america Agent Carater
Collider has spoken with Captain America screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeel  about how they envision the planned Agent Carter series. From this description, I’m more hopeful about this show than Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Here are the key points reported:

  • ABC has the script for the pilot but nothing is greenlit yet.
  • Markus and McFeely have recently spoken to Hayley Atwell and she is very interested in doing the show.
  • Howard Stark would be a recurring character, not a series regular.  This is assuming Dominic Cooper would be willing to continue to play the role.  I’ve spoken to him about this and he seemed very interested.  But this was a few months ago and things change.
  • The show would start in 1946, sort of in the middle of the timeline of the One Shot.  McFeely said, “We can’t get her to the end of S.H.I.E.L.D. that fast.  We wanna stay in that world longer where people are disrespecting her and she’s proving herself and going on missions and things like that.”
  • Unlike most network shows that are 22 or 23-episode seasons, Markus and McFeely think Agent Carter should be a limited series with a maximum of 13 episodes per season.  McFeely said, “[13 episodes] is how this is envisioned, maybe even less… That’s my hope, is that it would be something like [Under the Dome].  Our case would be that it would be a limited series and you would wrap up that one bad guy and that one case, and then if you like it we’ll do it again next year and it’s 1947.”

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. did have one of its better episodes of the season with the Thor crossover, guest staring Jaimie Alexander as Lady Sif. While both a big event for the show and entertaining, the storyline still showed the weakness of the show. If they knew that Lorelei had the ability to control men, why would they have not one but two of their male agents wind up in a position where she could so easily take them over. Plus that plane of theirs has to be the least secure government facility in existence. Last week’s episode did also advance the storyline of Coulson’s return from the dead and this continuing storyline is a plus for the show.

THE AMERICANS -- The Walk In -- Episode 3 (Airs Wednesday, March 12, 10:00 PM e/p) -- Pictured: (L-R) Keri Russell as Elizabeth Jennings, Matthew Rhys as Philip Jennings -- CR: Patrick Harbron/FX

While entertaining, S.H.I.E.L.D looks like a bunch of armatures compared to the KGB in 1982. The Americans had another solid episode. Elizabeth showed she can be far more threatening than any S.H.I.E.L.D. agent as she terrified a janitor into getting her some information. Luckily for him, he stumbled upon Elizabeth’s weak spot when he showed her pictures of his children. It saved his life, but I doubt he will ever talk. Paige went do track down “Aunt Helen,” who Elizabeth was supposedly with while recovering from her gunshot wound. While the KGB was ready for this with a fake Aunt Helen complete with a picture of Elizabeth and Paige on the wall, I wouldn’t put it past Paige to ultimately bring down their entire spy operation. The episode also had a satisfying answer to my question last week as to why Nina told Stan about the walk-in by Bruce Dameran. Building up Stan by allowing him to kill Dameran is expected to be of more value to the KGB than any information they might have obtained from Dameran.

The episode also showed why the series works despite having KGB agents as the protagonists. Much of the episode dealt with family matters, including a letter from Leanne to Jared written years earlier in the event that she and Emmett were killed, so it didn’t matter that it was dealing with Russians. The subplot with Stan and Dameran, while a victory for the KGB, also involved Stan preventing an assassination, something which American viewers could root for. The scenes with Elizabeth and the poor janitor were so dramatic that it was easy to ignore the fact that they also involved American secrets falling into KGB hands.

Scarlett Johansson

The Guardian has an interview with Scarlett Johansson about her role in Under the Skin. In this portion she discussed why she wanted to take the role:

It’s one reason, presumably, that she took the part, though I’m curious to know the details. There’s only about three lines of dialogue in the entire film, so it can hardly have been the standout script. The main point of her character is that she doesn’t actually have a character. She’s an alien. She doesn’t do emotion. And it was filmed in Scotland. In winter. And most of the film consists of her standing around in wet boots and a too-thin coat. Or stripping off her clothes in a derelict squat and luring men into a vat of black ectoplasm. (At one point, she appears naked. Johansson fans, of which there are many, most especially the male variety, have been lighting up message boards for months with discussion of this particular fact.)

So why, of all the scripts she must get sent, did she decide to do this one? “I heard Jonathan was making a film and originally it was a very different story. But I met him, and it was very clear that he was struggling to figure out what he was doing with it, and what had attracted him to it. It wasn’t his passion project but there was something in the idea of having a character that was an alien that could give him the freedom to be completely observant without any judgment. I think we were both interested in that. I thought it would be incredibly challenging to play a character that’s free of judgment, that has no relationship to any emotion I could relate to.

“And for me, at this point, I think it much more interesting for me to look at something and know that I can play it, but not know how, rather than to look at something and go, ‘Ah, I can do that.’ And then just do it.”

The story also touched on other roles, including genre movies such as Captain America and Her.

The above trailer has been released for the second season of Under the Dome. The first episode will be written by Stephen King–hopefully he can get the show back on track. Executive producer Brian K. Vaughan says “The second season is going to take us to places where the book never got to go . Stephen King gave us some ideas we never imagined.” Two new characters will be introduced, Junior’s uncle who had been hiding out and a young school teacher. Two characters from the first season will be killed in an apparent law of conservation of characters. Early opinion from fans is that killing off just two characters is not enough. Maybe they could do this every week.

john_cho

John Cho of the two Star Trek remakes and Sleepy Hollow has been cast as the male lead in Selfie, the upcoming sit-com staring Karen Gillan of Doctor Who.

Selfie, a modern take on My Fair Lady and inspired by the musical, centers on a self-obsessed 20-something woman named Eliza Dooley (Gillan) who is more concerned with “likes” than being liked. After suffering a public and humiliating breakup, she becomes the subject of a viral video and suddenly has more social media “followers” than she ever imagined — but for all the wrong reasons. She then enlists the help of a marketing expert at her company to help repair her tarnished image.

Cho will play self-assured, successful marketing expert Henry, who is a different breed from today’s social media-addicted society. As a challenge, he decides to “remarket” his coworker Eliza. He joins an ensemble that already includes Allyn Rachel, Tim Peper, Da’Vine Joy Randolph and David Harewood. Casting for the regular roles is now complete.

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SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who News; Matt Smith’s Is Bigger Than David Tennant’s; Counting Regenerations; Wonderland; Arrow; Community Returning; Big Bang Theory; Tatiana Maslany Does Comedy

The trailer for the 50th anniversary episode of Doctor Who, The Day of the Doctor, has been released with video above. Discussion and breakdown of the frames from the trailer here and here.

There’s been more news out about Matt Smith and David Tennant working together, including confirmation that Matt Smith’s is bigger than David Tennant’s:

“Mine’s bigger” confirms Smith. “I won… on that one”. “His is much bigger!” laughs Tennant. Everyone’s since 1963 is bigger than mine! Well, maybe I just don’t have as much to compensate so much; maybe I’m very happy with my sonic’s length. And it does everything it needs to.”

Celebration of the anniversary includes additional events including a TV movie on BBC 2 about the development of the series,  An Adventure In Space And Time. Five pictures have been released here, including  one with Jessica Raine (of Call the Midwife) as producer Verity Lambert:

Jessica Raine

Steven Moffat has been teasing the regeneration in recent interviews. From a statement in Doctor Who Magazine, it appears that Matt Smith’s regeneration into Peter Capaldi will occur in the TARDIS:

“Pretty soon [Peter] will arrive and he’ll be whisked off to begin the trip of a lifetime, probably wondering what it will be like, where it will take him, and how long it will last. And about then, Matt Smith will be standing in his TARDIS for the very last time, with his eyes on the studio door – because about to step through is a Scottish actor, dressed as him.”

Moffat discussed the twelve-regeneration limit in an interview with Radio Times:

The fact that the Doctor could be close to using up his apparent limit of 12 regenerations is one that hasn’t passed Doctor Who fans by. What will happen when his time is finally up we don’t know but there’s an assumption that whoever’s in charge of the show will find a way.

After all, there is a precedent here. The Doctor’s Time Lord adversary the Master used up his entire allocation but was handed a new regenerative cycle after taking possession of a non-Time Lord body and later having it restructured (it’s a long story).

However, Steven Moffat today confirmed of the Doctor, “He can only regenerate 12 times”, while simultaneously suggesting there has been a miscalculation of how many regenerations he has actually been through.

“I think you should go back to your DVDs and count correctly this time,” said Moffat, “there’s something you’ve all missed.

What can it all mean? If we were attempting to explain how the Doctor might already have had more than his fair share of regenerations, we could do it. John Hurt’s newly introduced dark Doctor would presumably add one, making Peter Capaldi the 13th and final incarnation. If we then followed the argument that David Tennant’s tenth Doctor used up a whole dose of regenerative energy when he re-grew his lost hand almost immediately after having transformed from the ninth Doctor, that would give us an illegal 14 versions of the Doctor. Whether the new hand counts as a full regeneration is very much up for debate, of course, but either way these are both arguments for adding not subtracting regenerations.

On the other hand (pardon the pun), we didn’t witness Paul McGann regenerating into either John Hurt’s ninth(?) Doctor or Christopher Eccleston’s ninth/tenth Doctor. If somehow neither of those counted as regenerations we would have one fewer than we’d previously thought – Matt Smith would be the tenth Doctor and Peter Capaldi would be the 11th. But how could the Doctor have changed bodies without regenerating?

Needless to say, there has been a lot of speculation regarding this on various blogs.

MICHAEL SOCHA, SOPHIE LOWE

It seems that in recent years there have been more genre shows and movies which attract female following–not that these shows are for women only.  I had almost skipped Once Upon A Time in Wonderland until I read good reviews of the first episode, and thought the second episode was even better. In this version, Alice is an older action figure, not a small girl, and she is in love with a different version of the Genie from Aladin. Besides the new impressions of classic Disney characters, the magic in Wonderland reminds me of the fun in the early Harry Potter movies. The original version of Once Upon A Time, is spending the season in Neverland. The creators of the shows, who previously worked on Lost, discussed the two shows, and explained why the made Peter Pan evil in this interview.

Arrow cliffhanger

Arrow, which is also fun even if sometimes feeling too much like a soap opera, ended with quite a cliff hanger. Earlier in the episode, Oliver Queen acknowledged the same issue I brought up last week and made Felicity his executive assistant (over her objections) to explain why he spends his days as well as nights with her. (“And I love spending the night with you.”) Laurel tried to explain why she suddenly hates the vigilante so much but it is hard to accept her arguments as to why he is to blame for Tommy’s death. This leads to the cliff hanger and brings up two more of my ongoing complaints about the series (or two reasons why it is best to just enjoy the show and not to think much about it). We have seen repeated examples of predictable crimes with little done to prevent them. With medical supplies being stolen, you would think that guarding the trucks carrying them would be a top priority for police. That didn’t happen as it turns out that Laurel had all the well-armed police officers on stand-by for the next time the vigilante encountered her. In the past, Oliver has escaped such traps with far too  little difficulty. With all the guns aimed at him, I hope they come up with a more creative and plausible way for him to escape.

Following the recent criticism on Twitter on how he handled the finale of Lost, compared to the Breaking Bad finale, David Lindelof has left Twitter.

Steve Buscemi of Boardwalk Empire hopes people remember the shutdown in the next election:

“I think the shutdown is ridiculous. I think the Republicans in Congress are holding the country hostage. I think it’s criminal. I don’t see why they’re allowed to do it.” Buscemi on politics livens up. “The Tea Party faction of the Republican party are holding the Republican party hostage. They’ve hijacked it. I don’t understand their philosophy. I think that in their own hearts and minds there’s a reason why they feel they’re doing good. But I certainly don’t agree with it. And I hope the shutdown effects change. I hope people remember this in the next cycle of elections.”

The assassination of the Vice President on  Homeland was not only plausible, but a scenario which Dick Cheney’s doctor had taken precautions against several years previously.

BBC America is going for even more genre:

BBC America has greenlit Intruders, an eight-episode original series based on Michael Marshall Smith’s 2007 novel The Intruders. Glen Morgan (The X-Files, Those Who Kill) is the writer and executive producer on the series that’s about a secret society devoted to chasing immortality by seeking refuge in the bodies of others. BBC Worldwide Prods is producing, with production to begin in early spring 2014. Jane Tranter and Julie Gardner are exec producing, and BBC Worldwide is handling global distribution. The Intruders joins BBC America’s breakout original drama Orphan Black.

Community is returning to Thursday nights on January 2. Unfortunately, in terms of ratings, it goes up against The Big Bang Theory again. That’s why we have DVR’s.

The Workplace Proximity

This week’s episode of The Big Bang Theory included a break-out event for Sheldon Cooper. He was relieved to learn that the old adage about not defecating where you eat does not mean he shouldn’t use the men’s room at the Cheesecake Factory:  “Not as relieved as I’m about to be. It’s a brave new world, little lady.” Amy saw a bright spot in Sheldon’s incessant knocking: “I don’t mind. I’m hoping to put his love of repetition to use someday.” Meanwhile Raj got it right while watching Howard digging himself into quite a hole when talking to Bernadette: “His only options here are to fake a heart attack or have a real one.” She didn’t fall for it, especially when he chose the wrong arm.

I have often randomly pulled up old episodes of The Big Bang Theory to rewatch. It might be easier to choose which episode the next fifteen times I do this if I follow this guide to the top fifteen episodes. I may or may not wind up agreeing as to whether they are the fifteen best, but I’m sure they will all be excellent.

Also on last Thursday’s sit-coms, Tatiana Maslany of Orphan Black added comedy to the many roles she plays on Parks and Recreation. She will return next week.

Parks and Recreation - Season 6

 

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SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, SHIELD, Arrow, Big Bang Theory & Other Sitcoms, Orphan Black, Star Trek, X-Files, Horror Shows, and SNL On Gravity & The Shutdown

Nine lost episodes of Doctor Who have been found in Nigeria.

The episodes come from two multi-part serials for which only one episode each was known to exist: “The Enemy Of The World” and “The Web Of Fear.” As a result of this discovery, “The Enemy Of The World” serial can now be watched whole in the UK for the first time since it was originally broadcast, and for the first time ever in the United States. Episode 3 of “The Web Of Fear” serial is still missing even after this discovery, but a reconstruction from stills and program audio is included to complete the story. All 11 episodes from the two serials exist on film and were digitally restored prior for this release.

Trailer for The Enemy of the World above. Mark Gatiss has said that Web of Fear has inspired the first episode of the third season of Sherlock.

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The third episode of Agents of SHIELD was better than last week but still left a lot to be desired. Regardless of the show’s (lack of) quality, it has been picked up for a full 22 episode run. That is no real surprise considering how it helps promote the Marvel movies, and I’m sure Disney will also find other ways to profit from the show. I’m still hoping that everyone other than Agent Coulson gets furloughed during the government shutdown, especially Fitz and Simmons. Skye could conceivably be a good character if she was able to be more convincing as someone both working with SHIELD and a hacker group.

Arrow Oliver Summer Glau Felicity

Despite being limited to minor DC characters and being on CW, so far Arrow has been a much better show than Agents of SHIELD. As a plus, beyond the connection to DC, there is also a strong Doctor Who connection with recurring characters including John Barrowman and Alex Kingston. The producers are Doctor Who fans who are hoping to get Matt Smith to guest star.

The second season premier was a little uneven. There were great scenes, including a shoot out which seemed to be from Gotham City and the return to the island, but the show was hindered with some scenes to bring things up to date after a six month jump. This included the prison visits to Moira and the obligatory scene between Oliver and Laurel to place their romance on hold once again. It was good to see Summer Glau, but her character seemed to be even more of a robot than the robot she played on Sarah Connor Chronicles.

I have another nitpick with last week’s episode. When Oliver met with Summer Glau’s character, he was accompanied by John Diggle and Felicity. These two are his sidekicks when he does the vigilante thing, but they do not have comparable roles at Queen Consolidated. While I understand they want to place their main cast into as many scenes as possible, the business meeting should have been held with extras in suits who presumably have been running the country for the past six months while Oliver was gone and Moira was in prison. Despite the flaws of the first episode, I remain optimistic for an entertaining second season. Of course the major change is that Oliver now wants to be a hero instead of vigilante, going under a new name.

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The new NBC comedies have been doing terribly in the ratings, making me hope that Community will return sooner than planned. Parks and Recreation is worth watching, even including an occasional genre reference. The rest of the shows have serious problems.  Unfortunately Parks and Recreation has to go up against The Big Bang Theory. They had an excellent episode with genre discussion last week. Amy destroyed Raiders of the Lost Arc for Sheldon by making an observation I had not thought of before. The story would have played out pretty much the same way if Indiana Jones wasn’t involved, with the Nazis taking the Arc, opening it, and suffering the same fate. Sheldon tried to retaliate by showing flaws in things which Amy liked. He pointed out things on Little House on the Prairie which didn’t belong in the era and said, “If I knew this show was about time travel, I would have watched it much sooner.” He also knocked Garfield: “Your precious Garfield has no reason to hate Mondays. He’s a cat. He has no job.” Meanwhile Leonard wanted to watch the full Blu-ray extended version of “The Hobbit” with long commentary instead of watching sports with Penny’s friends who he has little in common with : “It’s like they never even heard of Quidditch.” Plus there was an appearance by Leonard’s mother, played by Christine Baranski.

In a related item, here is a reference to all of Sheldon Cooper’s t-shirts.

I was pessimistic from the start that a US network would pull off an adaption of Gavin and Stacey, fearing it would be a flop as with the attempt at a US version of Steven Moffat’s fantastic sit-com Coupling. I was going to give Us & Them, the US adaptation, a chance due to staring Alexis Bledel. Fox has already given up on the show before it has aired, not planning to produce further episodes. I’ve seen conflicting reports saying that either six or seven have been filmed. Regardless of the number, there will be no more.

Joanna Page, the original Stacey, is appearing in The Day of the Doctor. She discussed the show in an interview posted here.

With a lack of successful comedies, NBC is looking at everything from a new sitcom staring Meg Ryan to a sitcom reboot of Remington Steele.

There have been a lot of stories over the past week about Robert Orci speaking with CBS about the possibility of a new Star Trek television series. I would love to see it happen. Star Trek belongs on television far more than in movies (not that the two are mutually exclusive). If anything, the talks are at a very early stage. Orci has now posted: “I THINK MY COMMENT HAS BEEN BLOWN OUT OF PROPORTION. Someone asked about Star Trek TV, and I said we had inquired about the rights. Doesn’t mean a show is imminent nor do we assume CBS would want us to do that at this time. I refer you to the Roddenberry podcast for context.”

Gillian Anderson and  David Duchovny Revisit the Origins of ‘The X-Files’

There have been a number of cast announcements for the second season of Orphan Black and for Fargo, a ten-episode series to run on FX. The most interesting pick is the addition of Bob Odenkirk (Saul from Braking Bad) to the cast of Fargo.

There’s a Twitter feud between the writers of Elementary and Sleepy Hollow. Both shows have something in common as far as I’m concerned.  Both have episodes still sitting on my DVR as shows which I haven’t found good enough to keep up with. I still might give Sleepy Hollow another chance as time allows, primarily because of knowing that John Noble will be appearing. Fake Sherlock is a poor substitute for the “real” thing.

With Walking Dead returning, Oh No They Don’t took a look at How Horror Took Over Hollywood.

Saturday Night Live showed the impact of the government shutdown on Gravity.

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SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who; Merlin; Iron Man 3; Avengers; SHIELD; True Blood; Gillian Anderson; Person of Interest; The Americans; Firefly

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The Crimson Horror is perhaps the sweetest episode of Doctor Who ever, and starts out without the Doctor. The episode provides a vehicle for two sets of characters: 1) Jenny, Vastra & Strax and 2) characters played by Diana Rigg and her real-life daughter Rachael Stirling. This is the first time that the mother-daughter combination have ever worked together. Bringing back Jenny, Vastra, and Strax also helps with the continuity of the season. Jenny even had a scene which reminded me of Diana Rigg’s old  character Emma Peal from The Avengers, combining the two sets. Victorian England episodes tend to have the most realistic look of episodes taking place in different places or times. Undoubtedly appropriate sets and costumes are easiest to obtain.

The Doctor, and even later Clara, don’t become involved until later, but their absence in the early portions of the episode is handled well. There was a far better payoff to find that the Doctor was the monster when we did not see what happened to him until later. We were brought up to date by a sepia-toned sequence which gives the information viewers need without taking  time to provide excess detail.  Going through the earlier aspects of the Doctor’s involvement in a condensed manner was also helpful because Mark Gatiss had so much going on this episode that he already had to wrap it up too quickly. This would have worked better as a Sherlock-length story.

Being Doctor Who, there are invariably some things which seem unbelievable even if we believe in the Time Lords and the rest of the mythology surrounding the Doctor. It is hard to believe that a rocket of this type could have been built back in that era. The kid, Thomas, who sounded like my phone’s GPS raising further questions. I suspect this one might be cleared up in the season finale when we return to the Doctor’s friends. (As I also went to see Iron Man 3 Saturday night after watching Doctor Who, it was a big night for kids getting into the action.)

The reference to past Doctors was more subtle this week. When the Doctor wound up in Yorkshire instead of London he mentioned his past difficulties in making it to the right place, including problems getting an  Australian to Heathrow, referring to the fifth Doctor and Tegan. I suspect that I missed the meaning of some of the references to Yorkshire versus London which would mean more to those living in the U.K.

When Clara returned home, the kids she cares for had found old pictures of her, demonstrating her travels in time. It is highly unlikely for either these pictures to exist and for the kids to realize they are of Clara (as opposed to someone who might look like her) but this was probably done for two reasons. First Clara was surprised by seeing a picture of her from London where this Clara has not been. Secondly this was probably done to lead into next week’s episode, Nightmare in Silver, which includes the kids. I wouldn’t be all that upset if the kids wind up being assimilated by the Cybermen (who have been looking increasingly like the Borg). Nightmare in Silver will reportedly also include stock footage of William Hartnell and Jon Pertwee.

Quote of the episode: “I’m the Doctor, you’re nuts, and I’m going to stop you.”

The Behind the Scenes video is above

Jenny, Vastra & Strax will be returning in the season finale, The Name Of The Doctor. The episode will also include River Song, post-library. Here’s the official synopsis:

“Every journey taken by a time-traveller tears a wound in the fabric of reality, and the Doctor has time-travelled more than anyone. But the trail runs cold in Trenzalore, the one place in all of time and space that he should never go. The most dangerous place in the universe…

This quote from the episode was also released:

“The path I carved through time and space, from Gallifrey to Trenzalore. My own personal time tunnel, leading back to every moment I ever lived. Every step, every tear, every kiss. Even the days I haven’t lived yet. Which is why I shouldn’t be here. The paradoxes… very bad…”

Trenzalore has been linked with the fall of the eleventh and thought to mean the time when the eleventh Doctor regenerates. If we are to see the fall of the eleventh it must mean something different. Moffat says someone will die in the episode. As they are only seen occasionally, they could easily kill off one of the three Victorian detectives. As this is a p0st-library River, she can also die. Considering that the Doctor and River meet in a mixed up order, this wouldn’t prevent the Doctor from running into River in the future, at an earlier point in her time line.

David Tennant will be the only former Doctor on the 50th Anniversary episode but there will be an  homage to the very first episode of the series, An Unearthly Child.

The Guardian has an interview with Steven Moffat here.

One of the more implausible scenes in The Angels Take Manhattan was having the Statue of Liberty, as a Weeping Angel, travel across Manhattan. Among the many problems raised by this scene is the question of how the Statue of Liberty could make it very far since Angels freeze if anyone is watching. Most fans probably just let this pass as a good scene regardless of whether plausible. Steven Moffat has now provided an explanation (but I’m not sure this is any more plausible):

“The Angels can do so many things. They can bend time, climb inside your mind, hide in pictures, steal your voice, mess with your perception, leak stone from your eye… New York in 1938 was a nest of Angels and the people barely more than farm animals. The abattoir of the lonely assassins!

“In those terrible days, in that conquered city, you saw and understood only what the Angels allowed, so Liberty could move and  hunt as it wished, in the blink of an eye, unseen by the lowly creatures upon which it preyed. Also, it tiptoed.”

I’ll go with “it tiptoed.”

It has been ages since I finished watching Merlin by downloading episodes, but they have just resumed broadcasting the final episodes in the United States. While much of the final season was weaker than earlier seasons, the final few episodes did provide an excellent finale for the series. There has been talk of a movie version of MerlinColin Morgan is moving on to other projects and isn’t interested in playing Merlin again.

As Iron Man 3 breaks box office records, there is lots of attention on the future of the Marvel movie universe. There are conflicting reports as to whether there will be an Iron Man 4. I don’t think I am spoiling anything by saying that Iron Man 3 could easily serve as a conclusion of a trilogy, or the lead in for the probable future movies.   Robert Downey, Jr. has even left open the possibility of appearing in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and will most likely return to The Avengers 2. The next Avengers movie reportedly will add Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch. These reports must be taken cautiously as there is the possibility of characters winding up on the cutting room floor at this stage.

Above is the trailer for True Blood Season 6 which returns on June 16. Humans are fighting back, which provides for a change from previous seasons. I hope that this, plus a new show runner, solves some of the problems plaguing recent seasons.

Gillian Anderson of The X-Files is appearing in a five part thriller for the BBC 2 entitled The Fall. A review can be found here.

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I’ve been undecided as to whether to consider Person of Interest true science fiction or a mystery series with a science fiction element. The two-part season finale, which we are in the middle of, moves the series much further towards science fiction as the machine takes on a more active role beyond spitting out the numbers. Plus there’s the return of Amy Acker.

The Americans ended the season well. I’m glad they avoided a true cliff hanger. As we can assume Elizabeth will recover from her injuries, the finale leads us back pretty close to how the series began. Besides the danger of being exposed by their FBI agent neighbor, their daughter Paige is becoming suspicious. After having viewers root for having Claudia reassigned, I bet most changed their mind during the finale. Margo Martindale has been cast in a comedy pilot so the episode leaves open the options of her leaving or Philip and Elizabeth plausibly requesting that the decision be reversed. Show runners Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg discussed the finale with Salon.

With Netflix bringing back Arrested Development, there has been hope that they might bring back some genre shows such as Firefly which didn’t survive more conventional television runs.   Netflix chief content officer, Ted Sarandos, gave this reason for not remaking Firefly:

“Let me give you one broad statement about these recovery shows. In almost every case the cult around the show gets more intense and smaller as time goes by. Arrested Development was the rarest of birds in that the audience of the show grew larger than the original broadcast audience because people came to discover it years after it was canceled. The Firefly fan is still the Firefly fan from when it was on TV and there’s fewer of them and they’re more passionate every year. Whereas with Arrested Development we’re going to be serving a multiple of the original audience. Any of the other shows we could bring back would be a fraction of the original audience.”A

Arrested Development probably would have more viewers than Firefly, but I don’t buy his explanation. I think that many others interested in this are more like me. I didn’t watch Firefly when it was on, but did buy the CD’s due to all the buzz after it was off the air.  I’m not super-passionate about the show, but I did enjoy it and if Firefly came back I would watch. I bet many other people have become fans after the initial run ended, providing for a larger audience in a remake than was present when on the air. Besides, Joss Whedon is now one of the hottest (perhaps the hottest) names in entertainment right now. I don’t think anything with his name attached should be ignored.

Other possibilities I’d suggest would be The Sarah Connor Chronicles, which ended at a point which begs for a conclusion, and Jericho which has some similarities to Revolution but did it much better.

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SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who; Merlin; Benedict Cumberbatch; Person of Interest; Thor; Building the Starship Enterprise

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Doctor Who TV has summarized many of the reports to date on the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who:

The format of the anniversary is still to be confirmed. Steven Moffat originally said: “Why talk in the singular?” Matt Smith also hinted at multiple episodes, but more recent rumours seem to suggest a feature-length outing.

In another interview Moffat said: “I’ve got various plans, but all I can say emphatically is it will be huge. It won’t be just one thing…. We’ll be doing lots of stuff. The plans are quite extensive, and changing all the time. Oh my God, we will hit that year very, very hard indeed.”

Moffat on multi-Doctor stories:

“It’s slightly difficult to do them all now. I’m not against it but I think as a gimmick it outlives its usefulness quite fast. “Doing Time Crash with 8 minutes of Peter [Davidson] and David [Tennant] was about right. If you have a really good story that motors on the fact that this is one man experiencing the same adventure at several different points of his life, that would be worth doing. But you can’t do a special or an episode as a reunion party. That’s not a story, that’s a party. Nothing wrong with parties but they’re not great fun to watch. But with a really good story, then yes.”

And in a later interview: “Possibly…. It’s so far in the future, it’s only a set of notions.”

Neil Gaiman wants The Eleven Doctors:

“The real dream story is the one you cannot do because technology is not there and people have died — It would be The Eleven Doctors,” he explained. They made The Three Doctors. They made The Five Doctors. It’s the 50th Anniversary, you’d make The Eleven Doctors and you’d have William Hartnell in it. The trouble is do you have actors playing these people? Do you have someone doing a Tom Baker? How do you do that? I trust in Moffat enough to think that whatever he’s going to give us, it will be worth it.”

A live episode?

Matt Smith: “It won’t just be a televised event, I think it will be a live event. The way it’s transmitted on TV will hopefully be an inventive thing–something different.”

More in the full post.

The BBC has announced a set of short stories will be written about the eleven Doctors.

The 11 tales, known as “eshorts”, will each be written by a well-known children’s author.

Each story will feature one of the various regenerations of the Doctor, starting with William Hartnell, who played the character from 1963-1966.

A paperback of the stories will be published by Puffin in November.

The first children’s author will be revealed on the BBC Worldwide Doctor Who Facebook page on Monday 7 January, followed by the first story on Wednesday 23 January.

A promotional video of each author will also be available each month on the BBC Worldwide YouTube channel starting on Friday 11 January.

There has been speculation that J.K. Rowling is one of these authors.

Billie Piper discussed the 50th anniversary on the Graham Norton Show (video available here). She denies rumors that she will be appearing: “No. I’ve not been asked. I think Matt Smith said something in passing or in jest like, ‘That would be nice,’ and it became something, but no.”

In an interview last night, David Tennant said he knew nothing about the 50th anniversary plans.

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It seems like Merlin and Downton Abbey just ended, and now they are starting up again in the United States.

TV Addict has an interview with the cast. This selection helps set up the final season:

Is there anything you can share about what’s upcoming in the 5th season?  Maybe just a few teasers?
BRADLEY:  Mordred’s back – I’m not sure what I can tell you without telling you what happens in the show!

We know there’s the 3-year gap.  You can surely talk about what happened during that time period for our heroes?
BRADLEY:  Yes, three years have gone by.  That’s what I can tell you.
KATIE:  I can tell you what happens with Morgana.  For two years of that period, Morgana has been held captive because of her magic and it is a very important storyline for her in season five is that everything she has feared her whole life about being persecuted for having magic has all come true.  She has been persecuted.  She has been tortured.  She’s been kept locked up.  I think that the fact that her fears have actually happened means that she feels vindicated in removing Arthur from power and in taking over because she’s protecting people like herself.

More from the cast at The Los Angeles Times and Blastr.

Parades End

Benedict Cumberbatch seems to be in everything these days. Besides Sherlock, The Hobbit, and Star Trek Into Darkness, Cumberbatch will be staring in Parade’s End, a five part mini-series on HBO in February:

From the reliable comforts of Edwardian England to the chaos and destruction of the First World War, the early 20th century was a defining era in history, a time of unprecedented change, when old certainties were being torn down. The long golden afternoons of the pre-war years would be shattered by the most destructive war the world had ever known, and countless lives would be changed forever.

Set against this backdrop of impending catastrophe is the story of English aristocrat Christopher Tietjens, trapped in a marriage to an unfaithful wife, and caught between his commitment to the values of Toryism and his unspoken love for a fearless young suffragette.

Spanning the glittering, shallow world of London high society, the trench-scarred battlefields of France, and the breathtaking English countryside, the sweeping five-part HBO Miniseries presentation PARADE’S END debuts TUESDAY, FEB. 26 (9:00-11:05 p.m. ET/PT), WEDNESDAY, FEB. 27 (9:00-11:05 p.m.) and THURSDAY, FEB. 28 (9:00-10:00 p.m.), exclusively on HBO. Adapted from Ford Madox Ford’s groundbreaking novels by Sir Tom Stoppard (Oscar®-winner for “Shakespeare in Love”), the drama was directed by Susanna White (HBO’s Emmy®-winning “Generation Kill”).

Benedict Cumberbatch (“Sherlock,” “War Horse”), Rebecca Hall (“Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” “The Town”) and Adelaide Clemens (“The Great Gatsby”) star in PARADE’S END, a Mammoth Screen production for the BBC in association with HBO Miniseries and Trademark Films and BBC Worldwide and Lookout Point; co-produced with BNP Paribas Fortis Film Fund and Anchorage Entertainment; filmed with the support of the Belgian federal government’s Tax Shelter Scheme. The executive producers areMichele Buck and Damien Timmer for Mammoth Screen, Ben Donald for BBC Worldwide, Simon Vaughan for Lookout Point TV, Judith Louis for ARTE France and Tom Stoppard. David Parfitt and Selwyn Roberts produce.

A spoiler-free review can be found here.

Firewall

Person of Interest returned with Reese in custody, but with a four-way complication for the FBI. Here is a portion of a press conference with executive producers Jonah Nolan and Greg Plageman, posted prior to Friday’s episode:

Do you ever come up with a storyline and then think, “No, we can’t go that far”?
JONAH:  Every day.  Our writers come up with incredibly bold and great and sometimes subversive and odd pitches.  There’s a heightened aspect to the show.  I talked a lot about THE X-FILES, in developing the pilot, and Greg and I have referred back to it frequently, because it had a great balance between the case-of-the-week and a serialized, larger mythology that they were telling.  But, what they also had was this great dove-tailing connectiveness between the case of the week and that mythology, in the way they interacted with each other.  So, we always want the show to reach out as far as it can, as far as jumping from one unexpected world to the next, but with a common thread that emerges from that and giving the sense of a larger, corrupt, weirder universe around them.  I was a huge fan of James Ellroy’s books, “American Tabloid” being one of them.  There’s a sense that you get from Ellroy’s universe that there are weird machinations at play underneath everything, with his dark gaze on the CIA, on the events of the 1960′s, and on the connection with heroin out of Vietnam.  The darker lens that our show takes, looking towards government surveillance and all those sorts of things, is not all that different from THE X-FILES.  THE X-FILES universe was a very dark one, in the direction of alien conspiracies.  Ours is really about surveillance technologies and the pending odd moment when a number of different entities know more about your life than you do, and I think we’re kind of there.  We keep being interested in the larger universe of that, and what impact that has upon our relationship to our government.
GREG:  A perfect case in point is that one of our writers saw an article about the massive new surveillance program uncovered by the Wall Street Journal, in terms of predictive pattern matching.  It’s a constant steady drumbeat of these types of stories.

Are you going to be returning to the issues with the machine’s growing artificial intelligence?
JONAH:  One of the problems we have with the show is that our incredible writers have come up with so many compelling storylines and villains, at least to me.  From the beginning, one of the ideas with the show was compelling villains.  I love writing villains, and we’ve embraced that.  It was one of the first questions J.J. [Abrams] had about the show because he wanted to have that tapestry of villains.  They’re so fun, in the way that they drive the plot forward.  We have an absolute wealth of them, at this point, with some amazing actors, like Enrico Colantoni, Robert John Burke, Clarke Peters and Amy Acker.  I want to keep exploring, and I know our writers want to keep exploring, all of those different storylines, to the degree that we can and to the degree that the audience is willing to go along for the ride.  We tend to tell our stories in chapters.  Not explicitly because we don’t draw attention to it, but the story keeps a steady simmer going, on some elements.  At this point, the A.I. of it all is poised to erupt back into view.  But, when you have fantastic actors playing great characters, you want to go back and service those storylines again.  None of our villains are ever too far from surfacing, but we like to keep the audience guessing, as to how all these storylines connect together.

For the first time, the characters were following their own divergent interests, even if it was to their own detriment.  Is that something that will continue to happen, in the second half of the season? 
JONAH:  It’s all falling apart.
GREG:  I think it’s fantastic that we have two characters who are largely cognizant of the machine and its capabilities, but more so Finch than Reese, obviously.  Carter and Fusco are a little bit on a need-to-know basis, and the collision that they have encountered, up to this point, has been more on a municipal level, with HR, Quinn and Simmons.  And then, there is the larger nemesis of Root (Amy Acker), who is interested in freeing the machine.  When we last saw her, she got away, but we will hear from her again.  The great part of all these characters is that they come and they coalesce in interesting ways, on our show, and bump up against each other, all in the fine city of New York.  It gives each of our characters their own dilemmas, but they often bump up against each other and need each other’s help.

Thor-Jaime-Alexander-as-Sif

Jaimie Alexander discussed Thor: The Dark World.

“It’s going to be a bit of a darker feel, and obviously a lot more action. We get to explore the different Realms a lot more and you see a lot more Asgard, and you get to know the people of Asgard. We sort of explore the Thor-Sif relationship a little bit. It’s more like getting a feel of who these people are, and the way they are with each other. It was fun for me and fun for Chris. Again, he and I are almost like brother/sister types too, so I was like ‘maybe that translates into ooh they love each other on camera.’ [laughs] We had a good time making that movie.”

Many genre shows have started in the U.K. and later received followings in the United States. It sounds like Utopia might be a new show worth watching for.

Last month their was the petition to the White House to build the Death Star. Now there is a petition to build the Starship Enterprise:

An engineer is petitioning the White House to study the possibility of building a real-life starship Enterprise like the fictional vessel in television’s “Star Trek.”

The proposal was submitted through the White House’s official “We the People” channel, which promises an administration response to any petition that gathers at least 25,000 signatures. Just last month, a petition to build a Death Star like the spherical spaceship in the movie “Star Wars” garnered that critical mass, and is currently awaiting its official response.

The Enterprise proposal comes from an engineer who goes by the name BTE Dan, who detailed plans for constructing a life-size, flyable starship Enterprise on his website last year.

“We have within our technological reach the ability to build the 1st generation of the USS Enterprise,” BTE Dan wrote in the petition, viewable here.

As of this writing, the petition had 3,335 signatures, with more than 21,000 to go.

The project, BTE Dan maintains, wouldn’t be a vanity exercise, but rather a practical step forward for space exploration. [The Top 10 Star Trek Technologies]

“It ends up that this ship’s inspiring form is quite functional,” he wrote. “This will be Earth’s first gigawatt-class interplanetary spaceship with artificial gravity. The ship can serve as a spaceship, space station, and space port all in one. In total, one thousand crew members & visitors can be on board at once.”

Make it so.

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SciFi Weekend: Torchwood Returns as Doctor Who Goes On Hiatus

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aG5dAEN8Rl8&feature=player_embedded

The final episode of Doctor Who until fall, A Good Man Goes To War, aired this weekend on BBC America. My review of the episode, after it aired on the BBC, previously appeared here. We now know who River Song is, but don’t really all that much more about how she fits into the Doctor’s life. Mysteries from the opening episodes of the season also remain to be answered.

Wired has video answers to some questions from fans answered by Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, and producer Beth Willis.

The Guardian reports that Doctor Who has been renewed for fourteen episodes (following the six episodes still to air this season). There is no official word, but it is assumed that this will mean a Christmas episode and a thirteen episode season (possibly in two parts again). Matt Smith will be returning. There is no official word regarding Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill, but between the history of limited stays for companions and their commitments with other projects, it is assumed this is their final season

Companions sometimes do come back. John Borrowman, currently staring in Torchwood, has said he would be willing to return to Doctor Who as Captain Jack Harkness.

Torchwood begins a ten episode series on July 8. (Comments here include some spoilers which have been included in interviews with cast and crew.) This season, Torchwood will also be shown in the United States on Starz. The series has been set up to make it easy for American viewers who have not watched Torchwood in the past to start here. The series started as a spin off of Doctor Who.

The premise is pretty simple with Torchwood having been an agency to fight threats from aliens and other unknown entities. It was  initially formed by Queen Victoria in 1879 to protect us against the Doctor. In recent years, Captain Jack Harkness, a former companion of the Doctor who is immortal, has run a newer version of the organization. The first season started with the recruitment of policewoman Gwen Cooper (played by Eve Myles).

The first two seasons of Torchwood were comparable to stand-alone episodes of shows such as The X Files and Fringe while the third season contained a single story, Children of Earth. By the end of Children of Earth, Torchwood’s facilities were destroyed and only Jack and Gwen remained alive, leaving them open to reinvent the show for American audiences.

Changing the format to season long stories helps solve one of the problems of shows such as X-Files. A continuing mythology is more interesting, but if drawn out too long, as on X-Files, can get to the point where it no longer makes sense. Changing to stories with five to ten episodes provides the benefits of a continuing story line, but allows for resolution before it goes on too long.

Torchwood: Miracle Day is about a miracle happening on earth–nobody dies. There is also one twist. Captain Jack, who  is normally immortal, can die. SFX interviewed show runner Russel T. Davies. Here is a portion:

SFX: The basic concept of Miracle Day – the end of death – is massive. It changes religion, economics… You could run with that in a hundred different directions!

“You’re right, and we sat in a room for a long time all talking about those consequences.”

SFX: No death means no consequences, so I could imagine a three-minute-warning scenario where everyone’s looting and having sex in the streets!

“Well, in episode three there’s a great scene where Gwen and [CIA analyst] Esther walk through Washington at night, and it’s kind of a wild atmosphere, because half of the world is out drinking and the other half are at home praying, so we are acknowledging that sort of stuff. But at the same time, I think you should never forget that during the greatest national crises people just go to work, and go home, and get on with it. If this really happened, you and I would just carry on as normal. If something conceptual and huge has happened, nonetheless, you’ve got a deadline tomorrow, and I need to go to work and write a script tomorrow, and if our granddad is ill in bed, he’s still ill. So it’s a very unusual concept, in that it’s hard to dramatise in many ways. That’s why I like it. It’s a very powerful concept, because it takes hold subtly, and you have to find ways to dramatise it, because it’s not immediately obvious. The overpopulation isn’t obvious – it’s not like an extra 200 million people land on Earth today. So it’s unusual in that sense, and it’s been fun to dramatise and really challenging. And we’re still telling a great big rattling thriller, so you find ways to dramatise that.”

SFX: How long is the mystery about what’s caused it all sustained?

“It’s not one of those things that’ll annoy you! Round about episode six you start to get concrete answers, and episodes nine and ten finally explain it all properly. But all the way through Jack’s kinda ahead of the game in working out what’s going on. It’s a mystery, but in a way it’s not that mysterious. Obviously something’s happened to the world, but the most fascinating thing about what happens in terms of science fiction plotting is that it happens instantaneously. It’s not a virus, it hasn’t spread, it didn’t take a day for it to travel from the North pole to the South pole; it’s literally a flick of the switch and it’s happened. To Jack, that instantly suggests what has happened, and that takes a few episodes to evolve. It’s more about explaining what has happened to society while this has happened, that’s the real meat of the story. But it is explained in the end, and finding it out… this story goes back in history as well. We’ve got episodes that go back to 1927, so it’s a broad story covering continents and covering time as well; it’s one of those stories with a plot that’s been planned for decades, so there’s a lot of expanse and muscle in the story. The 1927 stuff is beautiful. I’m giving away too much!”

There are a few other things which newcomers to the show should be aware of. Gwen recently had a baby. She married the father of the baby, Rhys Williams, during the second season. Jack Harkness wound up sacrificing his grandson last season on Torchwood: Children of Earth, which affects his relationship with one of the characters this season.

Jack Harkness, played by gay actor John Borrowman, will sleep with pretty much anyone of any species or sex. Fortunately, to make it easy to remain true to the show’s history, the series will appear in the United States on pay cable, where pretty much anything goes. Entertainment Weekly reports that they will not shy away from the sexual aspect of the show:

According to the show’s cast and showrunner, the new series doesn’t hold back. “I knew they would be true to the show and not change drastically,” says star John Barrowman. “If it was watered down, I wouldn’t have done it. For those people who are our stanch fans, it’s going to have the heart and soul of Torchwood which we’ve always had, plus the energy and excitement of a show that’s bigger and better.”

As for his character’s love life, Barrowman says Capt. Jack “gets to have full-on boy-sex a couple of times. On those days going to work I’d wake up and Scott my partner would say, ‘What are you filming today?’ And I’d say, ‘Oh it’s going to be a tough day, I get to have sex with a 24 year old.’”

For Americans checking out Torchwood for the first time, a TV action hero who beats up bad guys, saves the world, and wins the boy is likely a new experience. But showrunner Russell T Davies says that, contrary to what Americans might assume about all European countries, our primetime lineup is more progressive about showing gay characters. “The portrayal of gay, bisexual, and lesbian characters [in America] is currently way ahead of Britain,” Davies says. “The kids on Glee, the beauty and detail of that couple on Modern Family. We’ve got nothing like that. Even a nice Republican sitcom like $#*! My Dad Says, a show I quite liked, was stacked with intelligent gay-friendly stories, and that’s in a corner you’d never expect to find them. If course, it’s all the gay men and women sitting on writing teams pushing their stories forward, which I think is wonderful.”

The real difference between British shows and American network television is what can be shown. American shows, even network shows, have no problem with gay characters. Shows from the U.K. have had openly gay characters, but can be less open about their homosexuality. They have had a gay hero on Torchwood. On the other hand, Stacey (Joanna Page) on Gavin and Stacey had an openly gay brother but her Uncle Bryn’s (Rob Brydon) implied homosexuality is never openly mentioned.

The BBC is not going to be as upset with a minor “wardrobe malfunction” or brief nudity which could never be shown on American network television. In contrast, pay cable frequently has nudity. For example, Starz has had nudity on shows such as Camelot. While I don’t expect them to go as far on Torchwood, Starz should not have any problems with scenes which could appear on the BBC but not American broadcast networks.

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We Are Not Alone

There’s been a lot of buzz about NASA’s planned announcement of a major astrobiological discovery on Thursday. Speculation has generally centered around something such as finding microscopic aquatic life on Mars or one of Saturn’s moons. Until we have the actual answer, I prefer to think bigger. Until NASA says otherwise, I’m going with an announcement that the Vulcans have arrived to make first contact. (I sure am happy we avoided Khan Noonien Singh and the eugenics wars of the 1990’s.)

Whatever happens on Thursday, The Truth Is Out There

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